Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Eat This Book in 2015

If you don't plan to feed your soul in 2015, you're likely to suffer from spiritual anemia.

Jesus made it very clear in Matthew 4:4, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

So, right about now is a great time to make a plan. If you want to peruse a plethora of options, you can find them here.

If you want a really simple approach, you can print out a copy of this Bible bookmark and stick it in your Bible. Check off the books as you finish them, and you'll easily know what ground you've covered and where to go next.

So, if you eat the Word in 2015, do you know what you can expect to happen? You have God's word that you will experience blessing. Rootedness and stability. Soul-satisfaction. Fruitfulness. Durability. Soul-flourishing.

Psalm 1:1-4
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Sound good? Are you hungry? Eat this book in 2015.

Monday, December 29, 2014

How Not To Make Disciples

If nothing else, let's make this one resolution for 2015: that we will actually seek to make disciples, not just read or think or talk about making disciples.

A convicting and refreshingly clear video of Francis Chan: 



Matthew 28:18-20
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

McGarvey Christmas Letter

Dear family & friends,

Merry Christmas! For the annual McGarvey family round-up, we’ll go with a sort of year-in-pictures / kid interview format.

I’d love to begin with a picture that captures my sentiments exactly for my sweet wife of 18 years.

Amen!
Hannah recently put together a little slide show of pictures of us for our 18th anniversary. One of the things Beth said after viewing it captures well how very gracious God has been. She said, “As I watched the slideshow, I realized that it didn’t kick up any bad or painful memories.” What grace to produce and preserve such peace in our marriage over the years!


I was a pirate in a former life. Beth was an indie rocker. We're perfect for each other.
This covenant love has produced quite a lot – most notably these five wonderful image bearers:



Ben (3) is one funny guy. He keeps us all smiling.
Do not -- I repeat -- do not try to take this guy's burger. He might bite!
Actually, he's quite the gentlemanly defender and protector.
Ben sometimes moonlights as a boy-king in the Far East.
Excerpts from the interview with Ben: 

If you were stranded on a desert island for a year what three things would you want to have? 
"Trains."
"What else, Ben?"
"It’s just trains."
"You need 2 more things."
"Sand."
"There would be plenty of that already there."
"Buckets, and a shovel."
           
What is your favorite thing about our family? "Mommy"
What are the most important qualities in a friend? "Mommy"
What do you want to be when you grow up? "Oh, maybe a monster."
If you could travel to one place? "Barnes & Noble"

What are your dreams for your life?
"Uh, dreams? I dreamed about mom."
"What did you dream?"
"I cried."
???

Favorite food? "Goldfish" (he was eating them at the time)
Favorite drink? "Apple juice."
Favorite vegetable? "Probaly broccoli"
Favorite superhero? "Oh! The Incredibles!"
Favorite color? "Oh. It’s probaly orange."
Favorite person? "Mommy!"
Favorite toy? "Trains"
Favorite thing to do? "Play with trains"

Jonathan "Jono" (7) is a wonderful combition of meekness and tenacity.

Jono got to go to his first Phillies game this year!
You never know what will emerge from the basement on Saturday mornings. 
Pronto Pups! An essential ingredient in the special "Dude Time" Dad has with Jono in MI on vacation.
Excerpts from the interview with Jono (7):

The desert island Q:
"Food -- healthy, and water, and ... supplies?"
"That last one was way too general."
"A metal detector."

If you could be in a movie you’ve seen, what character would you be? Why?
"Big Hero Six." (He hasn’t seen this movie.) "And Fred."
"Why Fred?"
"Because he’s cool and he can jump super high and shoot fire out of his mouth. He’s Fredzilla."

What is the hardest part about being your age?
"That I always have to clean up. And going to school."

What is the best part about being your age?
"I get to play Legos a lot. And I don’t have to have that much homework."

What is your favorite Bible verse and/or truth about God?
"John 3:16 ... and Eph 6:1-2"
To that second one, “Really?”
“Well, I SOMETIMES do it.”

If you could be an animal for a day, which one would you choose?
(without hesitation) "A Florida panther because they have super stealth, night vision, retractable claws, and they have really far jumping and they can climb trees very well, and they have really cute babies – BUT NOT THE BOYS!" (i.e. the boys don’t have the babies)

If you could have a time machine, what time in history would you visit?
"Definitely not the Pharaoh time, cause he would try to kill me."

If you could be a superhero, which one and why?
"Hulk, Well, no. Colossus. Because he’s superstrong, metal folds out on him and he’s invincible."
"Why do you want to be invincible?"
"Actually, I want to be Fred."

When are you the happiest?
"When I get to go to bed. And sleep in. And when I will be in heaven."

What is your favorite time of the day?
"Summer." (?)

What is your favorite thing about our family
"That they’re all hilarious." (Right back at you, Mr. Summer-is-my-favorite-time-of-day!)

If genie granted you 3 wishes, what would they be?
"Nothing, nothing, and nothing. I don’t want anything. I have plenty."

Would you want to ask for something for someone else?
"Shoes for the needy. Clothes. Food."

What do you want to be when you grow up
"An animal scientist."

If you could travel to one place, where would it be?
"Australia, because of the animals, like Tasmanian devils. I would go with armor on, because they (the animals) would attack me."

Do you have a joke to share?
"Okay. What do you call a rat that eats pie? A pirate."


Lily (10) is sweet, cheeky, spunky, and can climb like a monkey.

Lily painting an owl mug in MI during her special Daddy-Daughter date time. 
Lily's going to make a good momma someday!

Excerpts from the interview with Lily: 

Desert island Q – one year – 3 things: 
"My family, a lot of food, a Bible."

What do you think your husband will be like?
"Like you (dad) – that’s what I want." 
(I didn't prompt her. I promise! No children were bribed in the making of this Christmas letter.)

