Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ergun Caner, redux

Personal reckoning with our mistakes and failures is the only way to restoration with the God who made us and those with whom we do life.

I refuse to throw stones.  I am certainly as guilty as anyone else.  My guilt was proven last night, even.  My wife had a patient who made her a pound cake, a slice of which made it home.  While she and the middle child were at the movies, I ate some.  "Some" was more than I intended, which I quickly realized when my wife came in and asked about how her pound cake had not-quite-but-almost disappeared.  Sometimes things just run away quicker than you know.  I've already blogged about one experience where a story got out of hand and I had to stop it and repent.  So, no stones to throw.

For everyone's information who cares, Liberty University has unseated Ergun Caner (previous thoughts about this here) from the presidency (they call it dean below, but it's been president up to this point) of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, retaining him as a professor for the 2010-2011 school year.  Here is the official statement from LU:

After a thorough and exhaustive review of Dr. Ergun Caner’s public statements, a committee consisting of four members of Liberty University’s Board of Trustees has concluded that Dr. Caner has made factual statements that are self-contradictory. However, the committee found no evidence to suggest that Dr. Caner was not a Muslim who converted to Christianity as a teenager, but, instead, found discrepancies related to matters such as dates, names and places of residence. Dr. Caner has cooperated with the board committee and has apologized for the discrepancies and misstatements that led to this review. Dr. Caner’s current contractual term as Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary expires on June, 30, 2010. Dr. Caner will no longer serve as Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. The university has offered, and Dr. Caner has accepted, an employment contract for the 2010-2011 academic year. Dr. Caner will remain on the faculty of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary as a professor.

Many on the blogosphere have ripped LU for this lawyer-speak:  "factual statement that are self-contradictory."  That's sanitized for "not telling the truth."  So I have a couple of thoughts that all seven of you who read this blog will I'm sure find really obvious and probably have thought of them yourself already.

First, LU made a tough call and are trying to make the best out of a bad situation.  By necessity of the world we live in, lawyers craft (or at least edit) the PR statements.  LU has dethroned the king of their world, who has led LBTS to unprecedented levels of enrollment and national exposure.  LU has endured, yet again, significant media scrutiny.  LU is trying to overcome some foolishness by their leaders on the front end of this investigation.  On and on we could go.  I don't know that I feel bad for LU (after all, they hired the guy and obviously let this run for quite some time).  But I also know that leading is hard and cleaning up messes is hard and I'm really glad I'm not them right now.

But as hard as LU is trying, they can't make this go away.  They don't have the power.  And this leads me to my second thought.

Second, the one person who has the power to make this all go away and good Kingdom stuff come is the offender, Ergun Caner.  Because this is a spiritual issue and not a political one, you can't just keep standing up and preaching and going on with life.  You can't hide behind the word "misspoke" or "misremembered" or any other "mis-" words.  You can't even hide behind the craftiness of the press release.  The one and only way this goes away and the Kingdom comes is this:  Ergun Caner stands up and says, "I lied to make myself seem better than I was.  For that, I apologize and confess my sin and ask forgiveness from my brothers and sisters whom I deceived."  A reasonably short restoration process should probably follow and then he could (in my humble opinion) be restored to ministry.  Problem solved, Kingdom advanced, humility expressed, grace received.

In the realm of politics, litigation, legislation, and other societal areas of that ilk, covering it up and moving on is a real possibility.  In the Kingdom, those who walk in the light experience forgiveness and fellowship with one another (1 John 1.7).

I close with where I started.  I'm not throwing stones.  Far from it.  I'm grateful for daily mercy given to me by God and others.  I also know that living life as He says is best really is best.  God grant it to me to be that kind of follower, man, husband, dad, pastor, and friend.

That's me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Midweek Memo 6.29.10

Here's the Midweek Memo column I wrote for our June 29th edition...

To the Saints at Heritage Park,

It’s always interesting work, this thing called pastoring a church. I don’t remember the last time I went home and told Ginny my day was dull, boring or even “regular.” But that’s part of why I enjoy being your pastor so much.

As I mentioned on Sunday, a few folks might have taken what I said the previous Sunday about God’s power and Jesus’ authority in a way that I didn’t intend. I hope my clarification helped. But there’s a greater principle that undergirds this whole discussion. That principle is one of the appropriate question.

