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

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top 15 Posts of 2015

Below are the unofficial top 15 posts of 2015 in no particular order.

The Groom's Face

How To Do All Things

Gotham and the Old Testament

If You Only Knew

Desert People

Kill the Old Man

Own or Be Owned

Pringles Christians

You Stoop Down to Make Me Great

Terrible Decision Makers

This Isn't a Debate

5 Things That Blow My Mind

Wait 'Till You See the Beach!

7 Deadly Sins: Lust

Is The Daily News Right?

Thank you for your support and your reading this blog in 2015 I hope in some way it was helpful to you.  I will continue to write in the New Year and I hope that it blesses you in some way.  Happy New Year to you today.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Truth That Sings

Christmas is less than a week away and many of you are listening to and singing the songs of this season.  As we sing we should get not only nostalgia but truth, so pay attention to what you sing and take the truths to heart.  Now, singing "Frosty the Snowman" is fun, but when you encounter a carol with brilliant truth embrace it.  Here are a few lines that have stuck out to me this year.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing
"Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth."

This song highlights so well the Gospel story.  Jesus laid aside His glory in heaven to live as a man to save men from death and to grace them with rebirth.

Joy to the World
"No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground,
He comes to make His blessings flow,
Far as the curse if found."

What Jesus accomplished beginning at Christmas was a cosmic victory.  No more sin, sorrow or thorny ground.  Everything infected by the curse (which is everything outside of heaven) would instead be soaked in blessing.  Jesus' work saves and "Heaven and Nature Sing!"

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
"And in despair I bowed my head,
There is no peace on earth I said,
For hate is strong that mocks the song,
Of peace on earth goodwill to men.

Then peeled the bells more loud and deep,
God is not dead nor does He sleep,
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth goodwill to men."

As I see terrorist attacks and war I, like the man who wrote the song during the American Civil War, wonder if peace on earth is even possible.  But then I hear the truth ring like a bell, "God is not dead nor does He sleep."  Where was God during the tragedy?  He was on the throne and the Christmas story reminds us that He has a perfect plan to bring peace on earth goodwill to men.

O Come All Ye Faithful
"Word of the Father now in flesh appearing."

Jesus wasn't just some baby born; Jesus was the Word described in John chapter 1, He is God Almighty in flesh, He was God with us.

The First Noel
"Then let us all with one accord,
sing praises to our heavenly Lord,
that hath made heaven and earth of nought,
and with His blood mankind has bought."

Jesus is God, the very God that made everything from nothing.  Baby Jesus grew to be the man whose blood purchased sinners from every nation, tribe and tongue.  Let us this Christmas sing praises to this Jesus, this Jesus who was, is and forever will be the creating and redeeming God.

As we listen to and sing Christmas carols let's not miss the truth that's proclaimed.  O Come Let Us Adore Him today.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas Letter 2015

Merry Christmas,

Another year has come to a close and we so many reasons to be thankful.  This year, like many for a young couple, has been an exciting year for us.  2015 could be described by both moving and staying, normal and new as some things changed from last year’s letter and some could nearly be copied and pasted into this year’s letter.

Christine is working as a labor and delivery nurse at Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo.  She works 12 hours shifts that rotate between nights and days every few weeks and says much of her 2015 was spent either working or sleeping.  Despite the strange hours she was able to do quite a bit of baking and quilting.  Christine also was involved in our church’s Easter passion mime, this year as an actor after writing and directing last year.

Matt is still working at KWAY radio where he has been for about 6 ½ years now.  He works as a morning D.J. and does play-by-play for football, volleyball, basketball, soccer, baseball, softball and even did a bowling meet this year.  Matt continues to serve as a youth leader at our church, something he’s done since 2005 and is one of the church elders, too.

On June 29th we closed on a house in Waverly.  It’s a blessing to finally own a house and put down deep roots in our community.  We’re excited to be able to use our house and to learn all about being homeowners, let’s just say the hardware store knows us pretty well.  In August we got a couple of cats, Charlie and Waldo.  Christine loves them and Matt is learning to as well.

This summer we got to go on vacation to the Chicago area.  We camped outside of the city and took the train into town where we explored the city, ate great pizza and went to a Cubs game.  We also spent a day at Six Flags Great America riding rollercoasters.

God has been very good to us this year.  We had some big, exciting changes and some things that thankfully stayed the same.  One of the things we’re glad stayed the same this year is your prayers, support and friendship.  Thank you.  We hope that 2015 was a great year for you, too.  We wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy 2016!


Matt and Christine Ray

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Is the Daily News Right?

No doubt you've heard about the latest mass shooting in San Bernardino and you've probably seen the New York Daily News' cover today.

This post in this particular blog isn't going to attempt to solve America's problem regarding mass shootings.  I hear we need more guns and that we need fewer guns.  I hear that we need to fix our mental health system or our background check systems.  I'm not sure on the answer to this problem so I will remain a-political in this setting (I'll gladly discuss politics with you in person, but I'll keep this blog out of it all).

What I want to talk about is the headline itself as it pertains to the violence in our world.  Is the Daily News right?  Now, I'm far from the only one writing or talking on this issue and I'm probably far from the wisest voice in the blogosphere.  Many pieces have been written about this subject including Relevant's blog and Yahoo's article just to name two. 

Is the Daily News right?  I'll focus on the phrase spoken thousands of times today in reaction to this latest tragedy, "Our thoughts and prayers are with them."  Do our thoughts and prayers do us any good?

First, our thoughts are nearly pointless.  I'm one who has said "Our thoughts and prayers are with you."  But when I really think about this phrase I think it is a phrase that Christians should amend.  Our thoughts, good vibes, well wishes, etc do absolutely no good to those suffering.  Our thoughts, if not thoughts of internal prayer, do us and everyone involved little to no good.  You cannot send thoughts in a person's direction.  I'm not positive where this popular phrase came from but it seems to be a way for those who pray to pray and those who don't pray to feel included.  Thoughts alone don't help the situation.

But our prayers do.

Prayer is a spectacular benefit of having a relationship with the King of the Universe.  We have access to the King and can make petitions directly to Him.  We can pray for healing and comfort and we can pray for God to fix this situation... and He can fix this situation despite what the Daily News says.  Saying you're going to pray for someone may be meaningless, but actually going to the Almighty in prayer on someone's behalf is not meaningless.  In fact, doing anything without including prayer is closer to meaningless.

However, the Daily News does strike a chord of truth.

