Wednesday, October 31, 2012

does grace hardly work?

Titus 2:11-14

11 For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, 12 instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age,13 while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works.

The grace of God is often used by some to excuse any and every thing they can think to do. The grace of God can and does cover all of our sin. But the one who through faith accepts this grace walks in the good works God has provided for them. In another one of Paul’s letters, he said it this way:

Ephesians 2:8-10

8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast.10 For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.
See what Paul did there?
He reinforced emphatically that it is the grace of God alone through faith in Christ alone that saves. It is a gift. It cannot be earned. It is freely given by God to those who by His grace in faith call upon Him. No one can boast about what they did before God because no one appears safely before God because of what they have done.
Paul also said we “should” walk in the good works God has prepared for us. We “ought” to do this. Whenever there is an ought, there is an implication of duty or demand. Paul did not say you “could” walk in them if you wanted or that you “would” if certain circumstances were in place. He said you "should.”
Back to Titus 2.
The motivation for all of this is what has already been done for us. The Gospel is always the motivator of our behavior as Christians following after Jesus. We do not revert to attempting to keep the Law to keep Jesus. We do, however, honor the Law and recognize that it displays the full glory and holiness of God. We respect the Law. We desire to uphold it inasmuch as any is able in response to Christ.  We are free only in Christ.  We are not free to do whatever we want.  We are freed from doing whatever we want and inspired to do what He commands  More than being free to be me, we are freed to be meek. We can imperfectly love our God and our neighbor knowing that in Jesus we are seen as having done so perfectly. This is not an excuse to “get out of jail free,” but a motivation to eagerly serve our gracious God.
Our two biggest problems are solved sufficiently in Christ.
(1) Our sin deserves perfect punishment: Jesus died. for us.
(2) Our God deserves perfect obedience: Jesus lived and now lives for us.
If these declarations are yours by grace and through faith, you will find yourself surprised to be responding in kind to that which you have so kindly had extended to you. 
God does not need your good works. But your neighbors do.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

thoughts from "All I Am" on Phil Wickham's Singalong 2‏

I was listening to this song today as I went about my business.

You can listen to it HERE.

There is a vanity often attached to one’s acknowledgement of their own depravity. It usually manifests itself in some permutation similar to one saying, “How could God use me? I am so broken. Who am I?”

The problem is that these are all true. Who are you to accomplish godly work? No one. You are broken.  How can you be used to fix anything? You can’t.

I had this state of mind for a long time. I denied God’s ability to use me for His glory because I believed I was beyond His ability to do so. This I framed as doubting myself, when in actuality I was doubting God. I also doubted the power of the Gospel to present me as blameless in Christ (as He is, not as I am). I misunderstood the Good News to be OK News that proclaimed God was no longer going to spank me, but was still rather disappointed in me and was going to reluctantly let me into His Kingdom. This is the NOT the Gospel or Good News. It is Nice News that God is not filing for divorce, but discouraging that I will be living in a house with a husband bound by vow and not by love.

I love the way Phil Wickham fleshes this out in these lyrics. It is not about us having anything in our hands. Our empty hands are actually the prerequisite for being used by God (as opposed to our disqualification as I had once suspected). 

Our stumbling is not that which provides evidence against our inclusion into His mercy, it is the proof that we need His mercy.

God has never used someone that did not need God in order to be useful.

Take these hands
I know they're empty
But with You they can
Be used for beauty

In Your perfect plan
All I am is Yours

Take these feet
I know they stumble
But You use the weak
You use the humble

So please use meAll I am is Yours

I give You all my life
I'm letting it go
A living sacrifice
No longer my own
All I am is Yours
All I am is Yours

I lift my hands up
God I surrender
All that I am for Your glory, Your honor, Your fame

Monday, October 29, 2012

double imputation

Happy 2 1/2 Birthday today to my little girl!  I love you so much sissy. May you one day become my sister in addition to my daughter.  May God in His mercy grant you admission by adoption to a new family, one better than the one I tried so hard to provide for you.  A home built not by my human hands, but one whose Author and Builder is Jesus.

While reading My Utmost for His Highest the past two mornings I have read:

If Jesus Christ is to regenerate me, what is the problem He is up against? I have a heredity I had no say in; I am not holy, nor likely to be; and if all Jesus Christ can do is to tell me I must be holy, His teaching plants despair.


For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. — 2 Corinthians 5:21

Sin is a fundamental relationship; it is not wrong doing, it is wrong being, deliberate and emphatic independence of God. The Christian religion bases everything on the positive, radical nature of sin. Other religions deal with sins; the Bible alone deals with sin. The first thing Jesus Christ faced in men was the heredity of sin, and it is because we have ignored this in our presentation of the Gospel that the message of the Gospel has lost its sting and its blasting power. ...All through the Bible it is revealed that Our Lord bore the sin of the world by identification, not by sympathy. He deliberately took upon His own shoulders, and bore in His own Person, the whole massed sin of the human race.

God is Holy.
You are not.

Those two things are very bad news for you and I.

Jesus is perfect.
He commands you to be perfect.

Again, two things that are the super bad news. Jesus' perfection is bad news for you and I. Now we can't say that, "it can't be done." He did it (perfectly). Crap!

However, by faith, God is willing to make what Martin Luther called, "the great exchange." This is where our word, "impute" becomes so important

im·pute, transitive verb \im-ˈpyüt\

1: to lay the responsibility or blame for often falsely or unjustly
2: to credit to a person or a cause : attribute

God imputes to Christ our sin on the cross. Jesus takes on sins that were not His and becomes them. He is not playing the part of sin as in a play. He is not pretending to be us. He literally takes our place and becomes us and our sin and is nailed to a cross.