A good question has the capacity to change the course of a conversation, the cirucmstances around you, even the direction of a life. And there are great questions in the Bible, one of which we looked at on Sunday: “Who is this, that even the winds and waves obey Him?” Or, how about, “What must I do to be saved?” Great questions, all of which lead us deeper into our understanding of who God is and how He’s at work in the world.

Kids are full of questions, my kids in particular (it seems). I get asked about God and clouds and rabbits and math and all sorts of other things. Which brings me to the specific application of that principle of the appropriate question into our setting. Should you ever have questions about the church, about the Bible, about something in a sermon or Bible study, about God, about life, about anything that we might be able to help with, please ask! It’s part of what it means to be family - to have a safe place to ask the questions that need to be asked. We might not know the answer, but we’ll work to find it. Should you ever want to contact one of us on staff with a question, our emails are our first names @


Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism might be the religion of America but it's not the religion of the Bible.

Christian Smith at Notre Dame and his team of researchers came up with the title of America's religion:  Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.  As the name belies, it's the religion of becoming a better person who feels good and does so essentially by one's self.  A brief synopsis of its tenets:

  1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. This god wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. This god does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when this god is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

Here's why that works in America but not in the Bible.  America is a place of religious diversity by design, has generally been freedom-loving people, and (yes, imperfectly) has tolerated those who differ from us individually as long as they don't assault what holds us in common.  MTD works great for that scenario.  You might even make the argument that America's structure has created this religion.  Maybe so.

But the Bible takes issue with every tenet:  
(1)  There is God, Creator and Orderer of all natural things, but who quite literally holds all things together (Col. 1).  
(2)  This God of the Bible doesn't want people to be nice - He wants to transform them into people who reflect His character.  
(3)  The central goal of every breathing human being, indeed of all creation, is to give God glory - that is to see Him for who He is and enjoy Him for who He is.  
(4)  Because God holds everything together and is in the transformation business, He is intimately involved in every aspect of life, caring even for sparrows who fall to the ground.  
(5)  Nice people with good manners, gruffer people who have good work ethics, and the worst of the murderers are all sentenced to a just punishment for eternity in an existence separated from God.  Heaven is reserved for those who put their trust in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross, where He paid for our sins, and His resurrection, where He gave us life.  He wasn't just an example to follow - He is the payment that saved us.

All of this prompts us not to pursue our security but the beauty and power of God's Kingdom coming through everyday occurrences, intentional servanthood, and taking care of those who can't take care of themselves.  The worldview of  Christianity (vs. the worldview of MTD) prompts us outward into ministry that matters.  May it be true of me (and you too).

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Calming the Storm

The storms of life tend to clarify who we are and reveal who Jesus is, if we're looking.

I preached yesterday from Mark 4.35-41 as we continued our journey through Mark.  This is the story of Jesus falling asleep in the boat, a storm arising, the disciples freaking out, and then Jesus calming the storm with a word.  Cool stuff.

Something about storms though:  they reveal what's in us.  They show how weak we are.  They show how scared we can get.  They show how frustrated we can be.  They show how anger dwells within.  They expose entitlements.  They reveal what's in us.

Something else about storms:  they reveal who Jesus is.  Which was better in the story above?  The storm was stilled or the disciples had a clearer picture of who Jesus is?  Consider this - it's easier to rejoice in the change of circumstances, but rejoicing in who Jesus is will last a lifetime.

Lastly, a challenge.  No matter the storms, the phone calls, the hospital location, the brokenness of relationship, or other storms, look for Jesus in them.  You can endure storms and not see Him.  No matter what He does with the storm, you'll have the longer-lasting reason to rejoice.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sermon Notes from Sunday 6.27.10

Here are notes from the sermon.  As is the usual announcement here, you can find the sermon audio that goes with these notes here:

Jesus the Weatherman
Mark 4.35-41

Do You Care?
  • I am unaware of God’s agenda.
  • I am insecure in my circumstances.
  • God is unaware of the circumstances.God is absent or inactive.
  • Overwhelming answer:  yes, I care.

