Wednesday, February 25, 2009

method vs message?

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. - 1 John 1:3

I was watching some video clips of some Christian teachers that I follow on YouTube last night, and decided to read some of the comments left by the viewers. Starting off, i expected to read some really great comments, full of insight and encouragement left by other viewers... Instead, i found myself walking through a war zone between mockers and professing Christians.

There was an occasional person seeking truth for some honest questions, but by and large, many of the commenters weren't looking for answers - they were on they attack. As I continued through several pages of comments, I observed several conversations between those slinging accusations and individuals who seemed to be Christ followers. The troubling thing, though, was that often I couldn't tell who was the non-believer and who was the Christian. Respondents lacing their comments with profanity, filled with hatred for the person opposing their view point, condescending remarks - absolutely disgusted by what I was observing.

I had read the verse above today, and couldn't help noticing that it applies to what I observed last night. John writes that the purpose of sharing our faith, what we have seen and heard, is so that others would have fellowship with us and with Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith.

It is extremely important that Christians be not only equipped to give an answer for the hope that we have in the Lord Jesus, but we MUST FINISH WHAT THE TEXT SAYS!

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. - 1 Peter 3:15

...with gentleness and respect. Our method will defeat our message on the battle ground for truth if they are not Christ-centered and Christ-driven. Only a method of sharing and defending our faith consistent with the Gospel we proclaim has any hope of being received and honestly considered by those we intend to reach for Christ. We must not forget that the reason we share and defend our faith is so that others may have fellowship with us, in fellowship with the Lord Jesus - this is our joy as followers of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pride Stinks

Saw a skunk running across the road this morning, thinking how disgusting their stench is. I think God thinks the same thing about our sin, namely pride. I'm sure there's a lesson here, especially about removing the stench when you're sprayed. A bath of humility is the recipe for removing the stench of pride...

Friday, February 20, 2009

check the box

"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 1:5-8

I've been spending the last week in 2 Peter. It is a short read, but packed with a message for already-converted believer. There is so much to say, but I'll stay focused, or at least attempt to do so for this post.

Checking the box
For whatever reason, we seem to have a bent towards checking the box as we go through life. Graduate high school - check. Go to college - check. try half a dozen majors - check. get married, have 2.5 kids, buy a nice car, live in a nice house, get our kids in the right schools - check, check, check, etc. Once we conquer the list, we think that we will have contentment in our lives. Unfortunately, our memories fail us in regard to this lie, just as this lie fails to fulfill us.

Probably the biggest lie we as Christians swallow is that our faith in Christ is limited to a single point in time where we said a magic prayer and gave our life to God, and then we can go on about our life, living any way we please. Ask Jesus to forgive me of my sins and give me eternal life - check. go to church (sometimes or even all the time) - check. Get baptized - check. Say a quick prayer every now and then, especially before dinner - check. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn't offer a check-the-box gospel. it offers a gospel that is a journey, a process, a means that couldn't be farther from checkboxianity.

Event vs. Process
In the verse above, it can be seen that God has a much different idea about what it means to be a fully devoted follower of Christ. You see, asking Christ to be Lord of our lives doesn't end with a prayer asking God to save us; it begins there. Once we confess our sins to God and put our faith in Him to forgive us, we thereby take the first step of the most wonderful journey in all of life. But we will never experience the abundant life that the Lord Jesus promised if we allow ourselves to become ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Building upon foundations
Peter is showing us that there is a progression from one virtue to the next. But these things are not like a badge that we earn like a boy scout; no, they build upon each other. He doesn't say have goodness, knowledge, self-control, etc.; Peter says ADD goodness to faith, ADD knowledge to goodness, ADD self-control to knowledge, etc. Each of these things are correctly exemplified when they are built upon the right preceding foundations. Sure, each of us as followers of Christ can exhibit all of these qualities in our lives, but when built upon each of the preceding foundations, we begin to understand what these virtues truly are.

The greatest of these...
The beauty of it all is that these virtues all build towards the greatest gift, the greatest quality, the greatest virtue of them all: love. Paul echoes these teachings in his own writings, reminding us that of faith, hope, and love, the greatest of these is love. Elsewhere he teaches that knowledge puffs up, but love builds up - point being that love is the greater virtue. Above all this, Paul brings it home, reminding us that our maturity in Christ has absolutely nothing to do with checking the box. In Romans, he writes:

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law." - Romans 13:8

Kinda hard to check the box on love. If you must check the box, though, make sure that your pen is always out of ink. That way you can check it again, and again, and again, and....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

more than a picture

Many of us have pictures of the most beautiful places on earth burned into our memory. These are the places that we would love to visit, given the chance. Pristine white sand beaches, clear blue water, majestic snow capped mountains, huge pine trees covering the landscape - the descriptions go on and on. These are the pictures and images that we could stare at for hours, admiring God's craftsmanship; the sheer amazement and beauty of something so wonderful.
Some have the opportunity to visit these places and see them through more than a picture - and all of these will tell you that these places are more brilliant, more captivating, more moving than any picture could hope to capture.
As I have been reading through the new testament, I have caught myself staring (if you will) at the imagery these writers use to describe what a life submitted to Christ looks like. The last few times I have set out to read chapter 2 of 1 Peter, I inevitably find myself retracing my steps through chapter 1, each time slower and slower, catching the beauty contained in every verse. Passages like those in 1 Peter 1:13-21 show what a beautiful thing Jesus did for us by dieing on the cross, and what true life looks like when we follow Him.
But the abundant life that Jesus talked about is not found in staring at a picture of following Jesus; it is found in actually going to these places, living out the things written on these precious pages. Reading and re-reading passages that captivate our minds and warm our spirits, but not taking the steps to apply these teachings is like a person who tries to tell someone that they've been to Mt. Everest just because they saw a picture of it.
Of course, we would never say this to anyone. But often this is how I live my life to Christ. I think in my mind that I am a good Christian, if only because I read my Bible, regardless if I ever apply what I read to my life - absolutely ridiculous.
The beauty described in these pages is limited by words. Not even a picture can tell all that there is to see. We will only truly know how beautiful it is to follow Jesus when we heed his instructions found in scripture, and submit ourselves to God's working in our lives, perfecting and completing the good work He began in us. Only then will we be able to see how beautiful these things, these places truly are.
Don't just stare; journey to visit.

self serving?

"Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angles long to look into these things." 1 Peter 1:10-12

I am in a season of discovering what leadership actually is, and so it is no surprise to myself that I kept reading this passage over and over, not being able to move past it with out considering God's use of it to move me spiritually from where I am.

Leadership is a term that each of us must define. For a long time, I thought of it as a tool people used to manipulate people to do what you wanted them to do; to get them help you complete your goals, your agenda. But the more I learn, the more sure I become that leadership is helping people accomplish those goals that most greatly benefit those being lead (as those that will follow them), not the leader. A true leader will place the needs of those he serves as his first leadership priority, serving them in ways that enable them to accomplish those lofty goals that they aren't able to reach by themselves.

Leadership is truly a powerful tool that enables us to do things that we couldn't do by ourselves. Ironically, most of our world misunderstands what is at the heart of true leadership: servant-hood. Don't believe me? Try taking some notes from the greatest leader that has and will ever live: Jesus Christ.

Is your leadership for the benefit of yourself or others?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

specks and planks

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Luke 6:41-42

Life-long church goers like myself are very familiar with this passage. And like so many other familiar verses, they seem to just pass right on through my ears, not registering with my dense head. No, this wasn't directly what Sunday's message was about, but a simple demonstration at the beginning of the message revealed something about my subconscious opinion of myself. Here's how it goes:

Pastor asks something like this, "everyone look at the person to your left. Now look at the person to your right. In front of you. Now behind you. Which of those is the worst sinner of all?"

Me being ornery and sitting next to my wife decide to point to my wife. Didn't feel too bad about it though, as i found that she was pointing right back at me. Of course everyone laughs; kinda fun to poke some fun at your friends/neighbors/spouse sitting around you. Some bypass the humor and get right to the spiritual answer and point to themselves (you guys are no fun... but you are right).

What was revealing to me was that I didn't even consider myself as a candidate as the worst sinner. Yes, i know he didn't ask us to, but the very essence of being a follower of Christ is acknowledging ones own sin and being absolutely disgusted by it - everyone of us should have pointed to ourselves. But by pointing to someone else, it show that I think of myself as a good person, not a bad sinner...

For whatever reason we are often so consumed with our own self-righteousness that we don't notice the tree sticking out of our own eye, growing all the time because we simply are blind to it. We go through life, thinking we have a few specks in our eyes, but hey, so does everybody, right? So we justify it, saying, I'm not a bad person, or at least not as bad as the guy next to me.

But God uses His word as a mirror and shows us how ridiculous we are to think that we are without sin. If you will let Him, He will bring you to absolute humility and disgust for your trees, your planks, your sin (confessed or otherwise) - and from there... complete restoration. friendship with God. It is absolutely overwhelming to grapple with the idea that our Lord, the creator of life itself, shows us such kindness and love, willing to forsake His Son on the cross so that through His death and His resurrection, we can be forgiven, and have the privilege of calling Jesus Christ the Lord of our lives, and living a life that reflects that belief.