God imputes to us Christ's righteouness. Jesus lives a perfect life. He never does the wrong thing and He always does the right thing. Never was there a right thing He ignored and never was there a wrong thing into which He indulged. We are not pretending to be perfect. We are literally seen as perfect by grace through our faith in Jesus.

Double imputation takes place: We receive something that was not ours and Christ receives something that was not His. We get a perfect life by which to be seen and Christ gets our sin by which He is crucified and dies.

It is only in this that we can become righteous. Only by faith in what God has done can we be made right with Him. Not by how badly we feel. Not by how robust our resume. Only by what Jesus did and if that is ours. Only by what we did being taken by Him. We cannot pay off the debt or earn the trophy. We are double damned without God. 

We are double blessed by grace through faith in the Gospel of God.

Friday, October 26, 2012

attention and attainment; rights and righteousness

Reading My Utmost for His Highest this morning and came across this gem:

The disposition of sin is not immorality and wrong-doing, but the disposition of self-realization – I am my own god. This disposition may work out in decorous morality or in indecorous immorality, but it has the one basis, my claim to my right to myself. When Our Lord faced men with all the forces of evil in them, and men who were clean living and moral and up right, He did not pay any attention to the moral degradation of the one or to the moral attainment of the other; He looked at something we do not see, viz., the disposition

This is so key. I cannot stress enough how important this distinction is. It is not merely semantics, but substance. This is the heart of razing and demolishing the fortress that is Christless Christianity. This is such an important nail to drive hard into the crusty surface of a post-Christian culture like ours in the United States. I believe this to be one of the most central, more over-looked anchors of the Christian faith: the bad guys in the Gospel narratives are not the bad people. They are the MOST moral people in the story. The most upright and dedicated to civility.

We often overlook that Jesus came to destroy BOTH indecorous immorality against God AND decorous morality against God.

All of it. All we offer. All of it is our death. Whether we reject Him by running away from His Law or we reject Him by pursuing the Law to avoid Him altogether. You can hit the accelerator and speed away from the cops who are trying to pull you over for violation of the Law or you can drive the speed limit to avoid interacting with the cops altogether. The latter is more decorous, the former more dangerous. It is clear that the one fleeing the cops is a god to himself, following his own desires (and he will have many petitioning him to forego his desires for the better desires of others). It is the latter whom we largely ignore. We don’t care why you obey the Law, just obey it. As long as you do not cause trouble, we have no reason to confront you. Yet Jesus deals death blows to both positions in revealing that the decorous pursuit of piety and the indecorous pursuit of partying are indistinguishable in the god they serve; SELF.

There is more than one way to give God the finger. You can extend your middle finger as you turn your hand around and flip Him off or you can raise your index finger high and taunt, “I’m number one!” As long as you are your own god you will never surrender your desires to God’s Law or Gospel. As long as you have the final say with regard to all things considering yourself, you have not a God who reigns on high, but one who feigns inside. Not a prayer to be lifted up, but a self with whom to consult within. You have no Counselor, merely comforters.

Your right to yourself is the last battle to be fought. The last surrender comes not on the scene of decoration but disposition. To whom do you belong? Forego your rights in order to secure righteousness. By grace and through faith obey and live for God.

***By the by, did anyone notice that every blog this past week was brought to you by the letter "a"? I noticed this after publishing the Wednesday post and of course, pastorally inclined as I am, felt the need to purposefully mine out "a" list titles for the TH-F posts.  You're welcome!  Have a nice weekend. Or should I say in keeping with this past week's penchant: "another weekend?  make it nice."***

Thursday, October 25, 2012

agonizing over cruise control Christianity

Some thoughts from 2 Timothy 4:

"3 For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. 4 They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5 But as for you, be serious about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."

Unfortunately the "Christian" book stores are often filled with the fruit of this reality.  Discernment is so necessary in an information saturated society as ours.  Please test all things as Paul encourages in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 in order to hold on to the good and avoid every kind of evil teaching.  Our job is to keep preaching the one true Gospel.

"7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

The greek word is literally agonize.  Paul has agonized the good agony.  There is that worth the stress, effort, thorns, thistles, trials, and tempests.  It is the good agony (striving/struggle).  It is a term used of athletes competing in physically strenuous activity.  It is difficult and it requires perseverance and push through the pain and agony (there's our word) to reach the finish. 

This is not "cruise control" Christianity.

I love these last verses:

"13 When you come, bring the cloak I left in Troas with Carpus, as well as the scrolls, especially the parchments."

Why the cloak?  Because Paul was in a cold prison made of stone and it was getting to be winter and he was cold.  Our beloved Apostle was a man like you and me who got cold and desired his blanket to keep warm.  He had some "books" he enjoyed and wanted them for study or for enjoyment. The parchment and scrolls may have had copies of the Gospels, perhaps Paul's Roman citizenship papers (i.e. think our social security cards or birth certificates) or maybe some of the Old Testament. Whatever they were, these items were important to him.  We are not told the circumstances that led to him leaving them behind in Troas.  Certainly it was intentional.  He did not forget them.  He either left them for another to use or out of necessity had to flee so quickly as to leave behind even important things to escape with his life.

Paul was a man like you and I.  He got cold.  He got hungry.  Do not too quickly disregard the real terrors and trials he endured.  He did so by the SAME Spirit that God grants us now who believe.  We are empowered with the same Spirit to endure, to preach, to forego, to fight the good fight and agonize the good agony.

Where in our lives are we fighting lesser agonies? 
Or striving after worldly agonies? 

May it be that God refines us today and removes from us that for which we strive that is not in keeping with the good and godly agony.  May our lives be more and more defined by striving only toward the end of God's glory in our gratitude.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

agree or disagree?

