Friday, August 31, 2012

Thoughts from the "1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith"

I was reading a blog and saw an advertisement on the right column for Reformed Baptist Seminary. I don't know why it never before occurred to me that Reformed and Baptist being combined into one was pretty much the most awesome thing ever.  If only because I am so drawn to both the systematic theology of Calvinism and the not-baptizing-babyism of Baptists.

Spurgeon is one of my favorites and he had ties to both the Baptist and Reformed traditions. 

Most Christians will read books written by Christians.  Fewer Christians will read the forementioned books and actually also read the Bible.  Even less will read books, the Bible, and doctrinal statements.  I am that odd breed that considers the last extremely interesting.  If I am turned on to a new church or pastor, I will often go to their website and read their doctrinal statement. 

I found this confession/doctrinal statement from the 1600's super encouraging.  You can read it HERE.

It's all there: election, sanctification, justification, marriage between one man and one woman, good works, etc...

It is not for the faint of heart.  If  you are one who struggles through the latter parts of Exodus and 1st and 2nd Chronicles, this may be difficult for you. To boot, it is in an older style of English as well, so it does take a certain degree of concentration in order to really grasp the fulness of what they are communicating as their doctrine of God and church and Christian life and liberty thereafter.

If you do not want to take the time to read this, read your home church's doctrinal statement off their webpage.  If you don't care what some dead English Reformed Baptists thought, I understand.  But you should care what your pastor and elders believe and what they hope to infuse into you and your family and your neighbors in attendance at your local gathering of sainted ain'teds. 

Doctrine may not be everyone's cup-o-tea and I get that, I really do.  It is, however, my cup-o-tea and I could see where you'd be grossed out having to drink tea from my cup.  While it may not get your heart racing or mind bubbling with activity, it should have some place in your life.  Some place of some priority that is. You may not like "doctrine," but as A.W. Tozer once said,

"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The descending King's condescending friends

Ecclesiastes 3:14

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.

We cannot add to what God has done or take away from that He desires. We are helpless against the sovereign LORD God Almighty and because of this we should be scared of Him to a certain degree.

Reverence is often lost in a "Jesus is my Homeboy" culture and we are ioften the worse for it.  The fact is that God does call us "friend" in Christ. And I love that.  I love worshipping Jesus and thinking of funny stuff that I do or He does and laughing along with Him at me in my pitiful state (and the pitiful state of most stuff Christians attempt to do that has already been done well by others).

Jesus is our friend. Jesus is our LORD. He is our friend on His terms.

Jesus said, "You are my friends if you do what I command you." ~ John 15:14

I am guessing you have never accepted the friendship of anyone on terms this bold and unbending before.

Imagine it with me:

"Hey, would you like to be my friend? You only have to do every and any thing I ever ask without exception.  If you do not accept these terms; we cannot be friends."

I suspect you have not proposed friendship to another with these words either, which is good, because you shouldn't accept or propose friendship with anyone on these terms.   Anyone not Jesus that is. And you are not Jesus.

Only Jesus can utter words this powerful, this divisive, this potent and not blush.  Only He deserves this kind of devotion.  Only He can rightly demand it.  Only He can rightly receive it.

You are neither holy enough to demand it rightly nor worthy enough to receive it wholly.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thoughts from "Hoping for a New Reformation" by Tullian Tchividjian

Read the full blog post HERE.

I love the way Tullian is so relentlessly devoted to preaching the purity of the Gospel in granting hope and freedom to those burdened by religion, sin, and self.  The Law of God and the Gospel of God are what must be preached to reach the lost with the full counsel of God.

Tullian has devoted his life to anchoring the Christian hope in Christ alone.  He says it this way,

"It just seemed so new to so many because it had been lost for so long amidst a moralistic, narcissistic, “do more, try harder”, caricature of the Christian faith that has been prevalent for so long. What I kept hearing from people all over the world was that so many pulpits consistently preach the Christian and not the Christ and as a result many have been burdened by the false idea that the focus of the Christian faith is the life of the Christian. I knew something had to be done."

Tullian started up Liberate - a resource for proclaiming the firm foundation of hope in Christ alone by grace alone in faith alone.

He sums up this organization's mission this way,

"My hope and prayer is that this website will be a place where you can hear and believe the good news that the God who rightly condemns sinners according to his law, liberates sinners with the forgiving love of his gospel. We pray that it becomes a catalytic platform for serious thinking about 'a more radical gospel.'”

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

For Christ's Sake: Forgiveness

It occurred to me today how selfish even seeking forgiveness can often be.  No specific Bible verse or song or anything particularly “Christian” called this to mind. I was simply minding my own business (literally attending to my business at work) when it struck me.  It may not be unique or the first time you heard it, but it was the first time I had, so praise God for revealing further to me my own depravity (despite my unrighteousness efforts to conceal it from God, myself, and others).

We all want to be forgiven for our own selfish sake. More often than not our pleas for pardon are not born from humility, but gluttony.  It is something we want for ourselves.  But what about for the sake of the one whom we have wronged? We recognize our need to be forgiven from the one with power to grant it, but we often fail to observe the effort and grace required of the hurt one to forgive (and that coming by grace from the One with the power to infuse and inspire it).

We beg for forgiveness, for reconciliation, and all for our own sake - caring little, if at all (maybe only in passing) for the one whom we have wronged. I am not talking about the effects of our sin.  We do worry about that. We do often pray and hope that the sinned against will be released and restored from the state in which they were placed by our sin, but almost exclusively superficially.  We hope the wounds we cause will heal. We quickly and rightly recognize our need to be forgiven, but we slowly, if ever, recognize the sinned against’s need to forgive.  The soul of the one sinned against is equally at stake in that they must forgive you in order to be forgiven by God.  It is not just us who sinned that are in peril as a result of our sin. 

