Get the book here

Monday, September 29, 2008

Suicide of Evil

Just received a copy of John Piper's "Spectacular Sins - and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ." Short, small-sized book.

Struck by this in the introduction: "At the all-important pivot of human history, the worst sin ever committed served to show the greatest glory of Christ and obtain the sin-conquering gift of God's grace. God did not just overcome evil at the cross. He made evil serve the overcoming of evil. Me made evil commit suicide in doing its worst evil."

Reread that.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ah, for lack of a proofreader

Had to chuckle late last night. A friend asked me to look at a website for a new multilevel marketing scam, oops, I mean "opportunity."

It was flashy, well-written, and kept my interest even at the midnight hour.

Until I got near to the end, where the guy is telling me that he used to be broke (like me) but "discovered" this great concept "and my life took a 360-degree turn!"

Oh? That's exciting.

Perhaps he meant something like a 180?

And I wonder if I've ever said something like, "My life took a three-hundred-sixty degree turn after I met Jesus"?

Of course that leads to thoughts of repentance...

An Obscenity Too Often Heard in Church

Fingernails across a blackboard, or worse. That's the feeling I get when I hear some well meaning but dumb person say, "Oh how I love the youth of our church. They are the church of tomorrow!"

Yeah, right. So what are they today? It's obscene to say they, by inference, that they are not the church of today!

It's a great saying to keep students uninvolved, uncommitted, and unchallenged. And, of course, that's the way they will be as they get older, because "what you will be, you are now becoming."

They are the church of today, and they are capable of great things.

A French artillery officer came up with "night writing," raised dots on a page of orders that a soldier could "read" without the danger of lighting a lantern.

A 13-year old blind teen heard about it, and begged the officer to transfer the concept to the blind. The officer didn't see the value.

The teen kept working on it, and simplified the process himself.

You've probable guessed the name - Louis Braille.

Don't let students off the hook by telling them (or treating them as if) they are the church of tomorrow.

They are today's church; and there is a job for them to do in the church.

Put 'em to work!

The Attraction of the Cross

“The curious paradox of the atoning death of a bloody Jesus rising above the plane of human history with a mocking crown of thorns is that he is offensive in an attractive way.

It is the utter horror of the cross that cuts through the chatter, noise, and nonsense of our day to rivet our attention, shut our mouths, and compel us to listen to an impassioned dying man who is crying out for the forgiveness of our sins and to ask why he suffered.

Tragically, if we lose the offense of the cross, we also lose the attraction of the cross so that no one is compelled to look at Jesus. Therefore, Jesus does not need a marketing firm or a makeover as much as a prophet to preach the horror of the cross unashamedly.”

—Mark Driscoll, Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007)

Friday, September 26, 2008

God Bless Everybody - gag

When my six-year-old Jacob prays something like, "Dear God, please bless Mommy and Janelle and everybody" I think God grins. But when an older child or adult prays in a similar pattern, methinks God yawns.

I think David Jeremiah would agree. Read what he offers, "How often have we prayed something like, 'O Lord, be with cousin Billy now in a special way.' Have we stopped to consider what it is we're requesting?

"Imagine that you are a parent who is preparing to leave your children with a babysitter. Would you dream of saying, 'O Betsy, I ask you now that you would be with my children in a special way?" No way. You would say, 'Betsy, the kids need to be in bed by 9pm. They can have one snack before their baths, and please make sure they finish their homework. You can reach us at this number if there's any problem. Any questions before we go?'

"We are very specific with our requests and instructions for our babysitters. We want them to know specifics. It should be no different with prayer."

No, You are NOT Loveable...but you ARE loved

“If we are to change we must be regularly preaching the gospel to ourselves and believing it. We must be continually showing ourselves, and those we counsel, the depths and greatness of God’s love for them. We must stop wasting our time trying to convince ourselves that we are lovable, and instead rest in the glorious fact that we are loved. It is this message which God uses to change us at the motivational level.”

—Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Fellowship Group Handbook, 9

Evangelism Linebacker

Okay, if this doesn't draw a laugh or two you need to lighten up a bit...

What Happened on the Cross? This is Worth a Careful Reading

Reading "Death by Love" by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears.

The introduction addresses "Substitutionary Atonement," which is, to some, controversial. To many, it is a pair of undefined words.

Let me try to whet your appetite for the book by the following excerpt:

What does 'substitution' mean?
"Substitution" refers to a person or thing acting or serving in place of another. Biblically, the concept of substitution was first practiced not by God, but by human beings. When our first parents chose to disobey God and believe the lies of our Enemy, they chose to substitute themselves for God in an effort to become their own gods. Subsequently, to save sinners God had to reverse that tragic substitution and did so by becoming a human being and dying in our place to atone for our sins.

In his marvelous book The Cross of Christ John Stott insightfully explains this fact:

The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting Himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices Himself for man and puts Himself where only man deserves to be. May claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts penalties which belong to man alone."

In a time when many are denying the fact that Jesus took the hit for us, this deserves a careful re-reading.

I heartily recommend the book (as well as Stott's book!)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Most who stop by here are aware that after 21 years serving with Family Life Network in New York we've accepted a position with Midland Ministries in Saint Joseph, Mo. I "officially" changed positions July 1, but we are still in New York as the housing market is not exactly booming; but after almost ten months a buyer has been provided.

We received the purchase offer last week, and the house inspection took place this Wednesday morning and it looks like all is a "go." Our realtor put up the "Sale Pending" sign after the inspection. A very welcome sight! Appraisal probably next week, and since this is NY the wheels of the system don't exactly zoom; but the buyer would like to be in soon, we'd like to be in Missouri we shall see.

Appreciate those of you who have prayed; and ask continued prayer for this sale to go smoothly, and for us to find a house-to-make-a-home in a timely fashion!

Who Has Time To Look at Others?

"The eminently humble Christian has so much to do at home, and sees so much evil in his own heart, and is so concerned about it, that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts." Jonathan Edwards, cited by Ray Ortland

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Insight from John Piper

“A deep spiritual walk with God does not usually happen immediately after conversion. When the Holy Spirit invades the enemy territory of our lives and sets up Jesus Christ as King in the capital city of our heart, his strategy for conquering the rebel forces of the flesh that keep up their guerrilla warfare is different for each person. It may be fast or slow. God’s clean up operations are very strange.”

- John Piper, “The Danger of Being Merely Human“

Christ-Centered = Cross-Centered

“Focus on Christ will always result in focus on the cross. You cannot be Christ-centered without becoming cross-centered. The crucified Christ is to be the center of everything I know about myself and my world. You cannot have any real hope for flawed people in a fallen world unless there is a Redeemer to rescue us from the evil that resides both inside and outside of us. Real restoration to God’s created design requires the cross. It is the cross of Christ that alone will restore my allegiance to Christ and his rightful place at the center of everything in my life.”

- Paul David Tripp, A Quest for More (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2007), 104

Monday, September 22, 2008

B.C. "Life Verses"

On my other blog, I've been writing this month each day from the appropriate chapter of Proverbs. This is a good discipline for me, if no one else.

Tonight I was getting a sneak peak at chapter 23, and came across what I've often referred to as my pre-salvation life verses.

To anyone who has struggled with alcohol and alcoholism (Yes, I am an alcoholic; the only drug that I was ever addicted to back in the day...I recognize some might pooh-pooh and say I need to 'claim the victory' of being a new creation and thus no longer in bondage to alcohol...yeah, right...I'm so paranoid I won't take medicine with alcohol as an ingredient!)...

Anyway, Proverbs 23.29-35 is spot-on-descriptive of my life from about the age of 14 until I got saved at 26.

Thank You, Lord!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fun in the Corn

Jane, Janelle, Jacob and I explored a humongous farm during farm/city days in Cohocton, NY Saturday. Among a bunch of things, they had a corn maze that was quite fun. Here's a picture of Janelle and Jacob in the middle of it:

Friday, September 19, 2008

How Do We Enlarge God??? How Big is God???

