Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Fellow teachers/preachers of God's word, may we never stray from the text. My opinions don't matter, my viewpoints don't matter--they can't change hearts and work the work of repentance in the hearts of sinners. But there is supernatural power in God's word. When we are faithful to present it, God is faithful to bless it.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
For the last few weeks, I've taken Sunday evenings at the church I pastor to discuss the idea of defending the Christian faith. The Bible obligates us to be ready to give an answer for the hope we have within us, so it's pretty important that we can do that. We've covered topics such as the reliability of scripture, the existence of God, the divinity of Christ and, most recently, we discussed the problem of the Canaanites, i.e., how could God condone what appears to be cold blooded murder of men, women and children in Joshua 6? We've had some great studies together and the series has been well-received.
Monday, July 18, 2011
So apparently I haven't blogged in a couple months. And since my inbox and facebook hasn't blown up with people demanding I return there isn't a huge compulsion to do so today. However, I started this thing, darn it, and I need to be consistent.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
I John 2:15 says, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him." Read that again, slowly this time. You don't have to be a theologian to interpret that one. Pretty plain. John says very plainly that we are not to love the world, that if we do love it then the love of the Father is not in Him. Consider the implications of that verse. We can say that we love Jesus, that we've given Him our lives, all that stuff. But if I still love the world with the same fervor then the love of the Father isn't in me. This is why we must constantly guard our hearts, make sure that our joy is in Christ and not in the world. Because when we let the things of the world begin to take hold there's a problem.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
I read an article the other day about near tragedy that was averted in space. Seems that the men aboard the International Space Station had quite the close call. A piece of space junk came dangerously close to them; so close, in fact, that they considered rerouting the station's trajectory. Images of gigantic pieces of discarded technology came to mind as I tried to figure out what could be so serious that they would attempt an avoidance maneuver. And then I discovered the culprit--according to the story, what struck fear in the hearts of the astronauts in space and the controllers on the ground was a six inch piece of debris. That's right, six inches. Not six feet, not some unimaginably large piece of garbage; a little 6 inch piece of trash was enough to raise the specter of an avoidance maneuver. I'm not sure what all that would entail but I'm pretty sure that changing the trajectory of the space station is slightly more complicated than parallel parking my minivan.
Like me, you might be wondering, "Why make such a big deal about something so small?" And the reason is simple--this wasn't just a six inch long piece of garbage. It was a six inch long piece of garbage traveling at 5 miles per second. I'll give you a moment to try and wrap your noodle around that. That, as we say in the south, is putting the hammer down. The reason the astronauts were prepared for an avoidance maneuver wasn't because of the size of the object; it was because of the damage it could have caused.
And that's what really struck me about this story. For the sake of such a small piece of debris, they were willing to go to all the trouble of changing the flight path of the International Space Station. Seems like much ado about nothing--until you consider the damage this tiny piece of debris could have caused. In light of that, an avoidance maneuver would be the least they could do, right?
Now here's the point. The bible describes something that is even more dangerous, contains even more potential for damage than a lightening fast piece of space debris--sin. Sin kills, it maims, it destroys; it separates us from God, it hinders our walk and it ruins our testimonies. But we rarely treat it that way. Sure, we'll try and avoid the "big" sins. We won't run around on our wives--but in the secrecy of our homes, with a few clicks of a mouse we'll indulge the flesh with pornographic fantasies. We won't murder anyone--but we'll hold grudges and simmering anger deeply in our hearts and refuse to lay them aside.
You see, it doesn't take much sin to ruin us. In I Corinthians 5 Paul warned the church against this attitude. In vs6 he says, "Don't you know that just a little leaven leavens the whole lump?" The church was proud of their accepting attitude towards sin and sinners. And Paul says, "That's the wrong idea! Sin is dangerous, it has the potential to destroy you. Rather than embracing it, you need to be planning an avoidance maneuver!"
Just as the astronauts were willing to completely change the trajectory of the space station to avoid this tiny piece of debris, I need to be willing to do whatever it takes to avoid sin in my life. God hasn't called to be pretty good. He's called me to be holy. Because of the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross, and because I've surrendered to Him and turned from my sins, I am positionally holy. But God calls me to practical holiness, to living on the outside according to who He's made me to be on the inside. To be holy means I must shun sin, I must turn from it, I must always be ready for avoidance maneuvers. Doesn't mean I lock myself in my home and never leave. Means that I seek to avoid anything that could make me stumble into sin. And do that not so that I'll be holier than someone else or so I can earn God's favor. I do that so I can bring honor and glory to my Great King, to please the One who loved me and gave Himself for me. I encourage you, make sure that you don't overlook the danger of sin. Be ready with an avoidance maneuver. And spend each day in the pursuit of holiness--to the glory of our King.
