Saturday, November 29, 2014

Beauty Unobserved

Sometimes we trample around on real beauty completely unawares. We cry out for something to entertain us, something to salve our scorched hearts. Beauty lies before us, a field of wild flowers under fragrant golden light, and we trample it down, braying a cacophony of discontentment. 

At times, we come to the Bible with this darkened heart. We pick it up to read and are bored. The pages are tasteless. The narrative is bland. We trudge through, the pasty taste of stale, unsalted crackers in our soul. We look around and blame other things. I'm tired. I'm busy. I have that project to finish. 

Meanwhile, we miss the sumptuous scents rising from the feast-table of God's Word. The bread of life is before us, fresh and warm. The deep and satisfying living water stands ready to be consumed in draughts, beads of delight dotting the cups cold surface. 

Where are we in this soul picture? We have missed the beauty. Instead of feasting, we crawl around under the table, picking at crumbs. We lick our dry lips and strain to swallow against parched throats. 

The problem lies in us. We have settled for lesser things.

Taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8)! Open your eyes to the beauty that lies before you and let your soul be satisfied in Him. Recognize the paucity of your soul, and then stand and drink deeply of the One who is true beauty. Grasp the bread of life, already torn, and feast. 

Beauty is missed by many today. Beauty is unobserved. 

Taste and see.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Old but True

The following was first published in 1877. Yet, when you read it, consider how much it describes the present state of the Church at large today. Old but true words.

I leave the subject of my introduction here, and hasten to a conclusion. I confess that I lay down my pen with feelings of sorrow and anxiety. There is much in the attitude of professing Christians in this day which fills me with concern, and makes me full of fear for the future. 
There is an amazing ignorance of Scripture among many, and a consequent want of established, solid religion. In no other way can I account for the ease with which people are, like children, "tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14).
There is an Athenian love of novelty abroad, and a morbid distaste for anything old and regular, and in the beaten path of our forefathers. Thousands will crowd to hear a new voice and anew doctrine, without considering for a moment whether what they hear is true. There is an incessant craving after any teaching which is sensational, and exciting, and rousing to the feelings. There is an unhealthy appetite for a sort of spasmodic and hysterical Christianity. The religious life of many is little better than spiritual dram-drinking, and the "meek and quiet spirit" which St. Peter commends is clean forgotten (1 Pet. 3:4). Crowds, and crying, and hot rooms, and high-flown singing, and an incessant rousing of the emotions are the only things which many care for. Inability to distinguish differences in doctrine is spreading far and wide, and so long as the preacher is "clever" and "earnest," hundreds seem to think it must be all right, and call you dreadfully "narrow and uncharitable" if you hint that he is unsound!...All this is sad, very sad.

This was penned by J.C. Ryle in his introduction to the always-classic Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, & Roots. He was prophetic in that he called his present generation to re-examine God's call to holiness. Prophetic, in that his words ring true today. The plight described by Ryle's sober words has only grown and metastasized in the Church today. God calls his people to be holy, for He is a holy God (1 Pet 1:15, 16). Yet many in the church, and men especially, display very little love for God, and a weak sort of holiness at best.  Indecision, immaturity, vacillation, immorality, and a complete lack of self-control, plague many men in the church today.

Men, God will not have that.  When you stand before God and give an account of your life, only what is holy will stand. Only holy thoughts, words, and deeds will last. Let the men of today who say they are followers of Christ live like it. Men, pursue holiness in the fear of our Holy God. Be a man of valor by pursuing a holy life, a life that is pleasing to God.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Hold Fast

"In a changing world, where the old landmarks disappear and old standards are no longer recognized, the only constant point of reference is the unchanging, onward-moving Christ, "the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8);  the path of wisdom is to face the unknown with him."
- F.F. Bruce 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Resolution 9: Trains, Planes and Automobiles

"Death rides a fast camel" ~ Arab Proverb

 Or a lumbering train. 