If you drop by here regularly, you know I currently am reading a devotional book,which I recommend highly, authored by Chuck Swindoll. Here is the writing for today:

by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 38:1--41

When God finally does speak, He answers Job out of a whirlwind. Suddenly, there He is! Wouldn't it have been great for us to have been there? Whoosh! Lightning, loud thunder, mighty winds blowing dark clouds across the heavens, and out of nowhere God bursts on the scene. It must have taken Job's breath away when the Lord "answered Job out of the whirlwind" (Job 38:1).

Many years ago (I was no more than ten years old) on a still and silent morning, long before dawn, I was fishing with my father. Our little fourteen-foot fishing boat was sitting on a slick, in a small body of water just this side of Matagorda Bay. We both had our lines in the water, and neither of us was saying a word. My dad was at the stern by the old twenty-five-horsepower Evinrude, and I was up near the bow of the boat. It was one of those mornings you could flip a penny onto the surface of the water and then count the ripples. It was silent as a tomb---almost eerie.

Suddenly, from the depths of the bay near the hull of our boat, comes this huge tarpon in full strength, bursting out of the water. He does a big-time flip in the air, then plunges with an enormous crash back into the bay. I must have jumped a foot off my wooden seat, shaking with fear. My dad didn't even turn around. Still watching his line, he said quietly, "I told you the big ones were down there."

That's Elihu's message. He is here, Job! Our awesome God---all glorious above. "Job, listen. He's here. He isn't always silent. When He speaks there is no voice like His." Job's view of God may have been enlarged, thanks to his friend's final remarks.

When your God is too small, your problems are too big and you retreat in fear and insecurity. But when your God is great, your problems pale into insignificance and you stand in awe as you worship the King.

How big is your God? Big enough to intervene? Big enough to be trusted? Big enough to be held in awe and ultimate respect? Big enough to erase your worries and replace them with peace?

Remember: the more you know God, the bigger He becomes.

Taken from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

A Quote Never to be Heard from a Health & Wealth Preacher

“The happiness promised us in Christ does not consist in outward advantages—such as leading a joyous and peaceful life, having rich possessions, being safe from all harm, and abounding with delights such as the flesh commonly longs after. No, our happiness belongs to the heavenly life.

Christ enriches his people with all things necessary for the eternal salvation of souls and fortifies them with courage to stand unconquerable against all the assaults of spiritual enemies. From this we infer that he rules—inwardly and outwardly—more for our own sake than his.

Thus it is that we may patiently pass through this life with its misery, hunger, cold, contempt, reproaches, and other troubles—content with this one thing: that our King will never leave us destitute, but will provide for our needs until, our warfare ended, we are called to triumph.”

—John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.15.4

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Piper on the English Standard Version

I have been using the ESV for a couple years now. Absolutely love it. And super excited that the incredible Study Bible version will be coming in a matter of weeks.

I'm not the only one who is excited:

If you'd like to get your own copy, and be a bit of help to me:

Great Comment on Relevant-mania!

Ben Patterson in his book, "Theocentric Preaching," writes, concerning the current phobia to be "relevant":

"This particular temptation used to be the sole province of the liberal theological tradition. But in the past few years, it has gained a number of victims in the evangelical community . . . The sin courted in this temptation is the presumption that it is the Bible that is dead and we who are alive . . .

Is the Bible relevant? Dr. Bernard Ramm once remarked, 'There is nothing more relevant than the truth.' The longer I preach, the more convinced I become that the best thing I can do is simply get out of Scripture’s way."

Joel and Jacob Hager - Skaters

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Know Any Pagans?

According to surveys by Ellison Research of Phoenix, 36 percent of
Americans polled indicate that they have no idea "what an evangelical
Christian is" in the first place. Only 35 percent of all Americans believe
they know "someone very well who is an evangelical," while a stunning 51
percent are convinced they don't know any evangelicals at all.

