Sunday, July 30, 2006

Friday, June 16, 2006

If I had the chance...

I'm never going to be on Larry King Live and I'm thankful for that. Dr. Mohler does an amazing job at it and I'm glad he does. I do think it is fun though to listen to Larry's questions and think about how I might answer if I were in that position.

For example, take last night's discussion about homosexuality.

Larry King asks:

"Reverend Mohler, how could something be a sin if you didn't choose it?"

For Dr. Mohler's powerful response check out the transcript of the show.

If I were in his shoes, I might say:

Without even diving into whether or not homosexuality is a choice, if we just accepted the idea that we don't really have any control over our desires and that those desires can't be changed, Larry you believe that something can be wrong even if you don't choose it.


A husband takes all of his family's money and spends it in Atlantic City and his famiy ends up on the street. Let's pretend like that desire wasn't a choice. He doesn't know why he loves gambling so much, he just gambles. You can't tell me you wouldn't look at that action and say that was wrong.

Child molestation.

A man has desires for children. He might say he didn't ask to be this way. Is that wrong? Larry, you know you would say that desire isn't right.

It's not a question of whether or not we say that a desire can be wrong, even if a person didn't choose it, it's what desire and who gets to say that it's wrong. I don't think I have that right. I believe however since God created us and God owns us, that He does.

But even beyond that, to come back to the idea of choice, personally, I think one of the most unloving, uncompassionate things a person could possibly say would be to say that homosexuality wasn't sin - that it was just the way a person was and there was nothing that a person could do about it. Because you see that statement speaks not only to the person who struggles with homosexual desires, it also speaks to the person who struggles with desires for alcohol, to the person who struggles with desires to gamble, to the person who struggles with any other harmful sexual desire. And you know what it says to them? It says you have to be all your bad desires. You have a desire that is going to harm you, that is going to hurt your family, you are that desire. It isn't a choice and it isn't sin. It is something you even through God's power can do nothing about.

I am so glad that by God's grace I don't have to be all my bad desires that I've ever had; and that when I speak to a person who struggles with any sinful desire, that while I don't want to minimize how strong that desire might be, I can say that God is greater, stronger and that through Christ they can experience victory in their lives over those desires.

Getting to Know Your Hero

We all want a chance to meet our heros. But, probably not like this.

Ian Shaw tells the story of Andrew Reed, who was profoundly affected by George Whitefield and had the opportunity to visit his gravesite.

"In England Reed had preached from pulpits in which Whitefield himself had stood, seen his books and sat on his chairs, but none of this was to prepare him for just how close to Whitefield he was to find himself in America. His party was led down into the vault in which Whitefield was buried, where stood three coffins, that of Whitefield in the middle. His host, as was the custom of the time, then slid back the lid and there before his eyes was the skeleton of George Whitefield himself, Reed's great hero of his youth. He had hardly recovered from his surprise at this sight when his host leant into the coffin, lifted out Whitefield's skull, and handed it to Andrew Reed as the honoured guest! With characteristic understatement, Reed recorded his shock: "I could say nothing, but thought and feeling were busy."

(The Greatest is Charity, p.152)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Check out a new blog at... family's journey to serve Christ by serving the church and helping orphans in Africa.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Being a Dad

I love being a dad.

My two year old turned to me at breakfast and said, "Dad you my best friend." Of course right after that she had a gas bubble and looked up and said, "Wow. My bottom talks."

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A Helpful Article...

The Care of Orphans: Guiding Principles and Best Practices

A Position Paper

Friday, April 28, 2006

Moving Day...

To the like, two regular readers of this blog (and I'm including myself in that count) I wanted to let you know the obvious, I'm moving over to

I'm guessing once in a while I'll post something or other up here, probably nothing significant, just random I've got to get it out musings that aren't quite appropriate for the other blog.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

I don't do counseling...

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that or at least a statement like that from accomplished pastors. I just recently for example read of a pastor who doesn’t meet with people from his church for counseling because those kinds of meetings “drain” him.

Now, I’d be the first to tell here for rest of post

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Click for Information On...

Potential Crisis in East Africa ...

Monday, April 24, 2006

Making Your Preacher Better...

If you want to learn what you don't know about teaching, I would suggest signing up to work at a high school for a couple of years. That's what I have had to do this past year, and wow, I'm pretty sure I'm learning more than my students.

One of the big things I've learned is the...(click here for rest of article)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Are you interested?

I don't think being a people person pastor has anything to do with personality. I think being a people person pastor has something to do with being interested in people.

What I mean by that is people besides yourself ... (Click for rest of article)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Can A Pastor Not Be A People Person?

I remember in seminary someone once asking the question:

Can you be a pastor and not be a people person?

Obviously, it is physically possible to be a pastor and not be a people person. I've met a lot of pastors that didn't seem all that interested in people. But I don't think that's really the question.

Can you do the work of a pastor and not be a people person?

Personally, I'd have to say ...(Click for rest of article)

Monday, April 17, 2006

I will survive...

I want you to think about one fact that could change your life. And by change your life, I mean completely change the way you look at everything in your life.

Like, say perhaps finding out you were going to die. You can't tell me finding out you were going to die in like two weeks wouldn't change the way you went about living your life. It would change the way you looked at everything, your marriage, your work, your hobbies.

Or how about even better, finding out you weren't going to die. This one obviously takes more of a stretch of the imagination but I've got to believe finding out you weren't going to die would have a pretty major impact on the decisions you went about making.

I say that because I wonder if we always get that is a big part of what it means to be a Christian.

Obivously I need to modify that a bit.

It's not that we don't die or that we can't die. The reality is better.

Quoting the Apostle's Creed:

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy *catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.

We believe that we are going to die, our bodies will be buried, our souls will go to heaven, and then one day in the future Jesus is going to return, and our bodies will be literally rise from the grave, reunited with our souls and be transformed into something much more glorious and powerful than they are right now, a body like Jesus Christ's.

That's pretty awesome stuff.

I mean, have you ever looked at your body and said to yourself, I believe this body is going to survive death. Only better. That's part of what Easter's about. Paul calls Jesus' resurrection a kind of firstfruits.

No question, that's one fact that should completely change the way you look at life.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

What Am I Going to Do About It?

(*See previous post "Do Something")


I know that on my own apart from God's grace I can't keep any of the following resolutions. I make these resolutions crying out to my Savior Jesus Christ for help.

1.) I am committed to finding ways to remind myself and others of the needs that do exist in this world on a regular basis.
2.) I am committed to asking myself what sins lay behind my materialism. Is it because I don't believe God can really take care of me? Is it because I don't believe what Jesus says about God's attitude towards me? Is it because I've made my own personal comfort more important than the kingdom? Is it because I am acting as if I am Lord of my life and not Jesus? Is it because I feel like I have a right to spend my money the way I want? When I see better the sins beneath my materialism - to repent immediately.
3.) I am committed to taking Paul's words in 1 Timothy 6:10,11 seriously "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness."
4.) I am committed to asking God for help on a regular basis that I would put my trust in Him and not what I have.
5.) I am committed when I begin to complain about what I don't have to imagine myself as a Christian living in a place like Sudan and to pray for them instead of complaining about myself.
6.) I am committed to reminding myself that everything I have belongs to God - and to be ready to gladly give it up if it is needed. I am committed, if there is something that I am not willing to give up to God - to ask myself why? And if needed, to be radical and give that up quickly.
7.) I am committed to thinking of other Christians like family and being willing to sacrifice for family.
8.) I am committed to take Jesus' words about what it means to be a disciple seriously and not to allow the example of others or the way that some downplay those words to distract me.
9.) I am committed to finding good examples of people who are sacrificing for Christ and learning from those examples rather than using the bad examples of many as a guide.
10.) I am committed to asking other people to help me figure out what we can do specifically about the needs we see in the world around us. I am committed to getting small groups together to ask the question - how can we better help those who are hurting in this world?
11.) I am committed to coming up with at least one specific plan to put into action in the next year.
12.) I am committed to enjoying what God has given me with thanksgiving. I am committed to believing the gospel and not to give in order to earn God's favor but because I have God's favor. I am committed to believing that if I gave up everything I had and lived in the poorest parts of the world, I would not be any more worthy of salvation than I am now - that my only hope in both cases is Jesus Christ. I am committed to believing that God is for me because of what Jesus did - and that because of that there is really no risk in obedience.
13.) I am committed to examining what I think are my needs and asking if they really are needs or if they simply are desires.
14.) I am committed to going to serve God with my family to help and serve the poor if He allows.

What about you?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Do Something

I'm imagining two brothers, both given I don't know, let's say an inheritance from their father.

Perhaps it was sheep.

For some reason one brother's flock does well, I mean the guy makes money like crazy. The other brother's flock though, dies off.

He's starving.

In my mind, the brother who is doing well has an obligation to the other brother. Before he goes and spends his money living it up, he should try to help his brother survive.

