The Gospel…A Cure for Distrust

July 2, 2009 - Leave a Response

“Every time I deliberately disobey a command of God, it is because I am in that moment doubtful as to God’s true intentions in giving me that command. Does He really have my best interests at heart? Or is He withholding something from me that I would be better off having?…However, the gospel changes my view of God’s commandments, in that it helps me to see the heart of the Person from whom those commandments come…I realize that if God loved me enough to sacrifice His Son’s life for me, then He must be guided by that same love when He speaks His commandments to me…the gospel cures me of my suspicion of God, thereby disposing me to walk more trustingly on the path of obedience to His commands.”

Satan is a legalist. If you read Genesis 3 carefully you’ll see what I mean. Do you remember how the conversation went in the garden? Let’s boil it down like this: if you obey God you will miss out. The logic is basically that God’s commandments are arbitrary and life killing. This is a lie you and I still wrestle with believing. If we obey God we will miss out. Conversely this means I obey God to get stuff. It’s like my children who will immediately obey me at the promise of a dum dum pop. It’s not me they love; it’s the dum dum pops. This is what CS Lewis meant when he said our desires are not too strong but too weak because we settle for so much less than what God made us for: himself. Satan makes me think one of two things: if I obey God I will miss out or I obey God to get stuff. The gospel cures me of both. It tells me that if God has loved me so much that Jesus would come and give his life for mine on the cross, how will he not also freely with him give me all the things I need? It also tells me that Jesus gave himself that I might get God, not stuff. The prosperity gospel makes much of stuff but not of Him through whom all stuff was made. If God gave Jesus for me, how can I doubt his heart of love? If God gave Jesus for me, what more could he possibly give?

Lord would you cure me of my deep and abiding suspicion of you. Help me to see the heights, depths, length and width of your dying love. Help me to resist him who is the father of lies. Keep me from honoring you with my lips while my heart is far from you. Give me an undivided heart of love to you that I might joyfully walk in the way of your commandments.


The Gospel…Transformed by Glory

June 30, 2009 - Leave a Response

“The glory of God is the most powerful agent of transformation available to mankind. It is so powerful that it transforms those who merely gaze upon it…If I wish to become all that God wants me to be, I must behold His glory each day…But where do I find God’s glory to behold? Indeed, the glory of God is revealed throughout all of Creation, but the Bible indicates that, outside of heaven, the glory of God in it’s thickest density dwells inside the gospel…As I habitually gaze upon the glory of the Lord revealed in the gospel, I can know that actual deposits of God’s very glory are attaching themselves to my person and transforming me from one level of glory to another. This transformation is deep and abiding, and unfadingly displays the glory of God to others.”

John writes of Jesus in glory that when we see Him, we shall be like Him. But where can I see Him now? I see Him most clearly in the gospel. The gospel is the place where Christ reveals Himself most truly and deeply to me. Peter speaks of this in his first letter. He tells us that though we don’t see Jesus we love Him and rejoice in Him. Why? Just a few verses earlier he tells us that we rejoice in what God has done for us in Christ: shown great mercy, born again to a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus, to an imperishable and unfading inheritance, which is kept for us in heaven by God himself, even as we are being kept by God’s power!!! This is the gospel. It’s like Peter is saying that you see Him in the gospel though you don’t see Him in person. But the him you see in the gospel is the real him, which is why you love him and rejoice with joy inexpressible, filled with glory. John Newton once wrote, “We shall have far other thoughts of Jesus when we see him as he is; and shall then be able to make a more affecting estimate of the love which moved him to be made a substitute and a curse for us.” Where can I get a glimpse of that glorious, transforming love now? In the gospel.

Jesus, apart from you opening my eyes I will never see your glory. Would you open them wide that I might see your glory in all its fullness. The glory of your humble birth, the glory of your righteous life, the glory of your sin bearing death, the glory of your miraculous resurrection, the glory of your advantageous ascenscion, and the glory of your ongoing ministry to your people from your Father’s right hand. Forgive me for my blindness and unbelief, for my weak faith and small views, for my slowness to gaze upon you in the gospel. I pray im the name of him who loved me and gave himself for me. Amen.

The Gospel Is…My Daily Protection

June 24, 2009 - Leave a Response

“If I wish to stand victorious in Jesus, I must do as the songwriter suggests and ‘put on the gospel armor, each piece put on with prayer.’ That God would tell me to ‘take up’ and ‘put on’ this gospel armor alerts me to the fact that I do not automatically come into each day protected by the gospel. In fact, these commands imply that I am vulnerable to defeat and injury unless I seize upon the gospel and arm myself with it from head to toe.”