As the sinner, one rarely concerns themselves with this reality.  The sinner rarely makes their appeal for pardon based on the sinned against’s need to be absolved of bitterness and anger, but rather the sinner’s need to sleep easier at night by absolution.  Both are weights that are carried as a result of sin and both require the grace of God to be lifted entirely.  Sin affects not only the sinner, but the sinned against.

The point is this: Often even in our attempts to request forgiveness, we reaffirm our commitment only to ourselves and our salvation and our reconciliation.  We turn a interpersonal reconciling into an intrapersonal cleansing.  We started by sinning against the other out of selfish desire or indifference and end by seeking forgiveness out of selfish desire and indifference to the other person. 

We cannot bare to wear the scars of our own making and we simply want it removed with no thought or care often to the cost or effort of the other to offer the forgiveness we request.

I do not care what it costs you to forgive me, just forgive me!  I want my fine paid, my penalty pardoned, my guilt absolved, my conscience cleared.  I want all of these things and more often than not my thoughts do not gravitate beyond my wanting them. 

I do not care what it costs you to forgive me, just do it.  My forgivness is not about you, it is about me.  So in the end even, the sin I commited against you is only my concern in that it leads me to this place where I beg something from you.  You were never my concern: in the first, in the last.

It cost Jesus everything to purchase my pardon and redeem my wrtechedness.  It cost Him everything that it might cost me nothing.  But I do not care about Jesus' burden as long as my burden is absorbed.  And I do not care about my brother as long as he has no charge against me.

Forgiveness entirely for the sake, in the Name, in the confidence, and to the glory of Christ alone is observed only when the sinner seeks forgiveness that their brother may be restored and their Savior exalted. 

2 Corinthians 2:10-11

10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Matthew 6:14-15

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Ephesians 4:32

32  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Mark 11:25-26

25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

Colossians 3:12-13

12  Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,13  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Luke 11:3-4

3  Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
    for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

Matthew 18:32-35

32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.33  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’34  And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,until he should pay all his debt. 35  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Monday, August 27, 2012

Thoughts from the "Heidelberg Catechism, Question #26"

Question 26. What believest thou when thou sayest, "I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth"?

Answer: That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them; who likewise upholds and governs the same by his eternal counsel and providence)  is for the sake of Christ his Son, my God and my Father;  on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt, but he will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body and further, that He will make whatever evils he sends upon me, in this valley of tears turn out to my advantage;  for he is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father.

God is the Author of everything and for those whom He has called, all things work together for good.

Because He is omnipotent and can do whatever He desires, He is able to bend all things to His will and to my good when I place my faith and trust in Him.

Because He is compassionate and willing, I can trust that He will use His omnipotence to bring Himself glory and me conformity to the image of His Son by the grace of His Spirit working within me.

I know people who have access to abundant resources, but even they do not have it all.  Their will is not done because they will it.  I also know people who have an earnest desire to help, but lack the resources to accomplish their desires. Their will is not done despite their sincerity. So then whether rich in resource or in sincerity, we cannot accomplish what we desire simply because we desire it.  It is not for lack of "want to," but for lack of sovereignty.

God is both capable and willing.  He CAN do whatever He wants and He is FAITHFUL to His children.  I love that He is both these. 

If He were only powerful and capable, but not willing or faithful, He would be One to run from, not to.  He would be overwhelming and one with Whom you hoped your path never to cross: in life or in death. 

If He were only willing and faithful, but impotent or powerless to accomplish His will, He would be One to whom we could run, but not in confidence or assurance of resolution in accord with our requests. 

Our God is able. 
Our God is faithful.
He can.
And He will.

Friday, August 24, 2012

It's not having what you want. It's wanting what you got.

Ecclesiastes 2:24-26a

24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy...

It is a sad thing to witness a man who has everything he could ever want and no ability to enjoy it. God may grant by His common grace a person an ability and/or talent that allows said person to accrue massive amounts of wealth and possessions. However, the ability to enjoy said wealth and possessions also is a gift from God.  One does not always necessitate the other.  Plenty of people have plenty of money that they have no ability to enjoy because they spend plenty of time worried about it (plenty).

More than the wealth and health and prosperity for which we so often pray, we would do ourselves well to pray for the ability to enjoy that which we have and that which we may receive in the future.

Having things is no guarantee of enjoying things. God holds even this in His hands.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thoughts from "How 'Love God and Love Others' is a Backward Gospel" by Justin Holcomb

Please read the full blog HERE.

Q: What is the Gospel?
A: Love God and love others.

Result: Either self-righteousness in pridefully assuming you're doing that or total desparation in knowing that you fall flat short of that.


Q: What is the Gospel?
A: Jesus loved God and others perfectly and by faith in Him we are seen as having done the same.

Result: Humility and faith in the righteousness granted by God from God unto God to His glory


This is a great reminder of the necessity of semantics (that certain words mean certain somethings) and avoiding the confusion of categories (that one thing is categorically different than the other thing)..

"Love God, love people" is a great summary of the Law of God, not the grace of God.  

The Law of God is perfect and awesome. 

But the Law did not die for you.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Working for a weak end

Ecclesiastes 2:18-19

18 I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, 19 and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.

You will one day die and give every tangible piece of this world away to someone else. You will not take your money, your house, your car, your clothes, your iPod, your anything else with you. All of it will be someone else's to keep, throw away, sell, use, or salvage.

All of what you have and work so hard for will slip through your fingers like sand through a tightly-clenched fist. The harder you clinch, the quicker it slips.

There is good reason to invest time and energy into wealth and resource management, but only in a context where real treasure is stored up in Heaven where moth and rust do not decay.

In the end, it's all gonna burn.  And you along with it if you never let it go.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

With Love & Logic (and Latin for good measure)

I was speaking with my wife about homeschooling curriculum and ideologies as we prepare to begin teaching our children and shaping their ever-growing young minds to absorb, appreciate, articulate, and apprehend that which God has done, is doing, and will ever do for us in His creation, Cross, and coming again.