Romans 1:5-6

5 We have received grace and apostleship through Him to bring about the obedience of faith among all the nations, on behalf of His name,6 including yourselves who also belong to Jesus Christ by calling.

The best proof of your being born is that you are now alive. If I meet you on the street, I will 10 times out of 10 believe that you were born.  34 years ago this day, I was born.  While the 34 years part may require proof to verify, the being born part is pretty self-evident.  While I may need a receipt of my birth to verify the time and place, the fact that I was born goes unchallenged.
The best proof of your being re-born from above by the Spirit of Grace in Christ is that you are now alive in His Spirit. If I watch you actively and unrepentantly participating in darkness, I may be concerned as to whether you are, in fact, re-born.  I could be wrong.  But could you be wrong?  Does anyone get to tell you that you are wrong?  Do you ever believe you're wrong?

Do you agree with God?
What happens when you and God disagree?

These are great gauges for determining the validity of one’s claims to regeneration.

Faith by grace saves.
Faith by grace obeys.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

are you a mountain man?

I was reading My Utmost for His Highest the past few days and was struck by these remarks…

We have all experienced times of exaltation on the mountain, when we have seen things from God’s perspective and have wanted to stay there. But God will never allow us to stay there. The true test of our spiritual life is in exhibiting the power to descend from the mountain. If we only have the power to go up, something is wrong. It is a wonderful thing to be on the mountain with God, but a person only gets there so that he may later go down and lift up the demon-possessed people in the valley (see Mark 9:14-18). We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life— those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength. Yet our spiritual selfishness always wants repeated moments on the mountain. We feel that we could talk and live like perfect angels, if we could only stay on the mountaintop. Those times of exaltation are exceptional and they have their meaning in our life with God, but we must beware to prevent our spiritual selfishness from wanting to make them the only time.

We are inclined to think that everything that happens is to be turned into useful teaching. In actual fact, it is to be turned into something even better than teaching, namely, character. The mountaintop is not meant to teach us anything, it is meant to make us something. There is a terrible trap in always asking, “What’s the use of this experience?” We can never measure spiritual matters in that way. The moments on the mountaintop are rare moments, and they are meant for something in God’s purpose.

The height of the mountaintop is measured by the dismal drudgery of the valley, but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God. We see His glory on the mountain, but we neverlive for His glory there. It is in the place of humiliation that we find our true worth to God— that is where our faithfulness is revealed. Most of us can do things if we are always at some heroic level of intensity, simply because of the natural selfishness of our own hearts. But God wants us to be at the drab everyday level, where we live in the valley according to our personal relationship with Him.

When you were on the mountaintop you could believe anything, but what about when you were faced with the facts of the valley? You may be able to give a testimony regarding your sanctification, but what about the thing that is a humiliation to you right now? The last time you were on the mountain with God, you saw that all the power in heaven and on earth belonged to Jesus— will you be skeptical now, simply because you are in the valley of humiliation?

I remember the first time I read this a few years back (2005 to be specific). I remember even then settling on how true this has often been of me and my desires. I want to obey God and serve Him and be filled with the joys I know I have experienced before. I can quickly become zealous to recover the feeling and experience I received from God rather than the God who lives in me now and in my future. The past successes and moments of exhilaration can quickly become tiny idols for me. I begin to hold myself up against them and find myself wanting.

I was once more zealous.
I have before lifted my hands in spontaneity of worship I cannot now by rote reproduce.
I have been better than I am now.

There is a real element of becoming dull to our first love about which John writes to the church in Ephesus. This is not to what I am referring. Chambers is drawing us into the reality that even our worship can become a selfish pursuit of actualization.

In my worship I seek to be reassured of my own love in being filled to the fullest measures. If you are a Christian and have been one for any amount of time, you have likely had a mountain top experience in which you delighted and drew nearer to God than you ever dreamt possible. It is not wrong to look lovingly with thanksgiving to God for those moments. It is not even wrong to desire more of them inasmuch as it yokes you further and richer to Christ. But do be careful that you do not make those the standard of real spirituality.

Jesus left Heaven to minister on earth. Jesus was only documented as having transfigured on one occasion in 3 years of ministry and 33 years (give or take) of life. He forsook glory for the sake and purposes of God. May we not strive against the ministry of Christ in requesting transfiguration at every corner and revelation at every step.

Desiring to be lifted up is a gift of God. Unwillingness to yourself stoop to the mean duties of daily life is a rebellion against God. Those who stoop will be lifted up and have their desires fulfilled. They demonstrate a true desire to be lifted up by God alone by doing what God has asked in stooping in the interim. If one only desires to be lifted up, one ends in any number of sinful scenarios:
(1) they reject the daily duties assigned them by God
(2) in ravenous desire to be lifted up, they attempt to lift themselves
(3) in bitterness, they reject God for not lifting them up according to their timetable
(4) they assume in despair that God has rejected them because He has left them to stoop for so long.

You must worship God now in what you have before you where you are currently. The moments of refreshing will come. He is faithful and will not allow you go on famished.

He will feed you more and more the more you feed others in order to restore your ability to feed others more and more.

***On a side note: Happy Birthday(s)!! to the 2nd and 3rd most important moms in my world: mine and my wife's.

Monday, October 22, 2012


2 Timothy 1:9-10

9 He has saved us and called us
with a holy calling,
not according to our works,
but according to His own purpose and grace,
which was given to us in Christ Jesus
before time began.
10 This has now been made evident
through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus,
who has abolished death
and has brought life and immortality to light
through the gospel.

Why has God called some people out of darkness and into light?
Why redeem some from death and darkness to immortality, life and light?

