The Grand Tetons and The Gospel

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Exhortation for Grace Church

“By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; the one who by his strength established mountains, being girded with might…so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.” Psalm 65:5-6, 8

A couple of weeks ago our family went on a two week road trip to Oregon. As we drove across 3,700 miles of our country we saw national parks, historical markers, rivers, gorges, woods and all sorts of animals. Yet one of the experiences that stands out to us the most is the Grand Tetons.
Our first glimpse of the their peaks was when we camped near them in Wilson, Wyoming. We could just see them over the treetops as the sun was setting. The next day, we packed up our campsite, and started driving towards them. As got closer, we could see more and more of their towering beauty. We could see more details about the mountains, and the closer we got, the greater we realized they actually were. They towered over the prairies and wildlife and trees and everything else around them.
Something happened to all of us in that van as we got closer and closer to these rocks that were 13,000 feet in the air. We were overcome with a sense of awe. No park ranger had to tell us that we should be amazed or stunned by their beauty and majesty. The closer we got the more realized we were in the presence of something awe-inspiring.
And so it is with the salvation of our God. His deeds are awesome. His signs are awe-inspiring. And just as our Honda Odyssey was the vehicle by which we were able to be brought to the base of these mountains, so church is one of the vehicles by which we see the awesomeness of God’s salvation.
We aren’t only receiving instruction today, or meeting friends, or any number of things that happen when we gather together. We are being shown the awesomeness of God’s salvation. He is the hope for the ends of the earth. So as we move into a time of confessing our sins, spend 30 seconds seriously thinking about your sins. Be sober-minded about it. And when you are done, lift your heart and voice in the praise and thankfulness to God for what he has done for you.
The reason you are able to stand in the towering presence of the One who girded the mountains with might is only because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection is the way in which we have access to fellowship with him. This doesn’t come through good works but comes through the Spirit wrought work in our hearts of being able to see and savor the awesomeness of the God of our salvation.


Between Two Worlds

On Wednesday of this week an officer with the St. Anthony police department did a traffic stop on a car in which Philando Castile was in. We know hardly any of the details about what happened on the traffic stop, other than it ended with the officer shooting and killing Philando. The following evening as I was getting ready to go to bed and my news alert sounded on my phone. It said that 3-6 officers had been shot in Dallas while providing security at a Black Lives Matter rally. I couldn’t sleep, so I watched the news come in on TV as it turned from cops shot to cops killed. I woke up the next morning to the news that a total of five cops were killed.

As a cop who has a family pursuing an adoption of a black child, Johanna and I find each other living in two different worlds. The adoption world tends to be skeptical at best and hateful at worst of law enforcement. The law enforcement world tends to be skeptical at best and hateful at worst of Black Lives Matter or other organizations or people who criticize them in these officer involved shootings.

There’s so much I could say on this, but here’s briefly what I want to say to you this morning Grace Church; you who are my people. A couple of years ago I started reading books that pushed me outside of my law enforcement comfort zone that were written by people that loved the gospel. What do people who love Jesus yet disagree with me have to say about their perspective on these types of racial divides?

I think most people in this church tend to fall on the side of supporting law enforcement. I am thankful for that. However, there are people who really love Jesus and the Bible that disagree with me and aren’t so trusting of cops. I’ve intentionally read blogs by Thatbiti Anyabwile or John Piper and the book Under Our Skin by Benjamin Watson to try and learn from them. These are men who love Jesus and the gospel and think black men are being shot unjustifiably. At times their writings have frustrated me. At times I’ve learned from them.

It is really, really, really easy to dig our heels into our own camps when a Philando Castile shooting happens or when cops are shot. What is really, really hard is to mourn with those we disagree with that are hurting. For my brothers and sisters in Christ, mourn with the mourning. Not just with those you agree with.

