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

Friday, May 29, 2015

Sin's Root: Pride

Pride is the root of almost all the sin in my life.

I'm willing to bet that pride is the root of almost all of your sin, too.

See, pride causes sin because it causes us to disregard the laws of God to serve ourself, it causes us to glorify ourselves rather than the Almighty.  Pride says, "I'm worth more than God" or "I can make the rules."  In fact, I'm having a hard time thinking of a time when I sinned that didn't involve me thinking, "Screw this rule, I'll do what I want."

In the book Killjoys: The Seven Deadly Sins, Jason Meyer says: "Pride is a cosmic crime... It is also 'the essence of all sin.'... What makes pride so singularly repulsive to God is the way that pride 'contends for supremacy' with God Himself.  Pride sets itself in opposition to God."  Later on the same page he says, "Other sins lead the sinner further away from God, but pride is particularly heinous in that it attempts to elevate the sinner above God."

Psalm 36 describes pride and the proud this way:

"There is no fear of God
before his eyes.
For in his own eyes he flatters himself
too much to detect or hate his sin.
The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful;
he has ceased to be wise and to do good." Psalm 36:1b-3

Pride causes us to lose the fear of God, which is the beginning of all knowledge.  When pride overwhelms us we lose wisdom because pride keeps us from seeing things as they really are.  God is sovereign over all; if we think otherwise we are not seeing the world as it is.  Pride, in its worse state, believes that we have sovereignty over something that is clearly God's.

Pride causes us to lose the ability to even detect or hate sin.  Obviously our ability to hate sin goes first.  We don't hate sin because we see sin's ability to please us and pride says that we are worthy of that even if the sin is in direct opposition of God.  We lose the ability to detect sin because pride eventually fools us into believing that we deserve our prideful place in our own minds.  We begin to start espousing the virtues of "whatever makes you happy" or "whatever floats your boat" and "self-esteem" to the point where we don't even notice that some self-pleasure is sinful.

Eventually the treason of the prideful will end.  Will your prideful treason end now while forgiveness from God is still an option on the table?  Or will your prideful treason end when God's forgiveness is no longer an option?

Ask God to help you see more of Him until the idea of pride seems as foolish as it really is.  Ask God to magnify Himself in your eyes rather than yourself in your own eyes.  Attack pride in yourself wherever you see it and watch as other sins dissolve at the root, too.

Do battle with sin's root today.

Friday, May 22, 2015

5 Tips for High School Graduates

Below is a post from this time last year.

Practical Advice for Graduates

Graduation is here for many high school and college students.  Several students I've had to privilege to know and love are leaving for college in the Fall.  So, here's some practical advice for high school graduates.  This list isn't exhaustive, but in my experience it is very helpful.

1) Don't go home every weekend and especially not the first weekend.

Your parents might not like this advice, but it is good advice.  So much of what you learn at college will not be learned in a classroom.  You will learn from the experience of being around new people.  Weekends are so important for meeting people, especially the first weekend.  Some of those people you meet your first weekend will possibly be life-long friends.

2) Leave your door open.

When you're in your room just hanging out leave your door open.  This will give you an opportunity to bond with those students living on your floor.  Most, if not all, of those students are also scared freshmen and that common experience is a great catalyst for friendship.  People who close their doors all the time often miss this companionship in a shared living space.

3) Don't overlook the weird kids, they're often the nicest.

High school may have been about cliques but college doesn't have to be like that.  Those "weird kids" are often the most friendly people on campus.  If you want college to be cliquey like high school it will be; but if you befriend people of all walks of life you'll learn so much more and have deeper friendships that aren't based solely on your social strata.

4) Don't believe everything your professors say, but think about everything they say.

Newsflash: many professors have an agenda.  A great number of these men and women want to teach you the subject matter and share their opinions with you as if they were facts.  These professors range from the atheist to the extreme liberal to the libertarian to the feminist that will make you sorry if you were born male.  Not everything presented in your class will be strictly factual.  However, don't use that as an excuse to stop thinking.  Some of my best professors were the curmudgeon former Christians and passionate near communists because they forced me to think sharply enough to defend my own opinion.

5) Plug into a church.

This is my most useful and impactful piece of advice for a few reasons.  In college you will be surrounded by 18-22 year-olds who think they know it all; your church will give you a chance to learn from your elders and give you an opportunity to mentor those younger than you.  Your church will keep you rooted in your faith.  For so long you've probably gone to church because your parents did, college will be a chance for you to go to church because you want to.  Don't underestimate the power of this.

9 years ago I plugged myself into a church in my college town, Waverly.  I was a nervous freshman at Wartburg College and I can't say enough how awesome the decision to go to Grace Baptist was for me.  Grace gave me a chance to be my own adult in the congregation.  No longer was I Jack and Kathie's son, I was just Matt.  My faith became even more my own and being plugged into Grace helped that immensely.  I'm still a member of Grace and I can only begin to say what a difference my church has made in my life.

Seniors, congratulations on your graduation.  I'd advice you to consider all the advice I gave above but I implore you to plug into a local church above all the rest of the advice that was given.  You'll be glad you did.  Again, congratulations and consider this advice today.

Monday, May 18, 2015


I'm young but slowly becoming less young.  As I become less young I want to become more mature.  Believe it or not, becoming less young does not automatically make one more mature, but it sure helps.  In my few years on earth I've experienced things and been around others who have experienced things that have helped mature me.  This maturity, caused by God, is seen in a slowly growing wisdom that is often rooted in empathy.

We cannot mature without growing more empathetic.  Young Matt is slowly become less hard and more empathetic.  Often the last people to notice this is my family, but I promise that it is happening.