"Not according to our works"

But I thought I was the Belle of the Ball.

But I thought I was a good person.
Double Nope.

But I thought I was...
Just stop it.

You were not chosen for you. You were chosen for Him and by Him.

"but according to His own purpose and grace,
which was given to us in Christ Jesus
before time began."

Before the stars filled the heavens, God purposed in grace to send His Son to die. That means Jesus determined to lay His life down for the elect before Adam ever sinned, before Adam ever breathed.

God is love.
God is good.
God is all-knowing and all-capable.
Of all that He could and can do, He did this.
He produced and ushered into existence Good News.

It is His masterpiece.
It is a holy calling because the Caller is Holy.
We were saved and called in Christ before the mountains leapt into existence.
We were saved on account of Christ and from Christ’s account are we credited with righteousness.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Tuesday’s with Travinci has produced a new term: Chrapathy (Christian apathy)
This is the term we coined to describe that phenomenon that occurs when a Christian foregoes studying the Bible when a topic is approached about which there is no consensus. For example: tongues. Should we have them in church? If so, how? If not, why then did they have them? Lots of good stuff and verses one could study to attempt a possible position regarding the subject. Lots of positions taken by lots of reputable persons. Lots of time in prayer, study, thought, conversation, etc... required to develop a conscience and personal position on the topic.

Chrapathy gives up. It’s too hard. Who can know? Who cares?
It is Chrapathy to simply forego discussing the subject because it is confusing and/or potentially controversial. Granted, this conversation is reserved only for in-house debate and by those mature enough in faith by grace to do so toward the end of loving, obeying and serving Christ more in accord with His will and our neighbor according to his greatest need.
It is also Chrapathy to simply assume a position and launch bombs against the opposing team on disgrace(face)book.
Both approaches are lazy. I am not indicating that only the learned, articulate, and (let’s face it – nerdier) types of Christians should be allowed to discuss the weightier matters of orthopraxy. I am saying that in due proportion to God’s grace in supplying you with ability to discern it, you should attempt to grapple with it.
Our tendency is either to give up trying to know God and His will in order to do whatever we actually wanted to do in the first place and thereby demonstrate our true lack of desire to conform our mind and will to God’s.
We attack other people in order to defend a belief we do not really believe.
Let's get to the good grappling.  Let's wrestle the good wrestling matches. Let’s not put up with this Chrapathy anymore, especially in ourselves.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

nominal Xian radio

The most dangerous thing on the radio may not be Ke$ha or Katie Perry, but nominal Xian radio commercials.

On the way to church yesterday my wife and I were listening to Xian radio when we heard a commercial for the station in between songs that went something like this:

“It seems like the grass is always greener on the other side. But remember while other places may seem better, we have Cyclone football and family here and that’s pretty good. Our station is pretty good and we are here to remind you that life is awesome”

On the way home from church we heard another one of these commercials that went something like this:

“You are at your son’s football game. You cheer when they score a touchdown! You are scared that your kid might get hurt. You are relieved at the end of the game when your kid has not been hurt. Our station is exciting like football, but safer.”

I HATE these. My wife got really frustrated and nearly invoked cursing. I love my wife for that.

Just a suggestion. If you are a Xian radio station, tell people about Jesus. Don’t tell me you are family friendly, tell me about Jesus. Don’t tell me about greener grass being right under my nose unless you are using it to tell me about Jesus.

The music the station plays is decent. Most of it is about Jesus. The commercials are horrendous however.

I realize I am a nitpicker and find it easier to tear things down than to build them up, but some things need to be torn down and this is one of them.

Family friendly is not a synonym for Xian. There is as much danger in listening to Mormon-radio (if there is such a thing) as radio that allows nominal cultural cuss words to slip by or questionable content. Do not get me wrong. I don’t want my ears, let alone my children’s, to be exposed to the ideologies and iniquities regularly heralded on regular radio, but this can’t be our end goal. I would equally be on guard against my children hearing family-friendly Jehovah’s Witness radio.

What makes Xian radio Xian? Is it the X? If you want to be a moral, family-friendly radio station, that’s cool. But that is not uniquely Christian in any way. I may take comfort in knowing I will not be hearing any lyrics suggesting I forego paying my rent or hooking up with some stranger, but is that all we aim for (or away from)?

Christian, please hear me out on this one: Not every book at the Christian book store honors and makes much of Jesus. Not every song on every CD in the Christian music section honors and makes much of Jesus. Please use discernment here. Do not be so ignorant as to be led into the place where Jesus is made some of, but not much of; a little of, but not ALL of. Be careful not to be wooed to a place where Jesus is an accessory and not your clothing. Be careful not to be seduced into thinking that everyone who says the name “Jesus” in a "worship" song in actuality worships Him as He is.

I HATE programming that masquerades as Christian and does not make much of Jesus. I drives me absolutely crazy. I HATE Christi-ain't-y.

It does give me pause to reflect on that which I boldly proclaim and defend that is possibly more seasoned with self and preference than Christ and His substance. It makes me more vigilant to root out these tendencies in myself. Where do I settle for worldly goodness and morality other than Jesus? Where do I judge myself clean because of societal standards rather than sinful in the sight of Christ? We have to be asking these questions of ourselves and of our ears and eyes. We live in a media culture unlike any other that has ever existed. Our eyes and ears have to be MORE sensitive and discerning, but the tendency is to be LESS so as a result of overexposure and numbness.

I love you all (even if you like nominal Xian radio commericals). Because I love you, I desire you to consider these things, but subject your conscience not to me, but to God and His Son’s glory alone.

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22

21 …test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

staved by grace

I had a dream the other night. In my dream I was pondering the Law and the Gospel and the proclamation thereof. Yeah, that’s what I dream about. Sometimes.  Back off!