We were discussing the merits of learning Latin (see HERE) when my mind gravitated towards this thought: The difference between music and noise is logic.

I know, I know: I just made your fantastical, over-romanticized idea about art and beauty more concrete and tangible than you are comfortable.  It stings a little, doesn't it? To see music as you see math.  We don't like math.  We like music.  It is fun to pick up a guitar and strum some chords (and who among us can resist an available piano bench seat and the opportunity to stab out a melody with our untrained fingers?).

The truth is that the order established by God makes art and beauty possible.  Without order, there is chaos.  Some wrongly believe that order is the enemy of beauty and that the closer to chaos you get the closer to genuine expressions of beauty you will find.  The contrary is unalterably true.  God created the world in such a way that cold, hard facts rule the roost.  The grace of God is that these indefatigable, systematic rules produce beauty and artistry beyond what we wrongly call freedom and expression (largely often only excuses to be "one's self" without regulation).

I love logic.  I love beauty.  I love a good song.  I love a undeniable truth.

In Christ these are not placed at war, but rather He is the only place in which they find repose.

As long as we try to create beauty by chaotic methodology, we are damned to the ugly fruits of our aimless efforts.  If we embrace and rely on the order and immutable facts of the universe into which we have been created and placed, we are capable of breathing life into cold, hard facts and pleasure and joy into rote memorization.

Grammar supplies the foundation from which to apply and explore logic.   A student well versed in logic can then exercise freedom and creativity in the realm of rhetoric.  We all desire to converse and be taken seriously in the realm of rhetoric.  We desire to be justified by words when defending our causes, decisions, child-rearing, politics, religion, television show synopses, movie reviews, food critiques, car preferences, and blog rolls.  But we are playing at it if we are not well versed in grammar first and then logic.  We are actors playing the role of a rhetorician.  We are parrots speaking words we do not understand in order to profess and persuade others to ideas we do not ourselves yet fully absorb.

The freedom to make music is exemplified in the person well-seasoned in chord progressions and the grammar of music.  This provides the foundation from which to learn the logic of music.  The misconception of our culture is that the rote memorization of the notes somehow deadens the vitality of musical expression.  It is untrue, a lie, and prohibitor of creativity, not a wellspring of it.  Hoping for a muse to resurrect your lazy mind is not the best strategy for glorifying God or making the world swoon at the stroke of your pen or strum of your guitar.  Hard work and initiative in learning and understanding the fundamentals of music and language make possible the creativity observed in the best music and lyrics we have to offer the world going forward.

I pray my children are given the grace of grammer, logic, and rhetoric in a way that enables to them to understand, absorb, apprehed, appreciate, and articulate back to culture the beauty of God and His glorious Gospel fulfilled in Christ.

The best poets, musicians, writers, preachers, politicians, lawyers, speakers, artists, comedians, teachers, etc... are often those best equipped to observe that in reality which we all have access to and fail to take notice.  Think about it.  The comedian tells a joke composed of his or her observance of a normative situation in which certain details are hashed out in a way that makes you chuckle.  It is often a joke you knew, but had never taken notice.  It is almost as if the joke makes you utter the words, "of course."  It is not a new take on reality, but an observation about that which we all observed, but the creativity in presenting it made it come to life.

"I think Bigfoot is blurry, that's the problem. It's not the photographer's fault. Bigfoot is blurry, and that's extra scary to me. There's a large, out-of-focus monster roaming the countryside. Run, he's fuzzy, get out of here."


"On a traffic light green means 'go' and yellow means 'yield', but on a banana it's just the opposite. Green means 'hold on,' yellow means 'go ahead,' and red means, 'where the hell did you get that banana at?'"

See more HERE.
The world is often changed not by revisions of past truths, but by the creative vision granted by grace in God to those whose minds are saturated in the normative observance and understanding of the way things are by design.  The world is not made more beautiful by rebellion per se.  It is beautiful because those who understand the rules and ponder them are given creativity in which they can display and articulate back to a dull world the vibrance of life available in the immutable truths of God's creative order. 

Creativity is rebellious in a world where the standard is laziness.  Merely accepting the way it has always been done is not a faithful adherence to tradition, but a lazy ignorance of it.  Ironically, we all seem to love rebels (at least the ones who agree with us).  My suggestion is to rebel against the world by siding with Christ.  The only other alternative is rebelling against Christ by siding with the world.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Review: "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck (pt. 1 of 2)

I have been "reading" East of Eden on my commute to and from work lately.  I am not even halfway through (on disc 10 of 25), but I thought I would take the time to post on a few quotes from the book that have stood out to me thus far.

When a child first catches adults out—when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just—his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone….And the child’s world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing.”


“It doesn’t matter that Cathy was what I have called a monster. Perhaps we can’t understand Cathy, but on the other hand we are capable of many things in all directions, of great virtues and great sins. And who in his mind has not probed the black water?

Maybe we all have in us a secret pond where evil and ugly things germinate and growstrong. But this culture is fenced, and the swimming brood climbs up only to fall back. Might it not be that in the dark pools of some men the evil grows strong enough to wriggle over the fenceand swim free? Would not such a man be our monster, and are we not related to him in ourhidden water? It would be absurd if we did not understand both angels and devils, since we invented them.”

It is interesting how controversial the doctrine of total depravity can be among believers debating the extent to which we are capable or incapable of pleasing God and what ultimately lies at and in the heart of man.  It is also interesting how a man like Steinbeck could put his finger on the situation and almost mirror the words of Oswald Chambers when he states in My Utmost for His Highest the following: 

"If the Spirit of God has given you a vision of what you are apart from the grace of God (and He only does it when His Spirit is at work), you know there is no criminal who is half so bad in actuality as you know yourself to be in possibility."

