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Is it Any Wonder They Call it… Amazing Grace – a Ragamuffin Blog

Monday Morning Armor

It is Monday
– My oldest son is in the final stages of getting a job
– My second son just moved out by himself and starts college today and needs a job
– I have a son in running start who also needs a job
– My 13 year old is in public school and needs to have a good year in school
– Christie is homeschooling to youngest two which is great but requires a lot from her
– I have good news to deliver at work today
– The Moses Lake branch is in the final push of winning the cup for the year
– It is the end of the year at the bank and the stress level across the division is higher than normal
– I have a ton of work to do to prepare for the new fiscal year
– I would like to try something new with my division this year but I’m not sure how to implement it – and will required a lot of creative energy to work through
– I have friends in difficult places in their lives and I am burdened for them
– In my own life I feel restless and unsettled this morning.
– I have internal questions around my ability, stamina, adequacy to be enough for my family, friends, colleagues, church – and even for myself.

This is a typical stream of consciousness that hits me right away in the morning – especially Monday mornings. It seems as though the expectation of me in life is to make it all work and walk through unfazed by its challenges. But I know from a long history of looking internally to my own resources for help that they are in fact inadequate. And so am I – at least on my own.

Yesterday I taught on Psalm 33 and discussed specifically this “morning battle” Here are a couple thoughts that particularly struck me.

The Psalmist begins with praise. Praise requires me to look outward and away from my own self reliance. Praising God when you are feeling overwhelmed is hard but also even more needed.

Secondly as the Psalmist begins to describe the power of God he says: “He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.”
The Psalmist MEANS for this to strike awe in me and it does. God is heaping the depths of the ocean and containing them like we do grain in a grain bin (which happens to also be beyond my ability). This reality is meant to fill my heart with awe and fill my mouth with praise.

But then he says this: “No king is saved by the multitude of an army A mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety Neither shall it deliver ANY by its great strength.” This means my own resources (even if were a king with a mighty horse and great army which I’m not) are INSUFFICIENT to meet my problems BUT the God who scooped the ocean into grain bins….. He “might” have the strength, knowledge and wisdom to. But will he help me in my need?

Psalm 33:18: “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine.

Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, Because we have trusted in His holy name.

Let your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, Just as we hope in you.”

Anxiety piling up? Feel stretched thin? Worried? Worn? Defeated? – Lift your gaze in praise! Look away from your own resources and look to the maker of ocean storehouses. Look with awe and delight at the creator this Monday morning. And remember that for those that know him – who hope in his mercy (and if you don’t you can right now) – He is our help and our shield.

Monday Morning Armor = God: Ocean-Container

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A Prayer for Monday Mornings

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It is Monday morning and the week ahead looms in my mind – so much to do. Some things I am eagerly anticipating, others feel like a weight. All the worries and cares in my life rush in – especially on Monday mornings. What shall I do?

I will cast my cares on the Lord for he cares for me!

I will consider the birds chirping around my house this morning and remember they neither sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, but My Father feeds them

I will remember my Father knows my needs and so I am free to seek Him and His kingdom above what he provides.

I will not borrow from all the potential troubles ahead but give today’s cares to the Lord

I will lift up my heart to the Lord and not be anxious – trusting in his provision and care for me as a good Father.

I will remember that even in difficulty, stress, embarrassment, failure, loss – You are my refuge and strength and nothing can separate me from Your love.

So Lord I give You this day and this week with eyes turned to You – incline my heart after You – may this week by Your Spirit be used to shape me increasingly to the image of Your Son and may I find this week, in ways I have have never experienced before, that in YOU alone all my longings are met.

In Jesus Name

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A Letter to my Son and His New Bride on Their Wedding Day

Dear Steven and Kendra,

It is your wedding day.  In many ways it has been a long time coming, but at the moment it seems surreal that the day is here.  It is an exciting day and I am hopeful that everything goes smoothly, but even if something doesn’t, don’t let it steal the joy of this moment.

I haven’t had the chance to talk to either of you much about marriage, but I have a few thoughts I would like to encourage you with as you embark on this new chapter of life – one that extends through the rest of your life. Forever and always is not guaranteed and will require significant effort, grace and humility to have a chance. 

  1. Fairy tales are illusory. The vows you make today, as I know you are aware, mark a covenant before God.  This covenant is a sacred promise to not forsake the other no matter the adversity you face.  And you will face adversity.  From financial strain, to job demands, to relational difficulties, to child-raising, to where to live, to….  Life is both beautiful and challenging.  Whatever challenges you face they need not drive you apart, though they do for many.  Adversity faced in isolation drives wedges between you, but adversity faced with your spouse is, many times, the instrument God uses to forge you into one.  You need each other.  Steven you need Kendra – yes, as the man you are the leader and protector, but this does not mean you are meant to bear every burden alone, to not share your difficulties, your questions with Kendra.  She is your partner in this life – including its struggles – don’t rob yourself or your marriage of availing yourself of this God-designed help in an attempt to isolate Kendra from the storms of life.  Huddle together in the storms and find your strength in God together.  Kendra, don’t be afraid to give Steven your counsel and your insights he needs them as you need his. While marriage is not like a fairy tale – there is something stronger that is found in marriages that thrive – joy forged on the anvil of difficulty.  This kind of joy in each other and together found in God, is the mortar that will cause your marriage to last.
  • Be quick to forgive and slow to anger.  One of the challenges of having two human beings marry is that we are sinners.  This means that you will at times hurt each other.  Sometimes the offending party won’t even know they are hurting the other.  I remember when Mom and I first got married – I was so excited to sleep in the same bed and cuddle with this “the woman for whom my soul craved” and having mom unceremoniously remove my arm from her person and roll AWAY from me.  I felt rejected.  Mom felt hot. She didn’t mean to make me feel rejected she just was too hot.  My sense of rejection was based on expectations that were unmet.  Unmet expectations could be its own point but I’ll include it here.  You both have expectations you are bringing into the marriage that the other person is probably completely oblivious to.  You may not even be able to speak to what your expectations are, but you have them nonetheless. The process (possibly life-long process) of working through your expectations and desires of your spouse and their expectations and desires of you is best accomplished by non-defensive, open communication.  When those expectations go unmet and undiscussed they will often create anger, resentment and frustration – even sadness.  So when (not if) that happens be quick to forgive – quick to listen – be patient with each other – look to see the best in each other rather than the worst.  “Love covers a multitude of sins.”  The people closest to us have the most power to hurt us and so when one party feels offended our human tendency is to close ourselves off.  DON’T do this.  Move towards your spouse even if they have hurt you in understanding, humility and love and you will find that almost any offense can be overcome – more just as in adversity – these offenses if shared and responded to appropriately – will draw you together.
  • Pursue each other until death.  I was trying to say this to you a few weeks ago Steven, but I’ll try again here.  The wedding day is not the finish line or the peak or the highlight of the marriage.  The wedding day is glorious – the bride dressed in white – the groom looking with eager expectation – the wedding party celebrating the union – BUT for all its glory the wedding day pales in comparison (or should) to the glory and beauty and joy of a life lived together in pursuit of each other.  What I mean by pursuit is for you Steven – that men enjoy the hunt, the chase but often lose interest once the game is caught (not that you are game Kendra, but for illustrative purposes only).  But as I stated before, the wedding day is the starting line not the finish line, and the race that is to be run continues for the rest of your lives together.  As much as you now know about each other, as much as you now are captivated with each other, there is so much more to learn.  Discuss life together – music, movies, God, philosophy, books, animals, nature – Invest time in each other.  This gets harder when children come.  And children are precious BUT the center of your family is always the two of you.  This is the priority and should not be neglected.  Continue to date (again easier now then when the children come) eventually you may have to schedule a date night.  Put your phones down at dinner.  Invest in experiences.  Go and do things together.  Steven, you have the McLain sense of the extravagant, but this does not have to cost a bunch of money to be enjoyable and Kendra sometimes it is ok to spend the money for the experience 😊.   Make it a practice to continue to move toward each other and you will find that the love you have now is great but is replaced by deeper love in 20 years.  This is one of the greatest joys of marriage – to be with someone who knows you at your worst and sees the best because they know, like no one else, who you are and love you. 
  • Smell the Roses.  Don’t be in a such a rush to “arrive” at some notion you have created of a “destination” that you don’t enjoy what is going on in the moment.  Life is not a future destination – you are living life now – enjoy it.  Life is not defined by money or jobs or success or house or kids.  These opening notes in the symphony of marriage are incredibly precious.  You both have goals and aspirations and dreams about where you are going.  But don’t make the arrival or achievement of those goals the place where you expect to begin to enjoy life.  For one is very likely those goals will change over time and what is important to you now will be different in the future.  But even more importantly, not to be trite, there is really no arriving in this life, instead it is about the journey.  Enjoy these early days.  Find friends to share life with.  Join a church and be part of a Christian family. Laugh together.  Enjoy being broke (if you are).  Don’t stress about every problem.  Learn to enjoy these moments together even if they don’t quite measure up to where you hope to be.   You can live your whole life in pursuit of “arrival” and miss all the beauty and joy of the trip.  I’m 42 – I haven’t arrived – and I wish that at times I wouldn’t have been so focused on not having what I wanted and more focused on enjoying my wife and boys and the little things of life.  Ambition can be a good thing – but it can also rob you of the simple joys God has given. 
  • A Three-fold Cord is not quickly broken.”  Marriage is meant to be a human picture of a larger reality.  Over and over in the bible, the love God has for his people is compared to love of a groom for his bride.  Everything I’ve mentioned above while essential I believe to a “forever and always” marriage is ultimately not enough if God is not included in the center of your relationship.  The bible pictures this as a “three-fold strand” which means that God is woven into the joining of the two of you.  This has several implications I believe for how we thrive in a marriage.  First it means that neither you Steven or you Kendra are the other’s ultimate answer to the longings of your heart – instead you point each other to Christ who is.  Second it means that while the marriage is the paramount relationship above all other relationships on a human level, your relationship with God is of the highest significance over even the marriage relationship.  Instead of making the marriage weaker by virtue of it being of second importance to knowing God, when we place God first the marriage is strengthened.  Just like your relationship with each other – knowing God requires investment of your time.  Reading your bible, going to church, spending time with other Christians are not “religious duties” to be done to look good or be good – they are means to know your maker.  And just as you cannot in this life get to the end of all there is to know about each other though finite beings, you even more cannot reach the end of knowing the infinite God.  Paul says in Philippians 3:8 “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  Your pursuit of knowing Jesus, or better said your surrender to His pursuit of you is your highest calling and greatest good – His love is truly forever and always.