I woke with a new (to me at least) understanding of evangelism and the use of the Law and the Gospel.

In my dream I observed a lost person confessing that they fell short of their expectations and knew that God would judge them for their transgressions. For future reference let’s call him Lostie. I recalled being optimistic in seeing that the Law had accomplished its good work of breaking this soul before a Holy God. Lostie agreed with God in regard to their unworthiness.

The person, presumably a Christian, to whom this broken one was confessing their sin, responded by giving them grace. Let’s call them Oops. You’ll see why as we continue. I was horrified however because it was man’s grace. It was not God’s grace in the Gospel. It was a sterile grace.  It had no power of God in it, only flattery.

Let me explain.

Oops heard Lostie confessing their sin and seeking comfort for their brokenness. Oops rightly responded by desiring to give them grace. Oops was good to recognize that we give grace to the humble and Law to the proud. Lostie was broken and in need of grace. However, Oops failed to give Lostie God’s grace and instead sided with Lostie in forming a coalition against God’s holiness. Here's how: Oops told Lostie not to be so down on themselves and to remember how valuable they were and how much good they had done. Oops reminded Lostie that their motives are not always bad and that certainly there were persons much worse than Lostie. Oops sought to reassure Lostie by telling them that they loved them and wanted the best for them. Oops told Lostie that they could try harder tomorrow and that the game is not over until it’s over. There was still time to get it right, after all, as long as there was time on the clock. (Oops liked sports analogies apparently as well).

This is NOT the Gospel.

This is not loving your neighbor. This is siding with a sinner against the Law in proclaiming it too severe and too harsh and God too demanding.

Additionally, it is accusing God of putting into place rules beyond His measure of holiness. God is too demanding and should be more understanding. After all, no one’s perfect and just because You are, doesn’t mean you get to expect so much from us. While Oops would never articulate these words or dare utter them aloud (or likely even think them in this manner), this is the sentiment communicated in forsaking the Gospel of God in Christ and siding with man.

If you try to pick up a broken person with anything other than the Gospel, you demonstrate how little you trust and believe the Gospel yourself. Is it really solely responsible for proclaiming God’s grace? Is the Gospel all we really need?  Is it the only thing others really need?

Oops missed an opportunity to share with Lostie the grace of God in Christ, to share the grace that does not require Lostie to wink at their own sin, but acknowledge it in full and have it FULLY paid for by Christ. Oops would have Lostie believe that Jesus died only for those sins and shortcomings of which we cannot be held personally responsible. This is NOT the Gospel and robs Jesus of His glory and God of His holiness.  God does not require our best efforts.  He requires perfection.  Our sin is not simply falling short or failing to endure.  It is running the wrong direction.  We are not merely inches away from bullseye.  We are aiming at the wrong target altogether.

Thus my dream anchored within me a new awakening to an old dilemma.

Yes, Law to the proud and grace to the humble.
HOWEVER, be very careful that it is God’s Law to the proud and God’s grace to the humble.

Do not try to break sinners with man’s laws and customs. You can guilt people into shame for things that before God they ought not apologize or seek forgiveness. Do not rely on secondary (open-hand) issues to break a person.  You only produce converts devoted to the secondary preference de jour, not the primary Savior eternal.

Do not try to mend sinners with man’s grace and greeting card sentimentality. You can comfort people into peace before God that is NO peace at all.  Do not be so hasty and desirous to empathize that you rob another of their opportunity to bear godly grief that produces repentance.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

giving credit where credit is done

My wife forwarded me a quote from a sermon my Michael Yousef this morning:

“The grace of God overrules our failure and then gives us credit for it.

The only thing we contribute to the Gospel is our sin that makes it necessary. We fail and fall short and are astonished to discover that in the confession of this fact we find forgiveness rather than the judgment we expected. We find grace where we expected consequence.

If the Spirit provides your heart with an accurate account of the wages you are owed for your life, an uneasy expectation of judgment is the only true and proper tally. And it is so. Your sin will require death and blood and violence and fury and wrath. This will either be vented in full upon you or upon Jesus on your behalf.

Jesus accomplishes what you cannot and then rewards you as though you had accomplished it. Yousef is spot on. That is the Good News! Praise be to God for His merciful favor and compassion and mercy. How big does this make Jesus to you? How worthy of honor and praise? How much does this elevate Him in your thoughts and responsiveness? If you by faith embrace this grace, Jesus is made more and more. How deserving of praise and worship He is for His sacrifice.

Monday, October 15, 2012

orthodoxy v. orthopraxy

1 Timothy 4:16

16 Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.

In this corner, weighing in with fruit and proof of repentance: good works.
In this corner, weighing in with proof of God’s promises fulfilled: Good News.

You may be prone to see the Christian world divided into those who love Doctrine and those who love people. This may be an accurate assessment of the reality of most of what regularly constitutes those claiming the name of Christ (or at least the name of His church whether He is welcomed inside or not). But it is a false dichotomy. There is no war between right thinking and right living. In fact and perhaps to your surprise, these are not jockeying for position, but rather the most humble of partners. It takes two to tango and when reduced to one you are just dancing by yourself. Don’t mess with the cha cha.

You cannot live rightly if you do not know what rightly is. You cannot claim to have cornered the market on right knowing and not act on that knowledge. One who claims to know the Gospel must live in light of it or he does not yet understand what he claims to know. One who claims to "live the Gospel" must learn that this is a nonsensical thing to say, conforming neither to grammar or logic. It’s like saying, “I live the Headline.” Granted, I think I know what you mean when you say that, but I also think I know what some mean when they say that: They think they are the Gospel or that their life is the Gospel. You cannot live the Gospel anymore than you can live the tractor. The Gospel is a thing. It is a noun. Good News more specifically. You can ride a tractor and believe the tractor will get your where you are wanting to go. You can even believe in the tractor. But you cannot be the tractor. You are not a tractor. You are not the Good News.