Steinbeck echoes Chambers' words in pointing us to who we are in possibility, who we are in our cores: the hidden, secret self whose desires go unfulfilled and un-actualized whether from fear of man, inability, or fear of God.  They are as much a part of us spiritually as our hearts are physically. 

There is a moment, as Steinbeck points out, in a child's life where he or she realizes the fallen nature of those to whom admiration and on whom what could be hinted to as worship has been given.  There is an outward realization that people, even those closest and held most dear to you, are capable of evil.  It is first realized in our observation of others and, if the Spirit allows by grace, recognized inwardly as observed even in ourselves.

It is a dreadful and despairing realization.  We have dark wells of deep evil within us and so do others.  Without God's hand of grace, imagine how wicked we all could become.  How far could it go?  How far east of Eden could be move?

It is a grace of God for a man to realize this about himself and others.  It is a mercy of God to give that same man the humility and desire to reach out in faith to Christ to be for him his perfection and forgiveness; to overcome the monstrosities of mans’ design and decisions. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Thoughts from "Sex, Marriage, and Fairytales"

Today is my 5 year wedding anniversary to my wonderful wife!!!!

Marriage is not a fairytale.  It is better than that.  Fairytales may be full of "happily-ever-afters" and "once-upon-a-times," but they are merely a shadow of the real thing.  Happy endings are the product of repentance and humility now. Real marriages have real sin and real forgiveness and a real Savior.  Anything short of that is a glorified contractual arrangement.  We get to love and glorify Jesus the more because our marriage so desperately needs Him.

In honor of marriage, I provide for your viewing pleasure this video by Jefferson Bethke (infamous for his "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus" video that set the social media universe on fire for a spell some months back)

"People do not fall out of love, they fall out of repentance."

What an awesome line packed full of power and truth.  Love feels good and is easy to pursue when you feel its reciprocation. But do you love when you do not feel loved in return? Do you love when the object of your love is unlovely? What about when that cute wit turns against you and cuts you down? Can you forgive? Can you seek forgiveness?

Marriage is not primarily about happiness, it is about holiness with some happiness to boot.  Please note: marriages should not be void of happiness.  It is not in saying that holiness is the aim of marriage to say that happines is not a part of it.  It is merely saying that "marriage is not," like my wife has said, "a permanent slumber party."

Ephesians 5 states that marriage is like the Gospel.  A man and a woman become like Christ and His church. Marriage is more than two people having fun and cooperating to buy more expensive stuff than they could do on their own.

Jefferson mentions Romans 1:25 in this spoken word presentation.  So many turn a spouse into an idol and get frustrated when their "god" does not come through for them.  People cannot be gods to one another.  At least not very good ones.  You will never find yourself more frustrated with someone or something than when you expect it to be like god and it fails you. 

People make bad gods. 

***I realized after writing this that it could be taken two ways and both of them are true

(1) If you make a person your god, you will be disappointed in how ungodlike they often are. In other words, people do not uphold the office of god very well.  When asked, we do not fill-in for God in convincing fashion.

(2) By our creative hands we make for ourselves gods (who turn out to be bad).   In other words, we cannot make a god who is good.  We only create/make bad gods. A god made by us cannot be more than what we have to offer. 

Only God is worthy of praise and faithful to fulfill that which He has promised.  If you are dissatisified or disilluisioned by marriage, perhaps it is because you are asking of it that which it could never produce. Marriage cannot be god anymore than your spouse can be.  Worshipping the creative work of the Creator's hands never works out well for you or the creation.

Marriage is made of sinners united by a sinless Savior.  People make promises they do not keep.  We all have done it: believed ourselves better than we found out later. Marriage is hard work because dying to yourself is hard work and individuality is harder to relinquish the more time you invested into crafting it when "finding yourself" as a single person. 

Great marriages are made of people who are great at forgiving one another because of that which they have been forgiven by a great God through a great Christ.  Depend on Him and believe in Him.  Devote yourself first and foremost to Him with all your hearts, mind, and strength.  He will NEVER fail you. Marriage will. But that said, I love being married to my wife.  I love my family.  Thank you God for these wonderful gifts.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Scents: Incense & Nonsense

Ecclesiastes 1:8b

...the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.

"Nor the nose filled with smelling." (Ok, I added that last part to help the pun in the subject line go even further, but the principle holds true).  But the point is this:

When is enough enough?

We can get tired of looking at something beautiful, sick of eating something tasty, annoyed at hearing a song we like, set on edge by being a touch we at first enjoyed, and irritated by a smell in which we originally delighted.  This proverb in particular, however, is not communicating that people grow weary of things they like, the rest of the book will communicate that clearly enough.

This is saying that our ear is never full of sweet sounds.  It never fills up per se. We will never tire of someone else singing our praises. We welcome either new songs of praise or new members to the choir as long as they are singing the sweet sounds of myself.

Pornography is an addiction because a man's eyes never fill up with images enough that more images are not required.  Porn addicts rarely watch "a" pornographic film and survive on the memories of it alone.

Women who love beautiful things, decorating, antiquing, and the like peruse websites and obtain subscriptions to magazines that routinely show them the best of what is the most beautiful at the moment, yet rarely does a woman read one magazine over and over and find satisfaction in saturating themselves with only that issue.

The eyes are never satisfied with having seen beauty once and the ears are never full of sound so that they could not hear anymore.  There is no end to seeing or hearing.  They botth could be done forever and are endless in their potential.

There is, by contrast, only so much water you can fit into a cup and only so much food you can physically fit into a stomach ( have you noticed the "all you CAN eat" signs have now been changed to "all you care to eat"?).  There are limitations to these things.  But our souls are expansive.  They are robust.

