Thursday, June 28, 2007

Send In the Ants

In the past few days we've dealt with some unwelcomed guests in our home. They don't make a lot of noise nor do they raid the fridge or drool on our pillows, but the annoyance level and ick factor compel us to action.

I'm talking about carpenter ants. Now, I'm not crazy about them, mind you, but my wife absolutely can not stand them! I'm more of the mindset that if you ignore them they might go away. My wife realizes this is preposterous thinking and that something must be done right away if not sooner. I wasn't at home when she saw one of the monsters on our kitchen counter the other day, but from my office a few blocks away I did hear the scream she let out.

Apparently my casual approach to resolving the situation was not acceptable, so when she observed another one yesterday morning - that was it! And men, when that's it, it's already too late!

I was busily preparing for a meeting and trying to work through the myriad details related to a very soon approaching mission trip, while also keeping an eye on a youth retreat this weekend, while also squeezing in sermon preparation for Sunday, while also - well, you get the idea. That's when the call came in. There was an unmistakeable urgency in the caller's voice with an undeniable call to action. And if I didn't respond immediately to the report then, um, it would have been bad.

So off to hardware store for some ant spray after arriving home and receiving my assignment. Completing this phase of the mission I returned to the scene of investigation ready to ward off the enemy creatures. But first - there would need to be some removing of wood chips in our front landscaping. I hadn't thought about this opportunity to serve and protect. Actually, it wasn't on my schedule to take the afternoon off in the middle of my very, very important and precious planning and preparation time to shovel and remove said wood chips prior to zapping the adversary with the liquid weaponry.

Regrettably, my attitude about the events that were presently transpiring reflected poorly on my role as a husband. In other words, I wasn't very happy about it, and it showed. Too bad, because I missed a good opportunity to display the love of Christ to my wife. That's the kind of love husbands are to show for their sweethearts - the kind that Jesus demonstrated when He gave up His life for the church. I sure wasn't happily giving up myself for my bride.

It took a few minutes (OK, about a half hour) for me to realize this, and to muster up the humility to confess my selfishness (sin) and seek forgiveness. Let me just say that I'm so thankful for a wife who does forgive. Otherwise I don't think they make a doghouse comfortable enough for my permanent residence.

Now I'm coming to the point of the story - thanks for hanging with me! It's funny that as I was preparing for this mission trip meeting, one of the things I wanted to emphasize is our need to be flexible on the field. Yeah, flexible. We can plan and prepare and think we've got a pretty good idea of what's expected of us, what we'll be doing, what things will be like, but guess what. I have a feeling that we're going to need to be rubber bands. Flexible. Ready to stretch out.

I got a bad check-up on my flexibility scan yesterday. Maybe the Lord sent the ants to test my heart. I still have an overwhelming amount of work to do, but I'm trusting in confidence that God's got it all under control.

"Lord, here am I. Send in the ants if that's what it takes to mold me into the image of Jesus. Break me, melt me, fill me, use me - or better said, make me useable - for Your glory - for Your kingdom." Amen.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I Need a New Word - Describing Gossip

My thesaurus doesn’t quite help me enough here. I’m trying to come up with a word that describes how I really feel about gossip. “Hate” seems too pretty. “Abhor” leaves too much doubt. “Loathe” sounds too much like “love,” and I wouldn’t want to be misunderstood.

Do you know what I'm saying? What more harmful or destructive thing can there be to someone’s name or reputation – or to the witness of the church - than dragging his or her name through the vile mud pile of gossip?

It’s like a child playing with a book of matches. Of course he didn’t mean to burn the house down, but that’s what happens when you play with matches. If you light a match and nobody blows it out, it’s going to cause a fire and someone’s going to get burned.

Gossip works the same way. Of course you didn’t mean to cause such harm. You didn’t mean to destroy anyone’s reputation. You didn’t mean to stain their name. You didn’t mean to divide the workplace, your family or God’s church. You didn’t mean to burn down the house. Unless you did. But when you light the match by passing on potentially destructive information (whether it’s true or not makes absolutely no difference), and nobody blows it out – instead the flame is kindled and waved hotter with every recurring telling of the situation – then somebody’s going to get burned.

