Tuesday, December 21, 2010

DEAR 2010

DEAR 2010

Also He has put eternity in their hearts…”
Ecclesiastes 3:11

Dear 2010,

I’m not exactly sure how to say this. Maybe there is no easy way. No, please don’t interrupt. I guess I just need to come out with it: darling…we’re through, it’s over. The time has come for us to say goodbye. It isn’t working out, and I need to move on. I know at times it seemed like there was some hope for us. For a little while I thought we could work things out. But we can’t. And there is no use in pretending any more.

Yes, it really is over. Of course you knew this was coming. Don’t pretend you didn’t see it. We’ve been drifting apart for months now. I know you felt it too. In fact, our relationship was doomed from the start. It was never going to work out. We were…well…incompatible. What? You thought I would change? But don’t you see; that is just the problem. I was always changing, and you never were. I need to keep changing too. This, I hope, is just the beginning. You, however, will always be the same: cold, still, lifeless. This relationship has been a bit like prison for me, and I just need to escape.

So if you are looking for some closure, here it is. I am writing this letter to say goodbye. You will not hear from me again. What was done; was done. What was said; was said. We can’t change that. We can’t go back. There is really no sense in going on about it. I really need to move on with my life. Please don’t take this personally. It is really more about me than about you. What? Yes, I do recall the good times. We had some laughs for sure. But the fact is that you and I were always moving in opposite directions.

And, well, I have a confession too. You see…there is someone else. No, it’s not 2011. Sure she is full of mystery and intrigue, a bit younger too. There is always that measure of excitement that comes with the uncertainty of a new year. But that’s not it. It’s…well…Eternity has taken hold of my heart. That’s right; I’m trading you in for an older model! I simply cannot settle for weeks and months and years any longer. Not since the change. I need more than moments. All days leave me somewhat dreary. The four Seasons are now a sort of stockade to my soul. Why settle for carpé diem when I can carpé aeternitatem instead?

I must be going now. No hard feelings? The fact is that, regretfully, you will never be short of suitors. Hundreds give you their hearts every day. Thousands trade away eternity in exchange for the fragile trinkets of time. Their lives are scribbled away in their schedules. Days and weeks are their gods and goddesses. They are children of Cronus. The calendar is their creed. Today is all they have. Like fools we run our fingers through the sand while immortality is offered to our souls. Like drowning men we clutch for the frayed rope of days and hours. All the while the Everlasting Arms are stretching out ready to embrace us. Reader, you have been invited to the Feast of Forever. Stop trying to satisfy your soul with the crumbs which fall from the Table of Time. Hear Him who is both Beginning and End, and who says to us: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Our Spiritual Nativity

Our Spiritual Nativity

“Your birth and your nativity are from the land of Canaan…”

Ezekiel 16:3

Our word “nativity” has roots which linger back many centuries into the history of our language. We may trace it back in time to the Old French nativité, meaning “birth” or to the Latin “nativus,” meaning “born.” “Nativity,” according to standard and modern usage, refers to the process, place or circumstances of a birth. It is then, first, a biographical term. Thus our Southern friends from the Volunteer State sing accurately, and with forgivable partiality, “Oh, Tennessee, my Tennessee, thy hills and vales are fair to see…the land of my nativity.” In due time, however, the word ‘nativity’ came to signify more specifically the birth of Jesus Christ. When so used we typically capitalize the word Nativity to indicate this sacred and special use. Once a year in late December Christians commemorate this Holy birth with Nativity sermons, Nativity scenes and Nativity songs. And well we should.

There is, however, another important nativity that we as Christians sometimes tragically forget. The nativity to which I refer is our own spiritual nativity. Not our personal Christian heritage or tradition, but rather the true spiritual origins of our relationship with God Himself. What were our “beginnings” with respect to our fellowship with the One True and Living God? It is this nativity to which the Lord refers, when speaking to His people through Ezekiel the prophet, saying “your birth and your nativity are from the land of Canaan.” God reminds them, as it were, of the spiritual sewer from whence they came. Jerusalem, and by extension her inhabitants, had a shameful and sordid past. “Thou hast” writes Matthew Henry upon this text “from the very first, the spirit and disposition of a Canaanite.” Ezekiel was to expose their “abominations” by unveiling Jerusalem’s ancestry: “Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite (Ezekiel 16:3).” The city of David had once been a culture of death. If the old mountains and ancient trees around Jerusalem could talk, they would, like Able’s ground, cry out of guilt and blood.

This, we must see, is the ‘beginning’ or ‘nativity’ of every Christian. Every spiritual child of Abraham must remember that “your birth and your nativity are from the land of Canaan.” No matter how many generations of faith we might trace, here is our nativity: you “were dead in trespasses and sins…and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others (Ephesians 2:1, 3).” Our spiritual ‘Bethlehem’ is the City of Destruction. The wax tablet of our nature enters this world notched and etched with sin already. We are all born spiritually upside down, in un-uprightness, if you will. The pedigree of our hearts is full-bloodedheathen’. Interestingly, early usage of the word “nativity” signified especially one who was born a slave. That is precisely the way Scripture describes us: slaves of sin. Thus coming into the world undone, we were also entirely unable to help ourselves. Paul describes this aspect of our spiritual nativity with these words “when we were still without strength (Romans 5:6).” Finally, we not only came into this world unable, but we were un-pitied as well. “No eye pitied you (Ezekiel 16:5)” said the prophet.

How then shall we apply this principle of our Spiritual Nativity?

First, remember it is only against the ghastly backdrop of our nativity that The Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ truly stands out. This is the contrast that moves this Season from sentimental to simply staggering. He came for me?! Really? The wonder of Christmas is not only that God became man, but that God became man for me! Our nativity points to our depravity. Christ’s Nativity points to His humility.

Second, this consideration of our own spiritual nativity ought to change the way we think of ourselves. Remember, Christian, where you came from. “But we are all like an unclean thing (Isaiah 64:6).” Paul warns each one “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think (Romans 12:3).” We entered this world with Canaanite blood streaming through our spiritual veins. Put away that foolish pride! We have nothing of which to boast.

Third, our spiritual nativity reminds us that God can produce Christians out of Canaan. With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. This is what He did for Jerusalem. “When I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, Live!...and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful (Ezekiel 6:6-7).” Reader, wherever you are right now…God can save you. You may think yourself the worst of sinners, but He stands ready to redeem you. He will wash away your sins and bestow upon you the splendor of His grace in Jesus Christ. He did so for His people in Jerusalem: “My splendor which I had bestowed on you (Ezekiel 6:14).” He will do so for you. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.

Finally, my beloved friend, beware of turning back from this grace that has been given you. The ungrateful inhabitants of Jerusalem turned back, and Ezekiel had to come to them with “Woe, woe to you! (Ezekiel 16:23)” Peter’s warning is both severe and necessary “For if they, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning (2 Peter 2:20).” Remember your Spiritual Nativity…and don’t go back!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Fire Proof

“…and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power

Daniel 3:27

Great fires take only a small spark to get going. Once begun, it spreads rapidly and destroys completely. Sin is like fire. Sometimes the very smallest temptation is all that is needed to set it ablaze. Before long it has destroyed all we valued. “See how great a forest a little fire kindles” says James (James 3:5). We cannot escape the fires of temptation in this world. Even the monastic life, as Luther discovered, is no protection from those sparks of sin we carry about in our flesh. How much harder however, for those who must trade and travel in the streets of Sodom, to remain unharmed by the flames and untouched by the fire. Lack of success in resisting and conquering sin brings discouragement, depression and doubt. A Christian may wonder if there is any hope of escape. The fire is so hot and always so near.