Where is your Faith?
  • Some put faith in Christian culture.
  • Some put faith in circumstances.
  • Answer:  Putting faith in Christ is the only way to life.

Who is This?
  • In your understanding of God, there are pieces that need to be added, deleted, and changed. 
  • The Religion of America:  moralistic therapeutic deism.
  • His greatness invites the fear of the Lord.
  • His power invites confidence in Him and His cause.
  • His love invites interactive intimacy.
  • Answer:  He is the Savior who calls you.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Home, Thinking, Ready...

It's been a hectic past couple of weeks - not in a bad way, but by way of pace.  We were at family camp for a week (Pine Cove for more info, family blog for pics), returned Saturday, my wonderful wife washed our clothes, I preached Sunday, then our oldest and I ran to the airport for a week of youth camp in Arkansas where I led a Bible study for graduated seniors.  We flew in last night, dodging thunderstorms.  We're home.  Whew.

Something I've been thinking about:  my wife and I have a conversation at family camp every year about character qualities that we want to see develop in our kids and in us.  Mine for the year is humility.  That's a dangerous thing to pray for, I realize, since you learn humility like you learn patience - in the school of situations that allow you to practice it.  I also know, though, that pride lurks in just about every corner of my heart.  Mercifully and severely, God holds up a mirror every so often (especially when I'm still enough and quiet enough) to remind me that pride is still around inside of me.  I get to thinking I'm a great husband, dad, pastor, minister, preacher, friend, etc., and then something(s) happens that reminds me I'm not.  It's severe mercy upon the pride He opposes.  I don't want to be on the opposed side of that equation knowing that it's God doing the opposing.

The question I pondered for a large portion of the week was this:  what's my role in developing humility?  Here's what I came up with and hope to do, by grace.  First, do something for someone every day that I'm not bound by duty, commitment, or anything else to do.  Service builds humility.  Second, express gratitude for anything and everything I can possibly can.  Gratitude keeps me in the position of the receiver of God's blessings and others' service.  Third, keep a really healthy view of myself - worse than I could imagine but more loved than I could imagine.  It's not navel-gazing but perspective-keeping (or at least that's the goal).  Dwelling in the Gospel and on the Gospel will help, I think.

Last thought:  I've been out of the office and out of the flow for a couple of weeks now and am ready to jump back into it.  I'm excited about being with the church family called Heritage Park.  I'm excited about teaching the story of Jesus calming the storm tomorrow (Mark 4.35-41).  I'm excited about having a "regular" week with the family.  Looking ahead with a smile...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sermon Notes from Sunday 6.20.10

Here are the sermon notes from Sunday.  I forgot to post them earlier in the week.  The audio for the sermon is not up yet, but will be early next week (week of 6.27).  You can find it at

Secrets of the Kingdom
Mark 4.21-34

Internal Kingdom
  • It is hidden and secret because it works within.
  • It works within but always becomes visible in lives.
  • It doesn’t come in force, popularity, or tradition.

Kingdom Process
  • It’s often hidden from sight but still very real.
  • It’s both unexplainable and unearned, but still natural.
  • The harvest happens when it is ready.

Incredible Kingdom
  • Its promise is stunning – the rich get richer.
  • Hearing and obeying is the path to greater revelation. (John 14.21)
  • Some deny obedience – not taking the step they know they should.
  • Some delay obedience – not responding when called.
  • Some obey and grow into people who bless others. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

God is faithful

My wife has already detailed this on our family blog here, but for those for whom there is no crossover, I'll give you a brief testimony of God's faithfulness.  Our oldest is more cautious than most others his age.  Last year at family camp, he struggled to try some of the more exciting elements like the zip line, etc.  This year, we asked for courage for him three days in a row and on the first full day of camp, he had already done the zip line twice, swam across the pool (thus passing his swim test), jumped off the diving board, and gone down the big slide at the pool.  That one seed of God's faithfulness on display set the tone for the rest of our week.

Another story:  we have a kid in our neighborhood that is a fun-loving kid.  He's not from a great family background and hangs out on our street a lot.  He got the opportunity to go to preteen camp with our church this past week and, during that week, put his confidence in Christ.  Amazing.