Train Crossing, by Michael Roe

Today, I was preparing to leave work for lunch and a train was coming. Now, the railroad crossing above is right next to my office. It has no crossing guard or signal. It only has a sign that says railroad crossing, yield. Because there is no forced stoppage at this crossing, the train will sound a warning by blowing its horn. Cars are expected to slow and stop. That would be common sense, right? 

I shook my head in amazement as three different vehicles ignored the bellowed warnings and crossed directly in front of the train. Here you have an engine with tons of steel behind it, bearing down on this crossing, at less than 100 feet - and cars kept going. The horn was sounding the warning, but no one cared to listen. Thankfully, no one was hurt. The train rumbled by and careless drivers journeyed on. 

But carelessness in the face of impending death isn't always so fortunate. This past week in my home town, a young man was killed by an early morning train. This 16 year old gambled and lost. Now his family will mourn his passing; his life cut short.    

Train Car, by Michael Roe
Death is like a train and people are like a car stopped on the tracks. Except this train will stop for no one. The horn blares its warning, the ground shakes underfoot, sparks fly. The warning is sounded. The question is, will you listen? 

Proverbs says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death" (Proverbs 16:25). In the context of proverbs, this "way" is the path of the fool or wicked person. This person hears the sound of wisdom crying out "life!" but fails to hear. The train of death hurtles toward this foolish person, and in their carelessness they fail to listen to its repeated warnings.

But there is a way off the tracks. Just like carelessness in the face of a train brings death, a healthy fear of the same train will preserve life. Fear makes your otherwise frozen feet move.

    "The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life,
    turning people away from the snares of death" (Proverbs 14:27)

Death is coming for all. Fear God and live. Seek Him while he may be found (Isaiah 55:6). The train thunders its warning. Will you listen?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Week in Review

Tweet of the Week

An unpopular truth in our day and age. I think this is often the reason that men do not want to commit to the church. It isn't that its  boring or "not manly enough." Faithfulness to the church means faithfulness and obedience to Jesus Christ by faithfully submitting to biblical church leadership. 

To Read:

1. Being in pastoral ministry, I read a lot about it. Leadership, preaching, ecclesiology. There is a big push right now for people to understand their pastors. While this is important, often overlooked is the pastor's wife. Check out this good article on what life is like for your pastor's wife. You may be surprised. 

2. In case you've been stuck under a rock this week and somehow managed to come up and stumble on my little puddle (I'm not a news site); a Malaysian airlines passenger jet was shot down over Ukraine. Almost 300 men, women, and children were tragically killed. The international implications remain to be seen, as the investigation is still ongoing. You can find a good overview and continuing timeline here.

3. Courageous exploits in battle are not widely read or heard of in our day and age. Men of war, ready to do violence against the forces of evil, are viewed as archaic; a thing of the past. Many refuse to acknowledge the wickedness in the hearts of distant-shored enemies. They prefer to live in the blissful cocoon of safety that others shed their blood to secure. They wallow in moral relativism while heroes die, forgotten in the dark. This week, Thomas Gibbons-Neff highlighted the life of one such hero. He brings to light the stirring story of Major Zembiec, the "Lion of Fallujah."

4. A story that won't make major news headlines in our politically correct and morally bankrupt society. Another illustration that the way of the transgressor is hard (Proverbs 13:15).

5. Further down the slope of moral and theological degeneracy by a "church" that long ago traded the authority of Scripture for the traditions of men. 

6. After so much bad news above, we wrap it up with the good guys at the Cripplegate. Check out Nathan Busenitz's 200 word theological tractate on the deity of Christ. Good truth to meditate on and retain to be ready for a defense (1 Peter 3:15).

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Resolution 9: Your Family Wants to Kill You

Last month, I became aware of the story of Josef after seeing Al Mohler's tweet, strongly encouraging everyone to read the harrowing story of this Christian "on the run in Afghanistan." 

I read the article and was amazed. I was amazed to see the NYT highlighting the plight of a persecuted Christian. Aside from the trending "bring back our girls" campaign that most have now forgotten, the persecution of Christians rarely makes headlines. If you haven't read the article yet, you can find it here. Praise God that this testimony was seen by the world. 

