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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

10 Favorite Post of 2014

Here are 10 of my personal favorite posts from 2014.  I'm not confident enough to call them my best or most popular but these are some of my favorites.

1)Are You Ready for a Serious Relationship?

2) From Acorn to Oak

3) A Father on His Knees

4) Longing to Be Married

5) Be Equally Yoked

6) The Love of Excellence

7) Attitude and Action

8) Robin Williams and Suicide

9) The Rapture

10) Humility

Thank you for reading my blog this year and I hope you have an awesome New Year's Eve today.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Rejoice in the Lord

I am continuing to study the book of Philippians.  For this post I want to focus on one verse.

"Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4

This is one of, as Matt Chandler calls them, the coffee cup verses of the book of Philippians.  One of you reading this is drinking from a coffee cup that says this verse on it.  This is an incredibly popular verse of the Bible and I want to look at in some depth.

So often people will be told this verse when they are suffering.  I think this is sad because people are trying so hard to be helpful but often it ends up being hurtful to one already hurt.  When someone just got a cancer diagnosis please do not run up to them and hand them your coffee cup and tell them to read it.  This verse is a powerful verse, but I don't think it means the same thing as the song "Chin Up Charlie".

Let's look at what the verse actually says and what it doesn't say.  Let's begin by what it doesn't say.

Rejoice in everything always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!

This is not the passage.  It does not say to rejoice always or in everything.  When you've been told that your wife had a miscarriage that is not the time to start rejoicing.  I know that sentence seems mean and callous but it's not intended to be.  I simply want to say that some circumstances are so horrible that we do not rejoice because of them.  Thank God the passage doesn't say "Rejoice in everything always."

Instead let's look at what the verse actually says.

"Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!"

In the Lord is the phrase that the entire verse hinges upon.  Without these three words the verse becomes impossible.  Not everything that happens in our lives inspires joy in us.  The phrase in the Lord makes this verse possible.

See, God is infinitely good and therefore there will be reasons to rejoice in Him for eternity.  We will spend eternity discovering and beholding more of His goodness.  So we can rejoice in the Lord in all circumstances while not rejoicing in the circumstances.  Get that... we can rejoice in the Lord in all circumstances while not rejoicing in the circumstances.  We don't have to rejoice in the circumstance or rather because of the circumstance but we can rejoice in the Lord always.

An example, I mentioned earlier a cancer diagnosis.  There is nothing about cancer that is worthy of rejoicing.  Cancer is a result of a sinful world and cancer has no place in heaven.  But even in the midst of a cancer diagnosis there is reason to rejoice in who God is.  We can rejoice that God promises to make all things good for those called according to His purposes.  We can rejoice that God is good enough to not be surprised by or sidetracked by cancer.

We rejoice in suffering because God is in control.  Suffering has a way of making us painfully aware of our inability to control our own lives.  In the chaos of suffering we are keenly aware of our smallness.  But if we recall the promises of God and the character of God we will know that He has it in His hands.  It is in this trust that we rejoice.  Our rejoicing may be with tears streaming down our face but it can be rejoicing that someone much bigger has this in His hands.

I think this is why the Apostle Paul continues on like this in verse six:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:6-7

Some of you are in the middle of a storm and need to fight to rejoice in the Lord, to find Him good.  Some of you aren't in a trial, but I can promise you will be in one in the future.  To you I give this advice: hide the promises of God in your heart and study His character.  These two things will buoy you in the storm and allow you to "Rejoice in the Lord always."

Keep your eyes on Jesus today.  

Monday, December 22, 2014

5 Christmas Miracles

Christmas is almost here!  This phrase sounds tired and worn but it's often true, in the hustle and bustle of the season we often forget the true meaning of Christmas.  I have to fight hard to get more enjoyment from Jesus at Christmas than I do from all of the other "stuff" of the holiday.  To stay focused on Christ at Christmas I find it best to be like the shepherds in the familiar story, to be in awe and wonder.

Below are five miracles of Christmas to help us be in awe and wonder this year.

1) The Infinite in the Infant
Think about this: God is infinite.  He has no beginning nor end.  He always was and never wasn't and will never stop existing.  He is infinite in all qualities including size and power, yet Jesus was born a baby.  This is what many Jews in the First Century found so unbelievable about the Jesus story and I don't blame them.  This idea of Christianity is mindblowingly incomprehensible.  It is a mystery to the nth degree.  Christians, while we must believe that our Infinite God became a human infant we can't find this fact understandable.  We are to be in awe of this because it is a miracle.  For more on this idea check out a previous blog post I wrote on the subject.

2) Jesus Was Obedient to Human Parents
"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death... even death on a cross." Philippians 2:6-8

Jesus was obedient to God the Father even to death on a cross, but Jesus was also obedient to His earthly parents, parents He made and held together by the power of His word!  Jesus humbled Himself to be obedient to imperfect human parents.  If Jesus can do it so should we.  Imagine the Lord of all the Universe taking orders and instruction from a carpenter and a teenage mother.  That is obedience and humility at a miraculous level.

3) The Perfect God Faced Temptation
"For God cannot be tempted by evil..." James 1:13

"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." Hebrews 4:15

My wife was recently in awe by a comment my dad made in a sermon.  Dad said Jesus chose not to sin.  She had never even thought about that and it left her in awe thinking about the daily battle with sin that Jesus fought and won.  I don't know exactly how this works but because Jesus is fully God He cannot sin, yet He chose to become fully human and allow Himself to be tempted to sin.  Remember His time in the desert with Satan?  Jesus was tempted.  It says it in black and white yet He daily chose not to sin.  The Perfect God chose to face the struggle of temptation and I'm sure He got everything the Devil could throw at Him and yet He chose at every moment of His life not to sin.  This is awe inspiring because I have trouble not sinning for an hour!

4) God Came to be With Us
This is so incredible.  Let's remember one of God's interactions with Moses.

"Then Moses said, 'Now show me Your glory."
And the LORD said, 'I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim My Name, the LORD, in your presence.  I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  'But,' He said, 'you cannot see my face, for no one may see Me and live." Exodus 33:18-20

As the story continues Moses hides in the cleft of the rock as God passes by and he sees the back of God.  No one sees God and lives.  Throughout the Old Testament people do not see God for fear of dying in the light of His glory.

But Jesus can say: "...Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father..."  John 14:9

And Paul says: "He is the image of the invisible God..." Colossians 1:15

Jesus was God with us and when Jesus ascended He gave us the Holy Spirit who is God with us.  This is a miracle considering that we had absolutely no way to see God or be in His direct presence until the miracle of Jesus.  Emanuel, God with us, is amazing to consider.

5) Salvation Has Come to the World!
"I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord."  Luke 2:10-12

Jesus' birth, life, death and resurrection brought salvation to the world.  There is no Easter without the miracle of Christmas.  God elected to perform the most precious, valuable miracle in my life through Jesus and He chose to begin that miracle in a young girl's womb.  Awe and wonder indeed!  And here's more good news... that miracle is available for you to accept in your life today!

Be in awe and wonder of these five miracles of Christmas, but don't stop there.  Comment with other miracles of Christmas if you'd like and by all means celebrate the miracle of Christmas today.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Personal But Not Private

In the midst of some Advent posts I want to continue to go through the book of Philippians because that is what my Bible study is doing.  We are reading through the book and listening to teaching from Pastor Matt Chandler.  Please read Philippians 3:15-21.

"Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you."  Philippians 3:17

As Pastor Chandler taught on this passage one sentence stuck out to me and I'll paraphrase it for you:  "Our faith is personal but not private."

"Our faith is personal but not private."

In this post I want to wrestle with that idea and with Philippians 3:17 and give you some ways to live that out.

"Our faith is personal but not private."  If you are saved you have a personal relationship with God.  You are adopted as a child of God and He knows you and you get to know Him intimately.  But I fear that we teach that so much that we think that our faith is something we do personally.  While personal disciples are great they are not entirely what it means to live a Christian life.  Living a Christian life means needing others and being needed by others.  As my pastor, Jim Lee, says and I've quoted many times: "Staying faithful to Jesus is a community project."

