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

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Ashamed of Holiness

"Don't be ashamed of being smart." -Dr. Walther

My advisor and history professor Dr. Walther said that more than a few times.  He said it because he saw that students had a pattern of dumbing down their vocabulary to avoid the shame of being smart.  He saw the intrinsic desire to want to appear "normal".

Christians, don't be ashamed of holiness.

In some Christian circles there is the strong desire to be authentic, relevant and relatable.  We find these words on many church websites in their description of themselves and I applaud the desire to be authentic, relevant and relatable.

Christians should be authentic, relevant and relatable.  However, has our pursuit of authenticity been made in inauthentic ways?

There seems to be an unspoken balance of messiness and holiness that is accepted as authentic in these Christian circles.  There is a holiness that is too much to be "real".  There is a purity and a pursuit of it that is deemed irrelevant and non-relatable and most certainly inauthentic.

In our effort to be approachable and authentic and liked have we created a culture where we're only allowed to share our faults?  Testimonies of minor depravity have been deemed glorious and useful in our small groups and prayer time; while testimonies of faithfulness and fleeing from immorality have been rejected as unhelpful and unwanted.

Don't hear me wrong: self-righteousness is wrong, but righteousness is desirable.  Yes, we must "confess our sins one to another" (James 5:16), but do we do this instead of living a life of visible purity or in addition to it?

In our good intentions to rid our churches of self-righteousness and Pharisaicalness have we also weeded out the glory of obedience and faithfulness and holiness?

"Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from the sinful desires, which war against your soul.  Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they might see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us." 1 Peter 2:11-12

"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

Why is it today that we are encouraged to have invisible holiness and visible flaws?  Would Peter and Paul be called puritanical, self-righteous, inauthentic church leaders today when they called for visible holiness?

Authenticity is a good thing, but inauthentic authenticity is deplorable.  The idol of authenticity that pulls us toward the "norm" and not toward sanctification is an idol that must be smashed.

We are called to holiness.  We are called away from self-righteousness.  We can do both.

The key seems to be found in who we want to please.  Is our authenticity aimed at pleasing God or men?  If it is aimed at pleasing men it will gravitate to the norm of society.  If it is aimed at pleasing God it will produce an honestly transparent Christ empowered pursuit of holiness.

Be authentic, but don't be ashamed of holiness today.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth Day and Baby Teeth

Our eschatology, understanding of the end times, affects our daily lives more than we realize.  When I was younger I believed that the earth was going to be burned up and a new earth would then be created.  The Bible most certainly teaches that there will be a New Heaven and a New Earth, but my understanding was dreadfully incomplete and it affected my daily life.

I thought if there was going to be a New Earth then environmental issues really don't matter.  I thought that humans were of utmost importance, and humans do have greater worth than the animals or plants, so whatever helped humans most was the best.  I had a short sighted view.  I didn't see how my interaction with the earth had anything to do with eternity.

Imagine if you will a young boy named Timmy.  Timmy has just been told that his teeth will one day fall out and be replaced by new adult teeth.  Timmy's baby teeth will be gone and new teeth will replace them.  So, Timmy guzzles as much pop as he can, he refuses to floss or brush, he uses his teeth to open glass bottles rather than using a bottle opener, and about anything that he feels like doing with his teeth.  The hope of new teeth gave Timmy license to disregard his current teeth.

After years of ignoring his dental health Timmy's baby teeth fell out early leaving strange spaces for his new teeth to grow in mismatched directions.  The bacteria that he let fester near and on his baby teeth ate away at his unseen adult teeth.  Timmy's understanding about baby teeth was incomplete and he suffered because of it.  Rather than having beautiful new teeth, he had braces and implants.

What we do with baby teeth and what we do with the current earth matters.

We can't screw up God's redemption of the earth like we can screw up permanent teeth.  However, it is true that what we do with the earth matters greatly.  Earth is and will be our home.  God will make His dwelling with man on the New Earth.  It matters how we take care of this planet. 

"God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." Genesis 2:28

Part of the first set of commands that God gave humanity was to have dominion over the earth.  He gave us dominion over His creation.  To use and abuse it?  No, to be a good steward of it.  If someone gave you something that was theirs would you use and abuse it?  No, you would treat it well.  You would try to leave it in excellent shape before, during and after your use of it.  Why would our stewardship of the earth be any different?