I mean, obviously that would have been the father's desire.

I was thinking about that, because I was reading a book about life in the times of Christ. Bandits, Prophets, and Messiahs or something like that. Apparently the religious leaders in Jerusalem, financially were making a killing while the peasants were struggling to survive.

And I thought, that's just wrong.

In a nation, for one group to be buying bigger houses, spending their money on needless things, while their brothers, are barely surviving. To me, that's evil.

Which led me of course to think about me, about us, about America.

What are doing? What are we thinking? Seriously, do we have a clue?

Spending our money on like 2000 square feet that we don't need, on our gardens, on our cars, on whatever we can think to spend it on, when there is a whole world out there, struggling just to survive.

I'm convinced if we could see things the way they really are, we'd probably puke from the evil of it all. At least, I would puke on my own materialism.

It is not a trivial issue.

This world is filled with amazing need and we have, an amazing opportunity. We can't just like hole up in our houses, clutching our money, saying me, me, me all day long.

We can do something extraordinary.

And the thing is, it's not like it even takes that much of a sacrifice.

Quoting Doug Nichols from Action International Missions:

1 dollar gives supplementary feeding for a child in Zambia for one month.

90 cents fully clothes an orphan in Malawi or Zambia.

6 dollars provides a set of commentaries for a needy pastor in Africa or Asia.

50 picking bucks will support a pastor in Cambodia, the Philippines, and India.

I have to be careful here, to use gospel motivation. The purpose here is not to guilt me or you into giving.

I'm just wondering though, are we forgetting what Jesus has done for us? Are we forgetting the grace we've been shown? Are we forgetting who all this stuff belongs to? Are we forgetting that there is a heaven? Are we forgetting that there is a judgment?

Do we even remember what Jesus told us he would being saying to some on that day,

"Depart from me, you cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink. I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, I was naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me! Then they also will answer, saying 'Lord when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them saying, 'Truly I say to you, as you did not do it ot one of the least of these, you did not do it to me."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Sitting down and shutting up...

Why we need to stop thinking we are so smart and start listening and learning from others*

1.) Thinking of yourself as better than others is a pretty big sin.

In fact, one old saint calls that attitude the mother of hell. (And you know what I say, if hell has a mother, she must be one nasty momma...)

2.) If you are pretty smart, it's only because God has gifted you. And if you are going around trusting in your intelligence you are taking that gift from God and using it in an absolutely perverted way. You are being a little like a kid who gets a bee-bee gun and aims it right at his foot.

3.) You are not as smart as you think you are anyway. Think for a minute about how little you know, say in comparison with the devil. The devil is crazy, but he's smart. Are you going to tell me you are smarter than the devil? If you really believe that, watch out. If you don't believe that, how in the world can you be so proud about how smart you are when you are not even as smart as the devil?

4.) You don't know so much more than you know. Take the thing you think you know best, and consider how little you really know about it. Even geniuses like Einstein would look at the universe around them and say, man I'm just touching the edges. Actually, Einstein supposedly put it like this: "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe."

5.) You are not going to grow much if you think you know so much more than everybody else. You'll end up looking a little like a precocious four year old in a suit who goes around using big words and acting like he knows much more than he really does. At first, it might be kind of cute. But after a while, if he really does think he is as smart as everyone else in the room you feel a little bad for the guy.

6.) You are probably not even going to be a very good teacher. I'm sure there are exceptions to this rule because I think I made it up, but have you ever listened to someone teach who obviously really, really thinks alot of himself?

If they aren't very smart, they are completely boring.

And if they happen to be pretty smart, the knowledge they do impart has like a bad taste to it. If it's math they are teaching, o.k. it still might help you a bit but if they are trying to impart spiritual knowledge with that kind of attitude, it's very difficult medicine to swallow.

Thomas Watson puts it like this, "The more one values himself, the less God and angels value him. Let a person be eminent, yet, if he is self-conceited, he is loved by none. He is like a physician who has the plague. Though he may be admired for his skill, yet none care to come near him."

7.) You are cruising for a bruising. If you don't humble yourself, you can be sure God will.

*Adapted from Thomas Watson's "The Duty of Self-Denial"

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Talking about me...

I've always been taught not to tell your own story as a preacher.

I think it was Martyn Lloyd Jones who really stressed this, don't talk about yourself, talk about the text.

And I get that. I really do.

The sermon is not about me. I don't want to get in the way. I don't want people to leave looking or thinking about me but about Jesus Christ. And I definitely don't think I'm all that exciting anyway.

That said, I'm just wondering...

For one thing, I'm wondering whether or not we might be missing out on a wonderful, God-given teaching tool.

Look at the apostle Paul. There is a lot of his life in his letters. Why? I think one reason is because it helps us see the truth lived out. Isn't that one of the points of having elders in the church? To show the church what it looks like to live for Christ.

Whether or not we talk about ourselves in our sermons, I'm convinced we need to talk about this - we need to not only tell our people what the text says, we need to show them how to interact with Scripture in a real way in real life.

We need to give them real, living breathing examples of how the truth we are preaching plays itself out at work, when they are struggling, when they are doing well.

For another thing, I'm wondering if talking about telling our stories is missing the point anyway. Our story is God's story - our individual lives are examples of how He is accomplishing His sanctifying, redeeming, saving work. If we talk about our stories as if they were our stories, then we are missing the point. But what if we did at least every once in a while pepper our sermons with illustrations of how God is working out His story in our lives?

I for one, think that's more than acceptable.

I think it is desperately needed.

Monday, April 03, 2006


I'm a small group guy.

I want you to know that.

By temperament and by theology, I'm all for small groups. By temperament, I mean, I like listening to people share. I like being around other people. I like interaction. I like it when people ask questions. By theology, I mean I believe one of the primary ways God changes people is through relationships and that small groups are a smart, common sense way of helping people form those kinds of life-changing relationships.

I'm a small group guy.

That said, I'm just wondering something.

I'm wondering if sometimes (not all the time - sometimes) the emphasis on small groups has something to do with a de-emphasis on preaching. And I'm wondering if the de-emphasis on preaching has something to do with the fact that most of us would rather hear ourselves talk than someone else.

I taught Sunday School with a group of four year olds a couple weeks ago. And man, when they were talking about themselves they were so into it. But the moment, and I mean, the moment someone else started telling a story - they checked out.

Like many of us.

Small groups are great - go for it. But be careful the motivation is right. If we're going to really learn, we can't just listen to ourselves. We've got to learn to listen to other people just as well.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Saying No to Me

It's impossible to follow Christ without a radical, wholehearted commitment to deny self.

Though that runs contrary to everything our culture tells us, we as Christians must constantly remind ourselves and each other that we can not truly follow Christ without saying no to ourselves.

I say that for a number of reasons:

I say it because following Christ means calling Him Lord. And calling Him Lord means saying He gets to call the shots, and saying He gets to call the shots means you don't, and you not calling the shots requires self-denial.

I say it because the purpose of following Christ is to glorify God. Living to glorify God means being done with living to glorify self.

I say it because Jesus taught that those who follow Him must be characterized by love. And everything about the way the Bible defines love requires self-denial.

Think about it.

Love is patient - why are we impatient? We're not denying self.

Love is kind - what is kindness? Looking out for someone other than yourself.

Love does not envy - what is envy? Wanting what's best for one self.

To love is to deny self.

I say it because Jesus has called us to follow Him for the purpose of helping others.

I say it because the nature of what we are as group of Christ followers requires self-denial. We are a body. A body where every part is looking out for itself is a freak show. If my hand decides it wants to do what it wants to do without paying attention to the rest of my body, I'm going to end up a pretty frightening person.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Meaningless Post

With all the talking I'm doing at school and at church, on top of the other responsibilities of life, I haven't been posting as much of late.

I've found I haven't had quite enough time to write anything meaningful.

So I'm sitting here staring at the computer asking myself, why start now?

Instead, let's talk T.V.

It pains me to admit, I watch American Idol.

Though honestly I'm a little less ashamed after reading this article by an eminent American theologian.

He's a great writer and he's much smarter than me...I love what he has to say, still after reading this particular article, I have to admit I have a bone to pick.

Just listen to his explanation why American idol is such a hit.

"I think it is the pleasure of watching others fail, of having their dreams torn down, of being crushed by the cutting comments of the English hardman on the panel, that exerts the attraction... It is the weekly spectacle of seeing more wannabes biting the dust which keeps everyone tuning in, episode after episode. Indeed, I confess it: I like nothing more than seeing the fresh faced Jessica or Mary-Lou or Brad or Chad having their hopes of stardom ripped from their hands and then being dispatched back to supermarket checkout from whence they came. Nasty, but true. To quote two sayings of the cynic’s cynic, Gore Vidal: it is not enough to succeed; others must fail; and (perhaps even more horribly honest) every time I hear of the success of a friend, a little piece of me dies. Idol plays unashamedly to such basic instincts, instincts found in all of us."