The most amazing that about this story was that God's power was on display. While the NYT author didn't explicitly glorify God, the testimony of Josef's faith did. Here is a man who was willing to turn his back on his family, culture, and religion; all for Jesus Christ. He knew it could cost his life but he decided to follow Jesus. He knows he might be killed for his Christian faith any day now, and yet he refuses to deny Christ. 

That is a powerful display of the power of God in Jesus Christ. The power to take an unbelieving Muslim and change him into a follower of Jesus who is willing to die for his savior. 

Christians in the West speak of "dying for Jesus" when they give up such mundane things as too much Starbucks or eating one less cookie. Sometimes, Western Christians come a little closer to an awareness of literal death for Jesus when they go on a short term missions trip in a third-world context, or when they do an evangelistic outreach "in the hood." 

But for Josef, the reality of martyrdom is just around the corner. Literally. It's lurking behind the tinted windows of an unmarked van, in the footsteps he hears scraping the street outside his flimsy door, in the faces of the men he once knew as brothers and uncles. Josef, like many other Christians in similar contexts, might take his last breath today. 

For Christians like Josef, death is an ever present reality. I imagine that Josef thinks of his death often. When he misses his family. When he misses the comforts of home. When he reads his Bible. Death is waiting.

Resolution 9 reminds Christian men to think of their death often. This is not morbid introspection. This is salvation verification (2 Cor 13:5). Josef has counted the cost and by God's grace is ready to die for Jesus. In his own words, “My body is in prison, but my soul is free.” The soul free in Jesus is ready to die for Jesus. 

Since most of my readers are Christians here in the U.S.A., I would encourage you to read this article about Josef. Put yourself in his shoes and imagine your family wanting to kill you for your faith. Go ahead, imagine it. 

Think about your brother or cousin hunting you with a machete in his hand, ready to sever your now-infidel head from your body. Think about your parents and uncles, standing by as you are beaten to a bloody pulp for embracing Jesus. Think about death for Christ - and then pray. 

Pray for Josef and the thousands of other Christians like him who face death for Jesus on a daily basis. Pray that they will stand fast in their faith. Pray that their persecutors will come to faith in Jesus. And pray that you will be strengthened in your faith; a faith strong enough to say, "my body is in prison, but my soul is free."

Sound off in the comments: Have you ever been persecuted for your faith?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Honoring God with Dirty Hands

Note: This is the first of a two-part post on the false worship of hypocrisy. This first post discusses some of the dangers of hypocrisy. Next time, we'll wrap it up with some final warnings on hypocrisy and the solution of true worship that honors God.

A frequent criticism of the church is, "It’s a bunch of hypocrites." Many will give that as one of their quick-n-ready reasons for not going to church or for not believing the gospel. Yet the simple fact of the matter is, everyone plays the hypocrite. 

Everyone pretends. Everyone acts. Everyone puts up a front. It’s been that way since Adam and Eve held fronds to their figures and stammered, “It’s their fault, not mine,” hiding what they had become. Sinners. They tried to cover up the outside, when their problem was inside. They felt their dirty hearts burning with shame, so they hid when God called their name. That’s what hypocrisy is. It’s the hiding of your dirty ruinous soul behind a thin veneer of fake piety.

The Rebuke of Adam and Eve, by Domenichino [PD], via Wikimedia Commons
One of the great truths of the gospel is that Jesus came to ransom and save sinners (Mark 10:45). Jesus continues to love the sinners he has ransomed even while they are still covered in the dirt of this earthly life. Jesus is patient toward his true followers. Throughout the gospel of Mark Jesus demonstrates an uncanny patience toward his disciples. They repeatedly fail to understand the true significance of who he is (Mark 6:52), but Jesus is patient and long-suffering toward them. 

God is merciful toward sinners who realize and acknowledge their sin (Luke 18:13-14). Jesus was faithful to show that mercy and patience. But while he is patient toward repentant sinners, Jesus deals differently with hypocrites.