It may be therefore somewhat surprising to read of these 3 friends of Daniel, upon whom “the fire had no power.” It was no ordinary fire either. The flames were fueled not merely to injure these fellows, but to incinerate them. Nebuchadnezzar ordered it 7 times hotter than normal. The soldiers who bound them and brought them to the furnace were themselves burned to death by the blaze. Hell itself, as it were, took up residence for a few moments in this province of Babylon. All that is evil, all that sets itself up against God, all hatred, envy, murder, strife and the like came with unrestrained appetite to devour these holy men. And yet, for all this, “the fire had no power.”

Oh my soul, if ever the grace of God at work in the hearts of man was seen, here it is. Let us give glory to this God of all grace and inquire after the true source of their survival. By what means did the Lord preserve these Israelites from the wrath of Hell? And how may you and I also escape both the scorching flames of sin in this life, and the eternal flames of judgment in the next? Let us look closely, though briefly, at Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego and ask the Lord to open our eyes that we might see.

The first thing I see is men who would not negotiate the praise of God. Even upon the threat of death for not bowing to worship the sacred image they would not surrender their devotion to God. God’s glory was not on the bargaining table, if you will. Thus they said to the king “we have no need to answer you in this matter.” That is, our minds are made up, our intentions are firm: we will serve the Lord. Oh my soul…when the flaming fires of temptation surround you, can you say with these men that you have “no need to answer.” The question has already been settled long ago. Is my heart so committed to Christ’s glory that I refuse even to negotiate with sin?

The second thing I see is a faith that is fully persuaded of the power of God. Sin looks strong. Satan looks strong. Hell looks strong. But these 3 men knew of a power that was greater than all these. “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.” Oh my soul, how much need do I have to meditate on and consider deeply the infinite power of the God we serve. When sin seems strong, and the Devil flexes his muscles of malice toward us, and the forces of the enemy seem to surround us…remember the sovereign power of God Almighty. “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).”

The third thing I see is men fully at peace with the providence of God. They will not argue with the Lord’s plan for them, even if that plan involves a fiery furnace. The Lord could deliver them they knew full well. “But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” A great defense against the fires of temptation is a humble submission to the will of God. This was Job’s defense. “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Dear reader, are you afraid that if you forsake that beloved sin you will die? Can you not bear the thought of life without that precious ornament of Hell? Then die. Cut it off; pluck it out, even if you must lose your life in doing so. Jesus said “he who loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:39).” Die to sin and live to God. That is the ultimate submission of true faith to the perfect plan of God. Well spoke the hymnist who wrote:

Whate’re my God ordains is right:
Though now this cup in drinking,
May bitter seem to my faint heart,
I take it all unshrinking.” (Samuel Rodigast, 1676)

Finally we find in these men the blessed presence of the Son of God. These 3 alone, it seemed, stood up to this wretched king and his treacherous demand. These 3 alone, it seemed, stood their ground while all of Babylon bowed. These 3 alone, it seemed, were cast into the fatal fire. These 3 alone, it seemed, would suffer a fearful demise. But were they, Oh my soul, ever alone? Consider what this king did see: “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” The great reason for their victory was the effective presence and protection of Christ Himself. None are safe without Him, but all are safe who come to Him in faith. Do remember, dear reader, the presence of Christ in the midst of your own fiery trial! “I will never leave you nor forsake you” He said. This promise has not expired, and will never expire, through all eternity for those who love Him.

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine...when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you."
Isaiah 43:1-2

Monday, October 25, 2010


Better Left Broken

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise."

Psalm 51:17

God fixes things. Is He fixing you? Right from the beginning of the world He has been about setting things right. Adam was created first, without a wife, and the Lord said “it is not good that man should be alone, I will make him a helper (Genesis 2:18).” But our God’s grace in restoring and repairing is displayed even more vividly after man fell into sin. Our relationship with God was ruined by our rebellion. But God through Christ has undertaken to repair this by the Cross for all who believe: “For He Himself is our peace.” Where ruining sin abounded, restoring grace abounded much more. The whole of heaven and earth are even now awaiting this Divine Repair. God fixes things. It is, in fact, His name: “and you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, the Restorer of Streets to dwell in (Isaiah 58:12).”

The Scriptures, however, speak of one broken thing which God will not try to fix. Everywhere else He makes gracious provision for repair. But here alone He, as it were, restrains His very nature and leaves this thing broken. He is pleased, if you will, by its brokenness. This thing, dear reader, is a broken heart. So says the Psalmist: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17).” A broken heart in man is a great delight to God. He draws near when He finds it. “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart…(Psalm 34:18)” He who gives sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, strength to the lame and even life to the dead…comes to this broken heart and says, as it were, “ah…better, much better, if this is left broken.”  A broken heart is a beautiful thing to the eyes of God.

But what exactly is a broken heart? What do the Scriptures mean by a broken heart? How can I know if I indeed have a broken heart? These questions come to my mind. I suppose there are many more. At best we can scratch the surface of this important truth. But the answers to these questions should get us driving in the right direction.

A broken heart is, first of all, a sin-sick heart. A broken heart is broken under the weight and reality of its own sin. The holy law of God stands in righteous judgment over this heart that knows it is a sinner. “God be merciful to me a sinner” is the cry of a broken heart. This heart no longer seeks to justify sin. This heart no longer seeks to excuse its sin. This broken heart sheds holy tears of sorrow and godly repentance over his sin. Reader, does your own sin sicken you and sadden your soul? Does your heart cry, like Paul, “Oh wretched man that I am?” That, I believe, is a sign of a broken heart. God loves this broken heart because it is He, by His Spirit, who broke it. Charles Spurgeon, that great London Baptist preacher of the 19th century, said this in a sermon about the work of God’s Spirit in the heart of man: “The Holy Spirit lays bare his heart, lets him see the loathsome cancer that is there eating away his life, uncovers to him all the blackness and defilement of that sink of hell, the human heart, and then the man stands aghast.” A broken heart is a sin-sick heart. Have you, dear reader, stood aghast at the sight of your sin? If not, then I fear you have not a broken heart.

A broken heart is, secondly, a sin-slain heart. Knowledge of his sin and misery has left him helpless and hopeless of saving himself. He that has a broken heart knows he can do nothing to please God. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” He is, as Paul says to the Ephesians, “dead in trespasses and sins.” Reader, has your own sin crushed you and killed you? Or, in your own mind, is it not so bad as that. Every sin has death written on it. “The wages of sin is death.” Do you believe the words of this old and wise confession “All people are conceived in sin and are born children of wrath, unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and slaves to sin; without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they are neither willing nor able to return to God, to reform their distorted nature, or even to dispose themselves to such reform?” A broken heart is a sin-slain heart. This heart sings, with the hymnist, “nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” A broken heart has given up all hopes of saving itself. Reader, do you believe this? If not, then I suspect you have not a broken heart.

A broken heart is, thirdly, a sin-surrendering heart. It longs to be rid of sin. “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” A broken heart longs for heaven, longs for God, longs for Christ. A broken heart wants be rid of all the remnants of sin within, “earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven (2 Cor. 5:4).” Dear reader, are you ready to leave every sin this very moment? The broken heart is like Moses who chose “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin…for he looked to the reward (Heb. 11:25).” The broken heart says, with Augustine, “Lord, save me from that wicked man, myself!” Do you desire to be saved from yourself, your sin, your corruption, and all your evil desires? If not, dear reader, you have not a broken heart.