I won’t even try to define the term “evangelical,” since you can find a bunch of different definitions. Since the definition is so nebulous, I wonder what those polled though when they were asked if they knew any “evangelicals.”

Do they think it is synonymous with “Christian”? Or perhaps some may think it is the same as “fundamentalist?”

I don’t know.

So since the term is not easily defined by Christians, much less those outside the faith, I’m not sure if the Ellison survey has any real meaning.

But I wonder how many Americans would say they know no “Christians”? Agreed, even that term is too vague. Maybe “Followers of Jesus” would be a better description? Some use “Bible Believer” but I bet unregenerate people would automatically equate that with “fundamentalist.”

So maybe instead of asking questions like the above, perhaps it would be more beneficial, and quite revealing, just to ask this of people who claim to have repented of all they knew about sin to turn to all they knew about Jesus:

“How many unsaved people do you know?”

It’s pretty hard to be Jesus to unsaved people if we don’t know any unsaved people.

Have we built our Christian forts, Christian health clubs, Christian motorcycle clubs, Christian scrapbooking clubs, and such to the point that we just hang out with each other and pray “about” the lost, rather than hanging out with the lost and showing them Christ-life in action?

Pretty hard to obey the great commission if we are all parked in our great congregations


"Time" magazine has published at article "The Truth About Teen Girls." What follows is a direct quote (with bold type added by me at the end of the paragraph):

Middle school counselor Julia Taylor of North Carolina had a conversation with her sixth-graders last year that worried her. "A lot of them were watching The O.C.," she says. "I just remember the show's multiple sexual partners, the cocaine use, and then at the end, they drink, they drive, they set fires, but all is well! There are never any consequences." Taylor understands the media better than many. Her sister Mary is a producer who has worked on MTV shows including My Super Sweet 16 and Spring Break. "I'm messing them up, and she's fixing them," says Mary jokingly. But Mary also suggests that if nobody were watching the shows or buying the products that are advertised on them, they wouldn't succeed. "We're not Little House on the Prairie anymore," she says. "The world is different. If parents said, 'You can't watch this,' and the ratings dropped, maybe we would change things."

Insightful Quotation on State of the American Church

"The American church is so much seduced by being successful, by being powerful, that we look for power in programs, in experiences, in entertainment, in psychological applications - everywhere but where God has placed the power, which is in the gospel."
R. C. Sproul

What Does It Mean To Believe?

Great article:

What Does It Mean to Believe?

by Jim Elliff

Sitting on the deck on a balmy evening, my daughter asked again for more clarity on the most important question she could pose: "Dad, what does it really mean to believe in Christ?" I commended her for that question, because it is not asked by most people in the world, nor is it examined closely enough by those who have some of the language of Christianity.

Here's what I told her while sitting under the Big Dipper.

"Do you ever think about how I care for you? You don't worry about your food or a place to sleep. And even if somehow we were to be taken away from our home, you still wouldn't worry much about having what you need every day. You know I'll take care of you."

"But suppose you did worry about it. Suppose that you would not trust me even though I have not changed. What would you do? You would fret about your needs every day. I'm sure you would save your money and count every penny you could find. Then you would have to discover some way to get to a store to buy what you could to eat. Your money would not last long, so you would have to find ways to sell some of the items you own. You would eventually have to go to your neighbors and friends and see if you could do some labor for them so that you could make more money for food. And if this did not work after a while, maybe you would become a beggar, all because you were not willing to trust me. You would make a difficult life for yourself."
"But you don't worry about all of that because you do trust me. You don't question for one minute that I will provide all you need because you know that I love you so much that I will take care of you the best I can—always."

"There are two types of people in the world—those who believe or trust Christ and those who don't. Among those who don't are the rebellious people who run from Christ and don't want to have anything to do with Him. There are also people who rebel in a different way. They refuse to trust Christ and prefer to try to accomplish salvation their own way even though they want to be called 'Christians'."