Lastly, I want to say a few things to each of you.  Steven, you are my first “arrow” into the world.  I am proud of the man you are becoming.  You have been given gifts that amaze me – you can do almost anything well the first time – you have great thinking abilities – you can teach others.  These have been given to you so you can serve God and others – find opportunities to use them.  Be patient with yourself as you find a career – it will come.  I love you and am looking forward to a life-long conversation with you (as least my lifetime 😊).  Kendra, I am glad to embrace you as a daughter.  I have waited a LONG time to have a daughter and I could not imagine a better one.  You and Steven have contrasting strengths – his boldness – your reflection – his fiery logic – your compassion.  These, I believe, will serve you well in strengthening each other.  He has found his match in you and I am grateful.

The bible says a man should leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife.  This is right and true.  However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come around…frequently😊.  While we don’t want to overstep in anyway – our door is wide open to you at any time and Mom and I both desire to see you as often as possible.   And if visiting is not an option we would love to talk by phone. 

I hope your have a great honeymoon – enjoy every minute of it – Alabama is a great honeymoon destination from what I hear – snakes everywhere (and knowing your love for animals, Kendra, I’m sure you’ll love it) 😉 

Ok time to get ready for the big day – “May the Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make his face shine upon you and give you peace.”

Dad

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Just 62 Miles Away…

There is a place that is not even as far away as Wenatchee is from Moses Lake that is so different an environment no one could live there. In fact any human going there would almost instantly die. I’m talking, of course, about space. The Kármán line that divides our atmosphere from outer space is about 62 miles away. Here – the air we breathe, the nature we enjoy, the warmth we feel are taken for granted, and the thought that we live in a little bubble of air surrounded by a much vaster and totally alien environment is given little thought.

I was thinking of this in relation to the kingdom of God. I see and take for granted this world and its systems. They are as natural as breathing. My commute to work, spreadsheets, interaction with my colleagues, playing Frisbee with my kids, eating supper, driving my car, engaging in political discussion, paying the bills….all this is completely normal and natural. And yet surrounding and underlying all of this “normal world” is a God who rules and reigns over all things – whose mighty angels engage invisibly in the affairs of men. If I had eyes to see I would be overwhelmed by this spiritual world.

Many of us, myself included, can be tempted to just focus on what we can see. The things of this world are the only reality we consider – and we give little thought to there being a whole other world just under the surface that if we spent anytime at all looking for it – we would catch glimpses of it. And just like this earth is a fragile bubble of air – so this natural world is fleeting in its current state – and the world to be that is even now being formed is a more solid reality.

All this is to say why I read my bible and books on God and post quotes on facebook. It is not because I am trying to impress you… it is because through these things I gain glimpses of another world – a world more real than this one. As CS Lewis said it is through the word that “we espy heaven.” I long for the rule of God – to be captivated by him – and I post things that help me glimpse who he is and what he does. When I see him – it helps me see this world in a different light and I am transformed by what I see.

It is easy to just breathe in the normal world, but I have found it does not satisfy. Lewis again: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” We are made for another world and that world is just a breath away – closer than Wenatchee – Oh Father give us eyes of faith to see.

Hebrews 11 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. “For he (Moses) endured as seeing him who is invisible.”

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An Open Letter to William Shatner in 24 Tweets.

I have long appreciated Star Trek and Captain Kirk. As a result, over the years, I have watched or read numerous interviews with William Shatner including this recent one. I have noticed that he frequently brings up the topics of death, the afterlife and God. And I have often thought I would love to talk to him and discuss how he can find the answers he seems to be seeking, in Jesus. In lieu of that I sent him 24 tweets in the hopes that God would see fit to show himself to Bill, through his Word, even in a medium as imperfect as twitter. Here are those tweets.

Bill, I write this with great affection and longing for you – You have asked these questions in many places over the years I have followed you “What have I done?” “Why am I here?” “What’s going to happen?” “Is this the end?” – What does life mean?  What is death?

And as David accused Kirk – “You’ve never faced death before” perhaps you feel somewhat like Kirk – You know death is inevitable – at 88 you feel it – yet in many ways have cheated death. You have tasted all this world has to offer but you also taste its inability to satisfy you.

CS Lewis wrote “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” As Spock aptly noted “There are always possibilities” Perhaps the answer to your questions lie in a possibility….

I’m sure over the years someone has presented Jesus and Christianity to you. For whatever reason – Jesus has not captured your attention – maybe the messenger was flawed – maybe you find His story implausible – Maybe you hate the judgement of religion – I don’t know… but…

Here are some things I have found to be true and give me hope facing my own mortality – more than hope – joy – happiness even in my sorrows. Every good story must have a villain – Kirk must have his Klingons. And in the story of the human race – we are the villains.

Now I know this may sound like religious stone casting – but I’m including myself – I am broken – not good – not righteous – and the Bible indicts all of humanity as sinners Romans 3:10 – “There is NONE righteous…. no not one” Romans 3:23 “The wages of sin is death, BUT…

Let me leave that “but” hanging for a minute, because until we realize our diagnosis is bad and justifiably so the “but” is just sentimental meaningless drivel of religious people. Jesus said “I did not come to those who have no need of a physician but to the sick” not because

some are sick and some are not – but because all of us are sick but not all of us recognize it. Most of us believe that if there is a God he will accept us because we are “not too bad.” We compare ourselves with others based on our intentions and decide “I’m ok.”

And maybe compared to other sinners we are mildly better. But our maker is not a fellow sinner – he is a holy, perfect, radiant in splendor, dwelling-in unapproachable-light being – If we were to come into His presence in our self-evaluated, not-too-badness – we would be undone

If you were to compare not to others or by your good intentions, but instead to a perfect being-pure in every way- you would cry out like the Prophet Isaiah – “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips …for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Scripture has this diagnosis “It is appointed unto men once to die and after this the judgment.” If that judgment is by our creator and he is in fact perfect and his requirement of us is perfection-because no one imperfect can stand before him…What will his judgement be of you?

I don’t ask you this as someone better than you – save for one thing I would stand condemned, with you and all of humanity. I ask because as I stated before – unless we understand our plight, our condition – we will not understand the meaning or need of the solution.

The sacrifice of Spock to save the Enterprise is silly, unnecessary-a waste, even embarrassing-if the context of what is at stake not understood. If it truly is life and death-and the stakes could not be higher then the sacrifice is understood for what it is-absolutely essential.

Your soul is of great value. Jesus asks “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his own soul?” … You have been a man who has, more than most, tasted what this world has to offer and, I suspect, found that it is not enough to satisfy you…

Your soul need not be lost. Let’s come back to the “BUT” “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”There is salvation for your soul and it is found in one person-Jesus. He says “I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the Father BUT by me

Jesus is not one path of many – He is the Only path to the Father and to eternal life. That is his claim. So here is what us Christians call the “Gospel” – Gospel just means “Good News” It is a proclamation of what God in Christ has done for sinners like you and me.

  1. “BUT God demonstrated His own love for us – EVEN while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 – What this means is that God our creator saw our rebellion, our sin and our failure and instead of moving away from us condescended to send his Son to rescue us.
  2. Jesus, who is God and one with the Father, came as a man, humbling himself as one of his creatures and lived the perfect life that we have not, died the death we deserved so that all those who trust in Him alone will be raised to life as he was raised.

II Corinthians 5:21 says “God made Him (Jesus), who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God.” So our just penalty for our sin (death) was borne by Christ and his perfect righteousness is given to us because God is rich in mercy.

Ephesians 2:4 says “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”

The grace of God alone is able to rescue you, my friend. Not your goodness or efforts to do right. Titus 3:5 “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy”

So the meaning of life and death is not found in ourselves or in our accomplishments or failures. Our souls are not designed to find the answer to our longings in our work or possessions or accolades. The longing that CS Lewis references can only be satisfied in knowing Jesus

He is your maker – and despite all your failures, and sin, and pride he has come that you may have life – eternal life – with your maker and designer – with the one who formed you and loves you. The question is What will you do with Jesus? Will you trust him alone to save you?

I don’t know, Bill, if you will even see this and if you do if it will make any sense at all to you. But I know this is my only hope in life and in death. Jesus is the answer to the Kobayashi Maru scenario. And I am praying that you will find peace for your soul in Him.

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Psalm 23 – McLain Paraphrase

The One who is LORD over all things is my shepherd
I will not lack any needed thing

He causes me to rest in a place of abundance and beauty
He leads me to a place of peace and tranquilty where the waters are unmoving

When I am worn, He Himself is the fresh life to my soul,
He directs my steps to walk in right paths for the Glory of His great name

Even in the midst of the darkest night where danger lurks all around me, I remain unafraid because I look up and see You are still with me

Seeing Your limitless strength and power comforts me
You prepare a feast for me and invite me to sit with You even while those who hate me look on enviously

You pour Yourself so richly and undersevedly into me that my spirit overflows with joy

I am convinced that I shall never be without Your abundant goodness and lavish mercy no matter what happens in this life

and I know when I die it will merely be an ushering into Your presence where I shall most gladly live forever.

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A Response from a Calvinist Woman to Andy Stanley

My wife, Christie, listened to the recent discussion between Andy Stanley and Dr. Flowers and felt compelled to write a letter to Pastor Stanley.

“Dear Pastor Stanley,

This morning my husband was listening to an interview you did with Dr. Flowers a couple of days ago.  He came across it through a Twitter post.  I later went back to listen to the entire thing for myself.  I have never listened to either of you before, but felt drawn to offer you my point of view on an area that you stated ignorance of, which is how someone (particularly a mother) who believes Calvinist teachings could, with honesty, teach their own children or be part of children’s or student ministry. 

By way of introduction, I grew up in a GARBC church (you may or may not be familiar with this relatively small group of Baptists).  I remember my mother teaching me that God “didn’t want us to be robots” and emphasizing our free will in coming to Christ.  I have never been part of a truly Calvinistic church, although my understanding of Scripture through plain reading has led me to believe Calvinistic doctrine (I would affirm all 5 points of Calvinism).  I am not a “Reformed” person and don’t claim to know all that they teach.  In fact, I am presently a member of a charismatic church where my theology doesn’t fit with most other people, but where I know God is working and the Word of God is preached. I understand people can be seeking God sincerely and come to differing understanding, but it doesn’t mean I have to hold my firmly held convictions loosely, and there are doctrines which are so crucial to me that if they were taught in opposition to my understanding of Scripture would cause me to leave to minister elsewhere. 