Now I believe in depravity and all that and I appreciate Trueman's honesty - plus I'm guessing he's going a little bit over the top, but still I've honestly never once thought of it like that.

In fact, to sound a little less like a theologian or a pastor and probably more like an elementary school student out at recess, I have to you really think most people are that mean?

I'm serious.

Do you really think a lot of people really think like that? That they enjoy watching something to see someone fail?

Or am I just another naive American?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Fighting for Happiness

I'm having the kids at school work their way through Jonathan Edwards' resolutions.

I was particularly struck by this one:

"Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power; might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of. "

I'm not sure what was in Edwards' mind as he wrote this, and perhaps speaking hundreds of years later our language might need to be more careful, but I can't help thinking he was simply bouncing off Jesus' words in Matthew 6.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

There are lots of things we could say about the typical American Christian lifestyle. But I wonder if one of the main things we should say about it is that it is just dumb. Sure, there's a lot that is sinful, there's a lot that is wrong, but bottom line it's all pretty dumb.

I mean, why the mad rush to obtain as much happiness as we can in this world when the happiness we can obtain in this world is so fleeting and so empty? Why the mad rush to store up as many treasures as we can in this world when our time in this world is so short?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Mondays with Calvin

Preachers, get specific...

"...the intellect is very rarely deceived in general definition or in the essence of the thing; but that it is illusory when it goes farther, that is, applies the principle to particular cases. In reply to the general question, every man will affirm that murder is evil. But he who is plotting the death of an enemy contemplates murder as something good. The adulterer will condemn adultery in general, but will flatter himself in his own adultery. Herein is man's ignorance: when he comes to a particular case, he forgets the general principle that he has just laid down..."

Counselors, think about who you are talking to...

[This] rule, however is not without exception. Sometimes the shamefulness of evil-doing presses upon the conscience so that one, imposing upon himself no false image of the good, knowingly and willingly rushes into wickedness. Out of such disposition of mind comes statements like this: 'I see what is better and approve it, but I follow the worse.' To my mind, Aristotle has made a very shrewd distinction between incontinence and intemperance: 'Where incontinence reigns,' he says, 'the disturbed mental state or passion so deprives the mind of particular knowledge that it cannot mark the evil in its own misdeed which it generally discerns in like instances; when the perturbation subsides, repentance straightway returns. Intemperance, however, is not extinguished or shattered by the awareness of sin, but on the contrary, stubbornly persists in choosing its habitual evil."

Calvin's Institutes vol. 1, p.282,283

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Depravity and its effects


I have always believed in it, but frankly I have three girls and well, I've kind of struggled because they are so cute.

Struggled that is until the other day.

We were flipping through the channels when we came across an ice-skating competition, and they actually wanted to watch.

It's reminded once again of my responsibility to train my children. So I'm using March Madness as an opportunity to help them learn the difference between right and wrong.

Watching basketball, right.

Watching ice-skating, that's just wrong.

Friday, March 17, 2006


I'd encourage you to check out a fantastic article by Phil Ryken entitled How the Devil Wants to Run Our Church....

Jesus is Scarier Than You Might Think

I thought maybe we could play a little word association game.

I'll write a word and you say the first word that comes into your mind.


I say Jesus and you say…

There are a lot of words that come into our mind when we hear the name of Jesus. Important, perfect, Son of God, Savior, Redeemer, Friend.

But there's one word I doubt would come into anybody’s mind, and that's the word scary.

It’s not really a term we associate with Jesus.

Warm, accepting, loving…not frightening…not Jesus.

That’s a problem.

You've probably seen the movie version of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I did and I loved it. But there were some reviews that made a criticism I found interesting.

It’s that Aslan, the lion that represents Jesus Christ…is too tame. He’s simply not awe-inspiring.

I don’t know if they are right about the movie or not, but I do think that pretty accurately sums up one of the problems with the way modern people view Jesus. They just don’t get how frightening he really is.

The people in Jesus’ day did.

That in fact is a response, as we read through the gospels and in particular Mark, that we find coming up over and over again.

The disciples…

Mark 4:37-40,

“And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this?’


Mark 5:6,7,

“And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.

The crowds…

Mark 5:14,15,

“The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.

If you can get your minds away from your, maybe, mental picture of Jesus for a minute and think about Jesus as he actually existed, you’ve got to admit that kind of response, it makes some sense.

I mean, just imagine knowing someone like Jesus.

I definitely can’t describe it the way I ought, but just imagine being out in a boat in the middle of a storm and being scared for your life and then having your friend look at the storm and say, be quiet and have it actually stop.

Or maybe you and he are out in center city one night and you have these two insane criminals that you’ve seen on the news, they’ve just been terrorizing the city, and they are running straight at you two, they are screaming and waving their arms, you are looking around wondering what to do, but when they finally get to where you are they fall flat on their faces and cry out to your friend, please, whatever you do, don’t hurt us.

There’s only one logical initial reaction to a person who is as powerful and as important as that; someone who has control over nature, over sickness, over demons; and that is being scared at your mind.


If you can stop imagining, just add some theology to stories like that. It only makes this person Jesus more awe-inspiring.

For starters, He’s God.

If you or I met somebody who claimed to be God, we’d probably think he was crazy. But if we met somebody who actually was God, if we weren’t scared a little bit, we’d be crazy.

But beyond even that, the Bible says our entire eternal destiny hangs upon our relationship with Him.

I don’t know if you are like me, but I get a little nervous before interviews. I know it’s important to make a good impression…that he like me. And that’s just a job.

When it comes to my relationship with Jesus Christ, we’re talking eternity.

The Bible’s really quite clear about that. There’s always as you read through the New Testament this very definite contrast. It’s all very black and white.

With Christ, in Christ, peace.

Outside of Christ, condemned.

In Christ, beloved by God.

Outside of Christ, children of wrath.

In Christ, free to do what God wants.

Outside of Christ, enslaved to futile desires.

In Christ, enjoying the blessing of God for all eternity.

Outside of Christ, enduring the punishment of God for time without end.

I'm certainly not trying to overstate this, but when you think about meeting someone that important, someone on whom your whole eternal future rests, you can’t tell me you wouldn’t be a little bit frightened.

I say all that, because really you know when you encounter the real Jesus, the Jesus of the gospels it changes the questions you ask.

It’s not, will I accept Jesus?

The real question is will he accept me?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Names have been removed to protect the...well, you decide!

From a recent newspaper article:

"You approach ... at Drink or Crush on a weekend night and ask him what he's doing there, he'll say this:

"Are you sure you want to know?"

... is a shaggy-haired 25-year-old who wears an earring in each ear and loves techno, house and drum-and-bass music. He's also an intern pastor at .... Church

And if you do want to know why ... is at the bar, he's quick to tell you. He's there to talk about Jesus Christ along with the nightclub ministry he recently started...

"Just meet people where they're at," ... told me, explaining why bars are a great place for ministry. "We believe not to condemn people, not to beat them over the head by the Bible. We're not passing out tracts, not cramming Bible verses down their throat. . . . We want to show people we are just like they are."

Whatever about the earring and the shaggy hair.

Whatever about the music, I'm so out of touch, I don't even know what that kind of music is.

Talking about Jesus Christ, great. Developing relationships with people to do it, fantastic.

Nightclub ministry, I don't get it.

Not condemning people, what's that mean anyway? I know I couldn't do that even if I wanted to. I definitely don't have that kind of power. I can't condemn anyone.

Not beating people over the head with the Bible, hard to be against that.

Whatever about the tracts and whatever about not cramming Bible verses.

What really gets me is this, the motivation. "We want to show people we are just like they are."

I mean, where in the world is the hope in that? If I am an unbeliever, I'm sitting there thinking, if you are the same as me why are you even taking the time to tell me about Jesus?

Monday, March 13, 2006

"Did I ever tell you I have no hero..."

I was kind of surprised today.

I like to ask the students I teach questions and so today I asked them who was their hero. They couldn't pick Jesus because that was too obvious. They had to pick someone from history, and you know what, the large majority, couldn't name one. The other day I asked another class the same question and their response wasn't a whole lot better, they by and large, chose actors.

When I say I was kind of suprised, I'm putting it mildly. I was shocked. I know something is up with that. There's got to be a reason.

It could be I guess that I didn't ask the question well, it's a Monday, whatever. Or it could be something else.

I'm trying to figure out exactly what and why it's so concerning to me...because it is.

I think part of the reason it concerns me is because Christianity requires us to look outside of ourselves, to be amazed by someone else; and I just wonder if what's happening in our culture is that we've become so self-focused, so inner-directed that it's hard for us to see anyone outside of us, anyone else as great.

The other day I was reading something Chesterton once wrote, and though he wasn't directly talking about this issue, and though he states things a little differently than I would, I still think it relates.

