Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A quick truth

I always love it when Christians are labeled as intolerant, exclusionary, hypocrites... by definition, as a Christian, I am saying that I am a sinner, guilty of things that the commandments of a holy God says are wrong. ( as you said, be it murder, lying, adultery, homosexuality, whatever)... I am openly admitting that I have these issues and problems, and that because of them, I am rightfully hell-bound short of the redemption of a Savior in Christ who looks upon my broken, sinful flesh, and accepts me, exactly as I am, no questions asked, if I will simply turn from those things I do that are wrong (by His definition, not mine) and follow Him...

The Christian faith is all-inclusive insofar as ALL who call upon the name of Christ will be saved... it is tolerant in that the ground at the foot of the cross is even, we have ALL sinned and fall short of the glory of God... We are called to accept all people, regardless of their sins, and share the live of Christ with them... 

Our only condition is an admission that all people do wrong, and that, if there is a heaven, then the God of that heaven gets to make the rules on who gets in, and who doesn't... and His rules say that Christ is the only way, truth, and life that leads to an eternity spent in Heaven

Working in a vineyard

The parable found in Matthew 20 was the start of my reading for this morning. Its a story of a man who needs to hire laborers to work in his vineyard. He went early in the morning and hired a group of men who agreed to a wage for their day's work. The man returned to the marketplace to hire more workers many times throughout the day, each time selecting more workers to work in his vineyard. The last group was selected when there was only an hours worth of work left to do. At the end of the day, the owner of the vineyard paid each man the same wage that was promised to the first group of workers, no matter which group of workers they were, or how long they had been working. When the laborers who had worked the full day realized this, they became really upset, claiming that they should be paid more because they worked longer. The owner of the vineyard explained to them that they had agreed to their pay at the start of the day, and that, since it was his vineyard and his money, he would choose how to reward each man who came to work in the field.

What a picture of life and the Christian faith... there are people called into this life from all times, all peoples, and for all purposes. We don't get to determine whose work in the kingdom is of greatest value, or who is worth more to God. Salvation remains consistent and unconditional for any who is of God's elect... there is only a promise of one atoning death that would cover the debt and be transferred as the righteous exchange for all who are called. Just as the wage agreed upon by the workers selected first was paid, even to those who were called last, not because of the hours worked, or the description of the job they did... they were paid simply because they answered a call to come and do the job placed before them. Each job was of equal importance for the owner.

Don't despair over the "worth" of your life, if you have been adopted into the family of God through Christ's blood and righteousness, your worth has been determined by He who set the wage. In the same way, don't let your pride get in the way of thinking that you are worth more to the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A loving God and Hell

How can a just, loving, and fair God send people to Hell?

It's a question (and ultimately an important one) that gets thrown at us Christians often. And it's one I was discussing with a friend recently, with the following reasoning being where we landed:

In this life, we are given a choice between 2 options:
1) accept, rejoice in, and be all-consumed by the glorious love and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ... surrender to His Lordship and allow yourself to accept that He is God, not you. 

2) reject Him. Choose to live apart from His extraordinary grace and love. Choose to worship the created things rather than their Creator.

It  is the alignment if your soul with these two options that determines your eternal destination. God, being loving, just, and fair, allows you to choose. If you choose to live under His authority and in His love, He welcomes you into the full revelation of Himself for all eternity in the glory of Heaven through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as the atoning sacrifice on our behalf. Scripture says that in this way, God is righteous to forgive our sins. Choose God in this life, have God for all eternity.

Aligning yourself with the second option, rejecting God, choosing to live outside His love and grace, and in His love, justice, and fairness He will not force any of us to align ourselves with these things. So, as an ultimate example of this, if we choose, in this life, to reject God, He will not force us to be in His presence for all eternity but instead He will grant you an eternity spent fully removed from His grace and love. This is the reality of Hell, an existence fully devoid of the presence of God.

As bad as our world currently is, every person under the sun is living under the presence of the ordinary means of grace of God's love. It's something that He bestows on us all as a glimpse into His sovereign beauty. This leads to the reality that the choice to live a lifestyle outside of the bounds of God's will is a choice to make this world, and this life, be as close to God's glory as you will ever encounter. If you choose a life lived under the will of God, you are as far from God, in this life and world, as you will ever be.
If you are fed up and believing that there is no God because of the current state if this world, know that the only way that it gets better is to seek God, draw close to Him and discover the eternity of His glory that He has for you... it's that simple... 

People are not in Hell because God is unfair, unloving, or unjust... God is simply unwilling to force someone to spend eternity with Him after they spent their whole life indicating that they don't want to live in His presence. The choice is each of ours... the decision to follow God is up to each of us to make for ourselves. The means by which we are able to do so are up to God. The how is lined out in the Bible, and God, being God, gets the right to decide the terms of our agreement to follow.

To echo Francis Chan... I wish I could tell you that we could all choose to live however we wanted, with no regard to eternity, and no worries about the ramifications of our actions and still, at the end of the day, we all go to heaven... I wish that we're true, it would be easier, but it's just not Biblically true.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

unto Caesar

In a conversation with a friend and mentor recently, we got onto the topic of stewardship and Godly giving. He related to me a portion of a sermon he had recently heard from Ravi Zacharias; in this message, Ravi was speaking about the time in Jesus' ministry when Christ was confronted with the question of (essentially) if a follower of Christ should pay taxes. Jesus of course replies by asking whose face appears on the money... the answer was, Caesar. Jesus then commanded to give unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to give unto God what is God's. Ravi then made the statement that he wishes that the questions would have continued, and the man would have posed to Jesus, "Then what is of God's that we should give unto Him?"

I have been thinking over the response to this question, as Ravi posed it, for a good while now, and the implications of it are quite large... its just this simple: we are able to clearly identify that which is Caesar's based on the imprint of Caesars's likeness on the coin... likewise, we can discern what is God's by identifying what in Creation has been imprinted with the likeness of God.

In Genesis, at the creation of man, God speaks, saying, "Let us create man in our own image." The same word here for image could be translated as "likeness". It is among the most important demarcations setting humanity apart from the rest of creation, we bear the likeness or the image of our Creator. So the extrapolation of Jesus' instruction that we are to give unto Caesar that which bears the image of Caesar would be the implication that we are to give unto God that which bears the image of God... ourselves!

We find over and over again through the New Testament commands given to give ourselves to the things of God, to devote ourselves to the will of God, and here we find an implied command to give to God what is God's. But what does that look like? Giving to Caesar was easy... or at least clearly defined... you gave whatever Caesar commanded of you (plus whatever the collector could weasel out of you to line his own pockets). Is it the same with God? Does God command us to give Him whatever He feels is right and fair? Do His "collectors" then try to twist you for a little extra for their own? I would argue that many in our culture believe that that is exactly how it works.

Whereas it may be predominant belief of the culture, we know that God does not work in that way. Under the new covenant of Christ's blood, there is no commandment or set standard of acceptable giving. There is a command to give generously, regularly, sacrificially, graciously... we are commanded to seek the proper giving in our lives. The implications of these commands go way beyond the giving of money, after all, the money does not bear the image of God. Are we to give of our monetary blessings? Yes! Its all gifted to us from God in the first place, we are merely worshiping with thankful giving back that which we were graciously gifted in the first place. But, more importantly, we are to be giving with that grateful heart, that which bears the image of God. Our time, our devotion, our love, our life... all of who we are is to be given to God.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

the wide path

My wife is always right... and I don't mean that in the sense that most husbands say it. I guarantee you, that relative to my wife, yours is rarely right... my wife is incredible with the accuracy in the things she says. She has taught me much over the 13-ish years we've known each other. Through her invitation, I began attending First Baptist Nixa, and because of my desire to be with her, I attended events that ended up putting me in the path of God's grace. Through the ups and downs of our relationship, I unintentionally grew deeper in my knowledge of God. Wrapped in the pain of our severed engagement, I found reliance on Christ, and through the rebuilding of our relationship, I learned more about His grace. Believe me when I say that at every turn of my journey of faith, it was only her that stayed steady. God has used her in a mighty way in my life, and by allowing me to see Him through her, I have been truly blessed to be the man I am today.

I say that all to say that there have been times in our 13 years that the choices of my own life, and positions I placed myself into, spoke directly to my willingness to sacrifice all of who she is in order that I might gain something that I valued higher. We have all done things in our life that we never thought we would be capable of doing. We have all inflicted pain that we never thought we could. Somehow we buy into the lie that there are some sins we would never commit. This denial of our own depravity is an amazing foothold for the work of Satan. The total depravity of man opens each of us to the possibility of partaking in truly heinous acts... but not all at once.