If your eschatology makes you believe environmentalism is for liberals and tree huggers (there is most definitely unbiblical viewpoints from some that wear the label "environmentalist" but I'm not addressing that here) then I invite you to further investigate your understanding of Scripture.  I know my daily life has been changed by deepening my understanding.  

So, on this Earth Day ask yourself if you're using God's creation the way you should be.  Ask if there's a way you could be a better steward of any of the creation that He's given you dominion over.  And after seeking and find the answers to your questions act accordingly today. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

To Those Who Kill Us

Lent is done and therefore I'm done blogging daily.  Thank you to those who joined me for the last month and a half whether it was each day or just once.  I'm done blogging daily and will move to about once a week (though it often takes me a while to slow my pace again).  I normally wouldn't be writing the day after Easter but I badly wanted to post this.

On Palm Sunday Christians in Egypt were bombed.  Two churches were bombed killing 45 and injuring about 126 while they worshipped.

I was saddened by this attack like most of you were.  I sent an e-mail to a friend in Egypt letting him know that I was praying for him and our brothers and sisters in Egypt.  He told me thank you and said that amazing testimonies were resulting from the attack.  He sent back a link to a video that blew me away.  In the video Father Boules George delivers a message that is so loving and so wise and so beautiful.  It is a must watch.  Watching the video convicted me and inspired me to my core.  This man is a man who believes with all certainty in the promise of Heaven, this is a man who loves his enemies and prays for those who persecute him, this is a man who is clearly empowered by the Holy Spirit to obey the radical words of Jesus.

I could write more about it but I can't say it better than Father Boules George did.  Be sure to click the "CC" button on the bottom right of the video so you can see the English translation.  It will be the best nine minutes of your day today.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Three Enter, One Leaves Alive

"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?" 1 Corinthians 15:55

In the Easter story sin, death and Jesus entered the tomb and only one came out alive.

Jesus defeated sin and death on the cross.  The victory was final at the cross as Jesus cried "It is finished!"  But the story reads as if Jesus, sin and death went into the tomb for one final battle royale and only Jesus came out alive.

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!

On Easter we celebrate His victory over sin and death.  We celebrate that the grave could not hold Him.  That He is a defeater, not defeated.  This morning we sang songs that celebrated this.  We sang songs like: "Christ is Risen", "Resurrection Hymn", "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" and "Forever."  We sang and announced His victory with lyrics like these:

"Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling over death by death."- Christ is Risen

"Oh, death!  Where is your sting?
Oh, hell!  Where is your victory?
Oh, Church!  Come stand in the light!
The glory of God has defeated the night!"- Christ is Risen

"Death is dead,
Love has won,
Christ has conquered!"- Resurrection Hymn

"Lives again our glorious King!  Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting?  Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save!  Alleluia!
Where, thy victory, O grave?  Alleluia!"- Christ the Lord is Risen Today

The Son of God in darkness laid,
A battle in the grave,
The war on death was waged,
The power of Hell forever broken.

The ground began to shake,
the stone was rolled away,
His perfect love could not be overcome.
Now death, where is your sting?
Our resurrected King,
has rendered you defeated!"- Forever

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  And sin and death have been defeated.  Three entered the grave and one came out alive.  Praise God for the resurrection today.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Between the Cross and Empty Tomb

The Bible doesn't tell us everything that happened in the life of Jesus.  It tells us everything we need to know but not everything.

"Jesus did many other things as well.  If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." John 21:25

"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name." John 20:30-31

The Bible tells us everything we need to know to have a saving faith in Jesus.  But have you ever imagined what might have happened in the spaces we don't know about?  Have you wondered what Jesus was like as a child?  How on earth did Mary and Joseph raise Him and how did His brothers and sisters react to living with a perfect brother?  Did Jesus ever play a goof with the other disciples on Peter or Thomas?  What did His laugh sound like?  How did Mary, Martha and Lazarus get to know Jesus?

There's so many things about the earthly life of Jesus that I want to know.  John said there isn't enough room in books to write them all, I mean every moment of His life was holy, but eternity has enough room to hear them all.  I do so look forward to asking James if there was a time Jesus laughed so hard He cried or if Jesus gave Bartholomew a perfectly timed hug.

But today is Holy Saturday and today I wonder what Saturday felt like for the disciples.  Between the cross and the empty tomb what was the mood like?  What were the conversations like?  Did Peter's failure feel final?  Was John boastful that he was the only disciple at the crucifixion?  Were the women disappointed thinking that they'd misunderstood Jesus' message?  Did they hide for their lives?  Were they filled with sadness or anger?

