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

Friday, April 25, 2014

Living in Light of the Gospel

I was recently able to speak to the youth at my church about living in light of the Gospel.  We had recently looked at what the Gospel is, so we, of course, needed to look at how we live in light of the Good News.  I won't write everything I spoke on Wednesday night because I don't want to dictate a half-hour's worth of words.  But I do want to share a few of the ways we live in light of the Gospel.

Here's a look at some of what the Gospel is and how we respond to it.  The Gospel is:

Reconciliation- therefore we are thankful and forgiving

Adoption- therefore we try to please our Father while being completely confident in His unconditional love.

New Lordship- therefore we let Him rule over our lives knowing He will do everything for His glory AND our good.  We are not our own, we were bought with a price.

Renewal of Creation- therefore we live as a new creation, we don't believe the lies Satan tells us about us being the same old men and we are good stewards of creation.

Eternal Life- therefore we are thankful, have confidence and work to know God because as John 17:3 says eternal life is knowing God.

Free Costly Grace- therefore we are disciples.  Our free gift cost Jesus dearly and we respond to that with thankful, willing service.

Living in light of the Gospel does not mean that Christians are people who follow a set of rules.  Living in light of the Gospel is not about conforming to a set of rules, it is about conforming to a person.  We try to be like Dad.  We can't be like Him in all ways or in all fulness, but we strive to be like Him.  He loves, so I love; He forgives, so I forgive; He is merciful, so I am merciful; He loves justice, so I love justice.

The bottom line is that the Gospel is about getting and having God forever.  Living in the light of the Gospel is about experiencing and enjoying God forever.  In heaven we will never be bored of this experiencing and enjoying.  God is infinite so there will always be more to experience, more to enjoy.  We will spend forever being wowed by our awesome God.  But Christians get this... that starts now.  Living in light of the Gospel is experiencing and enjoying God forever and that starts now!

Experience and enjoy God.  That may mean praying, worshipping, being in nature, listening to music, being quiet, being around lots of people, climbing mountains, holding babies, reading deep theology, journaling, etc.  Find what makes your heart enraptured with God and do it.  My wife has some ideas about this to help get you started.

Live in light of the Good News of Jesus.  Experience and enjoy God forever and start that today.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Because He Lives

Today is Easter.  This is the day that we celebrate Jesus' resurrection from the dead and His victory over sin and death.  Today is a happy day.

Today also is a sad day.  Bev Sundett, who many of you have prayed for, died.  Please pray for her family during this hard time.  What a strange feeling her family must have on this Easter.  They remember Jesus' victory over death while morning the death of a mother and wife.  As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:10 "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing."

I'm sad for the Sundett family but I know that Easter is for them.  Easter happened for me, for you and for the Sundett's.  Through Christ's resurrection we can say alongside Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:55

"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"

Jesus rose and we rise with Him.  We have eternal life because of what He did during His life, in His death and in His resurrection.  We have hope because of what Christ has done.

That being said, don't try to soften the grief that the Sundetts are feeling by saying simple phrases like, "Don't worry, she's in a better place now" or "We can be happy today because we know that she's with Jesus."  Of course those things are true, but we need to let people mourn.  Remember at Lazarus' grave Jesus wept.  So just cry with them and be with them in person and in spirit.

But because of Jesus' resurrection we have hope.  My hope is not just that He rose; my hope is because He lives.  See, Jesus didn't just rise, He arose from the grave and is currently reigning over all things.  My hope is that my Lord lives for me today.

Here's a song from this morning's worship that illustrated what I'm talking about.

Have hope.  Jesus lives for you today.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Below is a post I wrote a couple of years ago.  This is one of those post I don't think I could top so I'm reusing it.

Yesterday was Good Friday and tomorrow is Easter.  Today is Saturday.  "Duh, Matt."  But let's think about that a bit today.

On my Good Friday post I wrote about Jesus' victory cry of "It is finished!"  Tomorrow we will celebrate Easter which is the experience that the victory cry is truth.  Saturday we are left unsure.  If Jesus just dies for us He is just one of the most loving people in history, but He is not Savior.  Good Friday is great but it is only a neat story without Easter.  But what about Saturday?