The path to destruction may be wide, but the steps down that path are often slow and steady. We rarely choose to race head-long into our own undoing, rarely are we so blind. As we start down the path, we are wary of where it may lead... but just a short way down the path, we see something that looks good. We confuse it with something of God. Usually it is a piece of something... just a step or two down the path... so we shuffle our feet, we stretch out... we strain forward and grasp it... just a little down the path. That small morsel feels nice at first, but soon we get bored with it, and we see just ahead a little way further down the path, another little bit. We think that if we can add that piece to the one we already have, then we will gain some satisfaction. We may even recognize that we are leaving the path we were on, but its just a few steps, we'll be able to see where we came from, we'll just step out to get this piece, then go right back... its harmless... this pattern continues, and if left unchecked, we will find ourselves with pockets full of small pieces that are still failing to provide satisfaction, while also starting to weigh us down. We didn't realize we had wandered so far off the path we were on. We look around and realize that the path we have now chosen has been gradually twisting and descending. With all the weight of the pieces we have picked up along the way, we don't have the energy to turn and head back uphill... at this point, its easier to follow this new path, and see where it leads. Its at least easy to follow, and its all downhill... maybe soon we will see something we recognize. And just that easily we discover that we aren't at all who we used to be, this path has beaten us, we are weary, tired, and hungry... our desires still aren't satisfied, and the path seems unending, unyielding... we can't get out... we give up...

Maybe this cycle takes years, sometimes it takes weeks, but the mechanism never changes. If you find yourself on this path now... stop, take a look around, and yell out for help. Reach out to someone who has been steady and there at each step... chances are, they're still right there, waiting for you... ready to comfort you, show you God's grace. What you'll come to realize is that you don't have to climb out of that pit by yourself... you just have to allow Christ to restore you, place you back in the direction of His path, and seek him daily. It'll hurt, it'll be excruciating at times... the work of sanctification is a purifying as gold in a fire.

I'm thankful that each time I have wandered off the narrow way, my wife has been there... willing to remind me of the God I am to serve, and His immense grace. I'm thankful as well for the power of His grace to restore me, purify me, and love me.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Is there a more prominent, powerful, and defeating agent in our culture today than entitlement? Its everywhere! And, its at the core of so many of the problems with our world today...

The biggest problem I have with entitlement is that it is running rampant in our churches. Don't worry, I struggle with it as much as the rest of you... otherwise, your entitlement wouldn't bug me so much.

We see it in churches when we struggle to find people to serve in ministries that have great need. We see it when there is a change in format, style, etc. We see it when things go well, and more so when things go poorly. Its the voice of complaint, followed by lack of action to fix that which drew the complainer to speak. Its the crossed arms of those who have "served their time" and are waiting on the fresh new blood to pick up the slack. Its the slacking fresh new blood that waits for the elder generation to get up and get back into service. Its the thinking that you just aren't getting anything out of Pastor X... then realizing that you haven't gotten anything out of the pastor of the last 8 churches you've "visited" without realizing that the common denominator is you. Its the complaining that the tempo is too slow, the drums are too loud... its the demands for more cowbell! tambourine!

We get so caught up in what the church owes to us for our faithful attendance and the privilege of our presence. We get mad because the staff doesn't shake our hand just right, or doesn't stand strongly behind whatever moral matter of the day is standing out. We throw our tantrums when our ideas are not given the attention we feel they deserve...

Its all of this and more... but ultimately, its forgetting that church is not about us...

A sermon I listened to recently drew out a commentary by DA Carson, looking into the scene playing out at the verdict of Jesus' trial, as seen through the eyes of Barabas (the criminal sentenced to death, but freed at the calling of the crowd)... He sat in his cell, listening to the crowd shouting "Crucify him! Crucify him!" knowing that they were calling for his own death... the steps approaching the door of his cell, the keys in the lock... knowing that he was about to walk to his death. But instead, when the jailer opened his mouth, it was ushering Barabas to his freedom. He would learn that his place of execution was taken by the innocent Jesus. The innocence of Jesus, confirmed by the cowardly Pilate, would be instead nailed to a cross to suffer the crucifixion that was Barabas' sentence. It was the death he had earned by the life he had lead.

Why are we so entitled? Have we, the saved and pardoned sinners, forgotten the death we had earned? Did we lose the inconceivable thought of hearing our granted freedom, when we were awaiting the wrath we deserved? Are we so wrapped up in our own time that we are unwilling to sacrifice the pleasures of now for the eternity of stored up treasure? What will it take for us to drop the entitled sense of what we deserve? We've already been given more than we deserve, all that is asked is that we accept it with thanksgiving and joy... the love that surpasses ALL understanding should compel us to the service of which each of us is called.

Monday, September 23, 2013

"God, where are you?"- Habakkuk

Continuing reading through the Bible (trying to finally be able to say that I have read the whole thing), I have been mired in the minor prophets of the Old Testament. They are not the easiest read, and they are often difficult to discern anything relevant. Tonight though, I read through Habakkuk... and I could totally relate!

I have spent many, many times looking through headlines, news, Facebook, Twitter, and so on and just time again reaching a place where I just have to wonder... is God still there? Is He still in control?

"How long, o Lord, will I call for help and You will not hear? ... Why do You make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored and justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice comes out perverted." Habakkuk 1:2-4

I was brought back to this place many times recently, as we see Christians being murdered in countries far away, churches bombed, members of our adoptive family who are slain in the name of perverted justice.

"Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favor. Why do you look with favor on those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?" Habakkuk 1:13

I get to this place, and I just wonder how much longer this earth will endure... how much longer will God allow us to destroy ourselves, and His creation? How much longer will He allow the twisting of His word, and the perversion of His glory unfold? I find myself, often, much like this prophet, calling out to God... almost in an accusatory tone... asking, Why are You silent?

But, God being God, and ultimately sovereign and full of grace, mercy, and truth... He answers...

"Then the Lord answered me and said, 'Record this vision... For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay. Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by faith. Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man, so that he does not stay at home. He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, and his is like death, never satisfied." Habakkuk 2:2-5

God is still there, and He is still in control... these things continue to happen because the time has not yet come for them to stop. But the promise is there that those who revel in their own truth and their perverted justice will meet their fate... their souls are not right, their appetite for their own righteousness grows like the fires of Hell, never to be satisfied. Take rest in the knowledge that the world is storing up its wrath for eternity, but the truly righteous, the beloved, we have the peace that the wrath due to us has been poured out already... The promise is given:

"For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea... Woe to you who make your neighbors drink, who mix in your own venom even to make them drunk so as to look on their nakedness! You will be filled with disgrace rather than honor. Now you yourself drink and expose your own nakedness. The Cup in the Lord's right hand will come around to you, and utter disgrace will come upon your glory." Habakkuk 2:14-16

A promise to those who have twisted and perverted justice, who have filled this world with filth... who seek the destruction of others... you'll get yours. As well as a call to each of us to examine ourselves for this same debauchery ("for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23... sound familiar?) because the Cup in the Lord's right hand will come, and disgrace our glory. Sounds like a call to repent, a promise of the coming of Jesus. The light in the darkness that will reveal all we do as filthy rags... a reminder that God shares His glory with no one.

There is a lot going on in these verses... but if nothing else, they leave me with a few things:
1) God is in control, He is still God, He is not blind to what is happening
2) When the appointed time comes, His wrath will be poured out
3) We are all sinners, and must be careful to not only ever point out and call out the sins of others, but also to examine the sins of our own lives.
4) We must seek only the glory of God
5) Jesus has taken the wrath for all whom He has called to be His children
6) There is relevant, and good, news to be found everywhere in scripture... be diligent and persevere, keeping your mind open

I know this post was all over the place... but so is my mind lately.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Lesson from Tombstone

I'm sitting on my couch, watching Tombstone right now... I stinking love this movie... at the moment, we find Wyatt Earp walking into the Oriental for the first time, trying to get himself a stake in the house take. As he walks in, he purchases a cigar from the owner/operator of the establishment. The owner identifies himself, and Wyatt returns the gesture by telling Milt that he is Wyatt Earp. Milt just chuckles to himself in disbelief as Wyatt smiles, an unrecognized hero.
Wyatt then confronts the house dealer, who is bullying the few gamblers who wander into the room, managing to defeat the man with mostly words... the dealer, armed with a shotgun then approaches Wyatt on the street (still not recognizing who the man is), as he begins to shoulder the gun, he is called out by Doc, Wyatt's oldest friend. It is only after Doc identifies Wyatt in front of this man that the dealer trembles and backs down.

It strikes me this morning, as I am watching, how often we fail to recognize the presence of Jesus in much the same way. We struggle in our circumstances, we get impatient, wary, and frustrated that our life is not going down the path we would choose. We even get a glimpse, a direct introduction, that perhaps our situation is coming from God, that He is trying to help bring us through something. But even still, we watch skeptically, and when we again grow tired of waiting on God's timing, and trusting his sovereign grace, we begin to allow ourselves to elevate to anger, and wish to take the matter into our own hands. At times we only stop when someone else clearly shouts a warning to us and allows us to see that the object of our frustration is the work of God in our lives. And at that, we must choose our course to either drop our weapon and yield to His will, or continue to press through and accept the consequence of our deeds.

I am in a season of many trials, being made to wait through many things. Very few, if any, of these trials are even all that unpleasant... it is much more of a knowledge that on the other side of these trials lays a much different, and much better future for me, and my family. I am blessed to have the support of my family as I am moved through these times, and at times I am better at resting in the grace and sufficiency of God... but at times I start to rise up again, and threaten to attempt to retake control over circumstance. I forget the promises of scripture... and, sadly, at times it is only when I am on the edge of taking an ill-advised shot that someone is able to break my focus and remind me of the power of God's word and the effectual grace of His will.