So diatribe aside, one who desires to live in light of the Gospel must know and be familiar with what the Gospel teaches.  They must be restored, confirmed, strengthened, and established in the Gospel message. One who desires to know the Gospel and study it’s doctrinal significance and truest essence, must in concert be about doing and acting in response to said Gospel. Matt Chandler said it this way,

It flows out of rest and out of delight in the reconciling work of Christ. Not, "Let me do in order to be," but, "Because I am, let me do."

I want you to live lives worthy of the Gospel. I want you to saturate your mind in the Gospel. I want your thoughts to motivate your actions and that the more you dwell on the Gospel the more your actions would be found reflecting a right responsive love to God’s perfect initiating love.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Book Review: "Night" by Elie Wiesel

I recently listened to this audio book while on my regular commute to work.  You can buy it HERE.

I cannot put into words how angry I often was listening to this book.  I was thoroughly bummed out and feeling over-whelmed by rage against those committing the atrocities documented in this book.  It is accounts like this that persuade my support of Bonhoeffer's conclusion that Hitler must be stopped.

"If your opponent has a conscience,
then follow Ghandi and non-violence.
But if your enemy has no conscience,
like Hitler, then follow Bonhoeffer."
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Reading this book provoked in me a pride in being American I rarely experience.  Listening to the devastating degree to which depravity can be practiced stirred in me a desire to sign up for the WWII army and liberate the persecuted.  I am glad America stepped up to protect their neighbor. 

I hate that this happened.  I hate that power and politicking could produce the circumstances for this to occur.  It was not an isolated incidient of a groupthinktank gone wild flash mob.  This went on for years.  People doing this to other people.  Plenty of opportunity to repent.  Plenty of opportunity to consider.  My blood almost literally boils in desiring to make it stop and the frustration that I cannot.  I cannot make it go away.  This really happened.


I am glad Hitler is dead.  I'm not going to lie. Mostly because I am glad the ovens of Germany were shut down and destroyed.  Hitler was not going to do this voluntarily.  I am glad that young men signed up and spent their lives in war to put an end to the Nazi machine.  I am glad that some laid down their lives for the hope of saving the lives of others.  May God grant me the courage and strength to step up if ever my neighbor would need me to protect them from such atrocities. 

Psalms 10:17-18

O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

God in His wisdom, mercy and justice has turned over some to their own hardened hearts.  His wrath is observed in His reluctance to show up and convict their hearts of their own sinfulness. His judgment is seen in men performing such brutalities on others without His Spirit to soften any of their sensitivities.  When God does not show up to rebuke, it is His wrath.  Oh His mercy to both those called and inspired to lay down their lives to defend their neighbor AND in rebuking the Nazi Germans for their tyrannies.  He is gracious to raise up men in number enough to confront those guilty of sin and insanity.  God's grace to Germany was allowing them to be destroyed.  In their Nazi state, they were hardened and darkened beyond their ability to repent.  Praise God for His might in both defending and liberating those abused by Germany and in revealing to Germany in power their need to confess and repent of their ways.

Proverbs 21:13

Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.

I am glad I read this book even though it was hard to read.  It is good sometimes to be exposed to that which God never turns His eyes and ears.  I can turn off the news when it gets too bleak or refrain from turning my thoughts to such dark reports. God hears the cries of the perishing and does not close His ears and eyes to their cause.  He always hears them.  Imagine if every atrocity ever committed was revealed to you in exquisite detail.  God knows all of this and yet in His grace sends the rain on all of us.  May more ponder on this and turn to Him who provides them all things.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

the book of Hebrews' benediction

Hebrews 13:20-21

20 Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep—with the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 equip you with all that is good to do His will, working in us what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ. Glory belongs to Him forever and ever. Amen.

We must be equipped in order to do God’s will. None of us does God’s will on our own. None of our thoughts naturally agree with God and none are accidentally found in concert with His holiness.

Through Jesus Christ, God looks on us with favor. He is pleased with what He sees. This is not a statement about our faithfulness or our gratitude persuading His gaze. This is not an indication of our attractiveness or our worth. This is a statement of the grandeur attached only to the glory of the Son. How majestic is He that our Father would look on us with favor because of what He did. All glory belongs to Him forever and ever, Amen!

This is an everlasting covenant. This does not have an expiration date on it. This will take. This will hold true and be in effect with power forever before God. There will never come a day where you are forced out of the nest to fly without Christ’s nurture and the Holy Spirit’s assistance. You are not being coddled. You are not too cute to discipline. You are beloved and embraced in the joy of the Father, not merely some amiable acceptance, but His actual delight in you. This again is not about you or a statement revealing your inherent value. This is all the more a testimony of the worth, honor, and value inherent in Christ. He is so valuable that in Him we inherit His rewards.

God so loved the world that He gave Christ. Whoever believes in and on Him will never perish, but live before God forever. Because of and all for the sake of Christ!  In Christ is God's sovereignty and charity displayed in full.

“Lord command what you will and grant what you command!”

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Book Review: "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan

Buy it HERE.

This past summer at Men's BASIC, my church's men's ministry, we went through this book.  I have really enjoyed getting up in the morning to meet with other men who know, love and obey Jesus.  I am often challenged to do things I would not think of on my own that are good for my mind and heart to do.  The Holy Spirit is alive and at work in other people's lives and what He is asking them to teach and preach is encouraging my soul to expand and grow.