Finally, a broken heart rests in the only Savior for sinners, Jesus Christ. Broken hearts come to Jesus Christ. They say, with the Psalmist “My flesh and my heart fail me, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26).” My dear reader, if you are seeking to deal with your sin in any other way than coming to Christ, you have not a broken heart.  It must be said of you, as Peter said to Sorcerer, “your heart is not right in the sight of God (Acts 8:21).” . Believe this: Jesus Christ only dwells in broken hearts. A broken heart is the closest thing to heaven on earth. God dwells there. “But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word (Isaiah 66:2).” Listen to these words of the Puritan pastor Thomas Watson: "Faith lives in a broken heart. 'He cried out with tears, Lord, I believe.' True faith is always in a heart bruised for sin. They, therefore, whose hearts were never touched for sin, have no faith. If a physician should tell us there was a herb that would help us against all infections, but it always grows in a watery place; if we should see a herb like it in colour, leaf, smell, blossom, but growing upon a rock, we should conclude that it was the wrong herb. So saving faith always grows in a heart humbled for sin, in a weeping eye and a tearful conscience." God loves a broken heart. It is, in fact, the one thing that is better left broken.

Thursday, September 2, 2010



“I have been young, and now am old…”
Psalm 37:25a

I don’t know how old David was when he penned those words above. Somewhere “over the hill” I suppose. Clearly he was mature enough to have gathered some experience and wisdom in the things of this life. "I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread." David’s age and personal experience lend weight to his argument and appeal. Time can be a great tutor. We instinctively trust those whose thoughtful teaching is drawn from the deep well of a long life. The observations of those who are older are like road maps handed down to the younger in the journey of life.  Rejecting the good advice of older folks can be ruinous.  Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, went astray when he “rejected the advice that the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him (1 Kings 12:8).”

I gather from this that the experiences and observations of older Christians can and should be passed along to those who are younger in the faith. King David is saying in this Psalm, as it were, “allow me tell you what I’ve seen.” Those who have walked with the Lord longer should have something helpful to pass along to those that find themselves nearer the beginning of this path. Jesus seemed to have a special love for children. He gathered them around Himself saying “let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them.” Christians should love every believer, but especially those whose faith is young or newly born. Hence John, pouring forth loving counsel in his first epistle, in 5 short chapters does 9 times specifically address the “little children.

I have been a Christian myself for just over 20 years. By some standards I’m still in the “young” category. Frankly, I still have much to learn and much more to grow. I certainly have not “arrived.” I deeply appreciate the good counsel and sound advice I have received along the way from those far more mature as Christians than I ever hope to be. Yet 20 years seems long enough to have something to say to the younger saints. Though not as old as some, I am older than some, and would thus like to pass along a few tips to new Christians. I am not going to defend each of these points with a Biblical text or with endless quotes. My purpose is merely to share a few observations and suggestions in the simple spirit of “I have been young, and now am old…” This is what I have seen. These suggestions are not arranged in any particular order of importance. I simply wrote them down as they came to me. The fact that there are “10” was mostly unplanned.

My advice for new Christians:

1. Find a good local church, join it, and get involved. Without getting into too much detail about what is a “good” church, suffice it to say that they will believe in the authority of God’s Word and teach it. The pastor will preach the gospel and tell you how to live as a Christian also. But my main point is this: join and get involved. Do not be forever shopping and hopping from church to church looking for that perfect expression of the “ideal” church you have in your mind. I have rarely found a mature Christian, active and useful to the Lord, that is not connected with and serving within a local church. Become a member and find something to do.

2. Make friends with an older Christian and get to know them. If you are male, find an older and mature Christian man to befriend. Ladies…find a mature Christian woman and get to know her. Ask them to meet you for breakfast. Find out what their interests are and see if you can strike up some common ground for discussions and friendship. This doesn’t have to be a Bible study. I am simply suggesting you find someone further down the Christian road than yourself, and learn to tag along with them when you can. Some of the most helpful experiences of my younger Christian life occurred while sitting across a breakfast table at a local restaurant with some older believers.

3. Begin the life-long habit of daily devotions. By this I mean that you should make daily time for Bible reading and prayer. Pick a time that you can be consistent. Use a Bible reading plan to help you make steady progress through the Word. In my eagerness as a young Christian, I actually wrote out my own plan for reading the Bible. I still have this in my Bible today. But you can use any number of plans already made. Church and good preaching are important, but I have never met a healthy growing Christian that is not regularly reading his/her Bible and spending time in prayer. How long every day? I will leave that for you to prayerfully consider. If you want to read the whole Bible in a year, it will involve reading about 4 chapters a day. But quality time is more important than mere quantity. While reading, think about areas of your life that need to change to match what God is saying in Scripture. If you do this, you will grow. By the way, if you don’t have a cover for your Bible, pick one up. Make sure it has a pocket or room for a little notebook and a pen.

4. Keep a journal/notebook. I suggest you keep a little notebook in which you keep track of your Bible reading and notes. If you always read in the same place, just leave this notebook there with your Bible. Otherwise, make sure it is small enough to slip into your Bible cover. Inside, record the date and what you read. If you have time, write down any specific verses that spoke to you and what thoughts came to mind. Take this notebook with you to church and any other studies you attend and use it to write down notes in. In the BACK, write down any particular things you are praying about. I wouldn’t include anything too personal or private, as this book could be lost. With that in mind, put your name and contact information inside the front cover, just in case. It might not seem important now, but over the years I believe this habit will bear fruit and you will find yourself more productive in your reading, diligent in your prayers, and generally more knowledgeable in your Christian walk. I can recall how I would write down my thoughts on particular verses that struck me. I still have this journal, and I still employ this method of learning and reading.

5. Memorize Scripture. I recommend, along with your little notebook, that you purchase some 3x5 lined note cards. When you read a verse that is especially helpful, write it down on these cards and begin to commit the verse to memory. Go slow. Have some cards with you wherever you go. Having God’s Word memorized will strengthen your faith and equip you to share it like no other discipline I know.

6. Get involved in some mid-week Bible study or group. It is a long time between Sundays. Meeting together, when possible, with other Believers ‘mid-week’ will keep you accountable, help you to keep in touch with one another’s needs, and allow you additional opportunities to study and pray. I can tell you from my own experience that long absence from any sort of weekday involvement with other Christians tends toward a drying and dulling of your spiritual life. One of the first signs that a Christian is beginning to backslide is their absence from the prayer meeting. If your job or schooling makes this impossible (and it might), and you cannot make any changes in your schedule to allow it, then at least try to contact another Christian by phone or meet for breakfast at some point in the week. If your church does not offer such a meeting, speak to your pastor, offer your own home or apartment as a meeting place, and volunteer to get the word out to others. Have a mature Christian lead a little study with you and a few others if necessary.

7. Get involved in some good works. Give a little time to helping a local charity. Volunteer some time with a food bank. Visit a homeless shelter. Write letters to someone who needs encouragement. One of the best ways to combat discouragement is to focus your attention on the needs of others. You are in a spiritual battle my friend. And one of the key strategies of our “enemy” is to get us absorbed in our own issues and struggles so that we are virtually useless to those around us. Plan to do something good for someone else every week.

8. Share your faith. Pray for and look for opportunities to tell others about Jesus Christ. Invite a friend to church. Take home a handful of tracts from church and have them handy so you can give them out when the opportunity arises. I have gone door to door with a Pastor, handing out information about the church. I have distributed tracts in a downtown area with a friend. Don’t be afraid that you might not know the answer to a question. You can always say “I don’t know.” Then ask someone who does. The very activity of telling others the gospel, about how you came to know the Lord, and inviting them to church will mature you and strengthen you in your walk. Don’t be discouraged with what appears to be limited results. Leave that with the Lord. Just keep spreading the seeds.

9. Read some good books. Just as befriending and older Christian will prove useful, I believe “befriending” some of the important Christian books of our past will go a long way in helping you mature as a Christian. I could recommend some. But really, I think you would do best to ask the advice of your own pastor or that mature Christian friend for some suggestions. Your church may have a library. If so, use it. Read something every day if you can. Keep 1 book in the car at all times, as you never know when you might be stuck somewhere and have some unexpected time on your hands. Write down what you are reading in that notebook that I suggested back in tip #4.

