Saturday, December 10, 2011


God's aim in our pain. "Let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator." 1 Peter 4:19 (John Piper)

God disciplines because He cares. If He would simply bless all of our disobedience we would never grow or mature in our relationship with Him. God has a goal in mind. He wants to redeem us...every part of us. That simply can't happen until we surrender completely. That doesn't happen easily or quickly for most of us. It is a that can seem overwhelming and never ending at times. We can lose heart even as God is pursuing our heart because we have replaced eternal joy with temporal hope.

That is my struggle now.

Well, maybe
Maybe that's the point
To reach the point of giving up

That is the point. Give up trying to arrange life for yourself. Give up crafting and pursuing dreams that don't include God. Give up trying to be your own savior. Give up thinking that all of the answers lie in you if only you could unleash them through the right self-help book or the latest "spiritual" fad. Give up thinking that you are the center of the story. Give up thinking you are strong enough to make it alone.

‘Cause I’m broken
Down to nothing
But I’m still holding on to the one thing
You are God
And You are strong when I am weak

Lord, help my find peace and joy in You and with You when the storms of life rage against me. Use these trials to root me in Your love. Cover me with Your mercy. I know I'm not strong enough to be everything that I'm supposed to be. But You are everything that I need. Amen.

"God’s greatest gifts often come camouflaged in a fine array of perilous circumstances that seem insurmountable. Ask Joseph." - Brett Jones

"For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." - 1 Corinthians 1:25

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Invitation of Life

The Kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then he sent some more servants and said, "Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner . . . Come to the wedding banquet." But they paid no attention and went off-one to his field, another to his business. (Matthew 22:2-5)

Now for a sobering truth, more sobering than any other we have considered.

To be honest, we must understand that not everyone lives happily ever after, not in any tale. This promise of the happy ending - or the new beginning - is only for the friends of God. Many people do not want the life that God offers them.

Remember - He gave us free will.

He gave us a choice.

We seem to forget-perhaps more truthfully, we refuse to remember - that we are the ones who betrayed Him, not vice versa. We are the ones who listened to the lies of the Evil One in the Garden; we chose to mistrust the heart of God. In breaking the one command he gave us, we set in motion a life of breaking his commands. (You have loved God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? You have loved your neighbor as yourself?)

The final act of self-centeredness is seen in those who refuse to come to the wedding banquet of God (Matthew 22:2-3). They do not want God. They reject His offer of forgiveness and reconciliation through Jesus. What is He to do? The universe has only two options. If they insist, God will grant to them what they have wanted - to be left to themselves.

To be rescued from an eternity apart from God - this is why the rescued ones fall before him at the Great Feast in songs of gratitude and worship. Yes, we will worship God. It won't be like a church service, but we will worship Him. We will adore Him.

But that day has not yet come.

Until then, the invitation of life stands.

I have set before you life and death . . . Now choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

-From "Epic" by John Eldredge

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Recent Tweets

The following are many of the recent tweets to come across my Twitter feed that I felt were worth reposting here as well as providing additional thoughts of my own.

"The fact that there is nothing left for you to do IS the death of self and the birth of the new creature." - Gerhard Forde (American Lutheran theologian)

The idea that there is nothing left for me to do occurs in the context of my salvation. This idea opposes and struggles against my deep pride that says I am capable of doing assist in my ultimate deliverance. Until I completely grasp this truth with my whole being, I will forever strive to find purpose in my efforts rather than finding my purpose in Christ's efforts. This certainly seems to be a key reason why I have yet to find complete freedom in being a new creation.

"When we exaggerate our significance, we lose our significance." - Tim Keller

Great follow up here to the first quote. As long as I am committed to being the center of my story, I will completely miss who I really am and what I am created for because I am attempting to live blissfully unaware of God's story.

"The gospel is the good news that God treated Jesus the way I deserved and he daily treats me the way Jesus deserves." - Pastor Tullian

I don't feel I really get this most days. The reason is because I have just become too complacent when it comes to God's grace in my life. I am treated as a child of God because of Jesus' sacrifice. But to truly appreciate and understand that, I need to daily meditate on the cross and the horror of my sin and constant rebellion from my God and Creator. I don't think nearly enough about how I grieve the heart of God (see Jeremiah 2), which means I barely have an inkling of the incredible gift that is God's daily treatment of me as His beloved. I do love finding new ways to describe the Gospel and this is a great quote in which to do that.

"To take a person out of slavery takes an instant. To take slavery out of a person takes a process." - Tim Keller

Amen Tim. Justification and sanctification. Process indeed. We become slaves when we give our hearts to anything that isn't God. This is the corollary to the Bible's warning to not give the devil a foothold. I have done this in my life. The ensuing battle is intense and deep and ongoing. Proverbs 4:23 is there for a reason. "Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Unfortunately, most of us, including myself, don't take those words seriously until we learn the hard way exactly why God gave us that warning. By that time, we have a battle on our hands that may be with us for the rest of our lives.

"For a person who shares in the sufferings of Jesus Christ there is no such thing as a private life." - Oswald Chambers

I see a lot of Christians who don't get this and I am certainly guilty of not being as open about my faith as I should be. As many a pastor has said, "Faith is personal but never private." We are called to be ambassadors, salt and light, to make disciples. We can't do those things if we take ourselves out of circulation. The more we are known, the scarier it becomes. But if we heed the truth that it isn't about us then all of our sin and shame can be used as a testament for the world to see God's grace, mercy and goodness in our lives. Will we be labeled as hypocrites? Absolutely. And now wonderful is our Lord that he loves us, pursues us and cherishes us in spite of that fact. To Him be the glory!

"Grace comes not to take away a man’s affections, but to take them up." - William Fenner

Had to think about this one a bit. Grace is unconditional and undeserved love. Think about the people in your life who have come closest to modeling grace to you. Don't your affections naturally gravitate toward them? How can our emotions and desires not be drawn toward the Author of grace? I think this is really the basis of Francis Chan's "Crazy Love"...which you should read if you haven't...or you should probably read again if you have. Once we begin to understand God's radical and all-encompassing love for us, we simply can't help but love Him in return...not because of what He can do for us but simply because of who He is.

How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He would give His only Son
And make a wretch His treasure

"If man's hunger proves he inhabits a world where food exists, my desire for Paradise is a good indication it exists." - C.S. Lewis

Maybe a good quote to share with someone who believes in macro evolution as the basis of all life. Where did this shared human desire come from? Why do we love beauty? Why is our spirit lifted by a sunset or a mountain or the crashing waves? There is a larger story at work here. There is a larger purpose for our lives then to come from nothing and to end at nothing. Otherwise, these feelings and desires make no sense from a view that everything evolved for a purpose to optimize life and ensure the survival of the fittest.

Any person who only sticks with Christianity as long as things are going his or her way is a stranger to the cross. - Tim Keller

I was speaking to a friend last week and I said, "I feel better when things go well and worse when they don't. And I know that is not how a Christian should feel." Now, I will stick with Christianity regardless of how things are going in my life because I believe it is truth. However, I am not truly living my life out of hope and faith in God Almighty if I am allowing the ebb and flow of earthly circumstances to steal my joy. One of the most challenging verses in the Bible for me is the following:

"For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one." - Hebrews 10:34

Joyfully accepted the plundering of their property? Yeah...I want joy like that. Unshakeable.

"I know, O Lord, that in faithfulness you have afflicted me." - Psalm 119:75

"God's love is not wearied by our sins and is relentless in its determination that we be cured at whatever cost to us or Him." - C.S. Lewis

God's love is relentless. I was just thinking about that in my life today. All of my running from Him and yet He chases me down. Who does that? Someone who loves me beyond all measure. Instead of becoming despondent and frustrated when God brings suffering or hardship into my life, I need to be keenly aware that He has a plan for my good in this. The short-term cost is for my eternal benefit. I should beg and plead God for that deal every single day.

"If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" - Romans 8:31b-32

"If we love people for all their saintliness, then we do not love at all. Love is wasted on saints. It is meant for the sinner." - Mike Mason

God came to bind up the brokenhearted. Don't love people for their goodness. Don't love people because they love you. Love them the way God loves them. Love them freely, unconditionally and without selfish motives. Love them because that is what we were made to do.

"Jesus came to raise the dead. He did not come to reward the rewardable, improve the improvable, or correct the correctable." - Pastor Tullian

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sharing the Gospel

This is from Tim Keller on how the gospel makes us both bold in presentation and winsome in spirit when sharing the gospel. The combination of both is a rare, but valuable and attainable, spiritual grace!

