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

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Triumphal Procession

Take time to read 2 Corinthians chapter 2.  Below is a post I wrote two years ago about this chapter.

Before we take a look at the Word of God I want to teach you a little history.  A triumphal procession was a Roman military tradition.  After a victory the Roman general would display his treasures and captives amidst a cloud of incense being burned.  To the winners the incense probably smelled of sweet victory.  To the defeated people the incense smelt of the fore coming slavery or death.

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.  And who is equal to such a task?  Unlike so many, we do not peddle the Word of God for profit.  On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God."
2 Corinthians 2:14-17

Let me confess something to you.  I write a lot about the importance of evangelism but I don't find myself personally leading others to Christ often, or I should say hardly ever.  I don't mean that I don't share the Gospel; what I mean is I don't get the opportunity to pray with someone as they accept Christ.  I want badly to do that, but it hasn't happened in a very long time.

So, I'm left wondering what I do in light of that.  Let me say first that it is frustrating, but it will not stop me.  Not everyone who shares the Gospel will see changed lives but everyone who shares the Gospel will get results.  Unfortunately and fortunately it isn't up to us to decide the result, it is up to our Sovereign God. 

To some I am the smell of death; to others I am the smell of life.  Is the difference my approach?  No.  The difference is the choice of God.  I am not a peddler of the Word of God; I cannot sell the Gospel.  My job is to in Christ speak the Word of God with sincerity like a man sent from God. 

Friends, the response to the Gospel is just that; the response to the Gospel not a response to me personally.  It may feel personal but it isn't.  I'm writing this to encourage myself and you.  Be the aroma of Christ, share the Gospel with your words and actions.  But let God be God.  Let God take care of saving people because He is the one who saves, not us.

Don't be discouraged.  To some we are the smell of death; to others, the fragrance of life.  Waft the aroma of Christ and leave the rest up to Him today.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Uncle Brad

Today my Uncle Brad died.  It was sudden and unexpected.  My dad called me and said he had bad news and I had no idea what he was going to say.  He said, "Your Uncle Brad died today".  My mind was in shock.  I had questions.  I didn't know how to feel.  What was happening?

I don't know the answer to many of my questions.  I've felt several emotions today and I'm not sure which ones I want to feel.  I mean, it just happened.

But God sure was in control today.  I got the call as I was supposed to be starting to run sound for a practice of our church's Easter passion production.  I decided to stay and go on with practice while I cried and thought.  The theme of this year's production is "Hope".  While watching the practice and the scenes, I was reminded of the hope we have in Jesus' death and resurrection.

Following this practice I was supposed to have a Bible study.  I thought about not going to it, but the passage was exactly what I needed.  Read 2 Corinthians chapter 1 to see what I'm talking about.  But here's a snippet of what bolstered me while reading this chapter.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Wow!  God had my day planned.  He reminded me of His comfort and the hope that is mine because of Jesus.  God has many promises for us and: "... no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ."  2 Corinthians 1:20

Now let me tell you about my Uncle Brad.

He was the life of the party.  I didn't get to see him as often as I would have liked, but I saw him nearly every Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday because of that.  Brad was funny.  He made everyone laugh and smile.  My grandparents are usually in a good mood, but when Brad was there they were always looking for the next reason to laugh.  And if you could make Brad laugh you felt like you were really funny.  The house would always get really loud on Thanksgiving, because people were always shouting toward Brad their funny idea or joke to get his laugh of approval.

I'll miss that.

When relatives come there is usually a bit of friction that comes with them, but not with Uncle Brad.  He brought joy and unity to our family when he came.  Everyone had a good time when Uncle Brad was in the house.  This Thanksgiving will hurt without him there at the table.

Let me tell you something else about my Uncle Brad.  He put his faith and hope in Jesus.  He was not perfect by any means, but I know he's in heaven today because of his trust in God.  My Uncle Brad is in heaven because of what Jesus did on the cross.  Uncle Brad's hope was in Jesus and today he is with Jesus in paradise.

I'm sad today at the death of my uncle.  But I take great comfort in the fact that my God is the Father and creator of the very idea of compassion and comfort.  I'm going to trust in God to provide comfort for me and my family.  I'm also going to cling to the promises of God as a source of comfort.

Please pray for my family.  And if you don't know Jesus like my Uncle Brad did (and does infinitely better today than yesterday), if you don't know that you'd go to heaven if you died unexpectedly today, I beg you to call out to Jesus right now.  I urge you to have what my Uncle Brad had.  I encourage you to ask Jesus to be your Lord, Savior, and Living Hope today.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day

This is a post I wrote one year ago.

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.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Final Word

Please read 1 Corinthians chapter 16.

In this final part of his letter to the local church at Corinth Paul wrote two sentences that concisely summarize the purpose of his entire letter.  I want to look at those two sentences and see how we can live in light of them, especially in our local church, today.

"Be on you guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.  Do everything in love."
1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Be on your Guard.

