Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Well this is my last post on Beholding and Becoming. Time has become an issue and I feel that things have simply run their course. Another reason is that I have decided to begin a new blog that for me will be less time intensive and will match an ongoing passion of mine (unlike the writing here that has alternated between spurts and dry spells).

You can find it at http://www.redeemedbookworm.blogspot.com/

I want to say thanks to all three of my readers, its been a lot of fun and I hope you'll come with me to Redeemed Bookworm.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Quotes for the Week

"Satan shall not need to tempt him much who has already tempted himself. He who will work sin in his heart, a weak occasion will draw it out into his life."
- Obadiah Sedgwick, The Anatomy of Secret Sins.

"If we really believed that porn and gosspip were based on lies that don't satisfy, we wouldn't participate in them. Sin lies to us. We need to get in the habit of talking back with the truth."
- Jonathan Dodson, Fight Clubs, 16.

"I have a peaceful study, as a refuge from the hurries and noise of the world around me; the venerable dead are waiting in my library to entertain me, and relieve me from the nonsense of surviving mortals."
- Samuel Davies

Monday, September 14, 2009


A review of Fight Clubs by Jonathan Dodson

This is the biggest little book I've ever read. I wish every author could cram this much pure awesomeness into so few pages. So much richness and power in fifty pages is rare.

The core of this book is a call to live the Gospel. Far too often discipleship focuses on the wrong thing. And Dodson points out how often accountability groups break down into coddling or legalism. I don't think its just accountability groups by the way, I think these tendencies exist in all forms of discipleship.

But Dodson calls us away from legalism and coddling to what he calls Gospel-centered Discipleship. The answer to the dangers of coddling and legalism is to recover Gospel motivations in our discipleship. Think of obedience based on delight in Jesus compared to legalism which looks at Jesus from afar only to discover examples of moral behavior, not to rejoice and delight in Him. Next we believe in both the promises and warnings of scripture. Drawn on ahead by the mind-blowing promises of God and prodded from behind by the warnings of a Holy God. Then there is the Gospel itself, which is both message (the report of the Good News which saves) and medium (the Person Jesus who purchased our salvation). Jesus has promised us that He will bring us to the end of our fight. There is also the call to begin and live the Christian life in repentance and faith. All of life is turning from sin and exercising faith in Jesus. faith that He will forgive and strengthen. Last in the motivation department Dodson points us to our need to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit and to depend on the strength that the indwelling Spirit provides. He makes the compelling point that even Jesus obeyed int he power of the Holy Spirit.

Dodson closes with a stirring call to fight our sin in what he calls Fight Clubs. These are groups of two or three people (of the same gender) who meet to help each other fight their sin. These Fight Clubs have three rules. 1] Know your sin, 2] Fight your sin, 3] Trust your savior. I personally felt challenged to recommit myself to mt accountability partners.

All in all a great little book. *****

PS - you can buy it or download it for free at http://www.theresurgence.com/

PPS - there are some great Fight Club questions in an appendix that address the motivations of the heart instead of external behavior only - very helpful.

How Great Thou Art - Stuart K. Hine

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim: my God, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Jerry Bridges starts his book the Gospel for Real Life by making two points. The Gospel is for believers not just unbelievers. And that believers must preach the Gospel to themselves everyday. So in terms of his first goal of convincing us that we as believers need the Gospel - he does this admirably and movingly. As for the second goal of teaching us how to preach the Gospel to ourselves, well I think the verdict is mixed. I think that I now better understand how the Gospel applies to my day to day life, but I’m not sure that I better understand how to preach the Gospel to myself. There was no point where he stopped and said, ok we’ve talked about propitiation here’s how you would preach that to yourself in this particular situation. It just wasn’t there. But I feel challenged to live the Gospel, to live in light of the Gospel, and I feel inspired to preach the Gospel to myself.

But his central argument is absolutely correct. That too many Christians feel that the Gospel is how we get saved and is the message that we share with others so they can be saved, but it is has no lasting impact on how we live. This view certainly has some truth in it, the Good News that Jesus has died to atone for sins and that we can benefit savingly through repentance and faith, certainly this is the message that we need to saved and that others need to hear so that they can be saved. But Bridges is right to tell us there is more to the Gospel than a simple ticket to heaven. The Gospel shapes how we live and is our motivation for Christian living.

But I want to highlight two chapters that highlighted for me the importance and impact of the Gospel. First is The Empty Cup which was an explanation of the Bible’s teaching on how Jesus absorbed wrath of God for us. This truth that God has no wrath left for us should change how we live. We need not walk around obsessed with whether God is mad at us for our sins, instead we should embrace this truth, confess our sins, and get back to serving our Lord. Because if we live defeated lives consumed with this kind of fear, we will not be faithful to our God. Embrace this truth, God has no wrath left for His children, Jesus took it all.

The second chapter I want to highlight is The Scapegoat. This chapter hearkens back to Leviticus 16. Where the sin offering is made on the day of atonement with two goats. One goat is slaughtered to atone for sins pointing to Jesus atoning work on the cross. The second goat was sent away to a remote place, this pictured a work of Jesus that is too often forgotten, Jesus bore our sins away. We have no more sin to feel guilty about. Remember the promise in Psalm 103:12 - as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. They are removed from us. Once we have come to Jesus we have no more sin to make us feel defeated and guilty. It has been punished and carried away.

So now we are free to make these objective truths subjectively real. We must remember we do not fight the fight of holiness to be saved or to earn God’s favor or to make Him love us. We fight this fight for His glory, for our joy, and for the good of the Kingdom. So lets take the Gospel truths and remind our weak hearts each day what our might King Jesus has done for us.

Thank you Jerry Bridges for another awesome book, you are a Pastor to many of us.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Quotes for the Week

“The outcome of the great war is not in question. It is certain. Christ will reign victoriously forever. The only question we must answer is this: Will we fight on His side or against Him? We must answer this question not just once, with our words, but daily, with our choices.”
- Randy Alcorn, Heaven, 103.

“Nothing can be more evident than the fact that in the sight of God our sins are incomparably more numerous, aggravated, and criminal than they appear to us. He regards us as deserving of an endless punishment, while we scarcely perceive that we deserve any punishment at all.”
- Edward Payson, Sins Evaluated by the Light of Heaven.

“Oh, What dreadful atheism is bound up in that man’s heart, who is more afraid of the eye of his father, his pastor, his child, his servant than he is of the eye, the presence of the Lord.”
- Thomas Brooks, The Privy Key of Heaven.

“Clearly, millions of our neighbors believe that moralism is our message. Nothing less than the boldest preaching of the Gospel will suffice to correct this impression and to lead sinners to salvation in Christ.”
- Albert Mohler, Why Moralism Is Not the Gospel - - And Why So Many Christians Think It Is (from a blog post)

“Our original sinfulness and natural inclination to evil are seldom sufficiently considered. The wickedness of men is often attributed to bad examples, bad company, peculiar temptations, or the snares of the devil. It seems forgotten that every man carries within him a fountain of wickedness. We need no bad company to teach us, and no devil to tempt us, in order to run into sin. We have within us the beginning of every sin under Heaven.”
- J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Mark, 142.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Fear is an enemy to be conquered. This is a central thrust of this book. Fear is something that a Christian doesn’t have to live with and shouldn’t live with. Lucado spends 14 chapters addressing specific areas of fear that the Bible directly addresses. He does this in each chapter by taking specific commands from Jesus to be not afraid or fear not and applying them to our lives.

Lucado has a reputation of being a writer of fluff. I was told as a young Christian that his books would be a big help as a young Christian but I would need to move on to meatier books as I grew. Now there is an element of truth in this, but its not because of Lucado being a fluff artist. Rather it is because his audience is not bible scholars, it is the everyday Christian who is needs a word from the Lord that can be easily digested and applied to their lives. If you come looking for deep intricate theology you won’t find it, he doesn’t mean for us to find it.

But this is also his strength, because in this book he very clearly and accurately diagnoses many areas where Christians struggle with fear. So if fear is a struggle for you, you will find some help here. He addresses fear accurately and memorably. However, I do have a few quibbles.

There should have been more Gospel focus. The Gospel was presented in this book, however it was not consistently shown as the greatest reason to be courageous and have no fear. All the direction given was true and helpful, but it is the Gospel that most banishes fear from our lives. Also there could have been cohesion in the chapters - other than the topic of fear I found no connectivity from one chapter to the next. I guess if you like to bounce around in a book that would be a plus. My last complaint is a minor personal annoyance - why did he have to use a different translation for every Bible quotation. Now he wasn’t at Rick Warren levels, but it did get a little annoying.

Overall, good book, worth reading for new believers, and yes for all of us who struggle with fear.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Mighty Fortress - Martin Luther

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Quotes for the Week

"Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possible can."
- Jonathan Edwards, Resolutions.

"Anyone who has been in foreign lands longs to return to his own native land . . . We regard paradise as our native land." - Cyprian

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday's Hymn

God moves in a mysterious way - William Cowper

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Quotes for the Week

"Have you never thus led others into sin? Perhaps some, who are now lost forever, may be lamenting in outer darkness and despair the fatal hour when they became acquainted with you."
- J. G. Pike, Persuasives to Early Piety.