10. Remember the Lord’s Day. This one may seem strange to some Christians. But I would suggest to you that a careful remembering of the Lord’s Day (Sunday) to keep it special is an important element to your spiritual maturity and growth. Granted, this is largely forgotten today. At best, one hour on Sunday is reserved for church, and the rest of the day is typically spent on recreation or personal entertainment. I truly believe this is one of the key reasons why there is so very little true Christian maturity in our generation. You may disagree, and I don’t want to argue it here. But I can tell you from my own experience that Christians who generally treat Sunday like any other day – except for the hour they give for worship – rarely seem grow as quickly as those who improve this day by setting it aside for the Lord. Use this day to rest and refresh your body and your soul. Use this day to serve others and better prepare yourself to be a blessing to those around you. Habitually attending a morning and evening worship service is a very helpful way to protect this day from other encroachments. And if you must work this day, I highly recommend you pick some other day during the week and treat it equally as carefully and respectfully in honor of the Lord.

If you are reading this and are not a Christian, it is the sincere desire of my heart that you would embrace the provision God has made for sinners like you and I in the Person of Jesus Christ. The punishment that we deserve fell upon Him. This is the gospel: “By His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5) and “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).” Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. And if you are a Christian, particularly a new believer, then my prayer is that you may “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).”  My young friend...“I have been young, and now am old…” I hope you will consider these suggestions, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.

Your soul’s well-wisher,


Saturday, August 7, 2010


Earrings and Ephods
How to really mess up a good thing…

"Then Gideon said to them, “I would like to make a request of you, that each of you would give me the earrings from his plunder….then Gideon made it into an ephod [a statue or image] and set it up in his city…. it became a snare to Gideon and to his house."
Judges 8:24, 27

Grace made Gideon a godly leader and great judge. Hebrews 11 speaks of him, and others, who “out of weakness were made strong” (Hebrews 11:34). Though he began fearful, yet he became faithful. God made him into the man he needed to be. Soldiers followed him, enemies feared him, and they all cried “the sword of the Lord and of Gideon (Judges 7:20)!” Thus the Angel of Lord prophesied truthfully when approaching Gideon hiding in the winepress and saying of him “The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor! (Judges 6:12)” So great was the esteem of Gideon in the eyes of Israel that they wanted to make him king. But Gideon would not submit, for he wanted all the glory to go to God. “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you, the Lord shall rule over you (Judges 8:23).”

But choice men sometimes make foolish choices. Gideon, being careless of the spiritual consequences, made an image of the earrings they had plundered and “set it up in his city.” These harmless adornments became the occasion of horrible decay: “it became a snare to Gideon and to his house.” The gold which was a token of God’s salvation became a temptation to Gideon’s soul.

What is the spiritual lesson here? I suspect there are many. But one thing that strikes me is this: we need just as much grace to manage our blessings from God as we do to manage our burdens from God. A special watchfulness over the heart is needed as much in triumphs as it is in trials. Satan took special note of Job’s wealth and health. While God is blessing, our enemy is planning. If the Devil cannot slay you in the battle, he may nevertheless snare you in the victory. Beware, Christian, of how you handle the success God gives you. This plunder was safe when it hung beneath the ears, but it became a snare when it was constantly set before the eyes. Boasting can quickly ruin God’s blessings. "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).” When the earrings became an ephod the focus shifted from what the Lord had done for Gideon to what Gideon had done for the Lord.

Much is written, and rightly so, on managing conflicts and trials to the glory of God. We need grace to praise and thank the Lord while under the shadow of dark Providences. We must learn to humble ourselves under the mighty Hand of afflictions and bless the God who not only “gives” but sometimes “takes away [Job 1:21].” James teaches us to cultivate that spirit that will “count it all joy” when various trials and troubles come. But Christians must learn how to manage their triumphs, as well as their troubles, to the glory of God. We must learn “how to be abased” but we must also learn “how to abound (Phil. 4:12).” Oh my soul, be very careful with the gifts of God. Think often of Paul’s question to the Corinthians “What do you have that you did not receive? (I Cor. 4:7)” and his humble assessment of his accomplishments: “by the grace of God I am what I am (I Cor. 15:10).” Remember Mary who, though greatly blessed among women, “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19).” Success, to an unwatchful heart, may quickly become a snare.

Oh my soul…what are the blessings you enjoy this day? Pray for grace and a humble heart to manage them well, lest they become a snare to your soul. God’s blessings are sometimes trials in disguise. The “tree of life” was a blessing, but also a trial. The “manna” in the wilderness was a blessing to Israel, but also a trial and a test, as Moses told them “that He might test you to do you good in the end (Deut. 8:16).” Wise Solomon said to his soul “Come now, I will test you with pleasure (Eccl. 2:1).” The Lord may test us as much with pleasure as He does with pain. Even the unbeliever knows some of this testing by blessing, “not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4).”

Gideon was a man of faith, but he failed to manage God’s blessing well. Reader…how are you managing the Lord’s blessings in your life? It is possible to mess up a good thing. Grace sweetens trials and sin can sour blessings. Without taking time to develop these thoughts, allow me to just share in closing several cautions and directions. They are as much for my own soul as for yours.

1) Make much of God’s grace in all your blessings

2) Stay especially close to God’s commandments in the midst of your blessings

3) Take special care how you publish God’s blessings

4) Whatever your blessings, let the cross of Christ be your only boast

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Friend, go up higher

Luke 14:10

What a keen observer of human nature was our Lord Jesus Christ. He who made man, and had now become Man, was and is the greatest interpreter of man. Here He was a guest in the home of a Pharisee. Here, if ever, He might be excused for a few moments from serving souls. Here He might be allowed some remission from His relentless ministry to man. And yet as they came to be seated for supper our text observes that He “noted how they chose the best places (Luke 11:7).” Even when our Savior was not speaking, still He was always watching. The Psalmist says “His eyes behold His eyelids try the children of men (Psalm 11:4).” So it ever was with our Lord. Many foolishly flatter themselves. Some folks think that because they cannot hear God, therefore God cannot see them. Do not be deceived. “He who formed the eye, shall He not see (Psalm 94:9)?” Even when Christ was not speaking, yet He was watching.

And Jesus proceeded to teach them something. Yet it is, upon first reading, one of the strangest lessons of our Lord in all of Scripture. In the midst of such unconcealed pride we would anticipate a lecture like “the loveliness of lowliness.” Or perhaps He might develop a prolonged polemic on the “devilish disease of pride”. These hypocrites had cornered themselves with their own conceit. Christ could clearly score an easy point on His opponents. The puffed up Pharisees and lawyers were like sitting ducks in a pool of their own pride: “They chose the BEST places.” Yet strangely our Savior does not take the easy shot. They were like fish in a bucket, and Jesus seems to let them off the hook. Rather than aiming His arrow of rebuke at their arrogant hearts, He seems to present them with an even better way to secure their lust for honor. “When you are invited” He tells them “go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’” Jesus says to them, it seems, “if you want honor, recognition and praise…let Me show you a better way.” And having taught them this trick, He tops it off with “Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.”

What is the real meaning of this mysterious message? Why does He who said elsewhere “blessed are the poor in spirit” here tell this company the quick road to “glory in the presence of all?” Why does Christ seem to cater to their crust on this occasion? How are we to understand this strange sermon?