Pray for Philando’s family. Pray for the cop that shot him. Pray for the families of the cops that were killed in Dallas. Who does this except for those who love Jesus? This is the aroma of Jesus Christ to a world that is perishing. Mourn with those who mourn. Don’t just mourn with those you agree with or those who have not done anything wrong. In humility, count others more significant than ourselves. Thank God, that Jesus Christ emptied himself by taking the form of a servant and was born in the likeness of men. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. He didn’t save us after we got our lives fixed up. He saved us while we were still enemies to him.

The world can’t do this. They can’t in humility pray for those that they disagree with. We can though because we are being transformed into the image of the one who left heaven and took on the likeness of men- Jesus. The gospel is the only remedy that is the cure for this mess we are swimming in. “We are neither Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all (Col. 3:11).”


As A Runner, Look To The Forerunner

Grace Church, the exhortation this morning is from I Corinthians 9:24-27. I love that God’s Word uses visible things and experiences to communicate invisible truths. How kind of God to do that. He makes this world to declare his glory and we can learn more about who he is and who we are by observing it and reading his Word. That’s massive.
Here Paul uses the visible experience of running to communicate how we should live out our Christian faith. Use self-control. Remember that it is an everlasting reward you are running after. Don’t run aimlessly. Discipline in the Christian life is critical.
Running is on my mind because Pastor Dave and I ran a race yesterday. The sun was out, the humidity was high, and the heat was fatiguing. At each mile marker there were water and aid stations where volunteers would hand out cold water, ice, and sponges soaked with water. At each water station I would stop running, walk through them, get refueled, and start running the next mile. I couldn’t have finished the race without that.
Your following of Jesus is like a runner in a race, but the prize is infinitely better. This exhortation, the songs, the sermons, and your fellowship with the saints is meant to help you run a disciplined, self-controlled race. You need the proclaiming of the gospel week after week to cascade over you like those water sponges did on my head. You need to drink from the refreshing streams of God’s Word through the preaching and singing on Sunday mornings.
So don’t go through this morning as just another morning. Take stock of your week. Where did you run your race well and where did you blow it? Come this morning and drink from the pools of God’s grace and go into this week, by his power, to run your race well.
Jesus was our forerunner who ran his race perfectly. Where you ran well this week, thank him. Where you failed, ask for forgiveness and grace and strength for the future. For we have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf (Hebrews 6:19-20).


Disappointment and All-Sufficiency

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. (Psalm 73:26, 28)

My flesh and my heart may fail. There is not much life that needs to be lived before you discover that things begin to fail. When you’re a child the new toy that you’ve been wanting for such a long time breaks. When you’re a teenager the friends that you thought were there for you let you down and even hurt you. As an adult, your spouse doesn’t live up to your expectations and disappoints you.

This past week you’ve walked through a world that has and will always fail you. It lets you down. It disappoints you. It will never and can never measure up to expectations. This past week I was hoping to get a job assignment at work that I had been waiting three years for, but it was given to someone else. I was disappointed about that.

On a bigger scale, at some point your heart will fail too. That muscle inside your chest beats 100,000 times a day, 35 million times a year, and on average 2.5 billion times in a lifetime. It is amazingly reliable but at some point in will stop beating and you will die.

Consider this- not only were you disappointed this week but you were also probably a disappoint to someone else. You didn’t live up to or measure up to someones expectations of you. I’ve failed this week in doing things I should have done as a follower of Jesus and have disappointed others.

This can be crushing. But God. Two of the most wonderful words in Scripture. God is our strength and our portion forever. The reason you can come into his presence this morning amidst all the disappointment swirling around is because of the all-sufficient work of Jesus on the cross. Jesus purchased the promise of Psalm 73:26 for you through his death, burial and resurrection. If there was no cross then there would be no “but God.” He never disappoints, never fails and will never disappoint or fail in the future. He is our portion forever.

It is good for you to be near God this morning and look to him for a refuge, through the never-disappointing, all-sufficient work on the cross.