That said, I do believe in God’s sovereignty in election because it’s what I see clearly in passages such as Ephesians 1 or Romans 9 (I see his divine sovereignty in many other places as well, but I realize I don’t need to load you up with “proofs” on the matter).  Listening to the discussion this morning, I disagree with the idea that believing in God’s sovereign election and enablement of belief would cause a person to have a lower view of evangelism or ministry preparedness.  I have taught children for years and earnestly desire them to see the beauty and glory of God in all his magnificence and grace.  I can’t even imagine a person who believes in God’s election putting that forward as the main thing for someone to understand in order to come to Christ.  That doesn’t even come up in my Gospel presentation, but God’s divine work enables me to go out at all.  Honestly, if I felt it was my persuasiveness on which their salvation hinged I would be petrified to speak for fear of doing it wrong.  Believing that God enables us to come to him and has chosen to use flawed instruments for this purpose gives me the ability to present to them the Gospel, knowing that no matter how well I prepare (and I spend a LOT of time in preparation every time I teach—I want to give God and others my very best and represent my Savior well) I will miss something but He will take my sincere efforts and multiply it for his purposes. 

I am a mother of six sons, and I can affirm that it is not only men who believe that God sovereignly determines those who are his.  I do believe that if any of my sons rejected the faith, God would have a purpose in it and would be glorified in some way.  That does not blur the lines between evil and good, making evil good and good evil as you stated—but recognizes that everything serves to glorify him, including punishing the sin we bring onto ourselves through our own decisions/actions. Belief in God’s sovereignty in salvation doesn’t dismiss our own will/choice in the matter.  This is a false representation of my beliefs (and, I would expect, the beliefs of most Calvinists).  The Bible clearly teaches both the sovereignty of God and the will of man (for example, Proverbs 16:9, Genesis 50:20, Exodus 4:21/Exodus 8:15).  It is not one or the other separately, but in the end we understand that no matter how I freely choose (freely being limited by my own sinful nature apart from God’s intervention), God will work his purposes. His will supersedes mine, to his glory.  In regard to a child wandering from the faith, even if my own heart was breaking and I begged God to bring them back to Himself, I would trust him.  How could I possibly even pray for Him to bring them to salvation if I didn’t believe he could sovereignly overcome their unbelief?  I was struck by your example of your church member, Amber, praying for God to show truth to her parents.  That alone shows that we are utterly dependent on God to do the work of revelation and salvation in our lives—he uses us, yes, but we are helpless apart from his ultimate work in opening our minds/hearts to be able to see and love Him.

 I believe that Christ died for the ones the Father has given him (John 6: 35-40: John 17:6, 9-12, 24-25). Yes, a Calvinist can preach with intellectual honestly through the book of John.  I believe in sovereign election, and that God ordains the use of the folly of preaching to reach the lost.  As a mother, I struggle with the same things every parent does—things like second guessing myself, being discouraged when I don’t handle things well, hoping the best for my children in spite of my shortcomings—but because I know God uses all things for his purposes and that he works all things together for good for those who are called according to his purpose, I trust that even my failures can be used to as an example to my children of the loving grace of God to rescue even a screw-up like me (or them).  I can trust them to him.  I do my best, but am freed from the burden (should they choose to reject Christ, although I do my best to show him to them experientially) that if I had only done/said something differently they would have made a different decision.

It is my belief in the sovereign election of God which enabled me to have the courage to step out in faith and lead Good News Clubs in local schools (granted, I generally downplayed some of the material that I viewed as rather legalistic and emphasized more strongly the beauty of our sovereign God stepping into the mess of humanity).  I don’t trust myself to be eloquent enough to convince anyone of anything, and if I believed that it was up to me to do it right, I would likely have stayed home for fear of “doing it wrong.”  Trusting that God can use my feeble efforts and overcome my shortcomings to reach children for adoption into his family gave me the courage necessary to step out in faith and preach the good news of God’s Son coming to take our place, paying for our sin and reconciling us with the Father.  I teach the children in my own church as well, with the confidence that God will be the one to soften anyone’s hearts and enable them to love him while knowing that his chosen method of doing so is the sincere preaching of the Word to them.

You asked how I could present a sincere invitation to them.  Simple.  I present the truth, as you stated, that whosoever will may come.  I understand (without needing to explain it all to others in my presentation) that apart from God stepping in to cause us to see him rightly, we are limited by our sinful nature to always choose to reject him but that, in his mercy and for his own purposes, he opens the hearts and minds of those whom he chooses (John 9:35-41; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18; Ephesians 1:17-21; 1 Peter 2:4-10).  I present the Gospel that Jesus has come to rescue sinners, not based on our worthiness but on his goodness.  I present to them the penalty of sin and the provision of our Savior.  It is up to God to use that in the hearts and minds of the hearers.  I always assume that unbelievers are in the room.  The fact is, the message is the same whether we are already a believer or not—Sin must be punished, Christ satisfied that requirement by taking our place on the cross, and because of his resurrection and the grace of God we can come to God for forgiveness, reconciliation, and the hope that he will transform us into his likeness (in part now, and fully when we see him face to face).  Both believers and unbelievers need to hear the truth of law and grace distinctly so that our hope is in God and not ourselves.  Unbelievers can be drawn to him and believers freed to cling to him even after we still sin.

I was actually stunned that Dr. Flowers indicated that an example of the pre-eminence of man’s free will was that Paul was striving to convince the hearers in Acts 28.  Of course, when we preach we want people to understand and turn to God, so we prepare and do our best, trusting God with the outcome.  Evangelism is so important—God has ordained the foolishness of preaching as the means for those who are called to come (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)! And preparation is important—we should be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:14-17).  Paul obviously did his best, but did not trust persuasive words to be the draw to salvation, but the work of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:1-5), and that is how I, as a Calvinist, approach evangelism and ministry as well.  It is not dishonest to recognize both that both God’s sovereignty and man’s choice work together in a way we cannot fully explain, but believe because God’s word presents it so.  The primary difference between us, I think, is which we believe to be the final determining factor in salvation:  God’s will or our own. I believe that the sinful nature in any person will cause them to always freely choose to reject God’s salvation, but that when he graciously chooses to open the eyes of that person (change their nature) to see him clearly, they will freely choose to love him.  I am comforted by the Bible’s teaching that while I am living out my salvation, it is God who works in me, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13).

I recognize that this may be a somewhat lengthy answer to your question of how a Calvinist (particularly a woman/mother) can honestly present the invitation of the Gospel to children, students, or anyone anywhere else in the world for that matter.  I know others could more eloquently have answered you, and that I have not exhausted the matter, but I thank you for your time in hearing my perspective.”

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Fleeting

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The head is struck
A flash, a flicker, a flame
Illumination, heat, beauty
A beat
Nothing

The heart awakens
A beat, a beginning, a being
Meaning, passion, pursuit
A beat
Nothing

Let me not squander nor misuse
This briefest breath – this second’s song
And grant that I might firmly choose
To trust, though weak, that He is Strong

And when on Jordan’s banks I spy
This moment wains and death steals nigh
Let this flicker flame and shine with might
Reflecting Him the Brilliant Light.

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Grace – a Poem

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Mount Morality's slopes are too steep
They've been the death of many
To Mount Calvary will I fly
And there be rescued by my Savior's strength.
The Law's demands I strive to keep
But only find despair I reap
I try again my case to plead
Brought to my face in desperate need

Then the Gospel clear and sweet
Comes with power and blood-stained relief
By Sovereign Grace and Power untold
I'm brought with Joy to my Shepherd's fold

He now is all, my song, my life
Because of His great Sacrifice
Though in this Life I often Fail
His grace upholding will prevail.
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What is the Christian Gospel?

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What is the Gospel?

“God is Holy” – God is perfect in all of his attributes – glorious in all that he does. He is set apart – unique – His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts. He dwells in pure radiant unapproachable light. Nothing and no one can stand in His presence.

“We are not Holy” – We are messed up people. We lie. We cheat. We lust. We steal. We are angry. We hold grudges. We are selfish. We are arrogant. We gossip. We do not honor God. We do not love God.

“The Penalty for Sin is Death” – That’s bad news for everyone reading this, because we are all sinners – God doesn’t weigh our “good” and our “bad.” He declares that if we have ever violated his holy law in one place we stand guilty of violating all of His law and are subject to condemnation. We have violated in many places and our just penalty is eternal death in hell. Don’t let yourself deny this reality. Acknowledge your guilt before an infinitely holy God.

“Jesus Died the Death We Deserve” – Jesus is God in human form. He came to the earth, born of the virgin Mary and lived a sinless life. Even though he was God he laid aside the splendors of heaven and became a man and dwelt among us. He humbled himself and died a torturous death on the cross though he himself was innocent. In his death he paid the penalty required for sin – he became our substitute. Though we are the sinful ones, He took our sins on himself. Though we deserve the sentence of death, he died our death in our place.

“God Gives Us Jesus’ Life by Faith and Not by Works” – Not only did Christ’s death pay our penalty, but for all those who receive Him, God gives them the righteousness (perfection) of Jesus. So when we give up trying to prove ourselves good to God and instead acknowledge that we are broken sinners in need of a dramatic rescue – there is hope. God Himself has died for us paying our penalty and by his grace through faith imparts to us his perfection. For all who believe in Jesus stand not condemned not because we are good but because He is and He has given his righteousness by faith.

“Faith is Casting Yourself on the Lord” – As you consider these things – God’s holiness, your sinfulness, sin’s penalty and Jesus’ payment – you will be tempted to think is that really true? Is it really enough that Christ died for me a sinner? I have to contribute something don’t I? I am still tempted by these thoughts even though I have been a Christian for many years. But the truth declared in Scripture stands that salvation comes not to the one who works or is good, but to sinners who cast themselves fully on the grace and mercy of our Savior Jesus Christ who died to take away the sin of the world!

Isaiah 53:4-6:
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows
yet we esteemed him stricken
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
He was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace.
and with his stripes we are healed
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned – every one – to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on him
The iniquity of us all

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 4:4-5
Now to the one that works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.

II Corinthians 5:21
For our sake he (God) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him (Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God.

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God of the Ordinary

If I could just have the passion and wisdom of John Piper, the fortitude and exegetical prowess of John MacArthur, the practical insights of Paul Tripp, the spiritual depth of Larry Crabb, the mind and theological grasp of Michael Horton, the thunder of Paul Washer, the grace of Brennan Manning, the knowledge of Tim Keller and the ministry reach of Billy Graham…Then…Oh then I would truly be satisfied….  And God would Really love me…
Or
Maybe
Probably not…
But maybe…
God uses ordinary people
Maybe God loves sinners
Maybe my chronic measuring of myself is a detriment to any ministry and hinders my sense of the extraordinary love of God for me.
And maybe the stamp of approval on my life will not be earned either by my actions or results but has been bought for me by His Son on the cross – Jesus who loved me and gave Himself for me..

