Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking Back

I don't think 2008 was my best year, but it certainly had a few accomplishments in it. Off the top of my head:

  • I finished reading the Bible again and am planning on doing it twice more in 2009.
  • I went out running 185 times
  • I ran my first 5k and broke the 8:00/mile barrier
  • I remained gainfully employed
  • I managed to blog fairly regularly and with some meat
  • I finished my formal Greek education and began my Hebrew
  • I finally beat the game Thief 3
  • I learned the fundamentals of lockpicking
  • I taught Lily how to play chess
  • I finally got on Facebook and it helped me reconnect with a long-lost friend
These are all personal things. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that there were many big strides made regarding family or work. Work I don't care so much about, but as 2009 looms ahead I see the need to be more affectionate and more "present" with my family. It's great that I spend time with the kids at the grocery store and such, but I particularly need to meet Lily where she is rather than where I want for her to be. This is especially true with Amanda.

For all of you who read this I do pray that 2009 would be a year where you enjoy sweet fellowship with the Lord.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Enjoying Festivals

Zechariah 7:5-6
(5) "Say to all the people of the land and the priests, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted?
(6) And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves?

We're about to have our last and first festivals of the year. We plan on going to a friends' house for their bit New Years Eve family open house. Then on Thursday we're going to the McKenzies for our annual pork and sauerkraut meal. Both events should be fun.

I think that New Years is kind of an arbitrary time to celebrate. I do think that there is something about going from 12/31 to 1/1 on the calendar. I also think that there is something about taking some inventory on the past year. However, I also think that resolutions should be made throughout the year.

I also think that this time of celebration of 2008 and hope for 2009 needs to be Christ-centered. Was our Christmas celebration for us or for God? How about Thanksgiving? How about Easter? If there is one holiday that absolutely screams for Christ-centeredness it is Easter since that is a holiday unique to Christians.

The Jews had a calendar of feasts as well. Their problem is that they lost sight of the reason for them. I hope not to do that with ours.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

More Predictions

Zechariah 3:6-10
(6) And the angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua,
(7) "Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.
(8) Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch.
(9) For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day.
(10) In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree."

A bit earlier in this chapter we see that Joseph was clothed in filthy garments, but they were exchanged for clean. If you go back to Leviticus you see how important it is to be clean in the presence of the Lord. Unfortunately, we cannot clean ourselves up. The good news is that the Branch will clean us up. That Branch is Jesus.

Verse 10 contains a prophecy that I also take to be a command. Am I inviting my neighbor to come under the Branch? I'm trying to do that more and more, but it is still convicting. As Penn said in this video, we had better be telling people the good news.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Trusting God

Habakkuk 2:18-20
(18) "What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols!
(19) Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it.
(20) But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him."

God is God whether we like it or not. We may not always understand how He goes about His business. We may not always understand why things happen to us. However, in the end, God is God and we are not. Therefore, we must be careful not to fashion our own gods to replace the God who is.

In the church we like to emphasize how God is love. That is certainly true. However, the gospel is only glorious because God is also just and full of wrath. If He were merely loving then there would be no reason for Christ to die. There would be no wrath or justice that needed satisfaction. However, Christ became the perfect sacrifice for sin so that we might come into the presence of God and not fear His perfect justice.

The book of Habakkuk ends with a fairly famous and yet sobering passage:

Habakkuk 3:17-19
(17) Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
(18) yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
(19) GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.

We are to rejoice in Him no matter what is going on. Our response to Him must not depend on our circumstances. We all go through peaks and valleys in life. God is still God and still in control no matter what is happening. And, ultimately, He is still worthy of our praise and honor no matter what.

Psalms 146:1-2
(1) Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!
(2) I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

I love it when a complete gospel message comes out of just what I read as my daily reading. Read through the Bible in 2009!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Guess Who's Coming?