"Of all the horrible religions the most horrible is the worship of the God within. Anyone who knows anybody knows how it would work...That Jones should worship the God within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones should worship Jones. Let Jones worship the sun or the moon, anything rather than the Inner light; let Jones worship cats or crocodiles, if he can find any on his street, but not the God within. Christianity came into the world firstly in order to assert with violence that a man had not only to look inward, but to look outward, to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divine company and a divine captain. The only fun being a Christian was that a man was not left alone with the Inner light, but definitely recognized an outer light, fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Failure might not be such a failure after all...

If you were to ask me what I wanted, really wanted and I was going to be honest, I think I often want, really want my life to be easy.

If I had my way, everything would go my way...without a whole lot of effort.

To put it another way, when I look at what I wish for, I find that I often wish for success.

And you know, I'm not sure that desire is wholly wrong. After all, things are going to be easy in heaven. And I don't really think that when we go to share the gospel or teach we should want people not to understand and want people not to be impacted.

Success, ease has got a whole lot going for it.

But the thing is, so does failure.

It's funny, we fear failure so much. We don't want things to be difficult. But spiritually, failure can bring all sorts of blessings. Difficulties, God can use them to take somewhere we've never been spiritually.

For one thing, failure it can humble us.

Self-righteousness and pride are probably the most difficult sins to kill. They are especially difficult to kill when things are going well. The truth is, there's hardly anything like a big old failure to help you in the war against these sins. In that sense, we can kind of glory in our failure because as we think about our failure, it reminds us of how desperate and needy we really are.

It keeps us sane.

After all pride is really a form of insanity, isn't it? Insanity is thinking you are someone you are not. Pride is thinking you are someone you are not. Failure, it can help rid you of some of your delusions.

Failure can free us.

I don't know about you, but I'm so prone to go back to the I've got to earn my approval with God way of living and thinking. Failure reminds me how foolish and hopeless that attitude really is. It frees me up to just enjoy the work of Christ. It reminds me that God loves me not because of how great I've been but because of how great Christ has been.

Sometimes I feel like my heart is constantly looking for anyone or anything to trust in instead of Christ. I keep wanting to bring the smallest little work to God and show him how great I really am. Failure, it strips me of all that and forces me back to the one person I should be trusting in in the first place, my great and precious Savior Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


If I hit my thumb with a hammer, I feel pain.

Shocking, I know.

Pain is an automatic reaction. I don't consciously look at my thumb and say thumb, now is the time to hurt. It just does.

If anybody came up to me and told me to stop hurting, that it was wrong for me to feel pain when I struck my thumb with a hammer, and that it was an evidence I was stuck in serious sin...

Well, we'd probably both say they had some serious mental problems.

You can't help it if your thumb hurts when it is hit with a hammer and people can't expect you to feel anything else; which illustrates why it is so important we think and we help others think very carefully about how we use the word feel.

Let me give you an example.

We use the word feel to describe a whole lot of other things besides our thumbs getting hit with a hammer.

Sometimes we use it to describe an emotion. Say our reaction to someone who hurts us, "I feel angry."

Now is that true?

Yes. It describes what is happening.

But if I stop there, if I say I feel angry and if when I say that, I'm thinking of anger solely in terms of feelings, I'm in danger of making a couple dangerous mistakes.

One, my understanding of what happens when I get angry is too simplistic.

Every time I hit my thumb, I feel pain.

But the same thing can happen to me two times, and one time I feel angry and the other time I don't. Why?

Anger is a feeling, but at the same time it is more than a feeling. It involves my thoughts, my actions, and my perspectives.

Two, because my understanding of what happens when I get angry is too simplistic, I'll get really angry when you try to confront me about it.

If I think of anger soley in terms of feelings, when you come and say I shouldn't be angry, I'll probably respond much like I would if you came and said my thumb shouldn't hurt.

How can I help it?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

How do you feel?

I know some people say the devil is in the details.

While I am not sure about that, I am sure that the devil is in the distortions. He loves to take the truth and twist it.

I've been thinking about that alot lately specifically in regards to feelings.
Years ago, there was a philosophy called Stoicism. Now I'm no expert, but I think bottom line it had something to do with denying one's feelings. If it didn't, there are plenty of people who do think that; that the more spiritual you are the less you'll feel.

Today, there are probably more people who go to the opposite extreme. Feelings are their everything. It's become standard for people to use how they feel as the final authority in their life, so standard that nobody even questions it.

In fact, I can't tell you how many times I've heard people use the old phrase, "I feel..." as an argument stopper. You'll be in the middle of a discussion, thinking things through, and then they'll pull that statement out and you know no matter how much more there is to say, in their eyes, you are done. When they say that, they mean I'm ready for you to be done talking.

And they are not unusual.

I mean, think about it.

In our culture:

Feelings are used as a basis for one's actions.

Feelings are used as an explanation for one's actions.

Feelings are regarded as the key to understanding one's problems.

Feelings are viewed as the solution to one's problems.

But what does the Bible say? In the next few blogs, I want to bounce off an article by David Powlison on the subject, and consider more carefully what the Bible teaches about feelings.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Mondays with Calvin

"If we are...not our own, but the Lord's, it is clear what error we must flee, and how we must direct all the acts of our life.

We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore sway our plans or deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us forget ourselves and all that is ours.

Conversely, we are God's: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God's: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God's: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our own lawful goal.

O how much has that man profited who having been taught that he has is not his own, has taken away dominion and rule from his own reason that he may yield it to God. For, as consulting our own self-interestence is the pestilence that most effectively leads to our destruction, so the sole haven is to be wise in nothing and to will nothing through ourselves but to follow the leading of the Lord."

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol.1 p.690

Friday, March 03, 2006


* AIDS has killed twenty-five million people since it first emerged in the early 1980s-more deaths than occurred in World Wars I and 2
* Every minute five people die of AIDS; every day 8,000 people die from AIDS
* There are approximately fourteen million children orphaned by HIV/AIDS
* At current rates, 100 million people worldwide will be infected with HIV by 2010
* Of the 14,000 new people infected every day, 85% live in the develop¬ing world
* In Botswana, nearly four in ten adults are infected
* Eastern Europe is experiencing the fastest-growing AIDS epidemic in the world
* Former Secretary of State Colin Powell called HIV/AIDS the most serious threat to humankind and "the greatest weapon of mass destruction on earth."

* 30 million people in Africa are HIV-positive, most of them young men and women. (The Economist, 2003)
* 75% of the world total of those with HIV/AIDS live in Africa. (The Economist, 2002)
* 20% of South Africans aged 15-49 are infected with HIV. (UNAIDS Fact Sheet, 2002)
* For those aged 15-34 in South Africa, it is estimated that there will be 17 times as many deaths in the years 2010-2015 because of AIDS. (UNAIDS Fact Sheet, 2002)
* It is estimated that in five years, HIV prevalence in South Africa will be between 25-30%. (The Natal Witness, 2003)
* Because of AIDS, life expectancy for women will be 37 years of age in 2010. (Pretoria News, 2002)
* Almost 30% of South Africa's workforce will be HIV-positive in 2005. (Pretoria News, 2002)
* South Africa's economically active population will be 35% lower in 2015 than it would have been if South Africans had remained AIDS-free. (Pretoria News, 2002)
*"The pandemic will take a dramatic toll on the most productive members of the population — those in their 20s, 30s and 40s." (MG-Levy Annual Report, 2002)
*"A recent study predicted that unless the government moved quickly to tackle AIDS, South Africa's economy would collapse within four generations." (The Economist, 2004)
*Among the many ways that [AIDS] is destabilizing the continent [of Africa], perhaps the most worrying is the exploding population of orphans." (The Economist, 2002)
*By 2010, there will be 42 million orphans in Africa, half due to AIDS. (The Economist, 2002)
*In 2002, it was estimated that 660,000 children had been orphaned because of AIDS in South Africa. (UNAIDS Fact Sheet, 2002)
*By 2010, there will be 2 million orphans in South Africa and 70% of them will be HIV-free. (SAFM, 2004)


If you would, please pray for us.

We love the work at our church in Coopersburg and believe that the ministry here is very important. It's been amazing to see what God has done in the lives of those here at the church. We love the people here. It's such a joy to minister the gospel in the Lehigh Valley. We've blessed with a wonderful, sweet church family. But at the same time have and have had a strong desire to serve the Lord in Africa.

Looking at our desires and our giftings, while we are so content here, we have this aching to serve the Lord among the poor in Africa. In particular we would like to go to Africa so that we could preach and teach, train up men for the ministry, and help the local church provide families and homes for orphans.

We have an opportunity to do just that. A South African we met while we were serving there last year, is donating land and working right now on administrating the details of the orphan work. There's a church that wants us to come and pastor and that wants to be deeply involved in this mercy-ministry work.

It's exciting. We'd love to see this orphanage be so much more than an orphanage, but become a training ground for future African leaders. We feel, what better way to train men and women up for the work of the ministry than beginning when they are children? If there is a need for godly Africans and there are thousands of children needing homes, what better place to start than by seeking to provide those children with godly families?