This book was a great opportunity to reflect upon that to which God has called us in Christ.  The radical transformation of lives we observe in Scripture is not anomalous.  The same Spirit is at work today in the proclamation of the same Good News of God in Christ.  But what does it look like to live that out now?  In what ways does the Gospel call us to rebel against our own culture?  In what ways does it ask us to engage our culture in order to, by the grace of God, win some?  What would you have to change in order to depend on God and His church as the video below encourages?  What would you have to change in order for others to depend upon you as a member of God's church as the video below encourages?

The point of this book is not to guilt you into doing more or to make you feel unregenerate unless you are doing the most uncomfortable thing you can imagine.  It is, however, encouraging you to participate in that which the Holy Spirit encourages you to do even if it is uncomfortable or considered crazy by others.

Being crazy is not being Christian.  Being Christian may often be looked upon as being crazy however.  Know the difference.  Sometimes the most Christian thing you can do today is the most generic, vanilla, routine, predictable, pedestrian thing like providing for your wife and kids by working hard, honoring your boss by doing what they say, driving the speed limit, being generous with your paycheck, unloading the dishwasher, etc...  Paul encourages those in Thessalonica to live a quiet life in faith and hard work.  The hard work of faith is what sets you apart and somedays the most culturally rebellious thing you will do is depend on God by faith.  This will be and is the most dramatic difference between you and those who do not know God.  It is not crazy to love your family.  It is crazy to believe that loving your family is not enough to make God happy with you.  It is not crazy to obey the Law.  It is crazy to believe that one's obedience/disobedience to the Law is not what makes someone right with God. 

God has not called everyone to adopt children with disabilities.  God has not called everyone to move overseas.  God has not asked everyone to give away everything.  God has not asked every person to work in a soup kitchen feeding the hungry.  God has not called everyone to go to seminary. 


He has called some people to do these very things.  And who are these people?  It can't always be "they" or "them." For Isaiah, it was him and he responded, "Here I am.  Send me."  God was not talking to Isaiah per se.  Isaiah overheard God asking a question and he volunteered.  Most of us must be shaken beyond our senses in order to acquiesce.  But God is not desiring the guilt-ridden and pride-powered, but rather the love-smitten and humble-hearted.

Do you love God?  Do you love Him more or less when you think about how much He loves you?  Does His love give you strength or lead to laziness?  The more we think about and immerse ourselves in the rich love shown us, the more we realize how radical and crazy His love is for us.  This inspires a response of love in kind. Would your life look any different tomorrow if you were to truly trust and depend on God fully?  When was the last time you made a decision based on your faith?  Put another way, would you need faith to do what you did today? 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Genesis! Exodus? Levitiquits..

Oh, Leviticus. How many well-intentioned Bible read-through plans have you thwarted?

Who doesn’t like rules?  Ah, most people. Most people do not like rules. Particularly when it comes to them being enforced against what we would choose to do if we were in charge (or at least if we were above the rules). Not only do we not like the application of the Law, but how about reading through the Law? For my work as an arbitrator I frequently come in contact with state statutes and case law governing the right of way at uncontrolled intersections and the duty to clear an intersection to name only a few. Reading through the laws to decipher if it contains wording that excuses or accuses my party is laborious, tedious, and monotonous. As much as we do not like being cited for breaking the Law, I think most of us would rather pay a citation than be forced to sit down and read the rules of the road for our home state in their entirety.

And that brings us to Leviticus. Talk about laying down the Law.  This is where that phrase probably has its origins.

Something I noticed in my recent read-through that was of great encouragement and may also be to you is to notice how many times the phrase “make atonement” is referenced. In the ESV translation, this phrase occurs 40 times in the 27 chapters of the book of Leviticus. Atonement is made by one on behalf of another. The offended party receives an offering from the mediator assigned to represent and minister on behalf of the offender and thus atonement is made. 

As many and meticulous are the laws of God for Israel, there is a consistent theme underlying all of them. A great deal of detail and effort are required to please God and His holiness. So much so that a sacrificial system to forgive our inability to obey had to be created if we were ever to survive its glory.

There are two things that are very clear.
(1) We are sinful and incapable of keeping or earning our place in God’s presence.
(2) God created a way to be reconciled to Him in spite of our shortcomings and transgressions.

May the book of Leviticus bring you joy inasmuch as you realize that in all of God’s laws, His holiness is made glorious; and in the Person of Christ, these foreshadows we observe in this book have been fulfilled by His substance.

Our Temple, our Priest, our Sacrifice, our Mediator, our Atonement, our Salvation, our Restoration, our Holiness.

Monday, October 8, 2012

pop quiz hot shot

2 Corinthians 13:5

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

We periodically question or examine the salvation "status" of others.  Here the apostle encourages his hearers to examine their own faith and salvation.

A helpful way to do this is to consider the types of things that usually lead you question or examine another's faith.  What behaviors do you see that make you wonder if another is regenerate? What beliefs about Jesus pique your curiosity to consider and question another's adherence to the one, true Gospel?  What endeavors or alliances in which others participate lead you to wonder what their heart desires?  What fruit do you pick at in others?

Got your lists ready? Ok, now use all that we just covered and apply liberally to yourself.  By liberally of course I mean exhaustively, not liberally like applying them only when and where it feels good or loosely or not at all.

How do you know that you believe in Jesus? How do you know that Jesus Christ is in you? What do you believe and why do you believe it and is that in concert with what the Bible preaches?