Micah 5:1-9
(1) Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek.
(2) But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
(3) Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel.
(4) And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.
(5) And he shall be their peace. When the Assyrian comes into our land and treads in our palaces, then we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight princes of men;
(6) they shall shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod at its entrances; and he shall deliver us from the Assyrian when he comes into our land and treads within our border.
(7) Then the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples like dew from the LORD, like showers on the grass, which delay not for a man nor wait for the children of man.
(8) And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among the flocks of sheep, which, when it goes through, treads down and tears in pieces, and there is none to deliver.
(9) Your hand shall be lifted up over your adversaries, and all your enemies shall be cut off.

I love seeing Jesus in the minor prophets. Here we see the prediction of His birth as well as His triumphant return in glory in the last days. Today is the last day of the Advent season and tomorrow we celebrate the Incarnation or "God with meat" as Mark Driscoll calls it.

This is definitely a busy and stressful time here. It looks like we have all the pieces in place except for the one gift I really want to give Amanda and it hasn't arrived yet. There's still hope for today...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Unable to Stand

Psalms 143:1-2
(1) A Psalm of David. Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
(2) Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.

David understood where he was before the Lord. Even though he was a man after God's own heart he knew that even he was not truly righteous before the Lord. David needed God's grace as much as I or anyone else does.

I think this is a vital truth as we think about our standing before the Almighty. Are we going to trust our feeble efforts at righteousness or are we going to trust the righteousness of Christ?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Keeping the Commands

1 John 5:1-3
(1) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.
(2) By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.
(3) For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

There is a ton to unpack in this short passage. I want to hit on a few highlights that struck me this morning. First, I think we need to keep the order straight in verse 1 and the grammar can help us. The phrase "has been born of God" is in the perfect passive tense. That means that it is a past action with present effect, but also that it is something that happens to the subject. In this case, the subject is "everyone." The word translated "who believes" is actually the present active participle, which means that it is an ongoing action. Basically, what this tells us is that we are born of God before we are able to believe in Him. Once again, Scripture speaks to the sovereignty of God in election.

Verses 2 and 3 step up the challenge. We are to keep His commandments. We do this not to merit our salvation since it is impossible to do that. However, we can see that the continual working out of our faith is proof that we are indeed born of Him. Of course, everyone has some dry periods where it feels like we couldn't do anything at all. I would maintain that simply remaining faithful is part of keeping His commandments.

I would sum up this passage by saying that God is the one who saves us since we cannot save ourselves. However, if we are truly saved we will not have a passive faith that does nothing. It will be continually evidenced by our works.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Comfort in the Psalms

Psalms 141:5
(5) Let a righteous man strike me--it is a kindness; let him rebuke me--it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.

Psalms 141:8
(8) But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!

My week of Facebook has been interesting, to say the least. For a long time I've had this sense that I really need to be sharing the gospel more openly with people. I just didn't know how I was going to do it. Facebook has definitely helped with that. I have no idea what kind of fruit these seeds will bear, but all I can do is scatter the seed. I can't control the soil.

So far, I've found an old friend who is an atheist, my brother-in-law's mom who went to a winter solstice party yesterday complete with drum and crystals, and a discussion on another friend's wall about Prop 8. On one hand I feel a certain sadness when I rub up against people whose beliefs are so wildly different than mine. It certainly has helped me to put less importance on some of the in-house debates we have as Christians.

On the other, I am excited to be able to share the hope of the gospel. I knew a fight was coming when I responded to the post on Prop 8. I got to the point where I could share the gospel, which was really what I wanted to do. Otherwise I'm just another "Christian" jerk who is trying to tell the world how great I am while the world is going to hell.

I don't claim to be facing anywhere near the persecution or reproach that David wrote about in Psalm 141. However, I am comforted by this truth (as well as by my reading in 1 John today) that there is a reward to being faithful in sharing the gospel.