“All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it, or else, that it was written your reach and you have lost it forever.”
- C. S. Lewis, Problem of Pain, 147.

"There seems to be a kind of conspiracy, to forget, or to conceal, where the doctrine of Hell comes from. The doctrine of Hell is not 'mediaeval priestcraft' for frightening people into giving money to the church: it is Christ's deliberate judgment on sin . . . We cannot repudiate Hell without altogether repudiating Christ."
- Dorothy Sayers, A Matter of Eternity, 86.

"A Christ-centered church is not a showcase for saints but a hospital for sinners."
- Randy Alcorn, Heaven, 35.

Monday, August 24, 2009


After the greatness that is Perelandra, That Hideous Strength feels like a knuckle-curve thrown from left-field. I mean the Space Trilogy’s concluding volume is set on earth and Merlin is one of its heroes. It was a good book, just a little unexpected; I’m told its due to the increasing influence of Charles Williams on Lewis.

But the most intriguing aspect of the story (to me) was the character Mark Studdock. He is a professor at the fictional college in the story and he has just become a member of the inner circle of faculty who really run the college. The odd thing is that he doesn’t actually seem to like the members of the Inner Circle, but he craves being accepted by them. It comes out in the book that he has abandoned one set of people after another, always trying to climb into higher and higher "inner circles." This is how he gets sucked into N.I.C.E., who are the real villains of the piece. Only after he has lost everything does he come to his senses and get his priorities straight. To his credit (what little he can be given) he is offered a chance to get back in and although tempted he refuses.

I think this temptation to want to be in the Inner Circle is universal, though maybe not as pronounced as in the case of Mark Studdock. If you’ve ever felt the thrill of a shared secret, passion, or hobby then you know what I’m talking about. Think of the camaraderie that comes immediately; think of the new dynamic that is created. I remember in high school there was a guy that I didn’t have much use for and he felt the same way. Then one day we discovered that we were both addicted to boxing and suddenly we were talking like old friends or a couple of chicks gushing about shopping (sorry about the stereotype). Something new had been created. Suddenly there was an "us" and a "them." Those who knew the thrill of a right-hook landing flush and those who didn’t (or couldn’t – the Inner Circle creates arrogance as well). He and I, and those who were missing out.

There is a danger of this happening to our Christian faith. With our churches, the danger is that "us and them" dynamic. With small churches, that danger is compounded by the consolidation of power in Inner Circles and the ability to know everyone well. But there is a danger for individuals as well. It can come by way of a fascination with a doctrine that has captivated us and then discovering a kindred spirit who shares this love. Instead of a doctrine, it could also be an author or particular book. But suddenly there is an "us" who loves so and so and "all those other putzes" who really should acknowledge the greatness of our doctrine/hero/view.

Why is this so bad for a Christian? The "us" and "them" circles inside the church hinder the Christian fellowship that is supposed to transcend all barriers. And circles that become Inner Circles undermine the Gospel itself. Inner Circles are exclusive by definition, but the Gospel demands that church be wide-open to receive all who repent and believe in Jesus. The Inner Circle is dangerous and seductive and must be fought.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday's Hymn (kind of a hymn)

All My Tears

When I go don't cry for me,
In my Father's arms I'll be
The wounds this world left on my soul
Will all be healed and I'll be whole.
Sun and moon will be replaced
With the light of Jesus' face
And I will not be ashamed,
For my Savior knows my name

It don't matter where you bury me,
I'll be home and I'll be free
It don't matter where I lay,
All my tears be washed away.

Gold and silver blind the eye,
Temporary riches lie
Come and eat from heaven's store,
Come and drink and thirst no more

It don't matter where you bury me,
I'l be home and I'll be free
It don't matter where I lay,
All my tears be washed away

So weep not for me my friends,
When my time below does end
For my life belongs to Him,
Who will raise the dead again.

It don't matter where you bury me,
'Cause I'll be home and I'll be free.
It don't matter where I lay,
All my tears be washed away

Oooh, it don't matter.....
Ooooh, it don't matter

(From Jars of Clay's Good Monsters album)

Friday, August 21, 2009


Perelandra is my favorite C. S. Lewis book. In my less than humble opinion it is also his best. It covers some of the same ground that he covers in his non-fiction, but in the hands of a truly great writer story makes truth shine in neon unforgettable lights. And this is what Lewis does in Perelandra. And the scene where Ransom realizes that his antagonist Weston has become more and less than a man is particularly momentous.

This is the second book of the Space Trilogy preceded by Out of the Silent Planet and followed by That Hideous Strength. In the first book Ransom travels to Mars (Malacandra) and finds intelligent life there. Now he has been sent on a mission by the Eldila (angels, kind of) to do something on the planet Venus (Perelandra). There he meets the Queen who is living in perfect ignorance of evil, she relates naturally with Maleldil (Jesus). Then shortly a spaceship lands bearing Weston, Ransom’s antagonist from the first book. Quickly it becomes clear that he and Weston will do combat for the Lady’s future and for the future of all her children (she and the King have no children yet). She has been forbidden the fixed land but given freedom to live on the floating islands. Weston spends the book seeking to convince her to sleep on the fixed land against the command of Maleldil whereas Ransom urges her to obey the command. During the course of this long argument Ransom becomes aware that Weston is not quite Weston. There is one moment in particular when all clears up.

This is the moment when Ransom comes face to face with pure unadulterated evil. A thing which he describes in such a way that it sent chills down my spine and a bit of unease with the world that I live in. Ransom had come upon Weston using a long wickedly sharp fingernail to disembowel a frog-like creature. And this is the moment when he realizes that Weston is no longer Weston, that this thing only resembles a man, that Weston is no longer in that body, that it is being preserved undecaying but without true life in it. Then when it realized that Ransom had caught it in its evil . . .

“It looked at Ransom in silence and at last began to smile. We have all often spoke – Ransom himself had often spoken – of a devilish smile. Now he realized that he had never taken the words seriously. The smile was not bitter, nor raging, nor, in an ordinary sense sinister; it was not even mocking. It seemed to summon Ransom, with horrible naiveté of welcome, into the world of its own pleasures, as if all men were at one in those pleasures, as if they were the most natural thing in the world and no dispute could ever have occurred about them. It was not furtive, nor ashamed, it had nothing of the conspirator in it. It did not defy goodness, it ignored it to the point of annihilation. Ransom perceived that he had never before seen anything but half-hearted and uneasy attempts at evil. This creature was whole-hearted. The extremity of its evil had passed beyond all struggle into some state which bore a horrible similarity to innocence. It was beyond vice as the lady was beyond virtue.” 110-111

Weston isn’t quite Weston anymore. He is being indwelt by an entity of pure unbridled evil. What we would probably call demon possession/oppression. And this set me thinking about what it would be like to come face to face with evil. My first thought would of a vindictive schemer. But Lewis paints a very different picture. Hear Lewis again . . .

Indeed no imagined horror could have surpasses the sense which grew within him as the slow hours passed, that this creature was, by all human standards, inside out – its heart on the surface and its shallowness at the heart. On the surface, great designs and an antagonism to Heaven which involved the fate of worlds: but deep within, when every veil had been pierced, was there, after all, nothing but a black puerility, an aimless empty spitefulness content to sate itself with the tiniest cruelties, as love does not disdain the smallest kindness? 123

At the bottom of this evil is a simple cruel desire to make others suffer. It is not a grand plan to storm Heaven. But, rather simply to wreak as much havoc as it can for as long as it can. According to Lewis then, evil is rebellion for the sheer joy of rebellion. I’m sure that that’s not all there is to say about the nature of evil, but this is surely more Biblical than Dante’s noble devil. Now I want to close with a last and most chilling account of the Unman (as Ransom called him) . . .

'But this is very foolish,' said the Un-man. 'Do you not know who I am?

''I know what you are,' said Ransom. 'Which of them doesn't matter.'

'And you think, little one,' it answered, that you can fight with me? You think He will help you, perhaps? Many thought that. I've known Him longer than you, little one. They all think He's going to help them -- till they come to their senses screaming recantations too late in the middle of the fire, mouldering in concentration camps, writhing under saws, jibbering in mad-houses, or nailed on to crosses. Could He help Himself?' -- and the creature suddenly threw back its head and cried in a voice so loud that it seemed the golden sky-roof must break, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani.

'And the moment it had done so, Ransom felt certain that the sounds it had made were perfect Aramic of the first century. The Un-man was not quoting; it was remembering. These were the very words spoken from the Cross, treasured through all those years in the burning memory of the outcast creature which had heard them, and now brought forward in hideous parody; the horror made him momentarily sick.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Quotes for the Week

"One of the greatest frustrations in the Christian ministry, and a principle cause of "weariness in well doing," is the inability to calculate the spiritual outcome of faithful labors in the work of the Lord. For this reason we must be cautious in putting too much stock in what we often call "visible results." We serve a Sovereign God who has promised that His Word will not return void. The ultimate harvest is assured, but it will only come "at the proper time," that is in God's own good time."
- Timothy George, Galatians (NAC), 426.

