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

Sunday, March 27, 2016

He Arose!

Happy Easter!

Celebrate Christ's victory over sin and death today.  Worship with a church and spend time with your family rejoicing today.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


This is a post I wrote a few years back about that day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.


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 fullness 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, March 25, 2016

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday.  I invite you to come worship with my church family, Grace Baptist in Waverly, tonight at 7:00.  Today we remember what Jesus did for us on the cross.

Below is a reading from Matthew to help us remember His sacrifice today.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Maundy Thursday

Today in Holy Week is called Maundy Thursday.  This day we remember Jesus' Last Supper with His disciples before the crucifixion and His washing of their feet.  Maundy is a word derived from Middle English and Latin meaning mandate or command.  On this day we remember a command Jesus gave.  Let's look at that command found in the book of John.

"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 the 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 wash you, you have no part with me.'

'Then Lord,' Simon Peter replied, 'not just my feet but my hands and 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 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."  John 13:1-17

So, what is the command or Maundy in this passage?

We must first examine what Jesus did.  Jesus, the greatest in the room by far, assumed the role of the least and washed the feet of the disciples.  In that culture the servant that washed the feet of people had a crummy job, the guest of honor would never do this job nor would the least honored guest if there was a servant around.  Jesus assumed the role of servant even though He was aware of His actual place amongst the other men in the room.

Jesus also washed the feet of Judas Iscariot, who He knew would betray Him that same night.  Jesus assumed the role of servant even for His enemy.

So, what is the command?  The Maundy of Maundy Thursday is to do as Jesus did.  Christians must be the servant of all, both high and low.  There is no one too low for the Christian to serve.  If the Almighty can wash the feet of some lowly men from Israel, then you can and must serve anyone.

Christians must also not only tolerate our enemies but also serve them.  If Jesus can wash the feet of the man who would betray Him in a matter of hours then so we must follow suit.  You might not use the word 'enemy' but is there someone you'd be shocked to have to serve?  Is there someone you'd rather avoid than serve?  Maybe it's the Syrian man or woman needing refuge.  You may be scared because of what had happened recently, but Jesus commands us to serve them.  Maybe it's the person who votes differently than you.  Maybe it's the one whose sexuality differs from yours.  We aren't commanded to bend the truth in any way, He's not asking you to call right what is wrong; He's telling you to serve them anyway.

Here's what Jesus is not commanding:  "I served you, so you serve me."  This would be easy.  There are a billion reasons to serve Jesus.  Jesus said, "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet."  Jesus commands us to serve one another, even when the one anothers in our life don't deserve it.  Remember in Matthew 25 Jesus said "Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sister of mine, you did for me."  We serve Jesus by serving others, especially those that society deems are below us or our enemies.

Remember Jesus' Maundy or mandate for us.  Be a servant like your Master Jesus today.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spy Wednesday

Today in Holy Week is known as Spy Wednesday.  This day invites us to remember how Judas Iscariot went to the Sanhedrin to bargain a price of Jesus' head.  This day we remember how Judas turned on Jesus.

Often when we think of Judas we think of a horrible man, and that is what he is because he betrayed God Himself, but I want to look more closely at Judas and what made him commit one of the worst deeds in history.

When you and I think of Jesus and the twelve disciples we think of Jesus, eleven pretty nice guys and one seedy character named Judas.  It is as if it were Jesus, eleven saints and Hitler.  This is an easy picture to make in your head, but let me argue that it's likely way off.

"Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to Him those He wanted, and they came to Him.  He appointed twelve... designating them apostles... that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.  These are the twelve He appointed: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alfphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him."  Mark 3:13-19

Notice that Judas fit right in with the other eleven (other than the fact that Mark says right out what Judas would later do and the fact that he gives Judas his full name like Lee Harvey Oswald so as not to confuse him with another Judas).  Judas was designated an apostle.  Judas went out and preached and drove out demons and spent three years personally with Jesus.

So, Judas was a man that preached and drove out demons; he was part of Jesus' inner circle.  Don't miss that all of the twelve gave up what they had and what they were doing to follow Jesus, even Judas did this.

Judas looked like a very nice guy and one that you and I might have respected had we known him.  Notice this story from Matthew:

"When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.  And while they were eating, he said, 'I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.'

They were very sad and began to say to him one after another, 'Surely not I, Lord?'

Jesus replied, 'The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me."  Matthew 26:20-23

Notice that none of the disciples suspected Judas.  Bartholomew didn't respond to Jesus' statement by saying, "Dude, it's got to be Judas.  Definitely Judas, everyone knows that guy is a jerk!"  No, no one suspected him.  Even after Jesus said it's the guy who dipped his hand into the bowl with Him (which basically meant the guy sitting next to me sharing my salsa bowl), even after that they didn't suspect Judas.  Even as Judas got up in the middle of the meal to go betray Jesus they didn't suspect Judas.

My point is that sometimes we read the Bible and think, "I'm more like the good guys than the bad guys", I'm telling you that you're not and I'm not either.  Judas, though John tells us that he secretly stole from the money box, probably would look and act a lot like us in church, if fact likely better.

So, how did Judas become the traitor?