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Do Not Fear – God Controls the Waves

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We tend to think of this world as something God wound up and set in order but that He does not involve Himself directly in everything that happens. Often we say this to “protect” God from being accused of being evil or unjust when a natural disaster strikes. That wasn’t God – that was just the earth being the earth. You will not find this language in the Bible and would be hard pressed even to tease out that kind of implication from Scripture. God is not afraid Continue reading “Do Not Fear – God Controls the Waves”

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Sovereign God or Sovereign Me?

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In Isaiah, Assyria is “the rod of God’s anger” against a godless nation. And God uses them to plunder and spoil the “people of his wrath.” And when God has completed his appointed purpose for the nation of Assyria,
Assyria says,

“By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I have understanding; I remove the boundaries of peoples and plunder their treasures; like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones.”

God says he will punish the arrogant heart of the King of Assyria and replies:

“Shall an axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!”

“Behold, the Lord God of Hosts will lop the boughs with terrifying power; the great in height will be hewn down, and the lofty will be brought low.”

How often have you said, “by the strength of my hand or my wisdom I have done it?” God replies, “Oh really – you have done it? You are an instrument in my hand to do with what I please. Will you give me the glory due my name or continue to claim that you are the greatest “axe handle” in the history of the world?”

Who do you worship a Sovereign God or a Sovereign Me?

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Does God Control Lightning Strikes?

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Philip Yancey writes in his book on prayer, “A hundred times a second lightning strikes somewhere on earth, and I for one do not believe God personally programs each course.” Why does Yancey say this? Why would it bother him if God was planning the path of every lightning bolt? Is he concerned about God being a micromanager? Is he concerned about God be accused of destroying or killing with lightning? Does he feel randomness to be more comforting than a God who destroys? Continue reading “Does God Control Lightning Strikes?”

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The Gospel – Destination to Inception

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1) Jesus is our destination – Knowing Him is our highest good and joy. He is what our souls were designed for and crave. Rom 5:11 Continue reading “The Gospel – Destination to Inception”

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Is Tongues the Way to Experience the Fullness of God?

Experiencing the fullness of God does not require that one speak in tongues or heal or prophesy. Sometimes we can overemphasis a radical experience or gifting as the essence of knowing God, but scripture doesn’t talk that way.

I Cor 12 “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.”

So what does Scripture say about knowing and experiencing God?

The heights of intimacy and the pinnacle of experience with God is found when through the ministry of the Word applied by the Spirit of God, I encounter and embrace the outlandish love of God.

Ephesians 3 “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

I am joined to the fullness of the love of God and the joy of knowing him by faith – the faith which comes by Spirit wrought hearing through the Word of God.

Philippians 3 “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith, that I may know him and the power of his resurrection…”

Spirit-born faith that revels and delights in the undeserved love of God as revealed in God’s Word, yields a knowing of him that does not rest on my works or my giftings but instead rests on his mercy alone. In these things I am filled with all the fullness of God and experience the power of his resurrection.

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Noah’s Flood – Local or Global?

Hey look that sign in the sky saying God would never have a local flood again!

Gen 9: “And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Notice it says “the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy ALL FLESH.”

Which is parallel to “the everlasting covenant between God and EVERY LIVING CREATURE OF ALL FLESH THAT IS ON THE EARTH”

You can not be a “local flood” guy and take the bible seriously. The bible is not unclear or ambiguous about Noah’s flood destroying the world – covering the whole earth.

Gen 7:4 “For after seven more days, I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights; and I will blot out from the face of the land every living thing that I have made.”

Gen 7:17 “Then the flood came upon the earth for forty days, and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth. The water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered.”

Gen 7:21 “All flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind; of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died. Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark.”

II Peter 2:5 “and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;”

Isaiah 54:9 “”For this is like the days of Noah to Me, When I swore that the waters of Noah Would not flood the earth again; So I have sworn that I will not be angry with you Nor will I rebuke you.”

II Peter 3:5 “For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

Luke 17:26 “And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”

Hey! Why is My Refund Smaller on My Taxes??!!

A few notes about 2018 taxes:

1) There seems to be a lot of consternation over a decrease in tax refunds. I get how it seems great to get a huge refund in February – however all that really means is that you gave too much money to the government throughout the year. So if your refund is smaller it is likely due to the increase in your regular check and/or due to your increase in pay. I do a lot of people’s taxes and everyone paid less in total taxes than they would have paid for the same income in 2017. The withholding tables changed a year ago to more closely align to what you would actually need to pay which in my book is a good thing, but would cause your refund to be smaller. If you love having a huge refund just have your employer withhold extra from your check by changing your W4. You could call it the government sponsored interest-free savings program. (And who doesn’t like free things?)

2) If you have a decrease in your refund it is for 90% of you not because your taxes have increased. Unless you live in a state that has high state income taxes that are no longer deductible, you received a tax break in 2018. For the middle class here are the main benefits of the tax reform.

a) Your tax rate on your taxable income was decreased by roughly 3%.

b) Your standard deduction nearly doubled (for all filing statuses) from $12,400 to $24,000 (Married). This change has the added benefit of making it unnecessary for most Americans to need to itemize thus simplifying your 1040. A standard deduction reduces your taxable income.

c) You lost your exemptions for each member of your family. Prior to tax reform you received an additional $4050 deduction per person in your family. So for a married couple with no children who did not itemize this means your effective standard deduction was $20,500 in 2017 and is now $24,000. So $3,500 less taxable and the 3% reduction in tax rate is the net gain to you. If you previously itemized and your itemizations were between $15,900 – $24,000 you will have more taxable income in 2018. This will largely be offset by the 3% reduction in your rate – though the closer you are to $24,000 in itemizations the less benefit the tax reform will give you. If your itemizations are above $24,000 you will benefit on the amount above just as before with the major exception of state income tax deduction is limited to $10,000.

d) Another significant change was made to the child tax credit. For those with children this credit doubled from $1,000 to $2,000 per child under the age of 17 in 2018. A credit is much better than a deduction because it comes off what you owe. So this credit is better than the previous tax code where you received an exemption of $4,050 and a credit of $1000 per child. The income limit at which you can take the child tax credit was raised significantly from $75,000 to $200,000 and from $110,000 to $400,000 for single and married respectively. Additionally up to $1,400 is refundable even if you don’t owe taxes.

e) Finally a dependent credit of $500 was added for people living in your household above the age of 17 who are dependent on your income – this can be a child or other family member for which you are caring. This is a new credit that did not previously exist.

Bottom line for most people especially in the middle class, tax reform will result in a moderate reduction in your taxes paid in 2018 vs 2017.

Lastly – if you do not have complex income taxes (like a business or self-employed) please do not go pay a ton of money at HR block to get your taxes done. You really can do it yourself – the tax code is as simple as it has ever been. If you choose to ignore this advice please do not pay extra to get your refund early on a debit card – it is just a complete waste of money.

I would be happy to help you do your taxes if you are stuck. I actually enjoy doing taxes.

Also I have a very effective tax calculator that I can send you if have excel that can help you calculate 2018 taxes and help you look at what you need to withhold for 2019. If you are interested message me and I can email it to you.

So enjoy the tax season – it’s a rush! 😀

Governor Northam – KKK Pictures and Outrage Culture.

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Governor Ralph Northam has had a rough week in the media if you haven’t been following…

(and really I couldn’t blame anyone who longs for the days of receiving one influx of news per day when the paper hit the porch early in the morning. In those days news was digested with a cup of coffee and a doughnut [yes I know – the horror] in things called paragraphs with a modicum of thoughtfulness at least by today’s standards. So astute are we in 2019 that we may possibly read a slanted headline or tweet, glance at a picture and have complete understanding of a situation. Consider our recent uproar over MAGA hats and contrived headlines as a reference point)

But I digress.

…If you haven’t been following, the Governor made absolutely horrific statements early in the week supporting the proposed late term abortion bill that was narrowly defeated in the Virginia Legislature. He also implied that not only was he in support of late term abortion, he was in favor of possibly not providing care to a delivered baby if the mother and physician so agree. Here is the central quote from the governor: “If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother,” Whether the governor was advocating for infanticide seems uncertain to me from this quote, but he was clearly advocating for abortion up to delivery which is beyond despicable. (Note: There is virtually no circumstance that a full term baby needs to have scissors jammed into the back of their skulls and their body hacked to pieces to benefit the mother. Multiple experts have weighed in stating the baby could just as safely be delivered alive and cared for without additional risk to the mother thus avoiding murdering a completely viable infant)

So I am not a big fan of the Governor.

Later in the week a picture was unearthed from 35 years ago when the governor was 24 years old and in medical school. The year was 1984. For those of you unacquainted with this era, it was a time when He – Man Masters of the Universe had recently debuted to the delight of boys everywhere. Of course today we know the show was a breeding ground of “toxic-masculinity.” She-Ra (which as a boy I, of course, have never seen) was the female counterpart of He-Man designed for girls. Obviously, this was before scientists had discovered the gender continuum scale proving that some can physically alter their chromosomes from XX to XY or vice versa. No the main continuum we were thinking about in 1984 was a space-time one and how Marty was going to save Doc and get back from 1955. In 1984 you could even tackle quarterbacks. We were like barbarians back then. I could go on, but I’ll spare you. My point is 1984 did not have the sensitivities of 2019. And mainly that was a good thing.

So back to our governor, whom I don’t like. In medical school, back in this unenlightened era, he had the extremely poor foresight (given his future career and 2019’s hypersensitivity) to be photographed wearing either a KKK or blackface costume – he is not identified so we don’t know which one he was dressed as. This has quite predictably been whipped into a public firestorm by our instant, less-than-erudite press and eager public on both sides of the political spectrum.

Was it a smart move to dress as a black man or clansmen? Clearly no. Does it necessarily show the man is a racist of the highest order? No it doesn’t. Some questions to consider.

