Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Guest Blogger

My brother's girlfriend doesn't realize this, but she is my guest blogger today.  I read this and was floored by this young woman's description of worship in the valley. 

Please read Shelby's post today.

P.S. Patrick take care of this girl because we all think she's fantastic.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Psalm 130

I'm going to be honest; I didn't spend time today in the Word until now (10:00 p.m.).  When I don't spend as much time in the Word as I should, I usually flip to the book of Psalms.  Many of the Psalms are quick reads and great for encouragement.  Tonight I flipped to Psalm 130.

"Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.

If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in His Word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with Him is full redemption.
He Himself with redeem Israel
from all their sins."

Thank God for His unfailing love.  Fear the Lord because with Him there is forgiveness.  There is no one else in all the universe worth fearing because God is the only one who holds the key to forgiveness.  Wait on the Lord today.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Solid Food- Hebrews 5

Take time to read Hebrews chapter 5.

"We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's Word all over again.  You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."  Hebrews 5:11-14

Due to stubbornness or complacency, the Jewish Christians that are being written to in Hebrews are being told to grow in maturity.  They were not advancing in their knowledge.  They should have been teaching at this point, but were stuck in spiritual infancy by choice.

Is this passage speaking to you?

I'll admit, many times I'm comfortable right where I am.  I don't want to move from milk to solid food, or from chicken nuggets to steak.

There are three things I think we can learn from this passage:

1) Theology is not just for pastors.

I'm not saying that all of us need to go to seminary, but theological study is important to a maturing Christians (all of us should be maturing Christians).  Theology is not pointless study.  Theology, instead, is the most purposefully study in the world.  What could possibly matter more than what we know about the creator and ruler of the world?  Theological study can be found in a pew on Sunday, in a Bible study on Tuesday or in reading a book by A. W. Tozer on Friday.  Theology is for all of us because all of us were created to worship our God, and theological study is an awesome form of worship.

2) Growth in knowledge leads to growth in righteousness.

"Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness."  If we are studying theology and Biblical truths correctly it will not lead to eggheadedness, it will lead to righteousness because our knowledge will enable us to live wisely.  Biblical knowledge without the pursuit of righteousness is nearly pointless.  I only say nearly because God Himself can use the knowledge to intervene in your life and make you want righteousness even if you didn't enter the pursuit of knowledge wanting that.

3) We grow in maturity by putting knowledge into practice.

This point is like the one before. Growth in knowledge does lead to growth in righteousness, but if you truly want to grow you need to be active in this process.  When study of God's omniscience floors you, put into practice trust based on this knowledge.  When study of God's kindness knocks you off your feet, put into practice being His kindness to the woman in need down the street.  When study of God's sovereignty expands your mind, put into practice submission to His will.

Don't get stuck on milk when our Heavenly Father wants to feed you solid food.  Theology is not just for your pastor.  Bible study is not just for the Sunday School teacher.  Knowledge of the Father is for all His children.  Pursue it.  Grow in righteousness and maturity today.

Monday, February 25, 2013

An Immeasurably Good Plan

"'No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love Him.'

but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit." 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

God has an immeasurably good plan for those who love Him.  Do you believe that?

We can't understand or even see this plan fully, but the Holy Spirit reveals it to us.  I have not seen His whole plan yet, nor do I expect to see His whole plan until I reach perfection.  But the Holy Spirit is teaching me to see more of His plan as He instructs me.  Beyond that, the Holy Spirit is teaching me to accept that God has an immeasurably good plan for those who love him; a plan for even me.

Later on in this chapter, in verse 12 specifically, it says "that we may understand what God has freely given us."  Much of understanding God's plan for us is understanding what He gave us on Calvary.  He gave us justification and adoption into His family.  That is much of what the Holy Spirit is revealing to us.  First, that we are justified from sin and reconciled with the Almighty.  And second, that we have been adopted by the Almighty and can call Him Father.

"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love Him."

God prepared justification from sin and adoption for us.  Amen!

Thank God for His immeasurably good plan for you, today.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Praying for your Church

This morning at church Pastor Brian spoke about the power of prayer, in particular the power of praying for your local church.  Pastor Brian pointed out that there are 650 prayers in scripture, therefore prayer must be important.  He pointed out that Paul prayed often for the churches, therefore prayer must be important.  He pointed out that Jesus prayed, so prayer must be important.