What’s your favorite childhood memory so far?
"My surprise 10th birthday party. I loved that Hannah and Talitha planned all the games." 

What is your favorite Bible verse?
"Psalm 100."
And favorite truth about God?
"To know that God is love."

What person in history would you like to meet and hang out with?
"Jesus, when he was calling all the little children to hug them. I want to hug Jesus."

When are you the happiest?
"When I get to hug mommy and daddy."

What is your favorite time of the day?
"When, on a Friday, I get home from school."

What are the most important qualities in a friend?
"They have to stick with you no matter what."

If genie granted you 3 wishes, what would they be?
"That I could fly. That I could snap my fingers like Mary Poppins and things would go back in order. A perfectly organized house."

What do you want to be when you grow up?
"A volleyball player or babysit animals – doesn’t matter what kind of animals."

If you could travel to one place?
"Either Niagra Falls, Angel Falls, or Victoria Falls."

Dreams for your life
"I want to three or four or five kids. I want to work with animals and study nature."

Do you have a joke to share?
"What did the casket say to the other casket? Is that you, coffin?"

Favorite food?
"Broccoli cheddar soup (but not in a bread bowl). Rice & angel hair spaghetti."


Sam (12) is our resident lawyer, comedian, and Marvel Comics expert.

Sam and his impressive replica of Olaf.
"007" Sam and his partners in crime-fighting
We've experimented with some new forms of discipline this year.
Excerpt from the interview with Sam: 

Desert island – one year – 3 things:
"A luxury yacht."
"Sam, you're stuck on this island for a year. No escape vehicles."
"Is it like a big island, or a small island with just like a palm tree and a coconut?"
"A smaller island, and yes, with a palm trees and coconuts." 
"Okay. Bear Grylls, all the people in my immediate family who would WANT to be there with me (nice of him to give each of us the choice), and food -- enough food and water for one year. And, a hang glider – so I can fly around the island. No, no! A flying squirrel suit! And a jet pack."
           
What is your favorite Bible verse and/or truth about God?
"That he’s always there for you – even when you feel like there’s no hope or something really bad has happened. No matter what’s happened, he’ll never leave you or forsake you."

If you could be an animal for a day, which one?
"A penguin – so I would actually have an excuse for liking the cold so much. And you wouldn’t make me wear a coat."

If you could have a time machine, what time in history would you visit?
"Is this like a normal time machine, or is this like the DeLorean?"
"Either one."
"I'd go to the future. BACK to the future! Probably to see where my life would be in a few years. So I would know if I need to kill a butterfly in the past."
"WHAT?"
"You know, if you do one thing different in the past it changes the entire time stream. So, if I killed a butterfly in the past, my future would be different."

What person in history would you like to meet and hang out with?
"You, dad. (again, no bribes were distributed in the making of this Christmas letter) ... Jesus. When he raised Lazarus from the dead. Also to be there a bit before to see when Lazarus died."

If you could be a superhero, which one and why?
"Quicksilver – because he’s hilarious and he’s super fast. He’s so fast that everything around him seems to be in ultra slow motion."

Favorite movie:
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Avengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy"

When are you the happiest?
"When my dad isn’t peppering me with questions for the Christmas letter."
           
What is your favorite time of the day?
(with a smirk) "Summer." (we had both gotten a kick out of Jono's "summer" answer)
           
If genie granted you 3 wishes, what would they be?
"Infinite wishes! (I’ve been preparing for that for SO LONG!)"

What do you want to be when you grow up?
"I’m not really sure. Whatever God has planned for me. ... I’d like to act in a movie."

If you could travel to one place?
"Either England, so we can hunt wild boars in a coffee shop (sorry, that's an inside joke) or New Zealand with dad – he has to be there."

Dreams for your life:
"That I will have enough money to buy my kids and my siblings' kids the best Christmas and birthday presents, and I’ll be THAT uncle. To have enough money to buy my dad a log cabin in the mountains where he can write books. And enough money so I and all my siblings and all our kids can come and visit GPA and GMA."


Hannah (14) is hard-working, conscientious, athletic and artistic.


Special daddy-daughter date time at Craig's Cruisers in MI on vacation
Hannah made 2nd team all-conference in volleyball. Beth coached the team this year.
Excerpts from the interview with Hannah: 

Desert island – one year – 3 things:
"Not a book! Pocket knife, change of clothes, and rope."

What do you think your husband will be like?
"I don’t know. Athletic. Outgoing. Considerate. Hard-working. Wants a lot of kids! Follows Jesus."

What is the hardest part about being your age?
"Having to babysit my younger siblings."

What is your favorite Bible verse?
"Philippians 4:13 & Isaiah 41:10."
Truth about God?
"He never sleeps and I can pray to him at any time because he’s always there." 

If you could be an animal for a day, which one?
"A mountain lion or grasshopper."

If you could have a time machine, what time in history would you visit?
"Back to the garden to tell Eve not to eat the fruit! ... The birth of Jesus, and when he was doing his miracles."

When are you the happiest?
"When we’re doing something as a whole family, like playing a sport or doing a craft or when we're on vacation."

What is your favorite time of the day?
"When I get to go to sleep."

What is your favorite thing about our family
"That we’re crazy and energetic."

What are the most important qualities in a friend?
"You can talk to them about anything; loving, funny."
           
If genie granted you 3 wishes, what would they be?
"The ability to fly, be 6’2”, and read people’s minds."

What do you want to be when you grow up?
"A kindergarten teacher, then stay-at-home mom (of 6 kids!), and a basketball or volleyball coach (like mom!)."

Favorite food?
"Broccoli cheddar soup and wings."


If you made it this far, you are to be commended! I think this is our longest Christmas letter to date.

As we head into 2015...