Saint Augustine says that sin is disordered love.  Judas obviously loved money more than Jesus.  Judas sold Jesus out for money, and not very much money at that.  30 pieces of silver was Judas' asking price for the life of Jesus.  30 pieces of silver was the price someone had to pay if a slave was gored by a bull (Exodus 21:32).  Judas sold Jesus' life for the price of a dead slave.

Judas likely loved the idea of Jesus when he thought it would come with political power and wealth, but when Jesus started talking about dying Judas bailed.  Judas didn't love Jesus enough, he loved what he thought Jesus could do for him but not Jesus Himself.  Judas didn't hate Jesus and may have really liked Jesus as a friend, but Judas loved money more.

This is what we need to meditate on today on this Spy Wednesday: do we love Jesus?  What kept Judas from staying faithful to Jesus was that his love for money trumped his love for Jesus.  Like a man that says he loves his wife but really loves his mistress more, Judas preferred money to Jesus.  It's not enough to like Jesus.  To stay faithful to Jesus we must love Him above all else.

Disordered love is deadly.  Disorder love left Judas "doomed to destruction" (John 17:12).  Disordered love threatens us, too.  It's not enough to change your life to follow Jesus, Judas did that.  It's not enough to preach and cast out demons, Judas did that.  Spy Wednesday implores us to love Jesus above all else, to trust that Jesus has something better for us and is that something better.

Do you love Jesus?  Or, what would you trade for Jesus?  Think about that and ask Him to give you sufficient love for Him today.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Holy Tuesday

Today is Holy Tuesday.  Take time to watch this short devotional video today.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Most Important ABC's

Those of you that have read the last few posts on this blog will know that my wife and I spent some time with her dying grandfather.  He died last night.  Thank you all for your prayers and I ask that you continue to pray for our family, but remember that you don't need to pray for John anymore.  John is, as I type this, about to complete his first complete day in Heaven, his first of an infinite number of days.  What a day it must have been, and tomorrow only promises to be better.

John Lind is in Heaven, but it's not because he was a good man, though he was.  He is in Heaven, but it's not because he was a faithful husband of 66 years, though he was.  He is in Heaven, but it's not because he was a dedicated Lutheran, though he was.  He is in Heaven, but it's not because he was a generous, kind soul, though he was.  John Lind is in Heaven today because Jesus is his Savior and Lord.

Our works no matter how many are never enough to get us into Heaven.  You can never be good enough because no one besides Jesus has ever lived a good enough life.  As Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

So, how does one get to Heaven?  Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me."  Jesus is the only way to Heaven.  In fact, Heaven is in essence being with Jesus.

The easiest way I've been able to explain how one gets to have Jesus as Lord and Savior is by using the following ABC's.  If you want to be with Jesus forever in Heaven then follow along with these ABC's:

A: Admit 
Admit that you are a sinner.  Admit that your best doesn't meet God's standard of perfection.  Admit that you need saving, that without Jesus' intervention you can't measure up.

B: Believe
Believe that Jesus can and will save you.  Believe that Jesus is who He says He is in the Bible and that all that the Bible says about Him is true.  Believe that Jesus, who is and always has been God, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, was crucified, died, and was buried, and rose from the dead, and is living in Heaven today.  Believe that His sacrifice will cover all your mistakes past, present and future.

C: Commit
Commit your life to Jesus.  Give your life to Him knowing that He does everything for your good and His glory.  Commit to following His ways and not your own.

Anyone who does these ABC's and truly means them will be in Heaven the moment they die.  Anyone who does these ABC's and truly means them is a Christian.  Now, if you did these ABC's I encourage you to find a local church.  There are many different types of churches out there, but please find one that will help you live the life you just committed to.

I encourage you to do one more thing if you did these ABC's, please tell someone that you did.  Tell a local pastor, Christian friend, youth leader, family member, someone.  As Jesus said in Luke 12:8, "I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man (Jesus) will also acknowledge him before the angels of God."

I hope you prayed these ABC's because eternity rests on whether or not Jesus is your Savior and Lord.  John Lind is in Heaven because he believed in Jesus, will you be in Heaven when you die?  Please respond if you're feeling led to do so because you never know when you will feel this tug again.  Please pray the ABC's above today.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Old Rugged Cross

Christine and I had to go home today, but before we did we got to spend a bit of the morning with her Grandpa John.  He's unable to get to Palm Sunday service so we did a couple of readings that are usually done on Palm Sunday and we sang a couple of songs with him.  We sang "Jesus Loves Me" and "The Old Rugged Cross" with him.  It was good, sweet time despite the pain of seeing him in such a weak state.

Take time to listen to this song and tell someone you love them while you can today.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Jesus Loves John

Tonight Christine and I are with her family for what likely will the final time to see her Grandpa John.  He is dying and is surrounded by family.  While it is so sad to be here for a time like this, I'm so glad we are.

I can't possibly use this simple post to eulogize a 90 year-old man who has had such an incredible impact on so many people, has been a faithful husband for over 66 years and is such an amazing patriarch because I could not do him justice.  I've only been a part of this family for a few years, but I will say one thing: John welcomed me into his family instantly.  He has loved me like one of his grandkids from the beginning and for that I will always be grateful.