Many people have gone to God in prayer and skipped a huge part of the process.  Prayer isn't just about sending a list of wants to God; prayer is also about listening.  In your conversations with your Heavenly Father do you ever listen?  Now, this post won't go into what that looks like, but do you ever listen?  Do you pray with your Bible open and listen for His response?  And when I say listen I mean hear and do.

"Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like."  James 1:22-24

People, it seems that we've had a mirror stuck in our faces and been shocked by what we saw... over and over again, yet we forget it hours later.  We've seen violence kill children at an elementary, people at an office party, civilians at a summer camp, etc and we've been horrified by it only to forget and repeat our previous failures.  This is stupidity.  We must start listening in prayer to what the Word says and we must do it.  This discussion isn't about less than what to do with guns, but it's about more than that.  Christians, are you doing anything to combat sin?  The sin that grows into the action of a mass shooting begins as a seed; what are you doing to stop it?

I don't know the answers to stopping or slowing down this train of mass violence in my country and in our world.  But I can tell you something.  God is going to fix it.  He will fix it ultimately when He returns to earth to reign, but He's also our only hope to fix it now.  Skip the thoughts and go straight to prayer about this.  And when you go to prayer and God informs you how He wants to use you in the solution, whether in big ways or small, be a doer not a hearer only.

So, is the Daily News right?

In a word.  No.

But it strikes a chord that we must hear... faith without works is dead.  So, let us be prayer warriors with a living faith because that's the only way we're going to be part of the victory when God Does Fix This!

Please pray for that God fixes this today.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

7 Deadly Sins: Lust

This is the final post in a series on the 7 Deadly Sins.  PrideEnvyAngerSlothGreed, and Gluttony have been exposed and now let's tear apart Lust because these sins are not only Deadly Sins, but they are root sins that grow a garden of weedy, ugliness in our lives.

We can Lust for a myriad of things but this post will focus on sexual Lust and will simply say Lust and mean sexual Lust throughout.  Pastor John Piper in the book Killjoys: the Seven Deadly Sins gives Lust this definition, "Lust is a sexual desire that dishonors its object and disregards God."  I find that to be an excellent definition because it gets to the core of why Lust is such a deadly sin.

First, Lust dishonors its object.  Lust sees a body and wants it solely for its own pleasure.  Now, Lust can act out its evil from the seemingly mundane inner fantasy to the unquestionable evil of rape or human trafficking, but Lust is Lust all the same.  As John Piper points out, Lust basically says to the other person, "I want to use your body for my pleasure, but I do not want you as a whole person."  God designed all sexual activity to take place in the covenant of marriage and in marriage you take all of your partner not just their body, Lust acted out in self-pleasuring or in a one-night-stand takes only the physical and even that only when Lust itself can be served.  Sex without commitment dishonors the other person because you're basically saying, "You're not worth it to me."

Second, Lust disregard God Himself.  See, God created sex and in the beginning was quite proud of His creation.  Sex was in the Garden of Eden and was deemed by God Himself to be good and when God says good He means good in comparison to Himself and that is pretty amazing.  But Lust has decided to disregard the designer of sex and all sexuality.  Lust looks at God's design and thinks it can do better.  Lust is a slap in the face of God and direct disobedience to Him; how do you think that will work out for you?

Thirdly, Lust hurts ourselves.  Lust is an empty sexuality at best and at worst a source of physical, spiritual and emotional death.  Lust is an empty sexuality because the best sex is intimate with and focused on the other person.  Husbands and wives living in a good marriage can even fall prey to this.  When we try to serve only ourselves in sex when can miss out on some of the best that sex and sexuality has to offer.  Lust is the source of death for many reasons.  I have talked to many people and read many stories of people that have had their spiritual and emotional selves ravaged by Lust.  Whether victims of rape or addicts of porn these men and women will testify that Lust can ruin you and keep you from real, deep relationships.  Also, to pull a story out of the headlines, Lust can literally kill you.  Charlie Sheen was America's favorite prostitute hiring, porn-star dating, uber-sexual movie star.  We glorified his lifestyle and even lived vicariously through him and now we're seeing a dark side to that life.  Charlie is H.I.V. positive.  Now, he may live a long life with the disease because he has access to great medical care, but what about the ripple of sexual partners that may also have this scary disease but don't have access to his medical resources?  People may physically die from this one man's Lust and he's just one example of Lust's deadliness.

Lust is one of the 7 Deadly Sins for a reason.  It dishonors its object, disregards God and hurts you.  So, how do we kill Lust?  For that I'm going to borrow again from Pastor John Piper in the aforementioned book.  He says to fight Lust with the acronym ANTHEM.

A- Avoid.
Paul said to Timothy, "Flee the evil desires of youth..." 2 Timothy 2:22.  Strong men and women know when to run.  Men, don't go to that website in the first place that shows airbrushed versions of women.  Women, don't read that novel that makes you fantasize about an unrealistic man.

N- No.
As Nancy Reagan suggested, "Just Say No!"  Remember the power that we have over sin in the Gospel.  James 4:7 says, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."  Say "No" with the authority of Christ and His victory won on Calvary.

T- Turn
Don't just remove Lust; replace Lust with a better thought.  As the old hymns suggests, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus."  Your mind and eyes will be occupied by something, so turn your eyes from the empty suggestions of Lust and onto the superior pleasures God offers.  In some cases, for my married friends, that superior pleasure is looking at your own spouse and even having sex with him/her.

H- Hold
Piper says to hold on to the promises of Christ.  Lust often offers us a quick fix that God does not offer, but we hold on to the promises that the pleasures of this world can't be compared to the pleasures of the next.  And I'd submit that most, if not all, of the pleasures God offers here and now surpass what Lust can offer.  Hold on to that truth.

E- Enjoy
John Piper also says, "One reason Lust reigns in so many is that Christ has so little appeal."  To defeat any sin, including Lust, we must be taken far more with the pleasures God offers.  As mentioned above, the thrills offered by God are beyond any other.

M- Move
As we saw when we looked at Sloth, laziness is dangerous.  Satan does some of his best work in our boredom.  Are you having a lustful thought?  Move.  Do something productive, run, play basketball, chase a squirrel... it doesn't matter what you do so much as that you do something.  If you and your girlfriend are so worked up that you fear you might slip up, then take a walk, play tennis, do something other than entertain the invitation to sin.