Father, thank You for loving me and saving me. Keep the dangers of sin ever before me, and help me to continue to run to You for strength and wisdom to overcome sin. Help me be who You have created me to be, for Your honor and for Your glory. Amen.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Self-reliance is, as you might have imagined, relying on yourself. And in our culture its put forth as a virtue. "Believe in yourself", we are told; "trust in your heart"; "visualize the life you want to have and it will be yours." Now the problem with this is obvious--it leaves out Jesus. And rather than teaching self-reliance, the New Testament emphasizes a complete reliance on Jesus.
One of the most well known illustrations of this is found in 2 Corinthians 12. As Paul describes a struggle he has faced with a messenger from Satan, and his prayers that were offered to God seeking that this be removed, he reveals that God says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." God essentially says that only when confronted with our weaknesses do we run to Him for His power. And its crucial for us to take hold of this in our lives. The only way we learn to trust in the strength of God is by being forced to see that our own strength is insufficient; the only way I learn to rely on God is by the systematic destruction of self-reliance in my life. Paul goes on to say in vs10, "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Paul recognizes what God is telling Him. And he embraces it. He says, "Lord, if the only way to strip away self-reliance is by You demonstrating to me my own insufficiency, then I will glory in those times."
Now that might seem cruel. It might seem heartless that God would expose us to these types of situations. But rather than being cruel, it is actually a demonstration of the great love God has for us. You see, God wants what is best for us. And that doesn't mean He wants what we think is best for us but that He wants what He knows is best for us--and what is best for us is a life given over to bringing Him glory. And the only way this is accomplished is when our lives are devoid of self-reliance, when we boast gladly of our weaknesses, knowing that when we do so the power of Christ will rest upon us.
God loves us enough to put us through that sanctifying surgery, for lack of a better term, that strips away the reliance on self. And that's not an easy process. There is no general anesthesia for that surgery. But it's a worthwhile surgery. And the reason is this; the less I rely on myself, the more I rely on my Savior. That's huge for us because when we rely on ourselves we will do all we are capable of; when you "believe in yourself" you'll do all that 'yourself' is capable of. But when I rely on Jesus, I can do all things through the One who is giving me strength.
Now does this take away the pain of those times of insults, hardships or betrayals by friends? Of course not. But as a follower of Christ I must learn to embrace those things because I know that God is using them to destroy self-reliance.
Father, thank You for loving me, for saving me, and for committing to make me like You. Help me to see things through Your eyes rather than mine. Help me to remember the sufficiency of Your grace. And help me to glory in the fact that through times of hardship I am being made more like You. Amen.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I was struck by the simplicity of her question. To her 5 year old mind there was a simple classification for this character: either he was good or he was bad. That's the way the mind of a child works, isn't it? There are good people and there are bad people. There is right and there is wrong. There is black and there is white.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
I know those questions well. In August of 2007, Kelly and I moved back to Arkansas after pastoring in Oklahoma for 2 years. We had an incredible time there; the people at First Baptist Church in Wakita were amazing; they were patient with a 25 year old who knew nothing of how to shepherd a flock. They loved us and took care of us and we treasure the memories we made there. At the same time, we were excited about being close to family again. I was especially thrilled to be close to my grandmother again. Grandma practically raised me and I looked forward to being close to her again, and making sure that Lily had a great relationship with her great-grandmother. 2 weeks after coming back to Arkansas Grandma suffered a massive heart attack and died. To make matters worse, she died the night before I was to leave for a 10 day preaching trip to Kenya. There was no way I could attend her funeral. And in the days that followed I wondered, "Why would God do that? Couldn't He have waited until I got back? Couldn't He at least have let me be there for the funeral? Why did I only get 2 weeks with her? After all, I was serving Him the previous 2 years."
None of it made any sense to me. But what sustained me through that time, and what will sustain each of us through the tragedies of life, is knowing that even when things don't make sense to us they still make sense to God. Or said another way, "why?" is the wrong question to ask. The right question is, "Even though this doesn't make sense to me, does it make sense to God?" And please don't misunderstand; I'm not suggesting that we never go to our Father and tell Him we don't understand. I'm suggesting that what will sustain us as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death is not grasping for answers that we could probably never understand anyway. What will sustain us is knowing that even if I can't understand it, I serve a God who can. I serve a God who is able to work all things together for good. I serve a God who is able to use all things--even my times of heartbreak and despair--for His glory.
C.S. Lewis said, "...if God is wiser than we His judgment must differ from ours on many things...What seems to us good may therefore not be good in His eyes, and what seems to us evil may not be evil." The question in any time of tragedy is this; is God wiser than I? If the answer is no, then we despair without hope. But if the answer is yes then we despair-but with hope. We despair knowing that even in the midst of our heartbreak God is working out all things according to His sovereign goodness. That even if I'm facing something that I would never have chosen for myself, God has chosen it for me. And He is a Great and loving King, a King in whose hands I have placed my very eternity. And I've trusted Him with my future--I can trust Him with my present.