It is difficult to see him struggling, but it is a testament to him to see the way his family loves him.  Please pray for him and the whole family.  Death is never easy.  Death was not the original plan.  Goodbye is painful.

What I really want to share with you is a moment that Christine and I had with him today.

We got the chance to sit and talk with him in his hospital room this afternoon.  While there he joked around and told us stories ranging from fishing tales to the time he first had a Dr. Pepper.  But then his demeanor changed.  He began to cry and we hugged him as he said, "I don't want to go but I want to go."  It was hard to see this.  Then he began to softly sing "Jesus Loves Me."  We sang softly with him and it was so apparent that this song was a prayer to him.

We often make our faith in Jesus seem like a complicated thing, but really it's not that complex.  After 90 years of living John is hanging on to the truth of a children's song.  Jesus love John.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."  John 3:16

Jesus loves John and he knows it.  This is a difficult time, but I'm so glad to know that the moment John dies he will be with Jesus in Heaven.

Please pray for us today.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Great Saga 2016

Tonight was the first showing of The Great Saga: An Easter Passion Mime at Grace Baptist Church in Waverly.  This is an Easter tradition at our church and is always very good.  There are two more shows left and I encourage you to attend.  Remaining shows are: Sunday, March 20th at 7:00 at the Center Inn in Readlyn and Wednesday, March 23 at 7:00 at Grace.

Many of you may hear the word "mime" and shut the idea of going down.  Don't let the word "mime" scare you away.  The performance has no spoken words but is powerfully moving by utilizing acting, a mixture of instrumental and popular songs, and crowd interaction.  So, give it a chance and I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

I've seen The Great Saga every year and every year I'm struck by another aspect of the Gospel story.  This year I couldn't avoid realizing my guilt.  In one scene in particular I was unable to shake the guilt of my sin.  To quote a song, "It was my sin that held Him there..."  Then the performance continued the Gospel story and reminded me of the loving forgiveness offered to me.  The guilty given grace.

I encourage you to consider attending The Great Saga.

Take time to remember what God has done for us, guilty sinners, today.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

St. Patrick's Day- A Repost

Today is St. Patrick's Day so here's a post I've used in the past.  Enjoy.

St. Patrick's Day

I'm part Irish, or Scot-Irish more accurately, and I enjoy St. Patrick's Day.  It's fun eating corn-beef and cabbage or Irish stew.  Or drinking an Irish stout, or at least a Shamrock Shake.  Today people wear green.  I got a chance to play Irish music from bands like Flogging Molly, Snow Patrol and U2.  It's a fun day to celebrate, or exaggerate, being Irish.

That all being said, I think we've really missed an opportunity to celebrate St. Patrick on St. Patrick's Day.  I think the saint himself would wonder what getting drunk, pinching folks not wearing green and trying to River Dance has to do with his life.

With that in mind let me tell you a little bit about St. Patrick.

Patrick was the son of a wealthy Welshman.  When he was 16 he was kidnapped by Irish marauders and taken to Ireland to be a slave.  While being held in slavery he took care of sheep on the emerald island of Ireland.  While a slave Patrick was left alone with the sheep and his prayers; it was during this time that he made a true conversion to Christianity.  Six years into his slavery he's said to have had a vision from God.  The vision led him away from his master and to a port where he was able to board a ship back to Britain.

Years later back in his homeland he had another vision that featured an Irishman begging him to come back to Ireland with the Gospel.  He returned to bring Good News to the very people that had wrongfully enslaved him.

Patrick had immense success in his ministry.  Using things like the shamrock to explain the mystery of the 3-in-1 Holy Trinity he taught the Gospel to the Irish.  Patrick wrote that he baptized thousands of people on the island.  Converts became priests and nuns in large numbers.

Patrick also is said to have faced stiff opposition.  He was beaten, robbed and put in prison.  Yet, he continued to preach to the people who had enslaved him when he was a teenager.

Today, Ireland is not a pagan nation.  Today, Ireland is a Catholic country and St. Patrick's courageous love is a big reason why.  Patrick came back to the people who enslaved him with a message of love and redemption.  He changed the course of history because he chose to act like Jesus and the apostles rather than acting out the revenge he deserved to get.

What an awesome story!

St. Patrick's Day is a fun holiday featuring Irish culture and everything green; but don't forget St. Patrick on St. Patrick's Day.  More importantly, don't forget the God that enabled St. Patrick to bring love when he received evil and the freedom of the Gospel when he was given the chains of slavery.

Love courageously.  Share the Gospel boldly.  Remember the real reason for St. Patrick's Day today.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

He Gave Himself

During Lent we often think of the Passion story but miss a major point: Jesus gave Himself.  In our portrayals of the story we show scheming leaders trying to kill Jesus and we see powerful soldiers nailing Him to a cross but we miss that Jesus gave Himself up.

Here's John's account of Jesus' arrest.  I think it does a great job of highlighting that Jesus gave Himself for us.

"So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees.  They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to Him, went out and asked them, 'Who is it you want?'