Ask God to help you recognize your planks. But don't stop there. deal with them. Let Jesus change you. Just because you call Jesus your savior doesn't mean you are immune to sin. Let Him search the depths of your heart. And when he shows you what He finds, confess it, turn from it, and find life.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Most of us are able to rattle off the top 5 priorities of our lives with little effort. But rare is a person who actually lives according to their own spoken priorities. In my own struggle to live out what I profess to believe, I have asked myself to answer two simple questions:

  1. What MUST I do each day (priority)? - These are the things that are outside my normal activities, like work, meals, getting dressed, etc. These are things that reflect my beliefs and priorities. They require a conscious effort to accomplish.
  2. What things would I LIKE to do today (discretionary)? - These are the things I would like to do after I tend to my priorities, time and resources willing.

Too often, I find myself spending most of my time doing the things that I like to do, but little on the things that I absolutely must do, if my beliefs are to match what I profess. Below, I have provided my answers to these questions, in effort to help me identify those things that steal my time from the things I truly value. Hopefully, these thoughts will encourage you to identify those things which you must do, and differentiate them from the things you would like to do.

What are your priorities? How do you live them out?


  • God
    • Read the Bible. Process it. Pray over what I read. Apply it.
    • Listen for God's calling, prompting throughout my day, asking:
      • What is God trying to teach me?
      • What does God want me to do with/about ___?
      • What does God want me to share with others (time, thought, idea, possession, encouragement)?
  • Wife
    • Show my wife that I love her, in a way that she understands.
    • Show my wife respect and love by the way that I communicate with her (speaking and listening)
    • Intentionally lead my wife to be a fully devoted follower of Christ
  • Children
    • Spend time with my children, giving them attention, listening to them when they talk, loving them in a way that they feel loved by me.
    • Teach my children how to make good and Godly decisions; discipline as needed, full of love
    • Intentionally lead my children to become fully devoted followers of Christ
  • Self
    • Read books, meet with mentors, listen to teachers to develop myself as a:
      • Disciple of Jesus Christ
      • Husband of my wife
      • Father of my children
      • Leader of others
        • Co-workers
        • Life group
        • Life group leaders
      • Friend to my friends
    • Make time for exercise
    • Eat a healthy diet
    • Get enough rest

Discretionary Things:

  • Internet - Checking email, facebook, twitter, blogs, IM, texting, etc.
  • Media - watching TV, movies, music, etc.
  • Tasks - Managing finances, organizing/cleaning up things, home/yard/car maintenance, etc.
  • Hobbies -Disc golf, video games, guitar, ping pong, projects, etc.
  • Work - Go to work early, stay late, homework
  • People - hang out with friends/extended family

So much to say...

I have heard it said that James is considered as the Proverbs of the New Testament in the Bible. As I read it, that statement is justifiably made in my observation. Wasting no time with introductions, James jumps straight into writing a first chapter filled with some of the most profound spiritual insights in all the Bible.

Reading this book, you can imagine that James must have been frantically writing as fast as he could; so much to say, but not able to write fast enough the divinely inspired words that God would use to instruct His people, even those readers of our generation and beyond. Nearly every verse causes the reader's mind to pause for a moment and consider the breavity of a thought that could fill an entire book, and yet compacted into a bite-size verse that the mind will chew on for days on end, savoring every word.

- I'd better stop here, or i will catch myself writting a commentary on the entire book of James. Closing thought: Take time to read and savor the book of James. But don't just read it; apply it (James 1:22-25).

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Encouragement from Hebrews

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:23-25

I absolutely love passages like these! they are filled with such profound depth and are life-giving. God uses verses like these in our lives to encourage us, to spur us on in living out the faith that we profess. Text like these do not allow us to make the Bible and our faith dull and plain, but bring us back to the place where we remember what it was like when we first gave our life to Jesus. And so much greater than that, God uses these passages and the trials that we face in life to bring us to exceedingly greater milestones in our faith, filling us with greater peace and understanding and confidence in the One who saves us from our sins, that we cannot help but press on and embrace this life and His calling on our lives with greater passion and zeal than ever before. These are the verses that ought to be burned into our brains, the things that we mumble while we are talking in our sleep, the things that we repeat over and over, so that we use them as a path back to the God who inspired them, who uses them for completing the work that he began in us. Encouraged? If so, encourage others.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


As i started this entry, i found myself jumping around to a lot of significant biblical points, but had a tough time tying them all together. So, i have simply provided those passages that are speaking to me, and filling me with such great hope. It is my prayer that you will take time to allow God to move you as you read these passages and others within the Bible.
"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we posses. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:14-16
"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:19-25
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you will not grow weary and loose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3