You could try to fill your eyes with images daily and never have so much as to eclipse your ability to view more.  You may get tired of looking at something for a season just as you may get tired of eating cheesecake, but there is always room for more beauty in our eyes and only limited room available for cheesecake (although admittedly a lot of room can be forcibly be made for cheesecake by sheer will power).

Pursuing the delights of your eyes and the sweetness of sounds are fine for what they are, but they will never fill up because they were not created to do so.

This is not another "God-shaped hole in your heart" argument.  You are not a puzzle missing one piece.  You are not one sandwich short of a picnic.  You are a vacuum and only God's expansive bounty can fill the cravings of your soul.   We like to look at stuff and listen to other stuff, but oh the vanity of chasing yet another beautiful thing, another sweet sound, another tasty sensation, another pleasurable touch for its sake alone. 

It NEVER ends.  NEVER.  It is never satisfied.  It cannot be.

Ecclesiastes points us past these endeavors for which we usually settle: 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ecclesiastes (and other Bible studies that either make or break a new relationship)

I absolutely adore this book. Ask my wife (ask your mom kids). When we were first dating, I decided (the good Christian guy that I was in my first dating experience as a follower of Jesus) we should do a Bible study together. So we went through Ecclesiastes!

Chipper, eh? 

Better than going through Song of Songs I suppose.  For all the difficulties in dealing with the depression of Ecclesiastes, they pale in comparison, I imagine, to starting a new relationship with a beautiful girl by studying the pleasures of martial intimacies (probably not in wisdom's best interest and I believe Paul would back me on this).

I love the paradox of this book: A God-inspired vision of a world without God.  It should be dire.  What else would expect God to say?  "Life without Me isn't so bad.  I guess. *sigh*"

Only God can really pull back the curtain to reveal what it all would mean if the Meaning was absent.

"Vanity of vanities. All is vanity!"

This is echoed throughout the book and is it's general theme.

I read a fantastic book that covered this called: "Three Philosophies of Life: Ecclesiastes--Life as Vanity, Job--Life as Suffering, Song of Songs--Life as Love" by Peter Kreeft.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Bible and philosophy. I hope to make this part of our home school curriculum for my kids someday (or at the very least a book they read with their dad to entertain his him while they go about their other business of education).

Buy it HERE.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Inheritance Tact

2 Corinthians 12:14b

...for children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.

Children grow up to leave the home, cleave to another, and have children of their own.  Children are tomorrow's parents.  Much of what my children pass on to their children will be inherited from me: possessions, wisdom, folly, virtue, vice, habit, tradition, etc...

It is not my chldren's duty to shape my life.  By God's grace, our children do contribute and shape us greatly as to our understanding of parenthood and love and sacrifice and santification.  However, this is as a result of us fulfilling our duties to them.  When we provide for, lay down our lives for, sacrifice for, and give what we have for them, we fufill our Biblical responsibility.  There is great joy and satisfaction in so doing as well as great difficulty and expense. 

I pray my children grow up to love me and desire earnestly to honor me as their dad.  But I pray I would always have the opportunity to provide for them and save up for them and that the order and direction of provision would always come from me and go to them.

Much of what I have has been given to me by my two dads.  My earthly father has given me much by way of provision.  My Heavenly Father has given me everything by way of grace through in Christ.

As much as God desires me to love Him in return and seek and desire ways to show love back to Him, the direction of provision is always top down.  He gives and I give back.  It always is initiated by Him.  He initiates; we respond.

It is mirrored in earthly parents and children.  My wife and I will make sure to pass on as much as we can to our children and hope that they find grace through faith in Christ to inherit everything.  My greatest joy would be to see my own children adopted out of my family and into God's through Jesus.

May it be always that we love because He first loved us, give because He first gave to us, share because He first shared with us, and provide because He first provided for us. 

It begins with the one who has and is given to another in need for whom that one takes responsibility.

My wife and I brought our chidren into this world and as such it begins with us and is aimed at them.  God has brought us as adopted children into His family by faith in Christ.  He sent His Son, sent His Spirit and now provides us with everything we need.  God neither gains nor receives from me anything that was not first His. 


I will inherit nothing from my children.
I will give everything as an inheritance to my children

God will inherit nothing from me.
God, in Christ, has given everything to us.

Inheritance works one way.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Thoughts from "Team Hoyt"

At Men's BASIC at my church on Thursday morning we watched a video about Team Hoyt.

Please view HERE.

Listen to the father's words.  They are absurd.  They are irrational and counter-intuitive and they are full of gracious love and imputed accomplishment.

The father speaks of his son "competing" in these events.

The son speaks of how intensely he desires to give back to his father and serve him (if he was able).

The father does all of the work: runs, swims, bikes.  He does it ALL and yet he speaks of his wages as though the child were the one earning them.  He acts as though the medals should be placed around the son's neck and the garland upon his head. 

The father speaks graciously and extravagently of his son's accomplishments, but the son does nothing but enjoy the ride and adore his father all the while.

When did this synopsis transition from being solely about a father and son to a description of our Heavenly Father and His children by adoption through Jesus Christ?

The Gospel is the Good News that the Father has accomplished everything and that it cost Him dearly to do so.  And that in His great, lavish labor He has counted our frailty blessed and credited our meekness as deserving of a Kingdom. 

It is scandalous.  It is beyond reason.  It is beyond merit. It is imputed righteousness.

We all know that the child is merely a passenger in the boat, on the bike,and in the wheelchair.  To give him credit for completing a race is absurd.  And the father does so without blushing.

This is the Good News of God in Jesus Christ!

It is utter foolishness to those seeking wisdom and a stumbling block to those seeking to impress the Father by finishing the race on the vanity of their own merit.  Would that my soul be humbled to simply rest in the finished work of Christ and to place my sole confidence by grace through faith in the race He won.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A preview of her that day in those gates

Proverbs 31:28-31

28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.