“When the gospel ‘comes home’-humbling and affirming you, it turns every believer into a natural evangelist…Evangelism happens because of a) the humility of the gospel. The gospel (unlike religious moralism) produces people who are not disdainful and contemptuous towards those who disagree with them. Also, it happens through b) the affirmation of the gospel. Because of the reality and joy of Christ’s love, we are not as concerned what others think. The gospel brings a gentle boldness.”

“The gospel makes us neither self-confident nor self-disdaining, but both bold and humble at once. To the degree I am still functionally earning my worth through performance (i.e. to the degree I am still functioning in works-righteousness), to that degree I will be either operating out of superiority or inferiority. Why! Because if I am saved by my works, then I can either be confident but not humble (if I am living up) or humble but not confident (if I am not living up). In other words, apart from the gospel, I will be forced to be superior or inferior or to swing back and forth or to be one way with some people and another way with others. I am continually caught between these two ways, because of the nature of my self image.

So the gospel humbles me before anyone, telling me I am a sinner saved only by grace. But it also emboldens me before anyone, telling me I am loved and honored by the only eyes in the universe that really count. So the gospel gives a boldness and a humility that do not “eat each other up” but can increase together.”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Voice of Truth

It's been awhile since I have posted. I have a number of blogs that I have started due to different resources I have come across but I haven't been motivated enough to bring any of them to completion. And it isn't just an issue of motivation. I have been enduring a dry time in my spiritual walk. After such richness and depth over the past two or three years, I suppose I may have been due for a walk into the valley, but it is an unwelcome departure.

During this dry season I find my relationship with God losing its vibrancy and urgency. My desire to seek, to grow, to press into my Lord has been weakened. This is the real reason behind my absence from this blog. There is no doubt that the great majority of my posts have been greatly influenced by the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. I will occasionally go back and read past blogs and am absolutely shocked that something so insightful and full of truth came from my mind and fingers. The truth, of course, is that the ultimate source of that wisdom was not me but the One I call the Spirit and the Triune God. That is indeed the Voice that shouts the truth through these pages. As my spiritual growth stagnates that voice gets lost amidst all the other voices of the world, as well as those of my flesh and of Satan. I still hear God but my ability and desire to stay in that conversation has been neutralized.

As this is the third Saturday of the month, it is the day that I volunteer at Sunshine Ministries, which is a Gospel-centered mission and ministry for the homeless and poverty-stricken of downtown St. Louis. If my desire to seek and obey God is under severe attack, then it stands to reason that my desire to seek out and help the lost and hurting will also be impacted. That has certainly been the case although I often feel more accountable to other people than I do to God. Backwards I know, but that is a fact.

So this morning I wake up to my radio alarm. Getting up early on a Saturday morning doesn't excite me after a long week of work. However, the song on the radio this morning was "Voice of Truth" by Casting Crowns. As soon as I heard it, I knew it was for me. This wasn't a random event. These were the first lyrics I heard this morning:

But the stone was just the right size
to put the giant on the ground
and the waves they don't seem so high
from on top of them looking down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
when I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
singing over me

I have giants in my life and I often feel powerless against them because I don't think I have the resources, ability or opportunity to overcome them. The truth is that what God has given me, when used for His glory and with His power, will overcome anything that stands in the way of living the life God has called me to live. I live too much with a bottom-up perspective instead of a top-down view, which can make problems seem so much bigger than they actually are. Do that long enough and you will be depressed, exhausted and defeated. I have been there and I am there. I'm just tired because I have once again allowed myself to live in the story where I am the center, where what I do and how I perform define who I am. It's confusing because I know where that story leads and yet I seem to end up there time and time again. It is good for my soul to know that Jesus continues to call to me. He continues to intercede for me. He continues to be for me. He just wants me to stop and listen.

We had 14 men come in this morning for breakfast, a Bible Study and an opportunity to take home clothing, food and basic necessities. One of the men is a bit off mentally but is one of the nicest guys there. He will approach you and say the same thing over and over and over again. You can nod and agree and try to move the conversation along but if he has a thought in his head and you want to talk with him you better be prepared to hear it A LOT. This is a paraphrase of what he was saying to me today (by the way, he calls me "New Chris" because there is another Chris who has volunteered there for awhile but who I have yet to meet):

"You got to let God lead the way. I can't lead, you can't lead, nobody else can lead. Got to let God be in front, we just follow, got to let God be out in front. Doesn't matter if you are young or old, God got to lead."

We talked for probably 15 minutes or more today and it was basically those words on a repetitive loop. And ya know what? I didn't mind one bit. Because he wasn't just rambling. He knew what he was saying. I knew what he was saying. I knew that God was using Reginald as his unlikely messenger perhaps...but prophetic nonetheless. I haven't been letting God lead. I haven't been willingly following. Try living that way and NOT have a dry season spiritually.

There are many ways God's voice of truth comes to us. Keep your eyes and ears open. God is speaking to you as He has to me today.

"Persuasion changes our thinking. Propaganda reduces our ability to think. (DiFonzo) God enables us to be persuaded by truth." - John Piper

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dying to Self

I recently said that I am my biggest idol so how do I completely surrender to God? Here is today's devotional from Oswald Chambers:

True surrender is not simply surrender of our external life but surrender of our will — and once that is done, surrender is complete. The greatest crisis we ever face is the surrender of our will. Yet God never forces a person’s will into surrender and He never begs. He patiently waits until that person willingly yields to Him. And once that battle has been fought, it never needs to be fought again.

Surrender for Deliverance. “Come to Me . . . and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). It is only after we have begun to experience what salvation really means that we surrender our will to Jesus for rest. Whatever is causing us a sense of uncertainty is actually a call to our will — “Come to Me.” And it is a voluntary coming.

Surrender for Devotion.
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself . . . ” (Matthew 16:24). The surrender here is of my self to Jesus, with His rest at the heart of my being. He says, “If you want to be My disciple, you must give up your right to yourself to Me.” And once this is done, the remainder of your life will exhibit nothing but the evidence of this surrender, and you never need to be concerned again with what the future may hold for you. Whatever your circumstances may be, Jesus is totally sufficient. (see 2 Corinthians 12:9 and (Philippians 4:19).

Surrender for Death. “. . . another will gird you . . .” (John 21:18 ; also see John21:19). Have you learned what it means to be girded for death? Beware of some surrender that you make to God in an ecstatic moment in your life, because you are apt to take it back again. True surrender is a matter of being “united together [with Jesus] in the likeness of His death” (Romans 6:5) until nothing ever appeals to you that did not appeal to Him.

And after you surrender — then what? Your entire life should be characterized by an eagerness to maintain unbroken fellowship and oneness with God.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011


"Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy." - C.S. Lewis

"Everybody has something, that if they lose it, they won't even want to live life anymore. That is what you're worshiping." - Tim Keller

"You will most certainly praise that which you most prize." - Darrin Patrick

What are you worshiping in your life? This isn't a new subject for me to write about but one that keeps coming back time and time again as I confront idols in my life that have built up over time. It's become increasingly clear that my biggest idol has been, and probably remains, me. My abilities, my potential, my dreams...they seem to be the biggest obstacle to placing all my hope and faith in God. In one way or another, and usually on a subconscious level, I continue to try to be my own savior. My most severe bouts of depression have occurred when I have failed to come through like I thought I would. Tim Keller is those cases it greatly impaired my willingness to go on.

I remember writing an email a few months back to a friend who asked how I was doing. I used the phrase, "I have come to the end of myself". I had never used that language before but it just came out in that moment. It was profound and right and I give the Holy Spirit credit for those words of wisdom.

The truth is that we were made to worship. It's why we are here. We had this discussion recently in my men's care group. It is still an uncomfortable concept for a lot of Christians...that we aren't the center of the story. An excerpt from a recent Matt Chandler sermon lays it out with no apologies:

God created us for His glory (Isaiah 43:6-7). I want you to think about this. The reason you exist, the reason you are is for the glory of God, the name and renown of God. The praising of His infinite perfections, that’s why you exist. You’re not here for fellowship. God was not lonely and decided to make you because He was just tired of being alone after an eternity of being alone. God was perfectly content within the Godhead. God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit did not need to create you. He did create you for the praise of His glorious grace. That’s why you exist. It’s the reason you’re alive.

How does that sit with you? Is there a part of you that wants to argue against it, say that it is taking it too far? I've been there. I am still there sometimes. This world tells us just the opposite. It's about our glory. After all, it is OUR life, right? (Wrong.) Our sin, pride and selfishness often lead us to worship everything and anything but the One who made us. We love to worship the creation rather than the Creator. And our favorite part of creation is usually ourselves.

Again, it seems to just come back to the belief we have that God isn't out for our best...especially if our existence is meant to glorify Him. "What about us?", we say. So, we must go back to the cross and know that what happened there proves God's love for us and that He does have a purpose for us that is good and right and infinitely satisfying.