May the LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you his peace (Numbers 6:24-26) ... peace that only comes through Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6-7). He died in our place on the cross, in order to reconcile us to God and bless us with every spiritual blessing. May you richly experience that peace and those blessings over this Christmas season and in the year to come!

With much love,
The McGarveys -- Chris, Beth, Hannah, Sam, Lily, Jono, Ben

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Purity Thursday: The Lies of Lust, A Siren Song

If you're familiar at all with Greek mythology, you've heard of the Sirens. They were beautiful creatures that would lure sailors to certain death with their beautiful songs. Odysseus and his crew sailed by them in Homer's epic tale. Odysseus stuffed his fellow sailors' ears with wax to guard them from this suicidal temptation. He then had them lash him to the mast under orders not to untie him no matter what.

This myth is obviously a powerful illustration of the nature and power of lust's temptations. They appear beautiful, but they will eat you alive.

I recently ran across a song called "Sirens" by The Grey Havens (all you LOTR fans know where that name comes from!) on Justin Taylor's blog. See his post to find a helpful introduction, an opportunity to download the song for free, the video embedded below, and the lyrics for the song.

The lyrics are great. Be sure to read them all. Here is the chorus, a great example of how to fight for purity:
Hold on, hold on, my heart 
You once were full and sang of grace 
Hold on, hold on, my heart 
You’ve tasted joy that’s more than this
Amen. Get this song in your head to help drown out the "Siren song" of lust when her beautiful, deadly melody begins to rise. 




Friday, December 12, 2014

Thanksgiving Assessment

I recently found these questions from Paul Tripp both convicting and helpful.
  • Do you find it easier to complain than to give thanks?
  • Are you easily irritated and quickly impatient?
  • Do mundane hassles get under your skin?
  • Would the people who live nearest to you characterize you as a thankful person or a complaining person?
  • Do you look at your world and find many reasons to complain because things aren’t going your way?
  • Do you look at your world and find yourself blown away at the many reasons you have every day to give thanks?
  • Do you view yourself as one who has been constantly short-changed and neglected?
  • Do you view yourself as one who has been showered with blessings?''
  • How often do you grumble “If only I had _____” or “I wish that _____ was different”?
  • How often do you whisper thanks to God or communicate thanks to those around you?
I'm not encouraged by my honest answers to these questions. I need to repent and I need grace! But God promises grace to the humble (see James 4:6). Sometimes what we most need is to see the pride underneath our ungrateful spirit. Then we can repent, be humbled, and receive the grace that gives thanks. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Purity Thursday: Lessons from Mr Lust Policeman

Lust is not a "men only" issue. These Thursday strategies for purity are for men and women. So, even though I originally wrote this one up from the perspective of Mr. Lust Policeman, it's also for Miss/Ms./Mrs. Lust Policewoman, too.

Have you ever observed a man "checking out" an attractive woman? What happened? Unless you are totally calloused and given over to lustful desires, you didn't like it. Did an impulse rise to protect this woman from the hungry, groping eyes of that jerk that couldn't keep his eyes off of her? 

Did you get angry? Did you want to say something to him? Did you start to stare at him, hoping you'd catch his eye and he'd be shamed into turning away?

These reactions can rise up on behalf of women you don’t even know. These dynamics are ratcheted way up if that woman happens to be your wife or daughter or sister or friend. Oh man. Don’t look at my wife that way. Don’t look at my daughter that way. I’ll want to knock you out.

Hmmm…

I think there are a few lessons here for us.

First, it ought to give us a taste of the ugliness of our own lust.
What you saw was a parable of your own lust. It's ugliness ought to show and tell you about the ugliness of yours. 

Second, it ought to give us a taste of the holy fire that deserves to break out against our lust.
What if God looked at us lusting like that, and he smiled?! No wonder he says what he says about lust! If we, though we are evil, have this reaction to this evil, how does God hate this hungry, selfish, use-others-for-my-own-personal-pleasure behavior?!

Third, it ought to give us a taste of the cup of wrath that Jesus drank in our place on the cross.
Oh, the holy wrath that JUST our sexual sin deserves! Can you even imagine the raging flood of holy wrath that deserves to break over your life and mine?! (Don't flatter yourself. Think back – late elementary school…jr hi…hi school…college…over this past year.)

Fourth, this ought to put us out of taste for feeding our own lust.
Did seeing that whole episode make you sick? That nausea can serve the holy shaping of your appetites. Does your own lust ever make you sick? 

Fifth, this ought to make us hungry for lust's antithesis: holy love.
Holiness grows as love grows. Lust is not a form of love. It is its antithesis. Notice the natural progression from the prayer of 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 to exhortations in 4:1-8 (emphasis added):
1 Thessalonians 3:12 ... now may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. 
4:1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
May these few lessons from Mr Lust Policeman arrest your attention and help you keep the law - to love God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Purity Thursday: Master or Slave?

Purity strategy #4 is found in 1 Cor. 9:27. Here’s the context:
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, NAS)
Consider the clear implications:
  • You need not be a slave to your appetites. 
  • If you are a Christian, no matter how strong your lustful desires can feel, you need not be a slave to them. 
  • You are not helpless. 
  • You can exercise Spirit-empowered self-control.

Paul makes a related point a little later on in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV):
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
God. Is. Faithful.

He will NOT let you be tempted beyond your ability.

With the temptation he will also provide the way of escape.

You can endure the temptation until it passes.

Don’t be fatalistic. Your sinful cravings will attempt to deceive you and commandeer your mind for their lustful mission – to carry the body into sin.

Have you noticed how this happens? Have you seen how your sinful flesh (i.e. your sinful nature) attempts to hijack your mind to fulfill its lustful mission with the physical flesh? It positions itself to enslave you to do its will.

You begin pretending you don’t know where this path leads. You hoodwink yourself. You pull the wool over your own mind. You begin rationalizing.