Sometimes I feel like I'm living in Saturday.  What I mean is I know the victory is mine to claim with Christ, but I haven't seen its completion. 

"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 1:6  I know that He will completely perfect me, but it hasn't been completed yet.  I'm stuck in Saturday.

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or morning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4  I know this is true but I see cancer and heartache every day.  I'm stuck in Saturday.

"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." Romans 16:20  I know I will crush Satan's head but right now he's tormenting me.  I'm stuck in Saturday.

We live much of our life in Saturday.  The victory has been declared but we can't realize or see it fully yet.  That is why we must hold on to the promise of victory in faith.  Easter will come into its fulness in everything that was promised.  Until then believe the truth of Good Friday, "It is finished!"  Saturday will pass and the sun will come up tomorrow.  The Son will return and we will see that "It is finished!"

Hold fast to the promises of Christ because they will come to pass.  Look forward to tomorrow and in doing so endure today.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

"From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.  About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'... which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, 'He's calling Elijah.'

Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge.  He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink.  Then the rest said, 'Now leave Him alone.  Let's see if Elijah comes to save Him.'

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in tow from top to bottom.  The earth shook and the rocks split.  The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  They came out of their tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, 'Surely He was the Son of God!'"
Matthew 27:45-54

Remember Christ's death and His atonement for sins today.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday

Here is the passage of Scripture that takes place on Maundy Thursday:

"It was just before the Passover Feast.  Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.

The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist.  After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, 'Lord, are you going to wash my feet?'

Jesus replied, 'You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.'

'No,' said Peter, 'you shall never wash my feet.'

Jesus answered, 'Unless I was you, you have no part in me.'

'Then, Lord,' Simon Peter replied, 'not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!'

Jesus answered, 'A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.  And you are clean, though not every one of you.'  For He knew who was going to betray Him, and that was why He said not every one was clean.

When He had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned back to His place.  'Do you understand what I have done for you?'  He asked them.  'You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

'I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen.  But this is to fulfill the Scripture: 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'

'I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He.  I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.'
John 13:1-20

Immediately following this passage Jesus shares and explains the Last Supper with His disciples.  During this meal Jesus identifies Judas as His betrayer and Judas leaves to do what he was going to do.

I don't want to say much about this passage but I do want to point out one thing that many of us miss when we read this.

Jesus showed the full extent of His love by being a servant to those He was far greater than.  This is an amazing act of love and service that we are commanded (Maundy means commandment... therefore Maundy Thursday is Commandment Thursday) to copy.  When you read this you must see that we're commanded to love through obedient servanthood to even those we don't feel "below."

But don't miss this.  Jesus washed Judas' feet.  Jesus washed the feet of the man He knew was going to betray Him.  John makes it very clear that Jesus was not blindsided by Judas, yet He showed Him the same love He showed the other eleven.  We must copy this as well.  We must be loving servants to our enemies as well as our friends.

This is the Maundy of Maundy Thursday.  Show Jesus' love for the world, even our enemies, through acts of service today.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Holy Wednesday

This is Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter.  During this week we take time to walk through the life of Christ leading up to His resurrection.  Many of you know Good Friday, Maundy Thursday and of course Easter Sunday, but did you know today is Holy Wednesday or Spy Wednesday.

Although we're not sure the exact chronological order of events, here's traditionally what is celebrated this day:

"While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to Him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on His head as He was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant.  'Why this waste?' they asked.  'This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.'

Aware of this, Jesus said to them, 'Why are you bothering this woman?  She has done a beautiful thing to me.  The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.  When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.  I tell you the truth, wherever this Gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.'

Then one of the Twelve... the one called Judas Iscariot... went to the chief priests and asked, 'What are you willing to give me if I hand Him over to you?'  So they counted out for him thirty silver coins.  From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand Him over."
Matthew 26:6-13

I want to just tell you a few things I noticed in this passage.

1) Jesus was at a leper's house.