We are called to pray for our local church family.  Here are some strategies for praying for your church:

1) Make your prayers simple.  I.e. pray for mercy, strength and awareness of God's presence.  As Martin Luther said about prayer, "The fewer words the better."

2) Make prayer for your church a routine.  As Corrie Ten Boom said, "Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it."

3) Make a prayer list.  Put names and families on it and try to be specific in your requests if you can.  This will give you another reason to get to know your church family, all of it.  Specificity also gives us a unique connection with and investment into those in our church.

4) Make your prayers known.  Tell people you're praying for them.  This can be done in person, e-mail, phone or just tag them in a post on Facebook saying that you are praying for them.  This provides both encouragement for them and accountability for us.

5) Don't forget the power of praying in person with hands laid.  Praying in any location is great, but there is something special about face-to-face with a church family member.

So, pray for your church family.  We're called to do it.  We should want to do it.  Pray for your church family today.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

More Snow Truths

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,'

'As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flurish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my Word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord's renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed."
Isaiah 55:8-13

God's Word will not return void just as this snow will not return to the sky without first watering the ground and eventually making Iowa's corn grow.  God's Word will accomplish what He desires.  It will make us go out in joy and with peace, for the glory of God.

I'm not going to write much more, but please reflect on the awesomeness of this passage today.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Winter Wonderland

I woke up this morning to a winter wonderland.  Here in Waverly we received five inches of bright, white, fluffy snow.  School was cancelled and plows were working hard.  I got the fun job of announcing on air that kids could go back to sleep because all schools were either closed or had late starts.  This morning was a winter wonderland.

In past years I had confidently declared that I hated snow. I hated pushing it.  I hated getting stuck in it.  I hated snow.  And then I met Christine.  My fiance Christine loves snow.  She prays for snow to come.  She wants a snowy 30 degree day and that's what we have today.  Now, I kind of like snow because I know it will make Christine happy.

I love that she loves snow and nature because I asked God to give me someone that is moved by nature.  Christine sees "little" blessings and in doing so reminds me to see them as well.  Now I look for "little" blessings so I can talk with her about them.  I'm glad God gave me someone to help me appreciate more fully the beauty of creation.

Today, Waverly is blanketed in snow and I think it is beautiful.  Don't get me wrong, I want Spring to come quickly, but I'm loving the beauty of today.

In chapter 38 of the book of Job, God challenged Job to answer some questions.  These questions were all rhetorical and pointed toward God's awesome holiness.  One of them stuck out to me today.

"Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail...?" Job 38:22

Have you thought about the volume of snow that is covering planet Earth today.  It's unbelievable, unfathomable... we can't even begin to comprehend that much snow.  I'm just talking about what we have here today, let alone what the East Coast got recently.  The Bible says that God has control over all of nature.  All of this snow is God's.  By God's design an unfathomable volume of snow was dropped on Waverly.  I'm not talking about inches, I'm talking volume.  That's tons of snow... literally!

So, look out your window.  Play in the snow.  Instead of complaining about the snow, sit back and think about how the snow is a testimony to our great God.  Be in awe of the "little" blessing of snow today.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


I just finished reading a chapter called "Sons of God" in J. I. Packer's book Knowing God.  I can't help but share some of what he wrote.

Packer defines a Christian like this:  "A Christian is one who has God as Father."  Meaning, not everyone on planet Earth is a child of God; only those who have been adopted into the family are children of the Most High.  We aren't born into this family, we are adopted and this is a powerful reality.

In ancient times adoption was different than it is today.  Adoption was usually done by rich people who didn't have children of their own.  The wealthy man would adopt a young man who was worthy to carry on the family name and have the family inheritance.  Adoption was not like it is today when little babies are adopted just for the purpose of being part of a loving family.

God's adoption is done in somewhat of a mixture of the ancient and modern ideas of adoption.  God adopts us when we are not infants.  God adopts us to make us heirs.  He takes those whom He redeemed on the cross and makes them heirs.  But God does not need to pass on His name or inheritance; rather, like modern adoption God does this purely out of love and free choice.  When a family adopts a child today they do it simply out of the outpouring of their love; God does too.

We've been adopted.  So what?

