Saturday, May 6, 2023

Why Should You Read My Book?


I just self-published my third book, Crises of Faith: Walking Through God’s Refining Fire. It can be found on Amazon at this link:

In one sense, this book is somewhat autobiographical. As such, the very legitimate question you may be asking yourself is, “Who is this guy and why is his story important enough for me to read?”  That is an excellent question and a legitimate one to boot. I’m nobody. I’m not famous. There is a good chance you’ve never heard of me. I’ve never done anything spectacular or amazing. I’ve never pastored a mega-church or, for that matter, a large church of any kind. My entire ministry has been bi-vocational with what would be considered by earthly measures only mediocre success. So why would you want to know about my life?  Allow me to explain.

Truthfully, this is not my story, it is God’s story. This is the story about how God works in the lives of flawed people to accomplish his work in their lives. In the process, he uses them to influence other people and so advance the kingdom of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the story of a loving Heavenly Father who cares enough for his children to do whatever it takes, however painful it may be for them, to make them beautiful.

At the end of the day, it is a story of the goodness and faithfulness of God. It is written from my personal perspective based on my sometimes admittedly flawed memory. My desire is for you to see the hand of God working in a man who, at some points, was doing everything he could to push that hand away and, at other points, was desperately trying to embrace it.

This is a story about looking beyond the pain of the present to the glory of the eternal. It is a story that needs to be read before you hear those fateful words from the doctor, before you get the bad news from the boss, or before whatever trial is about to happen reveals itself in your life. It has been said that every person has either recently exited a time of trial, is currently experiencing a time of trial, or is about to enter a time of trial. Therefore, every person needs to understand something important:


God’s grace will never fail.


As I tell this story, each chapter unfolds important events that have impacted my character and/or the trajectory of my life. Each of these events revealed a truth that God was teaching me and/or changes he was making to my character. At the end of each chapter, I have included a short section that I have called Applicable Truths. While there may have very well been other “applicable truths” revealed within the context of the story itself, this section is where I focus on the most important truths of that chapter. I will explain their importance by applying the truths of God’s word to the circumstances that I had experienced. My hope is that you will see the reality of these truths in the events that are unfolded and thus be able to apply the truths to your own life. My prayer is that those truths be implanted into your life and ultimately grow into the fruit of righteousness.

Here is what has already been said about the book:

“I highly recommend my friend Joel Dison's book, Crises of Faith. As a God-called pastor, Joel shares his personal journey with raw and unflinching honesty, highlighting the challenges he faced with his own personality, weight, finances, and relationships. What makes this autobiography unique is Joel's self-awareness of how he sometimes made every mistake in the book, as he acknowledges Jesus Christ as the only true hero in his story. Through his candid storytelling, Joel shows how faith can sustain us even in the darkest of times. If you are looking for an introspective and inspiring read, Crises of Faith is must-read. I guarantee that all Christ-followers will relate to the hurt, hope, and help that Joel experienced in his journey.”

Chris Crain, Executive Director

Birmingham Metro Baptist Association


“Crises of Faith strikes such a rare and beautiful balance.  At times the reader is faced with raw honesty and vulnerability about convicting biblical truths. At other times, Joel Dison's humor leaves the reader belly laughing to the point of tears.  The richness of each chapter left me overwhelmed by God's grace and eager to begin the next chapter.  Overall, this book is not just enjoyable - it is truly sanctifying.”

Tina Sumpter, 

Christian LPC, author, speaker, 

and GNF Women’s Ministry Coach


"Crises of Faith is a compelling and honest look at life, ministry, and the call of the Gospel of Jesus. Once you begin reading you will have a hard time putting it down. Joel’s honesty is refreshing and the stories he shares are relatable for all who would read it."

Jay Stewart, Office Director

Cooperative Program and Church Finance

Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions


Friday, April 14, 2023

Fellowship Part 12 - Righteousness in Fellowship Part 1


To see all the articles in this series on 1 John, please go to

This series of short studies is about our fellowship in Christ, which in the Greek is called koinonia.  We are using the first epistle of John as our roadmap to understanding Christian fellowship.  The key verse of this series of studies is 1 John 1:7, which says,


But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (ESV)

This particular article is the first in a two-part mini-series within the larger overall series on fellowship.  In this two-part mini-series, we will explore another of the characteristics of someone who is a part of the fellowship. Specifically, we see that.


Those who are in the fellowship are righteous.


This characteristic comes directly from the end of 1 John chapter 2, verses 28-29, which say,


28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (ESV)


However, there is far more to that statement than meets the eye. First and foremost, we must remember that in our flesh, we are most decidedly NOT righteous.  In fact, the Apostle Paul makes that very clear to us.  Quoting Psalm 14 and Psalm 53, Paul tells us in Romans 3:10,


As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one.”


Righteousness may be critical to our being in the fellowship, but we are not ourselves righteous, so we need to obtain our righteousness from somewhere else.  Our righteousness does not come from within us; it comes from Jesus. This is an important doctrinal truth we need to fully understand.


We are not righteous, but Jesus is righteous.  Through our faith in what Jesus did, however, God imputes Jesus’ righteousness onto us.  That means when God looks at us, he does not see our sinfulness, he sees the righteousness of Jesus.  Even though we are not righteous, and even though God sees Jesus’ righteousness when he looks on our hearts, John is still trying to teach us an important principle about that righteousness here. It is essential that we learn it and adopt it as part of our own lives.


Those in the fellowship strive to become what they have been given.