"These people try hard to do whatever they can to save themselves, but even though they are sincere they are actually disobedient to God's Word. Some of them worry about whether they are doing enough and fret about not being sufficient to earn eternal life, but others actually think they are doing plenty at the moment. That, of course, is a mistake. Their emphasis is on doing enough to earn God's love, and they live a stressful life trying to be accepted by God."

"On the other hand, there are some who reject their self-reliance and all the awful disobedience that it brings, and they trust Christ and what Christ has done on the cross for them. Jesus died to purchase the full pardon for their sins. They rest in that and have full confidence that everything is done by Christ for their salvation. They trust that Christ's life and death and resurrection is sufficient to satisfy God's requirements and to provide pardon and a future in heaven. They are amazed that such a great gift could be theirs, but that does not keep them from trusting Christ for it. After all, that's what God tells them to do."

I had more to say to my precious daughter about how a person who trusts Christ demonstrates the "marks" of a true Christian once she begins the life of trust. But my first and most important job was to make Christ's death and resurrection abundantly clear, and then to show my daughter the path to Him through faith alone.

It is amazing that something so coherent, uncomplicated, and wonderful is dismissed by most people. Many cannot bring themselves to give up on the impossible "works" way of salvation. Children are no different. If American parents are religious about anything, it is their insistence on building up a child's self esteem. It is almost impossible for most children to understand that they cannot impress God with how good they are. Yet, when those children gain a clear picture of their sinfulness and complete inability, they will understand better what reliance on God is all about.

Interestingly, a child's trust is the same trust that any young person or adult must have in order to come to Christ.

One day a jailer asked the apostle Paul, "What must I do to be saved?" The answer was the same one it has always been. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved . . ." (Acts. 16:31).

Faith is not complex, but it is absolute—that is, it is a whole turning from any shred of confidence you have in yourself to be saved, and a full, or total resting on Christ alone. And that may be the most difficult and humbling thing you will ever do.

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life." (John 6:47)

Copyright © 2004 Jim Elliff. Permission granted for not-for-profit reproduction in exact form including copyright information. All other uses require written permission.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Christianity Tolerated...until:

It is increasingly obvious that people are prepared to tolerate Christianity up until the point that it begins to define its terms.
-- C.J. Mahaney, in his sermon "Cross-Centered Worship"

Uniquely Energized Verses

This morning my regular Bible reading had me in Psalm 71. In a uniquely comforting way God used several verses to pause me to think, rejoice, meditate and, hopefully, act. Here they are(with words that were particularly impactful in bold print):

71.3 Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come.

71.5 For you, O Lord, are my hope...

71.8 My mouth is filled with your praise and your glory all the day.

71.14 But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.

71.18 so even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your power to all those to come.

What a Gutsy Woman!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Integrity Evidenced

The Lighthouse Mission of Long Island, NY has turned down a share of $3,000,000.00.

The Mission feeds 3,000 Long Island residents weekly, and was chosen by the True North Community Church to receive part of the money that church received from an anonymous donor's lottery jackpot.

The mission's pastor, James Ryan, said that he appreciated the offer but had to turn it down because the Mission works with too many affected by addictions such as gambling.

Whether you agree with the decision or not, it is obviously birthed from conviction as opposed to preference.

Stuck - But Not Stagnant

Sometimes I get stuck between Psalm 69.3
"I am weary with my crying out, my throatis parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God."
Psalm 69.13
"But as for me, my prayer is to You, O Lord, at an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of Your steadfast love answer me in Your saving faithfulness."

Ray is Gay

My favorite blogger is Justin Taylor.

Today he has this link to an article in a "gay" newspaper in which Ray Boltz describes his "coming out of the closet" as a homosexual. (be careful, if you go to the link there may be some inappropriate advertisements alongside the article)

The article quotes Boltz, “This is what it really comes down to,” he says. “If this is the way God made me, then this is the way I’m going to live. It’s not like God made me this way and he’ll send me to hell if I am who he created me to be … I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself."