My wife, Paige, is amazing.  I love her so much and am so thankful to God for her.  She is such a great helper to me.  She encourages me in my pursuit of God.  She runs an efficient, beautiful, and fun home.  She is a great mom, wife, and friend.  She is very funny  She can laugh at the days to come, but particularly the days already passed by.

Charm and beauty are not the most determining factors for marrying someone, but they are certainly appreciated.  I would count myself blessed to have a wife like Paige if only in her character, wisdom, intelligence, prudence, humor, organization, and friendship.  But on top of that she is charming and beautiful.  She does not use either of those for her own purposes and often times is completely unaware of how cute she is.  I love that about her among everything else I mentioned previously. 

A good wife is hard to find not because women are bad, but because people are.  Jesus is good, however, and He is a firm foundation upon which to build a friendship, marriage, family, and home.  I have experienced this first hand.  The Bible's advice in finding a mate with whom you are yoked well and equally (not just in both being Christian, but in both holding similar Christian conscience convictions for example) actually produces a more pleasant and purposeful marriage.  Marriage will be difficult at times if only because two idiot sinners are involved, but there is no reason to compound the difficulty by yoking yourself to someone with whom you disagree on the most important things.

I love God and I love my wife.  Our chord of three strands is not easily broken. So remember that the next time you think about cracking wise at Team Van Voorst.

A week from today my wife and I will celebrate 5 years of marriage.  If marriage only gets sweeter with time, we are off to an amazing start.  Can it really get better than this?  We become better friends daily and I trust that God will give us grace to fulfill our covenant vows to each other and to Him in protecting and preserving us until the day we meet Him and our marriage's mysterious metaphor becomes a glorious reality.

May God grant my wife everlasting life and heavenly treasure when she approaches His gates.  May she utter the confession, "Jesus died my soul to save. Jesus paid it all.  All to Him I owe," and find herself receiving His rewards.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thoughts from "In My Father's House" by John Dink

A blog for: the broken, the wounded, the mourning, the weak, the desperate, the humiliated.

"Law to the proud.  Grace to the humble." ~ Hell's Best Kept Secret by Ray Comfort

Reading one of John Dink's older posts (as I have only recently become aware of his writings and wanted to hear more while I waited for the next new post) I found this reminder that grace is for the humbled.

Check out the full blog HERE.

If you despair in your heart from all your misdeeds or the incompleteness of your good deeds, thank Jesus for this brokeness.  A contrite spirit and a broken will before God are His blessings to you. 

May the Gospel be preached as the Best News to those for whom doom is forecast in their hearts by the grace of the Holy Spirit. 

Preacher, please remember to preach the devastating nature of the Law in humility and petition that the Spirit may produce in the souls of its hearers a total undoing.  Preach the terrifying nature of the Gospel in proclaiming that this new found dilemma has in its wake the reconciliatory solution of Christ on a cross, complete, and accomplished.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fear relieved.
~ "Amazing Grace"

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The surly bird gets the... eye?

Proverbs 30:17

The eye that mocks a father
and scorns to obey a mother
will be picked out by the ravens of the valley
and eaten by the vultures.

There's some nice bedtime reminder, don't you think? 

"Say your prayers children and remember to obey me and mother or else wild birds will gouge out your eyes and eat them.  Good night, I love you."

We have all disobeyed our parents and mocked our father's authority.  We begin to adopt a worldly perspective of authority by stating it is granted by me, not inherent to them or their office.  By that I mean we begin to think people only have power inasmuch as we give that power to them.  If we do not give them power of us, they do not have it. 

This is untrue. 

Your parents have power and authority over you by virtue of them being your parents.  It just is.  It is not a matter of them being authoritative or honorable or deserving fear and reverance.  It is that they ARE your parents (for better or for worse, they will always be).

It is a beautiful thing to observe a person following Jesus and surrendering themselves volitionally to the authorities in their lives and entrusting their soul's care and provision to God.  My sister-in-law, Lauren, is an amazing example and model of this fruit of the Spirit.

My children, observe and learn from your Aunt Lauren's life the value of authority and service to those under whom God has placed you. 

Additionally, I can only assume you like your eyes.  I like your eyes.  People like seeing stuff.  I would like you to see stuff.  So....

People who mock their dads and disobey in defiance their moms get their eyes pecked out by Polly-wants-a-cracker-with-a-side-of-yo-eye. 

Don't get your eyes eaten by Polly-wants-a-cracker-with-a-side-of-yo-eye!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

When the Church becomes a Mete Market

My wife was recently discussing a women's confernce she attended with a friend.  The conference's dominant theme was the finished work of Jesus and His righteousness being ours by faith.  It goes without saying that my wife was greatly encouraged.

However, she reported to me that before her post-conference glow had even begun to fade, one of her friends proclaimed that they were disappointed in the conference wishing it had contained more "meat."

I could not help but think, "I think she meant 'mete.'" 

Did I not mention that I am also very funny and very punny?  "Puns of fun" is what they call me.  And by "they" I mean "me."

But I digress.

We love the Law.  We adore it.  We cannot help ourselves.  We love to be told what to do.  We love having tasks meted out.  If you spend too long telling us what Jesus did we will get anxious and request a respite from grace as we shout, " Now please tell us what to do!!! Preach to us the Christian, not the Christ. How do I fit into all of this? What about me?"

Before tomorrow's sunrise has even crested our to-do lists are formed.  We have boxes to check and go to sleep already behind tomorrow's eight ball.  We love our to-do lists.  It tells us what to do.  It keeps us from forgetting important things we need to do, want to do, hope to do (will likely not get to do).