God is faithful.  Amen.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ministry and Camp

We have just gotten our middlers back from preteen camp at church.  In the next couple of weeks, we'll pile our teenagers out the door to camp too.  It got me to thinking about the role of camp and ministry - I know some say it's a fading fad.  I'm not so sure.

One of the reasons camp is so important in the lives of teenagers is it helps them unplug.  With all the influence of media on the upcoming generation, having a place (in both time and space) that is disconnected from that influence is invaluable to their ability to hear and respond to the Spirit's voice through His Word.

One question:  for whom is that not vital?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Last Piece of My Story

I did not have a good seminary experience.  I had good moments in seminary, but overall I was not a good fit for that place nor (some) of those people.  I made a girl cry in class one day because I said I thought God's judgment on the nations in Joshua was just.  I got threatened by a teacher to "get whacked" because I wouldn't back off from another comment.  I had one prof look at me like I had horns when I said I thought Calvin was right about the unconditional nature of God's election.  And I had a professor ask me, "Where is THAT in the Bible?" when I suggested that racial reconciliation attempts apart from the cross are exercises in managing our relationships, not really reconciling them (I answered with Ephesians 2.11ff, for those who care).  I had a professor I loved and a couple of key educational experiences.  But like I said, overall, not a good fit.

Some of that was me.  My parents were in the midst of dissolving a 32-year marriage that, for me, came from nowhere.  I hate telling that story, so I'll spare everyone here (including my parents, who I think are 2 of the 6 who read the blog).  Some of that was the seminary, which was birthed amid controversy in the denomination of which I claim loose affiliation.  We had men and women walking the halls who couldn't tell you about church discipline or the nature of the atonement but were very up-to-speed on what so-and-so had written in the state paper about such-and-such a topic.  It was gross.

It got so bad one day that I threw in the towel.  I told God, in a little prayer area just off the sanctuary where the seminary was meeting, that I was done.  I would go anywhere and do anything but go back to class.  I wanted nothing to do with the casual approach to the Bible.  I wanted nothing to do with the idiocy of the politics.  I wanted nothing to do with the hurt feelings of some of the professors who were displaced by a different agenda.  I was done.  I was out.  The towel was thrown.

God threw it back.  I was praying and, as clearly as you're reading this right now, the Holy Spirit instructed me to read Psalm 45.  I knew it was Him, so I grabbed my Bible and sat down on the front row of this sanctuary.  It's a quirky little psalm and I really thought I had misheard, so I turned to Psalm 145.  Again, "Read Psalm 45."  Back to the text, I was plugging along through it and found myself lost.  Huh?  What?  My conversation when something like this...

Me:  "Oh, I get it.  Thanks for the object lesson.  The true treasure is in the process, not the goal.  It's digging deep to find the gold.  Thanks, God."  Now, reread that in the best sarcastic, teenage voice you can.  You get the picture of my attitude in that moment.

God:  "Are you going to finish the psalm?"

Me:  "The rest is more of the same, right?"

God:  "Are you going to finish the psalm?"

Me:  "Fine."

I'm not proud of that moment, but it was honest.  I really thought God was giving me a little object lesson about how I needed to stick to it.  Little did I know.

The Bible I had at the time had the first 16 verses of Psalm 45 on one page and v.17 on the next page.  That was Providence at work, because I turned the page and it was like I started a new chapter in my life.  Psalm 45.17 says, "I will cause Your Name to be remembered in all generations; therefore the peoples will give You thanks forever and ever."  That has, ever since, been my life verse.

I am called to herald God and His Kingdom in such a way that people of all ages and nations worship Him as a result.  And every day, that's what I give myself to in ministry, whether to my family or neighbors or church.  And I'm grateful for a moment on a Thursday in March of 1997.  And I'm grateful for quirky little Psalm 45.  And I'm grateful for God who called me.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More of My Story

Like most, junior high was difficult for me.  I tried to belong somewhere, some how, with somebody.  I fell in with the (semi)athletic crowd.  I say it that way because I was also pretty academically oriented and thus helped a lot of people with their math homework on the way to and from basketball games.  My wife, at times, says I have a "pleaser" tendency.  This is where I really first saw this about myself.

Playing ball and trying to stay in the cool crowd marked my junior high days.  We were still in church but it didn't really mean much.  I was much more worried about being able to sing the right harmony notes from the hymnal than the words that I was singing or the God to whom I was singing.