Going back to Chandler:

Now let me tell you why this is the best news in the universe. If God is after the praise of His glorious grace, then He is not after my begrudging submission, but rather He is after my joy. So all the commands in Scripture are about God lining you up with how He designed things to be for your greater joy. What God has enabled me to do in saving me is to spend my days making much of Him, and He never gets old, He never lets me down and He never ever runs out of areas for me to gaze upon, to wonder at and to make much of.

That rolls into this next piece. If God is for God, if our joy is inseparably linked to God being for God and if God’s salvation of us is not ultimately about us but rather setting us free to make much of Him, then heaven is an ever-increasing experience of these glories. If we had time to get into Ephesians 2, it says that in the coming ages God will show to us the riches of His grace in Christ Jesus. A billion years from now, those of you who are believers will just be scratching the surface about how infinite the joy of God is.

Here’s what has to happen. You have got to get over you. You’re not the point, and the more you think you are the point, the more you will be enslaved to a thousand vices. But when it’s not about you, you’re free. When it’s not about you, you get to extend grace. When it’s not about you, you get to rest. When it’s not about you, you get to breathe.

The truth is that we were made to worship...we were made to worship the God of the Bible, our Creator, our Savior, our Sustainer, our Hope and our Joy. That act is not meant to be one of begrudging submission bur rather of complete and perfect satisfaction. When I find myself having to force worship, or simply not desiring to worship at all, I know that I have forgotten who God is and who I am and what my heart and soul desperately need. I have lost my place in the only story that makes sense.

We must understand that God's pursuit of God and our pursuit of joy are not at odds with each other.

"The most dangerous form of idolatry does not come from things that are bad, but that are good." - Jeff Bode

In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forever (Psalms 16:11). "You can't improve Full and Forever." - John Piper

"When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him." - C.S. Lewis

Monday, August 29, 2011

Not of...but sent into

From Desiring God...

In. . . but not of” — are you familiar with this popular phrase? It captures a truth about Jesus’ followers. We are “in” this world, but not “of” it.

In. . . but not of.” Yes, yes, of course.

But might this pithy slogan give the wrong impression about our (co)mission in this world as Christians? You see, the motto seems to give the drift, we are in this world, alas, but we need to make sure that we’re not of it. In this scheme, the starting place is our unfortunate condition of being “in” this world. Sigh. And our mission, it appears, is to not be “of” it. The force is moving away from the world. “Shucks, we’re frustratingly stuck in this ole world, but let’s marshal our best energies to not be of it.” It’s an emphasis that’s sometimes needed.

But we’d do well to run stuff like this through biblical texts. And on this one in particular, we do well to turn to John 17, where Jesus is using these “in” and “not off” categories. So what’s Jesus’ sentiment on the whole thing?

Jesus’ Take

On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prays to his Father in John 17:14–19,

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Not of This World

Notice Jesus’ references to his disciples being “not of the world.” Verse 14: “The world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” And there it is again in verse 16: “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

So let’s all agree that it is clearly the case that Jesus does not want his followers to be “of the world.” Amen. He says that he himself is “not of the world,” and he says that his disciples are “not of the world.” Here’s a good impulse in the slogan “in. . . but not of.”

Where It’s Headed

But notice for Jesus how being “not of the world” isn’t the destination in these verses but the starting place. It’s not what things are moving toward, but what they’re moving from. He is not of the world, and he begins with saying that his followers are not of the world. But Jesus is headed somewhere.

Enter verse 18: “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”
And don’t miss the (possibly) surprising prayer of verse 15: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”

Sent into This World

Jesus is not asking his Father for his disciples to be taken out of the world, but he is praying for them as they are “sent into” the world. He begins with them being “not of the world” and prays for them as they are “sent into” the world.

So maybe it would serve us better — at least in light of John 17 — to revise the popular phrase “in. . . but not of” in this way: “not of. . . but sent into.” The beginning place is being “not of the world,” and the movement is toward being “sent into” the world. The accent falls on being sent, with a mission, to the world — not being mainly on a mission to disassociate from this world.

Crucified to the World — And Raised to It

The assumption is that those who have embraced Jesus and identified with him are indeed not of the world. And now the summons is our sending — we are sent into the world on mission for gospel advance through disciplemaking.

Jesus’ followers have not only been crucified to the world, but also raised to new life and sent back into it to free others.

May God be pleased to make our not-of-this-world churches to be more and more communities also sent into this world.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Soul's Desire

I hate my sin.

I hate that I fall back into sins that I felt at one point were behind me.

I hate that my mind doesn't imitate Philippians 4:8.

I hate that I value myself more highly than I value my Creator.

I hate that my selfishness impacts my ministry to others.

I hate that I have just cause to write all of this and much more.

And what I hate most of all is that I don't hate any of these things as much as I truly should.

But I do love my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who has covered my multitude of sins on the cross through His death and resurrection.

Some people say that we spend too much time focusing on being "sinners saved by grace". That we should talk more about our restored glory, being a co-heir with Christ and being a new creation with a new name. Those are all amazing and wonderful things to be thankful for and to meditate on.

But the ministry to my soul has always rested, and I believe always will rest, on the recognition, acceptance and truth of being a sinner saved by grace.

And that makes me want to love Jesus more.

Godliness is how you live when you believe that Jesus is better than sin.

Friday, August 12, 2011

True Repentance

What must I do to be saved? Saved from what? What is it you wish to be saved from? Hell? That proves nothing. Nobody wants to go there. The issue between God and man is SIN. Do you wish to be saved from it? WHAT IS SIN? Sin is a species of rebellion against God. It is self-pleasing; it is the utter ignoring of God's claims,—being completely indifferent whether my conduct pleases or displeases Him. Before God saves a man, He convicts him of his sinnership. By this I do not mean that he says with everybody else, “Oh yes, we are all sinners, I know that.” Rather do I mean that the Holy Spirit makes me feel in my heart that I have been a life-long rebel against God, and that my sins are many. Have you ever had that experience? Have you seen yourself to be totally unfit for heaven, and for the presence of a Holy God? Do you now perceive that there is no good thing in you, nothing good credited to your account, that all the way through you have loved the things God hates and hated the things God loves? Has the realization of this broken your heart before God? Has it made you mourn that you have so despised His mercies, misused His blessings, broken His sabbaths, neglected His Word, and given Him no real place at all in your thoughts, affections and life? If you have not yet seen and felt this personally, then at present there is no hope for you, for God says, “EXCEPT YE REPENT, YE SHALL ALL LIKEWISE PERISH” (Luke 13:3).

And if you die in your present condition, you will be lost forever. But if you have been brought to the place where sin is your greatest plague, where offending God is your greatest grief, and where your deepest desire is now to please and honor Him; then there is hope for you. “The Son of man came to seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10). And He will save you providing you are ready and willing to throw down the weapons of your warfare against Him, bow to His Lordship, and surrender yourself to His control. His blood can wash the foulest clean. His grace can support and uphold the weakest. His power can deliver the tried and tempted. “Behold now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day salvation” (2 Cor6:2). Yield yourself to Christ's claims. Give Him the throne of your heart. Turn over to Him the regulation ofyour life. Trust in His atoning death. Love Him with all your soul. Obey Him with all your might and He will conduct you to heaven. “Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

~ A.W.Pink

Monday, August 8, 2011

Spiritual Battle

"You will be wounded. Just because this battle is spiritual doesn't mean it's not real; it is, and the wounds a man can take are in some ways more ugly than those that come in a firefight. To lose a leg is nothing compared to losing heart; to be crippled by shrapnel need not destroy your soul, but to be crippled by shame and guilt may. You will be wounded by the Enemy. He knows the wounds of your past, and he will try to wound you again in the same place." - John Eldredge, "Wild at Heart"

I watched the following video this evening. It was no coincidence that God put this in my path at this time as I have been struggling the past few weeks with feelings of hopelessness and anxiety, as well as mental and spiritual exhaustion. The battle has seemingly become ever more difficult causing me to grow weary, which has in turn led to my attempting to find escape...often in things other than God. I will have more to say on this in following blogs but this offers a good foundation and starting point.

Britt Merrick - A Dialoge on The Devil, Demons and Spiritual Warfare from Reality on Vimeo.

"Every story has a villain because yours does. You were born into a world at war. When Satan lost the battle against Michael and his angels, "he was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him" (Rev. 12:9). That means that right now, on this earth, there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of fallen angels, foul spirits, bent on our destruction. And what is Satan's mood? "He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short" (v. 12). So what does he spend every day and every night of his sleepless, untiring existence doing? "Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against . . . those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus" (v. 17). He has you in his crosshairs, and he isn't smiling.