“I’m just curious.”
“I need to know what’s out there so I can help guard my kids.”
“I’m interested in the article.”

Your sinful desire also pulls in all the reinforcements it can muster.

Self-pity? Sure. If you are single, you know this narrative. If you’re married and sexually dissatisfied in your marriage, you know this narrative. Your sinful flesh, manipulative whore that it is, pulls self-pity up to its breast and nurses it along in you.

Self-justification? Absolutely. You’re tired. Purity and holiness is unrealistic in our day of easy-access titillation and porn. “What’s wrong with just…” “It’s not like I…” You begin justifying.

All of the sudden your body is ruling your actions, because you have submitted to your fleshly desires.

Do you see why Paul fights like this? Because he knows how easily we get inverted – our bodily appetites ruling our minds rather than the other way around.

So, what can you do?

You can wake up and refuse to be lust’s lackey. You can preach to yourself! Remind your mind! Tell yourself (i.e. your redeemed self), “You don’t have to be submissive to the flesh. You are not its slave. You are its master!” And then your soul can command your body. Your redeemed soul can crack the Spirit’s whip of self-control on the back of your lustful flesh and subdue it. You can then freely present your body as an instrument for righteousness.
Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (Rom 6:13 ESV)
Your mind/will can say to your body, “You are my slave. I am not your slave. I will rule you. You will not rule me. I am not an animal.”

Jesus is Lord. He has redeemed you from the slavery of sin’s tyranny. You have been bought with a price. You can and must glorify God in your body. The Father has given you the Spirit to empower you to live free and self-controlled in Christ. When your sinful appetites begin to rise up and rage, you can say to your body, (with the triune God backing you!), “I will beat you and make you my slave. You are my slave, I am not yours.”

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Grieving and Learning From Ferguson

There is so much to grieve in the wake of all that has happened in Ferguson in the last several months. "How long, O Lord? ... Come, Lord Jesus!"

We only know what has been communicated through the variety of media outlets. Only God knows, with perfect knowledge, what happened that day. Nevertheless, there is much for us to learn.

There are a lot of talking heads out there, but they are not usually filled with biblical wisdom and gospel grace. Thabiti Anyabwile is a voice filled with biblical wisdom and gospel grace. We would do well to listen. Desiring God shared the following video (on Nov 6) with some learnings for African-Americans and white Americans.



I would also encourage you to read this recent post by Thabiti. In it he recounts a dialogue with someone who was insisting he was biased in his opinions on Ferguson and the justice of the grand jury proceedings.

We all need to try to see our biases and fight against them in dialogue like this. Humble objectivity is a difficult thing. Thabiti's post does a great job of exposing some of that bias, and helping us fight against ours. He is also transparent about his own story and how easily he could have been Michael Brown. There are serious gospel conduct implications to what he shares. He then concludes with how important it is that we really believe that all people are created in the image of God.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Who Do I Thank For This?

Have you ever had an experience where you benefited from someone’s generosity and you didn't know who to thank? 

Maybe it was a party and you enjoyed a delicious spread. You wanted to thank the cook. Maybe at some event someone paid, unexpectedly, for the whole group. Do you remember asking, “Who do I thank for this?”

Well…have you ever enjoyed anything on planet earth? Did you enjoy or benefit from anything yesterday? Is your heart still beating today? Are you still breathing air you don’t own? Have you eaten food just about every day of your life? Obviously, the list could go on. Which is kind of the point. Who do you thank for it?

And if you are a Christian, have you, undeservedly, been rescued from the domain of darkness? Have you been qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light? Have you been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb? Have all your sins been paid for - past, present, and future? Do you have a living hope that can’t be killed by anyone or any circumstances on earth? Can anything or anyone separate you from the love of God in Christ? Will God work all things together for good for you? Obviously the list could go on. And it should.

Get Drunk For Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you're going to be happy today, filled with Thanksgiving, you need to get drunk...on the Spirit.

Ephesians 5:18-20
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, 
but be filled with the Spirit,
(and when you are under the influence of the Spirit, it will result in) ... giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
You might be pretty down today. Getting yourself to give thanks may feel like it feels when you realize late on a cold night that tomorrow is garbage day. You have to will yourself out the door to pull the cans to the street.

Is THAT thanksgiving? A pull-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps willing myself to tick off some things I am (or should feel) thankful for?

Well, it wouldn't hurt to get your focus off of unmet needs and onto undeserved mercy. Your feelings of thanksgiving may just rise with a little effort. Nevertheless, God hasn't left you to yourself on this one. There is divine power for giving thanks. It comes from drinking in the Spirit of God. When you get under his influence, you will start to sing...and give thanks.

Have you drunk your fair share of the Spirit today?

How do you do it? Drink in the Word, dependent on the Spirit, and you will get filled up. Not just a little sip. Nobody gets drunk on a sip. Drink deeply. Drink until you're under the influence. And watch how you'll start giving thanks to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Purity Thursday: The Light That Shines From Lust's Dark Idolatry

Had I been thinking ahead, I would have saved last Thursday's purity post for today, Thanksgiving Day. At least it's worth pointing out again today that cultivating thanksgiving year round is a powerful antidote to lust and impurity. 

Observing folly and destruction can be a strong motivator on the road of life. Seeing a bad car accident can sober and slow you down, or move you to quit that occasional texting. The same goes for lust's effects. We can learn a lesson from the dark idolatry of adulterous lust. It can even shed light on the path of following Jesus. 

Think about the blindness of lust when it gets to the point where adultery is first contemplated and then finally acted upon. The person who comes to this point is willing to sacrifice all for the sake of their desire. 

Those of us who look on from the outside can’t understand it. We see how cheap the thrill is and how costly the fall-out: potential loss of marriage, kinetic loss of reputation and respect and trust, the damage done to the kids, the inner turmoil experienced by all involved, etc, etc. We ask, “Why would he do this and sacrifice so much?” We wonder, “How do you get to that point?”