At the same time, we don't want to just press forward without being faithful to God's work for us here. More than going to Africa, we want to do God's will. We don't want people here to be discouraged or to wonder what's going to happen to them. If God wants us to go, we want them to be spiritually provided for. We are absolutely one hundred percent committed to that.

We've asked our church to help us think through these opportunities, and we meant that. We want them to help us make a godly decision. They've responded wonderfully and have committed to praying for us. I know I'd love it if you would as well.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Be Amazed!

I don't know if you've ever seen David Blaine.

He's this street magician and he can do some things that will make your jaw drop. He'll levitate. I remember seeing him bite a quarter in two, then blow on the quarter and have it instanteously restored. One time he burned this hole in his shirt, then had the guy watching look through it, and David had this tattoo or something of the guy's girlfriend...who Blaine apparently had never met.

Anyway, my point doesn't have to do with the magic as much as it has to do with the reactions. Usually people are quiet at first, then they start to become overwhelmed with emotion. Sometimes they'll start to shake. Other times they'll cry. If there are a group of guys there, they'll hit each other and grunt or something like that. But whatever they do, they are always in awe.


I guess power. That he can do something that they can't understand.

The thing is, what strikes me, and I don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but David Blaine, he's just pretending. I mean, he can't really do all that stuff. He's just good at getting you to think he is.

It's just funny, sad really. That we react with such awe and amazement to someone who is just pretending to be powerful and so often show such little emotion or awe or amazement when considering the One person who really is.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

So You Want A Ministry?

1. What can I say or do today that will bring glory to God?
2. What can I do to develop a deeper and fuller understanding of Christ and His love for me?
3. What are three physical needs that I can meet in my church?
4. What are four spiritual needs that I can meet in my church?
5. If I can't think of any, what can I do to change that?
6. Have I studied Scripture today? Do I have a regular Bible study plan?
7. Who can I pray for? What spiritual need can I pray for them about?
8. What needs are there in my church that I can pray for?
9. Do I love God? What great truth can I meditate on?
10. What lusts am I waging war with today? What areas of my life am I compromising in?
11. What can I do to help my children understand the gospel? What do my children need to learn about God?
12. Who is there in my life that I can share the gospel with this week?
13. Who can I call this week? What questions can I ask to get to know them better?
14. What specific ways can I encourage someone else in the church this week? When am I going to do it?
15. What does a good friend look like? Do I match my description?
16. What am I doing to seek the unity of the church?
17. Is there a card I can write to someone else to encourage them?
18. Is there any sacrifice in the way I love others? If not, why not? How can I sacrificially love others this week?
19. How can I prepare myself for worship on Sunday?
20. How can I humbly honor someone else above myself?
21. Who do I have a difficult time getting along with in the church? What can I do to encourage that person?
22. What are five ways that I can show my wife or husband that I love them? How about my children?
23. What have I learned this week? Who can I share it with?
24. How can I show mercy to someone who is not part of the church? What can I give up for someone else's good?

Monday, February 27, 2006


I'm still kind of stunned.

I watched Grizzly Man on The Discovery Channel last night. If you haven't seen it, I'm not recommending it, but its about this guy who spends thirteen years living up with Kodiak bears up in Alaska and eventually gets eaten by one.

It's crazy.

He comes on screen and he actually, truly thinks he's protecting the bears. He talks to them like they are his friends. He finds such joy in these bears, I mean, he expresses an almost embarrassing amount of delight in them. He makes sacrifices to be with them. Lives by himself, lives in a tent, poor as all get out.

And you know, I just went away thinking that's such a picture of the way we as human beings are with our sinful lusts.

Our sinful lusts are like wild animals.

It is their nature to destroy.

Yet all too often we go around pretending like on our own, we are in charge. That we can play with them. We can be their friends. We call them by nice little names. We find joy in them. We make sacrifices for them.

And then, one day if we don't wake up and repent and run, our sinful lusts come into our tent and eat us alive.

You can't cuddle up with a Grizzly Bear and expect to last that long, and you can't play with sinful lusts and think it's all going to turn out well.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Arguing with our eyes closed...

It is so easy to just see what we want to see.

Consider the following argument I recently read in a teacher's magazine:

"The bicycle would seem to be a good argument for intelligent design...But in fact, the bicycle makes a convincing case for evolution. In its dinosaur period, its front wheel was enormous, its rear wheel a tiny, spinning afterthought. The rider had to mount from a stool, and in those helmetless days, a fall from the bike's great height could be calamitous. To become the lightweight, multigeared, fast and friendly creature we know today, countless mutations took place, and some iterations turned out to be more fit than others. And so it goes today..."

I'm hoping the writer is kidding.

And perhaps he is, I mean does anybody really think those 'mutations' took place randomly?

But my point is this, if a person can look at a bicycle and act like it was an argument for evolution we have to acknowledge it is very, very easy to just see what you want to see.

In other words, there's no such thing as a neutral fact.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Time to Get A New House...

2nd time in two months for our neighbor...

Monday, February 20, 2006

You are Needy

(*If you come to Grace and like being surprised on Sundays, I wouldn't read the following posts until next week!)

I don't want to go all Abraham Maslow on you, but I think common sense and biblical thinking make it obvious we as human beings have needs.

Like, say food. We have a need to eat.

Or air. We kind of have a need to breathe.

But we also have other needs. For example, one need that is as real as the need for food or the need for air is the need for friendship. It's not a weak person that needs food to survive, it's not an especially needy person that has to have air to live, we all do - it is part of being human. And likewise, it's not because of some deficiency in us that we need friends, it's part of the way God designed us.


Pre-fall Adam. Adam in the Garden of Eden, the perfect human being in the perfect place.


"Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone...'"

If a person doesn't eat, he's going to get weak.

If a person doesn't have air, he is going to die.

And if a person doesn't have companionship, friendship, he is in just as dangerous a position, spiritually.

You see a guy walking around saying he doesn't need air to live, you don't say wow, isn't he really something. You say, man you are strange.

You are not strong if you don't think need friends, you are deluded.

That's the way God made us.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Power of Preconceptions

I’m at the gym yesterday, overhearing a couple people talking about Dick Cheney’s announcement. It was the usual…

‘How could he wait so long?’

‘It was all spin, I mean, did you notice the way he kept saying, ‘my friend’?’

I have to tell you I never thought any of that stuff.

I actually thought if I had just shot my friend I would be kind of bummed about it. I don’t think I would really want to go right out and talk to a group of people that I know are going to have a field day with it.

But my point here doesn’t have to do with Dick Cheney.

It has to do with preconceptions. A preconception is a powerful thing. Two people can hear the exact same message and come away with two absolutely opposite ideas of what was being said.

This makes it hard to communicate. Sometimes, honestly, it makes it feel almost impossible.

You've probably been in a situation where no matter what you said and how you said it, the other person wasn't going to hear it.


I personally don’t think the answer is to have no preconceptions. Instead, I think the answer is to make sure that we have biblical preconceptions.

Some of us are a bit too naïve. (I tend to be like that.)

We need to understand that the other person we are talking to is a sinner and that their sin has affected them deeply…probably more deeply than they even know themselves. We also need to remember that we are sinners and that our sin has affected us deeply…probably more deeply than we even know ourselves.

One way it has affected us is in the area of preconceptions. Some of us are way too cynical. It’s almost like we want people to be wrong. We go into conversations already convinced of the worst possible outcome. We look at the other person and treat them as if all they were was sin. We need to remember there is such a thing as grace. God really does transform people all the way down to their hearts.

Either way, we always need to make sure all our preconceptions fit the rule of love. I’ve met too many people who interpret everything people say in the worst way possible – and part of the reason they do that is because they haven’t allowed their preconceptions to be dominated by love.


“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Gifts and The Gift Giver

You ever sing "The Sands of Time are Sinking"?

We did just this past week at church. It's a great song. I just have trouble with one line.

It's verse number 4.

"The bride eyes not her garment
But her dear bride-groom's face
I will not gaze at glory
But on my King of grace
Not at the crown He giveth
But on His pierced hand
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Emmanuel's land"

It sounds funny to save I have trouble with this line because in many ways it is great. I mean, the Lamb is all the glory of Emmanuel's land. We should primarily long to be with Him. Jesus is more beautiful and more wonderful than all the gifts He gives.

But my question is this: what's wrong with gazing at glory? Is there a problem with looking at the crown He giveth?

Personally, I don't think it's either or. I don't think looking at the crown necessarily means you aren't looking at the crown giver. Instead, I think just the opposite. The more I look at the crown, the more I look at glory, the more amazed I am by the One who purchased all this for me. In fact, I'm convinced that one of the reasons we aren't more amazed by Jesus Christ is because we haven't fully appreciated all that He is going to do for us throughout eternity.

In other words, I NEED TO GAZE AT GLORY.