Adoption changes everything.  No longer is Yahweh God's covenant name with us.  Yahweh was God's covenant name with the nation of Israel (that we've been grafted into); it is a name that reflects His self-existent sovereignty.  Yahweh is still a fantastic name that we can call God, but it is not the most representative of the new covenant He has made with us.  Father is God's new covenant name. Father has been added to Yahweh because He promises to be our Father and treat us as His children.

Adoption is the highest prize of the Gospel.  Justification is the primary prize but clearly adoption is higher.  Justification yields forensic forgiveness but adoption adds familial love.  Adoption ensures that we are loved like children without a doubt.  Adoption means we that Jesus is our brother and everything that is promised to Him is also ours as co-heirs.

Everything about our Christian lives has to be understood in relation to our adoption according to Packer.  For instance, why do we obey commands?  Is it to earn salvation?  Is it out of mortal fear?  No.  We obey commands because we want to please our Heavenly Father.  Why can we trust God at the wheel of our life?  We trust because we, like little children, believe our Dad is a good driver.  You've never seen a 3-year-old backseat driver have you?

God shows love to us in adoption.  God didn't conceive you and therefore was compelled to have you in His family.  God chose to adopt you.  This is love.  We are sons and daughters of God.  And get this:  God loves us the same as He loves our brother Jesus.

There is so much hope, love and wonder in the subject of our adoption.  I could go on, but you'd be better off reading J. I. Packer's book Knowing God.

I do want to leave you with one more bombshell truth.  Adoption is the beginning of a relationship.  Justification is once and for all, and hallelujah for that; but adoption is even better.  No one adopts a child and then ignores him/her.  Instead, they adopt the child and then love them forever from that point on.  God the Father does the same thing.  He adopts us and then proceeds to love us as His children forever!

If you are a Christian you are a child of the King.  Thank God for His blessing of adoption today.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Our High Priest- Hebrews 4

This will be my final post this week from Hebrews chapter 4.  Take time to read the chapter if you haven't yet or, for that matter, read it again if you choose.

"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are... yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."  Hebrews 4:14-16

The job of the high priest was to mediate between God the Father and the people.  Once a year the high priest would enter the holy of hollies and make an atonement for the sins of the nation.  This is was the highest level job in the nation of Israel.

Jesus is our high priest.  He mediates between God the Father and His people.  Although, since He is seated at the right hand of the Father, Jesus always intercedes on our behalf not just once a year.  Jesus is always there to bring atonement for our sins.  This enables us to hold firmly to our faith.  We don't have to worry about our faith becoming worthless because Jesus is always with the Father to guarantee that our faith and atonement are true.

Jesus is our high priest and He can relate to us.  Jesus was tempted in every way we are.  Jesus had to flee from sexual immorality.  Jesus had to fight to stay pure in His actions and thoughts.  Jesus knows what it's like to be human and still He did not sin.  So, we can never say, "Jesus, you wouldn't understand", because He does understand.  Jesus shows us that there is a way to face temptation and not sin.  You and I will fail on this front a lot of the time, but Jesus should be inspiration that we can win battles against sin.  And get this, Jesus has already won the war against sin; so fight on!

Because Jesus is our high priest and He can relate to us, we should pray with confidence.  Jesus is our mediator and He understands our weaknesses, so we can come boldly to the throne with our prayer requests.  We don't have to be timid in approaching God  the Father because Jesus has already declared us to be His family.  We shouldn't be cocky in the presence of God the Father but we ought to be confident because Jesus is Jesus.  When we approach the throne of grace we are implored to request mercy and grace to help in our time of need.  We need mercy because we will fail in our fight with temptation.  We need grace to help in our time of need because Jesus has shown us that one can overcome temptation.  In fact, when we read the book of John we see that Jesus did everything through reliance upon God the Father; this includes overcoming temptation.  The same resource Jesus had in this fight we have as well.  So, ask for the wealth of grace that God can give in this fight; ask for some weapons.

Thank God for Jesus our high priest.  Thank God that He mediates for us.  Thank God that He understands our predicament.  Thank God that we can confidently approach Him in prayer.  Now, confidently approach Him in prayer today.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Awesome Word- Hebrews 4

In 1998 I was obsessed with the home-run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.  Both McGwire, the Cardinal, and Sosa, the Cub, were chasing Roger Maris' single season home-run record of 61.  Every day I had to see if one of them hit a homer.  I didn't have ESPN back then, so I'd either watch the Saturday featured game which without a doubt showcased one of these two giants or I'd watch Len Dawson's sports report on the news to what Big Mac and Slammin' Sammy did (By the way how awesome was it for me to have NFL legend Len Dawson as my TV sports guy!)