The (increasing) blindness of lust and the sacrifices it often stimulates are proof positive of its idolatry. Lust is idolatry. It places the gratification of the flesh at the center. It says “no” to all that God is for us in Jesus. It says “yes” to all that sin is for us in the form of a man or a woman. When it grows to the point of acting it out in real life, the “no’s” and ‘yes’s” are radical and sacrificial. 

This is the nature of sin. It calls for costly sacrifice, but gives us nothing more than fleeting pleasure, shame, regret, and loss.

Following Jesus out of love is the true archetype to which lust is only a deceitful anti-type. The gain promised in Christ (see Mark 8:34-38) ought to elicit a response of love-blind sacrifice that will often look like foolishness to those on the “outside.” 

Running the race of faith set before you, with all the attending sacrifices, is proof positive of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus. He is Lord. He is the worthy center of life’s solar system. And when he is functionally first in our affections, the effects are radical and sacrificial.

This is the glory of God. He calls for costly sacrifice, but gives us freedom and peace and joy, and an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs the cost of the sacrifice.  

Learn from the dark caricature of lust. Let is serve to turn your stomach…and then your eyes “upon Jesus, [to] look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of this glory and grace.”


Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Purity Thursday: Give Thanks For Purity

There are direct, reactive, in-the-moment strategies to fight lust (e.g. Matthew 5:29, “if your eye cause you to sin, tear it out…”). There are also indirect, preventative strategies. Growing in gratitude is an indirect, but powerful preventative measure.

Just think about it. Lust can’t cohabit with thankfulness in the human heart. One has to go. Lust is covetous and never satisfied and ungrateful by its very nature. A lustful heart can’t be a thankful heart. And a thankful heart can’t be a lustful heart. 

No wonder the Apostle Paul wrote like this (Ephesians 5:3-4, emphasis added):
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
So, give thanks for purity…and you will have purity for which to give thanks.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Purity Thursday: Harnessing Unrestrained Lust in the Battle for Purity

Installment #1:

Today (7/22/14) in Starbucks a guy comes in and is unashamedly looking at every girl/woman he can feast his eyes on. He moves around to check out the young girls at the table. He stares at the woman in line, stepping back a pace or two to get a better view. And on it goes. It’s obvious, repeated, unrestrained. I want to punch him in the mouth.

And it helps me. Seeing unrestrained lust in all its despicable ugliness – and thinking of my wife and daughters (I’m glad they weren’t at Starbucks today!) – made me want all the more to fight against lust in my own heart. This man seems to allow no sense of civility or respect for women to hinder his lust. I want to allow no sense of selfishness or lust to hinder my pursuit of purity and love.

I’m reminded of a powerful account in Richard Wurmbrand’s book, Tortured For Christ (35-36, emphasis added):
I often asked the torturers, ‘Don’t you have pity in your hearts?’ They usually answered with quotations from Lenin: ‘You cannot make omelets without breaking the shells of eggs,’ and ‘You cannot cut wood without making chips fly.’ I said again, ‘I know these quotations from Lenin. But there is a difference. When you cut a piece of wood it feels nothing. But here you are dealing with human beings. Every beating produces pain and there are mothers who weep.’ It was in vain. They are materialists. For them nothing besides matter exists and to them a man is like wood, like an eggshell. With this belief they sink to unthinkable depths of cruelty. 
The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe. When a man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil, there is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil that is in man. The Communists torturers often said, ‘There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.’ I heard one torturer say, ‘I thank God, in whom I do not believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.’ He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners. … 
I learned from them. As they allowed no place for Jesus in their hearts, I decided I would leave not the smallest place for Satan in mine.
This man in Starbucks has no hint of love or respect toward women in his heart. I want to have no hint of sexual immorality (Eph 5:3 NIV) in mine. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:14).

Introducing "Purity Thursday"

Temptation to lust abounds. It's everywhere and it's easily accessible. Nevertheless, the biggest problem is not "out there" on the internet. It's "in here," with my heart that can be like a seething cauldron of illicit desire. 

There was obviously no internet in the 1st century, but Jesus knew about our lustful hearts. He knows the human heart better than anyone. He was tempted in every respect, as we are, yet without sin (Heb 4:15). And he says we need to be ruthless in our pursuit of purity. Listen to his words in Matthew 5:27-30: 
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman (or a man) with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her (or him) in his (or her) heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
You might be toying with temptation today. You may have given in, repeatedly. You may be totally entangled in the unsatisfying slavery of sexual sin. Do you hear this word from Jesus? If so, then listen to Hebrews 3:15:
"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts."
If this word from Jesus awakens new desires in you, then fight with all your might! Take the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17) and start hacking away at the sin that so easily entangles, so you can run FREE, following Jesus (Heb 12:1-2). Talk to someone you trust and ask them to pray for you and hold you accountable. Ask them how they fight for purity. Share ideas. Preach the gospel to each other. Fight for each other's faith!

One of the habits I got into years ago was to write up any strategy for purity that proved helpful to me. I figured it would help me think more clearly about HOW to fight, and I figured I could pass along those strategies to others to help in their fight. Over the years, I've sent not a few of these strategies to different guys who have shared with me their struggles. I hope they've been helpful.

I was reminded of one I wrote up recently and thought I'd share it here. Maybe I'll make it a habit for awhile. Yes, I think so (I really am making this up as I go along - just had to re-title this post). It's not very creative, but I'll call it "Purity Thursday," or "PT." Could also stand for "Purity Therapy." Therapy is defined as, "treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder." Lustful hearts are disordered hearts. We need gospel therapy for the sake of purity and love. Done. Installment #1 to follow. 