Ah, he had a bunch of good songs, but the song he now sings to himself is deception. Do we toss out his music? That's an individual call, but we don't toss out the psalms etc of David? Of course David came to repentance...let us pray Ray does also.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Virginity For Sale to Highest Bidder

A 22 (or 21, depending on which report you read) year old grad student in California is auctioning her virginity through a (legal) Nevada brothel.

On the one hand, it brings to mind, "they have forgotten how to blush."

On the other, why are so many so surprised at this auction of purity? The cascading downhill landslide of morality is certainly showing no signs of slowing, and this is but another tragic example.

Read a news article about the thing here

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Never Forget

A Dissatisfied Jesus

“The One on whom we wait is a dissatisfied Messiah. He will not relent, he will not quit, he will not rest until ever promise he has made been fully delivered. He will not turn from his work until every one of his children has been totally transformed. He will continue to fight until the last enemy is under his feet. He will reign until his kingdom has fully come. As long as sin exists, he will shower us with forgiving, empowering, and delivering grace.

He will defend us against attack and attack the enemy on our behalf. He will be faithful to convict, rebuke, encourage, and comfort. He will continue to open the warehouse of his wisdom and unfold for us the glorious mysteries of his truth. He will stand with us through the darkness and the light. He will guide us on a path we could never have discovered or would never have been wise enough to choose. He will supply for us every good thing that we need to be what he’s called us to be and to do what he’s called us to do in the place where he’s put us.

And he will not rest from his work until every last microbe of sin has been completely eradicated from every heart of each of his children!”

—Paul David Tripp

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Judging Right and Judging Wrong

Without opening the whole debate, it amazes me how many people know, sort of, one Bible verse - "take a little wine for your stomach's sake" and try to justify their use of beverage alcohol on this very out of context verse.

But there is another verse that is well-known by many, "Judge not, lest ye be judged." Of course, read in context, Matthew 7.1-5 which begins with that well-cited quote, declares that the way in which we judge others will set the standard for how we are judged. (7.2, "For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.")

We must judge. Hopefully all of us over 18 are carefully judging presidential and other candidates. But if we judge from an attitude of trying to prove our point, to put someone down, to appear superior; we are judging with "wrong motives."

If we are judging (and, reminder, we begin by judging ourselves) for His good, for the good of the kingdom, for the good of people, we are judging correctly. John 7.24 records Jesus as saying, "...but judge with right judgment."

How do we know if we are judging "rightly"?

My take - if it hurts us to judge; we are probably okay, but if we enjoy the judging, we are probably way off base.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Obama's "Slip" in Context

I am not going to vote for Obama. The first part of this video is part of the reason. But many are screaming that he showed his true colors in this interview as he spoke of "my Muslim faith."
Could it be a slip up? Sure.
But, in context, it looks like just a slip of the tongue; not intentional deceit.
Don't take ME out of context; I'm don't know the man, I am not persuaded either way.

But as we read Scripture we must always take it "in context" or we could "prove" just about anything...we need to do the same careful analysis in ALL situations, to ALL parties, etc.

Personal Life? What Personal Life???

I've cited Mark Driscoll's Vintage Jesus before, and I will again.

I'm probably underlining more sentences and paragraphs of this book than I'm not highlighting, but here is one that got underlined three times:

"As our King, Jesus demands and deserves obedient loyalty to His commands over every aspect of our life. Subsequently, there is no such thing as a personal life for a Christian."

Sometimes the Glass is Darker

Scripture says we currently see "through a glass darkly." We all have times when that darkness is deeper, and we have little, if any sight. The death of our nephew a few weeks ago, the drowning of Katie last week, and, to a much lesser degree, the lack-of-sale-of-our-house, provides little vision.

It is easy to trust God in the easy times, tougher to trust Him in the tough times, and extremely difficult during the "I just don't get it" times. But to the Cross we cling, to the fact that the crucifixion was the darkest time in history, yet made our salvation possible we grip.