If you're reading this and you don't know Jesus, I urge you to get off the throne of your life, repent of your sin, and put Jesus on that throne. Yes, your life will change and there will be a cost, but ultimately it will be worth it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Putting Down Roots

Mark 4:3-9
(3) "Listen! A sower went out to sow.
(4) And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.
(5) Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil.
(6) And when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away.
(7) Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.
(8) And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold."
(9) And he said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

I just read a chapter on this parable in the textbook for my upcoming parables class. I won't go into everything that the author wrote, but I love the last two sentences:
People think they can look like giant oaks without putting down deep roots. When they realize how much effort it takes to put down deep roots, they too often settle for being bramble bushes. (Snodgrass, Stories With Intent, 176.)

That, to me, summarizes the problem with the attraction-based model of church growth. It's great to get people in the door, but you end up with a lot of false professions of faith based on emotion alone. Or, just as bad are the professions of faith based on the plan to avoid hell. No, the kingdom of God is about having deep roots.

I like to think that my life is lived in such a way that I am putting down deep roots. However, it is easy to see the selfishness in my own heart that I must fight daily. It is easy to see the laziness that prevails all too often. This chapter was a good reminder of how badly I need to work to keep putting down those roots.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Geeking in Greek

I was going to write something pithy and challenging about Psalm 139, but I think this video just takes the cake. The rap interlude is hilarious. And they managed to keep the dancing girls fairly tasteful as well.

I remember never being quite part of the "in-crowd" in high school. I was in the right classes, but I never quite was able to run in those circles. Maybe the circles didn't even exist and they were just a figment of my imagination, but it sure seemed like all those attractive smart people got along awfully well. At any rate, the fact that I "get" this video tells me that there is indeed an "in-crowd" of which I am a part.

Is that good or bad? Maybe these guys wouldn't make fun of me for bringing my Greek New Testament to class.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Apologetics

It's been a great week of conversation with an old friend from high school who is perhaps a more devout atheist than I am Christian. It takes me back to my apologetics class and reminds me that there are a few ways to go about the business of talking about God. The three that I have in mind are:

  1. Argue from creation
  2. Cumulative case
  3. Presuppositionalism
When I had to do a paper on this I argued in favor of cumulative case. However, the more time I spend in the Word and the more time I spend chatting with my friend I think I am becoming more of a presuppositionalist. For example, I wrote this:
If I understand the materialist view correctly (please correct me if I don't) then through random chance some amino acids came together and become something that we call "life." This first single-cell organism somehow managed to do the things that living creatures do including reproduce itself, which it did when the conditions were right. Of course, if the conditions weren't right the first time then random chance had to bring more amino acids together again and so on. Now these organisms kept reproducing and of course the numbers get big very quickly when you multiply by 2. Over time some mutations of these organisms started forming multicell organisms and they were able to thrive in their environment. I think of sponges for example. Over time through random chance and mutation some of the cells started to differentiate and you have the earliest systems in animals (i.e flatworms). As time wore on this happened again and again. Eventually you end up with mammals. Through chance the species started to differentiate because of their environment. Over time members of these different species, which only exist through random chance, happened upon each other as male and female and were able to reproduce. This means that these random chances had to happen in duplicate, but with different sexes. Also, as those male and female animals happened to evolve in the same general area so they could find each other neither one managed to fall off a cliff, get eaten, etc before their first encounter.
And he wrote back saying that I pretty much had it right, though apparently there are ways to explain the problem of the male and female of the new species. He then went on to make the point that what I see as preposterous he sees as what must happen given enough time for it all to cook.

So clearly the argument from design isn't working. We've had some similar discussions about the problems of good and evil.

What this is boiling down to is our presuppositions. He admits that he does not have total knowledge, but chafes at the idea of a "black box" to explain anything. On the other hand, I know that I do not have total knowledge and I assume that there must be someone out there who does that I can trust. This is the fundamental key to faith, I believe. Either we are willing to take that step or not.