On that first Holy Saturday I bet they all felt stuck, defeated, confused, upset, bamboozled and afraid.  Jesus had made so many promises, He was supposed to be the eternal King in the line of David; what happened?

We all have the benefit of knowing that Holy Saturday is followed by Resurrection Sunday.  We all know that Good Friday is in fact good, that it wasn't defeat but victory.  We all know that the tomb couldn't keep Christ.  We all know that sin, death and Jesus entered the tomb and only one came out alive.  We know that Jesus won the fight.

But we all know the feelings of Saturday.  We know the feeling of being stuck between the announcement of victory and the experience of victory.  We feel the tension of the "here but not yet" Gospel.  We exist between the first coming of Jesus and the second coming of Jesus and we eagerly await the consummation of the Gospel.

Below is a post I wrote in 2012 about Holy Saturday.  I know this post is getting long, but I encourage you to read it because I know, even though I wrote it, that I am encouraged by it today.


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

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

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

"Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6  I know that He will completely perfect me, but it hasn't been completed yet.  I'm stuck in Saturday.

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Beautiful Death

Today is Good Friday and on this day we remember the death of Jesus on the cross.  There shouldn't be a day that goes by without us reflecting in some way on Christ's death on the cross, but today we focus specially on it.

Crucifixion was a terrible thing.  The death Jesus died was a terribly ugly death.  He was flogged before being crucified.  This flogging was brutal.  The whip would rip one's skin to shreds and sometimes the whip would get stuck on the skin and the torturer would yank it out taking loads of flesh and even ribs with it.  The type of flogging that Jesus received would have left Him near death.  Then Jesus carried a crossbar on that nearly skinless back through the streets to be paraded and jeered.  Jesus was so weak from the beating that He couldn't finish carrying it.  He then had His raw back laid on rough wood and had nails driven into His hands and feet.  Then the cross was raised with His naked body hanging from it and Jesus was asphyxiated as He dangled by His hands with His arms stretched out.  Every breath He had to take required Him to pull up with His arms and push up with His feet causing the nails to rip more of his body.  All the while mothers would pass by and warn their little boys not to do whatever it was that Jesus did, people openly mocked Him as the enjoyed the spectacle of His execution, soldiers stole His clothes right in front of Him.

Crucifixion was terrible and the above paragraph doesn't begin to do it justice.

Crucifixion, however, was not that uncommon.  It was reserved for the worst of the worst and Roman citizens couldn't be shamed and tortured in this manor, but it wasn't uncommon.

So, what made Jesus' crucifixion notable?

First, Jesus was an innocent man.  He did not deserve to die.  In fact, Jesus never sinned, He was perfect.  His death was the first death of a perfect man.

Secondly, Jesus died for others.  Jesus died in the place of others, He suffered in order to be a substitute for others.  Not just others, but sinners and rebels.  Jesus died not for good men and women but for sinful men and women.

Thirdly, Jesus chose His death on the cross.  Jesus' life was not taken (John 10:18), it was given up for us.

But what I want to focus on now is the way Jesus suffered.  There was something about the way Jesus died that was different from all other deaths.  Consider the thieves on the cross.  Matthew tells us that both heaped insults on Jesus as He was crucified.  Both did.  But then in Luke we see this:

"One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him: 'Aren't you the Christ?  Save yourself and us!'

But the other criminal rebuked him.  'Don't you fear God,' he said, 'since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong.'

Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.'

Jesus answered him, 'I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." Luke 23:39-43

Matthew and Luke's accounts don't contradict one another.  Both criminals mocked Jesus on the cross, but then the one repented and found faith in Jesus on the brink of death.  I believe there must have been something in the way that Jesus suffered that changed his mind.  Jesus must have suffered in a way that allowed this man to see a king in the form of a bloody, beaten man who was suffocating under his own weight.

And the centurion, too.  This man must have seen a number of crucifixions because they were at least somewhat common and apparently part of his job.  Yet there was something different about Jesus' death.  Now, the centurion had the benefit of seeing darkness cover the land at noon and perhaps the temple curtain tearing in two, but there was something different about Jesus' suffering that seperated it from the suffering of all the other thieves and insurrectionists that the centurion had been charged with killing.

