Thursday, June 28, 2012

A single question

Some followers of John the Baptist were talking to him about his Messianic aspirations.  Jesus' disciples were baptizing more than the Baptist himself.  What's up with that?  And there was more:  people were switching allegiances from John to Jesus.  That's like moving from one church to another in the same city!  People never do that, right?

John was clear in his response.  Crystal clear.
He must increase and I must decrease. (John 3.30)
And this question has stuck with me this week.  How will that play out in my day?  If I could have that same attitude and outlook, how will that affect my conversations, interactions, moments of activity and moments of quiet?

And how would it affect yours?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Celebrating Communion

I don't ever want to go into autopilot mode when it comes to Communion.  And here's why:  a phrase in the book of James.

James?  Yes.  James.

James?  The book that doesn't really even mention the cross, much less Communion?  Yes.  That James.

James?  The book that confuses some people's understanding of faith and works?  Yes.  That James.

But here's the phrase that gets me.  I think I'll make it my "Communion Phrase" that I'll try to say (at least to myself, if not to others) every time I celebrate it.  You ready for the phrase?

Mercy triumphs over judgment (2.13).

That's exactly what I need to remember in Communion.  God's mercy is mine and His judgment is not.  His judgment was upon Christ at the cross.  His mercy is upon me right here, right now, in the life I'm living.  His judgment happened in a moment.  His mercy is new every morning.  What a thing to remember and celebrate and cherish.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, June 25, 2012

No longer living

Paul said in Galatians 2.20:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me.  And the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Those are powerful words.  Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe who has all authority and power, lives in me by His Spirit.  He has loved me, demonstrated in the giving of His life as a ransom for mine and my sin.  It's not a matter of Him tolerating me - He loves me.

And the life I live now with Jesus is by the same faith that I exercised when I began to live with Jesus.  It's the same faith.  The same action.  The same exercise.

Some people live under the assumption that I meet Jesus by faith but live with Him by works.  One of the major points in Galatians is that assumption simply isn't true.  I begin by faith and I continue by faith.  I am saved by faith and sanctified by faith.

That's good news, because it keeps me off the religious treadmill where I wear myself out and go nowhere.  Instead, by faith I make progress in genuine holiness.  I really can be transformed.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Blogging Hiatus

For the three of you who care, I'm taking a little blogging breather this coming week.  I thought about breaking out reruns or blogging ahead, but settled simply on letting it breathe for a week.

So enjoy your week everyone.  Happy Father's day!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Snakes are Scary: Pentecost edition

I assume this is how it happened on Pentecost...

And this picture prompts the question, what if He didn't show?  Would our church gathering be the same?  And if it would, what in the world does that say?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Serious Theology & Southern Baptists

Well, dear reader, here's a bit of controversy for you.  There's been a little dust-up in Southern Baptist life about a document produced, signed, and distributed in the past few weeks about the traditional understanding of salvation from the Baptist perspective.  I've held off commenting because, quite frankly, I thought it would go away.  Alas.

I won't bother with the historical question marks that are hanging over this document, but let me point out one theological issue.  Here is Article II:

We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.
We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.
Some have described the authors and signers of this document as semi-Pelagian.  It's close, if not over that line.  But more important than the label, I think it misses the biblical point of our brokenness.

Ephesians 2 teaches that we are dead in our sin and positionally children of wrath (see 2.3).  Loved by God?  Absolutely.  But we, from the get-go, are sinners by nature and choice.  So our "free will" is not really free at all and is indeed incapacitated by sin and has rendered us "guilty before [we] have personally sinned."  By saying "personally sinned," I'm assuming they mean doing something that I know to be wrong.  But here's the issue:  an 18-month old does not do what mom says to do:  guilty.  A 3-year old looks at dad and keeps doing what she is doing:  guilty.  Why do small children act this way?  Because they are sinners by nature and choice.

The question comes around (and it's why, I think, that this seemingly careless paragraph is in this document), so what then does God do with those who are not capable of understanding the Gospel?  What assurance do we have that if a kid dies at 3 that God will receive her if she's guilty?  The old Baptist language for that is the age of accountability.  And my answer is still the same:  God is perfectly just and unbelievably merciful and exercises both with great wisdom.  In the case of kids, I certainly believe that those who are incapable of understanding the Gospel (what Jonathan Edwards called the natural inability, in contrast with the moral inability to respond to God) receive bucket loads of mercy.  Adults with mental incapacities do too.  