On September 8th, 1998 Mark McGwire took Chicago Cubs pitcher Steve Trachsel yard just over the left field wall for his 62nd dinger of the year.  McGwire set the record and eventually would hit 70 home-runs that year.  The next day I got a copy of the Kansas City Star with the headline "62 in St. Lou".  I held on to that newspaper for quite a while.

Later, my dad showed me a newspaper he kept.  It was the Lawton Constitution's issue when Hank Aaron hit his then record 715th career home-run.  That paper was fascinating to me. However, both the paper from Mark McGwire's record and Hank Aaron's record don't do me much good today.  As someone who appreciates history I can enjoy the papers, but I will never base my life off of the information in them.

The Bible is not like an old newspaper.  The Bible is not like an old history book either.  History changes; in fact, there is an entire study of this phenomenon called historiography.  The Bible is not like a newspaper, history book or even a classic novel.

"For the Word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."  Hebrews 4:12

The Bible is as applicable today as it was 2,000+ years ago.  The Bible is something I can and will base my life around.

Now, when the writer of Hebrews says the Bible is living he does not mean it is changing.  Rather, he means that the Bible still works powerfully today and one of the reasons it is living is the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit teaches us the Bible.  Have you ever read a passage a hundred times and then on the one-hundred-first time something seemingly new pops off the page to you?  This is part of what it means when it says the Bible is living and active.  Also, it's living and active because it still changes lives.  The Bible has the power to cut us to our core.  It has the power to judge our thoughts and attitudes.

The Word is awesome.  The Bible is not an outdated manuscript.  No, it is the most up to date book in the world.  It is relevant and always will be and we don't have to make it relevant, the Spirit will do that.

Open your Bible and let it penetrate your soul.  Let the Word of God change your life today.   

Monday, February 18, 2013

God's Rest-Hebrews 4

Please take time to read Hebrews chapter 4 because the next couple of posts will likely be coming out of this chapter.

"Therefore, since the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.  For we also have had the Gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard it did not combine it with faith.  Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,

'So I declared on oath in my anger,
Thy shall never enter my rest.'

And yet His work has been finished since the creation of the world.  For somewhere He has spoken about the seventh day in these words: 'And on the seventh day God rested from all His work."  Hebrews 3:1-4

This passage leaves us with an important question: "How do we fall short of God's rest?"

This passage is clear that we can fall short of His rest.  Now, is this out of not doing the right things?  Well, kind of; but not in doing the things we think of when we think of doing.

I believe that we fall short of God's rest when we start to believe that we must do something to complete God's work of salvation.  Let me explain briefly why I believe this.

First off, let's start with the end of this section.  "His work has been finished since the creation of the world."  When I think of the phrase "It is finished" I think of Jesus' victory cry on the cross, but the writer of Hebrews invites us to see the seventh day of creation as this victory cry.  "And on the seventh day God rested from all His work."  All His work.  God had achieved victory over our enemy at the beginning of the  world.  Yes, Jesus' words were a victory cry; but so too was God's rest on the seventh day of creation.  This blows my mind.

Secondly, "For we also have had the Gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard it did not combine it with faith."  This is an allusion to the story of Joshua, Caleb and the other ten spies who checked out the Promised Land.  The Lord promised them victory, but fear crept in and ten of the spies doubted God's promise so Israel did not march into the Promised Land.  In response to their fear God caused them all to wander in the desert for 40 years until a generation of them had died.  They didn't enter God's rest due to lack of faith.  They died in the desert.  It's the same with the Gospel.  God promises us victory but the Gospel is worthless to us without faith.  Faith in this case equals believing that God is in control and it is finished.  If we believe in the Gospel we will have rest.

So, what do we do to get this rest?  What does this rest look like?  This rest looks like us trusting in the promises.  As 10th Avenue North sings, "Why are you striving to earn grace?"  We can't earn the promise of the Gospel, but we can rest in the promise of the Gospel.  This is God's rest.  Be careful that we don't trust so much in our own strength that we miss God's rest.  It is finished.  It has been finished since the creation of the world.  God wins!  Believe God is in control and it is finished.  Rest in God today.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The River- Ezekiel 47

I'm stealing this from my friend Pastor Erin Bird.  Erin spoke today at Grace and challenged us; I want to share the basics of what he shared.

