Category Archives: Journaling

A Mighty Prayer

One of my favorite hymns is Martin Luther’s A Mighty Fortress is Our God. The strength and power of the lyrics make me want to love God more deeply and hold this life more loosely. I took the song tonight and turned it into a prayer to share with my church on Sunday morning.

O God, you indeed are a might fortress. You are an everlasting bulwark that has never failed and will never fail. You help us amidst the floods of battling sin, job loss, financial hardships, miscarriages, marriage discord, and a thousand other dark times in our lives.
There is no enemy like Satan. He is armed with cruel hate and no military might compares to his power. So we can’t confide in our own strength this morning, but thanks be to you O God that the right man is on our own own side. The man that you chose- Christ Jesus. It is he! The God who is Lord over earthly and heavenly armies. You King Jesus, will win the battle.
Now, though we are embattled against sin and Satan which threaten to undo us, we have no need for fear. Your will God, is to have your truth triumph through us. That is incredible. Through us! Even though our enemy is this dark, grim prince, we have no need to tremble or fear. His rage we can endure because his doom is sure. Your word in your time, heavenly Father will cause him to cease his work in this world.
That little word is greater than all earthly armies, kings, and nations. Your Spirit and the gifts we have through your Spirit are ours. In response to this may we joyfully let money and possessions and family and friends go. May we hold loosely our very lives. Because our bodies may be killed by cancer, car crashes, bullets, heart attacks, earthquakes, hurricanes, or old age. Yet when our hearts beat their last breaths, your truth abides still. Your kingdom will never end, and this is our inheritance. We will see your glory.


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.”

 

 


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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Seeing God in Everything

“A state of mind that sees God in everything is evidence of growth in grace and a thankful heart.” —Charles G. Finney

The morning was one of grey skies, cloud cover and steady drizzle. I shuffled through lines, displayed my driver’s license, had someone stare at a ghost like image of my naked body through a full body scanner, and waited at the gate for my plane to fly out. The airport buzzed and hummed with the normalcy of travelers bustling from one place to the next with sights set on their next destination.

Everything was routine. The weather was mundane. There was nothing spectacular that was occurring. I sat in my in window seat and watched the raindrops scurry across the window as the plane gained speed and elevation. The distance between us and the thick, grey cloud cover lessoned, and then it all happened so quickly. Like a blink of the eye. Like a thief in the night. This tube that had two engines strapped to it punched through the clouds to display a crystal clear atmosphere that was set on fire by a ball of fire 93 million miles away from me.

In the course of five seconds the interior of our plane went from dark and cool to bright and warm, filled with the rays of the sun. My first thought was that the second coming of Jesus will be like this. My second thought was that Jesus will be even more bright and brilliant and glorious as this sun penetrating its light through my window.

Everything in this universe relates back to God because he is the Author of it all. Finney was right in helping us think on what our state of mind should be as we go through the day to day routine of life. We can see God not just on Sunday mornings, or in small group, or in a theological book that we may read. God is not just to be thought about on Christmas and Easter. For those who follow Jesus, they should see an ever increasing awareness of how everything relates back to God.

This indeed is pure grace and evidence of a thankful heart. Kindle that type of mindset.


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.

 


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.


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).”

Amen.