These are great questions to ask on occassion and the hope of the apostle Paul and myself is that you would be found to have passed the exam.  The goal is not to always be in doubt.  The goal is to understand and appreciate the Gospel of God.  May it be that this exercise encourages your faith further and that if you find any disappointment in having fallen short, you find faith by which to lean on Jesus the more going forward.  May it be that this exam corrects any errors in thinking, believing, acting, or speaking in your heart, mind, and life.  May the exam diagnose accurately the disease that the cure may be all the more applied and appreciated for the Name and sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Friday, October 5, 2012

a Christian good-bye‏

This morning in My Utmost for His Highest I read the following:

Luke 9:61 - The person who says, “Lord, I will follow You, but . . .,” is the person who is intensely ready to go, but never goes. This man had reservations about going. The exacting call of Jesus has no room for good-byes; good-byes, as we often use them, are pagan, not Christian, because they divert us from the call. Once the call of God comes to you, start going and never stop.

I had never really pondered on this point before. When we say “good-bye” we usually mean, “See you later.” Maybe even add an alligator if you are more friendly and/or more Swamp-peopley. But the point Chambers is making is that it rarely, if ever, means “I will never be back this way again.” It usually means "Not yet.  I like my life."

As such, we say “good-bye” to carbs or to sweets or to Swamp People, but we do not mean “never again.” We mean, “until we meet again.”

Now there is nothing wrong with saying “until we meet again” to someone you will see tomorrow although I might suggest a more contemporary “see you later” or perhaps even a “peace out” if the situation warrants.  That is the correct sentiment to attach to the situation.

However, repentance and putting your face to the plow are not scenarios in which one can truly commit to endeavor with a heart and head half-committed. Yet many routinely say “good-bye” to sins they have no real commitment to mortify. It is a diet kind of "good-bye."  People like to go on diets to feel better about themselves. They abstain from something they like for a season in order to obtain a result they believe will bring them more joy than the thing from which they are abstaining. For example, I go a week without sweets because I believe that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. 

Sweets < Lookin’ Sweet

Do not diet from sin.  Die to sin. Eliminate it from your mind and members inasmuch as the Spirit grants you grace, insight, humility, ability, perseverance, and patience to do so. But be sure to do so. Learn the true meaning of “good-bye.” Learn resolve, commitment and covenant and in doing so become more like Christ and more appreciative of Christ’s resolve, commitment and covenant on your behalf before God.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thoughts from "Bonhoeffer's Last Sermon: Confident Hope‏" by Jim Belcher

Listen to this message by clicking HERE.

Bonhoeffer is on my short list of Christian men whose name inspires love and respect.  I admire him and wish I could have known him.  I want to be his friend.  I count myself blessed to serve the same God he served.  I love hearing about him and reading from him in his published works.  I love dead mentors.  No surprises.

In this message by Jim Belcher you will get a cook's tour of Bonhoeffer and his life, work, and hope in Christ.  For a more in depth look into his life, click HERE. Bonhoeffer loved Jesus and wanted his church, suffering under Hitler, to hold tightly to the hope of the world to come in light of present darkness.  He pastored his flock through the trainwreck that was WWII Germany.  He loved God's people and God's Son. He also plotted to assasinate Hitler and was eventually hung as a traitor.  He is like the pastoral verison of Jack Bauer.  Or maybe the Jack Bauer version of Spurgeon.  Or the Chuck Norris version of Jack Bauer doing a Martin Luther impression.  Either way, the recipe calls for a lot of people I like a lotta.

Belcher quoted C.S Lewis in this message regarding eternal security found in Christ alone:

"It is written that we shall “stand before” Him, shall appear, shall be inspected. The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please be a real ingredient in the divine be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is."

Bonhoeffer was a minister of this Gospel.   He preached a God of justice and wrath and love and mercy and a Son in Whom all of these are satisfied and displayed perfectly for all. 

If you love church history, WWII, C.S Lewis qouotes, or Bonhoeffer, I would highly recommend taking the time out of your day to download and listen to this message.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

1 Timothy 1

Read HERE.

The aim of the Christian’s marching orders is love produced by a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. A heart pure in that it has been forgiven by God in Christ. A conscience good in that it has been reconciled to God by Christ’s work and subsequent fruit evidenced by faithfulness. A faith sincere in that it is rooted and anchored in Christ alone to deliver from the righteous wrath of God wholly deserved.
Many have walked away from these basic edicts. Different doctrines as Paul mentions here are often articulated even by those whose hands hold Bibles showing that is not merely illiteracy that produces false teaching. When swerving from sound doctrine, endless discussion into keeping the Law is often the alternative. If there is no true Gospel, there is only the most recent, novel strategy for fulfilling or escaping the Law.
“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…”
This is true and trustworthy. In Christ God is reconciling the world to Himself in producing and sustaining faithful adherence to His provision alone. It is true that the Law is good if used lawfully. But when the Law is used as an olive branch instead of a sword, it cannot produce that which it was put in place to accomplish/teach.

The Law is a perfect representation of God’s holiness and otherness in comparison even to our best attempts to be like Him. The Gospel is a perfect and holy representation of God’s goodness and mercy in fulfilling His promises to unite us to Himself without disgracing His own holiness.

Some are teaching doctrine other than Christ and Christ alone. Hymenaeus and Alexander were a few by name in Paul’s day guilty of this distortion. There are certainly some even now doing the same.

And they have names too.

May those teaching this false Gospel be called out and may they in turn repent and be the sinners for which Christ came into the world to save.  If you insist on the Law being the way to salvation, you forsake Christ's cross and make it meaningless.  May those sitting under these teachings be given discernment to cling to whatever is good and cast away all that is evil.  May the Gospel be preached and lead many to repentance.

Would we be so bold and committed to Christ as to call out those merely masquerading?
Would we be so humble and committed to Christ as to repent when we are rightly called out ourselves?