So, here a few ways we can put Philippians 3:17 into practice.

1) Find Godly men and/or women and put yourself under them.

The old expression is that every man needs a Paul and every Paul needs a Timothy.  This means that we all need to be mentored/discipled by someone and we all need to mentor/disciple someone.  But let me tell you this is hard.  I don't think it is that hard to identify a Godly person... what is difficult is being vulnerable to them, but it is worth it.  To be discipled in a powerful way you must be vulnerable, you must not whitewash your life in front of this person, you must bare your soul in an intimate way.  This can be and often is hard but I strongly suggest you do it.  Give this person the authority to instruct you and at times lovingly correct you.  This takes humility but I will tell you that you will grow if you do this.

2) "... take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you."

Not everyone you learn from has to be a mentor.  Find people that do things righteously and watch them.  As Matt Chandler noted in his talk, these people don't need to be perfect, maybe they just excel in one are that you want to grow in.  While it is very helpful if these are people in your town or in your church they don't have to be.  Find an author whose books inspire you, find the YouTube page of a pastor that instructs you, find a blog that pushes you, just find people who are following Jesus and imitate their best qualities.  As Matt Chandler said, you don't need to create a trail that has already been blazed.

3) Remember that people are watching you.

If you are watching others, I guarantee someone is watching you.  Paul said in Philippians 3:17 "Join with others in following my example..."  Do I feel like I could say this?  No way!  But here's the truth, it doesn't matter if I could say it because people are watching me anyway.  If you have publicly declared that you are a Christian you will have eyes on you.  Little ones in the church might copy the way you pray.  Youth might take notice of the choices you make.  Believers of all ages will and likely do have their eyes on you at least some of the time.  So, remember that people are watching you.  If we simply remembered this we would live differently.  Okay, I know I live differently when I remember this truth.  You and I are on display.  Will we let our light shine or will we broadcast the same garbage as someone whose life has not been changed?

Your faith is personal but it is not private.  We are all in this together as brothers in sisters in Christ.  What you do matters to others.  So, look for people to be mentored by and to mentor, take note of those who inspire and teach you and remember that people are watching you.  Watch for Jesus in others, copy that and broadcast Jesus through your life today.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

He Dwelt Amongst Us- A Regifted Post

Below is another Advent post I wrote in 2012.

He Dwelt Amongst Us

"The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us."- John 1:14

We are now in a season of Advent which is a fun time.  People are busy buying gifts, planning parties and enjoying beautiful lights all around town.  Advent and the anticipation of Christmas is a special time.  But we need remember what Christmas is all about.

"The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us."

Use your imagination with me.  Imagine Jesus, who was and is and always will be.  Jesus who created the universe and ruled it.  Jesus who lived in perfect loving unity with God the Father and God the Spirit.  Jesus who was constantly praised and worshipped by the creatures in heaven.  This Jesus became flesh and made His dwelling among us.

Jesus abandoned all the glory of heaven to dwell amongst men.  But He didn't just live with us; He lived as one of us.  Jesus subjected Himself to the limitations of a human.

Imagine with me:  Jesus, the aforementioned king of the universe, unable to express the fact that He had made a mess in His pants so He cries uncontrollably.  Martin Luther wrote in the song "Away in a Manager" this line, "But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes."  Sorry Martin but I'm sure Jesus cried like a normal baby.  He subjected Himself to the limitations of an infant.

Imagine this with me:  One day Jesus walks up to Mary and starts asking questions about some changes in His body.  I can just picture this: "Joseph!  You need to have a talk with your son.  You know 'THE talk'."  I'm sure Jesus went through puberty as awkwardly as all the other Jewish boys in town.  Sinlessly but awkwardly.  Sinlessly but within the limitations of His human body.

Jesus can relate with us.  "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us."

If this was the end of the Christmas story it would still be an amazing story.  God dwelt with His people to understand their predicament or maybe more accurately to prove He understood.  No human can now say, "God you just don't know what it's like down here."  God the Son understands completely because He lived it completely.

But here's great news... the Word didn't just live among us He died for us and rose again!  Jesus in complete obedience to His Father and out of love for you and I came to earth and did battle with death defeating it once and for all!

This Advent remember what Christ did for us on the cross.  But beyond that, remember what a sacrifice He made just to come and dwell amongst us.  Thank God for His incarnation today.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Christmas Letter 2014

Merry Christmas,

Hard to believe we're writing our second Christmas letter as a married couple.  It doesn't seem like one year since our last letter but when life is busy it seems to fly.  Last year was full of so many big, exciting changes in our life.  On the other hand, 2014 was a year of getting used to our new normal and while that doesn't seem as exciting we really love our new normal.

That being said, Christine had a full 2014.  She began the year by writing and directing our church's Easter passion mime.  She did an excellent job (Matt's opinion) and the shows were a success.  For the second year in a row Christine graduated, this time in August from Allen College with a B.S.N.  Soon after graduation she passed the boards and in October got her dream job as a labor and delivery nurse at Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo.  Besides all this she's picked up quilting as a new hobby and is in her second year as one of the youth leaders at our church.

Matt still enjoys working at KWAY where he has been for five years now.  He works as a morning D.J. from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. every week day.  He also does play-by-play and called roughly150 games this year for football, volleyball, basketball, soccer, baseball and softball.  Matt also is in his ninth year as a youth leader at our church and just recently began serving as an elder at the church, too.  On top of all that he also enjoys being a member of the Waverly Jaycees.

This year we got the chance to go to a number of weddings include the weddings of Matt's brother and sister.  We also went to Christine's Grandma and Grandpa Lind's 65th anniversary.  So, our travels for the year consisted of weddings, anniversaries and a lot of time with family.

As we look back on 2014 we can't help but thank God for all the ways that we've been blessed.  We have so many reasons to be thankful.  You are one of those many reasons.  We thank you for your prayers, support and friendship this year.  We hope 2014 was a great year for you, too.  We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy 2015!


Matt and Christine Ray

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Mary's Treasure and Our Pain- Regifted Post

For this week's post I'm re-gifting an Advent post from 2012.

Mary's Treasure and Our Pain

For today's post I need to tell the story of Jesus' birth.  I want to spend extra time looking at Luke 2:19.  In order to tell the rest of the story I've invited my friend Linus to share.

To finish the story:
"When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.'  So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told"
Luke 2:15-20

This is a very familiar story, one that I've heard hundreds of times.  I want to look at one verse because I recently read it in a new way.

"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."

Why is this verse so important?  Why is this included in the middle of a story about the shepherds rejoicing at seeing God's glory and sharing their story of God's glory?

Mothers treasure up the moments surrounding the birth of their children.  Ask your mother, if she is still with you, to tell you about the day you were born.  I'm sure she could tell you detail after detail.  Mothers treasure these moments.

But I believe that Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart for more than just the typical reasons.  Mary needed to remember these moments because, unbeknownst to her, she would have to watch her son die and be laid a tomb.  Mary was going to go through a hellishly tough time.  God prepared her for that by having her store up the good moments with Jesus.

God still does this.  I recently read a book by a local woman named Ranae Krull.  She wrote about a terrible accident her son Isaiah had.  She wrote about watching him in a coma and watching him struggle through a long, long recovery.  She wrote about watching him live his life in a much different manner than she expected.  But she also wrote about how God's Word and songs got her through that time.  She explained how in moments of intense suffering God would remind her of verses and truths that she had treasured earlier in her heart.

When we have times of pain it is difficult to begin to search God's Word and find comfort.  Our minds can be in a fog.  What happens so often is that the verses, songs and truths that we memorized and pondered previously in our heart rise to the surface to kiss us in the tough time.  Thank God that He helps us store up evidences of grace in our good times to be used in the tough times.