First, it seems there is a hint of sarcasm here. Christ appears to be telling these false-faced honor-loving lawyers and Pharisees that if what they really want is worldly respect….here…let Me show you a better way. It is a sobering truth that the Lord sometimes gives you exactly what you want. Be careful what captivates your heart, you may just get it. Israel wanted a king, and the Lord granted their foolish and rebellious request. They begged for meat in the desert, and the Lord gave it, according to Moses, “until it comes out your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the Lord who is among you (Numbers 11:20).” If we love money, we might very well get it, and all the evil that comes with such a love as well. If we want fame, we may very well get it, and all the pressures and impurities that such prominence often produces. Christian…if what you really want from this life is more friends, more money, more influence, and more experiences…the Lord may let you have them, and it may cost you your soul. Want to be the most important person in your church? You may have it. Want to be the envy of your circle of friends? It may be within your reach. If the reward you want is glory now, Christ may grant it to you as to the hypocrite of whom He says “I say to you, they have their reward (Matt. 6:16).”

But I think the heart of this lesson lies somewhere else. Jesus is not really teaching us how to get what we want in this life. This story is not about worldly advancement or the secrets to social success. Christ is contrasting two radically different choices. The attitudes displayed around this table were typical of two entirely opposite ways of living in this world. Choosing “the best places” or choosing the “lowest place” is a metaphor for those who live for this life and those who live for the next. To seek the “best places” is the way of this world. To seek the “lowest place” is the way of Christ’s kingdom.  "The best places" are sought by those who "mind earthly things (Phil. 3:19)" but we are to have the "mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:16)."  Jesus is saying “take the low seat now.” Here, in the banquet of this world and this life, take the lowest seat. Don’t look for honor right now. Resist that natural pursuit of popularity. Be content with the humblest place, be satisfied with the station of a servant, and let others have the honors, glory and respect. Be willing to go unnoticed now. Moreover, be content to be mistreated, misunderstood and maligned. “Blessed are you,” said Jesus “when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven (Matthew 5:11).” The great danger we all face is that we want our heaven right now. But as Jeremiah said to his servant “Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not (Jeremiah 45:5).”

Christ’s very life modeled the true meaning of this message. He took for Himself the most humble seat in the house of humanity. Though being God Himself, He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:5).” His whole life was one of humble obedience, “even the death of the cross (2:8).” Had He chosen a throne on earth, no king could have risen and asked Him to step down. But He chose a cave in Bethlehem for a cradle and the epitome of poverty for parents. In birth, life and death Jesus came and sat down in “the lowest place.” But when Christ’s life was done, God the Father said to Him (as it were) “Friend, go up higher.” And then He was “highly exalted” and given “the name which is above every name (2:10).” And oh Christian soul, you who suffer and sorrow now, one day Christ shall say to you “Friend, go up higher!” Then all the sorrows of this world will be left behind, fears will be forgotten, groans will be gone. “For I consider” says Paul “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).”

Dear reader: which end of the table are you aiming for right now? Do you want the best places in this life? Do you want the world’s esteem, praises and honor? Are you ashamed to consider Christianity for fear of what your friends might think? Are you trying to fit in with the crowd? Those who choose honor now must face the shame of their choice later. Christ, in this story, mentions that some who aim high will be brought low. Oh the dreadful day approaches when Christ commands you to step down and “then you begin with shame to take the lowest place (Luke 14:9).” The lowest place on earth cannot compare to the lowest place in Hell forever. Oh humble your heart now and repent and believe in Jesus Christ. Then shall the true meaning of this message not be lost upon your soul. “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 14:11).” 

Monday, June 21, 2010


I just started learning the guitar.  Those who have done so can feel my pain.  Chords hurt.  My fingers ache.  The very thought of forming an "A" or "G" or "D" on those steel instruments of torture creates a sort of dread in my sore hand.  There is a constant tingling that now goes on in the tips of my fingers.  Pressing the strings is agony.  They say it will get more comfortable when calluses are developed.  Until then: OUCH!  It strikes me that our consciences are like this with sin.  At first it hurts.  It bothers us.  It feels uncomfortable and wrong.  But persistent sinning builds calluses on our heart and conscience.  What bothered us at first now hardly impresses us at all.  Soon we sin easily, comfortably, skillfully.  Have you grown comfortable with some sin?  Have I?  Surely we have.  Pray for tender consciences.  Pray for more pain when we sin.  I want calluses to develop on my fingers, but I dread the calluses of my soul that allow me to sin without pain.  O Lord...make me hurt again!

I saw a dead chipmunk yesterday.  There it lay: lifeless and hopeless.  The maggots, however, were FULL of activity.  They were swarming, chewing, wiggling, moving all over the poor dead creature.  Oh my soul...don't ever be alarmed that dead religion seems to be surrounded with furious activity by its followers.  The truth sometimes seems to be moving slowly.  But the truth is alive.  False religion is dead religion, no matter how much activity seems to be going on around it.

Some seem to mistake reading MUCH with reading WELL.  I think I have fallen into this from time to time.  Don't confuse these.  Reading well is not the same as reading much any more than speaking well is the same as speaking much.  Just because one eats much, we do not say he has eaten well.  Seek to read well, not to simply read much. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


When the Power Goes Out!

Somebody touched Me, for I perceived POWER going out from Me.
Luke 8:46

O my soul. Our passage may not be immediately striking.  Here toward the end of Luke 8 we find a sick woman and a healing Savior.  She touched His garment and was completely restored.  But others have been healed by Christ, and so we may be tempted to simply glance upon her case and move on.   But there is something special here.  There is something Christ discloses in this miracle that He typically conceals.  Here He reveals, in no uncertain terms, that the source of this work is HIS OWN POWER. 

Other servants of the Lord worked miracles through a "borrowed" power.  The Scriptures say that "The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people (Psalm 68:35)." To His own disciples Christ promised that He would "give" them power.  The enemies of Christ have, for a time, a "granted" power (Rev. 13:15).  To Pilate Christ said "you could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above (John 19:11)."  But here, in our text, we find Jesus Christ works by virtue of His own power. 

I perceived power going out from Me.” Let us take a moment then and consider carefully the power of Jesus Christ. 

What kind of power was this that flowed from Christ to this weary woman, and what kind of power is this that Christ offers to you and I?

1. It is a DIVINE POWER. This power, says Christ, was “from ME.” It is the power of the Omnipotent God Himself. It is the power of Eternal and Everlasting Divinity! Power before which angels fall and devils tremble. It is the power that brought all the worlds into existence in a moment. “For by Him [Christ] all things were created (Colossians 1:16).” No fair minded person can read the gospel accounts of Christ’s life and be unconvinced that He possessed in His own person the very power of God. Even nature knew His voice. “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him? (Matt. 8:27)” He healed the sick without medicine, fed five thousand with nothing but a few fish, predicted the future perfectly, knew men’s thoughts, forgave men’s sins, raised the dead. Even His own life He could end and begin again by His power. “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again (John 10:18).” The power of Christ is the power of God, for He is Divine, and His power is Divine Power. As it is written: “Christ, the power of God (I Cor. 1:24).”

2. It is an IRRESISTIBLE POWER. You can’t stop this power. Sooner could you snuff out the sun between your fingers than you could arrest even one ray of this irresistible power. Sooner could swallow all the water in the sea than you could stop even one drop of the power of Christ. You and I often try and fail. This power has NEVER failed. When this power proceeds from Christ every enemy must surrender and every opponent concede. “No one can restrain His hand (Daniel 4:35).” This woman had a seemingly incurable flow of blood, but it was no match for Christ’s flow of power. “I perceived power going out of Me.”

3. It is an INEXHAUSTIBLE POWER. Christ was already on the way to heal the dying daughter of Jairus when this woman reached out and touched Him. In fact, by the time she touched Christ, the daughter of Jairus was already dead, for the Scriptures say “while He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, ‘Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher (Luke 8:49).” Christ was on His way to raise the dead when this woman sought strength from Him. Never could her timing have been more ill managed. What strength, what energy, what unspeakable resources would be needed to raise this young girl back to life from death! Could Christ spare any power for another? Yet what does the text say? When she touched Him “she was healed immediately (Luke 8:47).” Christ is a wellspring of power without any bottom. One day by His power every dead body that ever lived will be raised, yet this shall not make the slightest dent into the resources of our Lord.