You have an enemy. He is trying to steal your freedom, kill your heart, destroy your life." - John Eldredge, "Waking the Dead"

Friday, July 22, 2011

See Others as Jesus Does

From The Resurgence...

A Greasy Spoon at 3AM

Tony Campolo tells of a time when he was speaking in Honolulu, Hawaii. Campolo lives on the east coast of the United States so his body was six hours ahead of Hawaiian time. At three o-clock in the morning it felt like nine o-clock to him. Awake and hungry for breakfast, he found himself in a "greasy spoon" café in the small hours of the morning. As he bit into his doughnut, eight or nine prostitutes walked in. They had just finished for the night. Their talk was loud and crude, and it was difficult to avoid listening in. He heard one tell the others it was her birthday the following day. "What do want from me? A birthday cake?" was the sarcastic reply. "Why be so mean?" she replied, "I was just telling you. I don’t expect anything. I’ve never had a birthday party. I’m not expecting to have one now." When Campolo heard this he made a decision.

When the women left, he went over to the café owner, a guy called Harry. "Do they always come in here?" "Yes," said Harry. "Including the one who sat next to me?" "Yes, that’s Agnes. Why do you want to know?" "Because I heard her say it’s her birthday tomorrow and I thought we might throw her a party." Pause. Then a smile grew across Harry’s lips. "That’d be a great idea." A moment later his wife was in on the plot.

What Happens Next

Half past two the next morning. Campolo had brought decorations and Harry had baked a cake. Word had got out and it seemed as if every prostitute in Honolulu was in the café – plus Campolo, a preacher. When Agnes entered with her friends, she was flabbergasted. Her mouth fell open and her knees wobbled. As she sat on a stool, everyone sang "Happy Birthday". "Blow out the candles," people shouted, but in the end Harry had to do it for her. Then he handed her a knife. "Cut the cake, Agnes, so we can all have some." She looked at the cake. Then slowly said, "Is it alright … would you mind … if I wait a little longer … if we didn’t eat it straight away?" "Sure. It’s okay," said Harry. "Take it home if you want"’ "Can I?" she said, "Can I take it home now? I’ll be back in a few minutes." And with that she left, carrying her precious cake out the café.

What Kind of Church?

There was a stunned silence. So Campolo said, "What do you say we pray?" And they did. Campolo lead a group of prostitutes in prayer at 3:30 in the morning. When they were done, Harry said, "Hey! You never told me you were some kind of preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?" Campolo answered, "I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning." Harry waited for a moment. Then he kind of sneered, "No you don’t. There’s no church like that. If there was, I’d join it. I’d join a church like that." Campolo comments:

Wouldn’t we all? Wouldn’t we all love to join a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning?... But anybody who reads the New Testament will discover a Jesus who loved to party with prostitutes and with all kinds of left-out people. The tax collectors and "sinners" loved him because he partied with them. The lepers of society found in him someone who would eat and drink with them. And while the solemnly pious people could not relate to what he was about, those lonely people who usually didn’t get invited to parties took to him with excitement.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Gospel Follow-Up

"Do not look to your faith to save you. Look to the object of your faith to save you."

"If you believe strongly in the absolute truth of the will only serve to drain you of superiority and self-righteousness." - Tim Keller

One of the most powerful temptations that Christians endure is the lie that although justification is about Christ's work on the cross, sanctification is ultimately about improvements in our behavior. While it is true that being born again of the Spirit should bring about new desires and our lives should bear fruit,

we can easily fall into the trap of thinking that our response to what Christ has done for us ultimately takes precedence. I have had concerns in my life over habitual sin and whether or not that means I am truly born again, i.e. saved. After all, if I am a new creation, shouldn't I be acting more like it? God has changed my perspective on that - from using my behavior as a barometer of my salvation to resting securely in God's grace and forgiveness and letting that promise transform my heart, desires and actions. In other words, God reminds me that the saving work of the Gospel is His and not mine.

The following is from Mark Galli and I think it is spot on...

The good news is that our salvation is not dependent on our success at making right choices, even the right choice of faith. In fact, the Bible regularly reminds us that we cannot consistently make good choices with our corrupt wills. As Paul puts it, “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:18-19, NIV) Instead of relying on an autonomous free will to remind us to make right choices, we are called to simply trust what Christ has done for us on the cross and through his resurrection.

But isn’t that a choice, to trust in Christ? Yes and no. It is not even a possibility without God’s intervention. We can’t even recognize who Christ is, what he has done for us, and sense his invitation to respond in faith without the work of the Holy Spirit. The very fact that we can apprehend all this is a gift right from the start.

Furthermore, to trust in Christ means that it is not my trust that reconciles God to me or me to God. It is the death and resurrection of Christ that reconciles God to me and the faith empowered by the Holy Spirit that reconciles me to God.

This is why the Gospel is such good news. There are times when even the most dedicated Christian will recognize that his or her life is still in shambles, still driven by selfishness, still filled with doubt and confusion about God. At such times, panic can set in. Am I really a Christian? Is God working in my life to bring me into deeper fellowship with him? Has God given me the gift of grace? Will I enjoy the fellowship of heaven? Do I believe enough to be saved? The very fact that these sorts of questions bother us at such times shows that the Holy Spirit is, in fact, working in our lives. One of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to convict the world of sin and guilt (see John 16:8). So the paradox is that when we’re troubled like this, it’s the very sign of God working in our lives to bring us into deeper fellowship with him.

And of course, we do not believe enough to be saved. Of course, selfishness rules our hearts in too many ways. Of course, we have doubts and confusion about God. It’s called sin. But the gospel calls us to stop looking at ourselves — at our doubts, our sins, and our choices. The Gospel says look to Christ. Don’t trust in your ability to choose right or even to trust perfectly. Look to Christ, who died for sinners. Faith is recognizing the reality of our situation and the deeper reality of our Savior. Faith is the drowning man grasping the outstretched arm of his rescuer. Faith includes a response, but our response is not the main thing. Christ is.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Gospel

"We are deconstructed and reconstructed by the Gospel." - Tim Keller

"The Gospel frees you from the pressure of having to make something out of yourself. Because Jesus was Someone, we're free to be no one." - Pastor Tullian

I wanted to write a follow up to my last post on idolatry. Why are idols such a problem for us Christians? Yes, we are sinners and we are naturally pulled toward the things of this world. But I think that is only part of the equation. Aren't we supposed to be freed from sin, no longer a slave to it? Why do we so easily heed its beck and call? Could it be that we have failed to truly grasp the Gospel and instead turned it into an idol? And when it doesn't come through for us the way we think it should we simply turn to other sources that appear to offer something better and more attainable? I think Matt Chandler hits the nail on the head in this video. We have made the Gospel about us rather than the One who saved us causing us to miss the beautiful message of hope and freedom within.

"No wonder that a recent study by Lifeway Research found that 70% of young Protestant adults between the ages of 18-22 have stopped attending church. If you “accepted” Jesus into your heart years ago but besetting problems persist, and some circumstances even appear to get worse, if the Gospel is subjective, is it still true? Does it have the same power? That someone would walk away from the whole business is a foregone conclusion. For the remotely self-aware person, a Gospel based on personal sanctification is no Gospel at all. It produces refugees." - David Zahl/Jacob Smith

The Gospel is objective. It happened 2000 years ago on a cross on Calvary where Jesus took my sin and gave me His righteousness. That is freedom. That cannot be taken away from us. It cannot be diminished. It cannot be overshadowed. Unless...we allow it to be by using our happiness as the barometer of whether or not the Gospel is true in our lives. I think this is where I got into trouble. Because I remember being "the good kid" in high school. The message that I should be a good kid not only came from my parents, teachers, coaches, etc., but it came from my church. I think that message drowned out the Gospel. I think it was greatly assumed that we knew Jesus died for us and ACTUALLY UNDERSTOOD what that really meant so let's move on and talk about other things.

If the question we are asking ourselves is, "Has my life changed for the better?" in regards to whether or not the Gospel is working for us then we have missed everything. This is how I got to the point of believing that God somehow owed me because I had been diligent in obeying Him. The Gospel became subjective in my life, based on my behavior rather than my behavior being a natural outflow of the Gospel being the foundation of my life. Do you get what it means to find your identity in what Christ has done for you? It changes EVERYTHING! The Gospel destroys your selfishness and desperate seeking for relevance inside of yourself and in the world. It replaces it with the deepest possible peace that your worth is priceless and has already been secured.