To those who mourn in times of tragedy I say, mourn. But not as those who have no hope. Cry for your loneliness and weep for the emptiness in your heart. But rejoice in a God who is so great that He is able to take unspeakable tragedies and work from them unspeakable goodness. There is no greater example than the cross of Christ. At Calvary, the Creator lay down His life for His creation. He died in their place, killed at their hands. Is there a greater tragedy than this? Morally, philosophically, is there a greater tragedy than a loving and benevolent Creator being murdered by those who created Him? And yet from this great tragedy comes great hope. For when Jesus arose victoriously from the grave, salvation was secured for all who would receive it. And if God is able to take the greatest tragedy and work from it the greatest miracle, the miracle of redemption, how much more can we trust Him to work out these light and momentary afflictions for His everlasting glory?
Father, thank You for being so much greater and wiser than we. Thank You for knowing all things and being surprised by nothing. Thank You for being so great and so amazing that You can take the heartbreak and tragedies we face and somehow work them out for Your eternal glory. Thank You for taking the greatest tragedy-the death of King Jesus-and using it to bring about redemption for all who will receive it. Comfort us when we mourn, strengthen us when we are weak, and help us to look to You for our joy, our comfort, and our peace. Amen.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Third, sometimes you won't catch anything. If you've fished very many times you know that there are times when you won't catch anything. Just the way that it works. But one thing I learned while fishing on farm ponds is this: where are they going to go? Think about it, if I go out fishing one afternoon and don't catch anything I don't have to get all upset about it. Where will the fish go? They aren't going to walk to another pond. I just have to be patient and keep fishing. In the same way, we need to understand that in evangelism, sometimes we won't catch anything. There are times when we preach the good news, share the gospel, just do the work of an evangelist--and nothing happens. And that's OK. Because saving them isn't our job, it's God's job. Our job is simply to cast the net of the gospel. It's the work of the Spirit to pull them to Himself. If someone refuses to hear the good news, don't despair. You'll get another chance with them.
Fourth, there's a mystery to catching fish. I love to fish with my dad. Nothing like spending time with him, talking, being encouraged, and catching fish. But at times it can be pretty frustrating fishing with him. He can cast to the exact same spot I did and while I didn't even get a bite, he'll catch the fish. I don't know how that works I just accept that there is a mystery to it. In the same way, we have to accept that there is a mystery to salvation. We can preach the gospel with all the eloquence in the world, present a clear plan of God's love and be completely rejected. Other times we can stumble and stammer, not thinking we're getting out a clear message at all--and God will use that to bring a sinner to repentance. There's a mystery to catching fish. And rather than trying to figure it all out, I choose to rest in the sovereignty of a God who loves me and gave Himself for me. A God who has chosen to set His affection on rebels and traitors and has guaranteed to His gospel will bring them to repentance.
Finally, anybody can catch a fish. Bill Dance can catch him some bass. Sometimes I think that guy could cast into a mud hole and pull out a seven pound bass. But you know what? I can catch a bass too. Maybe not as big, maybe not as frequently; but I can catch a fish. Know what else? Owen can catch a fish. I might have to help him cast, maybe help him reel it in; but if he gets that cricket in the water, the cork is going down. Here's the point; anybody can catch a fish. You don't have to be Bill Dance; and thankfully, you don't have to be Billy Graham either. The power isn't in the presentation or any of that stuff. The power is in the message. If we are faithful to preach the good news, and to live the good news; if we are faithful to take the opportunities God provides for us, we'll catch souls for the kingdom of God. Don't let what you perceive as your lack of abilities hinder you from being a fisher of men. Don't think you need a seminary degree to reach lost sinners. Share the eternal gospel of Jesus Christ and people will be saved.
Father, thank You for the gospel. Thank You for letting us take part in sharing that gospel with the world. Help us to be faithful to share it, to take every opportunity You give us to tell people about Jesus. Help us to clearly and passionately present Jesus to the world. And glorify Yourself through us. Amen.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Albert Pujols is one of the most recognizable names in pro sports. And in their book Pujols: More than the game, authors Scott Lamb and Tim Ellsworth seek to help the reader gain a better understanding of this sometimes controversial, always electrifying star slugger.
The book is heavy on statistics, all of which are presented with the purpose of illustrating Pujols’ dominance as a hitter. It’s also heavy on quotes, both from Pujols himself and from those who have crossed his path; coaches, teammates, and pastors, for example. However, this reliance on quotes makes the book read less like a biography and more like an extended Sports Illustrated story. Another glaring omission was a lack of photographs in the book. When I read a biography, especially of a current sports star, I enjoy seeing images from his/her life. This book had none. Now this doesn’t make the book unreadable by any means, but it should be noted by those considering it.