If you've ever been burned by gossip, my heart goes out to you. I trust you'll seek not for revenge but reconciliation. Please don't harbor bitterness and rage, but follow the biblical principles toward forgiveness and mercy. A needed blog for another time.

This is how Satan works. Remember, his mission is to steal, to kill and destroy (John 10:10). You’d better believe he wants nothing more than to destroy the house of God – to burn it down and take out as many followers of Christ as possible. And doesn’t he just love to give non-Christians a disdain for those who do call themselves “Christians” but who dish out the gossip with the best of them? We give him that foothold when we talk about others in a hurtful way. We open up the doors and invite him in when we pass along the latest, juiciest news we have on someone.

I ask you, dear friend, How’s your speech? If you find that you often (or ever) begin your conversations with, “Did you hear about Joe…?” or, “Guess what happened at the Jones’ last night…,” or, “You’ll never believe what I heard about Paula…,” then you need to think about whose camp you’re in.

Maybe the better question is, How’s your heart? The Bible says that “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Mt. 12:34). If you’re caught up in dishing out or relishing in the latest unpleasantries, then don’t just button up your lips - go get a heart scan! Let the Lord do a thorough evaluation on the condition of your heart. If necessary, let Him perform the surgery required to get rid of the old one and give you a new one. Let Him put His Spirit in your heart and do the work He desires through you.

I’m urging you, Christian reader, for the sake of Christ to put an end to all gossip! If we’re to live worthy of the calling we’ve received in Christ, then “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph. 4:29).

I want you to hate all sin (not those who commit them) – including gossip (not those who gossip). And let me know if you’ve found a better word or coined a new term for expressing such revolsion for the sin of gossip. I might need to use it again sometime.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Possibilities - A Father's Prayer for His Son

The following lyrics were penned while my wife and I were expecting the arrival of our son almost eight years ago. We still wonder at how the Lord will use him for His glory in this world, and we like to imagine the possibilities. And our prayer is still that Tyler (and our newer addition, Toby) will see the boundless love of the heavenly Father on display in Amy and me - and be drawn closer to Christ every day. I almost posted this in time for Father's Day!

He’s gonna need a Mom to teach him how
To sing and dance and laugh
He’s gonna need her voice to read to him
Of trains and trees and giraffes
He’s gonna need her touch when he’s feeling down
Her smile to turn his world around
Lord, please let him see how a Mother’s love should be

And maybe he’ll be a doctor who finds
The cure for a deadly disease
Or maybe he’ll fly a mission exploring some
Unknown galaxies
Lord, we can only guess what You’ve planned
But we pray that one day he’ll take Your hand
Living full of possibilities
And go wherever You lead

He’s gonna need a Dad to show him how
To throw and bat the ball
He’s gonna need him there for his first bike ride
Ready to catch his fall
He’s gonna need his strength in the dark of night
His praise to know when he’s doing right
Lord, please let him see how a Father’s love should be

And maybe he’ll be a doctor who finds
The cure for a deadly disease
Or maybe he’ll fly a mission exploring some
Unknown galaxies
Lord, we can only guess what You’ve planned
But we pray that one day he’ll take Your hand
Living full of possibilities
And go wherever You lead

Lord, we’re holding out so much hope
As we patiently await
This gift of life You’re placing in our care
Please let the love he sees in us
Be Yours he’ll imitate
And may he always be cradled in our prayer

- REG 1999

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Growing by Knowing

As parents of two young boys, my wife and I not only encourage our children to eat what is good and healthy for them, but we also do our best to keep them from intaking what is harmful. We put locks on the bathroom cabinets and under the kitchen sink, so that the two-year-old doesn't open them up and start drinking the Draino. That could be fatal for him, and we wouldn't dream of standing by watching it happen.