1) If someone showed up at a party dressed as a Nazi and prisoner would that mean they are pro-Nazi? If they showed up as a Roman Centurion and slave would that mean they were pro-slavery? If you are considering saying yes you are a product of our outrage addicted age. There was a time in our not so long ago history where we dealt with dark and difficult things differently. We laughed at them. Think 3 stooges dressed as Nazi’s. Now whether you think as I do that that was a better way of dealing with things than our psycho-sensitivity today or not – what is certain is that in 1984 things were not the same as today. Today if I decide to dress in a KKK costume I could “justifiably” be shot. However in 1984 it didn’t even make a splash – the splash happened in 2019.

2) Does dressing in costume as a evil figure automatically mean you love the evil represented? Presumably the governor was not photographed at an actual KKK rally. He was dressing up for a party. We don’t know anything about the context of the party (come as the worst villain you can think of or come as a historical bad guy). Who knows? And of course in our unthinking age – NO ONE CARES. If you put black on your face you are a worthless human being and a racist. There is no context that you could do that from the perspective of 2019 and not be fully embracing the enslavement, belittlement and hatred of blacks. In the same way that if you wear a MAGA hat you are a racist. That is how narrow our open minds have become.

3) If I had a photograph of everything you had done through your 20’s how many of you would be running for office? Is it possible that you have done some stupid stuff? Does that mean that you cannot possibly be qualified 35 years later to hold office?

4) Why was there no outrage over this photo until now? If this was understood in 1984 as supporting lynching blacks why would a medical school allow it in their year book? Because it was not understood that way.

I don’t know if Governor Northam holds or held racist attitudes. If he does there is no doubt that he is wrong. What I do know is that you cannot tell from this picture whether he does or not. Our time, with the stated cardinal virtue of tolerance, has become the least tolerant – most hateful generation that I have experienced. Should a man’s life be judged on a out-of-context 35 year old yearbook photo. NO! If he expresses racist sentiments – yes he should rightfully be condemned. His statements on abortion should be strongly condemned and disqualify him from office. But when we make EV-ERY-THING a mountain actually significant things lose their meaning and we will continue to live in perpetual outrage finding no way out of own prison we have built with our virtue-signaling.

At the end of the day, Northam should be held accountable for the significant thing he has said he holds to – namely the murder of infants. That’s the story – not a 1984 costume he wore.

Covington Catholic, Our Sick Culture, and Hope

This story keeps on deepening. (If you haven’t followed the story read through the link at the bottom of this article) The latest is a response from a guy whose brother happened to look like the kid from the Catholic school. His name was put on social media and as a result his family and his family’s business have been subject to non-stop attacks. Threats of physical attack, slander of the family and the family business in an attempt (perhaps successful) of destroying a family because a member of the family was inaccurately identified as the student in the video. This family has no connection at all to the events on the video but their lives are threatened.

This is the “reasoned” response to a young man smiling oddly and remaining in an individual’s personal space after his own had been invaded. I “know” the smile radiated “evil” of the darkest kind – but even if you interpret the smile in that way the reaction has been far more evil.

Social and instant media can create this kind of mob think – where we act (at least for most of us I hope) against what we would otherwise know to be an unwise, ill-considered course of action. All of us (myself included) would be wise to not take the click bait. No matter which news source you prefer there is almost always a slant – a bias – driving it.

I quoted a proverb yesterday that says “”The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”

We can do better on both sides of the aisle at not just looking for confirmation of our biases. In the case in question if you hate Trump the MAGA hats make you look at the situation in a certain light. They same thing happens the other way.

Instead of further pushing us apart as a people this could be an event to draw us together. Perhaps we will be not so quick to judge – not so quick to demand retributation. We could admit that we are all at times wrong in our judgement or rash in our response and we could extend grace to each other. Not just when our judgement is in error but grace even in the face of actual wrong.

If we are honest with ourselves – and if all that we have ever thought or done was broadcast on twitter for the world to see and judge we would all be found guilty. I know I would be.

Jesus’ message to the world is -yes you are guilty – more than you probably recognize or want to admit – and when compared to God we all stand guilty and worthy of death and hell.

But God has another word – it is called the Gospel – Good News – and that is the perfect One – our creator became a part of his creation to redeem us. He died the death we deserve to rescue us – to restore us to his good design for humanity. So yes more guilty that I dare admit AND more loved that I thought possible.

When I am honest about who I am and when I see that despite who I am God has loved me, forgiven me and adopted me as his child – I am freed by His grace to extend grace to others with whom I disagree or who even hate me.

If there is to be a change in this country – a reconcillation – it will come with the rediscovery of this Good News – that though grossly undeserving God has forgiven and received me. If we were to fall on our faces as a country and acknowledge our sin we would begin to recognize the sweet notes of the Good News that Christ has come for sinners. And if that were to soak into our national conscience and we believed it to be true our country I believe would experience a new birth of freedom.

Note: The best summary of the events is at this LINK

Trump’s Wall and the Government Shutdown

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PSA: The government is currently shut down because Trump wants his wall but the Democrats say it is inefficient and ineffective. Trump is asking for 5 billion.

The daily cost of discretionary spending that is currently being saved (though most will be retroactively paid once the government is open again) is 3 billion dollars. That means that during the 20 days the government has been shut down we have paid for the wall 12 times.

Or….

We presently owe 21+ trillion dollars in debt – the projected interest on the debt for 2019 is 364 billion. Which is roughly a billion dollars a day. Trump’s wall costs 5 DAYS of INTEREST on the debt.

Or…

Our federal governments projected expenditures for 2019 are 4.14 trillion. Let’s put that in context of a household budget. If we said 4.14 trillion is represented by 100,000 household income then the 5 billion dollar wall is equivalent to spending $120.77.

As a country does it make a difference if we have borders? Obviously yes.

Should we seek to make it difficult to enter the country illegally to protect our nation from terrorism and crime? Yes

Are those who are just seeking a better life for themselves and have no criminal intent better served in our country by entering legally or illegally? Legally

Should we seek to make it more difficult for drug and human traffickers to bring their “wares” in and out of the country? Yes

Will “the Wall” solve all these problems? Obviously no

Would “the Wall” help us better be able to deter some of these issues? Most likely yes

Is it racist to seek to protect the country and enforce our existing laws at our most vulnerable border? No

Does it make sense for Chuck and Nancy to continue to insist that the government be shut down and its workers unpaid on financial and moral grounds? No

Let’s spend the $120.77.

The world will not end. Our country will have one more tool to better protect ourselves from crime, human and drug trafficking, and terrorism. And we will encourage those who have legitimate reasons to desire to live here to come in the right way which is significantly better for them as well.

By the way just last year – for real – Chuck and Nancy offered 30 billion for this project. Now it is “so immoral” 5 billion cannot be considered even in the face of an extended government shut down.

I’m not a big fan of the president – nor am I that excited about a wall. But political gamesmanship and intense hatred for Trump are what is driving this. And it is frustrating. This is not a big ask by the president and to keep the government closed for an extended period of time because of a personal vendetta against the president is foolish and despite their claims of altruism, this is politics at its ugliest.

Are Hurricanes Getting Worse Due to Man-Made Climate Change?

Image result for hurricane devastation

“The catastrophic recent weather events in the United States, Asia and elsewhere have once again shown that the world is in the midst of a climate crisis of our own making. While countries like ours are on the front lines of the worst impacts to come, these events remind us that no country is immune.

Simply put, the commitments the world has made so far under the Paris Agreement to reduce the emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are woefully inadequate. And we are out of time. If we do not increase these commitments by 2020 as the agreement requires us to do, the potential impacts will be devastating, and they threaten the lives, homes and livelihoods of people in countries like ours.”

CNN Article linked below

It would be nice to think that when the world doesn’t end in 2020 that there would be an apology and retraction for this kind of rhetoric, but as it appears this kind of thing gets said every three months or so by THE authorities on the subject for the past 20 years with 0 consequence for not even being close I doubt any apology will be forthcoming.

If you are reading in the news today (again) that storms are getting incredibly worse and this level of ______ devasting natural disaster is unprecedented, take a breath and consider the following stats on hurricanes.

Guess what year in the past 166 years had the MOST major hurricanes… Go ahead… guess….

It was 68 years ago in 1950. Weird huh? There were 8 major hurricanes (over cat 3) 1950.

In the last decade the worst year for storms was 2017. In 2017 we experienced 17 named storms, 10 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes.

2017 was topped by 1933’s 20 named storms, 11 hurricanes and 6 major hurricanes.

Which was topped by 1961’s and 2005’s 7 major hurricanes.

Let’s look at some more facts

For the last 10 years we have averaged 14.70 named storms, 6.9 hurricanes, and 3.2 major hurricanes per year.

Is this an incredible increase? Is man-made climate change causing significantly higher hurricanes that previous decades? Are we actually hurtling over a precipice from which there is no return as soon as 2020?

Well let’s look at the 10 years prior to that 1997 – 2006
During that decade every metric was higher. We had 15.2 named storms, 8.10 hurricanes, 3.7 major hurricanes per year.

How about we go back to 1947 -1956 – surely it was much better then! During that decade we averaged less named storms at 10.5, about the same hurricanes at 6.8, and MORE major hurricanes the either of the last 2 decades at 3.9 per year.

If you go back before 1947 no decade is higher than the present according to the link below BUT did we name storms with the same rules as today?

Here is an interesting article showing we did not (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/hurricane-names—how-are-th…/)
Also I wonder did we have the same ability to accurately identify hurricanes and their size in 1850 as we do today – I suspect the answer is no. But as you look through the link below you will see peak decades followed by lower decades for no discernable reason especially if you try to relate it to supposed man-made factors contributing to climate change.

http://www.stormfax.com/huryear.htm

Weather is complex. There are natural cycles in the earth that vary for reasons we clearly do not yet understand. I say clearly because NO ONE has come up with anything resembling an accurate, repeatable scientific model to project future temperatures or natural disasters.

So can we drop the rabble-rousing hysteria? Yes let’s study our planet. Yes – let’s care for it to the best of our ability, but can we stop with saying we know with near absolute certainty something we very very clearly do not.

Of course I know the answer is no we cannot restrain ourselves. And I am a heretic for daring to question the established doctrine of the intellectuals which is willingly propped up by media and politicians. But maybe one person reading this might be convinced to evaluate the evidence a little closer and with some scientific skepticism and if so that will be worth it!

https://www.cnn.com/…/climate-change-marshall-is…/index.html

A Call to Gospel Race Relations In Response to Recent Statements by Thabiti Anyabwile

I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking about the race issues among believers that have been seemingly widened this week or probably just uncovered some more via the MLK50 conference. I’ve discovered I don’t have the ability I would like to express what I want to, nor do I have the wisdom or knowledge to solve all the complexities of this sensitive and intensely personal discussion. That goes without saying of course. So why bother trying to say anything? And I guess the best answer I can give is that I love the church – for all of its messiness – I love the body of Christ. So in the spirit of Ephesians 4:2-3 “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” I take up my pen to say what I hope will, by the Spirit, push toward the Spirit’s peace and the Spirit’s unity. I am basically going to express how my thoughts unfolded this week and do my best to draw some concluding thoughts at the end.