Jesus shows God's hatred for the false worship of hypocrisy. Even more sobering, as the Son of God, Jesus knows if you are a hypocrite. Jesus sees to the very soul of every man and sees if the worship you offer to God is genuine or not. What Jesus wants is for you to honor God with a sincere heart. You can honor God with dirty hands. It starts in the heart. The heart is what God is after. 

In Mark 7:1-13, Jesus confronts the false piety of the Pharisees who had exalted their tradition over the law of God. The Pharisees had come down from Jerusalem and seized on a perceived slight by Jesus' disciples against their accepted religious tradition. Their infraction? They were eating with dirty hands (Mark 7:2). It's at this point we see the first danger of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy makes good micro-managers. 

30281 Micro Manager Battle by Masked Builder
 (no changes made, CC BY 2.0
Mark lets us know that this wasn't dirty hygiene hands, but ceremonially unclean hands (7:3-4). The Pharisees see Jesus' men breaking bread together and they have a religious panic attack. Their tradition had strict stipulations for ritual cleansing, especially before any tasty morsel could touch their holy lips. But they go one further and use this to accuse Jesus. They question Jesus; accusingly implying that his disciples transgressed under his oversight.

Hypocrisy make good micro-managers

It's here that we see the first danger of hypocrisy. Hypocrites are really good at trying to control everyone else around them. They are consummate micro-managers. The Pharisees were like that. They had their tradition, and in their misguided zeal, they wanted everyone else to follow along. Whereas some dictators will offer free tacos and their love (you have to watch The Lego Movie © to get that reference), the Pharisees offered "the tradition of the elders" as their ground for authority. This had led to a heavy burden on the backs of the people. A burden so heavy that it actually kept many Jews from obeying the simple law of God (Mark 7:9-12). 

If you see "how things have always been done" beginning to burden other Christians, you might have a case of religious hypocrisy. Watch out for this attitude. If you become more concerned that everyone follow your standard, and your standard is over and above the bounds of Scripture, it's time to take a gut check. The danger is, a lot of times people will follow a hypocritical micro-manager. While almost everyone else had rolled over for the manipulative ploys of the Pharisees, Jesus did no such thing. He struck back - hard. 

Jesus cut to the chase and called them hypocrites (Mark 7:6). Jesus confronts the second danger of hypocrisy; hypocrisy makes false worshipers. When it came to attacks on God and his Law, Jesus didn't hold back. He called it what it was. He spoke the truth and confronted them for what they were, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites (Mark 7:6)." In Mark 7:6-7, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 29:13 to confront the false worship and religious standards of the Pharisees. God had confronted Israel through Isaiah for their false worship of Yahweh. They professed to be God's covenant people with their lips, but their hearts were far from a true love for God (Isaiah 29:13). 

Hypocrisy makes false worshipers

Jesus sees into the hearts of the Pharisees and confronts them for the same false worship (Mark 7:6). The Pharisees professed loyalty to God, but their hearts were far from Him. Jesus sums up this deficiency of true love for God, a deficiency of true worship, with one word; hypocrite. Jesus uses the word hypocrite which in classical Greek described play-actors; their profession was pretending to be something they were not in real life. The Pharisees put on a mask of holiness, but inside their hearts were far from God. 

Ancient Greek Theatrical Mask of Zeus By Carole Raddato,

Jesus confronted the dangers of hypocrisy during his time on earth. This same hypocrisy continues today and men of God must guard against it; in their own hearts and in the church. J.C. Ryle was faithful to confront the hypocrisy he found in his church over 100 years ago.
 Think what a solemn warning there is here to all worldly and hypocritical professors of religion. Let all such read, mark, and digest these words. Jesus says to you, "I know thy works." You may deceive me or any other minister; it is easy to do so. You may receive the bread and wine from my hands, and yet be cleaving to iniquity in your hearts. You may sit under the pulpit of an evangelical preacher, week after week, and hear his words with a serious face, but believe them not. But remember this, you cannot deceive Christ. He who discovered the deadness of Sardis and the lukewarmness of Laodicea sees you through and through, and will expose you at the last day, except you repent.1)
Hypocrisy is a dangerous game. It covers up a dirty heart with a shiny exterior. It tries to make everyone else play the game and it dishonors God with false worship. The good news is, Jesus is good to those who repent. He is gracious and patient toward those who recognize hypocrisy in their lives and turn toward a God in true worship. 

