Friday, September 30, 2011

Before You, God

Though as you travel down life's path, unable to see the end of the trail, there may be times of hurt and pain that come as a shock to you, remember that nothing surprises God.  He knew everything about you and everything that will ever happen to you, both good and bad, long before He ever made you, and in that there’s incredible hope . . . Find out why over at Proverbs and Wisdom in my weekly article.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


There’s this word that gets thrown around a lot in the Christian world: theology.  At it’s root it means “God’s Word”, but most of the time it’s taken to mean “the study of God.” Sounds good right.  I think so.  That’s what this blog is all about.  “Studying to show myself approved” as it were.

But can you know a Christian based on their theology?

Think about it.  There are a lot of so-called Christians out there that know the right answers, that have the right words, seem to be doing the right things, maybe even have a semblance of spiritual power—they’re theology seems good.  On the other hand, there are some so-called Christians out there that don’t have all the right answers and are pretty ignorant of the ways of the church.  But do they have bad theology?

For that matter, should theology be the rule of thumb that is used in looking at a Christian?

Jesus gives the answer.  He says, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.

A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-20)

What fruits is He talking about?

How about these fruits?  “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  (Galatians 5:22-23)

Peter reiterates the list, “Applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 

If these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:4-8

There’s only one perfect theology out there, and that’s Jesus Christ.  In fact John 1 calls Him the “logos" of "Theos" or "Word of God." It wouldn’t be far fetched to translate it, “In the beginning was theology . . . and theology became flesh.”  It stands to reason then if you know Him, and abide in Him, you’ll be fruitful.  All these things will be added to you.  It’s the great promise He gives if you seek Him first.  So take your nose out of the books once and awhile, and fall on your knees before our great God and King, and ask Him what He thinks about theology. 

You may just walk away a little more fruitful.

(Special thanks to my good friend and brother in Christ, Aaron Halvorsen, for getting me thinking about this subject with his post: “Trees Don’t Eat Their Own Fruit” on  He and his wife work with CRU at MIT and Emerson College.  I’d encourage you to visit their site and support their ministry sharing the Gospel at one of the top engineering schools and leading Liberal Arts Colleges in the nation.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Holy Spirit is Better

As the disciples fretted about Jesus’ imminent death, Jesus comforted them saying, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7)

I think a lot of times the Holy Spirit gets a bum rap in Christian circles.  On the conservative side of things, He is viewed like crazy cousin Eddy who shows up unexpectedly at family reunions and sets people’s heads on fire and makes them speak in tongues like in Acts chapter 2. 

On the charismatic side of things, He is viewed as the fun uncle Jerry who doles out candy and excitement and teaches them to rebel against the religious status quo.  Either way the Holy Spirit has the reputation of a hotshot rebel who loves trouble and shaking things up.

The fact of the matter is that the Holy Spirit is God.  He isn’t a rebel.  He doesn’t enjoy shaking things up.  Those kinds of things are totally carnal. We’re the rebels.  We’re the ones who come to the family reunions and mess stuff up, by sitting up on our high horses doling out judgment or acting like goofballs and calling it holy. 

This is what Jesus says about the Holy Spirit: “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment . . . But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 16:8-14)

If you’ll recall, this is a lot like what Jesus says about Himself: "For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me." (John 12:49-50)

The Holy Spirit is not a rebel.  He does not enjoy disorder.  He is God.  He conforms completely to the Father, and He created order. 

Does He set people’s heads on fire and cause them to speak in other languages?  Sure.  But He also teaches us to use spiritual gifts for God’s glory and not our own, to live for Him and not ourselves, and to not show off but to do what the Father does and speak what the Father speaks.  This is the image of Christ to which we are being conformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

This is why Jesus says it’s better that He leaves to send the Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit that bears witness to the Father and Jesus Christ, and it is the Holy Spirit that empowers us to be called sons of God through Jesus Christ.  To God be the glory forever.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The King Who Serves

There’s this crazy story in the Bible about Jesus washing some stinky feet at dinner.  It’s hard to imagine the King of kings and Lord of lords on His knees in front of some dirty guys washing their feet; even Peter can hardly accept the insanity of it all and recoils saying, “"Never shall You wash my feet!"

And Jesus answers him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me."  (John 13:8)

When Jesus finishes, He says, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (John 13:12-17

In another place when Jesus sends out the disciples He says, “freely you received, now freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)

Our King is not only generous, He’s humble, and He loves to serve.  He served in creating. He served in coming to Earth to live sinless.  He served in dying and rising again.  He serves in giving us salvation, forgiveness, grace, love, mercy, and eternal life.  He serves by sending His Spirit to abide in us, teach us, guide us, and empower us.

But our King doesn’t serve us just so that we might exalt in His gifts, He serves us to set us an example: that even the greatest among us ought to serve the least among us. That we ought to save those in need, forgive those who’ve wronged us, give grace to the undeserving, love others as we love ourselves, show mercy when judgment is due, live for eternity, live in/by the Spirit and Truth, and to pray in power for deliverance, healing, and life for anyone who needs it.