In Ephesians 6, Paul commands us to put on the armor of God so that we can stand firm against the schemes of the devil. Then he rehearses for us what that armor is, piece by piece. And that armor, in short, is the gospel. Its true truth, its alien righteousness, its perfect peace. Faith alone makes it effectual. Its promise of salvation keeps our heads. The Word of God testifies powerfully to its truth. If we would kill sin, we must be dressed in gospel armor.

Heavenly Father, dress me in the full armor of your gospel that I would be ready for the battle. By it guard me against the schemes of the devil, the world and my own flesh. When fiery darts come, help me to lift the shield of faith in my Savior. I pray through Christ the King. Amen.

The Gospel is…The Power of God

June 23, 2009 - Leave a Response

“Indeed, God’s power is seen in erupting volcanos, in the unimaginably hot boil of our massive sun, and in the lightning speed of a recently discovered star seen streaking through the heavens at 1.5 million miles per hour. Yet in Scripture such wonders are never labeled “the power of God.” How powerful, then, must the gospel be that it would merit such a title! And how great is the salvation it could accomplish in my life, if I would only embrace it by faith and give it a central place in my thoughts each day!”

As powerful as volcanos, stars and the sun are, they pale in comparison to the gospel. Paul called his gospel “the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes.” The gospel is more powerful than our sin, bleaching away its stain and breaking its power. It’s more powerful than death itself, with a resurrection rage against the dying of the light. It’s even more powerful than the devil and all his legions, as it is the deadly blow of Christ crushing the serpent’s head. We often sing with our children, “My God is so BIG, so STRONG & MIGHTY, there’s nothing my God cannot do.” The gospel is the crowning display of our Mighty Lord’s incomparable power. In His dying weakness He shows His tremendous power. And it is a healing power that does sinners great good. It is the power of salvation, of rescue, of deliverance. May the gospel of His loving power be my strength and shield all the days of my life.

Lord I am weak and struggle with sin on a daily basis. Teach me to look for the strength I daily need not from myself, but from your gospel, which tells me that when I am weak, then I am strong. Help me to rest in the power of the amazing grace you have shown me at the cross. By the power of the gospel blow up sin in my life. By the power of the gospel reshape my whole heart to love, obey and follow you. I pray this in the powerful name of Jesus.

The Gospel is…My Daily Need

June 22, 2009 - Leave a Response

How many times have you heard someone say something to the effect of “preach the gospel to yourself daily?” Maybe you rolled your eyes at it, or maybe you think its great advice but have never actually put it to work. Thankfully there is a man who has taken that advice to heart, and given us all the fruits of his putting it to work. His name is Milton Vincent. He is the pastor of Cornerstone Fellowship Bible Church in Riverside, CA. And the book? A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love. John Owen once said of preaching that if our sermons do “not dwell in power in us it will not pass in power from us.” In other words those sermons are preached best which are preached first to ourselves. Milton Vincent’s book is powerful because it was first written to himself…literally. We have the fruit of many note cards that he wrote himself to himself to remind himself of the power of the gospel. This makes A Gospel Primer a wonderful and powerful tool to aid us in reminding, declaring, proclaiming and preaching the good news of Jesus to our own souls.

So over the next weeks/months I want to blog my way through A Gospel Primer, taking each meditation a day or so at a time. This is more for me than it is for you. But Jesus seems to be pleased to take what he is teaching to us and make it a blessing to others. That being said, here is the first, “My Daily Need.”

“The gospel is so foolish (according to my natural wisdom), so scandalous (according to my conscience), and so incredible (according to my timid heart), that it is a daily battle to believe the scope of it as I should. There is simply no other way to compete with the forebodings of my conscience, the condemnings of my heart, and the lies of the world and the Devil than to overwhelm such things with daily rehearsings of the gospel.”

I am a slow learner of the gospel. I’ve heard it many times; but I’ve forgotten it more. But I’m not just a slow learner. I’m also a skeptic of the gospel. I doubt its truth and I belittle its power. My pride kicks against the gospel. I want the control of being able to save myself so that I can have the freedom to be able to live unto myself. In this sense it is not just the world and the Devil who are opposed to the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, but my flesh also. And so the gospel humbles me as God reminds me that “He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

And nothing but the gospel can hush my wounded conscience, can quiet my accusing heart, can reveal the lies of my lust, and resist the baits of the Devil. The gospel is a healing balm to my sin sick soul. The gospel is a declaration of pardon to me, a guilty criminal. The gospel is a sweet and satisfying bread that meets my daily need for love and affection in a way that nothing else can. Because the gospel reminds me that “I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine.” Being prone to forget this daily, the gospel is my daily need.