Now when he's matured a little, like our seven-year-old, we won't have to keep it locked because he'll have no desire for it. He will have learned that it's not good for him and he'll want nothing to do with it. He's growing by knowing what is healthy and what is harmful - choosing the healthy while rejecting the harmful.

As a pastor, my heart is to protect the church and encourage her to keep choosing to eat the good and healthy nourishment of God's Word while rejecting the harmful deceits of false teachings. I want to see each person living godly, productive, fulfilling lives that honor our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I want each believer to keep growing in the grace and knowledge of Him. I don't want anyone swallowing harmful or possibly fatal false doctrines, which might lead them away from the truth and into sin. If I could somehow lock up destructive heresies and ideas behind cabinet doors, I would.

That's the heart of the slave and apostle of Jesus Christ - Simon Peter - as he writes his second letter under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. When was the last time you heard a sermon or Sunday School lesson out of 2 Peter? It’s one of those shorter letters kind of buried there toward the back, and if your pages stick you might miss it altogether. I’d guess that probably most Christians could not quote or maybe even identify a single verse from 2 Peter. That’s too bad because this short but fervent letter packs a punch that should wake up many sleeping churches in our culture today.

This past Sunday I began what I’m intending to be a five-sermon series on 2 Peter called “Growing by Knowing.” I’ve summed up the main theme in this book by saying that Christians must continue growing in the faith (i.e., the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ) so that we will not be swept away by false teaching, but be assured of our salvation and keep living the godly life that such salvation brings.

Make no mistake about it: there are many deceivers and godless men, as Jude says, who “have secretly slipped in among you” (Jude 4). They “will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them…Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute” (2 Peter 2:1-2). Even in many self-professing Christian churches the raw transforming power of the gospel has been replaced with psuedo-psychological, politically correct, self-help motivational speeches. The whole idea of preaching God’s Word as the absolute truth and authority for our lives is giving way to relativism and compromise. The question many church leaders are asking is no longer, “What’s true?” but “What works?”

I want to encourage you to read carefully through 2 Peter and see if doesn’t speak emphatically to the need for the church to be guarding the treasure of the gospel today. Then read it again and ask the Lord (by the help of the Holy Spirit) to reveal His character and His will to you in these pages. Then read this letter a third time and discern what He wants you to do as a result.

Come hungering and thirsting for the truth of God’s Word and you’ll keep growing by knowing our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Beautiful Thing

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.” – Ps. 13:5 (NIV)

It’s a beautiful thing to trust in the unfailing love of the Lord. It means that you lay all worries aside because you know that God will take care of all things. It means that you bury all fears because you know that God’s power is greater than anything man can do to you. It means that all doubts are erased because you know that God has proven Himself without fail to be faithful and true.

It’s a beautiful thing to trust in God’s love. You know that He watches over your ways. You know that He guards your steps. You know that He’ll keep you from falling.

And even when it seems like He may be slow in answering, even when it may seem as if you’ve been forgotten, even when it may seem as though His face is hidden from you, yet you know He will answer and deliver.

Even when you wrestle long and hard with your thoughts, even when sorrow pierces your heart, even when your enemy gains an upper hand, yet you know He will rescue and redeem.

So you cry out in confidence, pleading with God to look upon your struggles and answer. You implore Him with great urgency to give light to your eyes, lest you sleep in death and your enemies boast in victory and your foes rejoice at your fall. You know you’re not just shouting to the wind and your prayers vanish in the breeze, but that your deepest, innermost longings and tears will reach the ears and the heart of a God whose love will not fail.

For He is there! He hears and He is not silent. He does not slumber. His eyes do not fail to see your sufferings. His wisdom is not lacking in how and when He responds. His purposes are not misguided. His arm is not too short to save. His help is not far away.

You trust. You wait. You hope. You endure. You persevere in prayer. You never give up. You never despair. You never worry. You never fear. You never doubt. You know that He will come. And when He comes, all will be well. It already is.

And in His salvation your heart rejoices. He has made His salvation known. His name is Jesus! There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. The battle is His. The victory is His. The glory is His alone. By His death and resurrection. No righteousness of my own, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. Sin is atoned and hope is alive for those whose trust is His unfailing love!