Father, I can come to You
And boast of deeds I’ve done
In my pride I strive to earn
The favor Christ has won
He alone pleads my acceptance
All my works aside
So I come with empty hands
And I cling to Christ


Favorite Quotes from T4G:2016

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What a joy it was to travel to the 2016 Together For The Gospel conference with three other guys from my church. We spent three days soaking in the main sessions, talking about life and ministry, and getting way too many books. Below are some quotes from the sessions that jumped out at me.

Instead of trying to take notes on everything the speakers said, I simply tried to catch what jumped out at me as really important. These were my takeaways from the speakers I heard.

CJ Mahaney: Sustained in Suffering by the Saga of Job

“Those you love and serve will need their best theology in their darkest moments.”

“We must allow God to have his secrets in relation to our suffering. We must be comfortable with mystery.”

“Job encounters God, and his ‘Why’ question is overcome by the sight and glory of God.”

“The revelation of God is more than enough to heat the coals of the heart on the coldest, darkest nights of the soul.”

Mark Dever: Endurance Needed: Strength for a Slow Reformation and the Dangerous Allure of Speed

“Pastoring, like parenting, is urgent work but not quick work.”

“God has responsibilities we don’t have. Don’t strive with God for sovereignty. Pray and plan and trust for growth.”

Kevin DeYoung: Can We Be Glorified Without Being Sanctified? Good News, Good Works, and Christian Assurance

“The authentic Christian life is filled with weakness. Yes. Capitulation? No (Hebrews 12:14).”

“One of the hallmarks of sliding into liberalism is not caring about being precise with our words.”

Referencing a quote from Francis Turretin: “Works relate to justification, sanctification, and glorification differently.”

“The godlier you become, the less godly you feel. Assurance is a community project. That’s why you need church membership.”

John Piper: The Bondage of the Will, the Sovereignty of Grace, and the Glory of God

“If you see the crucified and risen Christ as the most precious thing in the world, you are a walking miracle.”

“Our working is not added to God’s working. Our working is God’s working.”

 

 


A Pursuit Story

As I looked back on the pile of glass and fiberglass wreckage, the smell of radiator fluid pouring across the road, and the distant sounds of sirens coming to the scene, I quickly tried to assess the last five minutes of what happened. My legs were shaking but I felt that I was still in control of my faculties. My senses were still trying catch up though and absorb what had happened.

The call had started routinely enough as a domestic disturbance on a Saturday night. Our dinner was cut a little short as we jumped in our squads, flipped our lights to stage 3, and shot up the interstate at 130 miles per hour shrouded with red and blue lights bouncing into the dark night. Cars whipped by as if they were standing still as a 30 minute drive time was cut down to around 7 minutes.

The boyfriend had caused enough fear in his girlfriend to cause her to lock herself and her children in a bedroom as she heard him throwing items around the house. Alcohol and anger are potent mixes that can nearly take over a person and drive them to do things they never thought they would do. This would be the case tonight as we would soon find out.

Blasting through the dark night as concrete and white stripes passed underneath me in a blur, our dispatch told us that the suspect had left the house in a pickup truck, only to return a few minutes later. The interstate gave way to a county road which gave way to a township road which held the address that I was going to. The house was at the end of a dead end road and as I turned onto the road, our dispatcher told me that the suspect was leaving again in his truck.

I backed into a random driveway, flipped my headlights off and sat still. No more than five seconds later did a set of white headlights pop up over the hill as I saw the truck coming from the house. As it passed me flipped my headlights back on and began following it. The truck accelerated more quickly than it should have through a turn which sent the thought through my mind that he was going to run. I remember seeing gravel spit out from his back tires as he took the turn sharply and not even try to slow down at the stop sign.

The red and blue lights shot into the night again, the siren came to life, and the chase was on. My partner had just shown up and he took over radio communications with dispatch updating our locations, allowing me to concentrate on the movements of the driver and our 12 page pursuit policy. The vehicle completely crossed over into the other lane of traffic twice but the night was late and the traffic was non-existent. Still, it could only take one car coming our way at the wrong time.