The King who serves, serves in humility, so that those who are of His kingdom might also humbly serve. 

And Jesus says that you cannot serve Him or others in His name if you have not been served by Him.  That’s why it’s not by works that we’re saved but by grace.  We have to experience the example before we can live it.

Stop resisting the humility of our King.  He wants to serve you.  If you’re hurting, come to Him.  If you’re sinning, come to Him.  If you’re ill, come to Him.  If you’re tired, come to Him.  He will freely give you whatever you need, so you can freely give it to others that all who call on His name might be saved to the glory of God.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Father's Love

It's Friday again, so I'm writing for Proverbs and Wisdom.  Today's topic is "The Father's Love".

Here's a snippet:

Too many times in moments of hurt and frustration, when sin of our own device or from the hands of others has scarred us in ways that seem irreparable, we begin to question whether God could love us, at least whether the Father could love us.  We all
know that Jesus loved us so much He died for us, and the Holy Spirit comforts us in our time of distress, but can the Father love us after what’s happened?

In these times, it’s helpful to think about what the Bible has to say about the Father . . . Read More.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Plugging Holes

I love to give God glory for what He’s doing in my area, state, nation, even around the world, and so I often seek out those that I see have a heart for God and talk to them, rejoice with them, help where I can, and most importantly pray for and encourage them.  There are times though when this gets me into trouble, particularly when I run into someone in ministry who’s got their eyes on the waves in the storm.

It usually runs something like this: “I’m so glad God sent you to me.  We need you to serve in our children’s church, youth group, Sunday School, worship team, fundraising, donating, etc.”

Obviously I can't help them all, so my heart breaks for them.

But here's the thing: if there are holes in your ministry’s boat, you can’t plug them with people.  It will be like those silly cartoons where for every person you plug into a hole, two more appear, and in the end the boat sinks. 

When the disciples’ boat was sinking, Jesus didn’t wake up and yell, “Oh my goodness!  We need more man power to keep afloat!”  “He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?’ Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.” (Matthew 8:26)

If there are storms brewing, if it seems like everything is going wrong, if there isn’t enough money, if the ratio of kids to adults is too high, and everything’s out of control, your ministry doesn’t need more people to help out; it needs Jesus!

If you surrender it to Him, and base your success and failure all on obedience to Christ, He’ll calm the storms, He’ll bring salvation, He may even plug the holes, but please don’t assume anyone who comes up and asks you how things are going is the answer to your problems.  I can tell you right now; they’re not. 

If God sends someone to plug your holes, it will sound a lot more like this: “Hi, my name is . . . and God has called me to . . . for you.” That’s the person you want.  That’s the person who will be faithful to help you whatever the cost.  That’s the person who will pray fervently and work tirelessly for the kingdom work God has laid on both your hearts. 

Don’t settle for a warm body to plug the holes in your ministry.  In fact, I would say if the person does not say God sent me to help you, turn them away.  And if they do say God has sent me to help you, ask them how.  It may not be in the way you think you need help.  After all, this isn’t your boat you’re sailing; it’s God’s.

Seek first the kingdom and all these things will be added unto you.

If you want an example of this, I invite you to watch the story of George Muller below:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

God's Glory Alone

I started this blog back in 2007, with a post called When God Shows Up.  Since then I have written 100 posts, attracted about 2,000 page views a month, and have publishers dumping books, videos, and video games on me asking for reviews.  It seems to be a success in every way except the reason I started it in the first place.

When I reread these words in that first post, despite all that has happened in my life and how much I’ve grown as a Christian, I find not much has changed:

We're like autistic children; too much stimulus and we start screaming and run away. There have been times in my relationship with God, that He has moved beyond typical interactions, and I've felt His presence physically touching me; I've heard His voice in more audible tones. Every time I've approached this intimate relationship with God, I've pulled back, and yet it is the type of relationship I desire most. It is this simultaneous desire and hesitancy that creates a constant struggle in my life. When I sin, it is usually a direct result of this struggle. I start to get too close to God and pull back and do something to purposely push Him away. Those of you who know my whole testimony are probably thinking this sounds very familiar, you'd be right. However, unlike the last time, I'm taking a stand right here, right now, to press on in this relationship God desires from me, and overcome the desire to run.”

In fact rather than getting rid of the desire to run, I think I’ve just come to understand why it’s there the more I’ve come to know God.  I had one experience just after writing this post all those years ago that provides a good example of why. 

I had just finished reading Exodus 33-34, about Moses asking God to show him His glory.  And so I began to seek the Lord because I wanted to see His glory too.  I foolishly prayed out to God, “I don’t care if it kills me; I want to know all of your glory!”

I’ve read some commentaries and heard some pastors say that when Solomon says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10) and when Jesus says, “fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) that they just mean be in awe of God.  There aren’t enough synonyms in any thesaurus for "foolishness" to begin to describe the stupidity of this idea. 