"As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep.  He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep.  He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist.  He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in, a river that no one could cross.  He asked me, 'Son of man, do you see this?"  Ezekiel 47-3-6

Please read Ezekiel 47:1-12 if you want the full context.

The river that Ezekiel is going through is the river that leads from under the Temple.  This river represents Christ Jesus.  Erin used this passage powerfully to ask a few questions.

The river's current will take you where it wants you to go, but the deeper you go the more control the river has and the less you do.  He said, some of us are ankle-deep.  We have fire insurance from Christ, but not much more.  Some are knee-deep.  We have some spiritual disciples but we are holding on to control of most of our life.  In Ezekiel's final stage he was in over his head.

Erin challenged our church to go deeper into the river that is our Lord, Christ Jesus.  As we go deeper the more we surrender our movements to Christ.  Remember, we aren't necessarily swept into the current as much as we are wading into the river deeper until we finally lift our feet and gladly let the current of Christ take us.

He left us with two questions.

What does deeper mean to me?

What does deeper mean for my church?

I think these are two phenomenal questions.  Ask them to yourself today.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Today I will not be posting a long post.  I just want to share how thankful I am for my friends.

Today my friend Carolina moved into her new house and several of us helped her.  I say that not to get a pat on the back; rather, I say that because those friends would do the same thing for me.  They truly are great friends.

I also mention that because I don't think any of us that moved Carolina would be friends if it were not for the Holy Spirit living in us.  The friends that moved Carolina are all so different from me.  Different ages.  Different backgrounds.  We're not the same in many ways.  But we have the same Holy Spirit living in us.  He gives us a common bond that is incredibly strong.

Thank you friends.  Thank you Holy Spirit for giving me a closeness to my friends that I couldn't have without you.

Thank God for your friends today.

Friday, February 15, 2013

How We Choose God

So many times when teaching youth, or anyone for that matter, this question arises: "Do we choose God or does He choose us?"  This has always been a difficult question to answer because the answer is "yes".

There are Scriptures that clearly say we choose God.  For example:

"... to all who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, He gave the right to become children of God."  John 1:12

In this verse we can see that we choose to receive God and to believe in His name.

But then there are verses that clearly say God chose us.  For example:

(Jesus speaking) "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit... fruit that will last."  John 15:16

Same book of the Bible.  Same writer.  So, which is it?  Did God choose or did we?  The answer again is "yes" and I think this analogy (while imperfect) can help us grasp this mystery.  Bear in mind that the Bible is perfect and does not contain error.  Rather, sometimes a concept is so beyond our understanding that we perceive as an incongruity.

I think the question of whether we chose God or whether He chose us can be answered like this:

Does a groom choose his bride or does she choose him?  The analogy of Christ as the groom and the Church as the bride is used numerous times in Scripture.  Thus, I'll steal that imagery.

When Christ chose us He do so like a man on one knee proposing.  Christ humbled Himself, although He didn't need to, to get on one knee.  He came down to our level and proposed salvation to us.  How did we choose God?  By saying "yes" to His proposal.  He extended the love which we then accepted. Beyond this, I'd argue that if God is on one knee proposing there is no person that could refuse Him.

Having said "yes" He placed an engagement ring on our finger that is the Holy Spirit.  I get this from Ephesians 4:30 which says, "... the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."  Meaning, the Holy Spirit is God's seal of His promised redemption just as an engagement ring is man's seal of his promise to marry.

So, God chose to humble Himself to our level and extend His love to us.  We chose to accept His extension of love and reciprocate it.  1 John 4:19 "We love because He first loved us."  Now we are sealed as if with an engagement ring by the Holy Spirit.

And a wedding is coming.  Revelation 19:6-7

For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give Him the glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and His bride (the Church) has made herself ready."

So choose God because He chose you first.  If He's proposing salvation to you, accept it today.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day- God's Love

Happy Valentine's Day!  I'm excited about Valentine's Day because I have someone this year.  I get to share my love with my fiance this Valentine's Day.  Granted I have to work this evening so I can't take her out, but I am not celebrating Singles Awareness Day as in past years.