  1. Thabiti’s blog post in relation to the Gospel Coalition’s MLK 50 conference

In case you have not seen it, Thabiti Anyabwile posted a blog entitled “We Await Repentance for Assassinating Dr. King” in which he called for white evangelicals, as a starting point of making amends to the black community, acknowledge that their parents and grandparents were complicit in the murder of Dr. King. Here is the most controversial quote with a link to the whole article.

Until this country and the Church learns to confess its particular sins particularly, we will not overcome the Adamic hostility that infects the human soul and distorts human potential.

Don’t get me wrong. I know Dr. King’s life was much greater than his death. I understand that his death gives us opportunity to reflect on his legacy. But it also gives opportunity to reflect on that twist in our soul that rose up and killed him. It gives opportunity to repent of the things some have with too much pride too often refused to admit is there.

My white neighbors and Christian brethren can start by at least saying their parents and grandparents and this country are complicit in murdering a man who only preached love and justice.” LINK

It is an irritating and frustrating thing to say that feels borderline absurd. Even if I wanted to comply how would I do it? Would I wear a shirt with mug shots of my parents and a caption reading “complicit in the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr?” My dad pastored a Baptist church in which he started a Hispanic ministry, and my mom would tear up anytime she spoke of the treatment of blacks she witnessed as a kid in Louisiana. These parents are complicit in the murder of Dr. King and should be judged guilty purely on the basis of their skin color and the time frame in which they lived? There are some implications in this quote that I believe are at best unhelpful and at worst contrary to the gospel. Here are some questions.

Many leading evangelicals, denominations, churches and individuals have already expressed sorrow and remorse publically either for overt racism or for not engaging on the issue as they should have during the civil rights movement – how would Thabiti’s requirement be deemed fulfilled?

If every white American Christian were to acknowledge their parents and grandparents were complicit in the murder of Dr. King, then what? What else will be needed before reconciliation can be considered?

Should gospel forgiveness be offered once the perpetrator has made full amends and satisfied our list of demands?

Do whites have a corner on the sin of judging someone based on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character or is this one of those sins “common to man?”

(If you would like to read more, this has been discussed ably by Joshua Sommer at The Baptist Reformation which you can read here

I would also recommend James White’s recent Dividing Line Episodes which you can find here)

Four posts later Thabiti attempts to clarify.

“To put a fine point on it as a closing: When it comes to racism, especially during the original period I was addressing in my first post (1950-60s), white America is Cretan in its understanding and actions. That does not mean every single white American was a racist–“as some people slanderously charge us with saying.” Reasonable people know better and they’ve shown so by other tweets not mentioned here. I praise God for those white Americans who had their consciences awakened, marched for equality, stood against injustice, and even gave their lives in the cause. So far from being guilty, such persons are among the righteous who will be rewarded at the resurrection of the just. “ LINK

This leads to even more questions for me – The first post may not call everyone a racist but it clearly calls every white American to confess their parents were complicit in the murder of Dr. King. Second, while I’m glad Thabiti recognizes that some whites did stand for what is right, I know of no Bible verse that teaches that means they will be “rewarded at the resurrection of the just.” Marching for equality, while admirable, cannot be equated with believing the gospel. I know this seems obvious, and I presume it is a misstatement by Thabiti, but it may also be a misstatement that reveals an imbalance in Thabiti’s theology. Al Mohler says: “In our own context, one of the most seductive false gospels is moralism. This false gospel can take many forms and can emerge from any number of political and cultural impulses. Nevertheless, the basic structure of moralism comes down to this — the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior.” When “in or out” is based on whether or not I improve my activity level in social justice activities we have missed the radical nature of the Gospel.

As I considered Thabiti’s initial post over the course of the week I found myself trying to understand why Thabiti would make such a statement. Regardless of my reservations about his comments, there are a number of realities that should be acknowledged.

  • Over the course of the history of our country, blacks have been grossly mistreated.
  • The ramifications of slavery on the family unit sowed issues that are still being reaped today http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/freedom/1609-1865/essays/aafamilies.htm
  • The post-Civil War treatment of blacks via segregation, discrimination and Jim Crow laws continued the abuses of the previous era. Jim Crow laws stayed in force until 1965.
  • Redlining and financial discrimination from some financial institutions continued into the 1980’s ensuring the road to financial stability continued to be unfair.
  • Some of the church defended these practices to their shame. Many churches did not speak out or ignored the issue. This was wrong. This was damaging to the name of Christ and undermined the truth of the gospel.

If there are churches or institutions or individuals that have not acknowledged these truths, they are irrefutable and should be acknowledged. The ramifications of these actions despite significant reforms in America since the 1960’s have ongoing implications today on family units, relationship with whites, and the finances of the black community. It is neither accurate nor appropriate for white evangelicals to dismiss the hurt of blacks under the guise of “it is all better now.” There are ongoing ramifications from the past and ongoing incidents of racism and discrimination that rip the scab off again. We must do a better job of applying I Cor 12:24 “If one member suffers, all suffer together.” The ongoing indifference to both the past injustice and continuing incidents of racism I think cause Thabiti to cry out, “Can you just at least acknowledge the guilt of white America – of white evangelicalism – can you not dismiss our suffering because you don’t want to look at it?” If this is part of the underlying heart of Thabiti’s original post I can better understand while not agreeing with how it was expressed.

  1. Adamic Sin and Victimization

As Thabiti rightly states in a couple of spots in his sequence of posts – sin infests the heart of every child of Adam. Sin knows no color boundaries, and because of that no race has a corner on any specific sin. “No sin has overtaken you except that which is common to man.” There are people of all races who judge others on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character.

One of the great challenges to believing the gospel is the requirement that I come horrifyingly guilty before God. Paul said in Romans 7 “Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of sin?” and he says to Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief. “ And one of the great challenges for true victims of any crime is recognizing their desperate need to turn in repentance and faith to a mighty Savior because it is easier to see the sins of those who have trespassed against them. Phillip Yancey references in What’s So Amazing About Grace the reality that there is no one so self-righteous as a victim. Having one’s core identity be “victim” creates a reality where that individual or group can participate in almost any manner of sin without compunction because no matter what I do it is always less than what has been done to me.

It is understandable why this would be the case with many in the black community, but it is a roadblock to the gospel for individuals and gospel-based race relations. The reality is that everyone on the planet is a victim of others’ sins. For some the wounding is cuttingly deep and for others it is lighter, but the omnipresent reality is that the heart of every man is sinful and sin is devastating in its effects on others.

However, when God speaks to us it is rarely on the sin of others because though we are all victims of sin we are also all perpetrators. And of the two, God desires that we recognize at a level deeper than anyone else’s sin that I am a sinner in need of the grace of God. “Not my brother. Not my sister. But it is ME oh Lord…” As long as we say “yeah, yeah I know I’m a sinner, but not like those black people or those white people” we are the lost ones. And we are holding ourselves up like the Pharisee looking down on the publican. Oh let us beat on our chest, not daring to look to heaven and say together “God be merciful to ME a sinner” and see if God will not meet us there.

  1. Some Answers

The task of reconciling the races seems an impossibility. The complexities are too great – the emotions too high. I am too messed up. I cannot fix myself much less the human race. Yet in the acknowledging of our weakness as believers, we are able to fix our eyes on the one who declared, “It is Finished.” Even though I am speaking to believers I fear this answer may be skipped past as too simplistic. But if we continue to argue amongst ourselves where the blame lies and who did what to who and castigate those with whom we disagree and continue to say “I’ll do X if you do Y” I fear we will continue to live separated. But in Christ the impossible becomes possible.

Ephesians 2:13- 22

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Truth begins with, we are fallen. Not just Satan is fallen, or the world is fallen, or the United States is fallen or even the church is fallen, but you and me – we are fallen. We are sinful. We are broken. Not just that we are fallen, but that we can’t fix ourselves. Sometimes I think we get in our minds that if we could just read one more book, find that magic principle, finally turn over that new leaf, we could fix what is wrong. But we can’t. Scripture tells us there is none righteous, no not one – we are in desperate need of something we cannot provide for ourselves, and to keep trying is futile. The “wrongness” is too much. We need something greater than ourselves. We need a Savior.

And the alienation that was between a holy God and ourselves far exceeds any alienation between the races. But GOD!! Christ Himself is our Peace! Through HIM black and white have access to the same grace, the same forgiveness, the same Lord, and through Him we are joined into one body. And God Himself is building us – Black and White and everyone in between, from every tribe, nation, and tongue into a dwelling place for Himself. There is something more core to our identities than our race for those that are in Him. For those that are in Christ he has become our peace. My identity in Him is no longer what I deserve – to be alienated – to be condemned – to have the bondage of sin define me – NO! With my Father there is peace because of the blood of the Lamb who has satisfied the justice of God for me and for you. No longer must I demand my rights be served – No longer must I demand that justice be given to me – instead I am free to lay down my life for my friends, for my enemies, for my neighbors and coworkers without regard to race, culture or creed. In Him I have been given far more than I could give.

Ok, you say, sounds great but it sounds a bit pie in the sky. Maybe that can happen in the future but seems unlikely right now. And yes, there is a now and not yet aspect. Nevertheless, I believe God is able to do miraculous things in our relations with each other right now. Even as you are reading this.

My wife and I watched “I Can Only Imagine” over the weekend. And the whole movie brought me to tears. The film tells the story of Bart Millard, lead singer for Mercy Me. His father was, in Bart’s words, a monster. He beat him up physically and emotionally from a young age. So as soon as he is able, Bart leaves his father’s house. But sometime later Bart randomly returns and finds his father is different. As they sit down to breakfast his evil father’s scowl is gone. He bows his head and prays – something Bart had never seen. His tone is not angry. He mentions that God answered his prayer that his son has returned. Bart is unwilling to accept his father’s change. The past injury is too much. Where is the justice? His father has not grovelled. He has not begged for mercy. So Bart in anger leaves only to discover a note that says his father is dying of terminal cancer. And God begins to make peace. God begins to soften. God begins to dissolve the indissoluble. And something beautiful and spectacular happens. Bart turns with love to his father – the mean, angry, vindictive, abusive dad, now precious in his sight. This is the power of the gospel. And my brothers and sisters I am begging and praying that in our hearts – the hearts of His children – we would find a way to love each other that reflects how we have been loved.  Let us submit to the work of God to build US into a dwelling place for him.