'Jesus of Nazareth,' they replied.

'I am He,' Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, 'I am He,' they drew back and fell to the ground.

Again He asked them, 'Who is it you want?'

And they said, 'Jesus of Nazareth.'" John 18:3-7

I love this story because John includes a detail that no other Gospel does.  He says that when Jesus spoke, the armed guards and all the men coming to arrest Him fell to the ground.  This highlights that Jesus, who spoke the universe into existence, had the power with one word to vanquish those coming to arrest Him, but He gave Himself up to them to be killed.

This Lent remember that Jesus gave Himself up for you.  No one took His life, but He gave it for the atonement of your sins.  Below are some more verses to meditate on to highlight this amazing fact:

"The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life... only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have the authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.  This command I received from my Father."  John 10:17-18

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,"  Galatians 1:3-4

"... we wait for the blessed hope... the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good."  Titus 2:13-14

"He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth."  Isaiah 53:7

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."  John 3:16

Don't lose sight of the wonderful fact that Jesus gave Himself for you.  People killed Jesus, but no one took His life, He gave His life.  Jesus was the author of all that happened to Him.  Jesus gave Himself over to death so He can give you eternal life.  He took the pain so you can take His gift today.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Nice Guys Finish Last?

There are times in life when the saying "Nice guys finish last" seems true.  The bullies and brutes seem to get what they want.  The greedy hedonists seem to have a nice life.  We see this all over the place.  If the world God designed works the way He says it does then why is Hugh Hefner treated as a national treasure?  Why does the greedy CEO screw his employees, break the rules and then get a massive severance package?  Why does the politician who plays with the truth get the votes?

When I see this sort of thing happening in the world I'm reminded of Psalm 73.  It is one of my favorite of the psalms because it addresses a perceived truth by reminding me of an actually truth.

Read Psalm 73 with me today.

"Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from the burdens common to man;
they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
in their arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.
They say, 'How can God know?
Does the Most High have knowledge?'

This is what the wicked are like
always carefree, they increase in wealth.

Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;
in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been plagued;
I have been punished every morning.

If I had said, 'I will speak thus,'
I would have betrayed your children.
When I tried to understand all this,
it was oppressive to me
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.

Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!
As a dream when one awakes,
so when you arise, O Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.

When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

Yet  I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds."  Psalm 73

Reject the perceived reality and remember who really wins today.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Homesick at Home

My wife is in New Mexico visiting her best friend and college roommate Stephanie.  She is having a great time and I'm excited for her.  She rode a train from Iowa to New Mexico.  Then she got to go to the White Sands National Monument yesterday and today she went to the Grand Canyon.  She's got a few more days down there to enjoy with her friend all the beautiful Southwest has to offer.

Meanwhile, I'm at home.  I'm extremely happy for my wife to be on such a great vacation, but I'll admit that I'm learning something about home.  You can be homesick at home.  Home just isn't home without my wife.  The beds and chairs and sinks and cats and everything in the home is still here, but my wife isn't and so I'm homesick at home.

I'm using this illustration not to illicit pity but to make a point about what the Gospel is.

Pastor John Piper has said this:

“The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—
is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the
friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and
all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties
you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no
human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with
heaven, if Christ were not there? ”

It is not possible to have Heaven without Christ because Heaven by definition is where God dwells.  But if it were possible would you want it?  Is the Gospel to you about getting and having Jesus?

"One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD..."  Psalm 27:4

Would you be homesick without Jesus?  Is Jesus the abode you long for?  Do you long to be at home with your Beloved?

"Jesus replied, 'If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."  John 14:23

The great gain of the Gospel is getting Christ.  With Him we will be home forever.

If you long to be with Jesus He will fulfill that longing.  Ask Him to make His home your home today.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunday Worship: March 13

Today in worship we looked at John 16:1-15.  I encourage you to read this passage about the Holy Spirit.

Today's musical worship was done so well.  I'm not talking about pure musical excellence, though it was that, I'm talking about how the songs sung were perfectly fit to the sermon.  I love when you can sing a truth, hear it proclaimed and then sing it again.

The songs below shout about God's unfailing love.  They proclaim that we deserve Hell but God freely gives us Heaven.  "If you tary till your better you will never come at all," but thanks be to God that "because the sinless Savior died my sinful soul is counted free" that "I am the nail in your wrist, but you love me anyway!"  Enjoy three of the songs we worshipped with today.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Can't Wait!

I'm a little less than halfway through the book "Heaven" by Randy Alcorn and I highly recommend it.  Due to good teaching and preaching I've received in my lifetime I haven't been blown away by the ideas presented in the book, but some may be because it is a return to a Biblical understanding of Heaven rather than a Plutonic understanding.  So, click on the link above and purchase the book or e-book and read it because what will follow in this post won't be near as good.

As I read the book and as I read the Bible and as I do many other things in life I'm left with a sense of "Can't Wait!"

Oliver Wendell Holmes, SR is attributed with the famous quote, "Some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good."  I understand the sentiment of this quote, but it is quite the opposite.  We must be heavenly minded or we will be no earthly good.  Thinking about Heaven (I capitalize it because it is a place as real or more real than Chicago) is a catalyst for our earthly goodness.  Thinking about Heaven isn't about escaping Earth because in the end Heaven will come to Earth.  We are to live for the Kingdom and the Kingdom is Heaven and Earth together.