The local church will always be a prime target for attacks from Satan.  See, the local church is a body of believers dedicated to living for Christ and His mission and Satan can't stand that. We must be on guard.  For what?  For the sins of the flesh that would tear our churches apart from within; from false teachers who would infect our churches with wrong doctrine; or anything that prevents us from carrying out the Great Commission in our community.

Stand Firm in the Faith

To stand firm in the faith we must be well versed in what our faith, the Gospel, is.  When we know what the Gospel is and what it isn't, we must stand firmly on it.  Like a house built upon a rock we will stand if we stand on the Gospel even in the midst of the storms.  But like a house built on the sand we will tumble down when the rains come if we're built on anything less than the rock.  "My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus' blood and righteousness!"  Know the Gospel and take a stand on it; don't let yourself be moved by pride, fad or even war.  Let nothing move us!

Be Men of Courage

This applies to women, too.  We must be courageous.  Don't be afraid to stand up and keep our local churches true to Christ and His mission.  As C. S. Lewis said in The Screwtape Letters: "Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality."  Jesus wasn't just loving, as we might define love.  Rather, He had courageous love that loved far beyond the point of testing.  If you have patience, have it beyond the point of testing; that is courage.  That is what we are called to.  Be men and women of courage!

Be Strong

To be strong you must work out.  We must strengthen ourselves through immersing ourselves in His Word and His ways.  And to be strong we must have reliance on the Holy Spirit Himself.  A strong Christian is not rogue. He is not an "army of one".  A strong Christian knows the source of his strength and stands beside his brothers to maximize each others strength in the Lord.

Do Everything in Love

This is the lynchpin of functioning local churches.  If you want to know what love is read 1 Corinthians chapter 13.  Love is the lynchpin because the four previous commandments will be screwed up royally by us, if not done in love.  If not done in love being on guard is paranoia; if not done in love standing firm in the faith is legalism; if not done in love being courageous is empty; and if not done in love being strong is shallow machoism.  God is love.  If we abide in Christ we will exude His love.  We, as the local church, must exude His love.

"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.  Do everything in love" today.

Monday, February 3, 2014


Let me begin by quoting the demon Screwtape on the subject:

“Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s (God’s) ground…He [God] made the pleasure: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy [God] has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He [God] has forbidden. ” 

~C.S. Lewis from The Screwtape Letters

Sex is good.  Sex existed in the Garden of Eden before sin, therefore it is good not sinful.  God created sex and saw that it was good.  That is what the Bible says about sex.  We also know that Satan wants to take this good and encourage us to use it in times, ways and degrees that are not good.

The youth group at my church, Grace Baptist, is just finishing up at three week series on Sex and Dating.  This topic is so hard to teach in a God honoring way that students will benefit from.  

In this series I want students to know a few things.  First, that God created sex and created it for His glory and our good.  Sex, in marriage glorifies God and is a source of joy for us.  Secondly, I want students to know that God's plan for sex is the only truly satisfying plan.  All sex outside of wedlock is sin and can lead to our detriment.  Thirdly, God has sufficient grace for all our sins, even sexual sins.

The Bible says sex was created for the purpose of unity (Genesis 2:24), intimacy (Song of Solomon 1:13, 2:3, 2:6, 4:5), procreation (Genesis 1:28), companionship (Song of Solomon 3:1), pleasure (Song of Solomon 1:2) and His glory.  Christians, let's not forget to tell this side of the story.  Often when we talk about sex we present a list of dos and don'ts.  I think we hurt our presentation of God honoring sexuality if we limit it to dos and don'ts.  

That being said the Bible clearly says sex is for marriage only (Hebrews 13:4, 1 Corinthians 7, etc).  I'm so glad I waited until marriage for sex, and this was by the grace of God not my own strength.  Sex outside marriage often ends in pain and heartbreak.  How many babies have been aborted because of the sin of pre-marital sex? How many marriages have dissolved because of adultery?  How many hearts have been broken because the unity that sex enhances was thrown away after a short fling?  How many kids don't live with both mom and dad because they were conceived out of marriage?  God's plan for sex protects us from this.  And as one who waited until I was married at age 26 to have sex, I don't feel that I've missed anything good by waiting.

For those of you that have erred in this, remember our God is gracious.  Christ didn't bear the weight of all sins except sexual on the cross.  No!  He died for them all.  He's offering you forgiveness of all sins.  Take His forgiveness today.  Don't let Satan convince you that you're no longer "good enough" because of sexual sin.  He loves to this.  He loves to entice us to sin and then encourage us to shy away from the throne of grace because of that same sin.  Christ loves you and died for every last one of your sins.

For those of you waiting for marriage, hold on.  You can do it!  God promises that with Him you can withstand the temptation of pre-marital sex.

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, He will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."  1 Corinthians 10:13

For those of you that are married:

"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

Sex is good... when done God's way.  Give yourself fully to God including your sexuality today.