Next week, Mark will show another danger of hypocrisy and I'll discuss how Christians should deal with this issue in their own lives and in the church.


1) Ryle, J.C., Holiness (Moscow, ID: Charles Nolan Publishers,  2001), 279.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Best Gifts

"Let us rather covet the best gifts. Let us aim at imminent holiness. Let us hold fast what we have already, and continually seek to have more. Let us labour to be unmistakable Christians. Let it not be our distinctive character that we are men of science, or men of literary attainments, or men of the world,  or men of pleasure, or men of business - but "men of God." Let us so live that all may see that to us the things of God are the first things, and the glory of God the first aim in our lives; to follow Christ our grand object in time present, to be with Christ our grand desire in time to come."

Amen and amen.

J.C. Ryle, Holiness (Moscow, ID: Charles Nolan Publishers,  2001), 286.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Showing True Compassion like Jesus

By Enver Rahmanov (Own work)
Over the last several weeks, news headlines have highlighted the surge in illegal immigration from Mexico into the southern United States. The perennial debate of amnesty versus border enforcement has erupted again. As with other social issues, people are divided.

Social engineers argue that compassion dictates an open border. Many evangelical leaders have gone along with this and continue to lobby Washington to declare amnesty. They base their argument for this on Christian compassion. 

It seems for many, compassion equals social activism. But is that true compassion? How should Christians show compassion today? Does being compassionate like Jesus mean relaxing or refusing to enforce current law?

Christians throughout the years have engaged in social ministry: the orphanages of George Muller, the Sunday school movement in 18th century England, prison reform, and the abolition of slavery. All of these movements were started and carried on the shoulders of Christian churches and individuals. So what is the difference between then and now? The gospel.

True compassion comes from a response to the gospel and points to the gospel. True compassion sees spiritual depravity as man’s greatest need and the gospel as the truly compassionate answer to that need.

In Mark 6:30-44 Jesus demonstrates the nature of true compassion; a model Christians today should follow. Jesus shows his disciples then and now that true compassion sees the greatest need and then shares the greatest gift; the gospel of King Jesus. 

In Mark 6:30, the evangelist tells us that the disciples had just returned from their preaching tour around Galilee. They had been busy, night and day, with the ministry they had received from Jesus. Healing the sick, harrowing encounters with the demonic, and a heavy preaching schedule had left the disciples haggard with exhaustion (Mark 6:12, 31). At this point, Mark begins to highlight the true compassion of Jesus.

Jesus saw people's needs. He saw that the disciples were spent and needed rest (Mark 6:31), he saw that his followers needed food (Mark 6:37-44), and he showed patience for the immaturity he saw in the disciples (Mark 6:37, 38). Jesus models an others-centered life. But while these physical needs were important, they were really just secondary things. The disciples would get tired again. The crowds would hunger again. There was a greater need that everyone else was missing. 

Jesus saw deeper. He looked at the heart and he saw the greatest need of the people. This is his diagnosis, "He saw a huge crowd and had compassion  on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34)." Jesus saw beyond the hungry, milling crowds. He saw into their souls and was moved by their true plight; spiritual blindness. 

What made this appalling condition more grievous to Jesus, was that this was a very old problem. God had not left the people to themselves. He had given the nation of Israel spiritual leaders who were to shepherd God's people and lead them in God's paths. But over 400 years before the time of Christ, God had brought this charge against the men responsible for the spiritual care of his people. Their charge? Failed shepherds. Instead of leading and caring for God's people, they neglected and abused their position. And God was grieved by this (Ezekiel 34:1-24). 