So, when I think of Heaven I'm not simply thinking of Heaven as it exists now, I'm thinking most of Heaven as it will exist... the New Heaven and New Earth.  I can't wait!

Let's think about what Heaven will be like for us.  First, know that Heaven will be a physical place with rocks and trees and rivers; it will be a place where I have a body and you have a body; it will be a place much like the Garden of Eden only more expansive and more glorious and completely incorruptible.  Second, though Heaven will be greater than I can imagine it will  not be completely foreign from what I imagine.  See, if Heaven is God's creation renewed then it will at the very least resemble His creation as I see it today; it will be much better, perfect in fact, but it will be something we'll recognize.  Going to Heaven (the New Heaven and the New Earth) will be like coming home only perfect.

I can't wait!

Imagine with me:

Relationships where we never hurt one another or even rub one another the wrong way.  Relationships where I am still Matt and you are still you in every essence of that yet we never experience anything less than our best interactions here on Earth.

Mountain sunsets.  I've been to the Rocky Mountains and watched the sunrise and sunset, it is amazing, yet what will be seen in Heaven will far surpass that.

Games of basketball.  I love sports, watching and playing them and analyzing them.  I love it when I get the opportunity to play a game with people.  Imagine a game in Heaven.  The thrill of competition without the enmity.  I don't believe it will be boring as is portrayed in the movie Pleasantville where we make every shot, but it will be perfect.  Somehow competition will be as God designed, it will give us the thrill and will bring us immense joy without dividing us; I don't know how because I hate to lose, but I imagine it will.

Discovering God's attributes.  I enjoy the exhilaration of learning something that expands my view of God.  In Heaven we will get that over and over and over.  We will see God face-to-face and yet there will be more to learn.  Right now I have a grain of sand and that will keep me occupied until I die, but Heaven will be like seeing the beach!   Since God is infinite we will have an eternity of the thrill of learning about God.  In fact, for my academic friends, we will have an eternity to discover and learn about many things from biology to astronomy and we will never exhaust it.

Fruitful work.  I work in radio and when I have a great broadcast I get such a high off of that.  In Heaven we will have work and it will always be fulfilling and fruitful.  There will be work without burnout, work without failure, work will be everything it is on your best day of doing your favorite task.  We will always look forward to doing whatever work is in Heaven for us.

I can't wait!

Imagine and think about Heaven with eager expectation.  Look at the great things that God offers us now on Earth and imagine them magnified and then imagine that what you just imagined will be even better in reality.

Be so heavenly minded that you are earthly good today.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Happy Birthday Christine

"He who finds a wife finds what is good
and receives favor from the LORD."  Psalm 18:22

Today is my beautiful wife's 25th birthday.  I've thought of this verse every year on her birthday because she is my diamond and I love her.

This year Christine is not with me on her birthday.  She has just gotten to New Mexico after riding a train for 22 hours to visit her best friend in Albuquerque.  Some would say I'm unlucky because I don't get to be with her on her birthday, but I say I'm lucky just to have her.  Like the other men in my family I've married out of my league and that is the best way to marry.

Christine, you are beautiful inside and out.  I'm attracted to your mind, body and spirit and I promise to always love you.  Having you in my life is favor from the Lord.  You make me a better man.  I love you and hope you enjoy your day today.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

He Bears Our Burdens

Today I was reading Psalm 68 and one verse jumped off the page to me.  There is a lot, underscore that, a lot of great lines and ideas and truths in Psalm 68 but one that I want to share.

"Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens."  Psalm 68:19

This is such a good and comforting truth.  We have a God and Savior who daily bears our burdens.  God does not occasionally bear our burdens, He daily bears our burdens.

Is your burden depression or anxiety?

Is your burden an unfulfilled desire?

Is your burden loneliness?

Is your burden tight finances?

Is your burden a difficult relationship?

Whatever your burden remember that God daily bears it.

"Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens.
Our God is a God who saves;
from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death."  Psalm 68:19-20

The greatest burden God bears for us is the burden of our sin.  Jesus bore the burden of my sin and yours on the cross.  He carried what we cannot.  He took the brunt of our burden so we could escape from death.  He bore the awesome weight of our sins so that He could indeed be a God who saves and 'Yahweh saves' is what Jesus' name means.

If Jesus bore the burden of our sins which condemned Him to death how much more will he bear all the other burdens of our life?  We can trust Psalm 68:19 because He has already been faithful to do the most extreme case of burden bearing.

Rest in the promise that we belong to the God who daily bears our burdens.  Let Him bear your burdens today.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Is Your Community Better?

Christians are part of God's plan to usher in the New Heaven and New Earth.  Jesus talked extensively about the Kingdom of God and that Kingdom was in a sense inaugurated at the resurrection of Christ.  We, Christians, are people of the Kingdom and we are to be doing things to help the Kingdom flourish.

So, is your community better?