4. It is a SIN CONQUERING POWER. The power of Christ to remove this woman’s illness was but an illustration of His power to remove sin. Sin is the great sickness of mankind. We cannot remove it. We can’t even relieve it. And we do not recover from it. Jeremiah says that the heart of man is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9).” The word “desperately” in the Hebrew means, literally, “incurable.” So it was with this woman. She spent all her money on physicians, but to no avail. Men may expend all their energies and efforts for all their lives and never have the power to remove a single sin. But Christ’s power is sin-conquering power. “The Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins (Matt. 9:6).” This woman was losing her battle with illness, and all men lose their battle with sin unless they come to Christ. But once touch Christ and you discover “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).”

5. It is a FREELY OFFERED POWER. This poor woman who had nothing to give received the healing power of Christ. She had previously “spent all” and was utterly bankrupt as she pursued our Savior through the crowd. She had no obvious invitation. Christ was not looking at her. Yet so free and plentiful is the power of Christ that the mere touch of faith was sufficient for her to receive all she needed from him. Thus said the prophet to Israel “You who have no money, come buy and eat (Isaiah 55:1).” Thomas Watson, the puritan pastor, once said “Christ is the most inexpensive physician; He takes no fee. He desires us to bring nothing to Him but broken hearts.”

6. It is an IMMEDIATELY AVAILABLE POWER. Our text says, upon just the touch of the border of Christ’s garment, that “immediately her flow of blood stopped (Luke 8:44).” There was no delay in her recovery once she had connected with Christ. What? Will you wait for this power when it is immediately available to all who come? The power of Christ is never on backorder. Christ is more willing to save men than they are willing to come.

7. It is a SOUL CHEERING & PEACE PRODUCING POWER. Christ said to this woman “Daughter, be of good cheer, your faith as made you well. Go in peace.” There is nothing in the world so well-suited to cheer the soul as the power of Christ. All of the trials in the world cannot discourage the soul who leans on the power of Christ. “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).” No one knew such troubles as Paul. Yet what did he say? "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).” Paul knew the power of Christ. "And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9).” No soul can remain sad long, once convinced of the power of Christ.

8. It is an EMBOLDENING POWER. Those who meet this power must tell others about it. “She declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately (Luke 8:47).” Have you been in contact with the power of Christ? Tell someone! Whom have I told this very week of the power of Christ? Tell the world about the strength of the God who delivered you from sin. “Telling to the generations to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength…(Psalm 78:4).” Paul wrote to Timothy about this power. He said to him that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of POWER, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).”

9. It is a FEARFUL POWER. This power is as fearful as it is wonderful. As much as this power is FOR those who believe, this same power is AGAINST all who refuse. “His power and His wrath are against all who forsake Him (Ezra 8:22).” By Christ’s power He now opens to you the door of salvation. And by Christ’s power He shall one day close that door forever. Jesus is “He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens (Rev. 3:7).” Dear reader, the power of God is nothing to play with. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31).”

Personally I find the most fearful thing is that this power can be SO CLOSE and yet not be seen, we being blinded by our own willful unbelief. Crowds pressed around Christ, but for all we know only 1 reached out to touch Him. “The multitudes throng and press You” His disciples observed. “Somebody” touched Me, said Christ. Many were there. One reached out. Even after the miracle of the healing men were unmoved. While Christ was still speaking a servant came to announce the death of Jairus’ daughter. “Do not trouble the Teacher” (Luke 8: 49) he said. What…all this power and they still doubted? How about you? Will you not reach out and lay hold of Jesus Christ now? All His power is available to save you, if you will but come. But if you will not, then one day that very power will be set against you forever.

10. Finally, this POWER IS RECEIVED BY FAITH ALONE. Jesus said to the woman of our text “your faith has made you well (Luke 8:48).” Not her works…she did none. Not her strength…she had none. Not her riches…she owned none. Not her courage…she trembled! Not her reputation…she is given no name other than “a woman.” FAITH in Christ saved her. Faith alone was her hope. Oh sinner…come as you are…but by all means come by FAITH! Well said the hymnist “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” Nothing more than faith you need…but nothing less will do. Faith lays hold of Christ and all His power. It is a power before which nothing stands. It is a power by which all may be moved.

Dear reader…have you this faith? Has the saving power of Christ gone out to you? If so, then like the woman in the story, “be of good cheer, your faith has made you well, go in peace.”

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Gimme That Old Wine Religion

"And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’ ”" Luke 5:39

We want a religion that is like old wine: reliable, dependable, and consistent. We want a religion that doesn’t change much, and likewise doesn’t change us too much either. We want a religion that is consistent with our traditions, our habits, our way of thinking, our system of values and priorities. Simply put, we want a religion without surprises. “Gimme that Old Wine Religion!” we cry.

But then in comes Jesus Christ. He turns the tables of our traditions on their heads. He calls mankind to radical change and repentance. He upsets our way of doing things, our way of thinking, behaving, and living. He brings radical grace into the lives of the undeserving. He says “Man, your sins are forgiven you (Luke 5:20)” and calls us into a surprising walk of faith “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house (Luke 5:24).” And like those observing these events we are filled with fear and say “We have seen strange things today (Luke 5:26)!” Christ disturbs our spiritual status quo.

The old is better” our stubborn hearts stammer, willfully resisting this radical intrusion into our religious rest. We like it the way things were. We like a God we can control. One who does things the way we are used to. Who shares the same system of justice, right and wrong, deserving and undeserving. We pick and choose our converts from the commendable classes. But Jesus sits with the sinners. He offers forgiveness to the lowest of the low. He dares to bring into His own fellowship and family the dregs of society. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinner, to repentance (Luke 5:32).” 

New wine breaks the old wineskins of our religious patterns. We want the old wine that does not demand any changes in our way of thinking about things. Old wine is safer, old wine is comfortable, old wine makes no demands and expects no response! Gimme that old wine religion! We want our set times of fasting and prayers. This is the way it has always been done! With the Pharisees we question Christ “Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink (Luke 5:33)?” We prefer a long distance relationship with God, rather than the radical intimacy of coming near to Jesus Christ and rejoicing in His grace.

Old garments would be torn by new material, and our old sins would be torn if ever we were born again through faith in Christ. “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old (Luke 5:36).” I don’t want changes, I don’t want to tear the old garments of my comfortable religion, I don’t want to be stretched. That living, changing, growing new wine of reckless faith in Christ would break me.

Praise God He changed me! He didn’t pour the new wine of regeneration into my old-ways-wineskin. He gave me new skins: a new heart, and new life, a new love. This new religion isn’t safe, it isn’t easy, it isn’t comfortable…but it is the only one which God approves. Oh my soul…no more old wine religion! I had said “the old is better” because I was terribly afraid of what the “new” would do. But now I want the new! I want the changing, the fearing, the crying, and the rending of my old sinful heart and practices as I grow into the new fabric of holiness, trust and mercy.

Dear reader, how about you? Are you still comfortable with your old wine religion? Do you like a relationship with God that is predictable, easy and undemanding? That old religion will never surprise you and it will never save you. The new way of faith in Christ brings shocking salvation to all who believe. “Will you keep to the old way (Job 22:15)?” Will you continue to resist new grace, crying out from your soul “the old is better?” The old and unchanging wine of a religion built upon self-righteousness and works is incompatible with the new covenant of God’s grace. New wine religion requires me to change every day. I have to grow. Sins must be killed, obedience must be kindled. I don’t know what God is going to do next in my life. But it is a new life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Mark 12:37

“And the common people heard Him gladly.”