Lust is a tough sin.  I deal with it, not as much as I did when I was single, but I still deal with it and I'm sure I'll deal with it until death.  Lust is a tough sin, but a beatable sin nonetheless.  We may lose battles with this sin, but it's a war we must wage and win.

Fight Lust and all the 7 Deadly Sins today.

Monday, November 16, 2015

7 Deadly Sins: Gluttony

Only two sins remain in this exploration of the 7 Deadly Sins.  So far we've explored: PrideEnvyAngerSloth, and Greed.  This time around let's look at Gluttony.

The dictionary defines Gluttony as "habitual greed or excess in eating."  It is a limitless appetite for food or drink or in a more metaphorical sense any pleasure.  Think about all we are gluttonous for: we binge eat, binge drink, we even binge watch shows.  Gluttony is a sin that take a good God designed thing, our appetite, and runs away with it until it kills us.

Gluttony in the United States is quite literally killing people.  High blood pressure, coronary heart disease, strokes, some cancers, the diabetes epidemic and more are caused in part by our gluttonous lifestyle.  We've heard of people that are told to make dietary changes for medical reasons but won't because of their love of food or drink.  So many of us are eating ourselves to death and we wonder why Gluttony is on a list of the 7 Deadly Sins.

Gluttony can take away our energy and joy.  There are so many people that live a life of trouble due to the sin of Gluttony.  Now, before you complain and say I'm over simplifying the case, I know there are other reasons for the diseases mentioned but Gluttony is a factor is so many cases.

Often Gluttony indulges itself and ignores those who are suffering.  Jesus tells a story about this in Luke 16 when he tells the story about the rich man and the beggar.  You remember poor man Lazarus?  Many a monarchy or ruling class has been done in by Gluttony.  History is wrought with stories of those in power throwing lavish feasts while the rest of society starved; that is until the rest of society overthrew the partying class.  This is even parodied in The Hunger Games books and movies which seem to be a futuristic telling of late Roman history.

Gluttony is also a danger to our spiritual lives.  Adam and Eve were taken down by a fruit.  And look at what Paul tells the church at Philippi.

"... many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is their shame.  Their mind is on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven."  Philippians 3:18b-20a

Gluttony says that our stomach is our god.  Gluttony sets our mind on earthy pleasures and misses the better, purer heavenly pleasures.  As Jonathan Bowers says, "gluttony is food worship".

So, what do we do about Gluttony?

First, we must know that there is a time for everything including feasting.  Soon when you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner don't beat yourself up for feasting.  Gluttony isn't about occasional feasts, God Himself commanded a number of feasts for the nation of Israel. No, gluttony not about feasting it is about who/what our God is.

Secondly, enjoy food.  Those who binge do not really enjoy food or drink.  They fill their stomachs but miss the goodness.  They get full, but nothing more; they get drunk, but nothing more; they put it in the body to have it leave the body later and miss much of the blessing of good food.  Slow down when you eat or drink; don't look like a starved dog at the table, instead sit down and enjoy the food and company.

Thirdly, be active.  Those who are bitten by the sin of Sloth are often taken by Gluttony, too.  The lazy man sits on the couch and mindlessly eats chips because he simply has nothing better to do.  The active person takes in the calories from food and puts them to good use whereas the lazy man hoards the energy from food and benefits no one.

Fourthly, fast.  There's no better way to prove to yourself that food doesn't rule your life than by fasting.  Can God be your focus when fasting and when feasting?  We can't truly know until we try a fast from food.  When the competing god of the stomach is knocked out of the picture you'll be surprised at how loud and clear the voice of the true God is.

Finally, feast on the Word of God.  Jesus said in Matthew 4:4 "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."  Psalm 34:8 says, "Taste and see that the LORD is good..."  When we feast on the Word of God, when we taste and see and experience His goodness we will not have our stomach as our god.

Bottom line: Gluttony is a sin with many physical, social and spiritual consequences.  Don't be ruled by Gluttony today.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

7 Deadly Sins: Greed

The fifth of the 7 Deadly Sins I want to zero in on in this series is Greed.  So far PrideEnvyAnger, and Sloth have been in the crosshairs and now it's time to blow Greed away.

Greed is a sin that all of us deal with.  Whether we have little and desire more or have much and are just plain cheapskates, greed is an issue.  Greed is an excessive desire for wealth and/or possessions.  Who amongst us has not felt this excessive desire?  Who hasn't coveted someone else's house or car or bankroll?  Who hasn't kept the coins in their pocket rather than drop them in the bucket even though the money could be more than spared?  Yes, Greed is a sin that we all deal with.

So, what makes greed so deadly?

Well, it is the root of all kinds of other evils.  From theft to murder to stomach ulcers greed has caused ill on the earth and in our homes.

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wondered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."  1 Timothy 6:10

Greed is idolatry.  Our American money says "In God We Trust" but our hearts and actions often say "In Cash We Trust".  Money is to many a functional savior.  On Sunday we sing "Trust and Obey" and Monday through Saturday we trust in our money and possessions.  Things like savings accounts and insurance policies are not bad in and of themselves but is that where your trust is?  Is your identity in your socio-economic status or in your belonging to the family of God?  Remember, those whose God is God get heaven, and those who put faith in other gods do not.  This is indeed a deadly sin.

So, how do we fight Greed?  I thought of three ways.

1) Find Contentment in Christ.
Paul gives this advice in Philippians 4:11-13 and 1 Timothy 6:6-10.  The heart of one defeating Greed can honestly cry Christ is Enough.  As C. S. Lewis said, "He who has everything and God has no more than he who has God only."  Money and possessions will not and cannot give you the joy you're searching for, only Christ can.

2) Trust God
Jesus gives this exact advice in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:19-24.  If Greed trusts in money then trusting in God is an antidote. This way to defeated Greed is easy to say and hard to do, but don't let its difficulty keep you from pursuing trust in God.

3) Give
Our money draws a line to our heart.  Give me your expenditures for the year and I can tell you what you love.  Now, God doesn't need your cash but giving helps us defeat Greed.  So, do you tithe?  Do you ever give to a cause?  Have you ever had to sacrifice to give?  Scrooges don't give, but Christians should be very generous.  Which are you?

"Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Matthew 6:19-21

Where is your treasure?  Is Greed keeping you from the greatest wealth of all?  If so, fight Greed today.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

7 Deadly Sins: Sloth

So far in my exploration of the 7 Deadly Sins I've looked at PrideEnvy and Anger; this post will focus on Sloth.  Sloth has been, by far, the most difficult one for me to understand.  Now, I understand when I am slothful, in fact, I spent a great deal of time sitting on the couch watching TV when I should have been thinking about the subject of Sloth.  I guess practice makes perfect.  The problem I had with Sloth was figuring out what was so deadly about it.  Why is this one of the root sins I need to spray spiritual Roundup on?

In my laziness and inability to think about this subject I did do something that helped me.  I read the book Killjoys: the Seven Deadly Sins like I have been to prepare for each subject and then I took a bike ride to try and not be so sedentary and hopefully get my mind moving as my legs moved.  It was on this bike ride that Sloth's deadliness finally made sense.

On my bike ride I thought of this definition for Sloth:

Sloth = "failure to expend our energy and talents on the things of importance."

See, Tony Reinke in his chapter in Killjoys: the Seven Deadly Sins identifies three types of slothful people: the sluggard, the workaholic and the zombie.  The sluggard is simply lazy even to the point of causing his own poverty.  The workaholic has plenty of motivation and spends lots of energy but avoids the things of importance in doing so.  And the zombie is someone who is mentally on autopilot perhaps lulled to mindless inactivity by TV or Facebook.

All three types of sloths fail to expend their energy and talents on the things of importance.

I believe that the points of our life when looked back upon on our deathbed as wasted are Sloth.  To live a life of Sloth is to waste one's life.  What is more akin to death than that?

So, how do we battle Sloth?

We fight Sloth by valuing the right things.  Do you love your family or perishable things?  Do you work toward worthwhile goals or are you aimless?  Do you rest or waste time?  Do you have hobbies or distractions?  Do you spend most of your time missing life or enjoying it?

Once you place value, or rather find value, in the right things you must love them.  We do what we love.  Are you like the sluggard who loves nothing?  Are you like the workaholic that loves busywork over family and leisure and God Himself?  Or are you like God who worked to create and works to sustain what lasts and wastes absolutely nothing?

Here's some good news that we have.  The things done for Christ and His Kingdom will last forever!

A life is a terrible thing to waste.  Expend your energy and talents on the things of importance today.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

7 Deadly Sins: Anger

"Be killing sin or it will be killing you." John Owen

Sin is something to be eliminated and the 7 Deadly Sins is a list of what I think are 7 Root Sins.  Over the past couple weeks and the next few weeks I want to look at these root sins and spray spiritual Roundup on them.  So far I've examined Pride and Envy; this post is aimed at Anger.

The dictionary defines anger as a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure or hostility.  When we're angry, and all of us have been angry, we're shouting "This isn't right!"  Anger, though a deadly sin, is not in and of itself bad.  What we're angry about and what we do about our anger is where sin can be found.

"But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother is subject to judgement.  Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin.  But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."  Matthew 5:21

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

Anger is a deadly sin and is a root of all kinds of sin.  That being said, Jesus got angry and so did/does God the Father, but they never sin.  Psalm 4:4 and Ephesians 4:26 say, "In your anger do not sin."  So, it must be possible to be angry and not be sinning.  In fact, it must then be possible for anger to cause sin and to cause goodness since all that God does is good.

So, what is behind anger that could make it both a source of sin and good?


Tim Keller says that "anger is actually a form of love."  Jonathan Parnell in Killjoys: the Seven Deadly Sins says that the opposite of anger is not love but indifference.  We don't get angry about things we don't care about.

So, how do we harness anger rather than be ruled by it?  How do we not sin in our anger?  I can think of four ways.

1) Ask, "Why am I angry" or "Why am I so angry?"
God asked Jonah this.  It's a great way to analyze our anger and therefore our loves.  Often I am angry because something insults my pride and other times I'm mad about something worth getting mad about. Some other times I'm angry about something worth getting upset about but my anger is so disproportionate to it. When I think about why I'm so angry there are times that I get rightfully embarrassed about it.

2) Slow Down.
Anger can take away our ability to think clearly.  Breath, slow down and take your time before you do something you'll regret big time.  Visceral reactions will, more often than not, lead to mistakes.

"A patient man has great understanding,
but a quick-tempered man displays folly."  Proverbs 14:29

3) Align your loves with God's.
The best way to be angry and not sin is to align our loves with the loves of God.  If anger is a reaction to something we love being threatened, then loving what God loves helps us to be angry about the right things and not about silly things.  Do you love mercy, justice, righteousness, truth, etc?  Do you love what God loves and hate what God hates?

4) Ask, "What am I going to do about it?
Are you controlled by the anger or are you harnessing the anger to achieve good?  Should you just give it to God because He is in control and vengeance is His or is this a passion that you must seek justice about?  Imagine if you tried to do something about everything that made you upset; you'd be exhausted.  But imagine if Mother Theresa got angry about poverty but then responded by doing nothing about it.  Imagine if William Wilberforce was ticked off about the African slave trade but decided to not peacefully pursue its end.  What makes us angry and what we do about that anger goes a long way in defining us as people.

Anger is a powerful thing.  It can destroy us and inspire us.  It is the root of much sin and of much justice.  I implore you in your anger to not sin, be careful with anger because it can burn you and when in doubt chill out.

"Be killing sin or it will be killing you" today.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

7 Deadly Sins: Envy

To get rid of a weed you must snuff it out from the root; the same is true of sin.  The 7 Deadly Sins is an old, tested and proved list of some of sins roots, the roots that need to die in our lives.  Last post I wrote about Pride and this post I want to aim our spiritual Roundup at Envy.

Envy as defined by the Google dictionary is, as a noun, "a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else's possessions, qualities or luck", or as a verb, "a desire to have a quality, possession or other attribute belonging to someone else."

Envy wants what someone else has and wants it so bad that it is willing to beg for, steal from or beat it out of them... or at bear minimum sit around and have a pity party.  As Joe Rigney puts it in Killjoys: the Seven Deadly Sins "Envy weeps at those who rejoice and rejoices over those who weep."  The green eyed monster named Envy is not satisfied and quite frankly it never will be.  The Rolling Stones described it very aptly in "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" you can try and try and try but if you're trying to get satisfaction from things other than God you will never will and if you envy the satisfaction of others you'll at best be miserable and at worst be destructive.

So, how do we root up Envy?  Well, I can think of three ways.

1) Click Like.

Millions of us are on Facebook.  Social media offers the envious plenty to envy: trips, girlfriends, children, new jobs, houses, cars, days off, etc.  There are innumerable reasons to be envious online and off-line.  The enemy is not social media or any other vehicle of envy; the enemy is Envy itself.  So, instead of Envy, chose to like.  Literally and figuratively click like at the success of others.