So, be like Mary.  Treasure up Jesus and His words and ponder them in your heart.  I'm sure that in your dark days those treasures will rise up like a comforting kiss.  But they can't rise to the top if they aren't there.  Treasure the Word of God and ponder it in your heart today.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Gospel in an Instant and Over Time

I'm continuing to look at the book of Philippians.  Please read chapter 3 along with me.

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.  And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.  Only let us live up to what we have already attained." Philippians 3:12-16

When we read the writings of Paul we must be sure to know what he's talking about, otherwise we get confused and miss the point.  When you read this passage it is easy to read it as if Paul was saying that we earn salvation.  However, if you read Paul very long you'll see that that is preposterous.  Paul very often said that he had no confidence in the flesh, that salvation is not of works so that no one can boast... Paul is very clear in teaching that we don't earn salvation and couldn't earn salvation if we tried.

I think when we read the writings of the Apostle Paul we see a three step process of salvation.  I know what you're thinking.  "Isn't salvation instant?  What about the thief on the cross?"  Salvation is instant and a process.  Let me explain what I mean:

1) Justification = instant.
Justification is being declared innocent.  This is where God looks at us and sees only the righteousness of Christ in which we are clothed.  At the moment of salvation you are justified just like the thief on the cross and millions of others throughout history.  You can not earn justification, it is a gift of God purchased by Christ on the cross.

2) Sanctification = a process.
This is the stage I'm currently in.  I've been justified but believe me I continue to sin.  This is the stage Paul is talking in the passage above.  Paul is pushing forward into Christ for sanctification.  Sanctification is the process by which we become more like Christ here in this life.

Is sanctification a work?  Yes and no.  Sanctification takes work and sacrifice.  In order to be sanctified we must forget our old life and the way we once lived and strain toward our new goal.  We must, unlike Lot's wife, not look back lovingly on our old, doomed life.  Sanctification may take disciples like prayer, Scripture reading, meditation on Scripture, fasting, giving, etc.  Don't be fooled into thinking Christ will sanctify you while you continue in your old life.

But sanctification is a gift of God.  Christ sanctifies us.  Look at what Paul says, "... let us live up to what we have already attained."  I believe that Christ will sanctify me and that is why I work.  If it were up to me and my "goodness" I would give up because I don't stand a chance.  Christ will sanctify me through trials, through the reading of His Word, through men and women I can look up to, He will sanctify me in a variety of ways but leave no doubt that while I press on toward a goal it is a goal that has been already reached for me by Jesus.

3) Glorification = instant.
The moment I die I will be glorified.  There is no Purgatory and there is no sin or sinners in heaven.  When I breath my last breath I will reach a glory I  could never reach on my own.  I will be more like Jesus than you could ever imagine because I will see Him face-to-face.  I will be not only declared sinless, I will be sinless.  I look forward to receiving this gift!

This is Thanksgiving week so we are reminded to be thankful.  Be thankful that you have been justified by the blood of the Lamb.  Thank God that you are being sanctified by a God that loves you as you are but loves you too much to leave you in the sorry state you're in now.  And thank God that in an instant He will glorify you when you die or when He returns.  Thank God for His Gospel in your life today.

Monday, November 17, 2014

3 Ways to Lust for Jesus

The title of this is weird, I know.  I'm going through a study on Philippians by Pastor Matt Chandler and this is a term he used.  Today I want to talk about lust for Jesus.  I'll be using Philippians 3:1-11 and Psalm 63 as my source verses.  Please read them. (Disclaimer: anything too brilliant may have been stolen from Matt Chandler)

Have you ever been madly in love?  More accurately, have you ever been infatuated with someone?  I mean you had to have them, had to be with them, had to hear their voice?  Have you done the "No, you hang up" thing?  Have you ever had the seemingly uncontrollable lust to be with someone and know them in all sense of the word?

Paul and David were like that with Christ.  Both of these men had, to steal some lines from Chandler and the Bible, a holy discontentment, a yearning for, a groaning for, a lustful pursuit for God.  Why don't I?  Why don't you?  Why are we so content with scraps of God when there is infinitely more to be had?  Why don't we have an uncontrollable lust for more?

David puts in this way:

"O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you." Psalm 63:1, 3

Paul said that all his works were worthless compared with knowing Jesus.  Look at this yearning Paul had:

"... I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ."  Philippians 3:8

Paul wrote that he wanted Jesus and valued Jesus more than anything.  He said everything in comparison to Jesus was rubbish.  Rubbish is a poor translation because the translators didn't want to write the real word.  Paul really says he considering everything shit in comparison.  He had a value for Christ that I don't have.  I don't treat the things in my life as crap compared to Christ.  I fit Christ into my schedule around the crap... Paul would find that sad.

So, how can we be more uncontrollably in love with God?  I'll offer my own piece of advice as well as what Matt Chandler suggested.  The first is a Matt Ray original and the second two are Matt Chandler originals.

1) Explore who God is.
God is infinite and that means that there is infinitely more to know about Him so this pursuit will never end.  That being said, I don't believe that you'll fall uncontrollably in love with Him until you know a little more of the beauty of who He is.  Do studies of who God is, not what He requires of you, but just a character study.  If you want help I suggest reading The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer and Knowing God by J. I. Packer for starts.  These helped me immensely.

2) Ask: What stirs my affections for Jesus?
My wife would say, "What romances my heart for Jesus?"  Find things that stir your heart toward God.  Some examples: the whiteness of snow, creation and being in it, orchestral music, deep theology books, milkshakes with friends, etc.  Do whatever it is that points your heart toward heaven.

3) Ask: What robs my affections for Jesus?
What keeps your mind from thoughts of God?  This can be TV, sports, Facebook, thoughts of work while you're at home, worry about the future, etc.  Whatever it is that points your thoughts back on to yourself or on to nothingness needs to be ended or controlled.  These things don't have to be inherently bad, they just need to be bad for you.

Be lustfully in love with Jesus.  I know the phrase sounds strange, but I think it works.  We should be in an uncontrollable pursuit of more of God.  Hold high the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus today.

Monday, November 10, 2014


This week I want to write about pride because I wrote about humility last week.  The basis of what I write comes from Philippians 2:3-11 and Mary's Magnificat in Luke chapter 1, please read those passages.  If anything seems overly brilliant it may have been inadvertently or partially stolen from a message Pastor Matt Chandler gave on this passage.

In Philippians 2:3-11 the Apostle Paul implores his readers to not be proud or conceited but to be humble in the same way Jesus was humble on earth.  Last week I wrote about what humility is and this week I thought the obvious question is, "What is pride?"

In Mary's Magnificat in Luke chapter 1 it says this in the King James Version:

"He hath shewed strength with His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts."  Luke 1:51

I used the King James Version because I like the phrase "in the imagination of their hearts" and because Matt Chandler's analysis of that phrase opened my eyes to what pride really is.  The NIV says, "in their inmost thoughts" but imagination, I think, better gets at the reality of what pride is.

Humility is rooted in reality.  Pride is rooted in fantasy.

In my last post I used this C. S. Lewis quote: "Humility isn't thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less."  Humility is not mustering up a falsely negative idea of who you are.  If you are a good singer, humility is not thinking you can't carry a tune.  If you are a good accountant, humility is not thinking that you aren't good at your job.  Humility is rooted in reality.  Humility is seeing, honestly seeing, where you stand in juxtaposition to the Almighty God.  Humility is seeing, honestly and accurately seeing, that the world does not revolve around you.

Pride is only maintainable with a rabid imagination.  Pride says, "I can call the shots in my life as good or better than you God"  Or, "The world does revolve around me, people should be serving and pleasing me."  Pride thinks that it can control what happens around them.  That is a fantasy.  You can have all your ducks in order and watch in horror as cancer or a tornado or an economic downturn comes crashing into your plans.  Pride is believing a fantasy.

