How We Celebrate Halloween

“For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” I Thessalonians 5:5

I love Halloween because I love Jesus. What other day of the year do I have over 200 hundred people knocking on my door, wanting to see me (well, actually my candy). Never. Our family sees Halloween as a time in which we can let our light shine in our neighborhood by making our house stand apart from every other house. It is a time where we have the potential to build relationships that one day may lead to gospel growth. It is a time for engaging and not a time for retreat.

As a family that loves Jesus and wants others to love Jesus, here are 5 ways we can engage our neighborhood on Halloween.

  1. Let your house immediately stand out as different from other houses. While other houses have ghosts, police tape and fake heads hanging in tree limbs, we light up our tree in the front yard with white Christmas lights. I’m just waiting for that one person to ask why we have those lights on during Halloween. We also have a jack-o-lantern that has a cross on it glowing on our front step.
  2. Look for ways to draw adults to the front step for conversation. We do this by handing out coffee to the adults. They love it and it provides an opportunity to ask them where they are from and strike up a conversation.
  3. Be generous. We do this by handing out full size candy bars. Every year may not provide the budget for it, but look for ways to be extravagantly generous to people because of how Jesus has been generous to us. We want to reflect that to our neighbors.
  4. Be hospitable. I’m not a person that finds conversations easy with strangers, but for a couple hours on Halloween evening I try to make conversation with kids and adults and look for ways to make connections with people in my neighborhood.
  5. Nail 95 Theses to your front door.

Whatever it is, Christians should be the ones out in full force on Halloween and getting to know the people around them. Jesus did not shy away from darkness, rather he polluted it with the light. That is what we want to do as a family on Halloween and we hope that maybe these simple ways will lead to friendships that will allow for the gospel to take hold in other’s hearts.


The Aroma of Suicide

Many new perspectives on life have opened up to me in the last decade of being in law enforcement. I came into this profession with little understanding of the effects of sin on people’s lives and how to relate or interact with them as a sinner myself. Much of my life had been encapsulated in a bubble of Christian safety and to have that bubble popped by the pin of a badge on my chest brought with it the new aroma of a world awash in sin and despair.

One of those aromas I learned to quickly smell was that of depression and suicide. This aroma wafts across all ages and gender. It knows no boundary of wealth or status. People hang themselves in broken down trailers and million dollar homes. There are so many homes that we enter because of people struggling with depression and wanting to kill themselves. It is really staggering.

I entered into that smell recently that started with the aroma of a 911 hangup call. Our dispatcher answered the call and could only hear heavy breathing on the other end of the line before it went dead. On call back, a female answered saying everything was fine yet had a noticeable tone in her voice of being in tears. The line then went dead.

When we got to the house we found lights on inside the house. A television was casting glows. A dog was whimpering and whining. Pounding on the door, we yelled, “Sheriff’s Office!” which only served to increase the pitch of the doggy whines. There was no human movement inside the house and we decided we needed to go in to clear it.

It’s a strange feeling walking into a home under those circumstances. Each hallway, each corner, each turn of the knob causes me to wonder what I may find. My partner and I walked up steep, creaky, wooden steps that are unique to that style of an older farm house. An L-shaped hallway held four doors; three open and one closed. The last door at the end of the hallway was the closed one, and as my hand gripped the knob, it refused to move. Locked.

I have never kicked in such a flimsy door. My body lurched forward as my foot met the face of the door. And just as quickly as it gave way, all the movement stopped as I felt the door hit something on the floor on the other side. I stuck my head around the door and found a very drunk female in the fetal position. We helped her up, walked her down the stairs and thought it was simply an intoxicated person that had drunk dialed 911.

As I spoke with her I was met with some very unexpected words. “I tried to hang myself.” Indeed she had for a second look in the bedroom found a belt that had been fashioned in a loop and slung over a wooden rod in the closet. The floor had a small puddle of thick white spit where she had thrown up during the attempt. Her teenage daughter was in the house the entire time and said that she had seen her mom drinking throughout the day. While unaware that her mom had just tried to kill herself she was not surprised to this revelation. It was simply another attempt among a list of previous attempts and she had grown numb to the sad state of affairs with her mom.