Personally, I think that the Christian worldview does have some problems to resolve such as the problem of evil. Playing the "God's will" card seems weak to the skeptic. However, I still think that is more plausible than dirt + water + time = everything.

At the very least, I am very glad to reconnect with an old friend even if we have to park this discussion at some point. I have sometimes wondered how to differentiate friendship from evangelism targets. Now I know.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I'm not going to post any specific passage, but I would commend this book to you when you get a chance. The book is all about Israel's spiritual adultery with the Lord. It's easy to read it and think that we are above that, but I think that it is as much for me as it was for Israel when it was written.

First, there is the obvious fact that every time I look at a woman with lust I am committing a form of adultery. That's a tough teaching, but Jesus made it pretty clear.

Second, there are the more subtle ways that I commit adultery toward the Lord every day. How often am I living just for myself and not for Him? Am I glorifying His name when I steal time from my employer to do my own thing? Am I always a good witness for Him? Do I treat my family the way He commands me? And so on.

The good news is that in Christ we can return from our lives of spiritual adultery back into the covenant relationship He intends for us. Are you running back to Him or are you whoring after your idols? You can't do both.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sins of Omission

James 4:17
(17) So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Husbands, this is one of my life verses for marriage. Yes, Ephesians 5:25-33 is also vital. However, I feel like this verse from James speaks more directly to my laziness. For example, if I see the toys all over the floor it is this verse that leads me to pick them up. If I notice that the dishwasher needs to be emptied this verse compels me to do it.

I think the church as a whole has the sins of commission down pretty well. We're quick to jump on things like drunkenness and overt adultery (though we still have a lot of work to do on porn). Yet we tend to forget to tie the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount to James 4:17. In general, we know the right thing to do in most situations. Let's be sure that we do it, amen?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Outside the Gate

As I wrote yesterday, I'm now on Facebook. This has been quite an experience so far. It's been great to at least connect with some old friends, though I haven't had any meaningful conversations beyond "it's great to hear from you" so far.

Obviously, a Facebook profile tells you a little bit about someone. I reconnected with an old friend from high school. He has a Douglas Adams quote on his homepage and belongs to two separate skeptics groups. Clearly he and I don't see eye-to-eye on spiritual matters, but that's OK. What this whole experience is showing me is just how much I run in my little evangelical circle and never get out of it. Conversely, I read this today:

Hebrews 13:12-14
(12) So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.
(13) Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.
(14) For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

This is in a passage that discusses how the old Levitical system was used to bear the reproach of the people. Jesus had to go outside the camp because He was unclean as He took on the sins of the world. The tough thing here is the challenge to go outside the camp.

I'm not sure if this is a valid interpretation or not, but to me it seems like I am challenged to go outside the camp. It's one thing to talk about this within my circle, but it's quite another to be thought stupid for my faith. I have no idea if my old friend would think me stupid for my faith or not, but there is always that possibility. And of course that is a very real possibility if I actually began having conversations with strangers.

It's time that I spend more time walking the walk, I think.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

More Ways to Network

Thanks to my wife and the pressure she received from her friends I am now on Facebook. Won't you be my friend?

Friday, December 12, 2008

No More Offering

Hebrews 10:18
(18) Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Do you believe this truth? I mean, do you really believe it? The reason I ask is because I don't think I really do. I keep trying to make offering for my sin. I think that I need to adjust the cosmic balance where God is weighing my good deeds against my bad. I feel like I need to "make up" for the times when I sin.

Can you relate? Do you find yourself unconsciously doing that? It certainly isn't something I do intentionally, but it happens nonetheless.

This verse reminds us of how useless that is. We cannot ever make up for our mistakes. Christ paid it all for our sin. How do we react to that truth?

First, we must avoid licentiousness. Christ did not die so that we could live in wanton sin.

Second, we must still pursue holiness. To be content with our condition is just another form of licentiousness.