My reading in Chuck Swindoll's great devotional, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005), for today is this; perhaps it will minister to you as it did/does to me:

by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 24:1--25

We could go all the way through this list to the end. There are wrongs, there are failures, and there are injustices. There were robberies and sexual sins and hidden wrongs done in the dark. And where is God? He is permitting it. Why? "I don't know," says Job. "I think His point here is that these things are allowed for purposes unknown to us. God has permitted it all!" Those who do wrong often get away with it. Those who take advantage of others get away with that too. Unexplainable suffering falls into the same category.

You and I could mention events in our lifetime that the Lord could have stopped, but He didn't. This isn't just about the Jewish Holocaust. This isn't simply about the wrongs of the Crusade Era. This isn't only about the priests in the Roman Catholic Church who have molested young boys. This is also about all kinds of things that we could name, and God could have stopped each one---but He didn't. It's a mystery! That's the point. "I can't justify the permissions of God, but I trust Him."

Refuse to believe that life is based on blind fate or random chance. Everything that happens, including the things you cannot explain or justify, is being woven together like an enormous, beautiful piece of tapestry. From this earthly side it seems blurred and knotted, strange and twisted. But from heaven's perspective it forms an incredible picture. Best of all, it is for His greater glory. Right now, it seems so confusing, but someday the details will come together and make good sense.

There it is---part of God's perfect plan unfolding. You can't explain it. You couldn't piece it all together if you tried. You aren't able to understand it, and there will be times you won't like it. But, as we're learning from Job, God's not going to ask your permission. And so? We trust Him anyway. I'll write it once more: Those who do that discover without trying to make it happen that they have begun to demonstrate grace under pressure. To settle for less is a miserable existence.

Do you trust God anyway?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tired of Death

I am tired of death. Earlier this year one of my best friends died of a brain infection. Then, of course, the tragedy of our 17-year-old nephews death in a car accident. And now the drowning of the 11-year-old daughter of Jane's best friend.

Death may no longer have victory, may not have a sting; but it still hurts.

Yes, I believe that God is sovereign in all things. Yes, I am trusting Romans 8.28. Yes, I am giving thanks in all things which is not the same as giving thanks for all things.

But the pain that surrounds the families concerned is reality that doesn't surrender to Christian platitudes.

And, yes, I recognize that He promises to go through the valley with us, and therein is hope, sanity, and confidence.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Tragedy of 'Typical' Christianity

"Your danger and mine is not that we become criminals, but rather that we become respectable, decent, commonplace, mediocre Christians. No rewards at the end, no glory. The twenty-first-century temptations that really sap our spiritual power are the television, banana cream pie, the easy chair and the credit card. Christian, you will win or lose in those seemingly innocent little moments of decision. Lord, make my life a miracle!"

Ray Ortlund Sr

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Take a Breath - Don't Rush

Proverbs 4.1, "Hear, O sons, a father's instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight."

If you in the minority of professing Christians who try to spend time daily in the Bible, remember that it is not the quantity of reading, but the quality of reading that is important.

Too often I rush through my passages, instead of chewing on them, meditating on them, praying them. After all, my "to-do" list is like yours!

But we are to be attentive. Before cracking open the Word, I need to "be still" before Him, to consciously come into His presence, marveling at the privilege of being with the Lord. I need to pause to ask His Spirit to "open my eyes that I might behold wondrous things out of Thy law."

And, as I read, I need to force myself to read slowly, attentively, and expectantly.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Snoopy Sanctified

Saw this a couple minutes ago: "LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Bill Melendez, best known for bringing the Peanuts characters to life with such classics as "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," died Tuesday at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica. He was 91."

I must admit the Charlie Brown television stuff never did much for me. Snoopy's voice just didn't fit; and there were other odd things.

But, wow, I've always loved the comic strip. There is better theology in some of the cartoons than in many "seminaries" and "Christian" textbooks.

Given a choice between the two, I'd quickly scarf up a "Peanuts" cartoon book rather than "The Shack."

Reflections on Jail-House Conversion

I stumbled across an editorial I wrote for "The Family Life Journal" back in 1997...these eleven years later my views have not changed; so here it is:

Having just celebrated my 23rd spiritual birthday, I reflect on the goodness of God that first drew me to Himself and has more than sustained me since conversion.