These moments bring me back to remembering the promise found in Paul's words to the church at Ephesus:
        For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

Thursday, September 5, 2013

There is nothing good in me

People will often call out to God, offering a thanks that when they couldn't find anything good within them, that they are thankful that God saw something good in them and chose to forgive them... I have a little bit of an issue with this line of thinking... 

I really appreciate the sentiment, and I am thankful that we are able to admit that there is nothing good in us... but I think we sometimes miss the boat in thinking that God saw something in us worth saving. It laughs in the face of the total depravity of man for me to assume that, even though I couldn't see it, there was something good in me, and that one fleck of good was enough for God to rescue me. For me, the truth is that there was truly nothing good in me, not even that fleck... it was not because of ANY good that existed in me that God chose to empty Himself of glory, put on the flesh of man, come to earth as a baby, live a perfect life, be brutally murdered, stay in a tomb for 3 days, rise (conquering sin and death), walk the earth with His followers once again, to then ascend to the right hand of God. He did not choose to do that because there was something good in me, or you, or anyone else... He chose to do that for His glory

He chose to enter into history, to take utterly desolate, desperately wicked, totally depraved people like you and me and tell us that even though there is not one shred of good within us, that He can still restore us to what we were created to be... He can place us back into the right standing before God... He will become sin, never knowing sin Himself, and give us His righteousness... not because I deserve it or because there is anything good in me, but because, without Him, there never will be... but with Him, He can work through me and shine His glory through me, and others can see His love through me, and others can understand that their own brokeness is only healed through Him, and they can't earn it, or be good enough for it, or do anything to deserve it... 

He calls us to Himself by our name... when that amazing grace comes upon us, we echo the words of Paul that while I live, not I, but Christ who lives within me... transforming us from the inside out back into the image and likeness of God... so that after we live our lives on this earth, after we have gone through this sanctification, we are glorified and perfected into our right standing before God... but only because, as we abide in Christ, He abides in us... God didn't rescue you because of anything short of His glory being magnified through the redemption of a completely wrecked vessel back to perfection.

Its all for His glory, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone... 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

being patient

I made a comment the other day on Twitter, but I think the thought deserves more space than the 140 characters I am limited to in that space... so...

I am entrenched in a particularly trying season in my life right now, and I am convinced that nearly every aspect of my life has been put together by God to help me better learn and understand my need for patience. Everything from my current work situation, having to go back to night shift, trying to find advancement opportunities, and other similar situations... to non-professional obligations such as being called to serve on our pastor search team, serving in our AWANA ministry, etc... to education frustrations, just trying to get my BSN finished so I can get started on my Master's work.

I am not a person who was required, in my younger years, to undergo much stress. I was blessed mightily in that regard through my childhood. As I entered adulthood, my lack of stress became much more about my tendency to shy away from particularly difficult situations, and detach from problems as I saw them coming. But over the last couple of years, I have become much more aware of my role as a husband, father, and man, I have found my further need to launch headlong into these situations. This has lead to a trial by fire in which I have been forced to, on the fly, gain experience and understanding in how to manage stress, and be more patient. I am not by nature a patient person, though I have been blessed by an easy-going personality in many areas of life. This easy-going-ness falters mightily, however, in the areas of my life that I am most passionate about (my family, my church, my career). As my patience has worn thinner and thinner, my stress has risen. I have recently found myself being angry at God for not doing things in a timely manner... not keeping everyone else on my schedule, aligned with my desires, and accomplishing whats best for me! Until one day last week, I was getting ready to lay down, and was praying over many of my frustrations with the seeming standstill in so many areas of my life, and I felt strongly the revelation of God in this simple, deep conviction...

My lack of patience with God's timing is directly rooted in my lack of trust in His sovereignty.


Was I really not trusting that God was in control? Had I forgotten that when I entered into this relationship, that it was contingent on my understanding that Christ is not just my Savior, but He is also my Lord? God has called me to be set apart, and opened my heart to understanding His word because He has a sovereign plan and purpose for my life. He has things set in place along my path that serve as opportunities to glorify Him in all I do, just as we are all called to do. If I am too rushed and hurried to achieve my own ends, I am going to run past so many of these opportunities. I may not fully understand why so many things in my life seem to be stuck, or slowly progressing, but I can know that from where I am to the next point my path is planned out for the glory of God. I can trust that the One who created everything can handle whatever is in my path. I need to become better at waiting, better at patience. I need to be satisfied to serve God where I am, in the ways He has placed in front of me, and trust that He will bring new opportunities in my path as He sees fit.

If I am willing to place my trust in the sovereign grace of God, then I will find that my worry of His timing won't be so significant.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Abundant Life

Been doing a lot of learning, via Bible study, listening to sermons, small group discussions, etc regarding the abundant life that Jesus promises His followers... here are some thoughts:

I am fairly convinced that the abundant life is multifaceted as a diamond, and one of these facets is regarding the fact that there is much of the abundant life that isn't really about me at all... the abundant life Jesus is promising is a life lived to the full. It is not about material gain or anything that I can amass in this world. The abundant life is defined by the eternal life that we are promised when we choose to answer the call of our True Shepherd and take up our cross, denying ourselves daily, and follow Jesus. Jesus tells us that the eternal life He promises is found in the full knowledge of God, and the belief in the One He sent. In other words, the abundant life is a life that is lived in the fullness of the glory of God. When we choose to surrender ourselves to the work of Christ in us and through us, then we get to gather glimpses of the full glory, and the eternal Kingdom. The abundant life exists for the same reason that we all exist, for the glory and enjoyment of God. Its not about us, its about God, and His infinite glory.

We get brought in through another facet... The more we grow in our knowledge and belief, the deeper we get into the understanding of God, the more of these glimpses we will find. Living in the fully glory of our Father and His Son is the abundant life. It is a life that breeds full contentment and joy in way that cannot be attained by the means of this earth. It is a craving that grows within each of us that we will try to satisfy or quiet by the methods of the world... we will try to gain deeper understanding of life, truth, science, anything... or we will tempt the craving on with success, money, material wealth, food, sex, whatever... and yet we will lack lasting joy, peace and contentment until we surrender to the abundant life.

Another note, I don't think there is a limit to the abundant life. We try to quantify things, try to make it a manageable size, so we can study, examine, and understand. We do it with God all the time, and we do it with the abundant life. I've done it in this post, stating that it is the fullness of the glory of God. I put a limit on it... sure the limit is God's fullness, but ultimately God is limitless. We are reminded in other verses of scripture that God is capable of accomplishing all that we ask, and abundantly more than we can fathom. The abundant life of God is a joy, peace, and contentment that reaches to unfathomable depths. It is unshakeable, unbreakable, unending, limitless... just like God Himself... and why? Because the abundant life is the fullness of God's glory!

When Jesus tells His disciples that He will give them life, and give it more abundantly, or to the full... it is a promise that a life lived for the glory of Christ is not a life without fruit. We are promised that, as followers of Christ, that we will experience the fullness of God's glory. We have the ability to, now, live under the authority of Christ, as an agent of subversion, to live radically bent against the rebellion of this world. We are no longer citizens of a fallen world, but we have been adopted into the family of an eternal father. We are no longer identified by who we are, but alone by who Christ is within us. And when we walk ahead boldly confident into the face of the world, into the fallen disgrace of humanity, we do so under the authority of God's glory. The abundant life is also a promise of freedom. Freedom from the chains... freedom to declare that we were once slave to our master of sin, but we choose now to be a slave of the one true Christ... to be, as Paul and others declared, a bondservant of Christ. An abundant life is a life spent in the service of Christ, doing the work of the ministry that Jesus calls each of us to.

The abundant life promises me that I am a vine of the branch of Jesus, and that if I will abide in Him, He will make His home in me, and through me He will bear much fruit. The abundant life is a promise of a life with purpose. The purpose to live for the glory of God alone, by the name of Christ alone, knowing that you were bought by the blood of Jesus. Knowing that you were saved by grace through faith... but that you were saved to good works because faith without works is dead. So many books have been written to help mankind find his purpose in this life, to answer the question of "why am I here?" The answer is simple, the chief end of man is the glory of God. That is your purpose, that is why you are here... to glorify God, to reflect His glory, and enjoy His love.

If you say that that makes no sense to you, thats fine, it doesn't need to right now. We are also promised that so many of the words of Jesus will be seen as foolish by those whose eyes God has not opened. If you wish you could experience the abundant life, to feel the peace and contentment that was promised by Jesus, but it just sounds like a bunch of nonsense... take comfort in knowing that your desire to understand is the first step. Pray for God to open your eyes and your mind, seek Him, seek those who have found Him, let us help you to understand... If you feel like you managed to find peace, joy, or contentment without having need of God... you need to know that there is even deeper, more lasting, and perfectly better versions available.

Anyway, just some of the thoughts I have had lately...