Jesus was/is the friend of outcasts and sinners.  He spent time hanging out with the people that no one else wanted to be with.  I imagine that Jesus had healed Simon from his leprosy earlier, but people still knew Simon as Simon the Leper.  Leper's were outcasts who literally were kicked out of the town and forced to live away from the community.  Simon may have moved back into town after being healed but people still identified him as a leprous outcast.

Do I love like Jesus?  Do I love those society doesn't?

2) Mary loved extravagantly.

The Gospel of John identifies the woman in this story as Mary the sister of Lazarus and Martha.  Mary poured expensive perfume all over the head of Jesus.  Imagine this liquid dripping down the head of Jesus and on to the eating area.  Imagine the aroma that filled the room.  This was an extravagant and expensive way to honor Jesus while He was still with her but the disciples were too worried about the money "wasted".

Do I love extravagantly?  Or do I worry about "wasting" my time, energy and money on Jesus?

3) Judas missed real treasure.

In John chapter 12 we read that Judas was amongst the disciples that were worried about the "wasted" money that Mary had extravagantly poured on Jesus' head.  In John we are told that Judas wasn't really worried about the poor, rather he had been stealing from the money bag that he, the disciples and Jesus shared.

Then in Matthew we see that Judas agreed to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.  See, thirty pieces of silver was the price of a slave.  Judas was so greedy that he sold Jesus' life for thirty pieces of silver, but what he missed was that he sold his own soul for a slave's rate.  Judas may have been upset that Jesus' kingdom wasn't going to come with wealth but instead with sacrifice and so Judas wanted to get treasure while he could.  The sad irony is that in doing this Judas missed out on the greatest treasure of all... Jesus.

Do I recognize the worth of Jesus?  Or am I worried about getting treasure while I can?  Am I missing out on ruling with Christ in exchange for selling myself as a slave to sin?

Love like Jesus, love Jesus extravagantly and treasure Jesus and His ways today.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Celebrating Tax Day

April 15th is Tax Day in America.  On this day every year Americans are required to file their tax returns.  No one, barring an IRS agent or an accountant, likes to see April 15th on the calendar.  Today we are reminded that we owe money to the government.  Now, many of us get a refund but that only means that we've overpaid during the year.  Some of us while filing taxing realize that we owe the Federal or State government money.

Owing taxes, paying taxes, having debt is a never ending reality in our lives.  As a wise man has said the only thing guaranteed in this life is death and taxes.  And we all seem to get in various forms of other debt in our lives: student loans, credit cards, car loans, home loans, etc.

The problem with debt is that it must be paid or we'll be punished.  Try not paying your taxes and see how that works out for you.  Take a look at people like Wesley Snipes who neglected paying taxes, he ended up in prison.

Human being are in immense debt spiritually.  We have acquired a deadly sin debt.  "For the wages of sin is death..." Romans 6:23 says.  Our debt earns us death.

But that is not what we get through Jesus Christ.  The entire verse of Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death, BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Jesus paid our debt through His atoning sacrifice on the cross.  Let's take a look at Jesus' final words on the cross.

"Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, 'I am thirsty.'  A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips.  When He had received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished.'  With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit."  John 19:28-30

"It is finished."  The book of Matthew says that Jesus cried this out with a loud voice.  But what did Jesus mean and what does this have to do with paying my debt?

The Greek word that John records in his Gospel that Jesus said is, "tetelestai".  This word literally does mean, "It is finished."  Of course, we take hope in this phrase because it means that on the cross Jesus accomplished everything necessary for salvation.

During Jesus' life on earth "Tetelestai" was also commonly written at the bottom of receipts to indicate that the bill was paid in full.  See, when Jesus said, "It is finished" He was announcing that our sin debt was paid in full, not that it will be paid in full but that it was paid in full.  Christ did not shout, "I owe you", He said "It is finished" or "Paid in full".

You don't need to worry about your immense sin debt, because it has been paid in full.  If you have accepted Jesus' signature on the bottom of your life's receipt you never need to worry again about the debt because it is finished.  We don't need to earn this either because "...the wages of sin is death, but the GIFT of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Jesus paid for our sins as a gift that we could never earn.  It cost Him so much to pay our debt, but for you and I it is a free gift.