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" Proverbs 9:10

We can't know anything until we understand where we stand in contrast to God.  If we don't fear God we will continue to live in a fantasy... the fantasy of pride.  Friends, Satan is called the Father of Lies because he loves to tell us lies.  Pride was his first sin and pride is at the root of so much of the sin in our lives.  Quit believing the lie; quit living in the fantasy.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves."  Philippians 2:3

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus... taking the very nature of a servant..."  Philippians 2:5, 7

So, be like Jesus.  Don't ask how others can serve you; ask "How can I serve others?"  Wal-Mart employees have it written on their vests; Christians should have it tattooed on their hearts, "How can I serve you?"

Live in the reality of humility and reject the fantasy of pride.  Ask God, "How can I serve you?"  Ask God, "How can I serve others today?"

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


I'm getting back to the book of Philippians this week.  Today I'll look at Philippians 2:1-4

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."  Philippians 2:3-4

In this passage the Apostle Paul gives two negative commands and two positive commands.  We'll look at the negative commands first:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition.  This means that we, as Christians, must not be motivated by our own status or prestige.  Many times when we're considering doing something we wonder how this will advance us personally or how this will give us the upper hand.  Paul tells us not to do that.

Do nothing out of vain conceit.  This is hard for me, because I enjoy it when someone notices me doing something well.  It is okay to give and receive recognition, but recognition should not be our motivation for action.  Ask, "Would I still do this if no one noticed?"  If you can say "yes", then your heart is likely in the right place.

Now, on to the positive commands:

In humility consider others better than yourself.  This is hard and I think this requires us looking at what humility really is.  To do that I'll quote the immensely quotable C.S. Lewis from his novel "The Screwtape Letters":

"...humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools.  And since what they are trying to believe may, in some cases, be manifest nonsense, they cannot succeed in believing it."

"The Enemy (God in this book) wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour's talents... or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall.  He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognise all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things."

I believe Lewis' ideas on humility to be correct.  In Philippians Paul asks us to be humble like Jesus.  Jesus never thought of Himself as less than holy and less than King.  Rather, Jesus, knowing He was God and King, chose to think of others and of God the Father.  So much of sin is us thinking about ourselves first and foremost.  God wishes that we think first of Him and then the people He created.  Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.  We must think about God and others more.

Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  We, as Christians, must take care of ourself AND others.  We cannot run ourselves to death in the interests of others and therefore end our usefulness; but we cannot be so full of ourselves that we never look after the interests of others.  Think of it like this: When a plane is going down you are instructed to put your own oxygen mask on before you put your child's mask on.  Why? Because if you don't have oxygen you won't be able to help your child.  Following directions is not selfish.  But if you put on your own oxygen mask and then refuse to help anyone else with theirs you are selfish and probably coupable.

Practice true humility.  "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" today.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Rapture

Lately I've seen a lot of on-line talk about "The Rapture" and if and when it will happen.  I've seen a lot of joking around about it.  A lot of name calling and intellectual pride about it.  And, I've seen some people genuinely trying to see the other side but not getting anywhere because Twitter and Facebook are horrible places to have such deep discussions.  I am not a theologian but I want to give this a try.  Hopefully, I can help.

Let me start by identifying my bias and background.  I grew up believing in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. I read some of the Left Behind books, I watched TV shows that offered clues as to when the Rapture would be, I sang "I Wished We'd All Been Ready" as a solo in church and I loved the Rapture Warning bumper stickers.

Then I one day in my early twenties (a.k.a. not long ago) I was sitting around a table of guys who were chatting about the end times.  At that moment my world got rocked a bit.  My pastor started to explain how he didn't believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture.  I was floored.  Did I need to switch churches?  What was his problem?  Hadn't he read Left Behind?  He talked and explained and I listened along with everyone else but was far from convinced.  But as I read more and more of the Bible I started to see his point.  Then I read brilliant theologians who agreed that there would not be a Rapture.

I now no longer believe in the Rapture like it is explained in popular Christian culture.  Below are some reasons why:

It's a New Idea
What I mean by young, is historically young.  Francisco Ribera, a Catholic priest, in 1590 was the first to write anything regarding what we call "The Rapture".  In fact, it wasn't until 1827 when John Nelson Darby, a Brethren,  popularized the idea amongst some Protestants.  Then the idea really took off when William Eugene Blackstone wrote "Jesus is Coming" the 1878 equivalent to "Left Behind".  The Cold War then further popularized the idea of "The Rapture" amongst American Protestants.  There are many denominations that reject the idea altogether and America is really the only nation in which the idea is taken seriously.  And for at least 1,500 years the saints didn't even consider it.  And for only 200 years at most has it been a popular idea.

The idea of "The Rapture" seems to be very popular because it involves us not suffering like those who are left behind will.  America loves this idea, but much of the Christians in the world cannot accept it because they are already suffering immensely.  If God wants to remove us from Earth before the great suffering begins, then why are the Christians in Iraq being massacred?

Jesus said we will suffer and suffer like He did (note when He speaks of the world He means the way the world works not necessarily planet Earth):

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you.  Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.'  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also."  John 15:18-20

Paul said:

"In fact, everyone who want so live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."  2 Timothy 4:12

Left Behind?
You don't want to be left behind?  Are you sure?  Look at the source of the idea of "Man and wife asleep in bed, she hears a noise and turns her head he's gone." as referenced in the song "I Wish We'd All Been Ready".

"'It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed... I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left.  Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.'

'Where, Lord?' they asked.

He replied, 'Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather."  Luke 17:30-37

The ones taken will be dead and the vultures will eat them.  The one's left behind are the righteous ones in Jesus' story and the taken ones are punished for their evil.  I want to be left behind in this story.

Caught Up in the Clouds
"For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever."  1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

Now surely this proves "The Rapture".  Well, I think no.  Below is a link to a video by one of the finest and most respected New Testament scholars in the world N. T. Wright explaining this passage.  Please watch the short video.  He explains things very clearly.
N. T. Wright video about this passage

I don't believe in "The Rapture" as it is described in popular Christian culture because it promotes escapism.  I think the idea of getting the heck out of here is a damaging one to Christendom.  Here is another blog of mine from 2012 that explains this point further.

Bottom line, I don't think "The Rapture" will happen in the way that popular Christian culture, books and movies describes it.  But I didn't come to that thinking right away, it took a lot of thought and a lot of digging to come by it.  If you believe in "The Rapture" I don't think any less of you.  In fact, I hope you're right because I don't want Christians to suffer the way I believe they/we will in the last days.  If you don't believe in "The Rapture" quit being so jerkish on-line.  Snarky Facebook posts will never be the building blocks of The Kingdom.  We can disagree on a lot of things and will disagree on a lot of things until we get to ask Jesus face to face what the answers are.  But we must agree on the Gospel and my friends on both sides of "The Rapture" debate do agree on that and the Gospel will bring us together.  So, disagree if you must, but do it with understanding, compassion and grace today.


Monday, October 20, 2014

To Live and to Die

The book of Philippians is full of what Pastor Matt Chandler calls "coffee cup verses".  These are verses that you find on coffee cups, key chains, T-shirts, etc in the Christian bookstore.  In chapter one I want to focus on one of the great "coffee cup verses" in Philippians chapter 1.

"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."  Philippians 1:21

Let me give you a little more context before I write more about this verse.

"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.  Yet what shall I choose?  I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body."  Philippians 1:21-24

After reading these verses I was left asking these questions: "Can I say to live is Christ in all circumstance?  Can I say to die is gain in all circumstances?"

To Live is Christ
Paul wrote this letter to the church at Philippi when he was is a cold, dark, nasty prison without a timetable for release.  One can easy see why Paul could say, "to die is gain."  "To live is Christ" was a much bigger claim for him.  So, why did he say "to live is Christ"?  He said it because living meant more fruitful labor.  See, Paul knew that while he was alive he was still part of God's mission on earth.  He knew that his living was necessary for the Church.