My experiences and observations are helping make me softer, more empathetic and more Christ-like, but beyond life experiences the Psalms help cultivate empathy in me.  Consider this passage from Psalm 31:

"Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and my body with grief.
My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
Because of all my enemies,
I am the utter contempt of my neighbors;
I am a dread to my friends...
those who see me on the street flee from me.
I am forgotten by them as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
For I hear the slander of many;
there is terror on every side;
they conspire against me
and plot to take my life."  Psalm 31:9-13

Before empathy grows in a believer's life we can be callous when someone feels like King David did in the verses above.  Without empathy we are quick to throw out the "Sunday School" answer and try to fix the broken person with a sentence of theology.  We may even say the next line of the psalm:

"But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, 'You are my God." Psalm 31:14

This verse is the answer to the wallowing in the previous verses but we can't show Christ-like empathy by firing "Sunday School" answers like a machine gun at a hurting person.  We must develop and exercise empathy.  Before we can quote verse 14 we must acknowledge that they are feeling verses 9-13 and that feeling that is not sin!  David wrote verses 9-13 and verse 14, but I wonder how long it took him to go through the process of moving from one part of the psalm to the other in his life.  Maybe there's a week or a month between those verses in his life.  We can't expect people to process a psalm in the time it takes to read a psalm.

For those of you that feel stuck in a hard place...  For those of you angry at God...  For those of you worried that God will leave you in despair... It's okay to feel that way, just remember to take your fears and anger to God because He can and desires to handle it for you and with you.

For those of you wanting to mature in your faith... develop and practice empathy.  Don't demand that everyone have the right answer or the "right" response to a situation.  Practice putting yourself in their shoes before you put your foot in your mouth.

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses..."  Hebrews 4:15a

Develop empathy and practice it today.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Lord is My Shepherd

"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul."  Psalm 23:1-3a

My wife and I are in the process of buying a house.  Awhile back, in fact it seems like ages ago, we put an offer on a house that we really wanted.  That offer was accepted but it was contingent upon the seller finding suitable housing.  After the offer was accepted we were very confident, but as time moved on and as deadlines went by without the contingency being met we thought that we were never going to get that house.  The sellers had very specific needs and we prayed that they would find a house that could be a home for their family, but as time moved on we doubted that they would find a home according to a timeline that would let us get their current house.

During this time of waiting I read Psalm 23.  I had to repeat to myself, "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want."  I did this to preach to my own soul that I could fully trust God no matter what happened regarding this house.

Now, God never promised to give me a house, let alone the house that Christine and I wanted.  I'm not a prosperity, name-it-and-claim-it "gospel" guy.  Jesus has promised me a mansion in glory, but He has not promised me a two story house on earth.  But I do trust that God will take care of me.

Just when I thought that God had a different plan in mind for me, we got a call that the sellers had found a house and that we could move forward with the house we had an offer accepted on.  We were/are thrilled.

As I said, God promises me an inheritance in glory, a mansion if you will, but He does not promise me nor does He owe me a house on this earth.  But another psalm I read this week reminds me that while God promises me ultimate goodness in Heaven and on the New Earth, He also has goodness for me now.

"I am confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living." Psalm 27:13

God has so much goodness pouring out of Him.  He has goodness for eternity and eternity has already started for the believer.  Is the best still to come for me?  Absolutely!  But I get to see the goodness of God now in many vibrant ways including the provision of a house.

"I am confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD." today.

Monday, May 4, 2015

You Stoop Down to Make Me Great

I've been reading a psalm a day for the past few weeks.  I highly encourage you to do the same, because psalms have such a great way of speaking to our souls.  When I read a psalm I'm usually taken aback by sections of what I read, but this week one line stayed with me.  It isn't a long passage but it is impactful.

"... you stoop down to make me great."  Psalm 18:35c

This one line of the Scriptures stopped me in my tracks and made me ponder.

You stoop down to make me great.

This one sentence captures a lot of what the Gospel is.  I mean, this is good, no this is great news.  God stoops down to make me great.

Think about it.  Jesus is and was and always will be God.  That means He is infinitely huge, infinitely powerful, infinitely wise, infinitely worthy of praise.  Jesus for eternity before time began was perfectly mighty.  He from the time the angels were created was worshipped all the time.  He was great and was greatly admired.  Jesus didn't need us for a moment!

Yet, Jesus stooped down.  Jesus went from being infinitely huge to being a single cell.  Jesus went from omnipresent to embryonic.  He went from glorious heaven to a teen mother's womb.  He went from a throne to an animal's food trough.  Jesus stooped WAY down.

You stoop down to make me great.

While I was still a sinner, a rebel, a hater of His ways and quite frankly a hater of Him, Jesus stooped down to make me great.  Jesus didn't just stoop down to offer me forgiveness.  No, He stooped down to offer me greatness.

"If we endure, we will also reign with Him."  2 Timothy 2:12a

Jesus stooped down to take me from fit to be kindling to fit to be ruling in the Kingdom.

"To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne."  Revelation 3:21

This is an overwhelming Gospel, isn't it.  Jesus stoops down to make me great.  The Gospel is about so much more than escaping Hell, it's not less than that, but it is so much more.  Yes, we escape Hell, but we also inherit the Kingdom with Jesus.

"...you stoop down to make me great."

Jesus stooped so far down to take us so far up.  For as far down as He stooped He will take us that far up and more.  Our destitution is finite, but God's greatness is infinite.  Ponder how far Jesus had to stoop to meet you and ponder how much greatness He has to give you, today.