On Tax Day we settle our account with Uncle Sam and hope that we get a refund.  But on Tax Day and all days we must only be thankful to God for paying our debt and we must rest in the hope that Jesus paid it all.

Thank Jesus for paying your sin debt, today.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Therefore I Have Hope

"I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, 'The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for Him.'

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him,
to the one who seeks Him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.

Let him sit alone in silence,
for the LORD has laid it on him.
Let him bury his face in the dust...
there may yet be hope.
Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.

For men are not cast off
by the Lord forever.
Though He brings grief, He will show compassion,
so great is His unfailing love.
For He does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to the children of men."
Lamentations 3:19-33

Sometimes in life we will face the discipline of God.  God disciplines us because of His compassion for us.  "It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young."  This means that it is good to willingly come under God's discipline and learn.  When we face His discipline we must remember that it will not last forever.  Like a good father, the Lord may bring us grief but He will always be loving and compassionate to us.  God doesn't allow anything to happen to us that doesn't somehow, someway make us more like Him.

So, if you feel that you're in a time of trial or discipline remember that God won't leave you there forever.  He is compassionate.  You have hope in all circumstances because of His unfailing love.

Remember that God's love never runs out, today.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Rock of Ages

This was my favorite song from worship this morning at church.  The message and discipleship class and everything was about the Gospel this morning.  This redone version of "Rock of Ages" is also simply the Gospel.  Please listen to this today.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Prayers for the Sundets

There is a family we know that desperately needs your prayers.  The Sundet family has been hit with a bombshell.  The mom, Bev, has been diagnosed with cancer and it has now metastasized to her brain.  The doctors have told her that she has 3 weeks to live.

Obviously this is heartbreaking news.  I do not know Bev but her daughters Hannah and Rachel are great kids.

I want you to please pray for this family, although I don't know how to pray myself.

Please pray that God will carry out His will and do good in this.  Pray for comfort for Bev and the family.  Pray for healing even though it looks impossible because with man this is impossible, but with God nothing is impossible.  While I desperately want healing for Bev I also want the family to have peace and to trust God no matter how the situation turns out.  God healing Bev would be a miracle.  God given this family the peace that passes all understanding would be a miracle.  So, pray that God, the Great Physician, would do a mighty, miraculous healing.  And pray that God gives the Sundets the supernatural ability to trust Him.

Pray for the Sundets.  Ask others to pray for the Sundets, too because prayer is an immensely powerful thing.

"Dear Lord,

Be with the Sundets.  Heal Bev because you can and only you can.  Use this healing to show the world your strength.  Be with the entire family and give them the strength to trust you.  Please let them see good in this horrendous, garbage of a situation.   Relieve Bev from pain and make her time with her family sweet and meaningful.  God be God to the Sundets.  Be gracious and loving to them and give them the peace that passes all understanding today.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Stand in Awe

"Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.  Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they are wrong.

Do not be quick with your mouth,
do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven
and you are on earth,
so let your words be few.
As a dreams comes when there are many cares,
so the speech of a fool when there are many words.

When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it.  He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.  It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.  Do not let your mouth lead you into sin.  And do not protest to the temple messenger, 'My vow was a mistake.'  Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands?  Much dreaming and many words are meaningless.  Therefore stand in awe of God."
Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

These words are from wise King Solomon and they ring so true in my life.  So often I see what God has done for me and I make plans to do something for Him.  So often I see how unworthy of His love I am and I then try to earn it.  King Solomon would advice me to keep my mouth shut.

I need to go to God and listen more than I go to speak.  The Bible is chalk full of what God has done for me, I need to accept what He's done for me like a baby.  By that I mean, has anyone ever fed a baby and had the baby try to pay us back?  No way.  We should be the same with God.  We are so helpless compared to Him so we need to just accept His gifts rather than swearing to pay Him back.