"Rejoice with those who rejoice"  Romans 12:15

Do you like the success and happiness of others or do you envy it?  Choose to like it.  Be a cheerleader of the success of others rather than a critic.  Because as C. S. Lewis said in The Screwtape Letters "He (God) wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognize all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things."

2) Count Your Own Blessings.

Examine and enjoy the grace of God in your own life.  Ask, "What might someone else be envying abut me?"  I'm sure that you have loads of blessings for which to be thankful.  Especially remember that if you are a Christian you are a child of God and a joint heir with Christ!  Why envy someone's musical ability or new puppy when you've been given stake in the very riches of the Creator of the universe?

Another Joe Rigney quote hammers this point home.  "I am not defined by the blessings of others; I am defined by the grace of God."

3) Run to the Cross

The final way I know to defeat envy is to trust the Gospel.  The Gospel is, in part, that Jesus promises to defeat ALL sin, including envy.  Trust Him to do so.  Run to the Cross of Christ and ask forgiveness for the envy in your heart and ask God to cure you of it.

So, here are three things I want you to do.  First, confess your envy to the One who promises to forgive you for it and cure you of it.  Second, think about at least a few way in which you are blessed.  Finally, I'm asking you to celebrate the goodness in someone else's life.  This may be by writing them a Facebook message that lets them know of your excitement for them, or by praising God for something great in their life, or by telling them about an attribute in their lives that you admire.

Bottom line: don't be defined by the blessings of others; be defined by the grace of God today.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

7 Deadly Sins: Pride

I am just at the beginning of a study with the youth at my church about the 7 Deadly Sins; so, for the next seven weeks that will be the subject of my blog posts as well.  I hope you learn as much from reading these post as I do from writing them.  The outline of these posts will often mirror the book I drew from to prepare for the lessons given to the you.  The book is call Killjoys: the Seven Deadly Sins.

Why study the 7 Deadly Sins?  Are you trying to focus too much on the subject of sin rather than on grace?  Aren't the 7 Deadly Sins just something for Catholics?

First, I believe we should study the 7 Deadly Sins because they are root sins.  They aren't more deadly than any other sin because the wages of all sin is death; perhaps, they should be re-named the 7 Root Sins because they are the root source of most every sin I can think of.  It's important to study how to attack sin at the root because we are to, as John Owen famously said, "be killing sin or it will be killing you."

Secondly, I have been saved by grace not by works.  If you are saved then that is true for you, too.  We don't work to be saved, but God works through us and in us to save us from sin.  We are saved from the penalty, power and presence of sin by God.  I have been justified (declared innocent) by God and am currently being sanctified (being made into the image of Christ) and will one day be glorified (instantly made perfect!).  Fighting sin is part of God's sanctifying work in my life which He does for me, at least in part, in and through my efforts.

Finally, the 7 Deadly Sins are not just for Catholics.  I am a Baptist and I am a youth leader at a Baptist church and we're studying the 7 Deadly Sins.  This list of sins was indeed created by the Catholic church but that is no reason a Protestant can't grow from it.  The Catholic church, in my opinion, has done some amazing things to further the Gospel and grow Christians for thousands of years and this is one of them.  If we reject helpful tools simply because they originate from a different denomination than us then we are already deeply entrenched in some serious pride.

So, after all that has been said here are the 7 Deadly Sins: Pride, Envy, Anger, Sloth, Greed, Gluttony and Lust.  In today's post the focus is pride and its mirror image, humility.  Each week I will focus on the sin and its mirror image so we can not only recognize the sin but destroy it because it is important to remove and replace when it comes to sin.

This post has had a long build up to what should be the meat of it, so I want to offer a few links to previous posts on the subject of Pride and Humility.  Sin's Root: PridePride and Humility.

Having posted those links I will not be long on how to defeat the root sin of Pride.  Pride at its base is an issue of self-preoccupation.  When we are prideful we keep thinking "Me, me, me" and we must attack that.  The cross does that.  To quote from the book Killjoys: the Seven Deadly Sins "Those who see the cross rightly see themselves rightly."  I'll close with one final quote from that aforementioned book: "... we must pray and ask the Spirit to open our eyes to more of God's glory, so that we are ever more in awe of Him and ever less in awe of ourselves" today.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Gotham and the Old Testament- A Repost

This is a post I wrote earlier about one of my favorite shows.  I hope you enjoy it the second time around.

Gotham and the Old Testament

I haven't had a TV show that was appointment television for me since The Office went off the air.  The Office was the only show that I had to watch and if I missed it I caught up online.  Well, The Office was the only show that was appointment television for me until I got hooked on Gotham.

Now, Gotham is not a squeaky clean kids' show by any means.  It's very violent and dark much of the time, but as a man that used to be a little boy in Batman underwear it's a show that I was trapped by and now I can't get out.  I enjoy watching every week as this prequel to Batman plays out.  See, Gotham takes place while Bruce Wayne (Batman) is a boy.  During the show you get clues as to what characters turn into what bad guys or what characters get promoted to higher positions or who marries whom.  As a Batman fan I can see all the little hints that tell me who's who in the near or distant future in the show and I enjoy that.

Gotham is a prequel and the fun of watching a prequel is seeing how things all come together to make the story you know is coming.  In the TV show Gotham, Gotham City is a mess.  Violence, injustice and corruption reigns and those who are trying to do good are by far the minority.  When you watch the show Gotham you can't help but cheer for Batman to come sooner rather than later, but you know you have to wait for him.  The TV show Gotham would be depressing and hopeless if you didn't know that Batman was coming.  But we do know that Batman is coming and that eventually justice, peace and civility will have their day.

Reading the Old Testament is a lot like watching Gotham.  Parts of the Old Testament are filled with violence, injustice and corruption.  Read the book of Judges and see how futile the efforts of each judge seems to be because evil always come back.  In fact, Jim Gordon on the show, who is like the one good guy, tries his best to do good but you know he can't do it alone.  In the Old Testament read the corruption of some of the kings of Israel and of the nations that oppress Israel and see if you don't ache for things to be fixed.  Reading the Old Testament can be depressing and hopeless if you don't know that Jesus is coming later on in the Bible.  But we do know that Jesus comes later on in the Bible.