It no longer matters whether others approve of you. God approves of you and if God is for you who can be against you?!? It no longer matters whether you have control. God is in control. It no longer matters whether you have comfort. You find your rest in God and your reward lies above. There is power in weakness because you have turned from saviors that will always turn on you. Instead, you turn to the Savior who has ALREADY saved you.

We don’t start with our behavior and try to go in and change our hearts. We start with our hearts. So motivated by the Gospel, as we see it, as we believe, as we hear it, as we embrace it with our hearts more and more, we transfer our trust from these other saviors onto Jesus Christ. So there is a believing the Gospel that leads us to repentance, which is us transferring our trust from this thing or this person onto the person of Jesus Christ. According to pastor Tullian Tchividjian, the Gospel essentially gives us all things that we’re looking to these other
saviors to give us. It actually does give us what they can’t ever give us. He says, “The gospel is the good news that, in His life, by His death and with His resurrection, Jesus Christ secured for sinners all the approval, justification, affection, achievement, freedom, meaning, righteousness, rescue, purpose and protection that we are longing for.” All these things that we’re longing for are found in Jesus Christ. And if we want to displace the idols, even the deep idols that are in our heart, Jesus Christ has to become more beautiful to us, more hope-giving to us than these other things.

The Gospel calls us to what is eternal rather than what has infinite value over what is ultimately worthless to what is true and pure over what is false and tainted.

This is too good not to post again...a very unique and powerful Gospel presentation:

G.O.S.P.E.L. from Humble Beast Records on Vimeo.

"Self-centeredness makes everything else a means to an end." - Tim Keller

God is the end and the means to that end. Keep your eyes fixed on Him.

On that day, you will need more than pragmatism:

Monday, July 4, 2011


"And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols." - 1 John 5:20-21 (ESV)

“An idol is anything in my life that occupies a place that should be occupied by God alone. An idol is something that holds such a controlling position in my life that it moves and rouses and attracts me so easily that I give my time, attention and money to it effortlessly.” - Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones

"Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy." - C.S. Lewis

"You've distorted your deepest wish by trying to make it into your savior, and now that you finally have it, it's turned on you." - Tim Keller

I have always known I have idols. The First Commandment is hard to miss. But it wasn't until the past couple of years that I have realized just how deeply embedded idolatry is in my life. As my faith has grown and matured the Holy Spirit has brought about new conviction and enlightenment when it comes to objects of my heart's affection. All of us have readily identifiable idols. These are things that Tim Keller calls "visible surface idols". They include things like money, career, relationships, health, sex and food. We know that in their originally intended form they are good things. But we also have a pretty good idea that when our sinful desires twist their purpose and their place they begin to control us and become a poison in our lives. As Matt Chandler says, "We have made good things into ultimate things."

The deeper idols in our lives are not as simple to discern but they are the disease that produces the surface idols. They include things such as power, control, approval and comfort. This is where God has really been working on me. Two of the biggest deep idols in my life are my desire for approval and control.

The first one should have been obvious to me long ago but it wasn't. I was the high school valedictorian and voted "Most Intelligent" and "Most Likely to Succeed". Those were nice things but the price was being continually ridiculed by many of my classmates for a majority of my junior high and high school lives. My identity was being "the smart kid" so I consciously vowed to not let that define me in college and beyond. Although I removed the surface idol, I didn't realize it remained deep inside. So, as I got into my career and began meeting more failures than successes despite hard work, I began to experience depression. My intelligence had turned into my own "little savior". I still knew I was smart and that meant I could have power, and ultimately comfort, because I could make myself be successful. Even more than that, I felt I was entitled to some measure of success. My identity and self-worth had gotten tied up in what I could do for myself. Britt Merrick's words ring so true at this moment:

"Christian, define yourself exclusively and radically as one beloved of God. Every other identity is an illusion and is false."

The second deep idol really caught me by surprise. It's really the idol of control. The Holy Spirit spoke to me through Tim Keller's "The Prodigal God". In that book, he talks about why the elder brother was so upset at his father's unbridled joy upon the return of his youngest son. The older brother felt that his father owed him for his loyalty, hard work and devotion. What he felt he was owed was being freely given to a child who, in his brother's eyes, deserved nothing but scorn and disdain. I realized there was a deep part of me that felt like God owed me when I was doing good things. Of course, the flip side of the coin was also true. I felt like bad things should happen when I sinned. Yes, I thought I understood the concept of grace but my relationship with God was actually works-based under the surface. I wasn't loving God simply for who He was but rather what He could do for me, and at the same time, basing God's love for me on what I could do for Him. So when things in my life went poorly despite my best efforts to please my Lord, it left me with confusion and despair.

Both of these idols have one thing in common. They are about me. Even though we were made to worship One who is infinitely greater than us, it seems that our ultimate idol is ultimately us. That leads to some disturbing questions. Why do I place more faith in myself than I do in God? Why do I trust my heart more than God's heart? Why do I think I know better than God regarding what is best for me?

I can only draw one conclusion. I simply don't trust that God has my best interests at heart. The world teaches us to look out for ourselves first because we can be assured that we have our best interests at heart but we can't be certain that anyone else really does. We have all been let down in our earthly relationships. I think I have extrapolated those messages and disappointments into the implicit belief that God will let me down as well. Yes, a ridiculous conclusion given the cross and all the blessings in my life, but we can so easily and subtly make agreements with ourselves that have no basis in reality.

So when the Bible says God is love my initial response is "Yes...but". I don't live in a world of absolutes so my knee jerk reaction is to say, "OK, I believe that is true but there has to be more to the story. What am I not being told?" Yet, the more we study the Bible and the more we mature in our faith, the more God shows Himself to be a loving and gracious Father again and again. This eventually changes my response to the Bible's declarations of God's goodness to, "Yes...and". There is more to the story (holiness, for example) but whatever is next will not offset or detract from God's heart toward me.

If we want to displace these deep idols in our heart, if God is gracious, He might rip them out of our hands. He may do that if He’s merciful. If He’s not merciful like we read in Romans 1, He just lets you continue to chase them. The other way we can displace these idols is if we come to see Jesus Christ as infinitely more beautiful, infinitely more valuable, infinitely more hope giving and worthy of our affections than whatever it is right now for you that’s your savior that you’re looking for it to give you only what Jesus Christ could do. So it’s only when Jesus Christ becomes the predominant affection of your heart that the other things that your heart is giving affection and attention to will be uprooted and replaced. Whatever you’ve been looking to for significance, whatever you’ve been trusting in to make you somebody, whoever you’ve been depending on to make life worth living, look away from that and look to Jesus Christ.(1)

If we aren't willing to sacrifice relationships, careers, finances, or possessions to do God's will, they will become idols. Our pursuit should be joy rather than happiness. The former endures while the latter comes and goes in an instant. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit that can't be taken from us while earthly happiness can be snatched in a heartbeat. Let us pursue treasures beyond this world and keep our eyes fixed on the Author and Perfector of our faith.

"If you want to get warm you move near the fire. If you want joy, peace, eternal life, you must get close to what has them." - C.S. Lewis

“Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in God.” - Saint Augustine

And when the day is closing in like the stars in the night
I am falling into the pull of the earth and its affections
In me, O Lord, can You create a pure heart
Because I'm afraid that I just might run back
To the things I hate

Satisfy me, Lord, oh
Satisfy me, Lord, oh
Yeah I'm begging You, to help me see
You're all I want, You're what I need
Oh satisfy me, Lord
- Tenth Avenue North, "Satisfy"

(1)- Paragraph taken from "Deep Idols" sermon by Beau Hughes at The Village Church, 3/6/11

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


"To those who are proud and self-righteous, Jesus' grace is the bitterest of medicines."

It doesn't matter who you are, what you have done or who you have wronged...God can and will save you if you simply ask Jesus into your heart and life.

You can't do anything to earn God's love. You just have to turn to Him and accept the free gift of Himself.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

"I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” - 2 Corinthians 6:18

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” - Luke 12:32 Shepherd. Father. King.

My Dad didn't have a very good role model for a father. He very much had to learn how to be a good Dad on the job. He was and is blessed to have a loving Christian wife who certainly encouraged him to be the best father he could be. Most importantly, his relationship with his heavenly Father strengthened and grew over the years. God is indeed the best role model any earthly father could hope for. My Dad's heart was transformed and his ability to connect and love unconditionally deepened. My Dad continues to pursue his Lord and Savior and the fruit he now bears is evidence of a changed spirit and life.

That fruit is now reflected in a more patient and gracious father. No parent is ever perfect but the best ones strive to become better. My Dad has done that and succeeded. His desire to love his wife and children better combined with the strength and wisdom of the Holy Spirit have resulted in a man that I proudly call Dad. Many others are also blessed by my Dad now through his leadership and teaching positions at church, his teaching at the jail and detention center and his willingness to mentor young men who desperately need a Christian man to look up to.