If I weren't supposed to, why would there be all the descriptions of heaven throughout the Bible? On top of that, all the talk about our rewards?

Jesus Himself goes so far as to make direct admonitions about behavior on the basis of the rewards we will receive in heaven. (Or won't.) Just one example: Matthew 6:1: "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your father in heaven."

The clincher of course is the fact that we are commanded to think about these things...just check out 1 Peter 1:13.

"Therefore, preparing your minds for action and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I will believe...


Have you ever read something and thought to yourself, that's what I've been trying to say? Well, I've been trying to say this for the past five weeks.

"But imperfectly may the doubting Christian be aware what dishonour is done to every unbelieving fear he cherishes. It is a secret wounding of is a lowering, an undervaluing of Christ's obedience and death, that glorious work of salvation with which the Father has declared himself well pleased, that work with which Divine justice has confessed itself satisfied, that work on the basis of which every poor, convinced sinner is saved...that work, we say is dishonored, undervalued, and slighted by every doubt and fear secretly harbored, or openly expressed by a child of God.

The moment a believer looks at his unworthiness more than at the righteousness of Christ, supposes that there is not a sufficiency of merit in Jesus to supply the absence of all merit in himself before God, what is it but a setting up of his sinfulness and unworthiness above the infinite worth, fulness and sufficiency of Christ's atonement and righteousness?

There is much spurious humility among many of the dear saints of God. It is thought by some, that to be always doubting one's pardon and acceptance, is the evidence of a lowly spirit. It is, allow us ot say, the mark of the very opposite of a lowly and humble mind. That is true humility that credits the testimony of God, that believes it because He has spoken it, that rests in the blood and righteousness, and all sufficiency of Jesus because he has declared that whosoever believeth in him shall be saved. This is genuine lowliness- the blessed product of the Eternal Spirit. To go to Jesus just as I am, a poor, lost, helpless sinner - to go glorying in my weakness, infirmity and poverty, that the free grace and sovereign pleasure and infinite merit of Christ may be seen in my pardon, justification and eternal glory. There is more of unmortified pride, of self-righteousness, of that principle that would make God a debtor to the creature, in the refusal of a soul to fully accept Jesus, than is supsected. There is more realy, profound humility in a simple, believing venture upon Christ as a ruined sinner, taking him as all its righteousness, all its pardon, all its glory, than is possible for any mortal mind to fathom. Doubt is ever the offspring of pride: humility is the handmaid of faith."

Octavius Winslow

Monday, February 13, 2006


I want you to think like a demon for a minute.

O.k., not really but at least think about demonic strategy. Say you were a demon and you had a specific goal, you wanted to make Christians listless, apathetic, sleepy; you didn't mind if they said they were Christians - you just didn't want them to be excited about it...what would you attack?

I don't know what your answer is, but I think I'd attack their hope.

Hope is like fuel...without it, we're not going anywhere!

I mean, I'm no evil dictator and I've never known an evil dictator, but if I were an evil dictator and I wanted to make sure that I didn't have any uprisings, that my people weren't passionate about changing things one of my goals would be to keep any images from the outside world from getting in. I wouldn't want my people to know that there was anything better out there, because once they know that, they are going to have hope and once they have hope, then they start getting ideas. But if they don't have that, they are going to be much easier to rule.

Say I wanted to be a little trickier though, and I didn't want people to be listless. I wanted them to be energetic, passionate...I just wanted them to be energetically working for me. What would I do?

I'd try to give them a false hope.

Think about it. You are a guard in a concentration camp and your inmates aren't working. What could you do to get them to do what you want with great zeal? Start making them promises you don't intend to keep. Hope has great power.

Which is why it is no surprise that in his war against Christians, Satan keys in on attacking our hope. Whatever you do, don't let him get to it. Guard your hope. Refuse to throw away your confidence in what God is going to do for you and refuse to trade it for something so much less valuable, a false hope.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Da Balogna

You don't usually think of education and ignorance going together, but I think this article by Mark Hughes is a pretty powerful reminder that it is definitely possible.

To be a bit more charitable, either he's a bit ignorant or I am.

But I mean I've been a Christian for a long time, I've grown up in the church, I've gone to Christian school, in other words, I know alot of Christians; and yet I've got to say I don't know the people he is talking about.

This is in the Philadelphia Daily News. This is a person who teaches at Penn talking supposed about Christians and yet I mean, these people that he's talking about don't look like very much like anyone I've met.

I mean what Christian would really care more about bashing Catholics than he would the inerrancy and infallibility of Scriptures? He writes, "Conservative American Protestants will look past the speculations about Jesus and Mary Magdalene (many will even find them neat to ponder, though probably not with their children) and will instead revel in the anti-Catholic bigotry the story appears to justify."

If he's right that's really pretty sad, but I for one, and maybe I'm optimistic, but I don't think he's really even close. For some reason, I just don't think many Christians will find it very neat to ponder the gospels being a lie, Jesus getting married to Mary Magadelene, their very faith being false.

Speaking of bigotry, could this instead be more a case of the pot calling the kettle black?


Sharper Iron posts a helpful article on one of Spurgeon's heros!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

No Boast Boasting

I'm thinking alot this week about a verse tucked away at the end of 1 Corinthians chapter 1. Paul's talking about our salvation and he's saying that God specifically designed our salvation " that no human being might boast in the presence of God..."

It just seems to me (and I know I'm going out on a limb here) that if God went to the lengths he did to design our salvation in such a way for the express purpose of keeping us from boasting in ourselves, He probably doesn't really like it when we boast in ourselves.

Yet, here's where I start crying, isn't the exact thing many of us are spending much of our lives trying to do? God saves us so that we wouldn't boast in ourselves, and then we go out and try to find ways to boast in ourselves.

Sick, isn't it?

Instead of getting all freaked out about our nothingness and looking at our lack of importance as a big old negative, can we just start resting in it - it is actually a positive because it helps me remember that it's not about me - it's about my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I'm not saying that we go around our whole lives with our heads hung low, muttering poor old me to ourselves. I'm just saying that we stop thinking that doing this or doing that or becoming this or becoming that is the solution. It's not.

Jesus is.

Bernard of Clairvaux explains, "Now when I reflect upon my soul - which by the grace of God I sometimes do - it seems to me that I discover in it, so to speak, two opposite aspects. If I consider it in and of itself, I can say nothing more truly of it than it is reduced to nothing. What need is there now to enumerate the individual miseries of the soulo, how it is burdened with sins, enveloped in darkness, enslaved to pleasure, itching with lusts, subject to passions, filled with delusions, always prone to evil, bent to every sort of a word, filled with shame and confusion...Man is nought.

Yet how can he whom God magnifies be nothing? How can he upon whom God has set his heart be nothing. Brethren let us take heart again. Even if we are nothing in our own hearts, perchance something of us may be hidden in the heart of God. O Father of mercies...O Father of the miserable! How canst thou set thy heart upon us...For where thy treasure is, thine heart is also. But how are we thy treasure if we are nothing? All the nations are as nothing before thee, they will be accounted by thee as nothing. So, indeed before thee, not within thee: so in the judgment of thy truth, but not so in the intention of thy faithfulness. So indeed thou callest those things which are not as though they were. And they are not, therefore because it is the things that are not that thou callest, and the are at the same time because thou callest them. For although, as regards themselves, they are not, nevertheless with thee they are; but as the apostle says, not of their works of righteousness, but of him who calls...If we diligently examine what we are, under these two considerations, or rather if we examine how from the one point of view we are nothing, and from the other how magnified...I believe our glorying will be appear moderate, yet will be greater and better founded than before, so that we glory not in ourselves but in the Lord."

Monday, February 06, 2006

What are you about? Seriously...

If you had to figure out what someone's life-purpose was, but you weren't allowed to ask them what it was directly - what kinds of things would you want to know about them?

What kinds of questions would you ask to help you figure it out?

Perhaps you'd start with time. What do you do with your free time? Maybe after that, you'd move on to money. How do you spend your money? What about talk...what do they talk about? Or how about, what do they get upset about?

We could go on and on...

What do they get excited about? What do they think about? What do they want? What do they wish for?

I'm just wondering, walk with me here, many of us know that our life-purpose is supposed to be the glory of God - when asked, we 've got that answer down "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever" next question please; but if someone looked at our life, the way we spend our time, our money, what we talk about about, get upset about, would the way we live and what we confess match?

At all?

This is really kind of scary. I mean, which is a worse position to be in: to do wrong and know that what you are doing is wrong or to do wrong and actually think that what you are doing is right? They are both bad, but I say the second is worse because at least in the first case you have a chance to repent.

Yet I'm afraid that's where many are at when it comes to the fundamental question of what they are about.

Can I just shout it out?

We're not living for the glory of God simply because we say we're living for the glory of God.

We've got to ask ourselves the tough questions.