Did Jesus tell John, “do not be in awe” in Revelation 1:17?  No, He said “do not be afraid.”  Why?

I found out on that day.   As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I felt a weight drop on me, and I fell on my face like a dead man.  And God’s glory covered me, and like the shepherds in the field that first Christmas night, I was sore afraid.  I thought I was going to die, and I could feel that God was holding back, a lot.  For hours I lay under the weight of His presence, until I managed to whisper, “please stop, I think I’m going to die.”

His presence lifted, and I pulled myself to a fetal position and bemoaned my unworthiness with a wrenching weeping, while God’s Spirit comforted me.

The experience humbled me and gave me a better understanding of this God I’m seeking to know.  He is not a big, lovable grandpa in the sky.  He is God.  He loves us enough to send His Son to die in our stead so that we can stand before Him in the Day of Judgment and not be destroyed.  But in the mean time He loves us enough to keep us at a distance lest we see His face and die. 

Yet that is my desire still, to press in to see His face no matter what the cost, so I die daily that I might be resurrected and behold His glory, but I do so in a proper understanding of whose glory it is that I’m seeking.

So, wherever this blog goes over the next 100 posts, however many readers there are, may it always be for His glory alone because God alone is worthy.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me

Ian Morgan Cron’s memoir of sorts chronicles his life as best he can remember, and sometimes even better than his best memories, as he freely admits to some elaboration in the introduction.  It all begins as he muses over a picture of him in a boat when he was two on a family vacation, and the story ends in the present with him on a family vacation with his own children. 

Cron’s writing reminds me a lot of John Updike in style and content, or I should say John Updike in reverse.  While Updike usually ends with some existential dig at God and Christianity, Cron ends with rebirth and triumph through Christ.  Perhaps the similarity lies in that the two are both Episcopalian: one a parishioner, the other a priest, though it should be no surprise that Episcopalians produce such outstanding writers—they do stem from the denominational lineage of Shakespeare and Milton after all.

I sat down to read this book. When I finished the first chapter, I was astonished.  The writing was good.  Not just passable like other Christian novels I’ve read but literary good.  Cron’s writing is unparalleled in modern Christian publishing.  It was so good, that I read the whole book out loud, chapter by chapter, with my wife at bedtime.

The best part is that not only is the writing good, but his story is absolutely engulfing.  Cron made us laugh at the absurdities of his dysfunctional family, cry in his pain, rejoice in his new birth in Christ, and pray over the struggles he still faces in his new life. 

I don’t know how much more glowing a review could be, but if you’re looking for a good read that is a raw look at grace in process, Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me is the book for you.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review.  All opinions are my own.

Buy the book now for $10.87

Monday, September 5, 2011

What Are You Taking Home?

We went to a Labor Day parade in Naperville, IL today.  It was our toddler’s first real parade experience if you discount the psychedelic, seizure-inducing Alice-in-Wonderland parade at Disneyworld.  There was the usual fare of marching bands, police cars, firefighters, politicians waiving signs, acrobat groups, martial art schools, and fuzzy characters for the kids. 

Most of all there was a lot of free swag being handed out.  We went home with gobs of candy, coupons, beach balls, and even a full-size yardstick (a parade-handouts first for me too).

And as we walked away carrying about three times more than we came in with, I wondered what we were going to do with all this stuff since we’re traveling across the country.  It’s not like we have a lot of room in the car to carry it all.  At some point, I’ll have to clean out the car and toss every thing we don't really want to take home in the garbage.

And then I was reminded of the sermon from yesterday about Matthew 6:19-34.  Jesus’ teachings in this section can be summed in three points: don’t worry about your daily needs, God takes care of you; don’t store up treasures on Earth, store up treasures in heaven; and seek first the kingdom of God in all things.

I think we tend to forget that we’re all on a journey in this life, and we’re essentially living out of our cars.  When the journey is over, our Father is going to clean out our cars, and only the things that are eternally essential are going home with us.  Your big screen T.V. is going in the trash, the 100 pairs of barely worn shoes in your closet-trash, the lovely dinette set in your dining room-trash, your new car, trash, your house-trash, your 401K-trash.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus compared a rich man entering the kingdom of heaven to a camel going through the eye of a needle? (Matthew 19:24)  Just try to picture someone carrying all their junk on their back trying to fit through the gate of heaven.  It’s an impossible feat.

That’s why Jesus says to give up everything for His sake.  You can’t take it home with you.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Proverbs and Wisdom

I’ve recently started writing a weekly article for the Proverbs and Wisdom website.  My articles will be released every Friday.  I’ll also be working with them in some scale on their print magazine.

I encourage you to read through their previous articles and to stay tuned for their future ones.

This month’s topic for the website will be on Healing and Rebirth.  You can read my article entitled: “Are You Self-Confident” here. 


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