Let's reflect on what Christ's sacrifice really means to us. The next time I read Leviticus I plan to do it with Hebrews in mind. Compare that system to Christ's. There really is no comparison, is there?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Not Keeping a Record

Psalms 130:3-4
(3) If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
(4) But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.

I think about the bitterness I can have in my heart when I remember times that someone wronged me. Just imagine how it would be if the omniscient Almighty Creator kept a record of our wrongs against Him? Of course, an omniscient God cannot actually forget anything, but He chooses not to bring our sins up against us. This is only possible through the righteous sacrifice of Christ.

Why does He forgive us? It is so that He may be feared. This would seem to speak on at least two levels. One is that it is the beginning of wisdom for us. In other words, apart from forgiveness we cannot have any kind of true wisdom since we need to be forgiven that we may fear Him. Does that make sense?

The other level is of course His glory. Our reverent awe of Him glorifies His name.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Hebrews 6

As a Calvinist, this passage always gives me pause:

Hebrews 6:4-8
(4) For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,
(5) and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,
(6) if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
(7) For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.
(8) But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

What do we do with this? Is it possible to lose our salvation? Is salvation a matter of works? How can we possibly hold up to this?

I would say that a casual reading would suggest that we could lose our salvation. However, I think that it stands in odds with a passage like Ephesians 1:13-14. How can we be sealed by the Holy Spirit and yet live in constant fear of messing up? The rest of the chapter helps to clear this up:

Hebrews 6:17-20
(17) So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath,
(18) so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
(19) We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,
(20) where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Jesus is our righteousness! He is the one who has lived perfectly and we do not have to fear judgment for our sins. This does not give us a license for wanton sin, but it does mean that we do not have to worry about whether or not we measure up in the scales of God's justice. We can't possibly measure up, but Christ can. Isn't this is a wonderful promise?

If you are on the treadmill of chasing after God's pleasure through your works I encourage you to look to Christ for our righteousness. Of course, this does show that there is value in our works:

Hebrews 6:10-12
(10) For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.
(11) And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end,
(12) so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

However, our works don't save us.

So what to do with this passage that suggests that we can fall away forever? I would maintain that those who fall away like that were never sealed by the Holy Spirit as described in Ephesians 1:13-14. That seems to be the common Calvinistic interpretation.

What do you think?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Our Great High Priest

I'm in Hebrews now. I would say that this is the one New Testament book with which I am the least familiar. Every time I read it seems fresh to me. I only read chapters 1-3 today, but I'm already reminded of some amazing truths:

Hebrews 1:3-4
(3) He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
(4) having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

As we saw in Colossians, Jesus holds everything together by His power. Wow.

Hebrews 2:2-4
(2) For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution,
(3) how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard,
(4) while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Have you heard the good news of the Gospel? If so, don't ignore it. We have no escape if we neglect this free gift of grace.

Hebrews 2:14-18
(14) Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,
(15) and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
(16) For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.
(17) Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
(18) For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Jesus understands our pain. There are times when I try to minister to someone and, frankly, I can't understand what they're going through. However, Jesus can understand what it means when we are tempted. He knows our pain and He helps us.

Hebrews 3:7-10
(7) Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, "Today, if you hear his voice,
(8) do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness,
(9) where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works
(10) for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.'

This is directed to the Jews, but I think it is something for us Gentiles to think about as well. We didn't get that first chance like they did, but since we have heard the gospel we'd better not ignore it, amen?

Hebrews 3:12-13
(12) Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
(13) But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

I know that I have to deal with unbelief in my heart. I believe that my heart is regenerated so it is not completely unbelieving as it once was, but it is still prone to hardness and wandering. Therefore, I do not want to fall away. How do I protect against that? I enjoy fellowship with other believers for mutual exhortation. That is vital.