All of this changed when I met Jon.  I met Jon during my freshman year.  He was the first person I knew who didn't try to fit his faith (or alleged faith) into his life but wrapped his life around his faith.  It was an outstanding example for me to follow.  I often think about those days and how God shaped me in those moments.

Funny enough, Jon and I don't share much in common these days.  He leans left, I lean right.  He's hip and trendy, I've had the same haircut since the Reagan administration.  The things I've always appreciated about him:  he's irenic and has integrity.  We don't see eye-to-eye on much of anything - politics, theology, the value of tattoos, etc.  But every discussion we've ever had has been marked by peace, he being the carrier of that.  And he has integrity, meaning what he says he believes and what he believes he lives.  We may not agree on everything he says or believes or lives, but there is no questioning his integrity.

And that's how God set me on the course to be who I am today.  Crazy, huh?

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Little Bit of Me

I was born in a smallish town in east Texas.  We had a perfectly quaint middle class house and home.  Both parents worked (as long as I can remember) and we enjoyed skiing and summer vacations to Schlitterbahn.

Somewhere in the 7-year old range, a kid I knew named Brian was hit by a car while riding his bike and he died.  That was the first real encounter I had with death and it really shook me.  I remember my dad having to come home from his work to try to get me calmed down.  I had heard about people dying.  I even had a sister, whose portrait hung in our house, who passed before I was born (thus the 7 years between older brother and me).  But this was different.  This was someone I knew.

Frankly, because I was so young, I can't remember the exact sequence of things.  I know that God used this death of Brian to turn me to Him.  I remember not wanting to die and not wanting to be anywhere but with my family, but if I did, I wanted to be with God.  Somewhere in the middle of all of that I put my confidence in Christ and what He had done.  I had excellent teaching growing up - good Baptist Sunday School teaching.  All of this helped make all of that real.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Off the Grid

I'm unplugging from the tech world for a little bit to spend time with the family.  For all 6 (I've been told to update my number) who read this, I'm scheduling a couple of posts for later this week that are just personal stories but that's all for the next week or so.

A little blog-sabbath, if you will.

Friday, June 11, 2010

God the Just Justifying Sinners

Unless there is a cross, there is no rightness about forgiving sinners.  But there is, on both counts.

God is "faithful AND just to forgive us our sin" (1 John 1.9).  How in the world can God be just in forgiving sinners?  How can He let murderers and rapists and abusers and hate-promoters and greedy and immoral and idolaters just go free?  Can you imagine the outcry (especially in Texas, where I reside) if a judge just let some folks like that walk?  He'd never make it out of the courtroom.

But here is God the Just, letting sinners (who have done all the above and worse) walk.  How is that just?  It's simple and ingenious.  By Jesus Christ dying on the cross as our propitiation (1 John 2.2), God accomplishes both justice and justification (Rom. 3.26).

He accomplishes justice by punishing all of humanity's sin, once for all time in one place.  Christ was able to bear the weight of that punishment because He is God's Son, the divine Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  He bore our sins in His body (1 Peter 2.24) and became sin for us (2 Cor. 5.21) in order that God might have one sacrifice count for all, thus absorbing the blow of God's just wrath.

God accomplishes justification by counting Jesus' sacrifice as adequate for all who put their trust in Him, ceasing from their self-justification before God.  What's more, everyone who has confidence in Jesus' sacrifice is forgiven and counted righteous in Christ.  It's not just that the guilty are set free, but that God counts Jesus' obedience to Him as our obedience to Him.  Amazing.

And some these days call this cosmic child abuse.  Some call it pathetic and small.  Some call it brutal and primitive.  The Bible calls it the Gospel.  He died that we might live.  Amen.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Faithful to Forgive

The faithfulness of God in forgiving us requires our faithfulness in forgiving others.

I'm stunned by the description of God in 1 John 1.9.  If you've been around church at all, you've encountered this verse:  "If we confess (say the same thing about) our sins, He (God) is faithful and just (righteous - same word in the Greek) to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Maybe I'll take tomorrow and talk about how God is righteous or just in forgiving sin, which is completely counter-intuitive.  Imagine us calling a judge "righteous and just" if he let a guilty person walk on a murder charge.