We filled out the emergency hold, sent her to the hospital in the back of an ambulance, cleared out the call, and headed to the next one. For every cop you see, you have no idea what they may have experienced and seen two minutes earlier.

The Worst of Society

There is no doubt that humanity suffers from sinful depravity. It’s seen in the news headlines and it’s experienced in the home lives. Law enforcement is a front row seat to some of the worst expressions of that sinful depravity. Fathers abdicate their duties towards their children. Husbands abuse their wives. Drunks take the lives of innocents. Drug addicts rip their bodies apart with poison they can’t live without.

Knowing it and experiencing it are two different things though. I know there are far worse acts of sinful depravity occurring in Sudan, but I can’t empathize with the victims of those horrible acts because I’m not there. I suppose that is why the gospel is such good news. Jesus Christ took on flesh and experienced our pain and suffering and can empathize with us. There are times when I bump up against the worst of society and their sinful acts and mentally shake my head.

One such experience started out as a simple call. I was dispatched to a two vehicle, head on crash with no injuries. But as what happens so often, initial information is not correct, and what was early on going to be a simple call developed into something quite different. Our dispatcher said that the caller was saying that the driver may be intoxicated.

When I got on scene I found much more to the picture. One vehicle was completely disabled, with a wheel sheered off, and an older man in still in the driver’s seat. Another vehicle was 50 yards down the road, in a ditch, with one of its wheels sheered off as well. Two people had stopped to help and were the ones that called 911 and when I asked where the other driver was they said he had ran off into the woods.

The older man was perched in his seat with a blood elbow and was slightly dazed. His back and side windows were shattered and I asked him how that had happened because it was clear that it hadn’t been from the crash. He said that after his vehicle and the other vehicle collided a younger man got out of his car and came up to his vehicle.

Enraged, the young man began punching this old geezer in the face after smashing out two windows with a billy club. Not only had this young man got drunk and chosen to drive but when he got into the crash, he was so angry about getting another DWI that he destroyed two windows and assaulted a man in his 80’s (who wasn’t completely innocent and had his share of problems as well).

We setup a perimeter, called in the K9, and quickly tracked him to the backyard of a nearby house where he was laying down behind a garden. His second DWI was now underway.

This job is a front row seat to a jacked up, broken down, sideways spinning world where I wouldn’t have categories to deal with people if it weren’t for God’s Word. As creation groans underneath the weight of sin, so does my soul.

We Don’t Have it All Figured Out

We don’t have it all figured out. Just for the record. A typical response from people when they hear that Johanna and I do foster care, are adopting, and have 3 kids under the age of 7 is, “You guys are amazing!” Well maybe it is amazing that we haven’t had the ambulance at our house yet or haven’t had a child wander off three blocks over. That’s about it.

The reason we are not amazing is because there isn’t anything inside of us that creates some super inner strength which propels us to do foster care and adoption. To say that we are amazing is quite the over statement. If you could take a walk through our house on any given night you’d see that we don’t have it all figured out. The house can qualify for FEMA disaster aid, the kids are working their way to being shipped off to Timbukto, and I am in a less than in a patient mood. We melt down. We lose our cool. We ask forgiveness.

We don’t have it figured out, we simply want to be obedient to the commands of Jesus to care for the orphan and show his love to those around us. I thank God that throughout Scripture he uses weak and jacked up people to do amazing things through the power of the Holy Spirit. I am called a broken pot and earthen vessel in Scripture. The reality is that God supplies all of our needs according to his riches and glory in Christ Jesus.

At times that promise doesn’t feel true when we are short on sleep and long on wear. Yet I can emphatically say that spending and being spent for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ is worth it. It’s worth it as I drive down the road and get to share the gospel with an 11 year old girl through foster care. It’s worth it to be able to pray over the souls of babies that come in to our homes for a short time. It’s worth it to wait 4 years to bring home our son or daughter from Haiti whom we still haven’t met.

It’s worth it because Christ is worth it.