We sin because we're sinners.  We are not born spiritually alive and then die when we volitionally sin.  We're born spiritually dead to God and God makes us alive in Christ.  We don't help ourselves in this scenario - God has to breathe life into us.  No corpse grabs the paddles and shocks his own heart.  Dead people are incapable of such things.  Spiritually, God regenerates us through the Holy Spirit and calls us through the Gospel.  Our faith and repentance, in response, are steps following God's initiative toward us.

It's heavy theology on a Thursday, but it's important stuff.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Jesus is on Facebook

Jesus is on Facebook.  I've seen Him multiple times.  In fact, most of the time my Christianity is questioned if I don't "like" Him or His picture or anything else that someone is pushing.

But that's not my real concern.  It's funny, even.

But not this.  No, this is serious.

It's one thing for Jesus to be on Facebook.  It's another thing when we relate to Him as someone on Facebook.

We friend Him, maybe even because someone suggested we should.

He shows up in the news feed of our lives every so often, commenting on what He's done or something He's involved in.  This mostly happens on Sundays.

When He says something we don't like, we ignore His updates - at least for a while.

When something goes wrong in our lives, we post about it and hope people will notice, including Him.

We private message Him when something is bothering us.  Or we don't, and talk to other people about it because He's probably ignoring us because of that picture that popped up that we got tagged in that might have been not exactly Jesus-friendly.

And it goes on.

It's not as if a living relationship with God is like the faux relationships of Facebook.  He's much more shockingly good and fiercely dangerous than that.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Joking with the Devil

I referenced in last Sunday's sermon a quote I thought was from C.S. Lewis.  It is located in his Screwtape Letters, but it is an epilogue attributed to Martin Luther.  Here's the larger quote...
The best way of getting rid of the devil, if you cannot do it with the words of the Holy Scripture, is to rail at and mock him.  For he is a proud spirit, and cannot bear scorn.
There's even more, wherein Luther gets all German and crass.  But suffice it to say that the pride in the Devil will not allow him to receive jesting and jocularity at his expense.  I wouldn't advise using it in every scenario.  I think saying "no" is the best first option.  And quoting the truth is next.  And then changing the environment or context of the temptation.

But if he won't yield, making fun of him might be the strategy.

But that's just me (and a German monk quoted by a British professor) thinking thoughts...

Monday, June 11, 2012

The inevitability of sin

I have been thinking a lot about sin and temptation this past week because I preached about it on Sunday. One of the things that's been stirring in my mind is how the Enemy will do his best to make you (and me!) feel that sin is inevitable.

The temptation may be strong and you may be rejecting it.  Thoughts keep popping into your head.  Emotions are running amok and all over you like a steamroller.  Visions of you doing what you don't want to do play in 1080p Hi-Def on a 55" LCD screen in your mind.  The object of your obsession appears everywhere you look.  On and on.

And you may be winning that battle on all fronts.

So what does Satan do?  Give up?  Hardly.  He'll switch tactics and start whispering not a lie about the temptation itself but about your inability to resist it.  He'll start saying that's inevitable and you might as well give up.  It's going to happen, you and he both know it.  You've never held out before (even though you may have) and you won't now.  It's in your genes and you know how addictive your father or mother or sister or brother was or is.  And besides, you know you like it.

That's the lie he'll speak.

And we have to combat it with the Truth.  There is no temptation that has overtaken you but such as is common to man, and God faithfully provides a way out during the temptation every time (1 Cor. 10.13).  Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world (1 John 4.4).  Sin is pleasing for a moment, but only for a moment (Heb. 11.24-26).

Sin is NOT inevitable.  And every time Satan speaks, he lies.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sermon Notes from Sunday 6.10.12

Here are the sermon notes from Sunday, 6.10.12, in the series from Genesis called Fascinating Families.  You can find these notes in PDF and the sermon audio at  You can also get the audio on iTunes via our podcast.  The audio will probably be a little later than usual since our webmaster extraordinaire is on a mission trip.

Fascinating Families
Part 2 – Family Temptation
Genesis 3.1-4.10

Temptation:  Disobey

Lie:  God is not good or, at least, good to me (v.3, 5).

  • Part of this can be measure:  is God good enough?
  • Part of this can be personal:  is God good to me?
  •  Part of this can be timing:  is God good now?
  • What we call into question is His character and His commands.
Lie:  There are not consequences for my choices (v.4).

  •  In our culture, no on is responsible for anything and therefore should not have consequences.
  • Shame (v.7)
  • Conflict with God (v.8-11) 
  • Conflict with others (v.12-13)
  • Frustration in other areas (v.16-19)
  • Anger (4.5)
  • Generational patterns (4.6-7) 
  • Death (5.5)
Lie:  God will not meet my deepest needs or desires (v.6).

