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!


Justified By His Grace

Earlier this week I had a situation stir within me emotions that I wouldn’t have expected and hadn’t felt before. This situation wasn’t dire. It wasn’t life changing. No one died. I didn’t lose my job. I wasn’t struck with a diagnosis of cancer.

It was a rather medium size trial and similar to ones you and I encounter on a weekly or monthly basis. However, this time the trial led to a sinful type of emotion within my heart that I wasn’t expecting. I chose not to accept this trial with joy, knowing that it was working something good within me from the Father. I did not see the this slight momentary affliction working within me an eternal weight of glory that is beyond comparison. I failed to look to many promises that God had given me in his Word in that moment and trust them.
Rather, I chose to be mad at God and question him. This situation seemed so cruel, so pointless and so frustrating. Why would you do this, God? My feelings of anger towards God led to feelings of guilt for having the feelings of anger. I wanted in that moment not to be mad at God but I chose to do what I didn’t want to do. I chose to sit in my anger at God. It felt good in a sick and foolish way.
Now, here I am this morning. What right do I have to stand before a holy God and lift my heart in worship to him with you this morning? My silly, small heart questioned the very plans of a sovereign, holy God this week!
Titus 3:7 says what right I have to do come before God and worship him. “Being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” God’s goodness and loving kindness appeared in my life through God’s mercy by the Holy Spirit in the work of Jesus Christ at the cross. I am now justified by the grace purchased for me by Jesus. It was not by my works of righteousness, it was by Jesus’ perfect work of righteousness. I am now an heir of eternal life.
That is why I can stand with you after this exhortation and lift my heart in worship to Jesus. That is why you can join me in a few minutes. The gospel is trustworthy and excellent and profitable for you to bank your life on and cling to with all joy this morning, and I’ll insist on it until my dying breath.


Interview Your Devotions

Last year (2015) I started a different approach to my Bible reading. I had been reading through the Bible in a year, which was beneficial in many ways. Getting an overview of the Bible in 365 days gave me a wide angle lens of the narrative of God’s Word but I wanted to switch lenses and go narrower and slower. I wanted to suck more of the juices out of what I was reading.

Donald Whitney in his book Spiritual Disciplines advocated for bringing questions to my devotional time as a way to do that. It made sense I thought. My job hangs on the ability to ask good questions when I go to calls. If I don’t ask questions I don’t get the answers I need to allow me to make good decisions on what happened and to figure out what kind of crime/s happened. Good, persistent questions usually produce good results for the cop.

I bough a Moleskin, wrote Whitney’s four questions on the inside cover and got to work in January 2015. I am now 14 months into this process and the experience has been satisfying. Really satisfying. Usually I will take one chapter a day and read through it. I’ll read some commentary and the study notes in my Bible and spend time meditating on certain parts of the chapter. Usually what happens is that after I read through the chapter the first time I see one or two truths, promises or commands. However, after I slow down, read the passages again, think on what I read and then begin to answer the questions, beauty and wonder begins to jump off the page. I’m able to see things and make connections that had not happened with a cursory reading.

Since last year I have modified Whitney’s questions slightly and added three more questions that seem to fill in some gaps that Whitney’s questions didn’t cover. Here they are:

  1. What does this text tell me about God?
  2. What does this text tell me about myself or humanity?
  3. Doest his text reveal something I should thank, praise or trust God for?
  4. Based on this text is there anything I need to repent of?
  5. How does this text lead me to Jesus?
  6. Does this text reveal something I should do for the sake of Christ, others or myself?
  7. Does this text reveal something I should pray about for myself or others?

This process is work. It takes work to think through it and write my observations down on paper. I need quietness and time to work through these questions, but almost always the results will reveal something I did not see from reading the text through the first time. This process draws out the sweetness, the depth, and the power of God’s Word in ways I hadn’t seen before.

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Not Just A Two Term President but A King

My exhortation for Grace Church this morning.

The Presidential primary is in full swing. Candidates are hustling from one rally to the next. Polls are churning out new data and political junkies are prognosticating, speculating and and talking. Blogs, op-eds and talk shows are all focused on who the next President of the United States will be. We see a relentless focus on these candidates because of the office they aspire to, the promises they are making and the presence they bring with them.

Consider two things this morning. One is a passage we have been working through in Titus and the other is from the song we just sang. Consider Titus 3:4-6 which says, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, who he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”
Next consider the opening line from the Sovereign Grace song “Jesus, My Only Hope:” I come into Your presence/ With nothing in my hands/ I only bring thanksgiving/ For Jesus, God and Man.
God’s goodness and loving kindness visibly appeared in the form of Jesus Christ which saved us from our sin. This allows us to come into his presence with a heart thankfulness, joy and exuberance for that rich and wonderful gift. We get to be in the presence of Jesus with our biggest problem, our sin, removed from us!
People have fawned at rallies over the appearance of their candidate. This morning we worship in the presence of King Jesus who reigns not just 4 or 8 years, but forever. This morning we worship in the presence of a King who not only reigns over America but over every square inch of this universe! This morning we can enter the presence of the King who will do everything that he says he will do. And the only reason you can come before his presence is because of his appearing, according to his own mercy, through washing of regeneration and renew of the Holy Spirit who God poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.

Jesus my only hope, my only plea/ My righteousness, my Great High Priest/ Who intercedes for me before the throne/ Jesus, I trust in You alone.


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