"A person cannot claim to accept the Gospel and the obligations that come with it and at the same time live in obedience to the flesh instead of the Spirit."
Ronald Y. K. Fung, The Epistle to the Galatians (NICNT), 294.

"I suspect, however, that the more basic reason we avoid or ignore the idea of God's wrath is that we simply don't think of our sinfulness as warranting the degree of judgment inferred by the expression."
- Jerry Bridges, The Gospel for Real Life, 49.

“All the simplicity in the world can do no good, unless you preach the simple gospel of Jesus Christ so fully and clearly that everybody can understand it. If ‘Christ crucified’ has not His rightful place in your sermons, and sin is not exposed as it should be, and your people are not plainly told what they ought to believe, and be, and do — your preaching is of no use!”
- J. C. Ryle, The Upper Room, 54.

“Jesus gives his bride full liberty to take all that He has to be their own; He loves them to help themselves freely to His treasure and appropriate as much as they can possibly carry. The boundless fullness of His all-sufficiency is as free to the believer as the air he breathes.”
- Charles Spurgeon, Morning By Morning, 190.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing - Hymn for Sunday

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!

My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of Thy name.

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’Tis life, and health, and peace.

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

Friday, August 14, 2009


When I was in High School I took a semester of JROTC (which Edna lovingly refers to as the Pickle Patrol; she has a song and everything). Now, toward the end of that semester we went on a run up a long hill. Some of us started struggling (I know what some of you are thinking; it wasn’t me. I was in good shape at this point of my life. I even broke the JROTC record for sit-ups in a minute) and our Sergeant yelled that we were whining like a bunch of girls, and that if we were in the real military we would have been running with 120 lb. backpacks on. At the time that made me feel really impressed with our soldiers and it also convinced me that I just might not be cut out for the military.

But that idea has stuck with me. That image of men in camouflage running with elephant sized backpacks on their backs still strikes me as heroic. But this week I’ve been studying Hebrews 11.39-12.2 and there we are told to lay aside every weight that hinders. And I’m just guessing, but a huge backpack would probably be a little bit of a hindrance.

I also have a competing image in my head. It’s of my college roommate, Phil. You see, Phil was a cross country runner, and a good one. He ate slept and breathed running. Cold or heat, rain or shine, Phil put on his shiny short shorts and ran for about a hundred miles everyday.

As I compare the images, the soldier with the huge backpack and Phil with his short shorts, it really is striking because the call in Hebrews 12.1 is to run with endurance. And I’ve got to tell you, if I needed someone to run thirty miles carrying medicine to my sick daughter, I’m taking Phil in his short shorts. The reason is that Phil doesn’t have the hindrance of that big backpack. He can run freely and swiftly and with endurance.

So we’re called like Phil to run with endurance. This isn’t a sprint. We have to be committed to the long haul, so like Phil we have to travel light. We need lay aside anything that might slow us down or keep us from finishing altogether. As I’ve prepared to preach, I’ve really wrestled with how to apply this challenge, and it has been a struggle since we are not talking about things that are inherently sinful (that’s easier - stop sinning). This is something that is intensely personal. What hinders me from running for Jesus, you might laugh at. But I want to give two examples that I think are pretty general.

Sports is a common preoccupation for Americans, especially American males. We love us some football. And there was a time in my life where I was downright obsessed with football. I watched the NFL network like a thirsty man drinking from an oasis. And when my Patriots played in those Superbowls, it was an internal war because everything in me screamed that I should skip the evening service to watch the game (I didn’t by the way, Dad taped them for me). It was an unhealthy preoccupation that is certainly not unique to me, Think of all the men you know who spend all day watching a NASCAR race. Or the man who goes to the golf course five times a week now that he’s retired but doesn’t have time for church activities.

Or how about TV? And I don’t just mean the sensual nonsense that we shouldn’t be watching on principle. Think about the sheer amount of hours that we spend watching TV instead of playing with our kids or sharing our faith, or hanging out with other Christians, or going out and doing ministry. If you want to get convicted, put a post it note under your clicker and add the hours for just one week. It will startle you. How many of the hours should have been spent running after Jesus?

I think that far too many Christians are choosing to put those 120 lb. backpacks on and then trying to run for Jesus with these burdens slowing us down. Instead we have to look at Phil. We need to get up early like Phil, put on our shiny spiritual short shorts and run with endurance for Jesus.

BTW - I still love football, but I don’t watch every second of the draft like I used to. Having a whole NFL network seems excessive to me now, and I limit how many games I watch. Oh, and the Patriots will return to the Superbowl this year. And when they do I’ll enjoy watching the tape on Monday.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Plan Your Run with Jesus: A Fall Challenge Care of John Piper

(This is from a John Piper Sermon on Hebrews 11.39-12.2)

Rather, all of us should listen and obey. Here's what I would suggest. Between now and Labor Day, pick a day or a half day and get away by yourself - away from the house, the phone, the beeper, the TV, the radio and all other people. Take a Bible and a pad of paper and plan your fall run with Jesus.

On that pad of paper note the entangling sins. Note the seemingly innocent weights and encumbrances that are not condemned explicitly in the Bible, but which you know are holding you back in the race for faith and love and strength and holiness and courage and freedom. Note the ways you subtly make provision for these hindrances (Romans 13:14): the computer games, the hidden alcohol or candy, the television, the videos, the pull-tab stop on the way home, the magazines, the novels. In addition, note the people that weaken you. Note the times that are wasted, thrown away.

When you have made all these notations, pray your way through to a resolve and a pattern of dismantling these encumbrances, and resisting these sins, and breaking old, old habits. And don't rise up against the Bible at this point and say, "I can't change." It is an assault on God if you read Hebrews 12:1 and go away saying: "It can't happen. Hindrances can't be removed. Sins can't be laid aside." God has not spoken this command for nothing. And this entire book is written to undergird these practical commands. So go back and read the book and ask God to take all the glorious truth that is here (about the superiority of Christ, and the power of his death and resurrection, and the effectiveness of his intercession for you) and make this truth explosive with life-changing power. Carry some of the story to your small group and get them to pray for you. Find someone you trust and ask them to check in with you and support you. That is what Hebrews 3:12-13 says we should do. Don't drift from this moment into this Sunday afternoon. Before this day is over choose a day or a half-day and get away to plan your fall run with Jesus.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Quotes for the Week

"The church's worst enemy is the man of little faith within its membership, not the faithless man of the world."
- Iain Murray, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 185.

“Let us be very careful that we never exalt any minister, or sermon, or book, or tract, or friend above the Word. Cursed be that book, or tract, or human counsel, which creeps in between us and the Bible, and hides the Bible from our eyes!”
- J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion, 137.

"We can begin each day with the deeply encouraging realization that I am accepted by God, not on the basis of my personal performance, but on the basis of the infinitely perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ."
- Jerry Bridges, The Gospel for Real Life, 18.

"There would be absolutely no benefit to us if Jesus merely lived and died as a private person. It is only because He lived and died as our representative that His work becomes beneficial to us."
- Jerry Bridges, The Gospel for Real Life, 37.

Monday, August 10, 2009


I have always wrestled with the old problem of secular versus Christian music. It is hard to articulate why we must avoid all secular music and this has left me confused even as I threw away all my Pearl Jam and Korn CD’s. Then at other times, I swing in the other direction and thank God as the giver of artistic gifts. He certainly would not want us to avoid a gift that He has given (as long as it does not lead to sin). When music is done with excellence and beauty I struggle to reject it, unless what is advocated is clearly sinful and offensive.

Now I don’t want to come off as some Christian culture snob, looking down my nose at Christian culture. For example, some Christian music is so cheesy that it is absolutely unpalatable. This is also true of some secular music however. And I do want to be clear before I go further, the absolute optimum in music for me is music done in excellence but that also honors the Lord in how it deals with whatever it happens to deal with.

But I wonder why have this weird relationship in the arena of music and no where else. I mean, I know Christians who would never listen to secular music who watched Sex and the City and R-rated movies. This seems kind of schizophrenic to me. So why do we put music in this special class, with its own special restrictions? I came up with three reasons.

First, I have heard some say that music has a unique ability to penetrate the heart without having to fight the barriers the mind would throw up. And I think there is some legitimacy to this. I think my love of Live (the band) contributed to my fascination with eastern religions in High School. But I don’t think that the case is quite as strong as some make out. I knew what Ed Kowalczyk believed and what he was saying. So it didn’t slip past anything, he just made it seem cool. The problem I think has to do more with our celebrity culture than to any heart espionage.

I also think that some confusion in a whole other arena has led to this problem. You see, nobody thinks of TV as worship, few go to the movies with their only intention being to worship. Yet this is what we have done with music. In many Christian circles worship has come to mean music. But in the Bible it is clear that while music is a terribly important form of worship, all of life is to be worship. It is not just those few songs we sing before the sermon. It is how we conduct ourselves at work, how we treat our families. It is also how we spend our time with the Lord, and yes, it involves music. But the problem comes when music is thought of only as worship. When this happens music that is not for the purpose of worship is seen as a perversion of worship. This is unhealthy and misleading.