But today, faithfulness.  I love God's faithfulness to me and to my family.  We have many stories of it:  God providing for us when grad school was happening and we were broke, God giving us jobs we loved, God taking care of the places where we lived, God making ways for our children to get what they needed when it didn't seem possible.  I could go on and on.  For some of our family's stories, you can check out my beautiful and amazing wife's blog:  4uRuthie.  She's a much better writer than me anyway.

But thinking about God's faithfulness in light of my sin is something else.  What that verse promises is that every time I come to God to deal honestly with my sin, I am met by a faithful God who forgives me.  Even when it's the same sin over and over again.  Even when it's heinous and horrible.  Even when it's secretive and silent.  He's faithful to forgive.  Amazing.  Stunning.  Wow.

And about the only reason we would come to God and not receive forgiveness in that moment is if we didn't come and deal honestly with our sin.  It's not the saying of the words that prompts His faithful forgiveness.  It's our taking the same response to our sin as He does.  But even when we come to Him and deal honestly and openly, it's not our act that secures our forgiveness.  The reason God is faithful to forgive is because Jesus Christ, His Son, died on the cross as a propitiation for sin - a sacrifice that bore God's justified wrath and accounted to us His right-standing with God.

Last thought:  these sorts of things in the Bible always prompt an ethical question in me - what am I supposed to do with this?  The answer:  faithfully forgive others, just as God in Christ has forgiven me (cf. Ephesians 4.32).  To remain unforgiving is in itself a sin and puts us out of step with God and His Kingdom - making us in need of that very same forgiveness we're refusing to extend to others, something Jesus said will keep us from experiencing the forgiveness God has for us (Matt. 6.14-15).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Locusts and Restoration

Everything lost God can replace.  Everything lost God wants to replace.

This thought came up a couple of times in our Second Tuesday Prayer meeting at church last night.  We were praying over those who were walking in darkness and it came up when we were asking God to restore them.  It's a powerful thought.

Through Joel, God promises to restore the years that the locusts have eaten.  Locusts are nasty little bugs, destroying and devouring all sorts of livelihoods - crops, vineyards, etc.  They were often seen as a plague of judgment.  Indeed, in Joel's context, they were judgment by God on the people for their idolatry.

But yet this glorious promise:  God will restore.  He's that kind of God.  Marriage relationships.  Parental relationships.  Spiritual relationships.  Neighbors.  Brothers.  Sisters.  Children.  Employees.  Employers.  That is what God wants to do.

The warning and condition:  repentance and return are both necessary.  It's not without our work, though God works more.  It's not without our effort, though God "deals wondrously with [us]."  It's not without our humility, since He opposes the proud.  It's not without our prayer, since He demands we call on Him in order for Him to move.  It's certainly not within our timing, but it is in His.  And the result is "praise [to] the name of the LORD your God."

Repent and return.  God desires to restore.  Amen.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Calling that is Sustained

God is always faithful to bring about what He calls us to do.

This quote from 1 Thessalonians 5.24 is like fuel to my soul.  It has buoyed me through all sorts of issues:  ministry situations, moves, personal problems, an adoption, and on an on.  As we waited through the process of adopting our daughter (a long, long process detailed on our family blog:  here), I held on and held on and held on and held on and held on to this nugget.

Whenever I sense God's calling to something, it comes with challenges.  I wouldn't need Him otherwise.  And whenever those challenges come, I run to this verse and let it sustain me.  Waiting?  Confused?  Frustrated?  Faithful is He who calls you and He will bring it to pass.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Midweek Memo 6.8.10

Here's the column from the Midweek Memo for this week...

Dear Church Family,

Why are confusing passages in the Bible?  We looked at one of those this past Sunday when we studied the topic of Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.  There are others to be sure.  As always, if you ever have questions, feel free to call or email.  But the bigger question is why are they there?

First, I’m not sure they’re as confusing as you may think.  They probably made a lot of sense to the original readers and the confusion of history and worldview has made them appear confusing to us.  It’s not that we can’t understand them, but that we have to work harder to do so.