Going and Sending Starts With Receiving

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all the nations. Let the people praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.” Psalm 67:1-3

Grace Church, we now begin missions week. This is a missions Psalm. The writer of this Psalm had a desire that God’s nature (who he is) and God’s salvation (what he does) would be known not only among his own people but among all peoples in all nations. How does he ask for this to happen?

He asks for God to show and display his grace and his blessing to himself and to his nation so that other nations may see it and praise their God. This means that when it comes to missions and sending people out to proclaim the gospel the main factor in all of this is not the goer or the sender. The main factor in all of this is God who demonstrated his grace and his blessing by taking on flesh and dwelling among us sinners. What a glorious gospel this is! No god in any other religion does this.

The work we are calling our church to this week is to be radical senders or radical goers. Yet our acceptability before God is not dependent on the amount of money we give to missionaries, or how many letters we write, or how many missionaries we send to unreached people groups. What God requires of us he freely gives us through his grace and his blessing in the perfect and complete work of Jesus Christ. Radical going and sending starts with receiving.

Jesus was the ultimate missionary. He stepped off this throne in heaven and stooped down to serve us and die for us. So our prayer today is that God would be gracious to us and bless us so that we may display that for the world to see.

The Things of Earth (Part II)

I talked about the importance Joe Rigney’s book The Things of Earth had on me in the last post. In that post I quoted the main points of chapter 4 and in this post I will do the same for chapter 5. See that post for the reason as to why I am doing this.

“Should we enjoy everything that God richly provides? Or should we desire only God? Wrestling with these questions is at the heart of living the faithful Christian life (Pg. 97).”

There are “two complementary was of viewing God’s relationship to his gifts. The first is a comparative approach, in which God and his gifts are separated and set next to each other to determine which is more valuable (Page 97).”

“If we are thinking comparatively, then we should desire only God and not his gifts. He is worthy of all regard, all value, all love and delight and affection (Page 98).”

“The second is the integrated approach…When we love God supremely and fully, we are able to integrate our joy in God and our joy in his gifts, receiving the gifts as shafts of his glory. Supreme love for God orients our affections and orders our desires and integrates our loves. When we love God supremely, we are free to love creation as creation (and not as God). Because the divine excellence is really present in the gift, we are free to enjoy it for his sake. God’s gifts become avenues for enjoying him, beams of glory that we chase back to the source. We don’t see God and his gifts in opposition to each other, as though they are rivals. Instead, in the words of Charles Simeon, we ‘enjoy God in everything and everything in God.’ Or as Augustine prayed, ‘He loves thee too little, who loves anything together with thee, which he loves not for they sake (Page 99).'”

“The integrated approach is how we should live the bulk of our lives, and the comparative approach is a test to ensure that we maintain supreme and full love for God (Page 99).”

“A mind that is set on the things above spends an awful lot of time thinking about things on the earth. The heavenly mind-set is profoundly earthy, but it is fundamentally oriented by the glory of Christ (Page 102).”

“Rather than a momentary comparison for the sake of testing our affections, idolatry is a permanent separation for the sake of false worship. God divides things in order to gloriously reunite them. On the other hand, sin just separates (Page 103-104).”

“Sin is not in the stuff. Sin resides in  human hearts, and thinning out creation just makes us thin idolaters. We exchange indulge sins for ascetic ones, but rearranging the deck of chairs on the Titanic doesn’t alter the ships path. The flesh is still steering the boat, and a true course correction will require something more fundamental than a rejection of God’s gifts (Page 107).”

Ringer then answers the looming question of how the gospel deals with the “challenges of creation, given that we are finite creatures in a world full of gifts, and rebellious sinners in a world full of potential idols (Page 111).”