"And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard His cry and saw how He died, he said, 'Surely this man was the Son of God!" Mark 15:39

The flogging and crucifixion of Jesus was a dreadfully ugly act.  It was extremely brutal.  Jesus was scarred beyond recognition.  Yet, there was a beauty in His death.  He even suffered and died in a way that displayed His eternal beauty.  A criminal and a torturous supervisor looked at Jesus and saw undeniable beauty and glory.

On this Good Friday I urge you to gaze at the beautiful, gruesome death of Jesus today.

(Dramatic reading of the crucifixion)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Maundy Thursday

Tonight my wife and I went to Maundy Thursday service at the Lutheran church nearest our house.  Growing up I didn't celebrate all the days of Holy Week, but now I'm finding a deep richness in further focusing on the events leading up to Easter.

On Maundy Thursday we remember the Last Supper and Jesus washing His disciples feet.  Maundy is from the Latin for command.  On this day we remember Christ's command to the His disciples.

"A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another."  John 13:34-35

"As I have loved you..."  What a strong aim for love!  Because this is so similar to what I wrote yesterday about need to be marked by love I won't expound on that today.

Below is a post I wrote last year on Maundy Thursday.  I hope it encourages you to follow Christ's maundy for us today.

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, April 12, 2017

Marked by Love

"This is the message you heard from the beginning.  We should love one another." 1 John 3:11

The defining mark of a Christian must be love.  Jesus said that we will be known to be His disciples if we love one another.  Are you marked by love?

Have you ever walked into a body of believers and felt the love?  Have you been around people that so clearly care for one another?  There is a notable, palpable difference.  We as Christians must be marked by love for one another?

As the Haddaway famously sang, "What is love?"  If we are to be marked by love we must know what love is.  We use the word often, but what is love?

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?"  1 John 3:16-17

d.c. Talk sang, "Love is a verb" and it's true.  We can feel love but love is in its truest form a verb.  True love is an active, sacrificial act toward those who may or may not deserve it.  There cannot be true love without at least an ounce of sacrifice.

If your love is never accompanied by action then I will wonder if you actually have love.

My friend is a big Cowboys fan.  How do I know?  He talks about them, reads about them, purchases Cowboys merchandise, he buys hotels rooms and tickets to go to games, he spends time watching them on TV.  My friend is a Cowboys fan and I know because he has actively sacrificed money, time, energy and more to do Cowboy fan things.

How do people notice your love for your Christian brothers and sisters?  How does anyone recognize your love for your neighbor?  Love requires action and sacrifice.  If we have the means to help and don't when our sister is in need then we don't have the kind of love Jesus gives His followers.  Love is a verb.

"This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another."

This Holy Week remember the love of Christ and actively imitate it today.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Rolled Stone is a Cornerstone

Today I heard about a poll that I had to check out for myself..  According to a recent poll you can read about here or see in detail here, one in four British Christians don't believe in the resurrection of Jesus and 31% of British Christians don't believe in life after death.

I was shocked by this poll.  I don't won't to be judgmental, but I'm not going out a limb by saying that you can't be a true Christian if you don't believe that Jesus was crucified, buried and then resurrected.  This is THE fundamental point of Christianity.

Apparently belief in the Easter story, even within the walls of the church and the homes of self-professed Christians, is not something we should take for granted.

"Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then the Twelve."  1 Corinthians 15:1-4

The death and resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of our faith.  Without these events actually happening we are fools to believe.

"And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.  More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead." 1 Corinthians 15:14-15a

"And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men." 1 Corinthians 15:17-19

If you're one of these "christians" who don't believe in the resurrection then Paul pities you.  If Christ didn't really rise from the dead then we are wasting our time.  If Christ wasn't raised from the dead then eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.  Why waste your time if Christ didn't rise?

"But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.  1 Corinthians 15:20-22

This Holy Week we declare that Christ did suffer, die and rise from the dead.  This Holy Week we declare that we believe this, not because we feel that it might be true, but because we know it is true.  The resurrection is not a tertiary truth for Christianity; no, it is a foundation of our faith.  The rolled stone is a cornerstone of Christianity.

Thank God that Christ not only died for our sins, but (literally) rose from the dead, today.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Satan's a Rotten Pimp

I went to see the production my church does each year for Easter last night.  It's a mime but don't let the name fool you, it's much better than I can explain.  The theme for this year's mime (that my wife wrote #proudhusband) is "Beloved".  Most years the mime has a scene depicting the prodigal son, but this year the story of Hosea was used because it fits the theme perfectly.