When Jesus came, it had only grown worse. The people were still like sheep without a shepherd. Blind, lost, starving; sheep neglected by their shepherds. Jesus looked at what others saw as a burden (Mark 6:35-37) and saw the real need, the need for truth. Jesus felt compassion, real compassion, and then...he preached. Before Jesus set up the bread line and the soup kitchen, he preached the gospel. Mark tells us that after he looked at these forlorn people and felt compassion, "Then He began to teach them many things (Mark 6:34)."

Jesus didn't give them food, he didn't give them a job fair, he didn't give a lesson in self-help. No, he gave them the greatest gift. Jesus gave himself. Jesus gave the shepherd-less sheep himself, the true shepherd. The people didn't need more of themselves, more tradition, more confusion. They needed to know Jesus. So Jesus preached. He preached himself. 

Just like the nation of Israel in Jesus' time, the greatest need of our hour is repentance and faith in Jesus. People don't need a change in income, self-image, legal or social status; people need to be convicted of their sin and turn in faith to Jesus. But that means the greatest need or our time must be met by men like Jesus. Men who will look and see the greatest heart needs around them. Men who seeing the greatest need, will come forward and proclaim the gospel of King Jesus. 

Last week, N.D. Wilson penned a call for modern-day prophets. 
Prophets must be fearless, immune to the pressures of kings and crowds, aligned only with the breath of God. We are in need of prophets now. Christians are scattered, but the world's wind is heavy and unified… Prophets must be immune to floggings on Facebook and Twitter. They must be fearless before friends and tenure committees and stadiums filled with the priests of Baal. The cool-shaming can have no sting. The world is busy applying pressure on "social issues," and Christians are busy caving left and right, trying to accept fresh cultural dogma simply so that they might be accepted. Many of us would rather be in compliance with the crowd of now than successfully image the loves and hates of our Father. But his breath rolls the North Sea and props up mountains. His words ripen fields of grain and infants still hidden in wombs' warmth. May we run parallel to his breeze alone.
This is the call that Jesus puts to all his men today. The charge given to the disciples has passed to us today (Matthew 28:18-20). Yes, the needs of many press in on the church today. But men of God must see the greatest need and proclaim the greatest answer. We need a new generation of prophets. Men who will stand fast and declare, “thus says the Lord.” You don’t have to be a pastor to do this. You just have to be faithful to point people to Jesus and his salvation. Jesus saw the greatest need and gave the greatest answer. The call is now given to you. Go and do likewise. 

John Knox Preaching, By Kim Traynor (Own work)
(], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, June 30, 2014

Manly Monday

If you pay attention at all to the fitness industry or are just a general strength enthusiast, then last week was a big week. Am I talking about the World Cup? Wait, what is that picture below mean any ways? 

No, soccer is not really my thing. Are there strong soccer athletes? I guess so. The guys with beards have some redeeming qualities. But I am talking about strength. Like powerlifting, powerbuilding, or strongman strength. 

Photo courtesy of Kareemadel

Now we are talking. So back to last week in the strength world. Well, last week two great resources became availabe, one free and one not so free, but well worth the price. Last week, Dave Tate released his deadlift manual, over 80 pages of phenomenal content, for free. This is the kind of experienced, master level instruction, guaranteed to raise your Testosterone level (if you deadlift-yeah it's science) kind of content that most fitness experts charge lots of money for. And Dave Tate over at is giving it away for free. Take advantage of it. Your hamstrings will thank you (and your back, traps, core, yoke, etc.). 

In the not so free instance, but equally, if not more valuable (sorry Dave); Josh Bryant released what some would say is his magnum opus, Built to the Hilt. While Josh has released other great manuals, this is probably one of the most complete and currernt books dealing with all tthings strength. 

If you want to get bigger and stronger (and why wouldn't you), then I say go with the experts. Go big or go home. Check out these great resources and go get after it.

Disclaimer: I definitely don't get anything from referencing these people or products. I just get excited about strength stuff and want you to know about the best stuff out there. Enjoy!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Week in Review

Tweet of the week: Russell Moore takes this week's tweet of the week. A funny reminder that kids soak up more than we realize.