Last, and probably least important, we are just flat out uncomfortable with the world. We don’t know how to relate to it. We are unsure what is acceptable and healthy, and what is seductive and unhealthy. And it is certainly better to be cautious than reckless. So I want to close by saying that if you disagree with me and think that all secular music is bad, well that’s ok. Do not sin against your conscience on my account. But do think about all the other common grace gifts we appreciate even when they come from non-Christians.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


There is a Fountain - William Cowper
There is a fountain fill'd with blood,
Drawn from Emmanuel's veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there have I, as vile as he,
Wash'd all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransom'd church of God
Be saved, to sin no more.

E'er since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


I wanna run away
Never say goodbye
I wanna know the truth
Instead of wondering why
I wanna know the answers
No more lies
I wanna shut the door
And open up my mind

These lyrics are from Linkin Park’s song ‘Runaway’. And in my mind they are some of the saddest lyrics I’ve ever heard. These words (especially with the passion they are sung with) reveal a real longing for truth. They seem to have come to a realization that our world is missing something. However like all of fallen mankind they look in the wrong place.

As Romans 3 says there are none who seek God. Even if we diagnose the problem accurately that we have a need for truth, we always look in the wrong place, we never seek God. And this is where one of our culture’s biggest mistakes comes in. We encourage people to look inward for the only truth that matters. However, we have also redefined truth so that it is personal and relative, as opposed to universal and absolute. Or as we hear it more often, you have your truth and I have mine. So then there isn’t even any real truth to find.

So people are told to look inward for answers. But this on face value seems insane to me. If I’ve been struggling for answers why on earth would I look inward, if I’m struggling apparently I don’t have the answers. So we are encouraged to make up our own answers, no matter what we may call it, at that point we are no longer searching for truth. We are left simply trying pacify our consciences.

So since I started with Linkin Park lyrics I though I would answer with Project 86 lyrics.

Outside you there's a remedy
Inside you is an enemy
This twist (this twist) of irony
Can I say you were ever a friend to me?
(Just like we promised)
And you know it was never a lie
The fallen son that bought our freedom
Is the I, the I that had to die

Here we see a much more Biblical and realistic picture of the world we live in. Because we have broken and fallen hearts, as Project 86 says there is only an enemy inside. We cannot trust our own hearts. Our hearts long for all the wrong things. Our hearts will unerringly lead us astray. So as the first line says we must look outside ourselves for the remedy, for our solution can only be found there. Well then, where do we look outside ourselves? Clearly the Christian answer is going to be that we look at God’s Word. It is inerrant, it has no errors and when it is understood it will never lead astray. It is also inspired, in the sense that it comes from God Himself through the personality of human authors without being contaminated by them. So when we hold the Bible in our hands we hold the very Words of God, His perfect guidance for how to come to know Him and how to live in a manner that pleases Him. This is the truth that is the answer to the screams of Linkin Park and our entire generation.

But how sad is it that so many Christians in this free land fall back on listening to their hearts simply because they do not know the Word. We have enfeebled ourselves by neglecting a great gift from our God. I fear that we deserve the confusion and chaos of our lives. And it is much uglier for us who know Christ. Linkin Park doesn’t where to find the truth. We do, yet we do not look there. How pathetic.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


My brethren, this is a lesson for us; let us never reckon that we have learned a doctrine till we have seen its bearing upon our lives. Whatever we discover in God’s word, let us pray the Holy Spirit to make us feel the sanctifying influence of it. You know not a man because you recognize his features, you must also know his spirit, and so the mere acquaintance with the letter of truth is of small account — you must feel its influence and know its tendency. There are some brethren who are so enamored of doctrine that no preacher will content them unless he gives them over and over again clear statements of certain favourite truths: but the moment you come to speak of practice they fight shy of it at once, and either denounce the preacher as being legal, or they grow weary of that which they dare not contradict. Let it never be so with us. Let us follow up truth to its practical “therefore.” Let us love the practice of holiness as much as the belief of the truth; and, though we desire to know, let us take care when we know that we act according to the knowledge, for if we do not our knowledge itself will become mischievous to us, will involve us in responsibilities, but will bring to us no effectual blessing. Let everyone here who knoweth aught, now pray God to teach him float he would have him to do, as the consequence of that knowledge.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Quote's for the Week

“There is no royal road to a knowledge of the Bible. There must be patient, daily, systematic reading of the Book, or the Book will not be known.”
- J. C. Ryle

"There he is at five in the morning . . . . on his knees with his English Bible, his Greek New Testament and Henry's Commentary spread out before him. He reads a portion in the English, gains a fuller insight into it as he studies words and tenses in the Greek and then considers Matthew Henry's explanation of it all. Finally, there comes the unique practice that he has developed: that of 'praying over every line and word' of both the English and the Greek till the passage, in its essential message, has veritably become part of his own soul."
- Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, I:82-83.

“Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are. When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord.”
- Charles Spurgeon

“When we preach Christ crucified, we have no reason to stammer, or stutter, or hesitate, or apologize; there is nothing in the gospel of which we have any cause to be ashamed.”
- Charles H. Spurgeon

“Christ wins our salvation through losing, achieves power through weakness and service, comes to wealth via giving all away. And those who receive his salvation are not the strong and accomplished but those who admit they are weak and lost.”
- Timothy Keller, Gospel Christianity, 2.

“Everything good that God has made and that God sustains is ruined when it is not done in reliance on God’s grace and in pursuit of God’s glory”.
- John Piper, Finally Alive, 58.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Great Hymn

Soldiers of Christ, in truth arrayed,
A world in ruins needs your aid:
A world by sin destroyed and dead;
A world for which the Savior bled.

His Gospel to the lost proclaim,
Good news for all in Jesus’ Name;
Let light upon the darkness break
That sinners from their death may wake.

Morning and evening sow the seed,
God’s grace the effort shall succeed.
Seedtimes of tears have oft been found
With sheaves of joy and plenty crowned.

We meet to part, but part to meet
When earthly labors are complete,
To join in yet more blest employ,
In an eternal world of joy.

Basil Manly, 1860

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Last night after watching Deadliest Catch (seriously the only episode I missed this season was during Vacation Bible School and since they show the previous weeks episode before the new one I got caught up last night) I saw the first half of a new show showed called the Colony. It’s like some kind of post apocalyptic Survivor. They are put into a fake environment set up as if the whole world has been decimated by a viral epidemic and now these ten people have to try and find a way to survive for ten weeks. I found several problems with this show that I think will keep me from watching it, but also from even taking it seriously.

First it felt like environmentalist propaganda. They acted like the catastrophe is so close now that we have to be taught how to survive when it happens, you know, next week. I get all kinds of suspicions when people do this sort of thing. It reminds me of that movie that came out a couple of years back called The Day after Tomorrow, and another new show called Life after people. I always get the feeling that the people behind these sorts of things like the environment a lot more than they like people. Like we’re parasites destroying something beautiful rather than people made in the image of God obeying His command to multiply, fill, subdue, and have dominion over the earth (Gen. 1.28)

Second the blatant fakeness of the show just annoyed me. They were given this huge building to live in. In this building they found all kinds of stuff that they needed. As they searched the building they found working motors, brand new power tools, tons of car batteries, a shiny new alternator, oh and a truck. What are the odds of finding all this stuff in an old abandoned warehouse? Then there are the people themselves. Everyone one of them was handpicked for a specialty they have. For example they have three different kinds of engineers, a machinist, and a handy man who is the handiest handy man I’ve ever seen. These are just the ones I noticed in the thirty minutes I watched.

Lastly, I want to mention the only thing that I found interesting in the show. This was the way the handyman and the engineers relate to one another. The three engineers started working on what seemed like rather implausible projects while the handyman voiced some concerns. An argument ensued and the handyman was told to leave the work space. Then the handyman refused to help them when he saw a problem, he just let them fail out of spite. What I found intriguing was that even on a show about surviving after a catastrophe this kind of class bickering would set in. The handyman clearly has issues with people who have letters after their name, and the engineers were dismissive and condescending to anyone who didn’t have letters after their name. Pride and resentment make it into even desperate situations.

No matter what our conditions happen to be out hearts remain broken and sinful. Our only hope is not found in fixing the environment (although I think we should be wise stewards of the environment) but rather in finding redemption and transformation in Christ. No change in our world or the condition of that world will change the fact that we will remain sinful and selfish and destructive, only Jesus can change that. We are far more broken than our world. Learning how to make a wood gasifier won’t help much.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Quotes for the Week

“Whatever your circumstances, and however difficult they may be, the truth is that they are ordained by God for you as part of His overall plan for your life.”
- Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, 74.