Thursday, August 1, 2013

I know the Bible!

"God helps me, I will not be afraid. Hebrews 13:6"

If you have spent much time around my daughter in the past month or so, chances are, you have heard this verse... it was her memory verse from VBS this year... and she nailed it

Her memorization of this little (great) passage of scripture has lead to a renewed awareness of something for me though. A week or so ago, my wife and I were reading to the kids from our family devotional. At the top of each page, there is a theme verse for the day's lesson. My wife was reading it and thought that it seemed like a good, short verse, and a chance to challenge the little lady with a new verse. As we tried to teach her this new verse, she stated, "No, I already know my verse! God helps me, I will not be afraid. Hebrews 13:6"... we tried to tell her that there are more than just the one verse in the Bible, but she didn't want to hear it... she has her verse, and shes good with it.

Its one thing for a 3 year old to have trouble with this concept, but at what point, as adult (supposedly more mature) Christians, did we hit the wall and decide we knew enough of God's word to no longer have to search it for more? Its sad how little time we spend with God. Its even sadder when we refuse to deepen our understanding of God's word, because we already know the Bible. When asked, most people in church will say that they don't spend enough time in the Word. They admit they should be reading it more often... some will even go so far as to say that they should meditate on it more frequently, reaching beyond just reading it, but actually studying it... so, why don't we do it?

I say a large amount of things through the day, many times I say them because its what you are supposed to say... but why put up the front of saying that I know I need to spend more time with God, when I know I won't actually do it? Do I, or you, actually believe that God is pleased because we simply acknowledge our need for more of Him? Why not start today, take just 5 minutes, seek the face of God.

The way that this was best described to me was to close your eyes, and picture the throne of God... picture the seat in the front row, with your name on it... have a seat, and just sit there. Don't speak, don't do anything, just bathe in the glory of God... 5 minutes... then, go get in His word, read a verse, a chapter, a page, the whole thing if you'd like! But do it.

There is more in there than any of us have ever considered, and the moment that we feel like we are good, that we have learned our Bible, thats when we start to become stagnant... that moment when we utter the words, "I know the Bible!" we are just asking for something to test that knowledge... our pride will be used for our humiliation. Hopefully that would lead us back into the Word, but wouldn't it be better to just stay there instead?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A thought on missional living

I have written 2/3 of a couple of different posts this morning, but they ultimately were not coming from a pure heart, and they were much too focused on me. So, I am going to try again...

I have been (slowly) reading through the book of Daniel as I continue trekking through the Bible, verse by verse, book by book... last night, as I was falling asleep, following a time of ministry brainstorming and planning (which is incredibly exciting!) I was conflicted by some feelings of intent and motivation. The group that was together was a collection of folks from my wife's small group and my own, we group together for an outreach ministry with one of the local apartment complexes and try to love on the people who are out there as best we can. We are hoping to expand what we are doing, as well as bring in more small groups reaching out to more complexes. The problem that we often run into is this feeling that we are not a charitable organization who is just there to give stuff to them, to meet their physical needs, and then go away until the next event. We are there to allow God to work through us and demonstrate His love for them not only through the provision of needs, but also through the investment of time with them. That relational investment is the difference between being good people doing good things, and being God's people, doing God's work. God has gifted us so mightily with inroads and connections with this particular complex, and has supplied us with fertile soil. It is our job to make sure we are planting seeds. If all we ever do is add more to the soil, through gifting of physical things, but we never plant the seed of investing in their lives, then they will never grow! It is a large burden to try to sit and discuss how we manage to balance the two... giving material things is so easy!
So, I was struggling with how to discern the difference, and I began reading in Daniel 2... following King Nebuchadnezzar's (I almost spelled that right without looking! Who puts 2 Z's??) dream, and the inability of the wise men to explain it to him, and the decree to kill all of the wise men because of it (dramatic)... Daniel goes to the king and asks him to put a hold on the killings so that his dream could be explained.The king asks if Daniel can do it, in verse 27, Daniel begins to explain that no man can interpret this dream, but that there is a God in Heaven who gave this dream to the king, and gave the king a gift of the knowledge of things to come, and that it was not up to Daniel to explain the dream, that it was a matter of seeking God, in verse 30, Daniel captures exactly the heart of missional living:
 "But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than in any other living man, but for the purpose of making the interpretation to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind."

Daniel's heart here is one that says, "I am no different from anyone else, apart from the gift and revelation of God I am no more good or wise than they." Daniel knew that anything he did was by the grace of God alone, for the work of God alone, that through him God could reveal himself to those he was serving. That is the difference between meeting solely physical needs, and making a deeper, heart changing connection with people. The intentionality of doing all things to the glory of Christ. It requires the humility to say that we are nothing outside of Christ, with the faith that through Him, great works can be accomplished; the willingness to lay ourselves down and allow Christ to work in us, leading us into obedience to His calling; a position of reverence and worship to the God who has given us the opportunity to serve in His name; and a focus on the advancement of His Kingdom. Faith, Obedience, Reverence, Kingdom.

If we are seeking these principles in all we do through the outreach opportunities that Christ has ordained for us, we will be more than just a nice group of people who do nice things... we will be subversive agents of the Gospel, seeking the glory of Christ.

Monday, July 15, 2013

live as a human

God created man and woman, He did so in His image and His likeness, He did so in order that we might reflect  His glory across all of creation. We were created as, not part of creation, but to be set as the crown of creation, to be over creation. We bear no real, physical difference that clearly sets us apart from all that has been created, but we do contain both flesh and spirit, we bear that image and likeness of our Creator. We were created and set apart as humans, and when He had finished His created work on the beings that would reflect His light more fully than all of creation, God declared that humans were very good.

Why do we often blame our humanity for the struggles we have? When we fins ourselves struggling with our sins, when we see terrible things happening, we often brush it off in saying that we can't help it, we are merely human. At the Kingdom Advance conference this past week, Micah Fries made this point, and it has so far stuck with me... when created, humans were very good, humans were the image bearer of God, so then to blame our "fleshliness" on being human is to point the finger at the wrong source. Being human is of God, we allowed Satan to pervert our flesh at the fall, when we allowed sin to enter the world through Adam. At that time we ceased being humans, set above creation to reflect the Glory of our God, and we became sub-human.

As our lives continue in this new state of being, as we struggle through living in a sub-optimal capacity, there is a longing to get better, to fill the gap, to better ourselves. Our self-induced imprisonment defeats us and we begin to accept that we are living as well as we can. Enter grace, the free gift of God, enter Jesus...

Jesus came to the earth, as a human, He showed up and was as we were created to be, and lived in a way that we were created to live, and did so in order to remind those who were willing and able to recognize it, that we were (to steal the Switchfoot lyrics) meant to live for so much more. To those whom the Father had granted the eyes to see and the ears to hear, what  they saw in Jesus was not merely a good moral man, and a good teacher, not just a prophet, but what they saw was the true Son of Man who was what we were meant to have been from the time we were created, a human! A human, untouched by sin, never having compromised His place as an image bearer of God. God became human in order to remind us of who we were created to be, so that we could return to Him and fulfill the purpose for which He created us! Now, obviously, Jesus was also 100% God in this as well, because otherwise, He might have succumbed to the same temptations and pitfalls and would have traded His humanity and joined us as a sub-human.

The life of Jesus is a study on being human, in the sense of what was intended by our creation. It is not our "human-ness" that separates us from God, it is our unwillingness to be human. But in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are able to exchange our sub-human life for His human life. We are able to accept that the wrath of God, owed to us for not living as He created us to live, was poured out on Jesus as a sacrifice. We are able to repent of the life we have lead, and say to God that we want to live as humans, as we were created, very good.

As it stands now, we are further descending from our place above creation, as humans, we are deepening the divide between how we were created to live, and how we are choosing to live. As the world continues down this path, the life and example of Christ becomes more obscure to us. But to those whom God still grants the eyes to see and ears to hear, we recognize the truth in the Word of God. It doesn't have to all make sense, it doesn't have to really make any sense at all... but we recognize that there is something different, that surely there must be more to this life than what the world has to offer. Even as muddled and twisted as the path may seem, the words of Jesus still hold true that He, and He alone, is the way, the truth, and the life... the only way back to a life that is lived as God intends it to be lived is through Jesus Christ, and that life is a life lived to the glory of Him alone. The Bible promises that the world will continue to fall deeper and more desperately away from its created purpose... but it also promises a way to escape.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

not for my sake

Reading in Ezekiel this morning, as I continue to complete reading through the Bible completely, and was struck by a truth that I know, but that was still refreshing early this morning...