I'm really looking forward to what the rest of the week holds as I read through Hebrews again.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Master Builder

Psalms 127:1-5
(1) A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
(2) It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
(3) Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.
(4) Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.
(5) Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

This Psalm hit me right where I am today. The first two verses remind me of the point of all my toil. I can get up early and do my devotions, go jogging, etc, but it's all useless unless the Lord is in it. I can stay up late studying or doing some other good thing, but it's all meaningless unless the Lord is in it. He gives sleep to His beloved. Sleep is one thing I haven't had a problem getting lately. I may have been getting too much of it; however, I did get up with my alarm today.

Verse 3-5 are a great reminder for me now too. The kids can get a little frustrating. For some reason Noah was pushing our buttons yesterday. He's starting to get some boundaries. For example, the Christmas tree is putting the "NO" in Noah. He was just very demanding yesterday.

Yet He is a blessing from the Lord. I know that at the high level. However, I tend to forget that sometimes in the day-to-day goings on of life. Remember to cherish your children.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Hope in Being Lost

“How can you tell if he is working on you now? If you begin to sense your lostness and find yourself wanting to escape it, you should realize that that desire is not something you could have generated on your own. Such a process requires Help, and if it is happening it is a good indication that he is even now at your side.”

- Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 75.

I got this today as part of the RSS feed from the site called "Of First Importance." The stuff I get from them every day is usually helpful at some level. It never hurts to get a clearer picture of the gospel, right? However, today's really hit home.

I've had a hard time getting out of bed lately. The past two mornings I haven't made it up until 5:30 or so. I'm completely unfocused at work and frankly waste most of my days. I'm having a hard time staying focused and disciplined with my studies. I'm in a funk.

Today's quote encourages me because the funk bothers me. I've heard it said that you shouldn't be worried if you are worried that you've committed the unforgivable sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. The reason is because the fear you have of doing it indicates His presence in you. In the same way, today's quote reminds me that my thirst for holiness indicates that God is working in me. I am always encouraged by the glorious promise of Philippians 1:6. Basically, God always finishes His restoration projects.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Faithful Worker

I just finished reading 2 Timothy as part of my Bible in a year plan. The whole book serves as a manual for how to be a preacher. It is an encouragement for those of us who plan to be faithful to the Word and not worry so much about stepping on toes when necessary.

What impressed me is that Paul does not paint a particularly rosy picture. He writes of those who deserted him and those who caused him much harm. It is easy for me to think that I will simply have to be faithful and the Lord will take care of me. That is certainly true, but not necessarily in the sense that I want for it to be. I have no guarantee against the arguments and the backstabbing that come with being a pastor. I have no guarantee against the temptations that are sure to come. I have no guarantee against the pain in my gut when I do make a mistake and I need the Lord to fix it.

I have heard it said that you should not go into ministry if there is any way you can get out of it. Right now I don't see an alternative. Sure, I could pour myself into learning more about the stuff I do at work and quit seminary. However, I'm not sure that is such a good idea. I feel like I am doing what I am supposed to do. I can't imagine any better life than the one of ministry, despite the trouble that is sure to come. Therefore, I plan to stick it out with 2 Timothy as a guide.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Who is On Your Side?

Psalms 124:1-8
(1) A Song of Ascents. Of David. If it had not been the LORD who was on our side-- let Israel now say--
(2) if it had not been the LORD who was on our side when people rose up against us,
(3) then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;
(4) then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us;
(5) then over us would have gone the raging waters.
(6) Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth!
(7) We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped!
(8) Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

Today the nation of Israel always seems to be hanging by a thread. By all accounts it should not exist. It is relatively small. It's neighbors believe that its very existence is an abomination. Of course, it helps that it has the United States and our military to back it up. It also helps that we sell them our best warplanes. Nevertheless, it is still something of a miracle that they are there.

It was even more pronounced when they first took this land after their sojourn in the desert. They were a ragtag group of nomads who had no formal training in war. Yet they were able to conquer this land. How was this possible? The LORD won the battle for them.