Lord help me to believe and live by the gospel daily. Though it is foolishness to the world, may it be your wisdom to me. Though Christ crucified is a scandal to many, may He be all I know and more than all I need. Help me to preach the gospel to my guilty conscience, to my condemning heart, to my lying lusts, even to the Devil himself. Bring others into my life who love the gospel and will help preach it to me, too. Strengthen the true ministers of your church to believe the gospel they preach, and to proclaim it clearly, faithfully, and passionately to your people and to their communities and campuses. Thank you for such great news, for such a great salvation, that though I am more sinful than I could ever know, you love me more than I could ever dream. I pray through Jesus my sinless Substitute. Amen

True worship

June 22, 2009 - Leave a Response

Came across this quote today by William Temple:

“Worship is the submission of all our nature to God.
It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness;
the nourishment of mind with His truth;
the purifying of imagination by His beauty;
the opening of the heart to His love;
the surrender of will to His purpose-
and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless
emotion of which our nature is capable.”

-William Temple, Readings in St. John’s Gospel

Dallas Willard on desire

June 15, 2009 - Leave a Response

Great and helpful quote on wrestling with our desires:

Desire overpowers the will primarily by obsessing the mind.

This comes out of an article he presented at Talbot School of Theology last year called “Beyond Pornography: Spiritual Formation Studied in a Particular Case.” Willard is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He also is a well known Christian writer and thinker, and is the author of Renovation of the Heart

Book Reviews: Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung

June 6, 2009 - Leave a Response

51Qhukrlk3LAs a campus minister I’m always looking for good books that my students will actually read, maybe even enjoy. This is such a book. In fact, this is a book you would read on the beach! DeYoung is funny, thorough, winsome, insightful, theologically sound, and memorable. Did I leave anything out? For example, he makes a great distinction in Chapter 2 about the way we talk about God’s will, explaining there are three “types” of wills that God has, if you will.

1. His will of decree (“whatsoever comes to pass”)
2. His will of desire (that which is pleasing to Him)
3. His will of direction (the details of his will as it unfolds in my life )

Speaking to the latter he warns us from thinking of God’s will as a bull’s eye, and encourages us to use our God given brains and opportunities.

In chapter 8, DeYoung offers the positive Biblical alternative to the often fretful approach most Christians actually take when it comes to “finding” God’s will: wisdom. God loves wisdom, and loves for us to grow in wisdom. We don’t want wisdom. We want magic. We don’t want a God of wisdom. We want a God of magic. We don’t want the pain of ambiguity. We want the ease of everything being black and white, clean and clear-cut. But life as the Bible portrays it is messy, and calls for great wisdom. How are we going to get such wisdom? DeYoung points us in the right direction as he works out some principles from Proverbs 2:

1. Storing up God’s commands (reading our Bibles)
2. Turning our ear to wisdom (listening to sound advice)
3. Calling out for insight (praying to God)

Chapter 9 is money for college students. It’s called “Work, Wedlock and God’s Will.” It is super helpful in actually applying all he has been saying in chapters 1-8. Chapter 10 is a great landing place. It’s called “The End of the Matter” which is taken from the end of Ecclesiastes. There is a really helpful line in there: “Active in the present, thankful for the past, hopeful for the future.” That pretty much sums up a how a Christian should relate to God’s will doesn’t it?

Powlison on sexual idols

June 2, 2009 - Leave a Response

David Powlison writes a very helpful article on going wider and deeper in our dealing with sexual sin both in ourselves and in our brothers and sisters in Christ. Very helpful. In his article he uses Tom, a man who has struggled with pornography and masturbation for 20 years with periods of great success as well as great failure, as a case study. Powlison’s basic point is that in our attempt to offer him sound counsel, we must look for the sin around and beneath the sin. In Tom’s case, his anger toward God for not giving him a wife in exchange for a good life is really what sparks his indulgence in sexual sin. Anger with God leads to his struggle; fear of God follows.

In this paragraph Powlison wisely goes deeper by helping expose the lies of Satan we believe in order to indulge the lusts of our flesh:

“Every deviant motive—each lust of the flesh, lie, false love—is a hijacker. It mimics some aspect of God. It usurps some promise of God. Consider that about two-thirds of the Psalms present God as “our refuge” in the midst of the troubles of life. Amid threat, hurt, disappointment, and attack, God protects, cares, and looks out for us. Our friend has faced troubles: people out to get him, threats to his job, intolerable demands, relentless weeks. But he’s been finding no true refuge during this frenzied month. Now, in a spasm of immorality, he takes “false refuge” in eroticism. His erotic behavior serves as a counterfeit rest from his troubles. Psalm 23 breathes true refuge: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” This man pants after false refuge: “After I’ve walked through that godforsaken valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because the photograph of a surgically-enhanced female wearing no clothes is with me.” A false refuge looks pretty silly when it’s exposed for what it really is.” David Powlison, “Sexual Sin and the Wider, Deeper Battle”

Read the whole article.