1. N.D. Wilson makes a compelling call for modern day prophets. I would add my voice to his call. We need Christians who stand on the bedrock of biblical authority and not the sinking sands of cultural relativity.

2. Thanks to my seminary friend Steven Lee for the link on this one. Sound words of wisdom on how to have a blessed marriage. Yep, still working on these. 

3. Continue to pray for Meriam Ibrahim. She and her family continue to be persecuted in Sudan. In the course of a little over a month, she was arrested, freed, and then re-arrested again. Christian Post provides a helpful timeline with updates.

4. In related news, the New York Times surprised this week by highlighting the ongoing story of Josef, an Afghani believer on the run from his Muslim family. This is a compelling piece and is another good reminder to pray for persecuted Christians around the world.

5. This wasn't really from the past week, but it's close enough and too much convicting goodness to pass up. Check out Clint Archer's prognosis for a healthy church.

6. Finally, this week I saw the link to this interview with Kevin DeYoung. Prophetic words for our time, "We don’t have to make the Bible come alive. We need living ears to hear." In a time when people clamor to hear the latest expert or tune in to their own subjective/experiential impressions, DeYoung's newest book is a vital read. Read his interview. Then go buy and read his book. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Resolution 9

Resolution Nine: Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

While Jonathan Edwards was still a young man, he penned a series of "resolutions" for his life. These resolutions would shape the trajectory of his coming years and the godly character he became known for. While Edwards grew frustrated at times with his failure to keep his resolutions, they demonstrated the fervency with which he lived his Christian life. 

Recently, I was preparing to preach a sermon on John the Baptist's death in Mark 6:14-29. I came across by Edwards' ninth resolution and was struck by it again. Listen to this, "Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death." 

Society today would say that is a morbid statement. But Edwards did not focus on death for the sake of death itself. His goal in meditating on his demise was to spur himself on to greater holiness and Christ-likeness. 

Edwards meditated on his own demise to spur himself on to greater holiness and Christ-likeness.

Each Thursday, I will be posting a Resolution 9 segment on the blog. My goal is to offer the sober reminder that death is coming for all men and that all men of God should look to their future demise with the resolve to honor Christ today. 

I close with Paul's words. Words that fit Resolution 9. 

"For me, living is Christ  and dying is gain."

"Just one thing: Live your life  in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ."

Philippians 1:21, 27

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dying for Jesus

On May 31, 2014, Bowe Bergdahl was released to US forces by a Taliban affiliate. He had been a "prisoner" for five years. He was instantly hailed a hero by Susan Rice, the acting National Security Advisor to the President. However, a group of fellow soldiers from Bergdahl's Army company saw things differently. To them, Bergdahl wasn't a hero, he was a traitor. 

The jury is still out on Bergdahl's guilt (he'll likely face a court-martial in the near future). But what frustrates his former fellow soldiers the most is why he would betray them, when in their words "we would have died for him." On the front lines of battle, all that mattered to these soldiers was knowing that they were loyal to one another, and would be willing to give their lives for one another if needed. It's a matter of brotherhood and loyalty. A willingness to pay the ultimate price.

Many Christian men today would say that they love Jesus. They express a certain amount of loyalty to the Christian faith. But would most men who profess Christ today, especially in the West, be willing to die for Jesus? As Bergdahl illustrates, making a profession and actually following through don't always go hand in hand. How can a man prepare and know that he would be ready to lay down his life for the Savior? 

John the Baptizer was a man prepared to die for Jesus. He was ready to pay that ultimate price. In Mark 6:14-29, he demonstrates that you will only be ready to die for Jesus in the future if you live for him and love him in the present. 

 You'll only be ready to die for Jesus in the future if you live for him in the present.

John lived for Jesus exclusively. The gospel of Mark and specifically chapter 6:14-29 show three ways John did this. John prioritized Jesus, preached Jesus, and practiced a life pleasing to Jesus. 