Have you been in a place where it was easier to say "to die is gain" than "to live is Christ"?  Depression, death of a loved one, cancer, loneliness... the list can go on and on; when we are affected by things like this we are prone to want to depart from our bodies to be with Jesus.  But we don't get to go home unless we are called home (this is not me saying that suicide=damnation.  Suicide is wrong because we aren't meant to decide when we die, but it is not an automatically damnable sin).  So, until God calls you home, He calls you to serve Him on earth.  Even in the lowest of times we are to say "to live is Christ".  Even when life seems to be at its worst "to live is Christ".  We must say "to live is Christ" in all circumstances.

To Die is Gain
My life on earth is pretty darn good.  I have a job I love, I am married to the love of my life, I have great friends... I have many good reasons to live and I thank God for all of it all.  That being said, I must be able to say that right now "to die is gain".  I must believe that being in the direct presence of Christ is better than anything life can offer me.  Does this mean I don't value my life?  Absolutely not!  This means that while I love my life now, I anxiously look forward to living with my God in Heaven.

Are you in a place where when you think about Heaven you can't see how it could be better than what you have now?  I mean, your family, your job, your friends, your stuff, etc is all exactly what you'd hoped them to be.  I have felt like this, but I was wrong.  Through better understanding who God is I've become more anxious to be with Him.  Christians should never get to the place where we love what we have now on earth more than God's promise to dwell with us in Heaven.  Paul says, "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far."  We must believe that being with Christ is better by far than anything else.  We must say "to die is gain" in all circumstances.

"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."  Can you say that in all circumstances?  Can we live because we know that we live in the middle of God's mission on earth?  Can we not fear death because we know that what lies beyond death is better by far?  To live and to die are both good for the Christian.  This is a great promise.  Don't be afraid to die for Christ and don't be afraid to live for Christ today.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Powerful Prayer

Over the next few months I will be reading through and blogging through the book of Philippians.  My small group and I have just started a video series by Matt Chandler and I am already enjoying it.  We are watching the videos and studying the book on our own.  I hope you enjoy Philippians as much as I anticipate enjoying it.

Philippians opens in a beautiful greeting from Paul to his friends in Philippi.  I encourage you to read Philippians 1:1-11 because that is what I read this week and it is awesome.

In the opening to this letter we can easily see that Paul has a deep affection for the Philippians.  Paul writes things like:

"I thank my God every time I remember you." Philippians 1:3

"... I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."  Philippians 1:4-6

"God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus."  Philippians 1:8

This letter is written from Paul who is filled with love and admiration for the people of the church at Philippi.

As I thought about Paul's affection for them I was reminded of my affection for some of the groups of believers I'm around and, on a lesser scale than Paul, have some leadership in.  I thought about the youth group, Pulse Student Ministries, that I help lead and of course my church, Grace Baptist, in which I am humbled to serve as an elder.  You may have a group of people in mind as well that you love and want the best for.

Now, with that group of people in mind, let's pray Paul's prayer.  I'll leave a blank and ask you, as you pray, to fill the blank with the group of people you are thinking about.  Paul's prayer is found in Philippians 1:9-11

"And this is my prayer: that _______'s love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that ________ may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ... to the glory and praise of God."  Philippians 1:9-11

It is so good to pray Scripture.  This is my prayer for Grace and for Pulse.  Please pray for the group you're thinking of with these words today.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

College of My Brightest Days?

Today was declared Outfly by my alma mater Wartburg College.  Outfly is a day without classes that is secretly chosen by the student body president and the college president.  No one knows the day when it will be, but students know that it is coming (kind of like the second coming only not near as awesome).  On the morning of Outfly a group of students dressed in underwear (or now underwear worn over sweats) runs around the college banging on doors and proclaiming "OUTFLY!  OUTFLY!"

Outfly morning is a fun, loud tradition.  You excitedly wake up before the sun and run to the victory bell so the president can officially declare Outfly.  When you show up to the bell, folks are dressed up, there's a band there and people are shouting like a day off of school in the middle of the week is the most amazing thing ever... even though they are paying the school to go to the classes that are joyfully cancelled.

Below is a photo of my from one of my four Outfly's.  I'm the guy in the sweatshirt on someone's shoulders by a guy dressed as Waldo.

During all the madness we sing the college loyalty song.  

"College of our brightest days, unto thee we chant our praise" is one of the lines in the song.

Outfly was a blast and I hope all the Wartburgers appreciated their day off, because alumni don't get one.  But as I searched for the above photo from an Outfly from my college days I realized that it isn't the "College of my brightest day."  Don't get me wrong, I loved college.  I had great roommates who are still my good friends.  I traveled the world.  Lived in close quarters to people my own age who had seemingly unlimited free time.  I ate at a buffet two or three times a day.  I got to learn from good professors. I was introduced to radio work.  I mean, college was great but I'm glad those four years weren't my brightest days.

Since college I have done so much.  I've gotten a job I love.  I've gotten married to my best friend.  I'm still friends with many of my college buddies and now are there for their weddings and births of their children.  As I scrolled through my photos I realized that today is the good 'ole days.

Sometimes we get so worked up reminiscing that we forget how great our lives are now.  Other times we get so busy planning for the great future we want to have that we forget to enjoy the great present we have now.  What I want to say is this.  Thank God for your past glories, but don't live in what the Boss called "Glory Days".  Trust God with your future, but don't put all your mental energy there.  Live in the present.  As the cheesy line says, "Yesterday is history, tomorrow's a mystery, today is a gift that's why it's called the present."  

Psalm 118:24 "Today is the day the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!"  Thank God for your past, trust Him with your future and rejoice and be glad in the present today.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Wisdom Quest X- Beautiful Women, Deaf Ears, Anger and Contentment

This is my final post in Proverbs.  I have been reading three chapters a week and picking a favorite proverb.  I'll finish with the final four proverbs this week.  Thank you for reading along with me.

Proverbs 28
"If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law,
even his prayers are detestable."  Proverbs 28:9

We cannot sin unrepentantly and fool ourselves into thinking that we can still please the LORD.  See, turning a deaf ear to the law means that we know we shouldn't do something and still willfully do it.  I'm guilty of doing this at times and it is a serious offense.  The writer says that even our prayers are detestable if we do this.  All our "good works" mean nothing without repentance.  Repentance is key to the Christian life, especially our prayer life.

Proverbs 29
"A fool gives full vent to his anger,
but a wise man keeps himself under control."  Proverbs 29:11

Anger is not necessarily sinful; anger can be a legitimate and even righteous feeling.  We, however, are not to be controlled by our emotions.  How someone deals with his/her anger speaks volumes about their character.  If you are close friends or dating someone who gives full vent to their anger, watch out!

You must control your anger, don't let your anger control you.

Proverbs 30
"Two things I ask of you, O LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, 'Who is the LORD?'
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God."  Proverbs 30:7-9

What a great prayer request!

This proverb is very self-explanatory, but I'll focus on one thing: Contentment.  Contentment is the key to monetary life.  Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread; we should do as He taught.  When is the last time you actually prayed for just enough?  We all want to be rich, but how many of us would be content even if we had everything?  As C. S. Lewis said, "The one who has everything and God has no more than he who has God only."  Strive for contentment.

Proverbs 31
"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised."  Proverbs 31:30

I have found such a woman and I am beyond thankful!  My wife fears the LORD and has beauty and charm, but when her youthfulness leaves her she will still be a woman to be praised.

Ladies, be this type of beautiful woman who fears and loves God.  Guys, search for this!  Stop being so shallow and you will get far more than you ever dreamed of... you'll get real lasting beauty, like I did.  Guys, if we do a better job of searching for this and praising this type of woman then I believe more women will be this type of woman.  It starts with us, so do it.

Don't be unrepentant.  Listen to God's law.  Control your anger, don't let it control you.  Strive for contentment in your financial life.  And women, be beautiful from the inside out and single guys, search for that type of woman today.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wisdom Quest IX-Buring Coals, Sharp Iron and a Dog's Ears

This is my second to last time writing about Proverbs as my Bible study group will be moving on to another book.  I'll again choose my favorite proverb from each of the three chapters I read this week.