In chapter 36, starting in verse 22, Ezekiel is given a message from God concerning the salvation that is to come for His people. Its a wonderful promise that tells us that even though we have strayed, and trampled upon all that He has given us, even though we have profaned His name among the world, even to whatever level of uncleanliness that we have achieved on our own, no matter how deeply we have allowed our evil desires to root within us... despite all of this, God promises that He will cleanse us of all of our filthiness. He even goes deeper to promise that He will give us a new heart, that He will remove our heart, that we have turned to stone, and give us a heart of flesh, He promises to place within us a new Spirit. God goes so far as to say that this new spirit is not simply a cleansed, renewed version of our old spirit, but in verse 27, He says that it is His own Spirit that He will place within us, a Spirit that will allow us to walk in a manner to which He has called us, and a Spirit with a desire to live in obedience, under His authority. In doing so, God promises to restore His children, not just a restoration back to who we were before it all went wrong, but to make us a new creation, with a new Spirit, and new life, promising to multiply His grace upon us, and promising that we will never again receive ourselves into the eternal disgrace of our evil desires. His promise is an eternal cleansing, and a new life walking in concert with His will.

As amazing as all of that is, the part that truly floors me this morning is best emphasized at the beginning of verse 32, God concludes by saying that He is NOT doing this for OUR sake! He states it first in verse 23, His motivation in this revitalizing work is to vindicate the holiness of His great name! He is saving His people in such a complete and miraculous way, not for our own sake, but that by doing so in the sight of the world, that He will prove Himself holy among us in their sight! God promises that it is not for our sake that He is choosing to begin His saving work, but for the glory of His holiness.

This passage shows the mission-minded, evangelical focus of God... and hopefully places us, rightly, in a place of worship, desiring to accept that our salvation was not for us, but for others to be able to see the glory of God, and for others to desire to experience that glory through the birth of a new life, the gift of a new heart, and the exchange of a new spirit. God was promising this before Christ came to earth, before we knew the Way, Truth, and Life through which this great promise would be carried out. God spoke of His children whom would be cleansed, not of unknown persons who might come to Himself. This passage leads straight to the heart of what it is to be in Christ, called by name, knowing that you are saved by grace, through faith, that it is not of yourself, so you shall not boast. The passage is also a promise that when we are cleansed and revived by God in this way, that He will take the desolate wasteland of our life, and fill it with fruit so plentiful that it will cause others to remember back to the Garden of Eden, and our true home. People should be able to look into a believer and follower and see that what used to be empty is now being cultivated, changed, and producing good fruits. And again, in verse 36, God reminds us that the intent of this is that the people who remain around us will know that it was God that rebuilt our being, and God that planted that which was desolate... and He leaves it with another promise, "I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do it."

This is a passage is a promise spoken by God the father, foreshadowing the saving work of God the Son, and promising the sustaining work of God the Holy Spirit. It speaks to the Doctrine of the Elect, it speaks to the need of Grace, it speaks to the futility of a works-based system for salvation... it speaks of the depravity and desolation that we have managed to attain by forsaking God's word and commandments. It speaks to our need for cleansing. It promises the fruits of the Spirit that will be present in the lives of those who have experienced a new birth. It speaks of the exchange of our heart for the heart of God. It speaks of all of this, 570 years prior to the birth of Jesus Christ, the earliest manuscripts of this text were found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, predating the birth of Christ! This is the word of God, promising salvation to those He calls unto Himself, promising new life to those He calls His children. But it is not a promise to glorify us, it is a promise that He does these things to ensure that His glory is visible among His people, that the world will know that He alone is God.

Amazing stuff from an old book that means everything to us today

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Be a man

My daughter is a ballerina... just ask her, she'll tell you. She'll go so far as to twirl for you while providing her own soundtrack. She loves to dance, anytime, anyplace... it doesn't matter what else is going on, when she feels like dancing, dancing will happen.

This past weekend, we were at a motorcycle and car show (she also happens to love motorcycles and cars) at a local frozen custard joint. The show is part of a benefit and outreach event supported by our church's affiliated motorcycle ministry to help raise money and food for a local food pantry. While we were walking around looking at cars, and sitting on motorcycles, my lil lady decides that its time for some ice cream. So, we left my wife and son out perusing while we stepped into a much too crowded, filled with men (not just any men, but motorcycle and car men), custard shop. While in the middle of the crowd, this is the time when she decides its time to break into song and dance. She began singing the theme song to Angelina Ballerina and twirling. About 2 bars into the song she stopped, took my hand and said, "You twirl too daddy."

In these moments, I am reminded of the awesome privilege and responsibility that comes with being a father and a husband, but I am also saddened by the men I know who have no desire to serve in such a role. It is a catastrophic breakdown in the institution of family within our culture that men have been convinced that the job of husband and father is not manly. Through the scriptures, we are taught that the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of the husband is Christ. We are to be the spiritual leader of our home. I have recently heard it phrased that women are to manage the home, but men are to manage the woman... This is not some misogynistic, tarzan-esque call to belittle women. It is a call for men to be men. We are to love our wives as Christ loves the church. We are therefore to love our wives because Christ first loves us, we are to follow that example to first love our wives! Nothing else should matter in our relationship as much as that we will make the choice to first love her! The call to spiritual leadership is not a call to supremacy, it is a call to action, a call to servitude, a call to sacrificial love. It is a call to entrust to our wives the role they are called to, to be a mother and a wife, and to serve her through leadership in Christ-like love. Its a call to sacrifice everything we think we are in order to place our family above ourselves. Its a call to put down everything that hinders our family's growth, and pick up the reigns of the spiritual guidance that is our responsibility.

We choose, as men, whether we do so consciously or not, to take on the role of spiritual leadership. The moment we enter into the covenant commitment that is marriage, we are saying that we accept the role of spiritual leadership for our new family. You are accepting the responsibility of the spiritual condition of the woman. Your two fleshes are now joined into one, and you are at her head, while Christ is at yours, and when you choose to add children into that flesh, you are accepting the further responsibility for their spiritual condition as well. You are their leader, whether you accept it, or choose it, or ignore it. The responsibility is yours, and you will be held to it at the time of your judgement. They are each responsible for their own lives, but you are responsible for their leadership.

So, men, are we willing to sacrifice whatever claim we think we might hold on our manliness? Are we willing to accept that a true man lives his life in the example of the sacrificial love of Christ as our head? Are we willing to love our wives first, independent of her response? Are we willing to daily make a choice of our will to act in the promotion of the good of those to whom we are charged with leading, no matter the assumed cost? Are you willing to twirl with your daughter, while singing Angelina Ballerina, while surrounded by car dudes?

Are you going to do it perfectly?

No, you won't... I won't... I don't. But, at the end of your life, will you be able to look back and see that the progressive pattern of your life as the spiritual leader of your family was a consistent, persistent growth towards being more Christ-like?

When we choose to live as we have been called, we are men. Sometimes the most manly thing in the world is dancing and singing like a little girl. It was the other night for me. I hope that today, I will continue to move closer to God, and lead my family better than I did yesterday, and that tomorrow will be better still. I hope that maybe you will do the same, whatever that means.

Get a job, provide to the best of your current ability, love sacrificially, love unconditionally, do the dishes, scrub the toilet, sing songs, make a fool of yourself, pray, open the Bible in front of your kids, read it to them, teach them to pray, kiss your wife, hold her hand, make her laugh, lessen yourself, allow your family to see you struggle, allow them to see you grow, help your kids understand failure, help them embrace success, read to them, push them on the swing, catch them on the slide, take them to the ER, ask for their forgiveness when you do wrong, love them, punish them, hold them to a different standard than the world, pursue your wife, make her feel beautiful, go to church, serve, sing praise, cry no matter who is watching, be a man.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

thoughts on searching for a pastor

Serving on the Pastor Search Team (notice we're a team, not a committee... we're a cool kind of Baptist church) has taught me a few things. We began our search a couple of months ago, and I am privileged to have been nominated and selected to serve our church by sitting on this team. I am serving in the role of Vice Chairman, mainly out of a kick in the teeth conviction in our first meeting in which I truly felt that God was telling me to volunteer for the responsibility of the position. To this point in the process I do not regret that move. I have learned more about leadership, networking, professionalism, prayer, and commitment in the last couple of months than I ever would have expected.

Among the biggest truths I have seen through this, the sovereignty and promise of God has been evident. We share at each meeting how God has been working in our lives over the past week, and I am never left without amazement at the unity of the Spirit. It seems each week that as we share our own personal walk of the week, that the message to each of us is a variation of the same message we each share. This past week seemed to be centered on the power of prayer and focus, and the need to keep the communication between each member of our team and God as open as possible. The ultimate point was that we can easily be led down a path that seems right and good, and a path that pleases us as men and women, but if we are not careful, diligent, and prayerful as we do so, we will easily find that the path that pleases us, does not please God. We must be willing, at intervals throughout this journey, to take a quick pause and examine the path we are on, and take stock of how we got to that point. One of the biggest fears for our committee is following our own, worldly desires. We know and trust that God has the man selected who is to be our next pastor, and that as long as we are serving obediently, that we will be blessed to find him. We have been and will continue to pray for this man, his family, and his church... we know we will be causing an uprooting and ultimately be causing a ripple-effect of change through many lives. It is not a task we take lightly.