I have someone to celebrate Valentine's Day.  Someone I love and who loves me back.  But then again, I've had that every year.  Obviously, God has loved me each every Valentine's Day, each and every day and will love me every future day.  As is painted on my coffee cup that Christine made made:

"But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

God loves us.  Cool, but what does that mean?

I've been reading J. I. Packer's classic book Knowing God.  Packer defines God's love as follows:

"God's love is an exercise of His goodness toward individual sinners whereby, having identified Himself with their welfare, He has given His Son to be their Savior, and now brings them to know and enjoy Him in a covenant relation."

I'm not going to break this down in the detail that Packer does, but I will venture some brief explanation.

First, "God's love is an exercise of His goodness..."  God is so good (and by "good" I mean infinitely perfect not necessarily nice) that His goodness spills over due to one of His traits, that being generosity.  God loves because love and generosity are innately His character.  As you've heard from John, God is love.

Secondly, God's love is given freely to those who don't deserve it.  God chose to love you.  Let that sink in... God chose to love you.  It is not required for God to love you; rather He does it out of the overflow of His goodness and of His choosing.  As Packer said, "No reason for His love can be given except His own sovereign good pleasure."

Thirdly, "... having identified Himself with their welfare..."  God was supremely happy before He created the world.  Supremely, perfectly, happy.  In fact, the Holy Trinity shared love openly and freely for eternity before time (mind blower).  But God decided to hinge his happiness in our welfare. He made, by His choice, His happiness eternally conditional on ours.  Packer says, "Thus God saves, not only for His glory, but also for His pleasure."

Fourthly, as we saw in Romans 5:8 God's love came through Jesus's sacrifice on the cross.  Without Jesus God cannot love you.

Lastly, "... brings them to know and enjoy Him in a covenant relation."  God is committed to loving you.  He has made a covenant to love you, just as a groom does with his bride in marriage.  Like a groom, God loves us by doing the best for us.  As John Tillotson said, "This is true love to any one, to do the best for him we can."  God does this.  And get this, God's best is based in His omnipotence, His almighty power!

Oh, how He loves us!  Happy Valentine's Day!  Meditate on God's love for you today.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lent Challenge 2013

Today is Ash Wednesday and today I will begin my 3rd Lent Challenge.  A few years ago I realized that as a Baptist I had never observed Lent.  Most other Christians, be it my Catholic or Lutheran friends, gave up something for the 40 days of Lent.  I never did because I never felt the need to do so.  I still say there is no need to do so.  There is no need to observe Lent.  However, I had a desire to observe Lent.  I wanted to better my relationship with Christ in the traditional way so many saints before me have done.

That being said, I didn't want to give something up.  I didn't want to give something up because I couldn't think of something I would give away that wouldn't somehow be all about me.  For instance, the idea of giving up pop was really so I could be a person who drank more healthily.  So, in lieu of giving something up I decided to add something.

For what will now be my third consecutive year I will be adding blogging.  I will blog everyday during Lent.  I do this so I have to think about God/read His Word in a matter that causes me to think clearly enough to share my experience.  Before I did this challenge I added reading a chapter of the Bible a day (something I should have been doing anyway).

I invite you to read along as I challenge myself again this Lent to grow closer to God.  I hope that my challenge can in some way be of help to you.

I also challenge you to challenge yourself.  This Lent add a spiritual discipline to your life like Bible reading, prayer, meditation on scripture, etc.  Who knows it might end up becoming a habit.  (By the way, if you're reading this after Ash Wednesday there is no rule that says you can't start today)

One suggestion I have for you is to add Bible reading.  I would suggest reading less than a chapter a day, unless you get on a roll that is.  I suggest reading just one of the sections in a chapter.  You know, the one's that say things like "Jesus predicts His death".  By reading less than one chapter a day it will allow you to read the Bible and understand what you're reading rather than forcing yourself to blaze through a long chapter.

Happy Ash Wednesday!  I hope that my challenge enriches your faith and I encourage you to challenge yourself today.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Hebrews 3- Hold On Together

Please take time to read Hebrews chapter 3.

This chapter is full of great truth (I feel like a broken record because I need to type that each week).  In this chapter we see our calling to fix our thoughts on Jesus who holds the highest office in both Judaism and in the Church.  We see how Jesus is greater than Moses.  We even see a quote from the Holy Spirit Himself.  There is so much good truth in this chapter but I'll look at just a few truths.