A few words to encourage the souls of them that publish Christ

I write these words to minister to the hearts of those involved in publishing Christ to the world. By “publish” I mean any and all who proclaim Jesus Christ. You may do so from a pulpit. You may do so also as a teacher, a neighbor, an employee, a friend, a father or mother, a son or daughter, a young man or woman, or an aged saint in the faith. You may do so as a writer, a blogger, a singer or an artist. Proclaiming Christ is the business of every Christian, but there is a great variety in the manner and method which the Lord has equipped believers to do so. And all who publish Christ meet with discouragements along the way, and these words are intended for your comfort.

In this passage Christ was being published and proclaimed, by none other than Christ Himself. He proclaimed Himself in a parable in the beginning of the chapter. He proclaimed Himself by a puzzle in the immediate context of our passage. Jesus said “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?” He set their minds to thinking about Christ. Is that not what you have done? You write of Him, you speak of Him, you try to imitate Him and acknowledge Him before a watching world. Here in a tract, there in a sermon, again and again in a lesson. Over coffee in the shop, over tea in the parlor, in an email, with a flyer, by a book…you have set others to thinking upon Christ.

Maybe you have met with much success. Praise the Lord! But most likely you have had your share of discouragements and disappointments as well. Here we find the Lord Jesus Christ Himself performing the office of a prophet and proclaiming Himself to men. Let us learn 3 things for our instruction and encouragement:

Learn that…

I. Those that publish Christ will not be gladly received by all men. The text says “And the common people heard Him gladly.” The crowd, that is, was pleased to hear Him. But this was said by way of contrast. The great throng was glad to hear Him, but the Scribes and Pharisees were not. What you say will not be well received by all men. What you write will sometimes be written against. Some will scoff, others mock, and many simply laugh and leave. Do not be surprised that your sermons are sometimes ignored and that your pleas do not impress. Do not wonder that even from within the circles of the church you will find some who oppose your efforts to proclaim Christ. Remember what our Savior said in Luke 6:26Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” The scribes were not glad that Christ spoke. Do you expect it otherwise for yourself? Dear reader, you who seek to publish Christ, but find your efforts often ill received; know that you are in the very company of Christ Himself.

II. Those that publish Christ sometimes will be hated by great men. “And the common people heard Him gladly.” Note: it was the “common” folks the “general crowd” that were pleased by Christ. Those in higher positions, those of greater authority, those of more means and influence all opposed the preaching of Christ. It is an interesting observation that when the nation of Israel was beginning to press into the Promised Land that the Holy Spirit says this of their enemies “all the kings who were on this side of the Jordan…gathered together to fight with Joshua and Israel with one accord.” The kings are singled out, though surely it was the soldiers who fought. But the kings especially hated them. Those with greater authority are often the most aggravated with the advancement of the kingdom of God. So it was with Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar and Herod and Nero and so forth. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His anointed (Psalm 2:2).” So it was with our Lord. “So they sent some of the Pharisees and the Herodians to catch Him (Mark 12:13).”

Paul and Barnabas found this out at Antioch. They preached the Word. They published Christ. But the Jews were “filled with envy (Acts 13:45)” and they “stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecutions against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region (Acts 13:50).” Notice: prominent women and the chief men. Things haven’t changed much in 2000 years.

You, who publish Christ, do not be surprised when great men or women oppose you. Do not be shocked by those who put on religious airs, who quote Scripture, who sit in churches sometimes, who have some measure of influence over the opinions of others when they stand against you to tear you down. Do not be discouraged when politicians and leaders distance themselves from you and your message.

III. But finally, be absolutely persuaded of this: those that publish Christ will be gladly heard by many men. “The common people heard Him gladly.” There was a listening and attentive crowd. Many were moved by His message. A great throng were hungering and thirsting after Him. There may be at any moment unnamed and unnoticed multitudes that have heard of Christ through you and rejoice. Our text simply says “the common people.” They may be the ordinary bunch. We do not know their names. They were not the high and mighty. They were not the people of great influence, great means, or great status. They were the “common people.” This is the way of the Lord. "For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty (1 Corinthians 1:26-27).”

Many more than you now know are listening as you publish abroad the Lord Jesus Christ. The Scriptures say “who can number the dust of Jacob?” And who, I say, can number the lives your words, your music, your lessons, your tracts, your sermons, your witness may have touched. Those “common people” may be some students in your school, some co-workers in the shop, an email recipient, a total stranger overhearing your conversation about Christ, an internet surfer thousands of miles away. They heard gladly! Keep up the good Word! “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly (Col. 3:16).” Sow bountifully! Cast the bread of life upon the waters of this world. “Blessed are you who sow beside all waters (Isaiah 32:20).”

Dear reader let this also remind us not to aim too highly with our message. Do you seek the praises of high men, dignitaries, the wealthy, the popular, and the influential? “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not (Jeremiah 45:5).” Christ called you to feed the lambs, not the giraffes. Publish Christ gladly among all classes of men, but especially among the common folks, amongst those who are sometimes otherwise neglected and the children, because “the common people heard Him gladly.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010



I turned 40 today. Funny, it feels just like any other day. I got up around 5:30, took out the dog, made some coffee, read a chapter from the Bible, a section in a book, and spent some time in prayer before beginning my work. I don’t really know what I expected 40 to feel like. But for those who haven’t hit 40 yet, I can tell you it feels just about the same as 39 did, just a little more so.

I turned 40 today. This, for those who may not know, means that I spent just about half my lifetime so far running from God. I was born into a Christian home and raised by godly Christian parents. I went to a Christian school and to church every Sunday (twice usually). But for my first 19 years on this earth I could not for the life of me understand Christians. They seemed to enjoy being Christians, I’ll give them that. But it made no sense to me. I figured they just didn’t know what they were missing out on. Not to mention the very thought of God just made me uncomfortable. So I kept running, kind of like a hamster on a wheel.

I turned 40 today. This means I have spent about half my life now getting to know the God I formerly ran from. My life changed forever about 20 years ago. The Bible text that best captures what happened to me is Ephesians 2:8-9For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” I was saved by God’s grace through a gift of faith in Jesus Christ. I did not expect to be saved, but the Lord saved me. The particular verse of Scripture He used was a few short words from the Old Testament book of Haggai: “Consider your ways!” I was living my “way.” I was headed in the way of destruction. I was on the road to Hell. “Consider your ways!” Christ Himself met me on that road. I’ve never been the same again. And now I get to spend the rest of my life getting to know Him. He still makes me uncomfortable…but in a different way, an inviting way, an accepted way.

I turned 40 today. I have a lovely wife whose outward beauty is surpassed only by her inward beauty, and whom I have enjoyed the company of for almost 17 years. I have four children, two boys and two girls. I love them so much and it is my heart’s desire and prayer that they would come to know my Savior as well. There are many other precious people that the Lord continues to bless me with: my parents and in-laws, my brother and his beautiful family, my church family who are all so dear to me, my other friends and wonderful acquaintances I have made along life’s way. I have a good job doing work that I enjoy. At age 40 I am quite humbled by the goodness of the Lord toward me and can say with David “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that you have brought me this far (2 Samuel 7:18)?”

I turned 40 today. That makes me a 40 year expert in the field of sin. I am not a great man. But I have a great Savior. I am a transgressor. But as I read in Mark 15:28 this morning, a quote from Isaiah 53, “He was numbered with the transgressors.” That is why I am what I am today. Christ died for me. And I died with Him. And if the Lord is pleased to give me 40 more years I want to spend them all getting to know Christ, and helping others to know Him too. Do you know Him? I do not ask if you have a religion, or a church, or if you have been baptized. Those may be good things. But do you know Christ? Or have you, like me, spent a good portion of your life running from Him? If so, “Consider your ways.” Where are you headed? What do you hope to accomplish? "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul (Matthew 16:26)?”