Very often Christians speak of “when I found Christ.” The intent is good, the theology is not. Christ finds us! I certainly was not looking for Him, or for salvation, or even for hope in 1973. I had just been arrested and was awaiting extradition. Drugs were found in our cell, the Texas authorities removed everything except the religious material. After a few days of boredom I picked up a paperback book simply because it had the word “Prison” in the title.

As a 26-year old college-educated, alcoholic, drug selling Vietnam Vet I was introduced to the love of God as demonstrated in the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ. No human being was directly involved; I simply read the book. I had no idea there even was a Holy Spirit, but He was doing His work of conviction and drawing. I knew nothing of a trinity, nothing of the “infallibility of Scripture,” zero about predestination, and “secondary separation” would have sounded like a terrible body wound. (Which, on reflection, it is if one capitalizes the “b” in Body). All I know is that on January 30, 1974, I confessed my sins, and turned to God. Though I did not break out in a cold sweat, nor had any outward manifestation, nor tears, I simply knew that Jesus was real, that I was His, and that He was truth.

Subsequently, I was sentenced to prison, did my time, got out and went to Bible school. On this journey, I became painfully familiar with the fact many Christians seem to exist for one purpose…to argue with other Christians.

In the two decades plus of striving to walk with Christ, I’ve not seen any improvement in the infighting. I am known to be opinionated and vocal. Too often I spill my thoughts before I think them through1 but as I reflect, I am sure there are only a few things for which I’ll go to the proverbial wall.

Paramount is the deity of Jesus. He was, is, and always has been God. You don’t believe that , I don’t call upon you for silent prayer, much less have religious fellowship with you. The fact that the death for Christ has paid in full for my redemption is non-negotiable. The physical resurrection of Jesus can not be denied.

The necessity of repentance and faith in the completed work of Jesus for salvation is etched in stone (Acts 26:17-18; 26:20). The reality of heaven and hell are based on the clear words of Christ (Matt. 25:46). The return of Christ is not only a glorious hope, but part and parcel to the gospel.

Well, what about 24 hour days of creation? Are you pre-post-a millennial? What about tongues? Can you lose it? What about Christian rock? Which version is trustworthy?

Folks, when the Vietcong were trying to kill me, I didn’t care a bit about the muzzle velocity of my M16 or 50 caliber, nor did I care about the relative merits of each. I just kept my head down and shot at the enemy. I sure didn’t shoot at another GI who preferred to use a captured AK! I just wanted to stay alive and negatively impact the enemy. Maybe that’s an apropos parallel to spiritual warfare?

What spawned this thought process? I am blessed to have a perpetual calendar of Max Lucado’s writings, and the one I just read is from this book, Six Hours One Friday. I have placed it on my desk and on my bathroom mirror to be a vital reminder:

Seek the simple faith. Major on the majors. Focus on the critical. Long for God.

Though too wordy for a Lucadoism, I add, “Although you may not always see eye to eye, walk hand in hand with others saved by grace.”

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Example of Commitment and Cross-Centered Living

Pause my music list, left column, before playing: This is, apparently, from a sermon by Paris Reidhead. What an example, and such a sacrifice puts into perspective our momentary trials and tribulations...

Quick Observation

The pregnancy of a vice presidential candidates’ unmarried, teenage daughter. Is this a huge story?


No parent is infallible; teens make choices.

Though I applaud the decision to carry the baby rather than abort; I wonder why the governor didn’t announce the pregnancy before others did? It was going to be more-than-obvious soon.

I do not know. Perhaps “advisors” advised. Perhaps guilt, false or genuine. Maybe a drop of shame?

But does it determine whether or not she would make a good vice-president?

Not at all.

Of more importance is the differences evidenced by the governors supporters and detractors.

Of paramount importance is that those who support the governor not treat this pregnancy any different than they would were it the daughter of a politician they don’t support.