If Christianity, specifically living under God's rule and God's ways, helps us thrive and flourish, then how are you affecting your community?  I'm convinced that if we live for Jesus our communities will be improved.

We are Kingdom people who are not yet fully living in the Kingdom.  God's direct and obvious rule of earth is not here fully yet.  We are in a way aliens and strangers, as Peter would say.  We are foreigners dwelling in the world as it is now.  So, how do we live?  Do we improve our communities here or do we simply wait to 'go home'?

"This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 'Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and daughters.  Increase in number there; do not decrease.  Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.'" Jeremiah 29:4-7

We are to seek the peace and prosperity of our community.  We aren't to sit and wait to 'go home', we are to make our communities today prosper.

So, is your community better because you are in it?  Is your community better because your church is in it?  Are you part of what makes your community prosper, thrive and flourish?

Think about how you should do this and then do it.  If you are already doing it continue, but make no mistake about it, Kingdom people make their communities better.

Do good for your community today.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Gospel And...

Go online or to a coffee shop or somewhere that Christianity is discussed and you may hear what I'm writing about.  I call it, because I'm modifying a C. S. Lewis quote, "The Gospel And...".  To illustrate what I mean I will quote from "The Screwtape Letters" letter number 25 (in the following quote remember that one demon is writing to another).

"What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call 'Christianity And'.  You know... Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform."

In the book the demon Screwtape encourages his nephew Wormwood to do things that ruin a man's faith or when the man obtains saving faith to dilute the potency of his faith.  "Christianity And..." or as I would say "The Gospel And..." dilutes one's faith.

Online or in the coffee shop you may hear men and women espousing: "The Gospel and Homeschooling, the Gospel and Military Service, the Gospel and Pacifism, the Gospel and Teetotaling, the Gospel and Stay at Home Moms, the Gospel and Fitness, the Gospel and Conservatism, the Gospel and Liberalism, the Gospel and Shopping Local, etc."

None of the things that come after "The Gospel And..." are inherently bad, in fact they may be good and even Godly things, but they are not to be added to the message of the Gospel.  There is nothing wrong with homeschooling or fitness, but they are not the Gospel.

Here's the kind of thing you might hear in the coffee shop or read online from someone who espouses the philosophy of "The Gospel And..."

"He says he's a Christian, but I'm not sure.  I heard he voted for Trump."

"She says she's a Christian, but I'm not sure.  She sends her kids to public school."

"He says he's a Christian, but I'm not sure.  Did you know he's a Democrat?"

"She says she's a Christian, but I'm not sure.  I saw beer bottles in their recycling."

"He says he's a Christian, but I'm not sure.  He does all his shopping at Wal-Mart."

You might chuckle at some of these, but you might also find  one of these statements to be a mirror.  Be careful because "The Gospel And..." is no gospel at all.

When we try to add to the Gospel we dilute it.  We don't magnify the Gospel by attempting to or mistakenly adding to it our own pet cause.  Now, again there is nothing wrong with having some of the convictions listed above, but don't you dare try to make it another hurdle on the way to Jesus.  When we install hurdles in front of the cross we act like the Pharisees.

Let us instead imitate the Apostle Paul.

"For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Christ and Him crucified."  1 Corinthians 2:2

Christians, there are standards for our conduct; Christians there are fruits that we're known by, but let us be very careful to not try and make a "The Gospel And..." because the Gospel is already glorious, it alone is what saves us.  Let us imitate the Apostles and our Lord not the Pharisees.  Have your convictions and passions born out of your study of Scripture and sense of morality but don't lose sight of the main thing.  Resolve to keep the Gospel pure today.

Monday, March 7, 2016


Many of you have seen the movie or read the book "Unbroken" about the late Louis Zamperini.  I've seen the movie and my wife recently read the book and read me many excerpts.  This man's story is remarkable.  If you haven't read the book or seen the movie I highly recommend that you do so.

Below is a fairly short piece about Louis' unbelievable story of survival and redemption.  Take some time to watch this today.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sunday Worship: March 6

Today was another great day to worship with my church family.  At Grace today we looked at John 15:16 through 16:4 during the sermon.  Also, during Discipleship Class we continued looking at how the Gospel shapes our worship particularly today on what it means to be the church.

As always on Sundays during Lent I want to share a few of the songs that affected me during corporate worship.  Take a listen to these today.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Inside Out

Oscar night the winner for Best Animated Feature Film was "Inside Out".  I don't watch a lot of kids movies but when it was in the theatre my wife and I went to see it because she was excited by the trailer for it.  The movie is very good and was deserving of the Academy Award it won.  The film is also a great exploration into the purpose of emotions, particularly joy and sadness.

If you've not seen the movie here is a brief synopsis:

The main character is a young girl named Riley and the emotions in her head.  The emotions are themselves characters: Anger, Fear, Disgust, Joy and Sadness.  Throughout Riley's various adventures the emotions work together to try and give Riley appropriate responses to each situation.  However, for most of the movie Joy can't figure out the point of Sadness.  Joy tries to distract Sadness and keep her away from the controls in Riley's brain in order to keep her from ruining Riley's day.  Later in the film things go bad and Joy and Sadness get stranded in some weird part of Riley's brain and they need to get back to headquarters so they can be available emotions for young Riley.