For the sake of implicit confidentiality I will not share anything concerning the search process, and I really have no desire to. But I will share this, if your church is going through this same process, be in prayer for those serving in this capacity. For most of us, it is unfamiliar territory, a strange path, and daunting at best. If you are serving on such a team, maybe you can take some peace in a couple of thoughts that have come out of our times meeting together:

1) “I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, In paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them
And rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, And I will not leave them undone.” Isaiah 42:16

2) On their journey out of slavery, to the promised land, when the Israelites reached the Jordan River (at flood stage), God called a few of them to go out into the water, and stand. It was only after this act of obedience by a few that God stilled the waters, walled it up, and allowed the rest to cross on dry land. Take peace in knowing that If you are willing to obediently step into raging water, you can help lead your church closer to the place God desires you all to be.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Remembering to start

When the Israelites were fleeing from their former Egyptian masters, they were doing pretty well until they came up to the Red Sea. Perplexed by what to do next, God performs one of the most famous miracles of the Old Testament and ultimately of the entire Bible. He works through the obedience of Moses and the power of the wind to blow the Red Sea vertical into two walls and the Israelites crossed through the sea on dry land. Its a great story, and is used over and over again in our lives when we face seemingly impossible situations. People encourage us using this story as an example of allowing God to show us the way to pass through our struggle, and to have faith that stepping onto that path and trusting that God will sustain the waters, we will safely come through the other side. It is also frequently used by people seeking God's will in a certain situation, that we just need to wait on God to show us the path.

Both of those situations are great examples of one way that God worked with this people group and used the faith and obedience to bring them close to Him and allow them to walk alongside Him within His will...

But the rub is this: people often get stuck in thinking that this is the only way that God works. The He will always clearly define the path before us, then call us to move, and give us a nice, easy, clean pursuit down the road of His will. We get so busy being stuck at the shore of our given Red Sea that we forget another story that occurs that involves another water crossing...

The Israelites are finally heading to the promised land, they are marching under the leadership of Joshua, and they come upon the Jordan River. They must cross it in order to reach the Promised Land. They knew the goal they were marching towards, and they knew they had to get through the river. But the Jordan River was at its traditional flood stage, it was ripping through the countryside, violently rushing as a barrier of this part of their journey. Yet this time, instead of having His people wait while He cleared an easy, direct path through the obstacle, God tells them to send the priests carrying the Arc to stand in the middle of the river. And, while they are standing there, He calls a group of leaders to follow into the river. At this point, the river halts its flow, and the rest of the Israelites are able to pass through the river and continue their march to the Promised Land.

What should this tell us? It shows that sometimes, God doesn't define a path through our struggles or clearly delineate His plan or will... sometimes He calls us to action in faith. Sometimes we have to step right into the raging river ahead of us first. Not only that, but also, God called them to carry the Arc out there with them! Their most precious, significant possession they had. God was asking them to send all they had that they held at high importance to go stand in the middle of the obstacle. And it was only after they faithfully obeyed and began to press towards their goal did God halt the water and show them their next step.

We see here that there are times that God does give His people clear, easy, clean, directions that show how to get from the here to the there... how to accomplish a goal, how to get through something difficult, etc... but we also see that sometimes, He only gives us an end goal in mind, and requires a radical act of faith, a sacrificial obedience and a determination to achieve the goal, and then, He will show us the next step...

I don't know the best way to tell the difference from one to the other, but I do know this... if you are standing on the shore, and you don't see a direct path in front of you, start stepping into the water... if you want to achieve something, be willing to sacrifice, trusting that God will be faithful, and start...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Claiming victory

I get confused sometimes... especially when it comes to the things of God. I suppose that to some point, that level of confusion is encouraging in realizing that my mind cannot begin to comprehend or even try to wrap itself around certain aspects of God. The mystery of God is necessary in order to keep ourselves in proper perspective as the creation, made in the image of a Creator... not the other way around.
One aspect that often confuses me is the idea of claiming victory in Jesus. We are told that because God uses all things in our life, good and bad, to direct those of us who have submitted to the Lordship of Christ in the direction of the will of God, that we can get through tough times by simply claiming our victory in Jesus.
I don't know about you, but I have no idea what that is supposed to look like, I can't envision it well, and it doesn't seem like one of those huge God things that are supposed to be mysterious. This is a practical resolution to a problem, and an idea that I think God wants His children to understand... He wants me to understand what it tangibly looks and feels like to claim victory in Jesus, and here is what I'm getting right now:

In the Old Testament, we see many times that the Israelites were facing a battle. Many times they were ferociously overmatched, whether by strength, size, or even both. But we also see a resolve because they knew they were to claim the victory already won for them by God, they just had to be humbly obedient. That part is easy to understand. I get that if I am humbly obedient and following the will of God that I will be victorious. But the catch is this: victorious doesn't always mean what we think it will. Victorious can quickly become a selfish pursuit of greatness, holiness, righteousness, so on and so forth... we see this because God was always with His chosen people, watching out for them, helping them through their battles, but there were times that they thought they were to be "victorious" from a prideful and selfish heart, and yet, they were defeated, enslaved, etc... they were still "claiming victory in God". Yet they were not "victorious".
We have to be willing to accept that the victory we claim in Christ is not always going to be what we expect. But by claiming the victory, we are submitting to the Lordship of Christ to say that His victory is good, right, and unwavering. We don't always get to define a victory, we are called to humbly, obediently take part in the battle, follow the command of our Lord, and celebrate the outcome with glorious praise and worship...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

the husband jackpot

Now, don't tell my wife this, I don't want her bragging to everyone... but, I am pretty sure that she won the husband lottery. I mean, c'mon, I am an amazing cook, I work hard at a job I love to provide for our family, I clean the bathrooms, I do the dishes, I even do my own laundry... I'm thoughtful, insightful, I have a strong, growing relationship with my Lord and Savior, I teach discipleship classes, I serve with an awesome group of men, I'm funny, I'm smart, I'm compassionate, I'm ferociously in love with her, I am passionate about the things I care about most, and on top of it all... I'm pretty good looking.

You know what I think is the most ridiculous thing about that previous paragraph? There are times I fail to remember why any of that is true. Many of the statements above are exaggerated, and others are accurate, but one thing remains constant through them all, I am only who I am because of the love and support of those closest to me, and because of the grace of a God that loves me unconditionally.

I cook well because my mom invested time in teaching me how much fun it is, and how to enjoy feeding others. The foods I cook are only on the plate because of the time my wife spends tracking down recipes, because she researches the ads to get the best prices, because she wrangles two kids through the grocery store to bring home the ingredients, and because she entertains them while I am in the kitchen.

I work hard at a job I love because 7 years ago, she didn't laugh when I told her I wanted to be a nurse. She encouraged me, and supported me through those years. She helped me stay focused on accomplishing my goals, even through my mom's illness. Without her support, I wouldn't be supporting this amazing family.

I clean bathrooms and do dishes because they are small ways I can help out around the house to express my appreciation. She does so much, the least I can do is do the gross jobs. That includes my laundry, because lets face it, boy laundry is smelly... nurse laundry is smelly... boy-nurse laundry is darn near toxic.

I am thoughtful, insightful, and growing in my faith because she invested time in me 13 years ago to reintroduce me to the one true God. Since then, she has willfully listened to the ebb and flow of my growth. She encourages me to seek God in new and different ways. She encouraged me to take on the task of leading in discipleship, and prays for me, she introduced me to these men along whom I serve.

My wife is an amazing woman, her constant support and love has pushed me to become the man I am today. Her investment in me drives me to want to be the best man I can be. God uses her, in direct and powerful ways, as He continues to pursue me, to change me, to grow me. Everything I am now, everything that is good in me, is only there because of the work that God has done in my life... and He has accomplished most of the work through her. I am only a good catch because my wife caught me. I hope to do a good job of living up to the husband she deserves, and I am immensely saddened by the times that I have failed miserably.

I thank God every morning when I wake up, and she is laying beside me for another day.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

pursuing an adulterous woman

We recently had a message at our church concerning the woman caught in adultery from John 8. The classic, over-quoted, awesome story of grace and stone-casting. As I continued to think about the story, and discussing it in our men's group, I was reminded of something that God has really been working on deepening my understanding about how He works... I am being constantly reminded and assured of God's pursuit of us.