Prayer from Spurgeon

May 26, 2009 - Leave a Response

““Oh to love the Saviour with a passion that can never cool; Oh to believe in God with a confidence that can never stagger! Oh, to hope with an expectation that can never be dim! Oh, to delight in God with a holy over-flowing rejoicing that can never be stopped, so that we might live to glorify God at the highest bent of our powers, living with enthusiasm, burning, blazing, being consumed with the indwelling God who worketh all things in us according to His will!”

ht: Timmy Brister

“O Love That Casts Out Fear” by Horatius Bonar

February 15, 2009 - Leave a Response

“O love that casts out fear,
O love that casts out sin,
Tarry no more without,
But come and dwell within!

True sunlight of the soul,
Surround us as we go;
So shall our way be safe,
Our feet no straying know.

Great love of God, come in!
Wellspring of heavenly peace;
Thou Living Water, come!
Spring up, and never cease.

Love of the living God,
Of Father and of Son;
Love of the Holy Ghost,
Fill thou each needy one.”
Horatius Bonar

Pascal on looking away from ourselves

February 9, 2009 - Leave a Response

“Men, it is in vain that you seek within yourselves the cure for your miseries. All your intelligence can only bring you to realize that it is not within yourselves that you will find either truth or good.” Pensees

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus

Music I’m enjoying…The Tallest Man On Earth

January 29, 2009 - Leave a Response

The Tallest Man On Earth is the moniker of Kristian Mattsen (whatever that means). He’s swedish, but with his early Dylan like qualities you would never guess it. His latest album, Shallow Grave, is beautifully simple, straightforward, and pure. If you like Dylan, or bands like Bon Iver, you should check him out. Here’s one of my fav’s performed live.

Article on Ted Haggard

January 29, 2009 - Leave a Response

Interesting article on Slate. A helpful reminder on why godly character is so crucial to pastoral ministry:

“Robert Downey Jr. can become an A-list actor, ruin himself with drugs, sober up, and become an A-list actor all over again. A businessman, a scholar, or a parent can do something similar. Why can’t Haggard? Because his very public career was based on the antithesis of his failures. Downey wants only to be a damn fine actor, and he can be that no matter the content of his character. Haggard wanted to be a minister, a position that makes claims on his behavior—claims that Haggard professed to be equal to. Haggard didn’t have to be a big supporter of President Bush, or outspoken against homosexuality, or any of the things that charged his public life. But he did have to have character that was consistent with the values that he so loudly espoused. His life did have to be consistent with what he preached, because preaching is based on public trust within the preacher’s community of followers. Integrity is the deal-maker, hypocrisy the deal-breaker.”

On preaching

January 28, 2009 - Leave a Response

“A good sermon is one side of a passionate conversation. It has to be heard in that way. There are three parties to it, of course, but so are there even to the most private thought – the self that yields the thought, the self that acknowledges and in some way responds to the thought, and the Lord. That is a remarkable thing to consider,” John Ames, from Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead

C.S. Lewis on friendship

January 27, 2009 - Leave a Response

“Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest…Hence we picture lovers face to face but Friends side by side; their eyes look ahead. That is why those pathetic people who simply ‘want friends’ can never make any. The very condition of having friends is that we should want something else besides friends… Friendship must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice.” The Four Loves

Would like to read this…

January 23, 2009 - Leave a Response

images-1David Lovelace’s (yes, the son of Richard Lovelace) new memoir Scattershot, which is about growing up with a manic depressive father/pastor/professor. I’m always fascinated by the dynamics of Christian homes, especially when they are captured realistically, snapshots of all of their glories and shames.

Pretty excited to read this…

January 23, 2009 - Leave a Response

On the IncarnationAthanasius On the Incarnation. It has what looks like a pretty solid introduction by CS Lewis. I don’t know that I’ve ever read anything dealing with the Deity of Jesus now that I think about it? Hmm?

SNL – Gitmo going out of business sale

January 19, 2009 - Leave a Response

Preach it baby!?!

January 18, 2009 - Leave a Response

I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, pray or just take a nap because of the overwhelmingly creepy experience I just had watching this!?!