Proverbs 25
"If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burring coals on his head,
and the LORD will reward you."  Proverbs 25:21-22

The phrase, "kill 'em with kindness" has a lot of wisdom in it because it really works.  Have you ever been a jerk intentionally to someone that responded kindly to you?  I have and it's annoying.  It makes me mad because they refuse to stoop down to my level.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-44, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbors and hate your enemy.'  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

Romans 12:21 says, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."  Proverbs tells us to do this, too but realizes that we are human and tells us to do it in part because it will drive our enemy nuts.

Proverbs also says that the LORD will reward us for returning good for evil.  Being kind to an enemy will grow us to love more like Jesus.  It is so hard to hate those we serve.  The reward of the LORD should be our main motivation but if that doesn't come right away then kill them with kindness first.

Proverbs 26
"Like one who seizes a dog by the ears
is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own."  Proverbs 26:17

My dad would paraphrase this verse like this:  "Butt Out!"  I heard that a lot growing up because I liked to get involved in other people's garbage and that is a good way to get hurt.  We're especially bad with this online.  We see two people in a comment war and feel the urge to join in and offer our "wisdom".  It never ends well.  No one ever responds like this, "Wow!  I never thought about it like that.  Thank you for getting involved and correcting us in our argument."  That doesn't happen.  You are not Mike Brady and everyone on Facebook is not the Brady Bunch kids.

It boils down to this... not everyone needs your opinion.  Butt out, especially when tempers are already flared.

Proverbs 27
"As iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another."  Proverbs 27:17

This is why we do Bible studies.  This is why we are in community as believers.  To reach spiritual maturity we need one another.  So, for example, enter times of Bible study with others expecting to learn from others.

So, be kind to your enemies.  Butt out of other people's business.  And be in community with believes even though it is often difficult, because it is worth it.  Strive to gain God's wisdom by following His advice today.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Wisdom Quest VIII- Debt, Sin City and Enemies

This week I'm picking a favorite proverb from Proverbs 22-24.  Please read these chapters because I will not touch most of the proverbs in them.

Proverbs 22
"The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is servant to the lender."  Proverbs 22:7

When you owe money you work for another.  Think about it.  If you make $10 and have a car payment of $200 a month you actually worked 20 hours for your lender.  The more debt you have the more you are a servant to another.  This doesn't mean that we should never take out loans, but this means that we are to be careful about debt and we should work hard to get out of debt.

Currently my wife and I are working to get out of debt.  We have a plan in place to pay off my car loan, my students and her student loans in around a year's time.  We've already payed off my car loan and the students loans will come quickly.  Does this mean we have to spend differently than we might like to?  Absolutely.  But we're doing this so that the money we earn will go to us and not to our lenders.  We want to not be ruled over by the rich lenders.  You can do this, too, but it will take work.

Proverbs 23
"Do not let your heart envy sinners,
but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.
There is surely a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off."  Proverbs 23:17-18

Ever feel like non-Christians have all the fun?  Feel like places like Sin City seem fun but that God is keeping you from the fun?  I'll admit that I have felt that way, but remember to be zealous for obeying God not simply gratifying yourself.  The pleasure of sin will pass and only the penalty will remain.  Those who fear the LORD have a future hope that will last forever.  There are plenty of great pleasures that are in the will of God and those outside the will of God aren't worth it.  Spend your energy enjoying God's ways and you'll be rewarded richly.

Proverbs 24
"Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice,
or the LORD will see and disapprove
and turn His wrath away from him."  Proverbs 24:17-18

I was at a Christian concert the night that Suddam Hussein was hanged.  People saw the news on their phones and passed it along; and people cheered.  Something didn't feel right about that.  And these verses are why.

Christians are to hunger for justice but we are not to gloat over our enemy's misery.  We aren't to be glad that ISIS members are killed (this is so hard for me), but we are to pray that the murders are brought to justice while not being glad when they are killed.  For instance, football player Ray Rice abused his wife, but we aren't to cheer that he lost his job.  This doesn't mean that Rice shouldn't have lost his job... he deserved his punishment.  What it does mean is that we Christians shouldn't cheer about this, rather we should pray that God uses this punishment to perfect him and to protect his wife.

Christians we are not to be jealous of those sinning and seemly having a blast.  We aren't to be ear deep in debt.   We aren't to gloat when our enemies fall.  Rather, we need to work hard to be debt free, we need to pray for our enemies and be zealous for the fear of the LORD today.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wisdom Quest VII- Zeal, Beer and the King

I'm continuing my study on the book of Proverbs.  I've chosen one proverb from each of the three chapters I read this week.

Proverbs 19
"It is not good to have zeal without knowledge,
nor to be hasty and miss the way."  Proverbs 19:2

I love watching someone do what they're passionate about.  Passion is an important aspect of being successful in whatever it is that you're doing.  Passion alone, however, is a waste; passion must be coupled with knowledge.  Likewise, knowledge without passion isn't much good either.  Our life and our faith must have knowledge and zeal together.

Fools rush in and the stagnate have no heart; but the victorious have passion and knowledge married.

Proverbs 20
"Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
whoever is led astray by them is not wise." Proverbs 20:1

If I had to make a rule regarding alcohol that everyone had to follow it would be this: Don't drink.  Luckily no one has put me on the Over Reaching Rule Committee.  I, like many of you, drink beer or wine on occasion and enjoy them both.  I, like many of you, am appalled by the damage alcohol has caused many people.  I have seen lives ruined by drinking, but at the same time the Bible tells us that wine and beer are a pleasure from God.

Here's my general rule: Have a drink, don't let the drink have you.  When the drink has us we lose control.  Drunkenness takes away our mind but not our passion; it puts us in direct violation of the advice given in the the previous proverb I wrote about.  Beer can give us beer muscles that cause fights.  Wine can make us say things we regret.  Wine and beer are for our pleasure but a pleasure misused is a sin and it will hurt us and those around us.  If alcohol has control of your life, in any way, give it up.  If you do drink, please drink in a matter that pleases God, not just in a way you think He can tolerate.

Proverbs 21
"The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD;
He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases."  Proverbs 21:1

Our leaders, whether good or bad, are tools of God.  Does this mean that all of our leaders do what is right in the eyes of the LORD?  No.  But this does mean that God will accomplish His purposes using the leader(s) that He has put in place.

Christians living in a republic/democracy, this means that we vote and are active in government but it also means we aren't afraid when things go against us and our party.  We never have to fear that our leaders will stand in God's way.  George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were leaders that accomplished the will of God; Pharaoh Ramses and Pontius Pilate also were leaders that accomplished the will of God.  We Christians must trust in God's omnipotent sovereignty more than in the effectiveness, or lack there of, of our politicians.

So, have zeal and knowledge together in your life.  Beware of alcohol and it's effects on you; don't let the drink have you.  And have faith in God, not fear of man.

Live wisely today.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Wisdom Quest VI- Sovereignty, Pain and My Functional Savior

For today's post I'll highlight a favorite proverb from Proverbs chapters 16 through 18.  I'm not even close to covering all of each chapter so I encourage you to read them.

Proverbs 16
"The LORD works out everything for His own ends...
even the wicked for a day of disaster."  Proverbs 16:4

This proverb speaks of God's sovereignty.  When I say God is sovereign I mean that He rules over all things and causes all things to be for His glory.  This proverb reminds me of what Joseph said to his brothers, at the end of his life after all he had suffered and all he had accomplished.  He said in Genesis 50:20: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."  God is sovereign over all things and all things are for His glory!

Proverbs 17
The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
but the LORD tests the heart."  Proverbs 17:3

Pain and trials in and of themselves may not be good, but God uses them to accomplish His good.  As the previous proverb says, God works out EVERYTHING for His own ends... EVERYTHING.  God redeems everything, even evil, to carry out His good and perfect plan.

Peter says it this way, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith... of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire... may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."  1 Peter 1:7

Pain and suffering suck, but God is sovereign over EVERYTHING even pain and suffering and He will accomplish all things for His glory and the good of His beloved.  This is a hard and sweet truth.