Is my Dad personal? Yes.
Is my Dad loving? Yes.
Is my Dad good? Yes.
Does my Dad know me? Yes.
Does my Dad pursue me? Yes.
Can I trust my Dad? Yes.
Does my Dad do good for me? Yes.

And God is sovereign and in charge over our relationship.

The best fathers not only give us life, they teach us how to live.

Thank you Dad for becoming a Godly example in my life. I love you. Happy Father's Day.

6/26/11: "If you're a dad, and are doing a good job, I congratulate and respect you. We all know a real man is someone who can give love he never got." - Garry Shandling

Saturday, June 18, 2011

To Bless or To Be Blessed?

"The only way to be blessed is to be a blessing and to be a blessing we must leave our comfort." - Tim Keller

Today I started my new volunteering gig at Sunshine Ministries in downtown St. Louis. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect but simply prayed yesterday for grace, love and wisdom for the men I encountered.

The spiritual battle started even before I got out of bed. A big thunderstorm hit around 6 AM which cut my night of sleep short. As I laid there hoping to fall back asleep in a dark room with the rain falling outside, the temptation to simply stay in bed was strong. It had been a tough week where things hadn't gone the way I had hoped. Part of me really wanted to simply shut off the alarm and hibernate for the day.

But I also know spiritual warfare when I see it...especially this morning. I knew God couldn't use me to serve others for Him when I was lying in bed. I also knew that I had told many people I was volunteering this morning and I want to live a life of accountability and integrity. But most of all, I have learned, and continue to learn, that life is best lived when it is ultimately lived out of love for God and for others. To be self-centered is to miss God's purpose for my life.

So I got out of bed and made it on time. There wasn't a lot to it. About a dozen guys from the community come every 3rd Saturday for a time of Biblical teaching, as well as food and clothing. My job was to help check in the guys and give them their name tag and then help them with their shopping. They were all friendly and appreciative. It really didn't even feel like I was serving all that much. It was certainly a more relaxed job than the Hope Ministries' volunteering I do with my family in Des Moines every Christmas. So, of course, Satan's word for me as I was driving home, was that being there didn't make much of a difference because there wasn't that much for me to do. So predictable.

We are starting a book in my men's care group entitled "It's Your Call: What Are You Doing Here?" by Gary Barkalow. One of the most persistent questions I have heard from Christians surrounds the lack of clarity they feel from God on what they are supposed to do with their lives. Some don't even want to really know because then they will feel forced to abandon their plans and follow God. To better understand God's purpose for our lives would mean to live each day with greater meaning and intent. That would certainly entail an even greater focus on God and others at the expense of ourselves.

But the truth is that there is no greater blessing than to know that the Creator of the universe has chosen you and I to help advance the Kingdom of God. We may not know exactly how to do that all the time. However, you can always start by blessing others for the glory of God. Take a step in faith and leave your comfort zone behind. The blessing you receive will not be found in wealth or health. It will be found in knowing that your will is aligned with God's will and that you are catching a glimpse of why God created you in the first place. There is no greater blessing than that.

"Trying to be happy without a sense of God's presence is like trying to have a bright day without the sun." - A.W. Tozer

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Faith as Understanding

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." - Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)

Tim Keller preached a sermon on 2/1/11 called "Noah and the Reasons of Faith: Faith as Understanding." I listened to it 3 times on my recent trip to Des Moines and back. I felt there were a lot of great points made that would be especially helpful in talking with a skeptic or non-believer. Since there is no transcript, I have decided to go through it again and jot down the highlights here.

Faith has 3 elements: It begins with understanding which leads to conviction and completes itself in commitment. Unless all three are present, it isn't Christian faith.

Faith begins with thinking and reasoning. Thinking is the foundation of faith.

"By faith we understand (i.e. think) that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible." - Hebrews 11:3

"And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." - Hebrews 11:6

This is not the popular conception. People think Christians would rather accept what they are told and rely on tradition. Faith, in the popular mindset, is pitted against thinking. The Bible teaches that not only is faith compatible with thinking but faith consists of, requires and stimulates the most profound thinking, reasoning and rationality. You can't be a Christian without using your brain to its utmost. In fact, the reason there isn't much faith today is because there isn't much thinking today.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) says there are 3 great questions that all people must wrestle with and come up with a working answer for:

How can I know what is real?
What ought I to do that is right, i.e. what is right and wrong?
What can I hope/live for?

But many of us have been taught from childhood that these are the questions for philosophers. We have been told that what really matters is our standard of living, career, appearance and our psychological needs. So, we come to the conclusion that those three questions aren't really important. That isn't doubt on the basis of thinking. That is doubt due to the absence of thinking.

Hebrews 11:6 says that you can't come to God unless you believe He is real. You must reach that conclusion. For example, say you have heard of a beautiful island in the ocean that you would really like to visit. Do you just go there? Of course not. You research it. You look at maps. You talk to people who have been there. After gathering all of this information, you are assured that the island exists, you know where it is at and you know the best route to get there. Any other approach is irresponsible. Yet, people often come to church in the midst of a great need or crisis and when asked whether or not they think Christianity is true, they often say, "Well, it is true for me. I can't speak for other people. I just know it fits me. I know that it's connecting right where I am." Keller says to them you can't skip over verse 6. You must not just think it is true for you. You must think it is true period.

When Paul says, "We walk by faith not by sight," he doesn't contrast faith with reason. Keller uses the example of going into the doctor's office for a minor outpatient procedure. Beforehand, he has talked with the doctor and with others who have had a similar condition. He has researched it online and come to the conclusion that all will be well based on reason and thinking. But when he gets to the office and sees the knives and smells the smell and notices the straps on the bed, he begins to experience doubt. Why? Sight leads to reactions and feelings that have no grounding in reason. How does he get his faith back again? He renews his thinking and remembers the doctor's words and the evidence he has seen. Doubt comes when rational thinking is suspended. Things that are absolutely true don't always FEEL true.

Jesus in Matthew 6 tells people how to overcome anxiety and worry. He says, "Consider the lilies of the field..." He's not saying "Just believe!" He is saying, "Consider, think, deduce."

Hebrews 11:3 is saying that Christians look at the physical world and say that what is seen is not self-explanatory. It takes a lot of thinking to reach that conclusion. By faith we start off saying, "If there is a God then the universe makes sense. What I see is explainable. But if there is no God and all I see is matter it doesn't make sense." Christians have looked at the universe and decided that if all we can see empirically (using all five senses) is all that exists then it doesn't make sense.

Philosophers of science say that when a scientist observes a phenomenon, he/she must ask, "What causes this? What governs this? The way to find out is you posit a premise, you pose a theory. Then you try out the theory. Scientists determine which theory is right/true by finding the one with the greatest explanatory power. It's the only one that makes sense. It's the only one that explains what I see. So, a Christian believes in faith because every other way of explaining the universe has far more problems, contradictions and incoherence. A Christian doesn't say there are no intellectual problems with their belief. A Christian says that every belief system is vastly inferior.

There are two faith premises: There is no God and therefore the universe is self explanatory and ultimate. There is nothing but the physical. The other premise says God created it. So, a Christian can ask the person holding the first view the following question..."OK, so if there is no God, if the world is an accident and therefore all my thoughts and all my feelings and everything about me is just the chance collocation of molecules, if everything I think and everything I feel is really just explained in terms of chemistry and physical laws, why be rational? You are arguing with me but on the basis of your view, weeds grow because they are weeds and minds just do whatever minds do. You are acting as if we are free to think about different kinds of ideas and listen to different arguments and then choose the best one. On the basis of your view, that's impossible. Your mind is just a bunch of atoms vibrating around. You will do whatever you have been programmed to do. There is no freedom. When you use language and logic, when you assume the world is orderly, when you assume that there is a uniformity of nature (i.e. that if the fire burns you once it will burn you again), there is no basis for these assumptions in your view."

Modern philosophers know that if there is no God and this visible universe is all we have got, there is no reason to trust reason. There is no logical basis for logic if there is nothing besides what we see. Why should I trust my mind if it is just the product of evolution? The Christian would say, "Ah, you do trust your thinking and you do trust reason though you have no basis for it. You have no explanatory power to explain why reason works and that we know it works."

Furthermore, the Christian can say to the skeptic, "You have no ability to talk about moral obligation at all. You have no way to appeal to people and you have no basis on which to work for freedom and justice in the world." The Christian can say, "But we know some things are always wrong. We know genocide is wrong. But, if this world is all there is, than all moral feelings are the product of atoms and molecules. In the end, everything is an accident. The fact that you feel these things is purely an accident because the universe is an accident."