At the end of a day - ask yourself what did you talk about? If you look back and you see that you spent most of the day complaining - what does that say about your life purpose? It tells you though you might say your purpose is the glory of God, that day at least it really was the comfort of you. And whenever got something in the way of that, you got upset.

How do we make decisions? Do we ever make a decision that is difficult on the basis of what the Word actually says? Do we even ask what the Word says when we go to make a decision? Do we ever go beyond I feel like this is what the Word might say - to actually having a verse that we've studied and can explain why we are making that decision on the basis of that verse?

Friday, February 03, 2006

No True Leadership Without It


It seems to me that one of the differences between worldly leadership and biblical leadership is that biblical leadership requires constant self-denial. Maybe I should be more specific, self-denial for the good of others and the glory of God.

That's one reason why I'd suggest if you want to be a godly leader, to look at any opportunity for self-denial as an opportunity for biblical leadership training. When I'm saying no to something I want for the good of others and for the glory of God, I'm learning how to become a better leader. On the other hand, if I'm primarily making decisions on the basis of personal comfort, while I might end up being a good worldly leader...being controlled by that particular motivation is going to end up taking me the exact opposite direction of godly leadership.

"You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many."

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Do you really want my opinion?

I'm afraid that one of the things we most need, most of us don't want.

We need objectivity.

In other words, we need friends who are willing to help us look at what's going on in our lives from a different angle - from a biblical angle. When we're in a situation, we're looking at it from our perspective, we have an interpretation, an explanation. But since we're in the situation, it's easy for our perspective, interpretation, explanation to be warped. We need people in our lives who can help us look more clearly, more biblically at the way we are thinking about what is going on in our lives.

But too often we don't really want that.

One way to prove that, who we go to when we want counsel. If we do go to other people for counsel, we go to our yes men; people for help or counsel who we know won't disagree with us...or at least not very much. When people do begin to offer a different perspective, we find ways of shutting them down.

Another way to prove that, who we don't go to when we want counsel. I'm convinced that one of the greatest blessings many people are missing out on in the church, are their elders. Elders are a gift from God to the church - one reason why - they can offer much needed biblical objectivity. Not perfect objectivity - they are just ordinary, sinful men. But still, that said, they are men that you have recognized as being godly, they are men that you have recognized as being gifted to teach, they are men who you have committed yourself to submitting to - why not at least go to them and ask for help when you are thinking about making a major decision? I'm not talking about where to buy milk; I'm talking big decisions - like moving, getting a new job, problems in your relationship with your get the picture.

I don't think I need to tell you that not doing so is pretty foolish.

If you don't go and ask because you don't respect your elders, why be in that church in the first place? I can pretty much guarantee you aren't really learning very much on Sunday mornings if you don't respect your elders enough to ask for their help.

And if you do respect them, why wouldn't you go?

Could it be that though you need objectivity, you don't really, truly want it?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Thank You Dr. Mohler

I'm so glad to see a theologian writing about this...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I want to see me...

I'm at the gym and it hits me.

I've been coming here for five years, seeing many of the same people, and we all still pretty much look the same. There's such a thing as maintaining, I know. But some of us need a little bit more.

How is that?

I mean five years!

I'm not as concerned about my physical condition as I am my spiritual. I definitely don't want to be coming to church Sunday after Sunday and just maintaining. I want to be moving forward.

One thing that keeps us from moving forward physically is a failure to see ourselves for who really are.

And I think the same thing can be true spiritually; we sometimes suffer from a kind of spiritual blindness; maybe not so much blindness as just having our eyes closed.

There are reasons we're able to do that and stay content spiritually.

For starters, we have a warped sense of where we are at spiritually.

Another problem, theological "knowledge."

Now I've got to be careful here. By theological knowledge I don't mean theological knowledge, I mean theological "knowledge." True theological knowledge is the key to spiritual growth, but what I've found is that it is very easy to substitute theological "knowledge" for theological knowledge. Easy to think you know God just because you know the right words about God. Easy to think that because we can say words like sovereignty that the way we are looking at the world corresponds with that belief. Easy to think that we are mature believers because we know big words when in reality we haven't really applied those truths to our lives. Easy to think that we don't need to listen to others because we've heard it all before. Easy to think that just because we have a certain amount of knowledge that we are automatically right.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Are Your Eyes Closed?

It might be somewhat funny to watch someone to standing in front of a mirror with his eyes closed, trying to get ready for work. It would be pretty sad if he thought he was actually being effective. It would be tragic if he stood there for forty, forty five minutes and really believed he was accomplishing something.

Yet that's what many of us do week after week with the mirror of God's Word. In the next few blogs, off and on, I want to think about some of the things that keep us from really seeing ourselves in God's Word.

1.) We have a warped sense of who we are.

You want proof of that, just watch American Idol.

How does that happen? Somebody who thinks they can sing when they so can't! I'm afraid that spiritually, some of us are a whole lot more out of tune without realizing it.

We so want to think well of ourselves that we'll latch onto the smallest compliment someone pays us and then exaggerate it into something it's not. I remember as a kid it took me a long time to figure out I wasn't that good a basketball player, because someone paid me some kind of compliment way back when just to be nice.

While there are some people who are great at hearing the negatives and tuning out the positives, there are other people who are great at hearing the positives and tuning out the negatives.

I know I've said this before, but running I'm always shocked at how slow the people who pass me are going. I feel like I'm going so fast - how can someone be running that slow and still pass me? My perspective is warped just like ours is often when we come to listen to God's Word. Somebody can be speaking directly to us, completely about us, and we don't even realize it because we have such a wrong perspective of where we really are at.

I'm not sure I have the greatest solution to this, except one, for us to fall on our knees as we come to God's Word. God help us! Two, for us to develop relationships with people who will tell us the truth and ask for it straight up. And three, why not just assume the passage is speaking about you?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Killing with "Kindness"

"Nothing pleases man more than the sort of alluring talk that tickles the pride that itches in his very marrow.

Therefore, in nearly every age, when anyone publicly extolled human nature in most favorable terms, he was listened to with applause. But however great such commendation of human excellence is that teaches man to be satisfied with himself, it does nothing but delight in its own sweetness; indeed, it so decieves as to drive those who assent to it into utter ruin.

For what do we accomplish when, relying upon every vain assurance, we consider, plan, try and undertake what we think is fitting; then - while in our very first efforts we are actually forsaken by and destitute of sane understanding as well as true virtue - we nonetheless rashly press on until we hurtle to destruction. Yet for those confident they can do anything by their own power, things cannot happen otherwise. Whoever, then, heeds such teachers as hold us back with thought only of our good traits will not advance in self-knowledge, but will be plunged into the worst ignorance."

John Calvin, Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion I, p.243

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Faith: An Inward Embrace

How would you define the word trust?

It's not just believing something. You can believe something and at the same time not trust in it. I'm not sure I have a good technical definition for trust yet, but a word that helps me picture what it means I think, would be the word rest.

Jesus on the boat in the storm, sleeping. Waking up. Asking the disciples. "Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?"

It's not just knowing the strength of God, the promises of God. It's resting in them.

Quoting Calvin, "Here, indeed, is the chief hinge on which faith turns: that we do not regard the promises of mercy that God offers as true only outside ourselves, but not at all in us; rather that we make them ours by inwardly embracing them. Hence, at last is born that confidence which Paul elsewhere calls peace...It is an assurance that renders the conscience calm and peaceful before God's judgment."

Faith. Inwardly embracing God's promises. Trust. Rest.

It helps me so much in my Christian life that my chief responsibility is to rest in what God has promised me in His Word, to rest in the salvation He has provided through Jesus Christ. To remember that what God wants me to do is to trust in the fact that He is going to do me good on the basis of the work of Jesus Christ.

I start to see why sin is such a big deal. Greed, proof that I'm not resting, trusting in God's care for me. Lust, not trusting that God's plan for my sexual desires is for my best. Complaining, not believing God's working things out for my good. All these sins, they are not just actions, external, things I'm doing wrong; they are all indicators of problems in a relationship, a lack of resting, trusting, believing my God.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Grace to the Common

I'm listening to the Chronicles of Narnia with my daughter every morning on the way to school.

We're right at the beginning, The Magician's Nephew.

It's actually been a pretty worshipful experience so far, but today I found myself getting a little frustrated. If you know the story, you know towards the end there's a cabbie and a horse that somehow get taken into Narnia.


Aslan chooses the cabbie to be the first king of Narnia and he chooses the horse to go on a special mission for Him, making the horse the first of the winged horses of Narnia. (There's a sentence I've never written before.)

What frustrated me was their voices.

The cabbie and the horse sounded so normal, so ordinary, so common. Here Aslan is choosing the cabbie and the horse to perform these noble, great, awesome tasks and the cabbie and the horse don't sound all that noble, great or awesome at all. They just sound common.

It didn't feel right.