Think about this woman, clearly she is not living right. We don't know how deeply involved with adulterous affairs she is, or what else she might be involved with, but we know that she was caught in the act of adultery and paraded out for all to see. She was likely ashamed and deeply embarrassed by her life. She likely felt, like so many of us often do, that she was worthless, and unable to be forgiven. But here's the thing, God is jealous for His children, and He will do whatever it takes to bring them back into a right relationship with Him. It is His desire for each of us to join in to this relationship with Him, and He calls us to come to Him, just as we are, with all of our filth and failures and cast our burdens on Him. But we are resistant to this call because we feel we are unworthy of this relationship, we have to clean up first, we have to make ourselves able to stand before God. We want the forgiveness, but we don't want to display our dirt. So, we run away from God, trying to find a way to make ourselves clean.
When we do this, at some point, in His own timing, God will choose to pursue us. He will begin to call us back to Him, and as we resist, His call will get louder... and when God decides it is time for you to come back to Him, He will use whatever means He has to get to you. In this particular case, God desired this woman to return to Him, but due to the depth of her sin and shame, I don't believe there is any way she would have approached God to seek forgiveness. She was "too dirty". So, God went on the pursuit... He used the zeal, pride, arrogance, and outright sin of the scribes and Pharisees to go get this woman, in the very act of her sin, and bring her before God. It was not the intent of the scribes and Pharisees to be used by God in this way. They were unaware of their part as pawns in this great act, they were hatching their own scheme to trick and discredit Jesus. They were busy focusing on their own self-interest to notice the hand of God. So, using the unaware pawns, approaching the woman at the depth of her sin, God brought the woman to Himself. He knew the deepest secrets and pain that present in her life, her sins were not secret to Him. He listened as the charges of the self-righteous were leveled against her, and He responded. He judged her, righteously, as a sinner, and never downplayed that fact, but He also righteously judged the crowd around her. He had called her to this place to let her know that He knew who she was, and what she had done, but to respond with love. He called onto the carpet the sin of those around her, and they fled. The woman recognized Jesus as Lord, and called Him accordingly. She received a forgiveness that she desired, yet believed was not possible. Not because she was good enough, but because God is. He pursued her, used the path that was available to Him, brought her before Him, and extended grace to her. She left the encounter changed.

This is the God I serve, one who will pursue those He loves, through whatever means possible, into and through a literal Hell. A God who knows the depth of my sin and chooses to love me anyway. A God who places the crowd back where they should be. A God who extends grace to all who declare Him as Lord. A God who looks at me and says, "Neither do I condemn you, now go and sin no more."

What God do you serve?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

bottom of the pit

I don't really have anything specific to write about today... sometimes I would let that keep me from writing or posting anything. Of course that is pretty obvious by the many, many days that I don't post anything original to this blog. I wish I were one of those people who had new and inspirational thoughts every day, someone who people would check each day to see what I had to say, because they knew it would be beneficial. But I'm not that guy, nor do I believe I ever will be. Its not how I was gifted. My gift is more like a  shotgun, there are days when I will get 5-7 ideas for blog posts, fully formed, well articulated ideas... but most days are like today, I don't really feel like I have much to share.

I have often thought it would be interesting to write in a truly, free-flowing, flow of consciousness style. To just spill my thoughts onto paper as they come to me... unedited, unplanned. The plain and simple truth is that it terrifies me to think of where my mind would likely go in such a situation. My mind is not clean, easy, or generally public appropriate at many points throughout the day. I have to allow careful control over my thoughts on a moment to moment basis to ensure that I am not traveling down the paths of egotistical, arrogant, self-righteous, manipulative, proud, and disdain. Those who feel they know me well would likely not describe me in the ways listed there, but those who do truly know me have watched me struggle through those times. My wife knows all too well that this side of my nature still lives and breathes within me, she has suffered through many days where it controls my thoughts, actions, and words. Luckily, it is not that nature which controls me, that nature only comes out when I feel that I can control it, rather than allow Christ to do so. When I submit my mind and body over to the Lordship of Jesus, as He commands me to do so daily, and when I choose to shoulder my own cross and nail my life to it, as He did His... when I surrender who I am, and allow Him to redefine me, I am controlled and compelled by His love. His power over sin is universal, but also personal. He died for ALL sin, but He died for mine. He paid the wage of death for ALL mankind, but He paid it for me. And when I try to take back control, when I start to answer to that old self, the one that will one day be defeated, I find myself back in the pit of my total depravity, surrounded by the pains of my past, and the darkness of who I am apart from the Christ who saved me... when I reach that bottom... Jesus is there. He whispers to me, still, silent, calm, empowering... and He asks me, "Why are you back here? I have already died for this, I have already paid the painful price for this so that you don't have to. I love you." He knows when I head down that path, He warns me as I do, He offers a way off that path, a way that leads back to Him before I reach that pit... but He also knows that many times, I'll ignore Him on the way, and so  He waits for me there...

I don't care how deep your pit is, I don't care who or what is laying in it for you... I don't care what you have done, or how far you have run... I don't care who you believe you are... Jesus already paid your price, He is already risen, defeated every sin, every doubt, He has conquered death for us. All we have to do is accept His payment, turn from our own pit, and walk back out along the path, lighted by His love, back into the life He has intended for each of us. He said it Himself, so many times and so many ways... Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life... the only way back to God... He is the word become flesh... and the Word is a light upon our path, guiding us in the way of righteousness

I'm glad I didn't have anything to write today... that felt good, and right
If you read this, thank you for doing so... if you liked it, please share it with others, or take a look at some of the other things I have written... if you didn't like it, then don't

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The week that followed

About a week after yesterday's post, mom was still on the ventilator, though improved and actually came off either that day or the next (at least briefly), I found myself reading Psalm 80...

80:2- ...Show us your mighty power, come to rescue us
     3- Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved.
     5- You have filled us withe sorrow and made us drink tears by the bucketful.    
14-15- Come back, we beg you, O God Almighty, look down from Heaven and see our plight. Watch over                 and care for this vine that you yourself have planted.
16-17- For we are chopped up by our enemies, may they perish at the sight of your frown. Strengthen the one you love.

I pray God, that you do what only You can do and cure mom, that you will rip away this cancer and sickness so it may never return. I pray that when you do it, it will be done in such a way that those who experience it, will never be able to doubt, and will have no choice but to know it was you. I pray that you you do it for your glory, to bring us back to you...

-- This was the first time I prayed this prayer. It was over the coming months, while mom was still in the hospital, bouncing around the ICUs, that God began to really work on my understanding of His healing. I came to understand the difference between what I was asking for and what I truly desired. I was praying for a miracle, defining it as only a healing on this earth. It took quite a while, and a lot of conversations and prayers with my wife, to come to an understanding that my defining the miracle of what God would do was completely leaving out the reality of who God is. I was in no place to say that I deserved a miracle, and even less of one to define how that miracle would take place. I had placed God conveniently into a nice little box. Stored Him away in one of the compartments of my life, allowed Him to come about like a magic genie. When things were tough and wrong, I would open that box and make my requests... I had no concept of His Lordship. It was some time later, much later, that I was fully broken on this point, around the third time that mom really should not have lived, about the time that Zenobia expressed her willingness to move into my parent's house to help take care of my mom when she came home... about that time that I started to see and understand how God was using all of this to perform a greater miracle than something as simple as physical healing. I came to understand that mom's physical healing was sealed and ready for her, whether it happened this side of glory or not, the more pressing matter was trusting God in all circumstances to do exactly what God does... watch over us, protect us, love us, for His glory

This was the last I wrote in that particular book... I've never been good at keeping a consistent journal... but as I find more past writings, I might pass them along. I've really enjoyed revisiting this particular week of my life. It was the beginning of a most trying and crucial portion of my life, and looking back at it, it was only by the grace and mercy of God, and by His provision alone that I was able to come through it without simply shutting down and turning away from God. I came to understand that God works through pain, sorrow, even buckets of tears... He will use our circumstances to help us seek Him. It wasn't mom's healing I needed to be most concerned with in these times... her's was promised already, and as I had seen earlier in the week, a promise from God is eternally sealed in His hand... no, the healing I needed to be seeking at this time in my life, was to piece back together my understanding of God, I had shattered it by my pride, and reluctance to follow Him.

These few posts really have formed the basis of my belief, first to die to self, and allow Christ to live through me... second, enjoy and use the gifts and blessings God has provided... third, run from evil, and run to God. This was followed by coming to an understanding about the faithfulness and unconditional love of God, that not only does He promise, but also, He seals us for eternity. The week continued then with an understanding of a growing peace as we release the burdens of our life, and trust in the eternal seal of God, and His desire to take these all on, and release us to love. It finishes today with the realization of understanding our fractured view of who God truly is, and our hope for reconciling these truths lies within trusting Him wholly.Its a promise of a continued process of sanctification, that will continue from here to death...

He continues to call me to Him, and I hope I continue to respond... I hope the same for you

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Starting to grasp peace

Another day along mom's initial journey while I was writing in this old sketch book... this one the day after the last, in between the two posts was the first time that mom got to experience the wonder of the code blue. As a complication of the length of her initial surgery (>8hrs) she developed some clot issues that brought about a pulmonary embolus. The night in between reading and writing about the promises of God and the security we have in believing in His faithfulness, and this next day was the first time in this process that I nearly lost my mom...

"But Moses told the people, 'Don't be afraid! Just stand where you are and watch the Lord rescue you' ... 'The Lord Himself will fight for you. You won't have to lift a finger in your defense.'" Exodus 14:13-14

Not only can God take care of all the junk that happens in our life, but He also wants to take care of it. He desires to be Lord of our lives, He desires to be our provider and sustainer. He asks us to stand firm, trust Him, and allow Him to demonstrate His love and power as He willfully and completely handles the things in our life that are far beyond our scope of understanding.
The God who created it all wants to help. I can't get past the implications here... His desire is to be exactly who the Bible says He is.