After 200 years, the brightest thinkers are realizing that if the universe is all there is, there is no basis for reason or moral obligation. But we do know that our thoughts work and we do know some things are wrong. So, someone says, "I don't know if there is a God," but they go home and kiss their wife and kids as if love was real. But on the basis of their view, there is no such thing. Love is really just chemical reactions. If everything you experience is based on natural law and physics then your feelings, plans, trusts, choices and achievements are not really real.

If your premise leads you to a conclusion that is obviously wrong then you have to go back and look at your premise. To argue that there is no God is to implicitly agree that language, logic and your mind work, which means you are inherently admitting that there is a God.

Many people say you can live a full life without God or Christianity. But a life full of what? It isn't integrity because you will not be able to take what you believe and apply it to what you do. You believe one thing but you act in another way. You have to because the theory that the universe is ultimate has no explanatory power. You know your mind works. You know some things are true. You know some things are wrong. You know that love is real. But you can't account for it. But Christians don't have this contradiction. They don't have to assume the very thing they are trying to deny in order to deny it.

To disbelieve takes a lot of faith and it is faith not based on thinking.

So why does thinking lead to faith? The God who invented the universe is not impersonal. He is a person. He rewards those who diligently seek Him. This is someone who wants you to come into His presence, who wants a relationship with you. Thinking will lead you to understand that love is real because there is a personal God who loves you. Right and wrong exists because there is a God behind everything who cares about how we live. So, thinking about these things ultimately leads to faith and faith leads to a desire to want to please a God who has created you for a purpose within His creation. You'll want to find Him and have a relationship with Him.

Finally, your thinking will inevitably lead you to Jesus Christ. Martin Luther's thinking led him to belief in God and wanting to obey and please God but he quickly came to the conclusion that he couldn't on his own. He couldn't even obey the Golden Rule, which almost everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike holds to be instinctively true. So, Luther is thinking, "How in the world can I please this God?" The Bible tells us there is only one way. A voice came down from heaven when Jesus was baptized and said, "This is my son in whom I am well pleased." Well pleased. Jesus is the only person in the history of mankind to live a perfect life and to be found pleasing to God on his own. Romans 8 tells us that when we accept Christ as our Savior and the Holy Spirit comes down on us, we too become pleasing in God's sight.

That is worth thinking about.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ambassador for Christ

"The usefulness of your ministry depends in large measure on the depth of your spiritual life." - Colin Smith, Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois

How aware are you throughout each and every day that you are an ambassador of Christ...that God is making His appeal through you? Every Christian has this ministry every single day whether they know it or not. It is incredibly freeing to know that it is God working through us. It is incredibly humbling that the perfect God of the universe reaches others through our fingertips. It is incredibly convicting that I have a responsibility to be walking closely with God in order that I may be most effective in the advancement of His Kingdom.

Far too often, I view my spiritual walk as my spiritual if it starts and ends with me and is ultimately for my growth and edification. How short sighted of me. My spiritual growth and sanctification ripples through the sphere of influence in which God has placed me. If I am finding a comfort level with sin and neglecting my daily time with God, I have not only hurt myself but those around me. Yes, God can still work through me because He is God regardless of the status of my heart. After all, He worked through the Assyrians and Babylonians. But if I have taken my eyes off of Him, I am going to be far less willing and open to being used by Him. Ultimately, I am impeding His will and His ministry of reconciliation with the world.

I am very thankful for the ministry God has given me as a care group leader. Over the years, I have certainly noticed the differences in my preparation and effectiveness as a leader when my life is saturated with God. I have more wisdom and a greater ability to connect the dots for guys between their lives and God's Word. Of course, this wisdom isn't mine. It is just flowing more freely through me from the Spirit as this vessel of clay is more willing to be shaped by its potter.

I need to remember that the unopened Bible on my nightstand isn't an issue just between God and myself. It reaches much further than I will ever know.

"Ministry is not what we do for God, it's what God does through us. Be Spirit-filled like Jesus." - Mark Driscoll

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Don't Give Up

3 tweets today from Mike Donehey of Tenth Avenue North are excellent reminders and encouragement for all of us:

Hebrews 12 in my brain this morning. We fix our eyes on Jesus and run this race with witnesses cheering us to the finish.

Witnesses on the sidelines. David yelling, "I committed adultery, get back up!" Peter crying, "I denied Christ! "Keep running, He redeems!"

God's redemption is running underneath the fall today. Wherever you are, whatever you've done, get back up.

"God thinks of every separate child of His as much as if He had only that one." - Charles Spurgeon

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Too Good To Be True

From Pastor Tullian...

Having concluded a fourteen week sermon series on the book of James the week before (you can access that entire series for free here), I began a new six-week sermon series this past Sunday entitled “Pictures of Grace.” We’re going back to the Gospels and looking at various events in the life and ministry of Jesus where the shocking, counter-intuitive nature of amazing grace is on display. Each week we’ll look intently at how Jesus wrecks people with his grace, turning everything that makes sense in our conditional world upside-down.

I began the series by pointing out that there’s nothing more difficult for us to get our minds around than the unconditional grace of God; it offends our deepest sensibilities. A conditional world is much safer than an unconditional world because a conditional world keeps us in control, it’s formulaic–do certain things and certain things are guaranteed to happen. We understand conditions. Conditionality makes sense. Unconditionality on the other hand is incomprehensible to us. We are so conditioned against unconditionality–we are told in a thousand different ways that accomplishment precedes acceptance; that achievement precedes approval.

Society demands two way love. Everything’s conditional: if you achieve only then will you receive meaning, security, respect, love and so on. But grace, as Paul Zahl points out, is one way love: “Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable.”

Like Job’s friends, we naturally conclude that good people get good stuff and bad people get bad stuff. The idea that bad people get good stuff is thickly counter-intuitive. It seems terribly unfair. It offends our sense of justice. Even those of us who have tasted the radical saving grace of God find it intuitively difficult not to put conditions on grace– “don’t take it too far; keep it balanced.” The truth is, however, that a “yes grace but” posture is the kind of posture that perpetuates slavery in our lives and in the church. Grace is radically unbalanced. It has no “but”: it’s unconditional, uncontrollable, unpredictable, and undomesticated. As Doug Wilson put it recently, “Grace is wild. Grace unsettles everything. Grace overflows the banks. Grace messes up your hair. Grace is not tame. In fact, unless we are making the devout nervous, we are not preaching grace as we ought.”

With this in mind I decided to begin with Luke 7:36-50. This is the famous account of the sinful woman (most likely a prostitute) barging into a party of religious leaders and washing the feet of Jesus with her tears of repentance. I pointed out that two rescues are happening in this passage: the obvious rescue of the immoral person but also the rescue of the moral person.

Normally when we think of people in need of God’s rescuing grace, we think of the unrighteous and the immoral. But what’s fascinating to me is that throughout the Bible, it’s the immoral person that gets the Gospel before the moral person; it’s the prostitute who gets grace; it’s the Pharisee who doesn’t. What we see in this story is that God’s grace wrecks and then rescues, not only the promiscuous but the pious. The Pharisee in this story can’t understand what Jesus is doing by allowing this woman to touch him because he assumes that God is for the clean and competent. But Jesus here shows him that God is for the unclean and incompetent and that when measured against God’s perfect holiness we’re all unclean and incompetent. Jesus shows him that the gospel isn’t for winners, but losers: it’s for the weak and messed up person, not the strong and mighty person. It’s not for the well-behaved, but the dead.

Remember: Jesus came not to effect a moral reformation but a mortal resurrection (moral reformations can, and have, taken place throughout history without Jesus. But only Jesus can raise the dead, over and over and over again). As Gerhard Forde put it, “Christianity is not the move from vice to virtue, but rather the move from virtue to grace.”

Wrecking every religious category he had, Jesus tells the Pharisee that he has a lot to learn from the prostitute, not the other way around.

The prostitute on the other hand walks into a party of religious people and falls at the feet of Jesus without any care as to what others are thinking and saying. She’s at the end of herself. More than wanting to avoid an uncomfortable situation, she wanted to be clean–she needed to be forgiven. She was acutely aware of her guilt and shame. She knew she needed help. She understood at a profound level that God’s grace doesn’t demand that you get clean before you come to Jesus. Rather, our only hope for getting clean is to come to Jesus. Only in the Gospel does love precede loveliness. Everywhere else loveliness precedes love.

I closed the sermon by recalling a story that Rod Rosenbladt told me when we were together at the recent Gospel Coalition conference in Chicago. It’s a story about a middle-aged woman who needed help from her pastor.