All in all, Pujols is an enjoyable read. And the authors do a commendable job of portraying the star as more than just a baseball player. In the words of the man himself, “Baseball is simply my platform to elevate Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.” Albert Pujols is presented as an admirable role model; for both his amazing baseball skills and his unwavering commitment to Jesus Christ. He is presented openly and honestly, with no attempt to cover up or make excuses for his mistakes and sometimes surly reputation. He’s an amazing man-he deserves an equally amazing biography. This is not it.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
This morning after breakfast Lily began to herd her brother and sister into the next room. She had decided that they were going to play school. Now that sounds innocent enough but let me explain something about Lily. When she decides that they're going to play school, they play school. She makes her brother and sister sit still, assigns them work, etc. In fact, this morning she even had a copy of the roll from her classroom and was going down it deciding who was going to charge their lunch, who brought their lunch, and who was eating the school lunch. She gets very serious about playing school-and playing most other games as well. So as she began to bark out orders I reminded her not to lose her cool if Emma and Owen didn't follow every rule. "It's just a game", I said. "Remember that the point is to have fun."
Remembering the reason for what we do is pretty important. If I fail to remember the reason why I'm doing something then I'm liable to do it for the wrong reason; or worse yet, I'm liable to do it the wrong way. And one thing God's word makes plain is that the right thing done the wrong way becomes the wrong thing.
Want proof? Psalm 51:16, "For You do not delight in sacrifice or I would give it; You will not be pleased with a burnt offering." Consider what David is saying. The sacrificial system which was given by God, which was at the very heart of Israel's identity as God's nation is essentially said to be worthless. Why? vs17: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." David's point? The outward action of sacrifices is worthless without the inward reality of remorse over sin and brokenness at having rebelled against the Great King. When the purpose of the action is forgotten, the action becomes worthless.
Here's another example. Remember the Pharisees? If anyone could please God by rule-keeping it was these guys, right? They had scrutinized the law to the point that they could tell you everything you should (or shouldn't) do in every situation. They were fastidious about their rule-keeping. Surely they would earn God's favor, right? Matt. 23:27-28, "“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." What a shot against their self-righteousness! Jesus just blasts them. Why? They forgot the purpose of the law. The purpose wasn't to give one a sense of self-righteousness but to utterly remove all traces of it. Rather than puff you up, the law tears you down. But somehow, they had missed that. When the purpose of the action is forgotten, the action becomes worthless.
What difference does all this make? Simply this: in my daily walk with Christ my eyes must not be on my actions; rather my eyes must be fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith. The purpose of the rules He gives isn't so I can feel self-righteous; it's so I can glorify Him in this world. How tragic that we take things that God has given us--things like reading His word and praying, things that can bring us closer to Him, make us more like Him, help us to glorify Him--and cheapen them putting them on a daily check list of self-righteousness. There's great danger in that. The moment I do that I'm simply playing at being a Christian rather than walking in the righteousness that Jesus has given me and resting in His finished work of redemption. I'm not reflecting the glory of my King, I'm trying to demonstrate my own goodness. And worst of all, I'm no longer enjoying the all-encompassing greatness of God. May we never play Christians-rather, may we be Christians.
Father, thank You for Your love. Thank You for Your patience. Help me to remember the reason why You call me to serve You. Not so that I can glory in my own righteousness, but so that I can glory in the imputed righteousness of Jesus, that Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. Thank You for Your salvation and help me to rest in it rather than try to add to it. Amen.
Monday, February 7, 2011
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Regular readers of MacArthur's work will once again be engaged by his exhaustive and scrupulous attention to detail, as well as his in depth overview of the slave culture at the time the New Testament was written. Readers who are new to his work might be a bit overwhelmed at first but the information is presented clearly. This isn't a book that is written just for pastors or theologians; it's a book that is written for every Christian. MacArthur labors to help his readers understand the implications of being a slave of Christ rather than simply His servant.
I found this book very informative and very challenging. His premise is a simple one: "To be a Christian is to be a slave to Christ." He understands the controversial nature of this term in our culture but in his direct style, he confronts this head on. He contends that in order to properly understand our relationship with Christ, and our relationship to the Father, we must take on the mantle of a slave. However, I felt that this book could have been several chapters shorter and made the point more clearly. Some chapters feel like they were tacked on at the end, perhaps in an attempt to lengthen the manuscript. They're informative and enjoyable to read, but at times I struggled to see how they fit with the overall theme of the book.
Slave is a challenging book. The truth it contains is as vital as MacArthur presents it to be, and it should benefit anyone who would read it.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255