And then I think I got it. It was right. It was a beautiful, moving picture of what God has done and is doing with us, with me. The ordinariness of the horse and the cabbie make the goodness of Aslan appeare all the greater, and my ordinariness does the same with God's grace.

Praise be to the God who chooses the foolish of the world to shame the wise, the weak of the world to shame the strong, the low and despised, the things that are not to bring to nothing the things that are so that no human being might boast in the presence of the Lord.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Augustine Felt It Too...

"When anyone realizes that in himself he is nothing and from himself he has no help, the weapons within him are broken, the wars are over. But all the weapons of impiety must be shattered, broken, and burned; you must remain unarmed, you must have no help in yourself. The weaker you are in your self, the more readily the Lord will receive you."

Calvin Felt It

I'm glad Calvin said it.

I've been thinking a little bit lately about myself, (like that's unusual...for any of us) and feeling a vague sense of discouragement. I mean you know somewhat what God wants you to be and you know pretty well what you want to be and then you look at yourself and it can be pretty discouraging. I'm not talking so much about discouragement over out and out sins as much as just a lack. The not doing can be a whole lot easier to be good at than the doing.

I want to be so much more, such a better leader, such a better preacher, such a better person. I wish I had more gifts and was more interesting and more helpful and I think I wish all those things at least partially and really more than partially for God's glory. And you know what, if it's not all for God's glory, add that to the list then, I wish it was.

Reading Calvin this afternoon provided some much needed encouragement.

I quote,

"Each of us must, then, be so stung by the consciousness of his own unhappiness as to attain at least some knowledge of God. Thus, from the feeling of our own ignorance, vanity, poverty, infirmity, and - what is more - depravity and corruption, we recognize that the true light of wisdom, sound virtue, full abundance of every good, and purity of righteousness rest in the Lord alone. To this extent we are prompted by our own ills to contemplate the good things of God; and we cannot seriously aspire to him before we begin to become displeased with ourselves. For what man in the world would not gladly remain as he is - what man does not remain as he is - so long as he does not know himself, that is, while content with his own gifts, and either ignorant or unmindful of his own misery."

I love that quote.

For one thing, Calvin felt it. I mean, sometimes we like at gifted individuals like Calvin and think they must be satisfied with their own giftedness, their impact, their usefulness. But even Calvin looked at himself and was left wanting. That helps me. It reminds me that if I'm ever trying to find ultimate satisfaction and joy and my sense of identity in my own works and merits, I'm trying to do something which ultimately is nothing but a dead end.

For another, Calvin reminds me where to turn. When I become discouraged about my own weakness, I don't have to just stay there, I can turn and find joy and encouragement and hope in God Himself and what He has given me in Jesus Christ. My weakness helps me better understand His power. My own lack of worthiness makes His grace and mercy and love for me stand out all the more.

It's o.k. if I'm not the hero.

I'm not supposed to be. And you know what, neither are you!

It is Good to Know God part one...

There's nothing better than being humble.

It's absolutely essential for living the Christian life. You can't go to God without it. You can't love God without it. You can't serve God without it. You can't love others without it. You can't communicate properly without it. You can't resolve conflict biblically without it. You can't deal with the sin of others properly without it. You can't resist sin without it.

And there's nothing worse than being proud.

The proud person is an abomination to God, hurtful to others, and a danger to himself. Unfortunately, we all have a tendency to be proud; to think too much of ourselves and too little of God.

There's no character quality more beneficial than humility and there's no sin more dangerous than pride and there's nothing that promotes humility more and destroys pride more effectively than the knowledge of God.

Edward Griffin explains, "A discovery of His [God's] awful dignity and excellent holiness reveals the evil of sinning against him and lays the penitent soul speechless at his feet. When we can perceive God to be so holy and glorious that a bare neglect to love him would deserve eternal woe, and that no conceivable punishment is great enough for the wretch that dares rebel against him, when with spiritual discernment we contemplate God turning the angels out of heaven for sin, turning Adam out of Eden, turning a beautiful world into a prison house of groans, a shambles of blood, turning many into hell, and more than all, thrusting his sword through the heart of His own son, then we discover in a light unknown before, what sin deserves and what we are, and lifting a pleading eye to Jesus, we lay ourselves down in the dust to wonder at the patience and mercy of God." (The Life and Sermons of Edward Griffin, vol.1, Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1987, p.280)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Same Sins?

I don't want to be too elementary, but hey,I am teaching at a high school in the mornings and this morning, someone brought up a what I consider a pretty good question.

In God's eyes are their levels to sin?

Those weren't her exact words of course. Her words were more like, everybody thinks sexual sin is so awful and all that, but these others sins are really bad too. Aren't they kind of the same?

Like, isn't going out and committing sexual sin just as bad in God's eyes as cheating on a test?

Now we all know, if we're asking a question like this in order to justify our sin, we are missing the point. That's kind of like saying I want a little bit of leprosy just not a lot. The smallest sin is worth an eternity in hell, so they all are definitely, very, very bad. Plus, we all know if we're asking this question in order to look down on others, we're missing the point. Read the gospels and you find out Jesus had a whole lot to say about that.

But still, it might be worth a moment's thought. This is a common idea - at least among Christian high school students - that all sins are the same in God's eyes. After all, "Jesus says lust is like adultery and anger is like murder so all sin must be the same."

Now I'm not saying I have the final answer, but I do wonder if this isn't just a case of thinking a little too simplistically about Scripture.

For one thing, there is such a thing as the unpardonable sin. In other words, in a different passage Jesus makes it clear there was a sin that was worse than every other sin - a sin so serious that God said He wouldn't forgive it. We can't say then that every sin is the exact same.

For another thing, the writer of Hebrews talks about the condemnation of those who profess to know Christ and then rejecting Him being worse than the condemnation of others. If one person's condemnation is worse than another's that seems to indicate the level of seriousness is different.

On top of all that, isn't there something of a progression in Romans 1; where it seems certain sins are almost punishments in themselves of other sins - like things are getting worse and worse because the sins are getting more and more serious?

And what's more, what about God's justice? God is perfectly just and we certainly at least on a human level wouldn't view a judge very just if he viewed every crime the exact same way.

Now we definitely get a little screwed up on which sins are most serious. For example, it seems viewing the gospels that proud people are looking up the moral ladder at prostitutes.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Our Business

We live in a world that is full of serious problems.

I don't know about you, but for me, sometimes it can become overwhelming. You turn on your television and you are constantly hearing about wars, protests in foreign countries, hate, anger, resentment, bitterness. And your heart breaks.

But then besides all the trouble in the world, you've got trouble that hits closer to home, trouble in families, marriages, and other relationships. With so much tension, with so many problems, we as a church, and as individuals are tempted to be drawn all sorts of different ways. There are many different good activities we could get involved in. But obviously, we've only got one life and we've only got so much time, and so as caring people it's important we ask what's the most important thing that we as a church can do? What is it that the world, our families, our friends, and even ourselves need most?

Looking at Paul's ministry and Paul's priorities help us answer that question.

Paul sums up his ministry in three words, "We proclaim Him..."

The word 'proclaim' means to announce or to deliver. It became almost a technical term for missionary preaching. Paul's not talking about something he has done once or twice, but instead something he does continuously. This is what the ministry is all about - we're continually proclaiming Him.

Just a quick look at Paul's life proves that statement true.

Paul was persecuting the church, God saved him on the Damascus road, he met with Ananias, waited around for several days with the church at Damascus, then Acts 9:20, "immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying 'He is the Son of God.'

In Acts 13:38 he's on his first missionary journey and he sums up what he's been doing by saying that what he's been doing is proclaiming that through Jesus Christ there is forgiveness of sins.

He's brought before the leaders of Athens in Acts 17:23 to be questioned about his faith. He courageously stands before them and says, "For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'To an unknown God.' What therefore you worship in ignorance this I proclaim to you."

In Ephesians 3:8 he explains that though he didn't deserve it, God gave him the incredible blessing of being able to proclaim the riches of Christ.

He reminds the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 2 that while he and Silas and Timothy were in their church, night and day they proclaimed the gospel to them.

I don't want to be too obvious here, but as you look at Paul's life and you consider this statement in Colossians, it becomes clear that the primary task Paul devoted himself to, was delivering a message.

I think that's very significant.

Because there were many other things Paul could have devoted himself to. In Paul's day, just as in ours, there were lots of problems. And Paul certainly could have devoted his life to feeding the poor, clothing the homeless. Or perhaps he could have devoted his life to overthrowing Nero, and dealing with the corrupt government.

But he didn't.

Don't misunderstand. Paul was concerned about the poor. In fact, a major part of his ministry was collecting money for poor believers in Jerusalem. But the fact is, as you look at Paul's life you realize that he clearly understood his main responsibility was to proclaim a particular message. If he had failed to do that, he would have completely failed. Preaching the message God had given him was his top priority.

The same should be true for us as a church.

The most important responsibility we have as a church is to faithfully proclaim the message God has delivered to us in His Word.