When we read the Old Testament we read for clues and hints about how Jesus will come and what He will be like and what He will do.  The Old Testament isn't a prequel to the New Testament, but in some ways it is like a prequel.  The Old Testament is meant to be read to get the meaning intended for the original audience and it is meant to be read knowing that Jesus and the New Testament is next.

So, I'm going to keep enjoying watching my show Gotham, but this post isn't about encouraging you to get hooked on a super-hero prequel show.  I want you to read the Old Testament look for Jesus and long for Jesus just like the men and women of the Old Testament must have longed for the Messiah.  I want you to read the Old Testament and see the beauty of God's arching narrative penned across centuries by several different men. Read your Old Testament looking for Jesus and loving God's story today.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Favorite Quotes from "The Weight of Glory"

I recently read a collection of essays and speeches from C. S. Lewis entitled The Weight of Glory.  Really "The Weight of Glory" is simply the first essay in a rather random collection and the book is named after it.  That being said I want to share a few of my favorite quotes from the book.

From "The Weight of Glory"
"... it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who want to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased."

"... he who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only."

"... to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son... it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain.  But so it is."

"... God makes no appetite in vain."

From "Why I Am Not a Pacifist
About why reason must be used.  "The man who 'just feels' that total abstinence from drink or marriage is obligatory is to be treated like the man who 'just feels sure' that Henry VIII is not by Shakespeare or that vaccination does no good."

From "Transposition"
"We can hope only for what we can desire."

Concerning our heavenly bodies.  "'We know not what we shall be'; but we may be sure we shall be more, not less, that we were on earth."

From "Is Theology Poetry?"

"... if Theology is Poetry, it is not very good poetry."

"Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religions.  The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself.  I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

From "The Inner Ring"
"... attempting to fill sieves with water, is the symbol not of one vice but of all vices."

"Until you conquer the fear of being an outsider, an outsider you will remain."

From "Membership"
"... the New Testament knows nothing of solitary religion."

"The infinite value of each human soul is not a Christian doctrine.  God did not die for man because of some value He perceived in him...  He loved us not because we were lovable, but because He is love... If there is equality, it is in His love, not is us."

"The structural position in the Church which the humblest Christian occupies is eternal and even cosmic.  The Church will outlive the universe; in it the individual person will outlive the universe."

From "On Forgiveness"
"To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you."

From "A Slip of the Tongue"

"'Have we never risen from our knees in haste for fear God's will should become too unmistakable if we prayed longer?'"

"When we try to keep within us an area that is our own, we try to keep an area of death.  Therefore, in love, He claims all.  There's no bargaining with Him."

"If you have not chosen the Kingdom of God, it will make in the end no difference what you have chosen instead."

"What God does for us, He does in us."

These are a few favorite quotes from The Weight of Glory; I hope you take time to read one of these essays in their entirety today.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Better Second Adam

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  Genesis 1:1

The Bible begins here at the beginning of the world and you probably know the story.  God created everything from stars to starfish and everything was good, all was perfect.  God created mankind and humans were perfect, too.  God created Adam and Eve and they were perfect.

"God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it..." Genesis 1:28

The universe was perfect and its inhabitants were, too.  The creation stories in Genesis chapters one and two are full of perfection.  Chapter three is a different story.

Genesis one and two begins with perfection and by chapter three the story turns very sour.  The reader may wonder why there isn't more time spent talking about what was done in this perfect world.  What did Adam and Eve do?  What was it like for them to be with God during this time?  We don't really know the answers to these questions because chapter three comes in suddenly and everything is messed up.  Adam and Eve sinned and sin entered the once perfect world.

Flash forward to Noah.  The world's inhabitants are evil, so evil that God was grieved that He ever made humans.  But Noah found favor in God's eyes.

"Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God."  Genesis 6:9

The reader of Genesis has to be thinking, "here's our chance to fix the story."  If the world got screwed up by Adam and Eve and their sin, then just start over with one family, but this time a family that won't screw up.

So, a big flood comes and destroys every human except for Noah and his family because they are on a huge ship called an ark.  This is the big restart and perfection has to be around the corner, right?

Noah and his family get off of the ark and life on earth gets a reboot.  In fact, God basically reissues His original blessing and command to the humans.

"Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth."  Genesis 9:1

So, this righteous family has got to do well on their restart.  They won't screw it up, especially not one or two chapters later, right?  Wrong.  The very same chapter Noah and his sons blew it.

In Genesis chapter nine Noah plants a vineyard and makes some wine.  He then precedes to drink that wine and get hammered while he's naked.  Then Noah's son Ham did something.  Some scholars say he looked lustfully on his own dad and some say the euphemism in the chapter implies that Ham sodomized his own unconscious father before Sodom was even around.  Sin came quickly for this righteous family.

Noah and his family blew being the second Adam, they blew being God's great restart that would finally get the world back to its perfect ways.

Christ would not screw this up.  In Romans 5:12-21 the Apostle Paul explains that Jesus was the second Adam.  Adam screwed up and brought sin and death into God's perfect world.  Jesus came and was the Righteous One who lived perfectly and defeated sin and death.

Jesus is a better second Adam than Noah.

Am I slamming Adam and Noah here?  No, because I would fail miserably as a second or first Adam.  I would sin, guaranteed.  But this is the good news... where we fail, Christ succeeds for us.  We all would screw up, but Jesus fixed it all for us.

You aren't a second Adam.  You can't fix the sin of the world, you can't fix the problem of death, you can't even fix you; but Christ can.  If the story of Noah teaches us anything it's that without Christ we fail in major or minor ways every single time.  We needed Jesus to finally get things right for us and He did.  We needed not a second try for one of us, we needed someone to do it for us and then remake us.

Praise God for a better second Adam today.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

God is Faithful

"... the LORD is faithful to all His promises..." Psalm 145:13

God has made a lot of great promises in the Bible.  By one count I saw there are 3,573 promises of God in the Bible.  Some of those promises were specific to specific people but many of them apply to you and I and God is faithful to ALL of them.  Saint Peter calls God's promises "great and precious promises" and they are in fact just that.

Do you know the promises of God?

Do you have some favorite promises of God?

Do you hold on to the promises of God in hard times?

Do you use the promises of God to fuel your good works?

God is faithful to all His promises and that is very good news, in fact it's Gospel.  So, get to know the promises of God and hold on to them dearly.  Cherish them as precious promises.

"For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ.  And so through Him the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God." 2 Corinthians 1:20

God is faithful to all of His great and precious promises because of Christ Jesus.  Remember that fact today.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Wait 'Till You See the Beach!