  1. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the greatest endorsement of the abiding goodness of creation and its capacity for amplification, transformation, and glorification.
  2. Jesus succeeds where Adam fails.
  3. On the cross, Christ draws to himself all of our idolatry and ingratitude, all of our glory exchange and sin, all of our guilt and rebellion, and he swallows it whole.
  4. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the transformation of his humanity, the transition in his experience from living as a human being ‘according to the flesh’ (Rom. 1:4) to being a human being glorified according to the Spirit.
  5. After his resurrection, he walked with his disciples. He showed them his wounds. He broke bread and ate fish with them…the resurrection and ascension of Jesus in a real, physical, human body proclaims not only that creation is good but that it is capable of being glorified. The physical is now deeply and irrevocably spiritual.
  6. Through the preaching of the gospel, spiritually blind sinners are awakened to the glory of Christ in the gospel and to the glory of Christ everywhere…We are liberated from our idolatrous enslavement to created things sos that we can now freely and gladly and gloriously enjoy created things the images and echoes and sensible shafts of divine glory that they really are.
  7. Like Jesus, our ultimate hope is not a disembodied, immaterial existence in an invisible realm.

“In all of our present enjoyment of God’s glorious gifts, our hearts echo with the knowledge that the best is yet to come (Page 114).”


The Things of Earth (Part I)


The first book I read this year was The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney. The book is going to probably in the top five of my lifetime reads when I gauge how reading a book has shaped the way I view and live in this world daily as a follower of Jesus Christ. Desiring God by John Piper, Heaven by Randy Alcorn, Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung, and Bloodlines by John Piper are currently the other four.

Just going through my highlights in the book make me overwhelmed with wanting to wrap my head more around what is in it. Rigney covers a lot of topics (the trinity and sovereignty of God vs. free will just to name  two topics) but each of them is used to build on the other and make the point that we are meant to enjoy God by treasuring his gifts. Chapter 4 and 5 were the home runs for me. They were the chapters that fundamentally changed the way I think.

I highlighted the major points through the chapter so that I could go back and more quickly read his arguments. My brain forgets quickly, so for the sake of repetition, I’m going to write out what I highlighted. Maybe you can benefit from getting a quicker overview here, but you’d serve yourself well to buy the book and read it from front to back; then read it again.

“Here is the fundamental challenge: if we believe that we should value things according to their value, and if we know that God has infinite value and everything else has finite value, then we begin to feel that, if we are to be faithful Christians, there must be an infinite gap between our love for God and our love for everything else. Our enjoyment of God must infinitely surpass our joy in his gifts (in our family, for example)(Pg. 89).”

“A subtle sense of guilt arises because we know that our joy in Christ (however great it may be) is not infinitely greater than our joy in our family (Pg. 90).”

“Now there are a number of false and unbiblical notions in this application of the principle of proportionate regard. The first is viewing love for God and love for creation exclusively in comparative terms. Might there be another way to relate to God and creation? (Pg. 90).”

“One of the primary aims of this book is to put to death all false guilt flowing from our existence as creatures…finitude and limitations are not defects; they are designed. Meeting needs and giving joy through creation was God’s idea, and despite the ways that we’ve misused and abused his good gifts, he hasn’t rescinded the offer or the gifts (Pg. 90).”

“To love God supremely is to love him above all else, to place him at the pinnacle of our affections…To love God fully is to max out our capacity with love for him. Whatever capacity we have to love, be it with heart, soul, mind or strength, we should give God our all…Finite creatures are naturally incapable of loving God infinitely. But we do have the natural ability to love him supremely and love him fully (Pg. 91).”

“The Great Commandment (Love God fully) leads straight into the second greatest: love your neighbor as yourself…love for neighbor is not at odds with full love for God…I believe this principle can be extended beyond neighbors to every other good thing that God provides. What does full and supreme love for God look like when it meets one of his gifts? Glad reception and enjoyment of his gifts (Pg. 92).”

“This is what it means to be a creature: finite, temporal, limited, but very good, with needs met both directly by God and through the manifold gifts that he supplies. We are God’s priests, his kings (and queens), and his prophets, and he has lavished us with gifts beyond our imagining, both for our glad-hearted enjoyment and for the fulfillment of his great and glorious mission. We are valuable because God values us, and we ought to value him according to his value. Nevertheless, we banish every form of false guilt that condemns us for being creatures and for failing to love God infinitely. Instead, our love for God should be supreme, full, and expanding forever (Pg. 94).”

Chapter 5 will be next.




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