In your Savior your heart rejoices and you sing to your Lord a song of thanksgiving. You sing a song of praise. You sing a hymn of gladness. You sing a melody of joy. For you sing a victory song. “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

He has been good to you. He always will be. It’s a beautiful thing to trust in God’s unfailing love.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Blog Me the Old, Old Story

I’m not writing this blog because I have something new to say.

First and foremost, the Bible stands alone as the absolutely true, trustworthy and relevant Word of the living God to man. To add a single new word or delete a single thought would place one in grave danger before the God who speaks for Himself through the Scriptures. To change or compromise its message for a postmodern mindset (or any cultural system) is to set oneself above God – a foolish endeavor to say the least. No, the Bible’s own testimony says it plainly: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). The "old, old story of Jesus and His love" is still the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.

On a tangent if you’re up for it, go through the New Testament sometime and look up every book’s chapter 3, verse 16. You’ll probably know John 3:16 already, but look up the others. This isn’t an infallible exercise, but an interesting one nonetheless. There are quite a few very powerful 3:16’s in Scripture.

Secondly, there have already been gobs (I think that’s a legitimate number) of great Christian books and Bible references written. I wouldn’t dream of trying to improve upon the richness of J.I. Packer’s Knowing God or A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God. I can’t say anything about delighting in God better than John Piper in Desiring God. And I’ll admit that I’m not nearly the reader I would like to be. When you account for the writings of the likes of Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, John Bunyan, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and many other excellent thinkers, pastors and authors, what more can be said of the ways of knowing God and walking in His grace?

I’m writing this only because my generation (give or take) needs to hear someone in their own generation proclaiming the truths of God’s Word and the glories of knowing Him and being known by Him. We need to hear the unchanging message of Scripture applied correctly to our culture today. We need to understand that God’s great and precious promises still pave the way for His followers to “participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by lust” (2 Peter 1:4). We need to heed the call to obey the commands of our God as given in His holy Word so that our foundation as Christians will be unshakeable when the 21st century storms of life and the coming judgment threaten to undo us. We need to be reminded of and nourished constantly in the truth.

And, frankly, you might be more apt to read a blog on the internet than to pick up your Bible and read a chapter or two. I would much rather you not spend another minute reading these words if you would learn more of Jesus in John’s gospel instead, capture the excitement of the early believers in Acts, or be challenged by the teachings toward faith and Christ-likeness in the epistles. Please don’t allow anything to substitute your need for delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating day and night upon His Word.

But if you’re looking for additional encouragement in the sound teaching of the gospel from a fellow traveler on the narrow road, then I trust this site will be a helpful resource to you. There may not be anything new to say, but may the reminder of God's grace spur you on toward love and good deeds. To the praise of His glory!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


OK, I've been thinking for some time now about how cool it would be to have a blog site, but when my wife told me Sunday that I needed to start one, that was enough for me. After discovering in Sunday School how passionately into computers and web surfing and chatting most of our students really are, in her practical wisdom Amy suggested this might be a good way to stay in touch.

My goal is to use this site as tool for communicating the truth of God's word, the gospel - the treasure with which I (and all believers in Christ) have been entrusted. With so many false teachings prevalent in our culture today and accepted blindly or ignorantly in many churches as well, I trust, with the help of the Holy Spirit, that this site will be a voice serving to guard the sound teaching of the grace of God through Christ Jesus.

One of my greatest struggles in preaching each week is not what to say from God's Word, but what not to say! Seriously I love the study of the Bible, and I could preach for two hours each Sunday if I thought anyone would sit that long to listen. The challenge lies in narrowing down the message to rifle in on the main focus of the passage, which I faithfully attempt to do. However, that usually means that I don't have time to speak in depth on some aspects of the text that truly are fascinating. Perhaps this blog will allow me to share more of the delight I find in the law of the Lord with you.

I encourage your feedback, too! Feel free to ask questions, raise concerns or share your wisdom and insights from the Scriptures here. May the name of Jesus be glorified.