Second, I think part of the reason God gave us these texts is to stay dependent on Him.  If we have it all figured out, can systematize our theology and pigeonhole every word of every verse, then we don’t have much need of a relationship with the God who wrote every word of every verse.  But just as the Spirit inspired the Bible, so He must illuminate the Bible so we can really get it.  And the good news is that you don’t need a PhD in Greek or Hebrew to do that.  The Spirit can make it plain and He has seen fit to provide tons of free resources that help us understand it.  

Hard texts are there.  And they keep us humble.  Even Peter commented about how difficult and brain-exploding some of Paul’s arguments were.  But studying hard, praying hard, thinking hard all leads us to become the kinds of people God desires us to be.  So stay in the Word, even when it doesn’t make sense.   There’s profit to be had there.



Trying to impress God never works out well.  Positioning yourself to be impressed by God – that’s a lot better.

Try harder!  Work longer!  Do more!  Go faster!  Be quicker!  Go farther!  These are powerful statements of exhortation that fit into our culture.  But they don’t fit in the Kingdom, not even a little bit.

In fact, when we try to impress God with our achievements, our doings, our activities, He actually gets depressed.  I’m convinced that it’s heartbreaking to Him.  I can’t imagine my son saying to me, “Dad, look at what all I’ve done to earn your approval!  Are you pleased with me?”  I’m pleased with him because he’s my son, and God is pleased with us because we are His kids through Jesus.

But that doesn’t lead us to inactivity.  It leads us to position ourselves to see God work – doing things, trying things, praying for things.  We share the Gospel and pray God will change lives through it.  We serve others as an expression of God’s mercy on someone.  On and on we could go.  My son could say to me, “Hey dad!  Look at how this worked out!  Awesome!”  And I would celebrate with Him.  I think that’s how God does with us.

Position yourself to be impressed by God.  You’ll both get to celebrate how He moved.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sermon Notes from Sunday 6.6.10

Here are the notes from today's sermon.  As always, you can find the sermon audio at  Thanks!

On Blasphemy
Mark 3.22-30

This is one of the scariest and most confusing texts in the NT.

What is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?
It’s not an incantation or curse – the heart matters more than the words.

3 Components
  • Clear Revelation of Christ
  • Clear Experience with the Holy Spirit
  • Denial of Both
    • They set aside all logic.
    • They set aside their experience.
    • They slandered Christ by calling good evil and light dark.

Those who fall to this level of wickedness will never turn to God in repentance. 

3 Pastoral Implications

  • We don’t do warning well, but it is necessary.
  • Spiritual Callousness is very real and very poisonous (1 John 1.6,8,10)
  • When convicted, we must repent and not linger in sin.  (1.7,9)
  • We resist Him at our own peril.
    • Greater self-deception
    • Less sensitivity to the Spirit
    • Further withdrawal of God’s restraining moral influence 

  • The best evidence of your salvation is not a past experience but present expression (1 John 2.3-6)
  • Do you have obedience to Christ?
  • What is the state of your heart – love for the world or God?  If the world, do you have sorrow over your sin?
  • Do you have love for others?

  • Your sense of security in your salvation hangs mostly on the character of the person you believed accomplished it.
  • In our salvation, God is the actor and we are the acted upon (1 John 2.1-2)
  • Objection:  don’t I have a part to play?
  • Answer:  Yes – repent and receive Him, but you cannot do that without Him.
  • In propitiation, God took our sin that merited His wrath.
  • In propitiation, God gave us righteousness that birthed relationship.

Look at my girl go!

She consistently amazes us at what she can do. Here is yet an-other testimony of God's grace to us in her and His ability to overcome alleged disabilities to do things we never anticipate and do them in ways that we never saw coming.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

It's Quiet Here

Tranquility of soul is a rare commodity in the hustle-and-bustle, get-up-and-go world in which we live.  But it's worth it and attainable by focusing on the right thing.

My wife and kids are gone for the weekend seeing family on both sides.  Sunday keeps coming around and I've got a week of vacation coming up, so I'm missing out on the weekend hang out time.  However, I've been sitting here for over an hour and I keep noticing one thing.  It's quiet.

I'm nursing my second cup of coffee.  I have a Bible out in front of me.  I've done some thinking about what my day holds (not the least of which is the calling of the lawn).  I've done some praying.  And outside of the ticking clock, it's quiet.