She went to her pastor and said, “Pastor, you know that I had an abortion a number of years ago?” “Yes,” the Pastor replied. “Well, I need to talk to you about the man I’ve since met.” “Alright,” replied the Pastor.

“Well, we met a while back, and started dating and I thought, I need to tell him about the abortion. But I just couldn’t. Then things got more serious between us and I thought, I need to tell him about the abortion. But I just couldn’t. A while later we got engaged and I thought, I need to tell him about the abortion. But I just couldn’t. Then we got married and I thought, I really need to tell him about the abortion. But I just couldn’t. So I needed to talk to someone, Pastor, and you’re it.”

The Pastor replied, “You know, we have a service for this. Let’s go through that together.” So they did – a service of confession and absolution.

When they were finished, she said to him, “Now I think I have the courage to tell my new husband about my abortion. Thanks, Pastor.”

And the Pastor replied to her, “What abortion?”

What the Pharisee, the prostitute, and all of us need to remember every day is that Christ offers forgiveness full and free from both our self-righteous goodness and our unrighteous badness. This is the hardest thing for us to believe as Christians. We think it’s a mark of spiritual maturity to hang onto our guilt and shame. We’ve sickly concluded that the worse we feel, the better we actually are. The declaration of Psalm 103:12 is the most difficult for us to grasp and embrace: “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Or, as Corrie ten Boom once said, “God takes our sins—the past, present, and future—and dumps them in the sea and puts up a sign that says ‘No Fishing allowed.’”

I know this seems too good to be true, but it’s true. No strings attached. No but’s. No conditions. No need for balance. If you are a Christian, you are right now under the completely sufficient imputed righteousness of Christ. Your pardon is full and final. In Christ, you’re forgiven. You’re clean. It is finished.

What abortion?

"If grace doesn't cause you to say, 'Wait a minute, that can't be right', it's not grace!" - Pastor Tullian

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


So short. So short. "What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." (James 4:14)

"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:7

Heavenly Father, give them...Yourself.

"He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken." - Isaiah 25:8

"For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." - Revelation 7:17

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." - Revelation 21:4

Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Humility and Hell

"When Francis Chan speaks of hell, the vapor of his tears smells like love." - John Piper

I absolutely love how God speaks through Francis Chan. Every good Christian pastor and teacher will properly delineate the chasm between an imperfect human sinner and a perfect and holy God. But it seems like when Francis does it, you just feel it deeper. When I hear him talk, I want to be more humble. I want to be more pragmatic and measured in my responses to believers and non-believers alike. I still have a tendency to want to jump into a conversation when I see God's truth being misstated or twisted or ignored. I would do better to allow the other person to speak more to better understand their heart, attitude and beliefs. I would do better if my responses were more steeped in love rather than motivated by being right.

You can speak God's truth out of pride and it will still be truth...but it won't be received nearly as well as if it was spoken out of love and humility. God is teaching me that through Francis.

Most importantly, I want to be more humble in my relationship with God. I want to be more yielded and submitted. I want to desire God's glory more than my own and in ever greater measure.

When I first saw this video, I immediately thought of a couple people I have witnessed to multiple times over the years only to find time and again that their intellect and reason proved to be the biggest obstacle in making God the treasure of their hearts and lives. However, I know I do this as well. Within those areas, I need God to humble me so that my life would better reflect His glory.

"Humility is beyond our reach. If it were a product of reaching, we would instinctively be proud of reaching it. It is a gift." - John Piper

"Erasing Hell" book review:

"Eternity is the never ending fulfillment of what you pursued in this life." - J.R. Vassar


"We will not be surprised that Christ has not returned according to any human's timetable. But we should not be relieved. Lord come quickly." - Albert Mohler

Today is the day that Harold Camping called for the rapture. As it is past 6 PM CST, I can officially say he was mistaken. However, I knew he was mistaken before that.

"But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. - Mark 13:32 (ESV)

As a Christian, it is tempting to just dismiss this entire episode and move on. Yet, there are lessons to be taken away. The gloating of skeptics, atheists and even other Christians, should result in even greater prayers for their salvation and for a deeper understanding of grace and love.

We should not stop at verse 32 but hear Christ's command in verse 33:

"Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come."

We should be taking this opportunity to again ask ourselves if we are truly ready...are we on guard against those forces around us that want to destroy our faith? We should be asking God to show us the stumbling blocks in our lives and hearts that threaten to extinguish our passion for our Lord. This is a time to be humble rather than prideful that we didn't fall for Camping's proclamation.

The idea of the rapture is taken from Matthew 24:38-42:

"For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming."

I remain unsure whether this passage can be extrapolated into a literal rapture. I will let John Piper offer some definitions and counsel on this matter:

Finally, here is a very well written letter to those who followed Camping:

As of March 2012, Camping has admitted his sin and will stop making end of the world predictions:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

First 1/3 of the year

"God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way." - C.S. Lewis

In a word...challenging. Here is a breakdown of the challenges:

1.) Personal stock account down 68% for the year at its lowest point.
2.) Lots of evenings and weekends involved extra work from my job.
3.) Only one vacation day...half of which was spent working.
4.) As if #2 and #3 weren't stressful enough, all of that work resulted in a very poor first quarter performance for my company.
5.) A couple of significant illnesses.
6.) Multiple IRS issues.
7.) Recurring "service engine soon" light in my car that has resulted in two separate trips to the mechanic and extra expenses.
8.) Worse than average weather - snow, ice, cold, rain, tornados - which has a tendency to adversely affect my mood and energy level.

Pretty ugly, huh? Yes, I have perspective. I know my issues pale in comparison relative to others but this blog is about my experiences in an absolute sense. Let's go through these one by one and see where I stand now.

1.) I have been trading stocks for 13 years now and have NEVER lost such a large percentage in such a short time. Not only that, this happened in an UP market. I firmly believe that God was at least partially responsible. I have never experienced so many bad breaks in my life. It was simply too much to be coincidence (referencing the last blog). There were days when the market was up and all 10 of my positions, which should have benefited from an up market, were down on the day. That is practically impossible and it happened multiple times.

So, it was either give up or continue but just completely let the results fall in God's hands while still doing my best. It was challenging at times to balance being a good steward (risk management, researching stocks before taking a position) and yet putting all my faith in God that whether my account doubled or went to zero within the next week, it ultimately didn't matter, because He mattered more. From the low I reached in March, I am up about 65%. But I still have a ways to go to get back to even for the year. Yet, I'm not worrying about it. I do believe it was another lesson in faith and where I place my worth and I think I got a passing grade.

2.) Not much to say here. I am not working extra hours because I find my worth in it or out of pride. I do it because I think it is necessary in order to be good at my job and give my firm the best chance at being successful. I believe it honors God and my employer and offers a good witness.

3.) Again, much like #2, a small company can't afford to have any of its members gone much. I will have more vacation later this year so I have gotten through the worst of it.

4.) Performance has been better in the second quarter. Will we recover enough for me to have any chance at a real bonus? That is a long shot at this point but one day at a time.

5.) I am healthy and thankful. Getting in better shape is a top goal for this year and I am currently working out at the hardest level in over a year.

6.) Not going to elaborate here but let's just say that federal issues are resolved. State is still a work in progress but I am much closer to the end than the beginning.

7.) The light remains on but I am now chalking it up to a sensor issue. The second trip into the shop resulted in an engine flush which has noticeably helped my gas mileage. Thank you Lord.

8.) Weather has definitely turned nicer and outdoors time can once again be an option. It is aiding my health and my workouts.

There have been times in my life when the above list occurring within a four month period would have sent me into a mental and emotional downward spiral. But that never really happened this time around. I rest so much more securely in my relationship with Jesus Christ and who I am because of what He has done for me rather than what I can do for myself. It has made all the difference. I actually feel more optimistic about my life than I have in a long time. I think that's because I know more of what my life is about now and that I am much more sold on a cause that lies outside and above me. These are all temporal issues that ultimately hold no sway over my heart and soul.

This is from a blog that I wrote on 9/18/10:

So, this is what it comes down to and why I struggle. My hope ebbs and flows between heaven and this world...between the eternal and the temporal...between the saving grace of Jesus Christ and my desperate attempt to save myself. I love Paul's phrase, "your endurance inspired by hope". When I start to lose hope my endurance definitely suffers and the temptation to quit looms large. But that is only when my hope is outside of God. I want to eventually get to the point echoed in the verses below. When all earthly hope has been removed...when there is no worldly reason to go on...I will simply look up and know who I am and rejoice in the God of my salvation.

Habakkuk 3:17-18 (New American Standard Bible)

17Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
18Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

By the continued grace of God I am getting to that point. More than ever, I look up and know who I am and rejoice in the God of my salvation.