Pay attention to the words we say and sing in this regard.  So often we say and sing promises that we can't do.  We sing in the song "Amazing Love", "In all I do, I honor you."  No, I don't; in all I do, I honor you is a bold faced lie in my life.  Rather, I sing to God, "In all I do, let me honor you."  I want to ask Him to enable me to do everything, when I start making vows and promises to God I better make sure I can fulfill them.  It is better not to vow than to break a vow, especially with God.

Come to God in awe.  Come to be lost in worship of Him.  Should we try to please our God?  Absolutely, but we should just do what we are going to do rather than come to Him with a list of ways we are going to work in His name.

"Much dreaming and many words are meaningless.  Therefore stand in awe of God."  As Easter comes closer and we enter Holy Week may that be our aim, to be in awe of God.  Come to Him with eyes full of love, hearts full of thanksgiving, minds bursting in wonder and mouths shut.  Stand in awe of God today.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Great Saga 2014

Once again my church, Grace Baptist, is presenting The Great Saga.  This is an Easter Passion Mime set to some of today's best music.  I know what you're thinking, "A mime?  That sounds stupid."  That's what I thought, too.  This is not your stereotypical mime, it is much more than that.  The lack of spoken word allows you to get lost in the power of the music and the acting is even better without words.

I'm a bit biased because my wife wrote it this year, but I think this year's mime is great.  The theme is "A Living Hope" and that theme is obvious throughout the show.  I encourage you to see the The Great Saga because it is a great reminder of the Gospel and a great way to share the Gospel.

Please come and invite your friends to come.  Show times are: Sunday the 13th at 7:30 and Wednesday the 16th at 7:30.  The performances are free with free childcare and refreshments. 

Here is a trailer based off last year's show.

And here's a link to the entire recording of last year's show.
Please consider going to this production of the Gospel story and invite someone you know to attend today.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Gospel is:

Yesterday I posted a video that explained what the Gospel is.  In this post I want to elaborate on what the Gospel is.  This post will not provide an exhaustive answer and I thank God for that because there is an eternal depth to the Good News of what Jesus is doing in the world.  Nonetheless here is some things the Gospel is with Scripture references:

Eternal Life
The Gospel is getting and having God forever.
John 3:16 and John 17:3

Free Costly Grace
The Gospel is a gift but the cross proves it wasn't free.  I'm borrowing heavily from Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship here.
Ephesians 2:8 and Romans 3:24

The Renewal of All Creation
"God has opened the door to His new world and has invited us in." N. T. Wright
Revelation 8:19-21, Revelation 21:5 and 2 Corinthians 5:17

New Lordship
We are not free agents.  We were created to worship and will worship and serve something or someone.
Romans 6:15-23

This is our most desperate need.  "If God is for us, who can be against us?"  Imagine the opposite.  Reconciliation is the first need we must have the Gospel remedy.
2 Corinthians 5:14-21 and Romans 5:8

To paraphrase J. I. Packer, this is the crown jewel of the Gospel.  The enemy has been made a son.
Galatians 4:1-7 and John 1:12-13

This is a snapshot of what the Gospel is.  Please look up the verses referenced above because they have real power.

The Gospel is what I wrote above, but it is something else... The Gospel is Now!  Go and share the Good News today.  The Gospel is also meant to be enjoyed today.  Is the Gospel only something stored for us in heaven.  No.  The Good News of what Christ has done for us is being experienced now and is our mission now, and it is the source of our future hope.

Enjoy the Gospel, live the Gospel and share it with urgency today.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What's the Gospel?

As I prepared to teach tomorrow at youth group I discovered an awesome video.

This is definitely worth your time.  Yes, it is the simple message of the Gospel, but we can't hear it enough.  Take time to watch this today.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Love of Excellence

The other day I was flipping through books on my shelf that I had already read.  One of the books I perused through was Whatever Happened to Worship by A. W. Tozer.  As I re-examined the many sections I had underlined I was struck by a thought that Tozer had borrowed from Dr. George Watson.

"Men can have two kinds of love for God: the love of gratitude and the love of excellence."