"If you're a Christian, you've been radically transformed from the inside out. Your disposition, your desires, and the entire direction of your life have been essentially altered. You man not yet be completely changed, but you're already fundamentally changed. You've been lifted to new heights."
- Tullian Tchividjian, Unfashionable, 108.

"In and of itself, your longing for acceptance isn't a bad thing. God, in fact, created you for acceptance. This longing, however, was meant to be satisfied by God alone."
- Tullian Tchividjian, Unfashionable, 170.

"It is true, many ministers of God meet with hard things which might discourage them, and trouble and grieve their spirits; but this consideration, that God is pleased to employ them in such a service near to Himself, that though they cannot do good to themselves, yet they may do good to others, this should quiet them."
- Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 174.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


What would it feel like to be the only fallen man in an unfallen world? This was the experience of Lewis’s hero Dr. Ransom. He landed on Malacandra and during the story discovers that there are three intelligent species there that look very little like him, but are intelligent creatures nonetheless.

As the story unfolds, he learns that our planet is called Thulcandra, the silent planet. In this story due to the rebellion of our angelic ruler (eldil in the book) we have been in a state of siege in the universe. Our dark angels (eldila in the book) are not speaking to the light angels. Dr. Random discovers that he is from a broken world but has landed on a world not broken. As they ask him questions about his world he doesn’t tell the whole truth out of shame. They don’t know about war or greed or lust or division. I can’t imagine what that would be like.

To look upon people who are whole while knowing that I was broken is the opposite of Jesus’ experience during His earthly ministry when He was the unbroken perfect in the midst of the broken and sinful. Jesus suffers occasional frustration (like when He would cry out how long must I put up with . . . or when He would weep over our hardness of heart). But for us, the broken, to be in the presence of the whole would be a deep shame in our best moments and a deep resentment and jealousy in our worst moments. Like Isaiah’s vision when he is taken into the throne room of God and he cries out “woe is me, for I am lost,” for the sinner to see the absolute holy must lead to despair.

But this turned me to thinking in another direction. There will be a time when we stand in the presence of the perfect unbroken (unbent in Malacandrian terms), after all is said and done in the world. We will all be reembodied in the resurrection and there will be the New Creation where all the redeemed will live forever in the presence of our redeemer. Those who remain broken, who were never redeemed, will be sent into the terror of hell, but those who remain will live forever in the presence of God.

This is where the difference comes in. The question that we started with will never have to be answered because in the New Creation, when we see God face to face we will have been changed. In John’s language ‘when He appears we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is’. There will never be a time when we see Jesus as the broken, since we are already clothed in His holiness and will be remade in His image. When He comes again for us, we will be changed. What a day to long for, when we can gaze into the face of the One who is perfect in holiness, and do it not only without perishing, but also without despair or shame. Lewis’ question is an intriguing one but praise be to God we will never have to experience it or answer it.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I’m one of those weird guys who gets most emotionally moved when watching sports movies. For some people its chick flicks or epic movies. But not me I’m that special kind of nerd that cries every time he watches Rudy (I can’t believe I just admitted that). Well anyway, tonight I had that experience again. I watched For the Love of the Game, again. And I get the same weird response every time. I wonder if I’m spending my life in the right way.

You see in this movie Costner is playing this aging pitcher who in what turns out to be the last game of his career begins throwing a perfect game, and interspersed all throughout the game are his memories of his interactions with people but mostly with a woman. Who turns out to be the love of his life. And as we learn in the movie he has managed to mess up this relationship pretty royally.

Finally at the end of the movie he finishes the perfect game, he gets what he thinks he really wanted in life. However, once he gets it realizes that it isn’t really what he wanted after all. After putting his catcher to bed he goes to his room, and cries out of sheer misery. Later, there is of course the happy ending where she forgives him for being an idiot and pushing her away. He discovered that what he thought that he really wanted most of all was all wrong. What he really wanted he had pushed away and never recovered. This is the part that always gets me wondering and reflective.

This guy figures it out when its almost too late. But what if I’m spending my life pursuing the wrong thing thinking that I’m doing what’s best. What if I’m deceived or confused and I’m truly wasting my life. What if I’m not really using the life that God has given in the way that He desires, that will most please Him, and most bring me joy? What if I’ve missed the boat and unlike Costner it’s too late to get it back. What if I’ve really blown it?

This may be the experience of those who when they see Jesus in the judgment and hear that they did not feed Jesus or clothe Him and they wonder when they were supposed to have seen Him. And He responds that when did they did not do it for the least of the brothers they did not do it for Him. They missed the boat; it appears they thought that they were serving Jesus, that they were true disciples, that they were being faithful. But they were wrong, and they pay eternally for it. Now occasionally in a really dark moment I wonder about where I am in Matt 25. But usually when I get into this kind of mood (how on earth does a Costner baseball movie do this to me) I wonder/fear if when I see Jesus He will simply say that I wasted it. I wasted my life, my ministry, my witness, and my opportunity. I want to be found faithful; I want to hear the Well done of my savior. I want to hear that how I used the life He gave me pleased Him. I want to know that I spent it all on what really mattered most.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Father of a Nation and the Fruit of the Spirit

George Washington was an external stoic because he was raging internally. This was a recurring undercurrent throughout Joseph Ellis’s biography of Washington. There were constant references to his aloofness. One phrase that really stuck out as an odd thing to say about a person is that he was comfortable with uncomfortable silences. This was said a couple of times in various ways. Have you ever known one of those people who just hates those long silences and simply must fill them up with chatter no matter how inane or nonsensical? Washington wasn’t one of those people.

But the question is why. Ellis doesn’t really try to explain why until near the end of the book. There he points to a published eulogy where the speaker was reminiscing on seeing a mass of powerful emotions behind the famous controlled exterior. He was famous for being aloof, and he frequently referred to striving for self-mastery. On the surface it would be very easy to say that Washington was simply an introvert, but that’s clearly not the case. I think Ellis has gotten it right in that Washington was internally a raging inferno of passions that he sought his entire life to master and bring under self-control. He became obsessed with control, driving his estate managers insane and his tailors to madness. So he seemed to have swung too far in the other direction, from unrestrained passion to overly restrained stoicism.

This got me to thinking about two different passages of scripture. The first was the list of the fruits of the sprit where self-control makes the cut. The second was in Hebrews 4.15 where Jesus is tempted in every way as we are but without sinning. So Washington wasn’t crazy to seek to control his emotions, especially if they were as strenuous as it appears. This self-control (self-mastery Washington would call it) is not a bad thing to seek after, however it seems pretty clear that Washington is not a balanced model for us.

This is where the second passage came into the picture because Jesus was a man of strong passions. Jesus was no stoic, he was not trudging through Israel with a grim face and a stiff upper lip betraying no emotion. No, we see Jesus in a holy anger turning the money changers table, we see Jesus weeping over the hard heartedness of Jerusalem, we see Him in the garden sweating blood and pleading with His Father in a kind of terror over the horror to come, we see Jesus with righteous indignation rebuking the Pharisees for their erroneous leadership of the sheep of Israel. But that last phrase in Hebrews 4.15 is the key. He did all this without sin.

What Washington failed to show us, only Jesus can. It is possible to have strong emotions but to have them without completely subduing and controling them and to use them without sin. Only the perfect Savior could show us this, and this is one more way that we need to behold Christ in order to become like Him.

PS - Ellis also argues that only a person like Washington was suited to play the pivotal role that he did in winning a very difficult and gut-wrenching war and in the very difficult second term of his presidency he was well served.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Quotes for the Week

Have you ever forgotten anything, well I have and I did. Last weeks quotes to be exact. I could make up some excuse about being incredible mind numbingly busy, but that wouldn’t be the actual truth. The truth is that I just forgot and since I know that you (alll both of you) wait with baited breath each week for the quotes here is my heartfelt I’m sorry. Here are a few of my favorites from this week.

“This is no reciprocation by God, meeting a person halfway because he has shown some desire to be right with his master. The initiative is entirely God’s. He decided to manifest His love to those who do not love Him and who do not want to love Him, to enemies and rebels armed to the teeth against Him, to a world of lost sinners. Let us acknowledge once and for all that if it were not for the fact that God is love, we would have no expectation of mercy or forgiveness, no hope and no future.”
- David Jackman, The Message of I John, 120

“It is not our love that is primary, but God’s free, uncaused and spontaneous, and all our love is but a reflection of His and a response to it.”
- Stott, The Letters of John, 164.

“We will never appreciate the love of God until we know the startling truth about ourselves apart from Him and about His wondrous grace.”
- Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in Christ, 433.

- “I cannot understand the hardness of my own heart. How could any of us look at all this and believe it and not be lost in love to God? How can we contemplate these things and not be utterly broken down? How can any hatred remain in us? How can we do anything but love one another as we contemplate such amazing love? How can we look at these things and believe them and not feel utterly unworthy and ashamed of ourselves and feel that we owe all and everything to Him and that our whole lives must be given to express our gratitude, our praise, and our thanksgiving? Oh, let us resolve to together to meditate more and more everyday upon this amazing love.”
- Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in Christ, 439

Friday, July 17, 2009

Unfashionable Christian Counterculture with Tullian Tchividjian

I have never suffered the temptation to sacrifice or compromise to be cool or fashionable, since as one of the worlds preeminent nerds being cool has always been permanently out of my reach. Yet I do remember envying the cool. Wishing I had a smile that would make girls melt, or having such charm that I was universally beloved. Yet as a socially awkward teenage book nerd cool was an impossibility.