I suggest and implore you to set you to-do's aside every morning and for a moment rest in Jesus' ta-da.  Ta-da is the nail in the coffin of a completed act: the "It is finished!"  We look so longingly to what we need to tomorrow that we fail to rest in what was done for us yesterday (or yesteryear perhaps more accurately).  "Ta da" debatably has its roots in a German phrase meaning, "here it is."  All day long we try to get to the ta-da.  We long to take our bow and present a finished work.  But everyday we go to sleep knowing we did not do with excellence everything on our list and that we have failed miserably in other tasks on our list.  We have even failed to place some important things on our lists in the first place.  Our to-do's can never grant the rest that Christ's ta-da can produce.

When we react to the Gospel of grace by requesting more meat, we are in essence asking quite figuratively for more meting out of tasks, doling out responsibilities and to-do's.  We love to-do's.  We get bored quickly with ta-da's.

I love you.  Christ loves you.  Rest in Him.  The only performance that could ever be applauded before the Father is already in the books.  He did it!  He did it masterfully, sufficiently, completely, entirely, gracefully, and perfectly.  For an encore He rose from the grave and ascended to the right hand of His Father where He ever lives to intercede for those who in Him by faith find rest.

No magic. No show.  No curtain call.  No need to reproduce what has already been completed flawlessly.  He really did pay it all.  He really did win.  Can you do the difficult work of placing your faith in Him and this gift again today?  Can your to-do list contain but one reminder to repose in the ta-da of Jesus?

Faith is the hard work of trusting in Christ's hard work.

Do not so impatiently blitz through Romans chapters 1-11 to get to the "meat" of Romans chapters 12-16.  Romans 12-16 is amazing and I love it.  You will be told what to do only after you have understood what God in Christ has done.  May your appetite for Law be grounded in responsive Love informed by the Gospel.  Romans 12 is beautiful in fleshing this point out.  It instructs us how to more specifically live transformed lives in view of God's mercies. 

In view of God's mercies.

Please do not place God's mercies in your rearview.  You will lose sight of where you are going if you forget from where you were started.

Galatians 3:3

Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Thoughts from “Cheap Law” by Tullian Tchividjian via John Dink

Read the full blog HERE and then HERE.

Pastor Tullian has again found a way to invigorate my heart with confidence in Christ by proclaiming the hardness of the Law in order to magnify the freedom and tenderness of God in the Gospel of Christ.

The blog proclaims that making the Law less does not make Grace abound.  Grace abounds only inasmuch as there is something for which grace can apply.  If the Law is less demanding, God less holy, and the standards more forgiving than the Law; the Cross is made into foolishness and sinners need not have faith or grace to earn God’s favor (for lower standards are often the penchant of the proud).

“…the proper response to the charge of ‘cheap grace’ is not to make grace expensive by adding a thousand qualifications and footnotes, but rather to declare that grace is free!”

Our default in warring against “cheap grace” is to make it either cheaper or more expensive when by the grace of God it is only available for FREE.  No cost.  Not a little or a lot, but free.

There is so much I could pull from this blog that I could repost in its entirety.  Please do yourself the favor of reading the whole post as desire inspires.

“…there are some who seek to escape their need for grace and deceive us by lowering the cost of God’s righteousness. They preach a ‘cheap law’ that sells indulgences to those who pay with the appearance of sanctification.”

What a brilliant way of stating the dilemma.  The old religion of self-righteousness is alive and well.  I know it rears its ugly head in me and my soul is forever indebted to the grace of Christ in revealing to me daily my need for Him to save me and empower me to do God’s will (to believe in Him).

“Lowering the bar lets the Old Adam peek into the Promised Land. It allows the flesh to survive by rebelling in a form of external piety. And – it’s a perfect hiding place for the Old Being. We don’t think to rebuke such a moral, well-mannered creature. But cheap law offers mercy in the wrong place. It offers mercy to those who are offended by the gift. It creates a people of great zeal, but they lack knowledge concerning the question “What Would Jesus Do?” Here is the costly answer: Jesus would do it all perfectly. And that’s game over for you. The Father is not grooming you to be a replacement for his Beloved Son. He is announcing that there is blessing for those who take shelter in his Beloved Son. Cheap law tells us that we’ve fallen, but there’s good news, you can get back up again. Therein lies the great heresy of cheap law: it is a false gospel. And it cheapens – no –it nullifies grace.”

"Grace to the humble. Law to the proud."

Grace so free it is unbelievable to those not blessed by faith from God.
Law so unforgiving and so heavy that it is unbearable by any and all.

It is a standard put into practice by Jesus and exhibited by the Father throughout Scripture.  As preachers and teachers, we must be faithful to the Word of God in allowing it to break the will as violently as it ought and to heal the break as sufficiently as it is empowered.

“…when we make sacrifices regarding God’s law, we create something that is not strong enough to stop the mouths of self-sanctifying little sovereigns. It simply teaches us to exchange true godliness for a pursuit of godness.”

This parting shot is a great summary of the Gospel of God in Christ and the power of His life, death, and resurrection.  It makes much of Jesus and it makes my heart delight in my Savior.

“Cheap law will never quiet the self-righteous being because it invites him to keep haggling over what he can do apart from Jesus. And that is why law must be costly. It must always get to the heart of the matter. It’s not only murder that deserves death, but hate. It’s not only adultery that condemns, but lust. Not only theft, but coveting. It’s not only what is done with your hands that is judged, but what is done in your heart. And so – it should be clear –this is not “let’s make a deal.” The deals have been cut. The law of Moses is more than you can afford. The Son that God did not spare is priceless. The grace Jesus gives is free. That’s all there is. But cheap law keeps us searching for something to leverage against our poverty. Only costly law will bring that search to an end. It empties our pockets and opens our hands – revealing this: unless the religious expert becomes a beggar, he will not be given the kingdom. Costly law closes in on us and puts this prayer in our mouth: 'Be merciful to me, a sinner.'"