And by the way, if you have or discover any strategies helpful to you, please pass them along. I want all the firepower in my arsenal that I can get! Maybe I'll even share some of them here in weeks to come and you can help a number of others fight the good fight of faith. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Moral Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air


Justin Taylor:

Francis Schaeffer once described moral relativists as those “who have both feet firmly planted in mid-air.” An even more vivid illustration is that of Cornelius Van Til (The Defense of the Faith):
Suppose we think of a man made of water in an infinitely extended and bottomless ocean of water.
Desiring to get out of water, he makes a ladder of water.
He sets this ladder upon the water and against the water and then attempts to climb out of the water.
So hopeless and senseless a picture must be drawn of the natural man’s methodology based as it is upon the assumption that time or chance is ultimate. On his assumption his own rationality is a product of chance. On his assumption even the laws of logic which he employs are products of chance. The rationality and purpose that he may be searching for are still bound to be products of chance. 

On the contrary, our worldview is summarized well by Isaiah 26:4:
Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

Friday, October 24, 2014

When Helping Hurts

Laurie Chapman recently shared a very helpful illustration of how struggle is necessary in the path of growth. There are personal and interpersonal lessons here. Check it out.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

20 Ways To Be Refreshing In The Local Church

As a follow up to our "Faith in the Local Church" series, here's a great post by Jason Helopoulos entitled, "20 Ways to be Refreshing in the Local Church." 

Here are a few samples from the 20: 
  • Show up each Sunday morning with a mental list of three or four people that you are going to find and minister to (Philippians 2:4). Many of us walk into church with an attitude of, “I wonder who will minister to me today.” Nothing can be as drastically encouraging to a local church’s membership than a people united in the understanding that they are there to serve and love one another.
  • Don’t rush out of church on Sunday mornings. Be one of the last to leave because you are taking the time to talk with everyone you can (this will be hard for the introvert—but some of the most engaging and refreshing people I have served with are introverts. They wear themselves out on Sunday morning). The football games and lunch will be there fifteen or thirty minutes later. Often remind others of the benefits of salvation and the graces that flow from union with Christ. Let it season your conversations.
  • Aim to remember peoples’ names and greet them by name each Sunday (I wish I was better at this, because it means so much to people). The Cheers’ theme song had a point, we all feel loved when our name is known (Isaiah 49:16).
  • Get to know the children of the congregation and seek to talk to five different children each Sunday morning (Matthew 19:14).
  • Write thank you notes to volunteers in the church.
Imagine the impact of just these 5 being pervasively implemented, let alone the whole set of 20

Conviction

I had a few people ask me for this Ray Ortlund, Jr. quote I shared this past Sunday. It's found on pages 25-26 of his commentary on Isaiah (which, by the way, I HIGHLY recommend):
What is conviction of sin? It is not an oppressive spirit of uncertainty or paralyzing guilt feelings. Conviction of sin is the lance of the divine Surgeon piercing the infected soul, releasing the pressure, letting the infection pour out. Conviction of sin is a health-giving injury. Conviction of sin is the Holy Spirit being kind to us by confronting us with the light we don’t want to see and the truth we’re afraid to admit and the guilt we prefer to ignore. Conviction of sin is the severe love of God overruling our compulsive dishonesty, our willful blindness, our favorite excuses. Conviction of sin is the violent sweetness of God opposing the sins lying comfortably undisturbed in our lives. Conviction of sin is the merciful God declaring war on the false peace we settle for. Conviction of sin is our escape from malaise to joy, from attending church to worship, from faking it to authenticity. Conviction of sin, with the forgiveness of Jesus pouring over our wounds, is life.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Left Behind?

I haven't read the Left Behind books or seen the movie, but in case you have or plan to, I'd encourage you to read this brief post entitled, "Will Christians Be Secretly Raptured?" by Jeramie Rinne.

So, what do we believe the Bible teaches about the return of Christ? From our doctrinal statement:
We believe in the blessed hope (Titus 2:13) that at the end of the age Jesus Christ will return to this earth personally (Acts 1:9-11), visibly (Mark 14:61-62), physically (Luke 24:39-43), and suddenly (1Thess 5:2-3), in power and great glory (Luke 21:27); and that he will gather his elect (Matt 24:31), raise the dead (1Thess 4:15-17), judge the nations, and consummate his kingdom. 
We believe in the bodily resurrection of both the just and the unjust—the unjust to everlasting conscious misery in hell (Matt 25:41, 46) and the just to eternal blessedness in the presence of him who sits on the throne and of the Lamb, in the new heaven and new earth, the home of righteousness (2Pet 3:13). 
We believe that the end of all things in this age will be the beginning of the never-ending, ever-increasing happiness of the redeemed, as God shows the infinite riches of his glorious grace for the everlasting enjoyment of his people. God will be all in all and his people will be enthralled by the unmediated sight of his ineffable beauty. We therefore eagerly await (Heb 9:28) our Savior’s return (Php 3:20-21), longing for his appearing (2Tim 4:8), living as pilgrims (1Pet 2:11) in this vapor-like life (James 4:13-15) on earth, desiring our better homeland (Heb 11:13-16), where we will see our Savior face to face and be forever with our Lord (1Thess 4:13-17).
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Pray For Iraq

From Frontiers USA:


If you are interested in learning more or donating, Frontiers is a reputable missions agency doing great work among Muslim people groups. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Do You Know Who You Are?

If you are a Christian, do you know who you are? Do you really believe it? I think we often act more like street child survivors and cosmic orphans than beloved children and heirs of God.

In J.I. Packer's classic book, Knowing God, he offers some great advice on how to practice believing our identity as God's children. It's found at the conclusion of his chapter entitled, "Sons of God." This just might be one to print off and keep in your Bible for awhile, so you can preach the truth to yourself and prayerfully ponder these questions until you believe in sonship deep down in your bones.