Tullian Tchividjian sees a similar problem with much of the church in America. (However I appreciate that he’s not a church basher who delights in exposing the churches flaws, rather he loves the church and wishes to see her strong again) He sees the church trying to become like the world because they believe that if we become acceptable to the world then the world will hear our message. There are a number of problems with this kind of thinking, but first we need to hear Tullian’s counter:

Christians make a difference in the world by being different from this world; they don’t make a difference by being the same.”

His argument throughout the book is that if we blend in we lose all our power to change or influence this world. I think he makes a powerful case. And combine these insights with David Wells arguments in The Courage to be Protestant where he argues that to become acceptable to the world we have to give away the store (the Gospel itself) leaving us with nothing left to proclaim or to influence anyone with. To critique or influence the world we must stand outside of it as a kind of counterculture.

Basically seeking relevance makes us irrelevant. Seeking cool leaves us with nothing left to say. We must remember that we serve a CRUCIFIED savior. One whose cross is foolishness to the world. Tchividjian closes his book with a call for us to live for an audience of one, pointing out that the need for acceptance isn’t wrong, we just have to seek it in the right place, with our loving heavenly Father.

The church must not be like me, the book nerd looking at the cool people across the cafeteria with a twinge of envy; because it is simply an impossibility for us, the cross of Jesus is foolish and strange to a fallen world. Lets live and strive not to be fashionable, but rather to be faithful to our audience of One.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

John is departing but we still love him

Well today we have to say sayonara (hope I spelled that right) to John who has decided that this blog is no longer good enough and has started his own blog, which is fine or whatever.

Listen I'm just joking but I really do want you to go and read John's new blog, he shared with me his concept, his theme, and where he plans to go with his blog, and listen I got excited about reading it. So please if there are any of you who actually read this blog go to John's new blog.
It's called Food From Ravens and John's first post is up explaining the title. I have already added it to my feedreader and you should too.

GO READ IT RIGHT NOW AT - http://johnalucas.wordpress.com/

Wednesday's Quotes - July 8, 2009

“Is not this one of our greatest sins as Christians today? We may talk a lot about loving God, we may express it in our worship with great emotion, but what does it mean when we are so critical of other Christians, so ready to jump to negative conclusions about other people, so slow to bear their burdens, so unwilling to step into their shoes? Such lovelessness totally contradicts what we profess and flagrantly disobey God’s commands.”
- David Jackman, The Message of I John, 131.

“What an unsuitable thing might a believer think it, to hate someone in this world whom he must love eternally; and to contend and strive with those, even for matters of small moment, with bitterness and rigidity, with whom he shall have an eternal, uninterrupted unity and fellowship.”
- Hugh Binning, Christian Love, 27-28.

“Christians make a difference in this world by being different from this world; they don’t make a difference by being the same.”
- Tullian Tchividjian, Unfashionable, 9.

“We need to remember that God has established his church as an alternative society, not to compete with or copy this world, but to offer a refreshing alternative to it. When we forget this, we inadvertently communicate to our culture that we have nothing unique to offer, nothing deeply spiritual or profoundly transforming.”
- Tullian Tchividjian, Unfashionable, 15.

PS - I know I'm a day late, sorry.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wednesday's Quotes - July 1, 2009

When you share the Gospel, you share “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” Sharing the Gospel is like walking around in a thunderstorm and handing our lightning rods. You don’t know when the lightning is going to strike or who it will strike, but you know what its going to strike - the lightning rod of the gospel. And when it does, that persons lightning rod is going to be charged with the power of God and he or she is going to believe.”
- Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 102.

It may well be questioned whether a man knows the value of the Gospel himself, if he does not desire to make it known to all the world.”
- J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew, 410.

Surely you have all things, because you have Him for your portion who has all things: God has all things in Himself, and you have God for your portion, and in that you have all, and this is the mystery of contentment.”
- Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 68.

The perspective of the Bible, by contrast, that God’s patience and forbearance will one day run out. The time will come when He acts in judgment because of His holiness. And when He does, He will place truth forever on the throne and evil forever on the scaffold. All that has broken and defiled life will be finally, and irrevocably, overthrown.”
- David Wells, The Courage to be Protestant, 130.

Our lives, though are nourished not by spiritual experiences we can seek, but by God applying to us the truth of His Word.”
- David Wells, The Courage to be Protestant, 182.

There has never been a ‘good old day’ since the Great Thud in Eden. Every age is filled with sin, sinners, God’s love, and work to be done. Each generation has its resistance to the Gospel, and each culture is equally far from God because of sin and equally close to God because of His love. As Solomon repeatedly says, there is nothing new under the sun.”
- Mark Driscoll, The Radical Reformission, 51.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reflections on Reality TV

I remember when the first Real World came out and everybody under 25 was glued to that little show (at least it seemed like it to me). They were living in a real apartment that wasn't glitzy or glamorous. They were ordinary people who acted like normal people since the reality boom hadn't yet occurred. Then the boom hit and now you can watch reality TV 24/7. You can watch the Real World 72 or The Hills or Jon and Kate; pick your demographic they've got one for you. And by way of disclaimer and honesty I have to admit that I watch The Deadliest Catch every Tuesday without fail, although I soothe my conscience by telling myself that its OK because its educational reality TV.

I understand why TV channels like reality TV, its really cheap and it gets good ratings. But what is the appeal for all of us, I mean why do these shows get such good ratings. I have some hunches but they're probably not worth sharing. And what I want to avoid is a blanket condemnation of all reality TV (c'mon then I would have to give up The Deadliest Catch). But what I would like to share are some of my concerns about reality shows, and encourage us all to be more discerning about such entertainment. Now if anybody is actually reading then I have a job for you, if you can think of any positives that come from watching reality TV then I want you to share those in the comments section. Now in no particular order whatsoever here are my concerns.

- Much of reality TV appeals to our lower natures, you can see this in the sensuality that is portrayed, the skimpy clothing etc. I mean c'mon how bad is it when Bret Michaels quits his show because its gone too far.

- We become what we behold. And if we are viewing sensuality constantly we are going to become more sensual people. If we are viewing trivial nonsense constantly then we are going to become trivial people.

- We end up watching life instead of living it.

- It can create snobbishness. We watch to feel better about ourselves because these people are so awful or something like that.

- It can debase people. Much of it dehumanizing, turning people into objects, or using them, stripping them of their dignity.

- We can learn to laugh at people. We are called in the Word to love and encourage and build up, whereas reality shows teach us to laugh at people's stupidity or their misfortunes. We learn to enjoy the humiliation of others instead of mourning with them.

- We can learn to be critical people. Instead of learning to show grace and mercy, to react with understanding, we learn to tear people down and nitpick everyone.

- Reality shows often feed the wrong hungers. What we see in many of these shows are people who are desperate to be famous, many are even willing to settle for being notorious. These are not things that we should be hungry for, we should be hungry to bring glory to God, to know Jesus, to grow in holiness, or be faithful witnesses. It is difficult to imagine how reality TV feed these appropriate hungers.

- Most reality TV doesn't inspire the way a great novel or even movie can. I have trouble imagining the Hills or the Real Housewives of Omaha inspiring anyone to be sacrificial or courageous.

All right those are some of my concerns, I may have revealed some of my own snobbishness here, or maybe I am just hopelessly clueless or out of touch. Now remember you have a job, if you think I have missed the boat or if there are counterbalancing positives then you are going to have to convince me in the comments. Thanks to all who comment.

PS - My wife and I are disagreeing on whether Dirty Jobs is a reality show, if she's right that it is, then I watch two.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday's Quotes

This time I want to share with you some of my favorite quotes from David Wells book, The Courage to be Protestant.

When our knowledge of God's truth is diminished, our understanding of God is diminished, and no amount of contrived mystery through ancient liturgies or gathering in the presence of dim, flickering candlelight can compensate for this loss. (from page 18)

I therefore think of myself as Reformational in the sense that I affirm its solas: in Scripture alone is God's authoritative truth found, it is by Grace alone that we are saved, and this salvation is received through faith alone. Only after each of these affirmations is made can we say that salvation from start to finish is to the glory of God alone. (page 21)

Many other factors have no doubt affected our changing internal landscape. But the key factors are undoubtedly that we have been disconnected from place, from family, from the past, and from an external God who has the power to reach into our lives and pull them around. But consuming has affected us, too. What we do as practiced consumers is to make daily inventories of our needs and how they might have changed. As I will suggest, it is probably our constant consuming with the constant choosing and reevaluating that it requires, that has strengthened the relativism that now ripples through all of our live making the very idea of a truth that is fixed and unchanging seem strange. (page 70)

There will certainly be more from Wells.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reflecting on Bradley’s Flyboys

I started this book with great excitement. Flags of our Fathers was one of my most enjoyable reads and finding that there was a sequel of sorts in this book I hurriedly got a copy. But the excitement turned to confusion. Then confusion turned to suspicion. The opening chapters turned back the clock of history and exposed some arrogant actions of our nation and he appeared to be blaming the US for the actions of WWII Japan. I began to fear that I had gotten another piece of elitist US bashing. You know the kind, they are ashamed to be American and spend most of their time talking about how backward and arrogant the US is (do you ever wonder why they don’t just move to France). As the book progressed I came to see that Bradley had other intentions for including the bits he did.