Proverbs 18
"The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
the righteous run to it and are safe.

The wealth of the rich is their fortified city;
they imagine it an unscalable wall."  Proverbs 18:10-11

Who is your functional savior?  I stole this question from somebody but I'll use it because it is a fantastic one.  Who is your functional savior?

The righteous know that God is the true strong tower and the only source of real rest.  But the rich can be fooled into believing that their wealth will save them.  Before you point a finger at someone else think about your own life.  Is your security found in your 401K, your bank account, your insurance policy, your job?  Or is your security in Christ alone?  I'll admit that this is really hard for American Christians because we have so much wealth and our wealth does give us some security.  We have to remember that all earthly wealth is temporal, but God is eternal.  Make God not just your proclaimed Savior but your functional Savior, too.  Actually lean on Him and see what He will do with your life.

So, remember that God is sovereign over all, even the pain in our lives.  And make your functional savior the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, not wealth today.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Problem of Pain- A Few Favorites

I just finished reading "The Problem of Pain" by C. S. Lewis and I recommend it.  Here are just a few of my favorite quotes from the book.  I've noted what chapter they are from because your copy of the book may have different page numbers.

On Divine Omnipotence
"The freedom of God consists in the fact that no cause other than Himself produces His acts and no external obstacle impedes them... that His own goodness is the root from which they all grow and His own omnipotence the air in which they all flower."

On Divine Goodness
"The Divine 'goodness' differs from ours, but it is not sheerly different: it differs from ours not as white from black but as a perfect circle from a child's first attempt to draw a wheel."

"To ask that God's love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God:... He must labor to make us lovable."

On Human Wickedness
"Christianity now has to preach the diagnosis... in itself very bad news... before it can win a hearing for the cure."

"We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin... The guilt is washed out not by time but by repentance and the blood of Christ:... All times are eternally present to God."

On The Fall of Man
"Our present condition, then, is explained by the fact that we are members of a spoiled species."

On Human Pain
"We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be improved: we are, as Newman said, rebels who must lay down our arms."

"The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it."

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

"As St. Augustine says somewhere, 'God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full... there's nowhere for Him to put it.'  Or as a friend of mine said, 'We regard God as an airman regards his parachute: it's there for emergencies but he hopes he'll never have to use it."

"I call this a Divine humility because it is a poor thing to strike our colors to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up 'our own' when it is no longer worth keeping.  If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer, He will have us even if we have shown that we prefer everything us to Him and come to Him because there is 'nothing better' now to be had... It is hardly complimentary to God that we should choose Him as an alternative to Hell: yet even this He accepts."

On Human Pain, continued
"... suffering is not good in itself."

"Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home."

On Hell
"He (the sinner) has his wish... to live wholly in the self and to make the best of what he finds there.  And what he finds there is Hell."

"To enter heaven is to become more human than you ever succeeded in being in earth; to enter hell, is to be banished from humanity."

"I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside."

On Animal Pain
(Because this is funny)
"'Where will you put all the mosquitoes?'... a question to be answered on its own level by pointing out that, if the worst came to the worst, a heaven for mosquitoes and a hell for men could very conveniently be combined."

On Heaven
"Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because were made for it."

"Heaven is a city, and a Body, because the blessed remain eternally different:"

Here's a link to buy the book if you want to today.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Wisdom Quest V- Contentment, Wise Friends and Stuff on the Internet

I'm continuing to look at the book of Proverbs.  Today let me share which verses I loved from chapters 13 through 15.  I'll pick one proverb from each.

Proverbs 13
"He who walks with the wise grows wise,
but a companion of fools suffers harm." Proverbs 13:20

Want to be wise?  Hang around wise people.  Also, remember that wise men and women teach others to be wise.  For a sports example of this look at Hayden Fry's coaching tree.  Coach Fry was a legendary football coach at the University of Iowa and his greatest accomplishment wasn't wins and losses but the men who learned how to lead young men under his tutelage.  Want to be wise?  Hang around wise people.  Want to leave a legacy of wisdom?  Pass on what you know.

Conversely, if you hang out with fools you will suffer the consequences.  Whether you just end up guilty by association or if you pick up their foolish habits, fools will only help you become more foolish.  Now, a fool is not someone who doesn't know better, a fool is someone who knows better and still choses to do dumb things.  Hang around these people and you'll find that trouble accompanies them.  I'm sure your parents already told you this, I'm here to let you know that they're right.

Proverbs 14
"A simple man believes anything,
but a prudent man gives thought to his steps."  Proverbs 14:15

How many of you know people that believe things because "they saw it on the internet"?  We laugh to ourselves when we see people share articles that are clearly fake or false or too biased to be real.  We are simple if we believe everything we read, see or hear.

Don't simply receive information, process it.  This includes information from teachers, preachers, books from the Christian book store, this blog... anything.  We must think all things through.  We have to be able to think, research, question and when find the truth we must be able to recognize and accept it.

Proverbs 15
"Better a little with the fear of the LORD
than great wealth with turmoil."  Proverbs 15:16

Do I believe this?  To be honest this was my first thought after reading this proverb.  I think it's a good question to ask ourselves.

All riches turn to nothing but God and His ways last forever!  Jesus taught about this, His disciples taught about this, King David wrote psalms about this idea because it is true.  Our wealth is worthless if it leave us with turmoil and our life can only be completely fulfilled with the fear of God.

There is always a reason to be discontented.  We are constantly wanting what is next and once we get that thing we want what's next after that.  Many rich people feel a deep desire for something better in the same way a poor person does.  When I was single I longed for a wife.  Then when you get married you long for a house, etc.

Satan tells us this lie, "If you only had _____ then you'd be happy."  This lie is a great tool of the Devil.  We all have believed it.  But here is the truth... if you can't be content right now you'll never be content.  Unless the thing you long for is to know Jesus it will fail you.  I challenge you to try to be content the way you are right now.

So, surround yourself with wise people and look to pass down what you know.  Process and think about every bit of information you're fed.  And finally, strive to be content with exactly where you are today.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Wisdom Quest IV- A Legacy, a Pig and a Kind Word

This week I read Proverbs chapters 10 through 12.  I want to share a favorite proverb from each chapter and I invite you to read along in Proverbs with me.

Proverbs 10
"The memory of the righteous will be a blessing,
but the name of the wicked will rot."  Proverbs 10:7

I've told the youth at church this and I've written this before, "you write your eulogy today."  Have you ever been to a funeral where such great things were said about the deceased?  Have you ever thought, "I hope people say things like that about me when I die"?  I have thought that before.  I want to leave a legacy.  I want my memory to be a blessing and to do that I must be a blessing today.  I end every blog post with the word 'today' because I firmly believe today is our opportunity to be a part of eternity because we aren't promised a tomorrow.  So, if when you die you want folks to say, "She was always there for me when I needed her" you've got to be there for people today.

Conversely the name of the wicked will not be remember fondly.  The wicked don't leave a legacy, they leave infamy.  For example, the name Adolf used to be an extremely popular name in the German speaking world, but after WWII the name became rare.  Adolf Hitler literally caused the name Adolf to rot.

Leave a legacy through righteous living rather than a rotten name.

Proverbs 11
"Like a gold ring in a pig's snout
is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion." Proverbs 11:22

Single friends, pick people based on character not beauty alone.  Beauty is not bad at all but it does not have the power to cover up faults forever.  For a humous example of this check out this Demitri Martin video.

Friends, if you seek character in a mate beauty often comes with it.  I won't promise every time, but I can tell you that I looked for character and I got a beautiful woman, too.  My wife Christine has great character and is everything I wanted physically, too.  And I believe that her character is what makes her more lovely to me all the time.