From his introduction in Mark 1:4 and following, John is focused on preparing the way for Jesus. At the height of his fame John pointed away from himself and toward Jesus. "He was preaching: “Someone more powerful  than I will come after me.  I am not worthy  to stoop down and untie the strap of His sandals" (Mark 1:7). Jesus would do the greater spiritual work (Mark 1:8) and John made it clear to his followers that all that mattered was advancing Jesus and making Him famous (John 3:30). Most people (men included) love to talk about themselves. Not John. Jesus was the priority of John's life. 

John also lived for Jesus in the present by preaching Jesus Christ. John gave up the comforts of ordinary life (Mark 1:6) so that he could go out and preach the gospel (1:4), the good news about Jesus. But he didn't just preach to the adoring masses. He remained faithful to preach even in the face of certain death.

John was faithful to preach even in the face of certain death.

Mark 6 indicates that John had the ability to regularly speak with Herod Antipas, the tetrarch (governor) of Galilee. Herod had sinned against God and against the Jewish law of his time by taking and marrying the wife of his half-brother (Mark 6:17). John boldly confronted Herod on this sin, and the text indicates this confrontation may have happened more than once. John preached and things happened. His words for Herod had consequences. 

Herod's illegitimate wife, Herodias, hated John for his righteous words . She hated him so much that she wanted him dead (Mark 6:19). But Herod had a grudging respect for John. Herod liked what John had to say, but he was conflicted. He wasn't willing to repent. You could say he was a bit confused. So confused that he arrested and held John, but protected him from Herodias. 

So while Herodias sat plotting his death in the background, John continued speaking the truth to Herod. The text indicates John was under arrest for some time (Mark 6:18, 20). With Jesus as the center of his life, it's not too much of a stretch to think that John was preaching Jesus to Herod. If he was willing to call out Herod to his face, he had probably told him about Jesus too. Jesus was the priority in John's life and John preached Jesus even in the face of death. 

But how did John gain the ear of a governor? Herod didn't just respect John for his speaking abilities. Herod respected him because John practiced a life pleasing to Jesus.

John practiced a life pleasing to Jesus.

 John was a righteous and holy man and Herod saw this (Mark 6:20). His holiness stuck. It was noticeable. And his holy life had an impact. John was so consistently righteous in his everyday life, that it took him places. Not into the limelight of stardom that so many seek today. Instead, his holy life gained him the ear of a spiritually bankrupt governor; a governor who at the height of worldly success was humbled by a righteous nobody like John. 

John was ready to die for Jesus because he had lived his entire life for the Christ. He prioritized Jesus, he preached Jesus and and he practiced a holy life for Jesus. Can the same be said for you? My prayer is that this tribute to John would be true of me as well. 

     "I assure you: Among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared, but the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." - Matthew 11:11, HCSB.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

gibor hayil, redux

I started this blog over five years ago now. My desire at the time was to post different things relating to manliness. Manliness from a biblical perspective. But as you can tell, not much happened in the way of blogging. Life got in the way.

You see, five years ago I was in the middle of seminary. We had just had our first child (of three) and I was working at Mercury Insurance as a claims adjuster. Life was busy to say the least. I discovered that writing a blog wasn't the biggest priority in my life at that time. The duties of manhood required other things take priority.

But seminary is done now. My family gets more and better attention now and I'm finally beginning to live my dream of being a pastor. God has blessed me richly. So now, I'm ready to return to blogging. A lot has happened over the last five years. God has done a lot of work in this sinners heart. Jesus has become more dear to me and I hope I can say I've become more like Him.

So that is why I want to write about being gibor hayil. If you've wondered what those different looking letters are at the top of my screen, that's Hebrew. Transliterated, it says gibor hayil; a man of valor (more on that to come). My desire five years ago holds true today. I want to be a man of valor, a man of God who has the courage and fortitude to live a life honoring to God before my family, my church, and the world.

In light of this desire, most of my posts will be slanted toward men. But I hope that what I write will be so rooted in God's word that anyone can draw encouragement and edification from it. To God be the glory!