The arrogant act of driving our warships down Tokyo Bay had consequences beyond intimidating the Japanese. Japan came to see that they would have to change to keep up with the world, while not blaming the US it is clear that our actions contributed to Japans need to enter the modern world. Bradley carefully never blames the US for the twisted form of Bushido that was used to brainwash an entire generation, but our nation certainly had a role to play. Now at the time Commodore Perry had no idea what would come of his actions yet there were consequences. There are always consequences to our actions, small and large and we cannot easily escape them as I wished throughout the reading of this book. I wanted the US to be a spotless bastion of Democratic glory yet we came out spotted and our actions had many unforeseen negative consequences.

I have heard war described as an inhuman thing. This is certainly true. The very act of fighting a war, of taking human lives is goes beyond the pale of what we would allow in our everyday lives. The taking of life even accidently or innocently is regarded with horror, but it is the business of war, an inhuman thing without doubt. But what I learned in this book was that it also makes those who participate less than human. There are reports throughout the book about the Japanese soldiers torturing, beheading, and even cannibalizing captured soldiers (they were systematically dehumanized because their leaders believed it would make them better soldiers). But what I found most shocking was the reports of Americans who strafed schoolyards killing children. American pilots firing on fishing boats while returning or even shooting Japanese pilots as they were parachuting to the ground. I thought that Americans would be different since we were bound be Geneva conventions and had been raised in a society shaped by a Judeo-Christian worldview. Yet this inhuman thing called war turned young men into beings less than human at least for a time.

I learned a great deal in this book about our history, about the history of the pacific theatre of WWII. I also very surprisingly learned a great deal about the nature of war and its effects on people. I also learned a great deal about how far we can sink even though we are made in the image of God. But the lasting effect on me has nothing to do with American history; an old hunger was given a new dimension. The hunger for the return of Christ now has a new wrinkle for me. Because after Christ returns I will have no sin left to create horrific consequences, there will be no more war to take lives or deaden our hearts and make us less than we are even by nature. Let us long for the new world that Jesus will reign over where there will be true and lasting peace.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

"The New Testament portrays the ‘Christ event’, which happened two thousand years ago as the finished, perfect work of God for the salvation of all his people, both Jew and Gentile. The Gospel - the first coming of Christ - wins for believers all the riches of glory. The acceptance of the believer with God is perfect the moment he believes because Christ and his work are perfect. The status of the believer can never be improved upon - he possesses all the riches of Christ. There is nothing the believer will possess in glory that he does not now possess in Christ. All this he possesses by faith, but that it is by faith does not make it any less real."

Graeme Goldsworthy, The Goldsworthy Trilogy, 119.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sermon Outline - Taking Aim at the Manifesto

- A young boy told his dad that he wanted a tree house in the backyard, so the dad remembering all the fun he had in his tree house goes and buys a bunch of wood. He returns to the backyard and with his mental image of what his sons tree house will look like, gets after it cutting wood and hammering and about halfway through things stopped working, boards had been cut too short and things just weren’t fitting together.
- The dad had the right motive, had a great goal in mind but he went about it the wrong way, we need right motives and great goals, but we also need to go about achieving our goals in the right way. This is what we are going to talk about tonight - how to go about achieving our manifesto.

Pursue in the Lords Strength
- If we try to achieve the manifesto in our own strength we are doomed to failure.
- So what are we to do, in light of our weakness and our dreams, what are we to do, where are to turn. The answer is to go to one who is strong.
- Read - Ephes. 6:10-12
- If we are to be strong we must find our strength in the Lord and His might.
- Paul also points to another complication - we have enemies. Not just a demanding task, but we have enemies. Paul says that we do not wrestle with flesh and blood but against the evil spiritual rulers in the heavenly places. He even calls our world, this present darkness.
- Facing this enemy we are utterly powerless.
- But there is hope, Paul says that if we take the armor of God we can stand firm
- Read - Ephes. 6:13
- So if we want to achieve our goals, if we want to be the church God wants us to be we must fight in full dependence on God’s power.
Illus - In Itasca Texas before WW2 there was a school fire that killed 263 kids, so they built a world-class sprinkler system, nothing like it had been in Texas before, then seven years later they were working on the grounds and discovered that the sprinkler system had never been connected to the water supply, it would have done nothing to the fire.

Pursue for God’s Glory
- Read - 1 Cor. 10:31
- If we pursue this manifesto for the purpose of having a great church that we can be proud of, or be proud to be a part of, or of being able to hear people say great things about that Baptist church on Big Creek, then we are not taking aim aright.
- What we must truly want is to be this kind of church and these kind of people so that we can better glorify God, if we have any other goal we will miss the mark. And we will be disobedient and unfaithful.
- But if our desire truly is to become a healthy spiritually mature, ministering, missionary church then we will be better able to accomplish His purposes, better able to honor Him before the watching eyes of our community.
- But we must decide now what we are aiming at.
- So what we must decide is that we want to be these things so that God is praised for what He has done

Pursue by Faith
- Mark 6:4-6 - Jesus in His hometown
- Mark 10:46-52 - the healing of Blind Bartimaeus
- The principle we see here in these two passages is that it is faith that opens the floodgate of God’s power and blessing.
- Recently we have seen water leave its normal channel - but God’s power and blessing rarely leave this channel - faith.
- So as we pursue our manifesto let us do it with the firm conviction of faith that God can and will bless us - let us come expectantly - trusting that we will see the Lord do amazing thing in our midst.

Pursue the Motive of Love
- Read - Matthew 22:37-40
- As we seek to grow spiritually mature our motive must be love for God - we want to be like Jesus because we love God and want to please Him above all else
- As we seek to minister to our brothers and sisters in Christ we must do so with the motive of love for them - to see what all God would do in their lives.
- If we are to be missionaries in our community then it must be with the motive of love - that we love people so much that we get out of our comfort zones and tell them the Good News.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Learning from Lebron

After game 6 of the eastern conference finals when his Cleveland Cavaliers had just been knocked out of the playoffs Lebron James left the court without shaking hands with any of the Orlando Magic players. Not even his Olympic team friend Dwight Howard. Then he skipped his post game press conference.

So on all the Monday sports talk shows he was roundly criticized for that behavior. Some said that it was simply unsportsmanlike behavior. Others said that it was poor leadership, that if he is going to be the face and leader of that that team he cannot leave his teammates hanging like that. But the criticism that stuck out to me was when one analyst said that we are not judged by how we respond to victory but rather in how we respond to failure. I found this to be terribly profound in a way that transcends the sports world.

As Christians we begin the Christian life acknowledging that we are failures and we need God to come and save us because we cannot do it ourselves. But we then we often struggle with subsequent failure. So how are we to respond to our times of failure.

I think first this means repentance. When we blow it in an area of sin we must immediately renew our repentance. We confess our sin, plead the blood of Christ, and begin fighting sin again. But also I think we must make these teaching moments. What exactly did I do wrong, what could have been done to change the outcome, how can I do better next time? We must learn from our mistakes. This is part of God’s promise to bring good out of all things, if we respond better to trials next time because we learned from failure this time, then certainly God has brought good out of it. So let us learn from our mistakes.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

"But we also need to be reminded of the relationship of God's word to the reasoning of man the creature about what is true - one does not take a pocket flashlight and shine it on the sun to see if the sun is real! The truth of God's word cannot be subjected to the puny light of man's self-centered reason."

Graeme Goldsworthy, The Goldsworthy Trilogy, 59.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sermon Outline - The Destination Manifesto

- In 1972 Yogi Berra was on the way to the Baseball Hall of Fame, his wife and three of his sons were in the car with him. And somehow he managed to get lost and they all started giving him a hard time, and here is how he responded, “we’re lost but we’re making good time!”
- Obviously it does no good to make good time when you don’t know your destination.
- Yet this is how many churches live - we make sure we’re busy doing all kinds of good things but there is no plan, no destination. So we are never able to know if we’re going in the right direction or if we’re really accomplishing our calling.
- So my goal today is to share with you what my conviction is in regards to our destination. What I think we should be heading toward.
- In the broadest sense we are called to grow into a healthy church. And I think this means that if we are spiritually healthy we will be spiritually mature, we will be ministering to one another, and we will be a missionary church.
- Yet if this is to be true of us as a church it must first be true of as individuals, so our destination is a church where every member is mature, every member is a minister, and every member is a missionary.