Hosea is one of my favorite Old Testament stories.  The story of Hosea is mostly found in chapter one and three.  What happens is God tells the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute in order to live out a parable of God and Israel and ultimately Christ and us.

"Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD." Hosea 1:2b

Hosea then marries this woman Gomer who is selling her body to other men.  Hosea and Gomer have children and they're given really strange names with meanings like "not loved" and "not my people".  These names are not in the top ten for my wife and I nor any person ever.

At some point in the marriage, or perhaps the entire time, Gomer is with other men.

"Then the LORD said to me, 'Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress.  Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes." Hosea 3:1

Hosea then went and found his cheating wife.  Can you imagine that?  Hosea had to go and beg his wife to come home and to stop sleeping with other men.  He had to go to his wife and ask her to come home to him and the kids.

But there's more.  Look at what Hosea did.

"So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley.  Then I told her, 'You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you." Hosea 3:2-3

Hosea had to go and buy back his own wife from some pimp!  He was obedient to God and he loved his wife, who wasn't the pick of the litter from the beginning and definitely not at this point of the story, so much that he paid for what was already his.

Throughout the Old Testament the prophets referring to chasing after other gods as whoring.  The people whored themselves after all sorts of gods and so do we.  We sell our bodies to the pursuit of many things that have nothing to do with being faithful to God.  We are unfaithful to God from the start, we were never the pick of the litter.

Satan tries to pimp us out.  He tries to have us be a slave to sin.

"Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness..." Romans 6:19b

But praise be to Jesus who is the greater Hosea!  He loving pursued us so much that He not only gave us a chance to choose Him, but better than that, He purchased us.  He purchased us from the bondage of sin.

"... you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth." Revelation 5:9b-10

This Holy Week don't forget that you were a slave to sin, that you were like Gomer who prostituted herself out, we all whored ourselves to sin whose wages bring only death (Romans 6:23).  We were being pimped out to be perpetually unloved and we had no hope of getting out, but then Christ came to us out of great love and obedience to the Father, just like Hosea, and purchased what was already supposed to be His.  The creator died to win back the creation.  He paid a hefty fee to make the Church His bride.

"Then I saw a New Heaven and a New Earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.  They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:1-4

If you believe in Him, Christ has freed you from Satan's bondage.  He came down and kicked sin and death and Satan's butt like Liam Neeson in "Taken" and like Hosea He has purchased us to be His own.  Remember this costly grace.  Think this week about the blood that bought you and live faithfully and fully to Christ today.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

And Can it Be

This morning at church before service began we heard from a family of missionaries living in Malaysia.  They talked about how they worked to reach Muslims living there.

At times we wonder how God can save someone.  We wonder how God's grace could save "them".  Not that I was wondering that this morning about Muslims, but I've seen others feel that way about them and I have in my own heart "thems" that I, at times, mistakenly wonder if God could save.

Then in worship we save the awesome hymn "And Can It Be" by Charles Wesley.  This hymn asks the better question, "how could God save me?"  It reminds us in a powerful way that Jesus' death on the cross for me doesn't make any more sense than Him dying for anyone else in the world.

Notice and think about the Gospel story of these lyrics:

"And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?"

"He left His Father's throne above
So free, so infinite His grace
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race:
'Tis mercy all immense and free,
For oh my God, it found out me!"

"Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee."

"No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own."
Christ made immense sacrifices to love a sinner like me.  He freed me from the slavery of sin and made me free to follow Him.  And, He didn't die to give me a second chance, He died to give me His righteousness so I can approach the throne of God boldly and claim a crown won by Christ Jesus.

Listen to the song and think about the Gospel it tells us today.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

When Life is Unscripted

Below is a video that I watched when it was first on ESPN.  I connected with it because Ernie Johnson is in a similar field as me, although he's at the top.  I think anyone will connect with this because it's an amazing story of what a life looks like when someone is committed to love and live like Christ.

This video is more than worth your time.  Take time to watch a story of the beauty of an unscripted life today.

Friday, April 7, 2017

I Write to You

When you read the Bible do you ever insert your name?

If you don't, I'd encourage you to do that when it is suitable.  Not every promise is a promise for you specifically, but many are.  Not every word is directly to you, but some are.  When you find a passage that your name could be inserted in I'd encourage you to do that on occasion.