The love of gratitude is not a bad thing.  I mean, I posted a song called "Jesus, Thank You" yesterday, so I'm obviously very much in favor of having the love of gratitude for God.  The love of gratitude is not a bad thing, it is a necessary, good and obvious thing for believers to have.  How could I not be eternally grateful to my Savior for what He did for me while I was His enemy?  My love for God based in gratitude is not a bad love but it's not the best love.

The love for God that is based in the love of excellence is something that I need to continually pursue.  This is the love of God that is in love with Him because of His many perfect attributes.  This is being in love with His: omnipresence, holiness, omnipotence, mercy, omniscience, justice, wisdom, graciousness, infiniteness, self-existence, goodness, love, sovereignty, immutability, etc.  This type of love loves God because of who He is not just what He has done.

We know this is the better love.  Think of it this way... I love my wife most because of what she does for me or I love my wife most because of who she is.  Which is the greater, deeper love?  Obviously, the love for who she is is the greater love.  It is the same with God.

So, how do we practice this?

First, we don't pursue the love of excellence by downplaying the love of gratitude.  This is not a zero-sum game.  I don't rob Peter to pay Paul.  I can increase the size of the love pie, so to speak, that I have for God.  That being said, how do we do this?  I have just a few ideas.

1) Search for songs that praise God for who He is not just what He's done.  Then listen to them worshipfully.  Examples: "Holy, Holy, Holy", "O Lord, You're Beautiful", "Beautiful One", "Behold Our God", etc.  You can comment with more ideas if you think of them.

2) Meditate on verses about God's glorious attributes.  Read Jeremiah 32:17, Psalm 139:7, 1 John 3:20, Romans 11:33, Psalm 119:8, etc.

3) Read books that explore the attributes of God.  Read The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer and Knowing God by J. I. Packer they will change your life for the better as they open your mind to this amazing way of loving God.

4) Be undistracted in nature.  "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands." Psalm 19:1

5) Think about who God is in comparison to you.  If this doesn't give you a healthy fear of God, I don't know what will.  And the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.

In conclusion, thank God for all that He has done for you, but don't stop there. Fall in love with who God is because this is the truest worship.  Pursue a love for God that is rooted in the love of excellence today.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Jesus, Thank You

The song today at church that inspired me the most today was "Jesus, Thank You" by Sovereign Grace.  Take time to listen to it and pay attention to the great words.

So, that is the song that spoke to me most this morning.  What did God teach you today?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Be Equally Yoked

Let's examine a familiar passage from 2 Corinthians chapter 6.

"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?  Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?  What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?  What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?  What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God.  As God has said: 'I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." 2 Corinthians 6:14-16

Let's begin with looking at what this passage doesn't mean.  This passage does not mean that Christians should not have any relationships with unbelievers.  Christ ate and drank in the homes of "sinners" and the Pharisees bashed Him for that.  We are to live amongst people of all different backgrounds: gay or straight, rich or poor, American or foreign, Christian or non-Christian.  This passage does not tell us to build a compound on the edge of town and hide away in it.  No, Christians are to live in our communities and work for the good of the people in those communities.  We are to reach out to people with the love of Jesus and how can we do that without building any relationships?

This passage is about being yoked with unbelievers.  Being yoked invokes an image of two oxen or horses. The yoke bound them together in unity as they worked.  So, this passage is telling us not to have binding, covenant-type relationships with unbelievers.  This is talking about deep friendships, romantic relationships, etc.

Why not?  This is the obvious question to ask.  I want to give a couple of reasons to answer this question.  I'm sure there are more reasons, but I'll give two.

1) What do we have in common with unbelievers?

I'm not saying that an unbeliever and I can't have a strong affinity for Cubs baseball or Chicago style pizza.  What I'm saying is that as a Christian our faith is not merely a part of who we are, it is who we are.  My identity is found in Christ and what Christ has called me.  My faith isn't part of who I am, it is who I am.  How can you have a binding, deep, covenantal relationship with someone who is so radically different from you at the core?  Who I am in Christ affects how I see everything and I can't be bound to someone who sees almost everything differently than I do.  Can I love them?  Absolutely.  Will I bind myself to them completely? No.