Later, their very existence was only secured by the LORD. It doesn't take long when you read Kings to see what happened when they took their eyes off of Him. He withdrew His protection and sent in the Gentile nations to punish them for their idolatry.

I think the battle is the same for us today as Christians. Here in America we don't have to worry too much about being physically attacked by our foes, though that does sometimes happen. Rather, we need to worry about supernatural attacks from the enemy. I think of the second verse of the great hymn "A Mighty Fortress is Our God":

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing.
You ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He,
The Lord of Hosts His name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

He must win the battle. This is slightly unusual language to our ears, but I take it to mean that there is no other possible outcome than His victory. It isn't "He must win the battle or else" in the sense of a football team saying, "we need a first down here or we will lose the game." No, I take this to mean that He must win the battle in the sense that a rock must fall to the ground if it has no external support. It is just the way things are.

Do you have the right man on your side? If so, are you living like He must win the battle?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


We go to a church that does almost exclusively praise and worship music. Now the CCM praise and worship music does have a place. However, I find that it tends to lack theological depth. It tends to be all about how great it is that we know God and how happy that makes us. Unfortunately, there are seasons of life when that kind of leaves you empty.

I do appreciate some of the music of Chris Tomlin, though I think that his albums are becoming increasingly shallow as well. I do appreciate the songs on the Arriving CD as they remind us of God's greatness and majesty. There is a lot to commend that.

In the end, there is a reason why the great hymns are great. I think if you had to ask someone to name a favorite hymn the first one out of most people's mouths would be "Amazing Grace." Just about everyone knows the first verse, but read all of them when you get a chance. You'll see how the hymn takes us from justification to sanctification to glorification to eternity with the Lord. Any professing Christian who never gets at all choked up at the last verse needs to reexamine what he really believes. I'm not saying that you need to wail every time, but it should move you to some kind of feeling.

I am really enjoying this whole collection from Sovereign Grace music. The arrangements aren't particularly interesting, though I do like the bluegrass version of "How Firm a Foundation." The vocals tend toward the cheesy, particularly the woman who sings "Praise to the Lord." Nevertheless, it is a great collection of hymns that will hopefully move your soul. Check them out when you get a chance.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Can You Be Saved?

1 Timothy 1:15
(15) The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

Jesus did not come into the world to save the righteous. He came into the world to save sinners. That means that He cannot do anything with anyone who trusts his own righteousness to save Him. He can only work with those who realize that they are sinners.

I think of the men who have served on elder boards of churches but have never really grappled with their sin. I think of the millions in America who trust their "churchianity" to save them. I don't want to be one of those people.

It doesn't take me long to think of a sin I've committed. I really enjoy the mornings when I can walk and pray. I find that I have much sin to wrestle with. The good news is that God gives me grace to overcome. How is this possible? He came to earth to save sinners.

I don't think Paul was being modest in this verse. I think he was painfully aware of his former sin as well as his current sins. He had a zeal for holiness that few in the church today seem to demonstrate. Unfortunately, that often includes me.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Encouragement from Tozer

I may have posted this last year, but it fits in so well with all the Psalm 119 stuff that I feel like it's worth a repeat. Enjoy:

Trials and Pain: The Dark Night of the Soul

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide
Your face from me?
--Psalm 13:1

Some of you know something of that which has been called "the dark
night of the soul." Some of you have spiritual desire and deep
longing for victory but it seems to you that your efforts to go on
with God have only brought you more bumps and more testings and more
discouragement. You are tempted to ask, "How long can this go on?"...

Yes, there is a dark night of the soul. There are few Christians
willing to go into this dark night and that is why there are so few
who enter into the light. It is impossible for them ever to know the
morning because they will not endure the night. I Talk Back to the
Devil, 80-81.

"Lord, You know the dark night that I endured for a number of years--
and I know I'm not alone. I pray for any who are suffering today and
struggling. Bring Your deep-seated peace and the assurance that the
morning is coming. Thank You that Your grace is sufficient. Amen."