Or you could read a passage and insert a friends name to encourage them.  I've done this with several passages, especially the 23rd Psalm.  When your name is said your ears tend to perk up.  When your name is said you can't miss that it's a message to you.  This is a powerful exercise.

Yesterday I read 1 John 2:12-14 aloud in a Bible study and inserted the name of the guy next to me.  I could see in his eyes the affection for what John wrote 2,000 years ago.  I could see that God's Word was ministering to his soul in that moment.

Practice this by putting your name in this passage:

"I write to you, dear __________,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name.
I write to you, ____________,
because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, _____________,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, ________________,
because you have known the Father.
I write to you, ______________,
because you have known Him who is from the beginning,
because you _________ are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you _____________ have overcome the evil one." 1 John 2:12-14

In this letter John inserted the above poem to encourage his readers.  John said many tough things and wanted to make sure the letter encouraged and motivated his readers to live a life worthy of their calling.  There is a number of difficult instruction before and after this poem, but these two verses are there to bolster the reader in the midst of difficult instructions.

I encourage you to use your name in the Bible when appropriate, especially when it comes to passages that will encourage you and inspire you toward endurance and holiness.  Remember that God's Word is for you today.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Survey Says!

When I was in third grade I remember a lesson that has never left me.  It had nothing to do with reading, writing or arithmetic.  It was a lesson about surveys.

Mrs. Craig asked a question to the whole class, I can't remember the question, it may have been about science or math for all I remember.  She asked for a show of hands as to what we thought the answer was.  Everyone agreed on the same answer... except my friend George.

I looked at George and was flabbergasted that he didn't come up with the same answer that the rest of the class had.  Mrs. Craig asked if he wanted to stick with his answer and he did while insisting he was right.  Right?  How could George be right if the entire rest of the class disagreed with him?  Some of us were laughing at his stupidity.  I looked at him with eyes that begged him from across the room to change his answer because he was going to be made fun of by us all when Mrs. Craig revealed that he was the only one that was wrong.  But George stuck with his answer.

George was right.

I don't remember the answer or the question, but I do remember that George was right and the rest of the class was wrong.  Mrs. Craig commended George for not only being right but more for sticking with what he knew to be right even when the rest of us mocked him.

There's not a whole lot I remember from 3rd grade other than multiplication charts and that surveys don't prove much.

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan that I read today two out of three men agreed that helping a robbery victim wasn't worth it.  As I read the book of Judges I saw the phrase, "everyone did what was right in their own eyes."  That phrase is followed by idolatry, murder, gang rape and other atrocities.

Popular opinion doesn't decide what is right.

"Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." Matthew 7:13

When I was eight I learned a life lesson.  Surveys can tell you how many people agree with you and you may all be right or wrong; don't base your thinking on surveys, base your thinking on truth.

There are many truths in life that are not popular.  Don't be fooled into thinking that popular means correct.  There are many hard things that must be done and we must swim against the current to do them.  Surveys make for fun game shows, but they are poor road maps for life.  Love the truth and hold on to it even if you're the only one doing that today.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Your Name is Written

Several years ago now I had a frustrating time while working as youth leader at my church.  I was in a situation that I'd been in before and I'd be in over and over again.  I found myself caring more about a kid than they cared about themselves.

Teens often have a shortsighted view on life, and why wouldn't they?  I was, in this particular situation, worried about a course of action that this particular teen was taking.  The teen, however, couldn't care less.  They were hurting themselves for short-lived pleasure.

I found myself frustrated to the point of tears.  I was sick to my stomach and nearly out of my mind with concern that was not reciprocated, with instruction and wisdom that was being ignored.

It was during this time that my pastor shared a passage with me that I've gone to a lot.

"The seventy-two returned with joy and said, 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.'

He replied, 'I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven.  I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemies; nothing will harm you.  However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in Heaven." Luke 10:17-20

I often am tempted to place my joy in my apparent successes or failures in guiding the lives of the students in the youth group.  What I needed to learn was not to rejoice or despair based on the visual successes or failures of the mission God has placed me on; my joy must be found in my salvation.  My name is written in Heaven in the book of life and nothing can blot that out.  However, there will be high and low points in the mission Christ has given me.  None of what I do for Christ will ever be wasted but I can't look at what I see there to give me joy.

I am still learning this lesson.  When I came across this passage in my daily reading today I was reminded to focus on unmovable joy-givers.