I think the quiet of soul is why Jesus could sleep on a boat in a storm.  This is how quiet I want to be on the inside:  appropriately unphased by the circumstances surrounding.  Perfect peace comes from having the right thing in view (Isa. 26.3).

I miss my family, but I'm grateful for the quiet of this moment.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

2 Chronicles 20

The immensity of God is unchallenged and unchanged by the size of the issue at hand.  And He often works uniquely to remind us of that.

Jehoshaphat was king of Judah.  Three different armies, bound together by the unified purpose of destruction, marched against him.  In one of the most honest prayers recorded in the Scriptures, Jehoshaphat called a fast and put before his God this little beauty:  "We don't know what to do, but our eyes are on you."

God wasn't phased by the armies.  He wasn't unmoved though.  Jehoshaphat's prayer touched Him deeply and profoundly and the King sent word back to the king:  "I got this."

So, Jehoshaphat, in prayerful faith, sent the church choir out to battle first.  The four bald guys on the back row of the choir loft who can't quite hit the high E along with Miss Sally with her big smile and Winona with the ever-present cane walked out in front of the soldiers to the field of battle.  They sang the familiar songs of God.

And you know what the army did?  They collected the loot.  The enemy had fled.  No fighting needed.  Just wagons and pack mules for hauling the spoil.  God's big and showed Himself as such.

What are you facing where you would say, "I don't know what to do but my eyes are on you"?  Cancer?  Job?  Family?  Loss?  I can't guarantee a similar deliverance, but God promises to hear our prayers and answer according to what's best.  When we don't know what to do, He's always the best place to look.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Patricia Heaton, The Middle, and The Cross

"You don't have to try out for Jesus." Patricia Heaton, in an episode of The Middle, as she encouraged her awkward teenage daughter toward youth group. Good truth there...

It's a funny show.  It really is.  Positive view of marriage (mostly).  Positive view of parenting (again, mostly).  Well cast, well written, and laugh-inducing, at least in this household.

Right there in the episode, out comes this beauty.  It made me think of how many people tried out for Jesus like the Rich Young Ruler in Luke 18.  

Rich:  "Look at everything I've done for God, Jesus!  How about them apples?" 

Jesus:  "You're clueless but nice.  Here's a thought:  sell everything you have and give it to the poor because you love your stuff too much to really get what my Kingdom is about.  My dad's not all that impressed with your effort, but He likes you."

Rich:  "Huh?  But I just bought this and don't even have it paid off before the 12-month no-interest deadline yet!"

He walked away.  He was sad.  Jesus was sad.  

Compare that to the sinners and tax-collectors, the rejects and losers, the has-beens and never-weres, the dregs and the scumbags that Jesus hung around.  No one tried out.  Had they tried, they would've failed too.  But they didn't.  Jesus moved toward them and they reveled in it.  They didn't try to impress Him, they just tried to do what He said was best.  Zaccheus was one of those (Luke 19).  His encounter with Jesus led him to give away 1/2 of what he owned and pay back those he had defrauded with interest.  Stuff can clog the heart like spiritual cholesterol.  Zaccheus wanted none of that.

No try-outs.  Come as you are.  Jesus was in the business of changing lives.  Still is.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Secret Kingdom Work

The authority to speak for Jesus comes from being with Jesus.  You can't do the one without the other.

Jesus called His disciples to be with Him and then He sent them out to preach and exercise authority over demons (Mark 3.14-15).  Can you imagine taking on such a monumental task - declaring and demonstrating the Kingdom of God - without first being with the King and hearing His heartbeat, knowing what's on His mind, seeing where He's at work and where He's planning on working next.

The reason why the Kingdom works in this manner is because of the secret nature of it.  So much of what goes on in the Kingdom is conspiratorially quiet, secretive, unseen - like plants sprouting and vines producing fruit and the smallest of seeds growing into some of the largest plants in a garden.  Sure, there are outward Kingdom manifestations.  The exercise of that kind of authority requires a connectedness to the King too.  But much more goes on in the quiet, where Jesus does His best work.  And that certainly demands an intimacy with the King.  Be with Him in secret so He can use you to work on His behalf in secret.