2) Synergy.

Here's a mathematical truth I want to share with you in a story problem (Yes, I'm using math to prove a Biblical truth.  God invented math and created its laws that we later discovered).

One horse on a farm was able to pull 8,000 pounds.  So, the farmer found another horse who could pull 8,000 pounds on its own.  How much can the two pull together?  You may answer 16,000 pounds but you would be wrong.  Because of the law of synergy these two equally yoked horses can pull around 26,000 pounds, not 16,000 pounds.  The law of synergy says 1+1 = 3.  When the combinations of strengths are equal the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Christian relationships are like this.  A married couple that are equally yoked in Christ can do more together than separately.  A team of Christian friends will do more together than the sum of their parts would suggest.  There is great synergy when we are bound in relationships with those who share our identity.

So, don't avoid non-Christians.  Pursue relationships with them, but not binding relationships.  Find your identity in Christ and find friends who have done the same.  And for those of you aching for a romantic relationship, yearning for a partner in life, wait for another believer.  Don't believe Satan's lies when he suggests you settle for someone who "believes in God" but really isn't a believer.  If you are going to marry please do it God's way.  Find someone who will run the race with you and watch what the Lord will do with you two teamed together.

Be equally yoked today.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Somebody's Watching Me

In 1984 R&B singer Rockwell released the song "Somebody's Watching Me" which peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.  The song is ridiculously catchy, I mean it will be in your head for a week if you listen to it.  Rockwell had Jermaine Jackson and Michael Jackson sing on it which is awesome, but the lyrics are nutty at best.  Give it a listen if you've never heard it.

The song is stupid, but it came to my mind when I read 2 Corinthians chapter 6.

"We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.  Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, but yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything."  2 Corinthians 6:3-10

Beside the fact that Paul wrote all that using only two sentences, a lot can come to our mind when we read those verses.  The great paradoxes of the Christian life should be one of them, "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" for example.  The weapons of righteousness (see Ephesians chapter 6 for more) should be another.  But I want to look at something different.

Somebody's always watching us; therefore put no stumbling blocks in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.  Christians, we must strive to live the Christian life at all times because our actions testify to the Gospel we claim.

Does the way you act in good times and in bad proclaim the Gospel?  I'm asking myself the same thing.  My answer is "Not always."  Do I show endurance in the faith in troubles, hardships and distresses?  Could I, like Paul, be beaten, imprisoned, hungry, sleepless and still have it said of me that I lived out the Gospel?  Do people see patience, kindness and understanding in my life, especially in regard to people I don't naturally like?

I'm trying hard to be more like Christ in all circumstances.  I've got a loooonnnng way to go, but I will get there because "He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion."

Somebody's watching me.  Somebody's watching you.  Do they see Jesus?  Or do they see something that makes the Gospel look unattractive?  Are you a stumbling block?  Do they think, "If Christians are like that I don't want to be one."?

People are watching you.  To quote an old hymn, "let others see Jesus in you" and your actions today.  

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Day of Salvation

The following passage was quoted in 2 Corinthians chapter 6.  The passage is beautiful and encouraging.

"This is what the LORD says:

'In the time of my favor I will answer you,
and in the day of salvation I will help you;
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people,
to restore the land
and to reassign its desolate inheritances,
to say to the captives, 'Come out,'
and to those in darkness, 'Be free!'

They will feed beside the roads
and find pasture on every barren hill.
They will neither hunger nor thirst,
nor will the desert heat or sun beat upon them.
He who has compassion on them will guide them
and lead them beside springs of water.
I will turn all my mountains into roads,
and my highways will be raised up.
See, they will come from afar...
some from the north, some from the west,
some from the region of Aswan.'

Shout for joy, O heavens;
rejoice, O earth;
burst into song, O mountains!
For the Lord comforts His people
and will have compassion on His afflicted ones."
Isaiah 49:8-13

The day of salvation is here.  The time of God's favor is now.  Rejoice and burst forth into song because the LORD has compassion on us today.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Noah and an Urgent Plea

In 2 Corinthians chapter 5 Paul had just written about how we are ambassadors of Christ.  I want to continue on to 2 Corinthians chapter 6 and see more fully what being an ambassador of Christ looks like.