Rejoice that your name is written in Heaven today.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Great Saga 2017

For several years now my church, Grace Baptist Church, has put on an Easter production called The Great Saga.  It is a mime, that is a show without dialogue.  It is not your typical mime, no one is walking into the wind or anything; instead it is a high energy, high emotion "telling" of the Gospel story from creation to redemption.

This year my wife wrote it and co-directed it, but that's not the only reason why I'm writing about it.  I find The Great Saga to be a great way to center ourselves on the reason for Holy Week.  So, I encourage you, whether you're just interested in Christianity or if you were literally born in a church, to come to one of the free shows.  I know many of you are like I was and are thinking that this seems really silly.  I thought it sounded dumb, to be frank, but then I saw it and realized what a powerful form of art and communication it is.  So, if you're thinking this sounds stupid, I urge you to give it a chance because it's not something that can be explained as well as it can be experienced.

Here are the showtimes:

Wednesday, April 5th at Harvest Church in New Hampton

Sunday, April 9th at Grace Baptist Church in Waverly

Wednesday, April 12th at Grace Baptist Church in Waverly

Doors open each night at 6:00 and each show begins at 6:30.  There is free childcare and refreshments, too.  Each night is FREE.

Here is an interview my wife and Kate Moyer, the co-directors, did with me this morning about The Great Saga.

I hope you make plans to attend and I hope that you start getting your mind and heart ready for Holy Week today.

Monday, April 3, 2017

What Informs Your Opinions?

Christians, what is the number one thing that informs your opinions?

Today we're given a platform to have an opinion on a myriad of things.  We post on social media or blog or speak about our opinions on governmental strategies, abortion, lifestyles, immigration, morality, etc.  What informs your opinions on those subjects?

Many will say science informs their decisions and that's not a bad thing.  Scientific reasoning helps us understand the world around us better.  This is a great way to inform your opinions and one that I use often.

Many will say history informs their decisions and that's not a bad thing.  Paying close attention to what has worked or failed in the past is a wise endeavor.  I studied history in college and found it a great framework for seeing the world.

But as Christians I fear we get informed by many things but not by the Bible.  Scientific reason, historical reason and logic should no doubt help us form our opinions, but never at the exclusion of the Word of God.

"Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105

"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." C. S. Lewis

Do you submit to the Word of God?  Do you put yourself under it and let it guide your worldview?  Is God's Word the number one thing that informs your opinions?

We must be reasonable, we must use the facts, these are not anti-Christian by any means.  Christianity is a reasonable religion.  However, too many of us never or rarely go to the Bible when making decisions.

When we discuss our opinions, especially when we discuss them Christian-to-Christian, I don't care what you think until you explain how the Bible and character of God informed your position.  Are you so called pro-choice or pro-life?  Tell me how the Word influences that.  Are you for homosexual marriage?  Tell me how the Word influences that.  Are you for cutting social programs?  Tell me how the Word influences that.  We must be more influenced by the Word of God on issues that we are our conscious or our point of view or the latest study.

Submit to the Word of God.  Place yourself under what it says.  Don't try to bend it to your will; have your will and your mind changed by it today.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

In Christ Alone

Today as we worshipped I was drawn to the lyrics of "In Christ Alone" by Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend.  A few of the lyrics really jumped out to me as we sang.

"Till on that cross as Jesus died,
the wrath of God was satisfied."

This line has deep Gospel truths in it and it is offensive to its core.  The Gospel says that our sin was deserving of God's righteous wrath.  Now, some have tried to change the line to "the love of God was magnified" which the cross most definitely did magnify the love of God, but the actual line of the song is so true.  My sins needed to be paid for and Jesus took that wrath for me.

"For I am His and He is mine,"

What great news.  Jesus purchased me with His blood from the slavery of sin and into the Kingdom of Light.  Not only that, but the Gospel says that Jesus is mine.  The best thing we get in the Gospel is God Himself.

"From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny."

It is so good to know that God is sovereign over my life.  It is so good to know my son's life, from beginning to end, is in the hands of Christ.  Life is not happenstance, it is in the control of our Sovereign God.

"No power of Hell, no scheme of man,
can ever pluck me from His hand."

Romans 8:38-39 proclaims this truth so well.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." 

Please listen to "In Christ Alone" and think about the Gospel truths it proclaims.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Solomon Pities the Fool

Today is April Fools Day so I want to look at what Solomon (mostly Solomon at least) had to say about fools.