I have one last point I want to share. God created the physical differences in the human race. God delights in the people he has made in their differences. I can see no evidence that ethnicity is going away in the new heaven and new earth. I had a picture as I was dwelling on this of God delighting in the colors and cultures of each race and tribe. Look! I made a black people group! Look at my Asian people groups! Look at my Hispanic people groups! When God makes us one he does not eliminate our ethnicity! When God says in Colossians 3 “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, Slave, Free – he is not saying all physical and cultural identities are removed – They are not…. Ever! He is saying that at our core we are no longer Greek or Jew, or Black or White, or outcast – No! Christ is now all in all!

When the Light is Fading and the Darkness Will Not Lift

fading light

Sometimes the darkness seems to be winning – and you wonder if there is light to be found.

Sometimes it is a chore just to lift your head and trudge through the day and you wonder if there is any meaning to be had.

Sometimes the storm seems too daunting – the pressure too much – the loss too hard.

In the darkness we can easily lose perspective and our enemy seeks to destroy…

but…

But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope – The Steadfast Love of the Lord NEVER CEASES….

His Mercies are NEW every Morning.
Great is His Faithfulness.

Whom have I in heaven but YOU?
There is nothing I desire besides YOU

My heart and my flesh my fail but God is the Strength of my Heart and my Portion forever.

Even at the end of your rope when your grip is fading God is holding on – He is there like a strong tower to run into and be saved.

Don’t let despair overcome – rest in the one who has overcome death itself – cast your cares on Him – He Cares For You.

What to do About a Great Sunday Service

worship

As often happens my soul was refreshed at church today – the well-selected songs, the body of Christ together and a message that reminded me again of the goodness and patience of God towards sinners.  I could tell the many around me experienced that same thing.

My week has been a discouraging one and today reminded me again that God is not finished with me yet.

But Monday looms.

I get it somehow in my head, how it stays there God only knows, that a new start, a silver bullet, is all I need to stay on track.  When reality is, I am in moment by moment desperate need of His grace.

Sunday’s shot of glory and grace is not enough to ride on for the week.  Yes, it is meant to re-energize us – to remind US of God’s work on our behalf.  Yes, we come together as a body and something powerful is released.  But my soul needs daily mercies.  I want to live every day with my eyes captivated with the glory of Jesus.

So I want to share four ways I believe that happens.

  1. Feast on His Word. I don’t think it is possible to live as we long to without regularly seeking the face of God in the Bible.  Bible time is not religious duty time – it is a time of listening to the voice of Father teach, encourage, correct and renew us.  Our Christian life cannot but be anemic without regular time in the Word

 

  1. Refresh my Soul In Prayer – Prayer is worship which lifts us from selfPrayer is casting our cares on Him, bringing us to dependence and relief that He is the one who sustains us.  Prayer is hard – at least for me.  My mind wanders – yet if I persist in it I am given strength for the day.

 

  1. Connect with His Saints. We need the body of Christ more than just on Sundays.  Someone needs you to encourage them.  And we need someone to speak into our lives.  Who can you spend some time with this week to edify each other, to confess to each other and to believe together in the Gospel of his Grace?

 

  1. Serve Those Around You. Serving others nurtures my soul.  Even when I don’t want to – and I often don’t – as soon as I say “Yes,” I find that somehow I am the one restored.  God has designed us to serve those around him and has granted us gifts in the Spirit to do so.  The exercise of these gifts gives us opportunity to witness first-hand the work of the Lord through weak instruments.

Bottom line is I want to live more of my life in light of who Jesus is.  I want my life to be consumed with Him every day not just Sundays.  And I want to witness the work of God in the lives of those I come in contact with.  So I’m preaching this to myself… but to you as well, my brothers and sisters – We have a great Lover of our Souls and His name is Jesus.  Let’s live together with hearts abandoned for Him.

Not Because of Our Righteousness, But Because of Your Great Mercy

Read Daniel 9:1-19

Pray

The Story of Israel

Abraham – Isaac – Jacob

Moses – Exodus – Promised Land

Judges – United Kingdom – Divided Kingdom

Manasseh – He rebuilt worship centers to false gods His father had destroyed.  He burned his son as a human sacrifice to a false god.  His reign was full of brutality and bloodshed – and he led the people to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.

I know what you are thinking – it is hard to relate to

Story from Jeremiah 42FF

Jeremiah 42:1-16     Vote

Jeremiah 43:1-4

Sin says – I know what’s best for me  –  I will provide for my own needs – I cannot trust God’s provision – I will not trust God’s promises – I will trust what I know and can see and control –

This is represented in our sins – In our addictions we trust our own provision for our needs rather than God’s.  In our fear we doubt God.  In our lusts for entertainment and sex and money and power and esteem we doubt that God is enough to satisfy

At its root, Sin is not the surface actions of idol worship and pornography addiction – at its core the heart of sin is the same for every sinful action.  Namely It is the rejection of the person and provision of God.  Sin is the exaltation of self – and reliance on self (Pride) and the rejection of God himself because it does not believe that God is enough to satisfy our longings (Unbelief)

Pride and Unbelief – two sides of the same coin

Daniel is reflecting on the long history of his people and their unbelief that has led to this place.  And as he prays from his heart he expresses at least 3 truths – three realities – about himself and God. 

Now the people in the bible were not perfect people by any stretch but scripture says these things were written for our learning.  And I think we have some valuable awakening insights from Daniel’s prayer.

  1. He admits guilt
    1. Admit – Dan 9:5 – 7a (Though Open Shame)
      1. Pain of Hiding sin – Psalm 32:1-5 – My Story
        1. Quote: “Confession is like a boil finally bursting – painful and relieving.

Receiving forgiveness is like a first breath of fresh sea air for one who has always lived at a garbage dump.”

 

  1. Life of confession
    1. I John 1:8-9 – If we say we have no sin…
    2. James 5:16 – Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
  1. We, Our, Us – 34+ Times – VS 20 “My Sin”
    1. Ezekiel 14:14 – Noah, Job and Daniel Righteous guys
    2. No recorded sin
  • BUT he includes himself
    1. He recognizes himself in light of the righteousness of God
    2. He identifies with God’s people
      1. I Cor 12:26 – If one member suffers, all suffer together
  1. APP: In the battle against sin we need to
    1. Admit our own sin
    2. Fight for our brothers and sisters
  • Life at GHC – Excited – Culture of Confession – Turn faces to God – Mentor – Friend Protege
  1. He agrees that God’s actions against the nation are righteous – Dan 9:12, 14
    1. We live in a time when the culture and even the church at times does not appreciate nor believe in the idea of a God who causes calamity – CS Lewis Megaphone

 

  1. Not every calamity is judgement for sin (Job) but every calamity is superintended by God to accomplish what he desires – and for those who are his children every circumstance that you experience will be made to serve God’s good purposes for you and we are called to rejoice in our trials trusting that God is at work in them. Romans 8:28 and James 1

 

  1. Sometimes, as in this case, the calamity is due to sin.

 

  1. I believe if we lose the Holy, Awesome and fearsome righteousness of God – and take away the justice of his judgements we not only do damage to his holiness we destroy the meaning of Grace

 

  1. Daniel here agrees that the calamity is from the Lord and that the Lord is righteous to have brought it.

 

  1. The purpose of the Lord when he brings correction for sin – Amos 4:6-13

 

  1. We do well in the midst of calamity to turn our faces to Lord and say “Lord – what are you saying to me in this? – Lord – what are you teaching me? Lord – try me and see if there is any grievous way in my and lead me in the way everlasting.

 

  1. Daniel appeals to the mercy of God in light of his unrighteousness– Dan 9:17-18
    1. ILL: Proverbial hand in the cookie jar – Lord Paddles – Exiles – Try to put cookie back together

 

  1. We are NOT at any time from cradle to grave, from unbelieving to justified to glorified – at no time are we saved by works.

 

  1. We in the church get it at conversion —– BUT once believers we often revert back to works. 
    1. ILL: The enemy lands a haymaker and some sin you thought you were over levels you – How do you react?  I’ll fix it – Rocky  YOU CAN’T DO IT
    2. Paul Addresses this in Galatians 3:1-5

QUOTE:  Jerry Bridges Transforming Grace: So what kind of bankruptcy did we declare? To use the business analogy, did we file under chapter 7 or chapter 11? Was it permanent or temporary? I suspect most of us would say we declared permanent bankruptcy. Having trusted in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation, we realized we could not add any measure of good works to what He has already done. We believe He completely paid our debt of sin and secured for us the gift of eternal life. There is nothing more we can do to earn our salvation, so using the business analogy, we would say we filed permanent bankruptcy.

However, I think most of us actually declared temporary bankruptcy. Having trusted in Christ alone for our salvation, we have subtly and unconsciously reverted to a works relationship with God in our Christian lives. We recognize that even our best efforts cannot get us to heaven, but we do think they earn God’s blessings in our daily lives.

After we become Christians we begin to put away our more obvious sins. We also start attending church, put money in the offering plate, and maybe join a small group Bible study. We see some positive change in our lifestyle, and we begin to feel pretty good about ourselves. We are now ready to emerge from bankruptcy and pay our own way in the Christian life.

Then the day comes when we fall on our face spiritually. We lapse back into an old sin, or we fail to do what we should have done. Because we think we are now on our own, paying our own way, we assume we have forfeited all blessings from God for some undetermined period of time. Our expectation of God’s blessing depends on how well we feel we are living the Christian life. We declared temporary bankruptcy to get into His kingdom, so now we think we can and must pay our own way with God. We were saved by grace, but we are living by performance.

  1. Daniel, of all people, could have said I come to you because I’ve got it together, but he doesn’t and he gets it right when he says “We don’t present our pleas to you because of our righteousness.” And then he adds “But because of your great mercy” Dan 9:18b

 

  1. Conclusion – 3 potential responses

 

  1. MERCY!! Daniel is in exile his homeland destroyed – Some of you are tempted to say with those who fled to Egypt – What Mercy?  God has allowed….  How can you say God is merciful? 
    1. Hasn’t the Lord be longsuffering towards you? Has not the Lord treated you better than you deserve?  Has not the Lord patiently pursued you and warned you and wooed you?  Why not surrender to His mercy right now?  Why not lay down your arms – acknowledge your guilt and run to his grace?