  •  Nothing wrong with having needs and desires – God put them there.
  • Some do family as if they meet deepest needs or are looking to family to meet our deepest needs.
Temptation:  Passivity

  • When it comes to temptation, passivity is no strategy.
  •  Look to Joseph
o   Say NO
o   Tell the Truth
o   Change the environment
o   Last resort:  scorn
o   When you fail, go to God, not away from Him.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Snakes are Scary: Oh My Word...

Someone sent me a link to a funny site of Christian pick up lines.  Oh my word...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Recalibrating my frustration

I sat with the lady that I mentioned yesterday at her current address.  It was inspiring.


She talked about her sickness and impending death as an object in the road.  She said, "I could scream at God for creating an object, I could yell at Him for placing it in the road.  But instead, I just try to talk to Him about how I'm going to get by it."

Are you kidding me?

She went on to say in her strongest moments she has the faith to say that.  In her weaker moments she struggles with the pain.  But she said through it all she's never alone.

I have some struggles and frustrations in my life right now.  But, man, what a gift was that conversation yesterday.  I walked away with the kind of perspective that minimizes my piddly and pathetic "struggles and frustrations" (which I feel silly even typing) and exalts what's really important:  faith, perseverance, family, church, character, etc.

Sometimes a recalibration comes from talking about final things.  And it's a gift when it does.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Funeral Planning via Telephone

I had 15 minutes on the phone last night with a sweet lady who was attempting to plan her funeral with me.  On the phone.  It's not my normal M.O. to plan funerals on the phone, especially to the person whose funeral it will be.  So we made plans to visit later (in person) and work on things then.

But it got me thinking about planning a funeral.  Unless Jesus tarries, I will have a funeral one day too.  I may or may not get to plan it.  But whether I do or not, there will be some things said about me.  What will those be?  They will be reflective of the kind of person I was and the kind of life I lived.  And that brought me back to a few lines from C.T. Studd, a missionary...
We've only one life
It soon will be past
Only what's done
For Christ will last
Will there be much that lasts?  Will there be much to say?  I have one life to live, one that preaches my funeral before I get there.  You too.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Clearing to see

The Queen had me out cleaning up the hedges that she had trimmed.  She did all the trimming so that our house wouldn't look like Boo Radley's house.  It needed to be done.

But you know what?  You can see now.  You can see the street from our window.  You can see the front porch from our front yard.  You can see the fence.  You can just see.

So much of that is true of our lives.  The Spirit searches us and reveals what needs to be revealed.  The Word convicts by the Spirit, piercing even the division between soul and spirit.  God grants us a beautiful grace by letting us see.  Yes we see sin.  But we see grace too.  The sin is clear.  But what stands clearer is is the cross.

It often takes some clearing though.  Time in the Word.  Time with God's people.  Conversations that sometimes hurt.  Confession of guilt.

But the gift is this:  you can see.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Recommendation: Sacred Marriage

Well, folks, if you haven't picked up Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas you absolutely should do so and do so right now.  In fact, here's a link to it.  Order it immediately.  Then read it.  And encourage your spouse to read it.  Then read it again.

I've read it before and have recently reread it.  It's so rich and wise and full of perspective when it comes to marriage.  His point is in the subtitle:  what if God intended marriage to make you holy rather than to make you happy?

I won't spoil the book, but let me just say that he interacts well with current culture as well as historical thought and does both in a way that's accessible.  And it's really well written.

But the big thing is it is challenging.  It will push you.  And that's a good thing.  Because marriage matters.  And Jesus matters even more.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sermon Notes from Sunday, June 3, 2012

Here are today's sermon notes from the series Fascinating Families in the book of Genesis.  To get these notes in PDF and the sermon audio, visit  You can also get the sermon audio on iTunes via our podcast.

Fascinating Families
Part 1 – A Man, A Woman, A Marriage 
Genesis 2.15-­‐25

Marriage: God's

  • Marriage was God’s idea from the beginning and remains His idea today.
  • Marriage is defined by God as one man and one woman for one lifetime.

Marriage: Design

  • God gives the man responsibilities: providing, protecting, pastoring (v.15-­‐ 17).
  • God creates the woman with a role: complement (v.18-­‐23).
  • Roles as designed by God and functions as life happens are not the same.

Marriage: Math

  • God’s plan for marriage: 1+1=1.
  • Healthy, strong marriages aren’t the result of drift but intentional practices and habits.
  • God gives us two we must continually practice: leaving and cleaving.

Marriage: Covenant

  • Freedom is experienced in the covenant context.
  • God uses this context to make us holy.
  • God has nothing against your happiness, but He’s after your holiness.