While Joy and Sadness are trying to get back to headquarters there is a fantastic moment where the point of Sadness is explained.  Another character has a tragedy and Joy can't seem to cheer him up.  It's at this point that Sadness sits next to him and is simply sad with him.  In this moment Joy learns the immense value of Sadness.

The movie is very good, but I want to focus on how it illustrates a Biblical truth.

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn."  Romans 12:15

Many of us miss the point of sadness.  We may have been fooled into thinking Christianity is always looking on the bright side of life.  We may have been fooled into thinking that our best role in helping someone get through sorrow is being their cheerleader.

As the movie highlights so well, we rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Think of Job's friends, for days they sat by him and mourned and then later they ruined things by opening their mouths.  Christians, Paul wrote the above verse while instructing the Romans church about love.  Love can mean sadness with others and joy with others.

The movie "Inside Out" goes on to show that sadness mixed with joy creates the most lasting and powerful memories we have.  Or as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:10, "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing."

Parents, I'd encourage you to rent this movie and watch it with your kids.  Use it as a tool to teach them how to love as God instructs us.  Talk to them about the God given purpose of our emotions.  Emotions are designed by God; in fact, since we are made in God's image God has emotions and our emotions can be a reflection of His.

Bottom line: look for Gospel moments in whatever you are doing, whether it is watching a movie or taking a walk, and use these moments to preach to yourself and/or teach your children today.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Which Will Love Him More?

Do you ever spend time thinking about your sin?  Do you ever dwell on the depths of your own depravity?  I would encourage you to do this sometime.

Some of you will say that this will create self-loathing.  Some of you will argue that thinking about the depths of our own depravity is not very uplifting; I mean, imagine the blow to our self-esteem.

Now, I don't think we spend all of our time or even a lot of our time remembering or recognizing our many sins, but I do think it is an important thing to do.

Consider this story from the life of Jesus:

A Pharisee named Simon had invited Jesus to have dinner at his house.  While Jesus was at the dinner a woman who Luke tells us had lived a sinful life came into the house with a jar of perfume.  The woman poured perfume on Jesus feet, kissed His feet, wet His feet with her tears and wiped His feet off with her own hair.  The Pharisee saw this and wondered why Jesus was allowing such a thing.

Jesus responded to the Pharisee's thoughts like this:

"'Two men owed money to a certain moneylender.  One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both.  Now which of them will love him more?'

Simon replied, 'I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.'

'You have judged correctly,' Jesus answered." Luke 7:41-43

Jesus then went on to explain how the sinful woman had showed an extravagant love for Jesus and the Pharisee had not shown much at all.

See, we are like the Pharisee more often than we are like the sinful woman.  Most of us think that we are pretty good people.  We know that Jesus died for our sins, but to be honest most of us think that we didn't add many sins to the pile.  We feel, most of the time, that we were worth dying for.

That's why we need to think about the depth of our depravity more.  We must take inventory of every evil thought and deep because it will fuel our love.  Those who are forgiven much love much.

Do you think of yourself as a pretty good person or do you ponder the depths of your sin?

"Now which of them will love Him more?"

Consider your sinfulness in the light of God's forgiveness today.

Thursday, March 3, 2016


Christians have been accused by atheist as people living in a world of their imagination.  The atheist says this because he believes God to be unreal.  I would contend first that God is real and second that Christians spend too little time with their imagination.

For some reason, perhaps our felt need to be logical and rational or a stifling of our imaginations by the Church itself, we Christians have too often neglected our imaginations.  Now there are soaring exceptions like C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien and Michelangelo and J. S. Bach and Sir Francis Bacon, but too many of us neglect our imaginations.

I fully expect our imaginations to be fully intact in Heaven and I believe that our imaginations were given to us to glorify God.  When I say imagination I do not merely mean thinking up unicorns on rainbows.  When I talk about imagination I mean that creative power that allows us to take a truth we know and use it to achieve a previously unimaginable goal.  This may be the imagination it took for Lewis or Tolkien to write soaring novels with transcendent allegories.  Or Michelangelo or Bach to take marble or notes and turn them into something new and thrilling.  Or Sir Francis Bacon imagining a new way to think reasonably.

So, use your God given imagination to glorify Him.  Create, worship, meditate, etc with the tool of imagination.

Here are a few simple examples on how you can use facts and knowledge together to glorify God this week.

"May my prayer be set before you like incense;
may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice." Psalm 141:2

The very imaginative King David imagined his prayers and praises rising up like the smoke of incense and sacrifice right to the nostrils of God.  We can do this, too.  During congregational worship on Sunday try doing something I sometimes do.  While all of you are singing imagine that the roof of the building is lifted off.  Imagine that each word of the songs from each person rises up like smoke straight to our smiling Lord.  This little bit of imagination is not at all unbiblical and it can enhance your corporate worship experience and your glorifying of God.

"Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward every one for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free."  Ephesians 6:7-8

Tomorrow at work think of this verse.  When your boss asks you to do a task imagine Christ standing behind him/her.  This will help you be a better employee and to remember who the Boss really is.  In working for your boss as if you are working for Jesus you will better glorify God.