Here it is (italics original):
Do I, as a Christian, understand myself? Do I know my own real identity? My own real destiny? I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Savior is my brother; every Christian is my brother too. 
Say it over and over to yourself first thing in the morning, last thing at night, as you wait for the bus, any time when your mind is free, and ask that you may be enabled to live as one who knows it is all utterly and completely true. For this is the Christian’s secret of –a happy life?—yes, certainly, but we have something both higher and profounder to say. This is the Christian’s secret of a Christian life, and of a God-honoring life, and these are the aspects of the situation that really matter. May this secret become fully yours, and fully mine. 
To help us realize more adequately who and what, as children of God, we are and are called to be, here are some questions by which we do well to examine ourselves again and again. 
  • Do I understand my adoption? Do I value it? Do I daily remind myself of my privilege as a child of God? 
  • Have I sought full assurance of my adoption? Do I daily dwell on the love of God to me?
  • Do I treat God as my Father in heaven, loving, honoring and obeying him, seeking and welcoming his fellowship, and trying in everything to please him, as a human parent would want his child to do? 
  • Do I think of Jesus Christ, my Savior and my Lord, as my brother too, bearing to me not only a divine authority but also a divine-human sympathy? Do I think daily how close he is to me, how completely he understands me, and how much, as my kinsman-redeemer, he cares for me? 
  • Have I learned to hate the things that displease my Father? Am I sensitive to the evil things to which he is sensitive? Do I make a point of avoiding them, lest I grieve him? 
  • Do I look forward daily to that great family occasion when the children of God will finally gather in heaven before the throne of God, their Father, and of the Lamb, their brother and their Lord? Have I felt the thrill of this hope? 
  • Do I love my Christian brothers and sisters with whom I live day by day, in a way that I shall not be ashamed of when in heaven I think back over it? 
  • Am I proud of my Father, and of his family, to which by his grace I belong? 
  • Does the family likeness appear in me? If not, why not?
1 John 3:1-3 (emphasis added):
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

When Proverbs 5 Is Up Next For Family Devos

We've been reading through Proverbs as a family at night for the last few months. While we were on vacation in August, we hit chapter 5. If you’re not familiar with that chapter, it’s the first of a few key chapters on sexual purity. It’s incredibly important stuff, but not your typical AWANA memory verse fare. For instance,
…the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. (Prov 5:3-4) 
Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. (Prov 5:18-19)
So I was tempted to skip it. Thankfully, I thought again. This stuff is too important. Quick prayer for help. And we dived in. I’m so glad we did. It was the best family worship discussion we had during our vacation. It went something like this:

First, I read Proverbs 5:1-6:
My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.
I knew I needed some examples to bring this into their world. There are lots of modern equivalents to “lips dripping honey” and “speech smoother than oil.” Not all appropriate for our 7, 9, 12, and 14 year old audience. I started with magazine racks at the grocery store. We talked about how women are often dressed on the covers of those magazines.

“Why do you think they’re dressed like that, Lily? “I don’t know.” Hannah answered, “To get guys’ attention.”

We talked about why they would want to get the attention of men. And why they would do it in that way. We talked about what it means to trust in the Lord with your dress (Prov 3:5-6) and not try to take matters in your own hands. I asked, “If you are in college and you like a guy and want to get his attention, what should you do?” We talked about not using/flaunting your body to do it. Do you want him to be more attracted to how you look on the outside, or who you are on the inside?  

There was a fair amount of giggling and joking. I said some candid things. I didn’t do it for shock effect, but to open up the dialogue on issues that will most certainly rise up in their hearts as well as bombard them from every direction all throughout their lives.

We talked to the boys about why they shouldn’t buy the lies those magazine covers and advertisements are selling. We talked about photoshopped images and how girls dress and act in advertisements on the internet or on TV. We don’t have cable or watch TV and the kids are limited to 20 minutes a day for computer games, but it’s still well-nigh impossible to keep them from seeing some sensual advertising.

We talked about what beauty is and where it comes from. I mentioned Proverbs 11:22, “Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.” If you have a woman who is externally beautiful, but internally foolish, her beauty is only like a gold ring in the nose of a pig. Note that the sage doesn't say that lack of discretion "like a piggish ring in the nose of a goddess" (think about it). We talked about how “the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

And then we kept reading. Proverbs 5:15-19:
Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
We talked about how Beth and I relate to each other. We talked about why we love to go on dates. We explained why daddy and mommy are affectionate (regularly undeterred by their rolled eyes and “Eww!” responses). We talked about how ugly and wrong it would be if Daddy started to flirt with another woman. Proverbs is for real life! We want them to trust God’s wisdom and see how it speaks to all of life.

Okay, so I did skip the rest of verse 19, “Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” The main point was going to be clear without having to try to explain that one to a 7 year old boy or 9 year old girl! 

On I went (v20):
Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
“Do you know what intoxicated means?” One of the older kids answered, “To be drunk.” “So, what happens when you are intoxicated?” (Some impromptu play-acting ensued, along with funny comments and giggles.) “What is it called if you get caught driving drunk?” After a few tries, Sam said, “A DUI.” “What does DUI stand for?” “Do you want to be influenced and controlled by a forbidden woman? Or do you want to be influenced and controlled by God? You don’t want to be a slave to the wrong master.”

Finally, we reached the end of the chapter (5:21-23):
For a man's ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.
We talked about how the LORD sees everything. His omniscience is either a threat or a comfort, depending on whether you’re trying to hide your sin or trying to fight your temptations and please him. God is seeking to keep us from getting entangled and ensnared. He doesn’t want us to be led astray or die. No harsh, repressive, restrictive, steal-your-fun God here. Amen.

And so, as it turned out, the text I was tempted to skip stirred up the longest and best family discussion of our vacation. There are plenty of morals in this story, but here's one parting thought. The next time you approach Bible territory that might be uncomfortable to walk through with your kids, think twice before you skip it. 