"My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand..." Psalm 139:15-18

God is omniscient.  He knows everything about everything and still loves us.  He knows our best and our worse and everything in between.  "Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD." Psalm 139:4  He knows our actions and our thoughts, He knows the hairs on our head, He knows the day we were conceived and the moment we will die.  He knows us completely and yet loves us completely.

David, the psalmist, says that God's thoughts about us outnumber the grains of sand.  Think about that.  There is a finite but enormous amount of information about us and God knows it all.  God knows all about us.  David says it's like knowing all the grains of sand on a beach and what they're like, where they go, what their shape is, what their size is... everything about every grain of sand. That's how God knows us.  He knows more about us in more detail than we do.  The facts He knows about us outnumbers the grains of sand on a beach.

On the flip side, while what's to be known about us is finite but enormous, what's to be known about God is infinite.  It's like all of humanity gets one grain of sand of knowledge about God.  In the Bible and all revelation humanity has ever gotten it's like looking at one grain of sand.  We examine the grain and look at its size, color and shape and this takes all of human history.

Meanwhile, God says "Wait till you see the beach!"

Because there is an infinitude of "things" to know about God we will spend eternity learning more about God, growing to know Him more intimately in the way He knows us intimately.  We've been looking at a grain of sand and falling in love with everything about it and God can't wait to show us the beach.

So, fall in love with the grain of sand we have.  It's more like a precious pearl than the sand we've seen before, but there is so much more where that came from.  If you like what you know about the Almighty here and now, wait till you see the beach!  And keep mining the knowledge of that grain of sand today.
*The phrase "Wait till you see the beach" was totally stolen from Harold Moyer.  I couldn't resist using it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Forgiveness and Fear

"He stood before the judge stiff as a board, scared beyond belief.

He was guilty and he knew it.  Everyone else knew it too and the law knew it because he'd been convicted in a court of law.  But today he was back in front of the judge for sentencing.  The judge could render a sentence with prison time or simply parole.

The young man was frozen as he stood before the judge that could give him time behind bars or a more forgiving sentence of parole.

'Yes, your honor.'  Yes, ma'am'

That's all that the young man could utter as he stood in the presence of a woman that could offer him forgiveness or harshness.  This judge, this woman had immense power over him."

How would you act in front of a judge that could offer you forgiveness?  Would you be cocky or humble?  Would you act nonchalant about the whole affair or would you treat your appearance before the judge with utmost seriousness?  Now, what would you do after you got a measure of forgiveness?  Would you go from respectful to arrogant?  Would you still be reverent in front of a person with the power to change your life?

"If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared."  Psalm 130:3-4

There is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.

The one with the power to forgive must be powerful.  The judge in the story above had within the law a great power over her fellow human being.  Judges in our society have tremendous power, but they don't have absolute power.  There are some things that they can't forgive, some sentences they cannot lessen.  Our Judge has the power to forgive all, so He must be incredibly powerful, He must have an awesome amount of authority and a wide jurisdiction.

God's forgiveness cannot make us become too comfortable with Him.  Quite the opposite, God's forgiveness should inspire fear, reverence, awe and deep thankfulness.  So, approach the throne, or the bench if you will, with a holy fear today.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015



Children fight it and adults fight for it.  We crave it after a long hard day and we bow to it after a long fun day.  Everyone sleeps.

We sing about sleep and for sleep as evidenced in everything from lullabies to The Beatles to the intricate choral sounds of Eric Whitacre.  Sleep is either welcomed or surrendered to by everyone.

God doesn't sleep.  Ever.

"... He who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, He who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep."  Psalm 121:3b-4

God never sleeps and that is good news for us, gospel if you will.  Psalm 121 says that God watches over us and that He never sleeps.

"The LORD will keep you from all harm
He will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore."  Psalm 121:7-8

Think about that, God watches over us 24/7/365 and never gets tired.  Soak that in and see if that doesn't cause you to trust in the One who never sleeps.

Sleep is an awesome reminder of how unlike God I am.  I love to sleep.  I take naps as often as I can and you don't have to twist my arm too much to get me to go to bed.  Now, I'm not trying to say that I'm lazy, I'm attempting to say that I'm human.  Every single one of us needs sleep.  Have you ever pulled an all nighter or been the poor sap that volunteered to help with the lock-in?  Well, I've done both and they knock me out for a few days.  It didn't used to affect me too much but anymore if I stay up all day and night it screws me up for two or three more days.

Thinking about how God never sleeps and about how much I need to sleep expands my view of God.  This is just one way that God is infinitely more powerful than I am and God designed me in a way to remind me of this striking difference every day.  So, do this with me.  Next time you're really tired think about the fact that God never sleeps.  Then after you're done thinking about that fact, fall into a deep sleep knowing that the One who never sleeps is watching over you both now and forevermore.

Sleep well and let sleep preach to you about our God.  Take time to worship our infinitely awake God today.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How to See God and People

"The LORD is exalted over all the nations,
His glory above the heavens.
Who is like the LORD our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?

He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
He seats them with princes,
with the princes of their people.
He settles the barren women in her home
as a happy mother of children.

Praise the LORD."  Psalm 113: 4-9

This is part of one of the psalms I read last week.  I want to point our two great things I found in this song.

1) God stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth.

Have you looked at images from the Hubble telescope before?  If you haven't then you should.  The images are mind boggling.  Then you learn how many light years they are across and you lose your ability to understand how big they really are.

This psalm says that God stoops down to look at the heavens and the earth.  Imagine God bending down to look at the Milky Way the same way you stoop down to look at a flower.  This poetic image draws our attention to the fact that God is amazingly enormous and powerful.  This is both a scary and comforting thought.

2) God has equal regard for all types of people.

This psalm says that God lifts the poor from the dust and the needy out of the ash heap and sets them next to princes.  Princes and beggars are equally valuable in the eyes of God.  Partly because God is so big that those we think are important are tiny to Him and because God sees the value of all He has created.

When my wife and I were in Chicago we saw so many people begging on the streets.  After awhile you begin to just walk by them without a second thought.  God doesn't do that and I shouldn't either.  Do I have equal regard for all types of people?  Do I value rich and poor, young and old, educated and uneducated, born and unborn, Christian and non-Christian, black and white?  Why am I so arrogant to think that "my kind" of people are better than others?  Why do I insult the Creator by not seeing the beauty of some of His masterpieces?