These are just simple examples.  You know your gifts better than I do, so imagine how you could use your gifts to achieve something unimaginable.  Think outside of the box because we serve a untamed God who encourages us to use our imaginations in a far less bridled way than we seem to be doing now.

Christians, we have underutilized our imaginations.  We have failed to tap into a God given tool.  We must have vivid imaginations.  We must use these imaginations to glorify God and reflect His character.  Through divine imaginations Christians should make the best art, the best movies, the best inventions and the fact that we don't says that we are wasting a gift of God.

Imagine what you could do with a little more imagination today.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Watch Your Mouth

Have you ever been around a little kid and listened to them?  "Kids Say the Darndest Things" was a successful show for Art Linkletter and later Bill Cosby because kids lack a filter on their mouths.

One time our little neighbor boy Mitchell asked my mom, "Why did you and Larry put a barn in your backyard?"  My mom and step-dad had just gotten a backyard shed that was bigger than the other sheds in the neighborhood.  Immediately my mom no longer wondered what little Mitchell's parents thought about our new shed.  Mitchell heard what his parents were saying and repeated it at our house.  Often out of the overflow of your mouth comes your kids words.

I have a filter on my mouth, most of the time; I'm not exactly like little Mitchell.  However, if I say something you have a pretty good idea what's going on inside me.  Jesus explained it like this:

"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.  Each tree is recognized by its own fruit.  People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.  The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."  Luke 6:43-45

Just as we can often tell what's going on in a home by the speech of a child, we can tell what's going inside of the heart of another by their speech.  "For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."

So, don't just have a filter on what comes out of your mouth, have a filter on what goes into your heart.  Judging one another by what we say in our worst moments perhaps isn't fair but it may be accurate.  I'm not encouraging you to begin judging people based on their speech, however you should do that if you're considering voting for them.  No, I don't want you to read this and to start analyzing others.  I want you to watch your own mouth.  Listen to what is coming out of it.  Is the overflow of your heart kind words or gossip, curses or blessings, lies or truth?

When I stub my toe I might shout "*&%#!"  Do you know why?  Because I stored that word in my heart and in fact I've thought on it so much that it came out naturally when the occasion arose.  Some may retort that saying swear words is not a sin, and that may be true (I'm not completely convinced of that but it may be).  But the question must be, why do I value that word in such a way that when my mouth filter malfunctions that word is the first word to overflow out of my heart?

What must we do?  Well, the simple garbage in garbage out philosophy helps.  We need to stop filling our hearts with garbage because it flows out of us.  We also must ask Jesus to continue to sanctify us.  He has promised to give us a new heart that overflows only with goodness.  When we see the fruit that is our words and don't like that fruit we need to pray that God continue to renew and sanctify us.  My words often remind me that my sanctification is far from over and at that moment I need to ask for forgiveness and beg for transformation; but I must also rejoice that though my sanctification is slow my justification is already done and the moment I die my glorification will be instant.  Despite my shortcomings and your shortcomings God is good and faithful to keep His promises.

"... out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."

Watch what comes out of your mouth and what goes into your heart today.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Love Notes: A Repost

As many of you know my work schedule revolves around the sports schedule.  I love covering sports and I wish I had some more basketball to cover because I enjoy covering the State Tournament.  That being said, when the craziness of the sports schedule ends for a bit I enjoy getting time to work just eight hour days and to spend evenings with my wife.  So, tonight we're eating Chinese food and watching a rented movie.  Because of that you get a repost from a few years ago when my beautiful wife was my beautiful fiance.

If you're wondering I still have the gift described below and look at them when I need a reminder that someone is crazy for me.

Love Notes

Today is the first day of March, but I want to look back at February.  February is a short month but a month filled with love.  There's Valentine's Day and the expectation of expensive gifts and romantic gestures.  I'm writing to brag about my fiance's romantic gesture.

My fiance Christine wrote a reason she loved me on a note card for every day of February.  She wrote a reason she loved me on the front and then dated the note on the back and often times left an explanation of the reason on the back.  She left these notes for me to find every day this month.

I can't begin to tell you what that means to me.  Her notes are filled with love and encouragement and they didn't cost a dime, but I wouldn't trade this amazing gift for any amount of money.  These notes strengthen my resolve to love her.

God does this for us, too.  God has love notes strewn across the pages of the Bible.  The Bible speaks of God's unfailing love.  It writes how God formed us in our mother's womb.  It is clear that God loves you and I.  "For God so loved the world the He gave His only begotten Son."  God wrote love notes to you and I.

God even writes love notes in the sky.  Ever wonder why a sunset is beautiful?  Because God wants it to be beautiful.  In a way, a sunset is a love note that can strengthen our resolve to love God.

I love Christine's love notes.  They are such a perfect gift.  That being said, the love notes God left for us in His Word are 100% better.  I'm ecstatic that Christine loves me and tells me so.  But it's beyond amazing that "Jesus loves me.  This I know 'cause the Bible tells me so."  Mediate on God's love notes to you today.