When we learn to walk with our kids through texts (and issues!) like these, we just might help keep them from walking alone, without wisdom, or with bad company, when they approach serious temptation. When they find themselves in that dangerous territory, they just might want us to walk through it with them

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Marital Dance Lesson in the Bathroom

Beth and I were in the bathroom this morning getting ready. She anticipated something I was about to do and responded so smoothly it was like we had choreographed and rehearsed it. I remarked as such. She said something like, “Marriage is like a dance. We’ve been married long enough to learn how not to step on each other’s toes.” I smiled. ‘Tis true. I’m grateful. She left to help get kids ready.

I started thinking about the “not stepping on each other’s toes” idea. You don’t learn to dance by focusing on how to avoid your partner's toes. You learn to dance by learning the steps. I wonder how many marriages are too focused on toe avoidance.

“Don’t want to rock the boat.” 
“Don’t want to hear her nag.” 
“Don’t want to get him angry.” 
“Don’t want to bring THAT up again!”  

That is no dance. It’s walking on eggshells.

What if we focus positively on the biblical steps of the dance that is Christian marriage? What if husbands regularly stiff-arm the impulses to passivity and proactively lead and serve their wives? What if wives repeatedly put up the hand to negativity, nagging and a critical spirit and practice the steps of honor and respect and willing support? What if we practice, over and over and over, the “dance steps” of, say, Colossians 3:12-17?
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
If we do, I think we’ll step on each other’s toes a lot less. And when we do get stepped on, we’ll forgive, and even, at times, be able to laugh it off. Loving your partner will be more to you than avoiding the pain. And learning to dance – even to enjoy it! – will be more to you than merely being skilled at sidestepping. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

We Are Christ's Bride - Do You Believe It?

The Church is the bride of Christ. This biblical metaphor is pregnant with implications for us. We considered a few of those implications yesterday in our "Faith in the Local Church" series.

As you continue to ponder these truths this week, I encourage you to read Ezekiel 16 and the book of Hosea. We didn't have time to consider those passages, but they are powerful revelations of the husband/wife dynamic between God and his people.

Here are a few more quotes that are well-worth pondering:

Ray Ortlund, Jr., in Whoredom: God's Unfaithful Wife in Biblical Theology:
To sum up, human marriage is premised in the making of the woman out of the very flesh of the man, so that the bond of marriage reunites what was originally and literally one flesh. All other relational claims must yield to the primacy of marital union. It requires an exclusive, life-long bonding of one man with one woman in one life fully shared. It erects barriers around the man and the woman, and it destroys all barriers between the man and the woman.” (23, emphasis mine)
From The Enduring Community: Embracing the Priority of the Church, by Brian Habig & Les Newsom: 
Christ did not love the Church because He came to her and found her beautiful.  He loved her despite her obvious foulness and, in His love, has achieved her beautification.  He did not do so for an abstract, imaginary bride.  He did so for real, earthy believers—the same people that are to be found, and should be found, in the local church. (77, emphasis mine)
Donald Whitney, in 10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health
Because of love, a fiancé will often go to great lengths to be with his bride-to-be. (See Gen. 29:20) On an infinitely grander scale, Jesus made an incomparable journey from Heaven and worked for more than thirty years for the delight of His eyes, the church (Eph. 5:25-27). (82)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What to Do If You Wake Up Feeling Fragile

I love this devotional by John Piper. Chuck Barmore recently sent it out to the group he sends daily devotionals. I commend it to you for the sake of buoyant faith, with ballast.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sabrina's Testimony

In a recent update letter, the Campbell's (our missionaries in Paris, France), shared a video link with this note:
Some awesome filmmakers from our mission (GEM) recently made a video depicting the testimony of Sabrina, one of the French nationals we've been training and discipling here. Her story is nothing short of miraculous, so please share this liberally, however and wherever you can.
Here it is:


Why I Live: The Sabrina Kébli Story [English] from GemStone Media on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Gospel in Less Than 30 Seconds

Last Sunday, Pastor Tyler challenged us to learn how to share the gospel in 30 seconds. I asked him if he'd be willing to give us a sample of what that might sound like. He took up the (his!) challenge. You can watch him do it here, and then go give it a try yourself!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Provoking 1 Peter 3:15 Question At Work

On Sunday, Pastor Tyler mentioned several excellent points from a blog post by Pastor J.D. Greear. If you want people to ask you "for a reason for the hope that lies in you," why not think of ways to provoke that curiosity in your co-workers? Greear collects 26 ideas for how you can do just that. I'd encourage you to read the whole thing. You can find it here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Jon Bloom on The Priceless Grace of Pressure

Beth pointed out this post by Jon Bloom this morning. It's a really wise word. Here's a taste to whet your appetite:
Pressure is one of the more resented of God’s graces.
I’m not wired to appreciate pressure. But I am wired to need it. I find that when the pressure is on, I often wish it were off. But I also find that when the pressure is off, I tend to waste more time. I have a persistent misconception that I am more creative when the pressure is off. But, while that may be true for a few things, as a general rule it has not been my actual experience. Necessity tends to produce resourcefulness. Deadlines tend to induce creativity. Leisure tends to induce indulgence and procrastination. 
... 
He “knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). And so he gives us some seasons of green pastures and still waters (Psalm 23:2). But rarely as many as we would wish. And often not when we think we need it. God knows far better than we do when we really need refreshment when we need to be pushed. It is precisely because God knows our frame, and what kind of dust we really are, that he mercifully doesn’t relent the pressure — because when the pressure is off, we have a tendency to forget our need for God (1 Samuel 12:9;Revelation 3:17). Our proneness to wander is curbed by the priceless grace of pressure.
 I'd encourage you to go and read the whole thing.