"When I sit and think of all that You created, and still, You choose to think of me" Offering- Third Day

--- What a truth in time of great need... we get caught up in our circumstances, we even say cliche things about everything happening for a reason, or that God is in control, and so on... but we miss something very important when we trivialize who God is, and what His mission is. God's mission is the advancement and expansion of His glory, part of accomplishing such a mission is that He must remain in a place that is worth glorifying. The only way we can hope to achieve keeping God in such a place in our own lives is to truly trust Him as Lord... and part of that is relinquishing control to Him in all circumstances. As Moses told the Israelites, God does not need anything from us to rescue us, or to defend us. Combine that with the truth of yesterday, as a firm grasp of the security of God's hands, and we begin to see and understand at a deeper level just how sufficient God is to be exactly who God is... Let go, and let God defend you, rescue you, and seal you in His hands... in that you will find greater peace than this world could better offer.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A promise in the hand

More from the sketch book today, this one from at least a few days after the first...

"...His agreement is eternal, final, sealed. He will constantly look after my safety and success." 2Samuel 23:5

The promises of God are like God, unfailing, never ending, infallible. Or to put it as we see here, they are sealed. This sends feelings of elation throughout my self... the thought that all the things that God has in store for me, all His plans for my life, as well as His promise of my salvation, as well as those same things He holds for so many of the people I love, that all of these things are sealed in His hands, that thought is amazing. It puts me at peace in the light of my current circumstances and a midst current events to know that all of my stress, anxiety, and worry are unnecessary, the outcome is in God's hands, and is sealed.
Why is God so good to me? How is He able to love not only me, but also all of those who seek to dishonor Him? God loves them all, yet I have problems loving anyone. It makes me feel  a little like Judas (not in the betrayal of Christ really) in that Judas never could grasp how Christ could love him. Even after what Judas did, after he sold Christ to the Roman's, Jesus loved Judas. I think it was this irreconcilable fact that drove Judas to his own death. I wonder how much it saddened Jesus when He learned of Judas' suicide... Though I may not have ever sold Christ to the Roman's or kissed Him in betrayal, I have spit on His cross and shunned His love. But the beauty of God's love, and it's very nature, is that it is a promise and a guarantee... it is sealed
God, help me to let go of the things that are sealed in Your hands,and help me to understand how You love us so unconditionally... put my mind at ease.

--- We are promised in scripture that once something  is sealed into God's hands, He never lets go... it is the assurance of our day-to-day life to know that the agreements that God has made with man are eternal.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

3 Truths

Doing some cleaning this past week, I came across an old sketch book, had some artwork in it... some ok, most of it not. It also had in it some things I had written down, scriptures, prayers, other thoughts, from the week that my mom was diagnosed and had her first surgery. I thought I might go ahead and get some of them transferred over into a better format, add some commentary, and just take some time remembering the great comfort that was provided in those first days of figuring out what was going to happen... as blissful ignorance turned to painful fear, turned to a deepening of my understanding of who God truly is.

I don't have a date for this one, but its the first page, and if I remember right, this was the morning before her first surgery:

"Do what is good and run from evil- that you may live! Then, the Lord God Almighty will truly be your helper, just as you have claimed He is." Amos 5:14

"Enjoy what you have instead of desiring what you don't have. Dreaming about nice things is meaningless; it is like chasing the wind." Ecclesiastes 6:9

"I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in the earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20

---Looking back at this day, preparing my mind for what ended up being the first of 90 days in the hospital and the first on numerous surgeries, the first thing that comes to mind is, how GREAT is our God? I didn't know what He was preparing me for, but I can see now how He was working to bring my mind right, and to get my focus back to the important things. These three verses in combo remind me who I am in Christ, focus me into my blessings, and remind me how to go about living life... I no longer live, but Christ lives in me... enjoy what I have instead of focusing on what I don't... run from evil and to God for help...

This is where my life began to change once again, and when I started to dive much deeper into the love of Christ in my life... I look forward to the next few postings, there were only a handful of days I wrote anything down at this point, and thumbing through it, God did some strong, foundational work... I look forward to looking through it again.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sometimes I fail as a writer

I am asked, somewhat frequently, by a handful of people about getting some of my writings published. They are trying to be encouraging and helpful, and I appreciate their belief that anything I write would be considered worth reading by enough people to warrant a publication. I do have thinly-veiled aspirations to someday be a published author and I hope that I will eventually find a topic to write about that would bring out my writing talents in a way that would be marketable. Ultimately I meet up with this particular rub: When I start writing with the thoughts of publication racing through my head, I've lost my intentionality for my writing all together...

We are called to keep our eyes on the things of above and not the things of this earth, and we are called to do all things not for the glory of man, but to the glory of God. If I keep my eyes upward, my writing is about me expressing my love of Christ and my desire to increase the depth of my knowledge of Him... but as my gaze shifts to those around me, and seeking their praises, I express only my desire for self-actualization. My ego begins to run wild as I write, as I put down words that sound good to my ears, I hear the familiar voice of self begin to whisper about my own greatness, about all the good and wonderful things I could accomplish... whats worse, as I focus my writings on myself, I begin to believe that voice. I hear it twisting through my brain, using the true desires of my heart, my desires to delve deeper and deeper into the love of Christ, and to understand as much about Him that He will willingly allow me to know, it begins to twist my desires to allow other to see this same love, and to reach out to those who long for it... the selfish sin-nature within me twists those desires and places focus back onto me. I begin to think about how I can reach people for Christ, how I can achieve to work of Christ, how I can stand for Christ... but never once do I begin to consider how I can submit my talents to His will and allow Him to work through me to achieve each of those things... to some that might seem to be splitting hairs, but to me, its huge. My intention when I write must be to present myself as a submitted and humble servant of God, that He might use that talents He gave me to reach out and reveal His glory to those who stumble across these words. To rattle through some thoughts of Paul, I am to write as though I truly believe that it is not I who live but it is Christ who lives in me... I need to be submitted to that same level, that I might join with God in His mission and His work to bring glory and honor to Him, as He along is worthy of such things.

If I ever do become a published author, my hope is that it will be because of a dependence on God, and His desire that the words I have put down on paper are ultimately pleasing to Him. In the meantime, I hope to continue to use this space as a conduit of my thoughts and musings as I continue to explore the depths of His great mercy, grace, and love. I hope to continue to better understand the gifts and talents He has bestowed on me, with which I am to glorify Him.

If you read my blog at all, I want to thank you for that... pray with me that more and more people will understand the purpose of their gifts, and will use them to bring about the changes this world needs.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Something I think we, as Christians, often forget as we continue our lives in Christ is that at no point did we do anything worthy of our salvation. We did nothing apart from God to gain our relationship with Him... we never did anything... We didn't even pursue God without Him doing the work, we only pursue Him because He pursued us first, we only love Him because He loved us first... we are fully dependent on Him for every little thing in our lives. We forget that and start to become arrogant in our faith, we judge and condemn others because they are not in a relationship with God... rather than remembering that we wouldn't be in our relationship if God had not chosen to pursue us into the relationship to begin with! Our job in reaching out to these people is to point them in the direction of God so that they might recognized the pursuit, and to be available resources of love, hope, and encouragement through the process.

The other thing we often to forget is that God is not afraid of our circumstances, He will pursue us through a literal Hell in order to bring us to Him. He would rather not, I'm sure, but His desire for us to experience His glory is such that He will do whatever it takes... He will use our circumstances, our struggles, our sin itself to pursue us if necessary. I am reminded of this point anytime I listen to Brian Welch's song "Washed by Blood"... a narrative of the internal conflict that he was feeling as he attempted (and failed many times) to change his life for his daughter. He pursued religion, and Christian-flavored religion, but continued to fail in his attempts until one night while reading scripture and praying he was reminded of who he is... a drugee fighting addiction, wrapped in a world of lust, pride, and self-service, and reminded that he needed to submit to Christ first, and allow Him to clean his own life... he wrote it lyrically like this:

I know you've tried
To satisfy 
Your appetite 
For too long 
You wonder why 
You are alive 
You've lived a lie 
For too long 
So now you're done 
Life isn't fun 
What's this life for? 

These are not 
Only words to a song 
Come to me 
You're forgiven now 
You're washed by Blood 
From deep inside 
You're not a prisoner of your old life 
Washed by Blood 
A brand new start 
It's time that I rebuild your heart 

I paid your price 
I sacrificed 
My human life 
All for you 
Come to the light 
You will shine bright 
You'll never die 
That's the truth 
Cuz I have sworn 
You'll be reborn 
If you choose 
What's there to lose? 

Wash away 
All the pain 
With the blood 
No more shame 
Who you are 
And what your life is 

I am Taking over from now on 
You can't escape don't even try to run 
I can't just sit and watch you die no more 
You will begin to learn what life is for 
Chosen this Time 
To change your Mind 
So you will Find Your Way Back Home 
Where you belong 
Your heart of Stone 
Will start to Feel Love From Now On 
Live for me and you will see your life will be so worry free 
Say goodbye to your old life give me a try 
Be Alive 
There shall be no more Death Nor 
Sorrow Nor Crying 
There shall be no more pain 
For the former things have passed away 
You're washed by Blood 
From deep inside 
You're not a prisoner of your old life 

Come fly away With me 
You know I love you