Within seconds we were leaving our county and heading into the neighboring one at 95 miles per hour. I knew the road would lead us to a T-intersection quickly and I wondered if that would be this driver’s demise. It nearly was. He took his Chevy 2500 through that intersection quickly enough that the truck’s weight shifted to one side in the turn, nearly bringing both passenger side tires off the ground. I thought about moving in for a PIT but he regained control of his truck quickly and was rocketing north again on a new road.

This had to end quickly or we needed to stop the chase. He was driving north bound in the south bound lane but he was going too fast for me to do a PIT maneuver. For a reason that I’m still not sure of, he began tapping his brakes. I saw an opening. It was not the most precise or prettiest PIT that could be done. It was dirty. My front driver’s side bumper met his rear passenger side bumper as his truck slid across the entire front bumper of my squad car.

I tried putting him in the ditch but his truck was too heavy for my Dodge Charger. He slid out of the PIT and started going south. Within three seconds I had used the PIT unsuccessfully and then watched in my rearview mirror as his truck hit my partner’s squad. Immediately the two vehicles were made useless as wheels snapped off on both.

My partner and I bailed out of our squad cars, depressed our holster retentions, and pointed 9MM Glocks at him as he was still in the driver’s seat. Not knowing his entire wheel was gone, he had the accelerator to the floorboards, trying to drive out of the ditch. Donald Trump had a better chance at winning the Nobel Peace Prize than he did at getting that truck back on the road.

He realized the gig was up and got out of the truck but refused to get on the ground. A few swift kicks to the chest and shoulders helped bring the message home to him and we were then on the ground with him, putting on the handcuffs. My squad siren was still piercing our ears and the blue and red lights were still bouncing.

A neighboring agency showed up to assist us and we stuffed our suspect in his squad car much to his protest. My partner and I assessed our bodies to make sure we didn’t have any injuries that adrenaline would mask the pain on. My partner had a sprained thumb that would later cause his hand to swell up. Besides that, we were in much better shape than our squad cars.

The butcher’s bill would be $5,000 on front end repair for mine and my partner’s squad would be totaled out by the insurance company. The pursuit had lasted four minutes and the rest of the investigation would last six hours. Statements needed to gotten, the domestic crime needed to be investigated, the squads needed to get towed, a crash report needed to get written and a warrant needed to be drafted to obtain blood from our suspect for he was indeed drunk.

Despite it all, it was a good night. We were ok and the bad guy was going to jail.


This Victory

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” I Corinthians 15:56-58

Consider the reaction we have at the sense of victory. What happens to you when your sports team clinches the championship in the final seconds? Or when you get that promotion you have been working towards for years? Or when you get the notice from your doctor that you have beaten cancer? What happens in the soul? Celebration. Elation. Joy.
Now consider this- what was the greatest victory that was ever accomplished in human history? It wasn’t a sickness cured or a victim rescued or a war won. It was the victory that Jesus Christ purchased for believers at calvary. It was an actual event that is the greatest story that has ever been told. Jesus was an actual man, who really lived, who really bled, and who really hung on a tree, and who really bore the full wrath of God to purchase redemption for us.
This victory was planned before the formation of the world. This victory was foretold after the first sin entered the world and corrupted all of creation. This victory was the substance of the shadow of bulls and sheep that were sacrificed. This victory was looked for by a longing people who read of the prophecies of a coming Messiah. This victory entered the world as a baby born of a virgin, adopted by a simple carpenter. This victory was the greatest act of injustice as a perfectly innocent Jesus was tried, flogged and executed. This victory was secured when he defeated death by stepping on the neck of Satan and rising from the dead.
This victory was given to us by grace through faith. He gave us the victory.

Because of our sinful offenses towards a perfectly just and holy God we deserve hell. All of us. For all of eternity. Yet, for those who would look to the cross and trust in this victory, nothing in this life is in vain. Therefore, today, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord (through his victory) your labor is not in vain. Your life means something because of the victory in Christ Jesus.
You can only come before God today because of the complete, perfect and joyful victory that Jesus secured for you. So celebrate it and take joy in this victory this morning. He is risen indeed!