"A wise son brings joy to his father,
but a foolish son grief to his mother." Proverbs 10:1

"The wise in heart accept commands,
but a chattering fool comes to ruin." Proverbs 10:8

"He who winks maliciously causes grief,
and a chattering fool comes to ruin." Proverbs 10:10

"Wise men store up knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool invites ruin." Proverbs 10:14

"The lips of the righteous nourish many,
but fools die for lack of judgement." Proverbs 10:21

"A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct,
but a man of understanding delights in wisdom." Proverbs 10:23

"He who brings trouble on his family will inherit only wind,
and the fool will be servant to the wise." Proverbs 11:29

"The way of a fool seems right to him,
but a wise man listens to advice." Proverbs 12:15

"A fool shows his annoyance at once,
but a prudent man overlooks an insult." Proverbs 12:16

"A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself,
but the heart of fools blurts out folly." Proverbs 12:23

"A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
but fools detest turning from evil" Proverbs 13:19

"He who walks with the wise grows wise,
but a companion of fools suffers harm." Proverbs 13:20

"A fool's talk brings a rod to his back,
but the lips of the wise protect them." Proverbs 14:3

"Stay away from a foolish man,
for you will not find knowledge on his lips." Proverbs 14:7

"The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways,
but the folly of fools is deception." Proverbs 14:8

Fools mock at making amends for sin,
but goodwill is found among the upright." Proverbs 14:9

"A wise man fears the LORD and shuns evil,
but a fool is hotheaded and reckless." Proverbs 14:16

"A quick-tempered man does foolish things,
and a crafty man is hated." Proverbs 14:17

"The wealth of the wise is their crown,
but the folly of fools yields folly." Proverbs 14:24

"The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
but the mouth of the fool gushes folly." Proverbs 15:2

"A fool spurns his father's discipline,
but whoever heeds correction shows prudence." Proverbs 15:5

"The lips of the wise spread knowledge;
not so the hearts of fools." Proverbs 15:7

"The discerning heart seeks knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly." Proverbs 15:14

"A wise son brings joy to his father,
but a foolish man despises his mother." Proverbs 15:20

"Arrogant lips are unsuited to a fool
how much worse lying lips to a ruler!" Proverbs 17:7

"A rebuke impresses a man of discernment
more than a hundred lashes a fool." Proverbs 17:10

"Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs
than a fool in his folly." Proverbs 17:12

"Of what use is money in the hand of a fool,
since he has no desire to get wisdom?" Proverbs 17:16

"too have a fool for a son brings grief;
there is no joy for the father of a fool." Proverbs 17:21

"A discerning man keeps wisdom in view,
but a fool's eyes wander to the ends of the earth." Proverbs 17:24

"A foolish son brings grief to his father
and bitterness to the one who bore him." Proverbs 17:25

"Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent,
and discerning if he holds his tongue." Proverbs 17:28

"A fool finds no pleasure in understanding
but delights in airing his own opinions." Proverbs 18:2

"A fool's mouth is his undoing,
and his lips are a snare to his soul." Proverbs 18:7

"He who answers before listening
that is his folly and his shame." Proverbs 18:13

"Better a poor man whose walk is blameless
than a fool whose lips are perverse." Proverbs 19:1

"A man's own folly ruins his life,
yet his heart rages against the LORD." Proverbs 19:3

"It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury
how much worse for a slave to rule over princes!" Proverbs 19:10

"A foolish son is his father's ruin,
and a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping." Proverbs 19:13

"Do not speak to a fool,
for he will scorn the wisdom of your words." Proverbs 23:9

"Like snow is summer or rain in harvest,
honor is not fitting for a fool." Proverbs 26:1

"A whip for the horse, a halter for the donkey,
and a rod for the backs of fools!" Proverbs 26:3

"Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you will be like him yourself." Proverbs 26:4

"Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes." Proverbs 26:5

"As a dog returns to its vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly." Proverbs 26:11

"Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him." Proverbs 26:12

"Though you grind a fool in a mortar,
grinding him like grain with a pestle,
you will not remove his folly from him." Proverbs 27:22

"He who trusts in himself is a fool,
but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe." Proverbs 28:26

"If a wise man goes to court with a fool,
the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace." Proverbs 29:9

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

On this April Fools Day don't be a fool.  Choose wisdom today.