Friday, August 3, 2012

For richer or poorer for reals?

Proverbs 30:8b-9

...Give me neither poverty nor wealth;
feed me with the food I need.
9 Otherwise, I might have too much
and deny You, saying, “Who is the Lord?”
or I might have nothing and steal,
profaning the name of my God. 

Our tendency is to get comfortable and forget God or get desperately anxious and break His commands.

We work so hard and plan so diligently that when things go well we naturally assume that we must have done something right and in the process nearly break our backs with the myriad congratulatory pats we give ourselves.  It sounds ridiculous to say, "Who is the LORD?" but when we have too much we often end up making this statement in our attitude.  Our hearts generate independence and pride in our accomplishments.  We sow the seed forgetting that God provides the seed, sends the rain, grants the growth, and faithfully provides the sun. We high five ourselves all the way to hell over our success.

If you want to see a person get nasty, take away their comforts.  Watch how fast someone gets unChristian as all get out once they lack sleep, food, money, health, friends, success, etc...  I am the least Christian when I am anxious about unchecked boxes.  I am very strong "J" type personality and as such am actually quite weak in that it does not take much to throw me off balance.  In those moments, I become more of an animal than a Christian.  I get grouchy and react as an organism more than a soul.  I hate that about myself.  I know Jesus had to die because of my crappy attitude. It deserves to be crucified. 

May our prayer today be that God would give us enough to meet our needs, but not so much as to spoil us.  May He guide our hearts to greater and greater charity that His blessings upon us might increase and produce more fruit from our hands - the works prepared by Him beforehand; and that they might be fulfilled in His power and grace.  May we not look over the works of our hands and think we have accomplished too much like Nebuchadnezzar and "his" kingdom

Without the Holy Spirit we either neglect God or curse God.   We are not just having issues with God or mad at Him in those moments.  We hate Him and His ways and think we'd do a better job. 

Is it possible that we have too much? Is your love for God as such that you would ask Him to take away anything extra?  Especially if that anything would lead your heart astray from Him?

Is it that you do not have what you need?  Is your love for God as such that you would honor Him even in seasons of despair?  Do you get greedy the moment you feel in want?

The proverb appeals to God's grace to give us what we need: a desire to love Him no matter circumstances into which we find ourselves today or tomorrow.  Without Him, riches and poverty are occassions for rebellion.  With Him, riches and poverty are occassions for providence.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Because left to ourselves we all fall

Proverbs 29:15

The rod and reproof give wisdom,
but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

My dearest children:

I pray that the consistency and standard of discipline by which you were raised has afforded you wisdom by God's grace.

If left to yourself, you would shame your mother and yourself.   Not because you are worse than any other, but because you are just as bad as all who have come before you - including your mom and dad.

If we go where we want to, do what we want to, and live how we want to, we will bring shame upon ourselves and others.  Our hearts are broken, deceptive, wicked, and incapable of desiring the best things.  We cling to the better things and the good becomes the enemy of the best.  We brandish the better as a weapon against the best.  Common sense wars against faith in Christ.  Our default is to go down swinging or go down drowning; but either way, down we go.

Unless God sheds light into our darkness, speaks words into our silence, softens our hardness, makes alive our deadness, makes visible our blindness; we languish. 

Do not withhold Your discipline from me, my wife, or my children O God. Do not let us enjoy that which is done without You in mind.  Do not let the deceptive joys and thrills of sin capture our hearts.  May You be swift to smack our hand and patient to counsel us in Your Spirit.  Regenerate us to both want what You want and hate what You hate.  Be a good Parent and guide us, train us, instruct us, and spank us.  But give the spank the supernatural ability to go further than the sting of flesh that it may transform our soul in conformity to Your will as living sacrifices.  Do not leave us to ourselves even when by prayer it is our request.  Do not answer our prayers for things that lead us astray.  Do not leave us alone. Do not leave us to ourselves.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Good n' Plenty or Bad n' Plenty?

Proverbs 28:19

Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.

Putting your face to the plow is always of some value whereas chasing fantasies is always a luxury which, if indulged in too often, produces more than its share of unfulfilled desires. The danger of religion is that it is productive on a pragmatic and practical level. It does get things done. The questions is not, "Is it effective?", but rather, "To what end is it effective?" Things getting done is only as valuable as the things themselves have value.

[Additionally (and perhaps parenthetically - for example) gettings things done leaves little time to dwell in that which was done once for all.]

We can worship will power in either direction. We either are sure to "always" do this and "never" do that or we are sure to do whatever we desire and do it with no restraint. Religion and irreligion both are manifestations of will power (or perhaps more rightly: will powerlessness). Will power either becomes our god our our devil. We are sure we are saved because, "We can," or we find salvation in knowing that another cannot tell us we can't. One seeks to harness will power. Another seeks to unleash it.

"Do you want plenty?"
"YES!" you empathically reply as you jut out your open hand in eager anticipation.
You should respond rather by asking, "plenty of what?"

I love the play on words in this proverb. The use of the word "plenty" becomes key with regard to what follows it. Plenty of bread or plenty of poverty. I would bet most people associate the word plenty with positive feelings. We assume plenty means "more awesome" because we like more of whatever, and after all, we probably deserve it! (right?). But if you pursue plenty of worthless pursuits you will have your hands full of poverty. Truck fulls of poverty. You can build a big ol' mansion of poverty.  A veritable pallet of poverty.

The point:
Work hard (especially if you like to eat). Do the thing that lies at hand.
Hobbies are luxuries. Treat them as such.

Not because you have to, but because you get to. Not because your salvation depends on it, but because God's reputation by you is represented. Not because His glory depends on you, but because you have good works prepared beforehand for you and you should walk in them now.

The rally cry of justification by faith alone in election is yoked the reality of all that God has prepared for those who love Him (including even their faithful service to Him).