"As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain.  For He says,

'In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.'

I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." 2 Corinthians 6:1-2

The first thing I want to point out from this passage is, "As God's fellow workers".  Soak that in.  "As God's fellow workers..."  Being an ambassador of Christ, a Christian, means that we work with God.  This is an incredible truth.  The servants work with the Master.  "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Paul asked in Romans.  When we work with God we cannot fail!  Remember that as you work in accordance to God's will, you work with Him and for Him and through His empowering.  This is incredible.

Next, "... we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain... I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation."  Paul urged the people of Corinth and I echo his urging, don't receive God's grace in vain.  If you have been delivered God's invitation for salvation, you should accept it.  God has been gracious to us to offer us a truce for reconciliation, a peace treaty.  While we hated Him, He offered us reconciliation and adoption.  Take it!  Don't wait because the offer won't stand forever.

This past weekend Noah was the number one movie at the box office.  I haven't seen it, but it's effects look spectacular although there has been mixed reviews from people about its authenticity.  I'm not going to touch on that because I haven't seen it, but I do want to make a point about the story of Noah.

In Genesis chapters 6-9 we read the story of Noah.  God was displeased with the evil on the earth and decided to wipe out the people of the earth because of it.  But God offered Noah and his family salvation.  In fact 2 Peter 2:5 calls Noah a preacher of righteousness.  Perhaps Noah warned others about the flood and told them to get on the ark, too.

Salvation from the flood was offered to at least Noah's family and perhaps everyone Noah preached to. The opportunity for salvation came, but it also left.  When the doors of the ark were closed and the rain came there was no escaping disaster.  Whoever received God's gracious offer in vain was killed.

It is the same today.  God, through His ambassadors, is announcing the day of His favor and it is today.  I, and all of God's fellow workers, urge you to accept God's grace today because one day the peace treaty will be off the table and those who are still stubbornly God's enemies will experience the righteous wrath of God.  "If God is for us, who can be against us?"  I'll ask you a similar question, "If God is against you, what chance do you have?"

Get on the ark.  "I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation."  Don't miss it today.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools Day

When I was growing up my little brother and I always pulled a prank on my sister for April Fools' Day.  One year we changed things up.  One April Fools' Day we did nothing to her all day.  She had to have been wondering when the prank would come, but it never did.  We didn't even speak of April Fools' Day.  She went to bed most likely assuming we had forgotten to prank her or that we'd finally grown up.  She was wrong.

When Maggie went to sleep Patrick and I set our alarm for 11:30.  We woke up at 11:30 and went around the house quietly changing all the clocks to 8:00.  We got dressed and grabbed our book bags.  Then at 11:45ish we, in a panic, woke up Maggie.

"We're late for school!  Hurry, brush your teeth!  We don't have time to shower!  Grab my keys and start the car so we can go!"

She shot out of bed and hustled to get dressed and brush her teeth.  She was half asleep and in a stressed out panic.  I tossed her the keys to my 1988 Pontiac Le Mans, which was a stick shift.  She ran outside in the pitch black night and tried to start my car.  She couldn't though because she didn't know she needed to push the clutch.  She turned the key over and over.

Patrick and I just laughed.  We woke up Mom and Larry because we were laughing so hard.  Then at 11:59 we ran outside and yelled "April Fools'!"  She obviously was pissed and hit us both and went back to bed.

Patrick and I thought that was the best prank ever. 

April Fools' Day always has us on the edge.  Sure, it is fun but we have our guards up and don't know who to trust.

Thank God that He never plays April Fools' Day pranks.  You can take Him at His word 24/7/365.  When He says, "Never will I leave you nor forsake you."  Take it to the bank.  When His Holy Word says, "...Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." You can trust that He won't say, "April Fools'!"

Put your guard down.  Trust in the Lord.  Believe His promises for you today.