Proverbs 12
"An anxious heart weighs a man down,
but a kind word cheers him up."  Proverbs 12:25

As I wrote in my last post, depression and anxiety is in the spotlight of society since the suicide of Robin Williams.  It's even more on my mind because of a friend who attempted suicide days before Williams took his life.  Anxiety and depression can weigh a man down; these diseases and moods are strong, but kindness can be a cure.  Kindness is not the only remedy.  Doctor prescribed drugs, counseling, etc are other great remedies, but kindness is also a remedy.

Don't withhold kind words.  We never know who needs a kind word to counter anxiety.  Plus, words of affirmation is a common love language and people need to be shown love.  You may never know the effect your words can have and you may never know if you'll be able to share a kind word later.  Many funerals are full of words spoken to a casket that were never said to the person.

So, remember that anxiety is powerful but so is a kind word.  Be sure to make character what we search for in mates and friends.  And leave a legacy by living righteously today.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams and Suicide

Today one of my favorite actors, Robin Williams, died of an apparent suicide.  He was 63.

Robin was one of my favorite actors because he could do so many different things so well.  I couldn't turn away from Good Will Hunting as he repeated, "It's not your fault."  He's the reason your uncle thinks it's funny to wake you up by shouting, "Good Morning Vietnam!"  He had us say, "O captain, my captain" in Dead Poets Society.  Made us both laugh and cry in Mrs. Doubtfire  and Patch Adams.  He enthralled children as the genie in Aladdin, freaked us out and inspired pity in One Hour Photo and burst into living rooms as our favorite rainbow suspender wearing alien in Mork and Mindy.  He was so diverse and talented but also fatally depressed.

Robin Williams' death reminds me again that we, especially Christians, need to step up and fight to keep depression from killing our friends, neighbors and family.  Depression has affected me very personally, as has suicide.  Several people I know and love dearly have been so depressed they've considered suicide.  I've had close friends and family (one even this week) attempt suicide.  Sadly, I've had friends, family and friends of family kill themselves.  Depression and suicide is all around us and we must wake up to that.

Friends, stop treating depressed and suicidal people as if they are freaks.  Stop putting them in the closets that often eventually kill them.  Stop telling them the lie that those who commit suicide go to Hell automatically.  Stop treating depression as if it's something they should just be able to pray away if only they had enough faith.  Stop making people feel like taking medication is some sign of weakness in their faith.

Those of you that are depressed, I can't understand how you feel but I will try to make you feel like a person loved by God.  But in order to do that I and others need you to stop hiding your depression.  Let others fight depression with you.  Let us be there for you.  Let us pray with you.  Let us hold your hand through this.  And please, please, please find help from people other than us, too.  We want to help you but you may need to see a counselor or may need medication.  Medication and counseling is not a sign of weakness, but of wisdom.

Friends, too many people are dying every day from depression.  The World Health Organization estimates that 3,000 people a day commit suicide and for every person who kills themselves 20 people attempt to do so.  We can't ignore this.  Robin Williams is just one of 1,000,000 people each year that dies too soon from depression.  Christians, let us love more effectively in this area because Jesus would, and Jesus will through you if you do it today.

Wisdom Quest III- Wise People Listen to Wisdom

Please read Proverbs chapters 7 through 9.  I've chosen my favorite proverbs from each chapter.  Feel free to comment with your favorites.

Chapter 7
"With persuasive words she (the adulteress) led him astray;
she seduced him with her smooth talk.
All at once he followed her
like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deer stepping into a noose
till an arrow pierces his liver,
like a bird darting into a snare,
little knowing it will cost him his life." Proverbs 7:21-23

Sin is enticing.  It is seductive but it always ultimately leads to death.  Sin may seem to provide a good life but it ultimately leads to death.  It's like the steer that is cared for, fed, and given shelter by the farmer.  The steer may feel like it is living the good life but the farmer always plans to kill the steer for meat.  Sin is like that farmer and we are like that steer.  Sin may provide good things for awhile, but it has a plan for us.

Chapter 8
"To fear the LORD is to hate evil;
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil behavior and perverse speech." Proverbs 8:13

I have to ask myself and you might too, "Do I hate evil?" To fear God is not just to see the benefit of His ways; to fear God is to love what He loves and hate what He hates.  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; so, the wise person loves what God loves and hates what God hates.  (Disclaimer: do not read this as a license to hate some people)

Chapter 9
"Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult;
whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.
Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you;
rebuke a wise man and he will love you.
Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still;
teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning." Proverbs 9:7-9

The first thing most of us see in this passage is to not waste time giving advice or correction to people who can't and won't take it.  However, I invite you to ask yourself, "Can I take constructive criticism?"

"Can I take constructive criticism?"  "Can I take criticism at all or am I always defensive?"

I have wasted a lot of good advice and correction because I was trying to save face.  For example, when I started at my job I was so busy trying to prove I wasn't the kid that I ignored advice that later helped me become a better broadcaster.  This is a something I need to get better at.  Maybe you do, too.  A wise person can take criticism and become wiser.

So, don't be fooled by sin.  It may seem enticing and good, but it leads to death.  Learn to love what God loves and hate what He hates.  Strive to have the mind of God.  Finally, listen to others and grow from their instruction today.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Wisdom Quest II- The Heart, the Breasts and the Ant

Each week I am reading three chapters of Proverbs of choosing a favorite passage for each chapter.  I invite you to join me in doing this.  Here's what stood out to me in chapters 4 through 6.

Chapter 4
"Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life." Proverbs 4:23

So many issues in our life are issues of the heart.  Where our heart goes we go also.  So, we must guard our heart.  I think we do this by paying close attention to what goes in our eyes and ears and what we touch because those things make their way into our hearts.  We must put boundaries on our desires because sometimes our heart's desires go too far and wound our heart.

Above all guard your heart in all arenas of your life.

Chapter 5
"May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer...
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be captivated by her love." Proverbs 5:18-19

Solomon implored his readers to love their wife and their wife alone.  We must do that, too.  So love your wife.  See her beauty.  Find her captivating.  Know she's sexy, cute, gorgeous, lovely, etc.  Gaze at her lovingly.

There is temptation everywhere to look at other women and to want other women.  Work hard to be satisfied by your own wife's body and by your own wife's love.  This may take effort at times but it is something that wise men do; and wise men realize that loving their own wife immensely is for their own good and pleasure.

For those of you not married yet, love your wife now.  Remember that she is out there.  All the other women you look at now will find their way into your heart.  Fight that!  Save yourself for your wife even if you don't know her yet.

Chapter 6
"Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest." Proverbs 6:6-8

Wise people are self-motivated people.  Laziness can bring one to ruin but hard work pays off.  This means be proactive in doing things that you, your family or your business needs done.  Wise people don't need to wait for instructions to work hard; wise people don't need to be driven to work hard, they just do it because they are wise enough to see the benefit in the end.

So, guard your heart, love your wife and be proactive.  This wisdom is free for you in the book of Proverbs.  Please read Proverbs with me today.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wisdom Quest 1

A few years ago my Bible study and I went through the book of Proverbs. We like it so much that we decided to do it again.  So, for the next several weeks I'll be writing about what I find in each chapter that excites me.  I'm reading three chapters a week.  Feel free to join us in doing this.

Below I'm going to share my favorite verses for this week.  There isn't a need to elaborate much on these because the Proverbs are meant to be quick and to the point.

Chapter 1
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline" Proverbs 1:7

This is where we must start in the quest for wisdom.  We can't understand anything until we understand where we stand in relation to the Almighty.

Chapter 2
"My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding,
and if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD gives wisdom,
and from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding." Proverbs 2:1-6

God wants us to seek wisdom and He is the source of wisdom.  Getting wisdom is both hard work and a free gift.

Chapter 3
"Honor the LORD with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wind." Proverbs 3:9-10

This is NOT prosperity gospel.  But God ask us to honor Him with our money and He will bless us when we do this.  So many, but not all, of our money problems might stem from not doing this well.  I once had a friend tell me that he tried not tithing and found he couldn't afford to not to tithe.

Search out wisdom with me.  Read Proverbs with me and feel free to comment with what you learned today.