Look at verses 7-11.

"So as the Holy Spirit says:
'Today, if you hear His (Christ's) voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the desert,
where your fathers tested and tried me
and for forty years saw what I did.
That is why I was angry with that generation,
and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray,
and they have not known my ways.'
So I declared on oath in my anger,
'They shall never enter my rest."

Notice each "I", "me" and "my".  The subject of all of those is the Holy Spirit.  Ponder on that.  The Holy Spirit is NOT a tertiary character; rather He is God Almighty and was a force in history long before Pentecost.

"See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.  We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first."  Verses 12-14

I'm going to steal a line from my pastor's sermon last week.  "Staying faithful to God is a community project."  We have to encourage one another daily in order to hold on firmly to Christ.  This means that we need one another.  The Christian race is not a series of personal quiet times.  While personal quiet time is deeply important it is not what the Apostle Paul said would keep us from being hardened by sin's deceitfulness.  We Christians are designed to rely on one another.  In fact, don't you think that might be why God established the Church?  Isn't that why He puts the lonely in families?  Isn't that why He gives us Jonathan and David type friendships?  Isn't that why He gave Eve to Adam?

Are you part of a church family?  If not, join one.  Are you part of a small group?  If not, join one.  Do you have a confidant that inspires and encourages mutual growth?  If not, become vulnerable and find one.  We need one another.  And this is no trivial task; this is a matter of eternal life or death.  I'm not saying that you can lose your salvation but I am saying, "We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first."

Staying faithful to God is a community project.  Find a church family and dive into it.  If you have a church family, remember to daily encourage and to be encouraged by your church.  Hold on firmly to Christ.  Hold on together.  Encourage one another toward endurance and growth today.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Super Bowl and Lonnie Paxton

Jerry Rice, Tom Brady, Ray Lewis, Joe Namath... these are names of Super Bowl champions.  I'm sure many of you recognize these names if you are fans of football.  Let me add another name to this list.  Lonnie Paxton.

Who the heck is Lonnie Paxton?

Lonnie Paxton was a pivotal player in one of the Super Bowl's most dramatic plays.  It was Super Bowl XXXVI and the New England Patriots were the underdogs to the powerful St. Louis Rams quarterbacked by Kurt Warner.  Hardly anyone gave the Pats a chance of winning that game.  Despite the doubters, the Patriots were in the final seconds of the game with a chance to win.  All they had to do was make a 48 yard field goal and they would be the victors of the biggest game of the year as millions upon millions of people watched.

So who is Lonnie Paxton?

That's still the question.  Lonnie Paxton was the long snapper for the Patriots.  Lonnie made a perfect snap and Adam Vinatieri kicked the ball through the uprights clinching the game for Tom Brady and the Patriots and starting a dynasty.

Lonnie Paxton played a pivotal role in an enormous victory and 99.999999999999999999999999999999999% of people, let alone football junkies, have never heard his name before.  

Billy Graham, C. S. Lewis, the Apostle Paul, Mother Theresa... these are names of people who have changed the world in the name of God.  I'm sure many of you recognize these names.  Let me add another name to this list.  Jerry Lockwood.

Who the heck is Jerry Lockwood?

Jerry Lockwood is a man of God from Enon Baptist Church in little Pittsville, Missouri.  Jerry spreads his hope in Jesus Christ in a variety of ways.  Jerry is playing a pivotal role in an enormous victory and 99.9999999999999999999999% of people, let alone Christians, have never heard his name before.  Jerry is participating in the victory of the Gospel.  Jerry is a player in Christ's triumphant spreading of His Gospel.

Why do I write this?  I want you to know what a privilege we have.  We get to be a part of the victory of Christ's Gospel.  God could do it all on His own but He invites us to be a player in His victory.  How awesome is that!  I also want you to know that name recognition isn't the only reward of sharing in this victory.  I'm sure if you talked with Lonnie Paxton he would tell you want an honor and thrill it was to have played a part in a Super Bowl championship.

So, play a role in a championship.  Cherish the opportunity to participate in the victory of Christ's Gospel.  Be thrilled by that.  In whatever role you're given, be it quarterback or long snapper, play a role in someone's eternal destiny today.