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Jeremiah 18:4
"And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make." 

Oh my soul. These 4 words - "he made it again" - proclaim a Sovereign Savior who has not allowed my sin to be the last words in my story. I ruined my life. He made it again. I polluted my heart. He made it again. I forfeited my soul. He made it again. The Lord God is not only the Creator. He is the re-Creator. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

These words remind me that every life is a gift of God. Whoever you are or wherever you are, God made you. Like the clay vessel in the potters house was made by him, so your life was made by God. “The Lord who made you and formed you from the womb,” says the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 44:2). He planned your birth. He chose your parents. He determined the hour of your first breath. He framed every circumstance and influence you ever had. “He made it.” Men proudly call themselves “a self-made man.” You did not make yourself. God made you. Rich or poor, black or white, male or female, healthy or sick…the Lord God made you. The very God who made the sun, moon and stars also made you a living soul. Have you given this much thought? Have you ever paused to consider that a holy God, for His own good pleasure, chose to make you? He did not have to. No force compelled your creation aside for the force of His own desire, His own will, His own plan. God made you. “The breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4).”

These words remind me also that every life has been wrecked and damaged by sin. If God is making “again” it can only be that we have ruined this gift of life by willful disobedience. We have polluted our souls in pursuing evil. "Truly, this only I have found: That God made man upright, But they have sought out many schemes.”" (Ecclesiastes 7:29) Not a day has gone by in which I have not willfully added to the ruin of my own soul. Not a moment passes that does not find me in some neglect of God’s law or some violation of His command. “Oh wretched man that I am” (Romans 7:24) is the cry of a soul that really understand the weight and seriousness of sin. Do you think your life successful? The only thing we are successful at is ruining our lives. I may have money, friends, influence, power, good works and a good name, but God has said “treasures of wickedness profit nothing (Prov. 10:2).” People today want a good life. What we need is a new life. "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" (Mark 8:36)

But these words finally remind me that our God alone can rebuild what we have ruined. “He made it again.” Oh my soul, and you my dear reader, have you engaged the help of this God who came and died and rose again to give you new life through faith in Jesus Christ? You have tried to rebuild on your own. You have sought to “build again the things [you] have destroyed (Gal 2:18).” You only make it worse. Repent and believe the gospel. What are you waiting for? Why do you linger? I fear that many today do not come to Christ because they really do not want a new life. They want a new wing added to their home, but they do not want to demolish their home and start again with God. You need a new foundation altogether, and His name is Jesus Christ. When God “makes it again” He does not make half a life, half a home, half a new creature. With God it is either all made new, or not at all. You must die to all that was before: old thoughts, old patterns and old priorities. Only the grace of God can do this. And He will do it for all who call on Him. "For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you." (Isaiah 41:13) Dear reader…linger no longer! Your life is not ruined beyond repair. His grace saved a wretch like me. I wrecked my life, but this is what He did for me through Jesus Christ: “He made it again.”  Praise be to God...Glory to God in the Highest....for "He made it again!"

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Killed by Kindness

Matthew 21:31
Jesus said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.’"

Love is kind. But there is a type of popular Christianity in the world today that is ironically cruel in its kindness. Not the generous and gracious kindness that looks out for the well-being of others, but rather a fiendish sort of friendliness which spares your feelings but forfeits your soul. It is a selfish kindness of sorts that avoids awkward confrontation because it abhors the unpleasant experience of being uncomfortable, even for a moment. This type of religion would never dare to openly offend. Its preaching is always pleasing; its atmosphere is always approving. It grants you not merely the right to your opinions, but the rightness of all opinions, so long as they are sincere. It is a sort of be-cordial-at-all-costs religion. Simply put, this religion tells no one they’re wrong.

Now whatever you wish to call this faith, it is certainly not Christian and it is certainly not kind. It may boast the same Bible, it may tout the same traditions, but it certainly cannot claim the same Christ. In the text above our Lord was exposing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. He told them a story of two sons. One said he would not obey the father, but afterwards repented and did. The second said he would obey, but afterwards did not. These Pharisees were like the second son. And just in case the story was not clear enough, Jesus looked these religious leaders in the eyes and said “tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.” Before YOU! It would be hard to imagine words more calculated to offend and upset.

O my soul, do you understand what you have read? The point of this parable is plain. Our minds miss the message because it is too painful to ponder. Let me state it bluntly: Heaven is for bad people who repent, hell is for “good” people who won’t. Do you think yourself a good person? So did these Pharisees. Are you basically kind, generous, and good to others? Hell is filled with similar folks whose lives were far too respectable to merit repentance in their eyes. Do you have a certain moral standard you try to model, a personal code of conduct as your creed, a list of do’s and don’ts by which you measure yourselves and others? Who doesn’t measure up in your mind? He or she, if they repent, enters heaven before you. “Tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.

Dear reader, are you bad enough to be a Christian? Or are you too good for the gospel? The only place men get to on the basis of good behavior is Hell. Heaven is for sinners who repent. I may not have spared your feelings, but I hope to save your soul. You may count me unkind. So be it. Better to be accounted cruel for telling the truth than to kill you with kindness. Better the somewhat bitter boldness of Christ than the sweet lies being served and swallowed in so many sermons today. Unless we repent, we cannot be saved. Continue just as you are, go on in the way you’ve been going, be true to yourself…but know this…“tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.”

Allow me another moment for 4 brief points of application:

1. Is it not clear that you and I have failed to divide this world up the way God does? We tend to split mankind into the blameless and the bad, the worthy and the wicked, the saint and the sinner. Christ says that the real difference is between those who repent and those who do not. The gospel does not call upon men to be nice; it calls all mankind to repent. C.S. Lewis once put it this way “We must not suppose that if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world." The religion of our culture calls all men to be kind. The religion of the cross calls all men to repent.

2. Is it not clear that there exists a wide and comfortable road that goes straight to Hell, made up of good people? This crowded course permits men and women from various religions to travel together, differing in their opinions of each other, but quite uniform in their opinions of themselves. On this path the moralist blissfully meanders and the righteous ramble along. Here the church goes chugs, proud of his churchly ways. Here the spiritual independent strolls, equally pleased that she can be just as good without it. Here the atheist gleefully glides, calmly convinced he can be quite good without God. All are Pharisees in their own way. None are particularly prone to repent. Each one is happily on their way to Hell. William Secker, Puritan pastor and author once characterized such travelers in this way “Many have passed the rocks of gross sins – who have suffered shipwreck upon the sands of self-righteousness.”

3. Is it not clear, dear reader, that there is still time to repent? Jesus’ words may have stung the self-righteous Pharisees, but it was a sting designed to drive them to repent. What about you? Have these words spoken to your soul? At the end of this chapter we read of the chief priests and the Pharisees that “they perceived that He was speaking of them (Matthew 21:45).” Is He speaking of you? Is He speaking to me? There is still time to repent. This will not always be the case. A hundred years from now the case will be settled forever. A thousand years from now it will be clear how important this moment was. In a million years will Christ’s words be crying out to your condemned conscience “tax collectors and harlots HAVE entered the kingdom of God before ME?

4. Finally, is it not abundantly clear that Christ came for sinners like us? Drink for the thirsty, food for the hungry, and Christ for sinners like you and I! Great sinners have already entered and more are yet to come. Christ Himself has said so. “Assuredly” He said “tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.” They enter…they enter!! Oh dear reader, will you not repent and believe the gospel and enter also? You can never be too bad to be saved, but you may sadly be too good. Are you bad enough to be a Christian? J.C. Ryle said this “Let it be a settled principle in our Christianity that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is infinitely willing to receive penitent sinners.”