Every Member Mature - Romans 8:29
- There is simply no getting around the truth that it is God’s plan that we are to conformed to Christ’s image - The calling of every Christian is to be like Jesus.
- What does it mean for us to be like Jesus - I think this means a lot of things, such as sacrifice, or love, but I think the dominant idea is that of holiness and devotion to the Father.
- This is the goal we are aiming at - we must keep this goal in mind so that it can guide us in our decision making.
- We keep Jesus’ holiness as a mental image always in our minds and then when each decision comes we must decide what will help me become more like Jesus and what will lead me away.
- So you see we are not just deciding between good and evil things, but more often between the good and the best.
- So must set our priorities and stick to them - not legalistically but with the hope of becoming like Jesus.
- We need to make investments toward mature Christ-likeness - primarily this means a commitment to the Word, to Prayer, and to the church.
- These are continual investments we must make.
- And there are always excuses about why we are not doing what we should be doing, I’ve been a Pastor long enough now to see them for what they are - excuses.
- We must invest in Christ-likeness, so make a time daily to read the word and pray and let nothing keep you from it, commit to not only coming to church but getting involved in the life of the church, if you do not do these things, you will never be Christ-like.

Every Member a Minister - Ephes. 4:12
- Look carefully at who is doing what - the pastors and teachers are doing the equipping.
- Now look at who is doing the work of the ministry - the saints. Now these are not the ones in New Orleans or the even the really super spiritual people - every Child of God is a saint.
- So we are all called to do the work of the ministry - its not just for me and the deacons.
- So what does this mean - here in Eph 4 the target is the building up of the body of Christ, this means that we must be investing in our fellow Christians.
- Lets look at Acts for a moment to see what that looks like.
- They were giving to the poor Christians
- They were taking care of the widows and orphans
- They were caring for one another
- We are called to a similar concern for our fellow church members

Every Member a Missionary - Acts 1:8
- Who is the mission for - the disciples only - certainly not, the call is too big.
- Well how about church leaders then - not only does he not say this but once again the call is too big
- Well who then is it for - it is for all Christians - look at who gets the Holy Spirit and for what reason - all those who receive the Spirit are called to be witnesses - which means that every blood bought child of God is called to be a witness.
- It also means that everyone of us is a missionary - you just didn’t know it. We are all called to be witnesses in our location, sometimes calls us to leave our locations and go to new locations - but the call is still the same - be a witness where you are.
- This will change how we live - if we wake everyday and realize that we have been called to be a witness for Jesus that day, well that will change how we talk over the water cooler, how we conduct ourselves on breaks or at the store.
- The question is not whether we are missionaries or not, but rather whether we are good missionaries or not.

- A boy went out to his backyard with his bow and arrow and began firing arrows but it looked strange to his dad from the window. So he went out to see what the boy was doing. He would fire an arrow and then go draw a bull’s-eye around where it landed.
- He never missed.
- Unlike the little boy we now have a target, we know what we are aiming at, so lets take aim and strive with all that we are and become the Church and Christians that we are called to be.
- So everyday we need to get up and preach to ourselves - today I must invest in maturity, today I must be a minister, today I must be a missionary. If we do not do this we will never be the church we are called to be, never reach our destination.

Monday, June 1, 2009

McCullough's Adams

I just finished David McCullough's John Adams, and it was an awesome read. I've been a book nerd my whole life and this was one of the best reads of my life. Despite the fact that it was huge and its sheer mass will turn some readers away, it more than repays those who are willing to invest the time in reading it.

Now I am personally convinced (after only reading this and 1776) that McCullough is one of our greatest living writers and I intend to real all of his books and I wish that he could live to three hundred and write a biography of every president and a history of every American war.

I want to point to two strengths of this book and McCullough in general. After reading this book I feel like I really know Adams. This is incredibly difficult for a writer to pull off. I have only really experienced this a few times and I read a lot of biographies, the only book comparable off the top of my head is George Marsden's biography of Jonathan Edwards. And I think that this is because McCullough is such a keen student of human nature and has the rare ability to communicate that understanding.

Second I loved that I was able to see Adams in all his human glory and shame. Unlike the presidential bio's I adored as a kid that presented the presidents as flawless heroes, here we see Adams as both vain and ambitious and simultaneously heroically sacrificial and loving and kind. This is something that we must always remember even our heroes are flawed fallen humans. This is very much in line with the Bible's presentation of man as both made in the image of God and as fallen sinner. Thank you Mr. McCullough.

PS - if there is a David McCullough fan club I would join it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Surviving in Ministry

As a young minister I often find myself thinking about praying about how I can finish well. The ministry is difficult and draining and the rate of minister attrition is alarming and I don't want to be a casualty. So when I found this article by Donald Whitney I was hopeful and upon reading it I was encouraged and compelled to share it with you.

His counsel is powerful for ministers and would be beneficial for all Christians who live in these trying times.


Monday, May 11, 2009


As many of you know we have experienced a flood here and we are still dealing with the after effects here. There are roads out, bridges missing, homes damaged/destroyed, many are still without water, power, or phone. Please pray for our community and all those effected.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Reflecting on Twilight

The amount of attention that the twilight books and movie have received finally convinced me to watch the movie (I have not read the books). So the wife and I rented it and sat down to watch and I must confess that as a man nearing thirty I did not find the movie very appealing.

So after the movie I asked my wife why this movie/book has such a hold and power with her gender and especially the teenage variety. You see I found the obsessive nature of Bella and Edwards relationship to be, well, creepy. Edward is basically a stalker, sneaking into her bedroom to watch her sleep. Following her to neighboring towns. This is scary behavior. And Bella shows a complete recklessness in her love for Edward. He admits that he is really desirous of her blood and she doesn’t care because she trusts him. But how can she trust him she barely knows him and what she knows should terrify her. I found these things disturbing yet my wife said that there are the central appeal of the books. Women (young women especially) hunger for this kind of all consuming relationship. That 17 year old girls dream about this. (By the way I was a 17 year old boy once, Edward Cullen’s don’t exist)

So my greatest concern is that these books/movies provide a powerful reinforcement of an already unhealthy element of our culture. Many are tempted to turn their relationships into their idol. They see their romantic partner as the thing that gives their life meaning, Bella shows this in her reckless disregard for her own safety, the concerns and wishes of her father, etc. How many people cry out that without this person I can’t go on. When we come to this place in our lives we have an idol and I think that for young people (I’m told that some teenage boys read the books secretly) who are in their first flush of romantic notions this danger is especially potent. And this movie/book is powerful in its reinforcement and development of this idol.

As a father of two young girls I was very concerned about this movie/book so I went through the mental motions of having a talk with them about this book and I found that I simply could not encourage them to read it. It has no redeeming qualities that outweigh the negatives. So I do not recommend the reading of this book or the watching of this movie.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Kingdom Without a Cross

I have been reading through Philip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew and one of the things that I really gleaned from his book is how Satan's temptation of Jesus kept recurring throughout Jesus earthly ministry.

The summation of the enemies temptation is this; have the Kingdom without the difficulty of the Cross. Amaze the people set up a military Kingdom on earth and do it without the pain, shame, and forsakenness of the Cross. This is what Jesus resisted and won out against in the wilderness against the enemy. And upon a cursory reading of the Gospel's we would think that fight over and done with.

But here is where Yancey's strange gaze has benefited me. This temptation is the central temptation of Jesus earthly ministry and it followed Him everywhere he went.

After the feeding miracle in John the people come to make Jesus King whether He wanted it or not, so he denies them their bread and preaches in such a manner that these Kingmakers cannot swallow. He was offered a Kingdom without a Cross.

Then he tells His disciples that He is going to Jerusalem and that He is going to suffer, die, and rise again (amazingly they don't catch that last part). Peter responds by rebuking Jesus. Jesus then does something that confuses a lot of us, He calls Peter Satan and tells him to get behind Him. Why call Peter Satan, he simply didn't want to see his friend and master suffer, right. Peter was playing the role of Satan here, once again Jesus was being offered the Kingdom without the Cross.

Then comes the strange night in the Garden where Jesus is so tortured in spirit that He literally sweats blood. How can we explain this when so many of His own followers died with courage and boasts. What do we make of Jesus asking for the cup to pass. That cup is the cup full of the wrath of God that He is about to drink in our place. It is so terrifying that Jesus expresses His horror at the Kingdom that comes with a Cross, but He never backs down. He rises from that last moment of temptation, when it appears to have been the strongest, and walks into the arms of His betrayer embracing the Kingdom with a Cross. He conquered fully.

This is a beautiful picture of our savior that should inspire our gratitude, love and devotion. But we must not think that we have heard the last of the enemy or the last of this temptation.

We face the same temptation today, we are tempted to build our churches by trusting in business models and church growth principles. We are tempted to think that our ministries should know only blessing and never suffering. We are tempted to believe that we should become Christlike overnight and not have to pay the cost of discipleship. We are tempted to expect the Kingdom to come without a cross, without suffering. Like our savior we must resist the enemy, deny ourselves, and take up our crosses and follow Him.