In other words, if we have been given the righteousness of Jesus, then our goal in life is to strive to become the righteousness of Jesus.  We can see this by looking ahead slightly in 1 John 3:7, which says,


Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. (ESV)


Righteousness is as righteousness does. We may not be righteous in our own right, but we have the righteousness of Jesus imputed to us, and we must do our best to act that way.  In other words, righteous people, whom we are because we have the imputed righteousness of Jesus, behave like righteous people. That means we do what it right always and in every situation.  Maybe we do it imperfectly, but we strive with every ounce of strength that we have to always do what is right.


So the obvious question that arises, therefore is why?  If we have been forgiven… if God doesn’t see our sinfulness, but rather sees Jesus’ righteousness… why does it matter?  Why should we strive to be perfect and holy when we know for certain that is an untainable goal.  We will never be fully sinless until our bodies are glorified and the sin nature is removed?  Fortunately, John is going to tell us why.  In fact, if we look carefully, he will give us four reasons why.


In this article I want to briefly discuss the first two of those reasons.  The other two I will discuss in the next article.


Jesus is Coming Back


The first reason we see for why we must strive to become the righteousness that has been given to us is simply because one day soon, Jesus is coming back.  This is, in fact, our hope as believers. We have faith that one day Jesus will return.  Without that hope, and the resurrection that comes with it, our faith would be vain and pitiful.  So says Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. But if we look at what John says in verse 28, he gives us a reason why we ought not to take our righteousness for granted.  He tells us plainly that righteous living gives us cause for being confident in his return. 


Just think about this a moment.  Image how you will feel when Jesus returns and every single thing you have ever done is exposed by his righteous appearing. I think sometimes we have the wrong idea about what’s going to happen when we see Jesus.  We think it is going to be this joyous reunion – “where have you been all my life, Jesus – so glad we can finally meet in person!”  It will not be like that at all.  I can’t say I know exactly HOW it will be, but based on my study of God's word, there will be an unexplainable mix of both joy and shame.  When we see Jesus, we will see HIM for who he is – and in so doing, we will see how EVERY sin we have committed was placed upon him on the cross.  We will understand for the first time the pain that we have caused him and the true cost of our sin.  We say we understand it now, but I believe that we cannot possibly understand it in full until we have seen Jesus in full. And while we will be eternally grateful for the fact that he took on that pain, it will cause us immeasurable shame. This will be especially true for those sins we have committed SINCE we have become believers.  We will see those sins for the betrayal that they are.  Just as Peter, who after walking with Jesus three years before he betrayed him, wept bittery when he realized what he had done, we too will weep bitterly when we realize the magnitude of the pain we have caused our savior.


You may be thinking, “I thought the bible said there would be no tears!” To be accurate, that is not what it says. What it actually says is that first he will “wipe away every tear” from our eyes. THEN there will be no more tears. I believe we have these tears because of the shame of our sinfulness.  The moment we first meet Jesus will be both joyous AND horrifying. Every prophet who speaks of that day says so.  Even John, when he saw Jesus in Revelation chapter 1, was terrified of him.  But then, after Jesus lifts us off the ground and wipes away those tears, it will be forever glorious and we will truly understand the Grace of God like we never could here on earth.


So, here’s the appropriate question: Why do we want to make that moment any worse than it already will be by continuing in our sin?  This is not to suggest that we should stress over every little thing that we do.  Heavens, no. That would be crippling legalism.  But it does suggest that, with the freedom of forgiveness as our backstop, we ought to strive with all that we are to always do what is right.


We Are Children of God


The second reason we are given for why we ought to strive to live righteously is hinted at in verse 29 and then stately plainly at the beginning of chapter 3. Consider 1 John 3:1-3.


1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.  (ESV)


John is very clear about this. Children of God practice righteousness.


We probably need to take a moment here to define “practice.” When this word is used throughout this section of scripture, it is not referring to occasional actions, whether they be good or bad.  Practicing sin does not refer to occasional stumbles.  Practicing sin means actively embracing a sinful lifestyle.  Likewise, practicing righteousness does not mean we never sin.  It means we actively embrace a righteous lifestyle of always doing that which is right.  It is referring to intentionality and habitual actions. 


Think about it. How do you get better and perfect something?  You practice it. You do it on purposes on a regular basis. So, when it talks about practicing righteousness, it means we regularly and consistently make a choice to do the right thing. Likewise, when it talks about practicing sinfulness, it means we choose to live in sin on a regular basis – not repenting of it – not trying to overcome it – just accepting or even embracing it.


Therefore, when we say that Children of God practice righteousness, we mean that children of God are regularly and consistently choosing right over wrong. They do not embrace sinful lifestyles and they make a habit of always doing that which is right. Brothers and sisters, we are children of God now if we believe in Jesus.  We do not become children of God later, we are so now.  In John’s words “and so we are.” Therefore, we behave as his children now.


Of course, as his children, we don’t have everything now that we will have later. In fact, we know that eventually the Children of God will be perfected. We already mentioned one that that will happen when Jesus returns - that we will see our sinfulness in light of his righteousness.  Fortunately, something else will happen when we see Jesus.  When we see him as he is, we will become LIKE him in his perfection. Even though we don’t have that now, we hope in the fact that it will happen later. But therein lies the point that John is making here.  Children of God pursue their hope today.  That is what verse 3 is trying to tell us. We purify ourselves because he is pure.  Precisely because we hope for the future perfection of our bodies, we pursue it now. We pursue it by making the conscious and consistent choice of right over wrong.




If we are not pursuing it now, it is because we do not desire it now.

And if we do not desire it now, then we really aren’t hoping for it later.

And if we neither desire it nor hope for it…

Can we truly call ourselves children of God?


These are critical questions to ask ourselves to test whether we are part of the fellowship.  Do we honestly desire to be righteous as Jesus is righteous?


Next time, we will look at two more reasons to pursue righteousness as outlined here in chapter 3.