God is big, I am small.  God sees all types of people as valuable and so should I.  Jesus went from stooping down to see the Sun to being the Son that shepherds stooped down to see.  God so loved the world that He gave His Son to die on the cross for ALL types of people.  I must be in awe of God  and strive to see Him the way I should and people the way I should today.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

You Can't Unsee This

I've always been pro-life and the Bible is inarguably pro-life.  But until recently I dropped the ball in being pro-life, I decided that the fight to end abortion was a lost cause.  Well, I'm done quitting, I'm done leaving this out of my prayers, I'm done voting for someone who isn't willing to end this form of legal murder.

I, like many of you, have seen the videos of Planned Parenthood's sale of aborted baby parts and I'm sick over it.  Is what Planned Parenthood is doing illegal?  I don't know.  Does the way they talk about the life of a baby infuriate me?  Absolutely.  Does seeing the pieces of a child lifted by a technician bring me to tears? Yes.

Take a look at the video below.  Watch as the people talk about the aborted "products of conception".  Don't necessarily ask if what Planned Parenthood is doing is illegal.  Don't necessarily ask if those making the video have edited them too much.  Don't necessarily ask in what cases would you approve of abortion.

Ask, "does that look like a mangled human baby to me?"

Start watching at the 13 minute mark and try to unsee that baby's arm, hand, leg and foot.  You can't unsee this.

Share this video and tell people to try and unsee that baby today.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

From a Scale to a Catapult

"In this world you will have trouble."

Jesus said this in John chapter 16 and it is most certainly true.  We have had trouble ourselves and know that what Jesus said is true via our experiences.  We see cancer and other diseases, we see people losing jobs, we see kids bullied in school, we see all kinds of trouble in this world.  From ISIS to an ACL tear we know that trouble exists.

"And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.  Suppose one of you want so build a tower.  Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?"  Luke 14:27-28

Jesus said that we must count the cost of following Him.  He never promised Christians an easy life.  If you've ever tried to live out your faith you know that this is true: there is a cost for being a follower of Jesus.

That all being said, we must never forget all the benefits of belonging to God's family.

"Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all His benefits."  Psalm 103:2

Have you ever gotten stuck thinking about the cost of following Jesus and the troubles of the world?  Have you ever been ridiculed for your beliefs and then dwelt on how hard it is to be a Christian in today's world?  Have you ever read the news and been overwhelmed by the tragedies of our world?  If so, may I suggest that we must never forget all the benefits of belonging to God.

Here are a few examples of the benefits of God that King David gave in Psalm 103: redemption from sin, everlasting and abounding love as high as the heavens, gentle compassion, desires satisfied with good things, righteousness and justice for the oppressed, graciousness, and complete forgiveness of sins.

Those are some great benefits.

The Apostle Paul said it this way:

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."  Romans 8:18

In fact, the benefits of God are great here and now in this present life; and the benefits of God will be unending and perfect in the life to come.  The benefits of God are staggering.

Have you ever seen people weigh pros and cons on a scale?  Perhaps they took checker pieces and put them on either the pro or con side of the balance scale to "weigh" their decision.  Well, if we did this with the decision to follow or not to follow Christ the result would be humorous.  If we "weighed" our decision and put as much as we could think of on the con side, the pro side would still turn that balance scale into a catapult.  The benefits of Jesus far outweigh the cost of following Him.

Are there costs to being a Christian?  Yes.  Is there trouble all around us in the world?  Absolutely.  But the benefits of God far exceed anything.  So, today try this: list the benefits of God like David did in Psalm 103.

"Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all His benefits" today.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

5 Things That Blow My Mind

I love to think, or rather try to think, about things that blow my mind about God.  I find this exercise insanely rewarding and worshipful.  While I'm never left, or perhaps rarely left, with answers from this exercise, I'm always left feeling a sense of awe.

"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."  A. W. Tozer.

Tozer wrote this in a book that expanded my view of God, The Knowledge of the Holy.  Ever since I read that and Knowing God by J. I. Packer I've been in love with expanding my view of God.  My pursuit is to take God out of the box I've often place Him into in my mind and expand my view of God to a point closer to His real enormity therefore magnifying Him.  Pastor John Piper says we do not magnify God like a microscope but instead like a telescope.  A microscope take small things like cells and makes them look larger than they really are; a telescope takes large things like stars and makes them look a little bigger and therefore closer to the size they really are, but obviously incredibly smaller than they really are.

Christians, we must have our mind blown when thinking of who God is.  If we can completely understand God in our mind then the God in our mind is an idol and not the great unfathomable God of the universe.

Below are five things that blow my mind about God.

1) His Infinite Age
"... you are from all eternity." Psalm 93:2b

We are eternal beings in one direction.  You and I had a beginning but we will not have an end.  Whether in Heaven or in Hell we will exist forever.  God is eternal in both directions.  He has always existed and will always exist.

My wife put it this way and it blew my mind, "Even in eternity God will always be infinitely older than us."  Just try thinking about that.

2) God's Infinite Size
I've been to the Rocky Mountains and marveled at their size.  God is much larger.  As the old song says, "He's got the whole world in His hands."

"Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
or with the breadth of His hand marked off the heavens?" Isaiah 40:12

God holds the universe in the breadth of His hand... wow!

3) His Infinite Knowledge
"Great is our Lord and mighty in power,
His understanding knows no limit." Psalm 147:5

The Bible says God knows everything, even the number of hairs on my head or the number of grains of sand in all the beaches of earth.  Tozer said, "Because God knows all things perfectly, He knows no thing better than any other thing, but all things equally well.  He never discovers anything, He is never surprised, never amazed."

4) God is Outside of Time.
God is neither in the past nor the present.  God is always in the present, but not in the way that we think of being in the present.  God is not confined by time.  C. S. Lewis described it as the "unbounded now".  God is not confined by time, so ancient Egypt and my next thought are both now to Him.  Time does not age God nor does it mature Him because He has always existed and has always been as perfect as He is now.

5) This God Loves Me
"When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?" Psalm 8:2-4

"But God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

God is mindblowingly, infinitely amazing and impossible to fully understand, yet He loves us and He took the initiative to love us first.  We Christians must never find God normal or His love for us pedestrian.

So, think about these five things and/or others and expand your view of God.  Magnify Him like a telescope and discover how worshipful it is.  You will find yourself trembling in awe and tingling with a deepened sense of love.  Have your mind blown by God's holiness today.