 

  1. Mercy… I’ve gone too far – I’ve failed too many times – I don’t deserve his mercy. I acknowledge my guilt but until I get it together I can’t look him in the face.
    1. Billy Graham and Tullian Picture
    2. True Repentance springs out of trusting His promises
      1. God loves to restore – Jeremiah 29:10-14 –
      2. Psalm 30:5 “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping my tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.   In His chastening he is treating us like beloved sons
      3. Psalm 103:10-12 “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
      4. HOW does he do this? By placing your sin – its curse – its condemnation – its judgement – its darkness – its defeat and despair through the hands and feet of the Lamb on the Cross – Jesus Christ.  “All we like sheep have gone astray we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
      5. Are you looking for hope? Are you looking to be restored?  Do you long for more transformation into the image of Jesus?  There is but one way and it is by faith in the grace, mercy and kindness of our Savior that he demonstrated so magnificently at the cross and that he shows you in his day by day mercy towards you.  Lift up your face to Him and in humility freely acknowledge your sin and in faith embrace HIM as life.  Humility and Faith two sides of the same coin.  Faith in His Grace is the only solution to sin.

 

  1. Last response – Billy Graham ended almost every sermon he preached with these words “Just as I am – without one Plea!! But that thy blood was shed for me and that you bid me come to thee – Oh Lamb of God I come.

An Offering Message

Scripture

James says every good gift, every perfect gift comes down from above from the Father.  Moses charges us to serve the Lord with Joyfulness and gladness of heart because of the abundance of all things.  James says to set our hopes on God – who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

Thankful

How often do we just stop and consider, with a heart of thanksgiving, the amazing gifts of God.  He has packed our world full of joy.

CS Lewis says:   “Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy.  These pure and spontaneous pleasures are patches of “God-light” in the woods of our experience”

This week I experienced “God-light”

  • as I drove over the pass – in awe again at the beauty and wonder of his creation.
  • As I walked in the early morning in Seattle into Specialties and order fresh coffee and an amazing blueberry cream-cheese croissant.
  • I would be remiss if I did not mention the amazing Thai dinner I was served packed with flavors and spice
  • As I arrived home my 7 year old Andrew called me on the phone – “Dad – where are you? Can I see your car yet? I’m going to my friend’s house but I want to see you so I’m not going yet.”  Delight in my children – delight in my wife’s kiss – the delight of home and its comfort.

It truly is His Breath in our lungs and every breath gives us a chance again to see the gracious, generous, and beautiful hand of God towards us if we have eyes to see.

But there is more….

Jonathan Edwards says:  “Fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any, or all earthly friends. These are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean.”

If we gaze up the beams of light of earthly joys – we will see radiating in dazzling brilliance – the one in whom all our longings are satisfied – the one for whom our souls crave – Our glorious Savior, our friend, our God – Jesus Christ.   In Him we stand Holy and Blameless before the Father.  In Him we have been adopted as Sons.  In Him we have redemption through His blood and the forgiveness of our sins.   He has lavished grace upon us.  He has chosen us in His love.  He has granted us an inheritance – Imperishable, Undefiled and Unfading.   He is our inheritance – He is the light from which all other joys come.

The Psalmist says: “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  And  “You are the fountain of life. In your light we see light”

When we see Him – we give not out of repayment or duty but because he has become our joy and light.

Global Warming, Climate Change & Polar Bears – Oh MY! 10 Reasons to Doubt Anthropogenic Climate Change

  • We graph 0.9 degrees of temperature change like the recent stock market performance held upside down.
Stock Market
  • We also graph the world as going from ice cold blue to inferno from hell using the same less than a degree change measurement.
Nasa temp change
  • Money, power, politics and social standing are all aligned to suppress any doubts or questions with a vehemence usually reserved for “round-earthers” in the dark ages.
flat-earth
  • We use “global temperature” records from 1881 to 2018 as if the data is equivalent and has been collected for 137 years with the same precision, profligate measuring stations, and zealot-like passion of a comic-con attendee who wins best costume.
Comic con
  • We treat 137 years as if it is a good sample size of world temperature history
  • We give tacit acknowledgment that we don’t really have great records back to 1881 so we narrow our sample size to 30 years 1951-1980 because as everyone knows the 60’s and 70’s were when normalcy reigned on the planet – just ask any Woodstock attendee. (Purely coincidental I’m sure that this arbitrarily selected measuring point coincides with the period Time Magazine and Leonard Nimoy were reporting on a new ice age) https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=leonard+nimoy+ice+age&view=detail&mid=DA0A79E87147E94358A1DA0A79E87147E94358A1&FORM=VIRE
Dancers in GG Park 	April 20, 1969   sheet 277	frame 36
  • Climate-change modelers have all the credibility of Sean Spicer defending “Covfefe” as a secret message and a track record of accuracy that rivals John Hagee’s 4 Blood Moons predictions.
convfefe
  • The incessant drumming mantra of “97% scientific consensus” that the earth is warming as if that is the same as saying 1) The earth is warming because of traffic congestion in Seattle and that if all of Seattle would just buy electric cars and plug into that pollution-free electricity that is automatically built into everyone’s house it would solve the problem 2) That the warming is unnatural  3) The rate of warming is alarming and we must increases taxes immediately and dramatically so we can improve school funding thus creating more duped subjects who will mindlessly surrender freedom for the greater good  4)  That we are hurtling over a precipice where both coasts are erased in a cataclysmic double tsunami dubbed “The Revenge of the Polar Bears” by post-apocalyptic survivors (though the loss of both coasts might be a win in the long run)
polar-bear-revenge
  • We state that there is between a .77 and 1.1 degree increase in global temperature over the arbitrary baseline of the average temperature of 1951-1980 and then acknowledge in the fine print that any given year is probably accurate within .50 degrees.
  • This makes Bernie Madoff look like Will Ferrell in a figure-skating competition when compared to the scale of charade governments are trying to pull off– and politicians everywhere are smiling all the way to the bank.
Will Ferrell

NOTE:  I realize that neither the alarmist graphs and potentials nor the suppression of  opposing arguments mean that the anthropogenic climate change proponents are wrong, but it is suspect when there appears to be an agenda to only see one possibility from the data, particularly when the subject is this complex and the complete failure of our models given current assumptions to predict future results with anything resembling accuracy.  I do believe normalizing the 60’s and 70’s is solid evidence that we are on the wrong track. 🙂

https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/

http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/

http://www.businessinsider.com/nasa-scientists-dispute-climate-change-2012-4

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instrumental_temperature_record

More Gas Tax Coming Your Way Washingtonians?

The esteemed Governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, just 3 years ago said, “Transportation pollution paying for transportation solutions. It’s not our children’s lungs that should be burned. It should be polluters.”

http://komonews.com/…/gov-inslee-wants-new-tax-to-fund-12-b…

This resulted in a 12 cent per gallon tax increase that was phased in over 2 steps – one in 2015 and one in 2016. This “polluters fee” increased what the state takes from each gallon of gas from 37 cents to 49 cents and resulted in an estimated 7 BILLION dollars in increased revenue projected over the first 12 years.

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Let’s break down the Governor’s quote above.

The Governor would like to demonize transportation polluters. The term makes you think maybe there is a gang of dystopian marauders roaming the roads of Washington hauling steaming piles of nuclear waste and dumping them on children’s playgrounds. These villainous criminals should be “burned” rather than allowing our “children’s lungs” to be “burned” any longer. Given the incredible ability of this nefarious group to target “the Children” with their lung-burning toxic waste, one would think hanging would be in order rather than a piddly extra 12 cents. Of course, the governor does not have such a gang in mind – he has you in mind. And hopefully, himself – as he and his wife are chauffeured in different gas guzzling Chevy Suburbans. The good news is the 7 billion dollars will be used to fix bridges in the state (I assume the bridge over the fill here in town is going to be vastly improved) which will, I presume, solve the outbreak of children’s lung issues in the state.

https://www.opb.org/…/why-washingtons-green-governor-is-ch…/

The 12 cents per gallon taxed passed and has been fully in place for almost 18 months. That’s a long time and apparently long enough that the beneficent Inslee feels it is long past time to do more to thwart the driving designs of polluters everywhere.

Inslee has just proposed a new “carbon tax” on carbon emissions producers. The estimated end result is an additional 19 to 20 cents per gallon for the consumer plus an estimated 5% increase in your electrical bill. Inslee says these “modest” increases will be used to study and expand “clean energy” options… well at least half of the money will be used for that. The rest .. um… floodwaters… and other stuff.

Additionally, Inslee is proposing that this “modest increase” once enacted be raised annually at 3.5% OVER the rate of inflation.

http://www.king5.com/…/gov-inslee-unveils-car…/281-506575616

This proposal if enacted would raise the state portion of a gallon of gas to 69 cents and the total cost per gallon for taxes including the federal tax to 87 cents. I personally use about 28 gallons a week which means that amount I would need to budget just for TAXES on my gas would be $110 per month.

Gas today at our local Safeway is $2.72 – currently 67 cents of which is tax – gas would be $2.05 per gallon if we had no tax.
This means we are currently taxed nearly 33% on gasoline. This is BEFORE Inslee’s proposal to add 20 cents a gallon. With that tax we would be paying 43% sales tax on gas… Imagine if we just paid the sales tax rate we pay on everything else 7.9%… but then  the children’s lungs…. sigh …

This is still America – you can and should contact your legislature and the governor’s office. But will you?

Things I Hated about my Fundamentalist College Experience

young ken

1) During my first summer break I stayed in the dorms and attended a movie at the local theater. There was a “spy” at the theater who reported my nefarious activity to the Dean of Students who called me to his office. He asked me to admit whether or not I had committed the said offense. I readily said I had and that school was out. He proceeded to explain to me that truly spiritual and God-honoring students followed the rules of the school whether the school was in session or not. And that he had had higher hopes for me.

2) During a beginning of the year chapel session, a team of students that had traveled and sung together over the summer were asked to share. They explained that they had become friends over the summer and played the song “Friends are Friends Forever” by Michael W Smith to close out their chapel service. (Here is a link in case you are unaware of this death metal song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ped1jYLFtkA). This song was so strongly considered evil rock music – that the dismissal of the students from chapel was stopped and a speech given the apologized for the sending out of that group of students as the could not have done the Lord’s work as evidenced by the evil music they had chosen to play at the end of the chapel service. As I walked away from that service vowing to myself to find a way never to return, I walked through the admin building and a professor was talking to another professor and vigorously celebrating the bold stand and defense of righteousness that had been made by the administration member who had condemned the students.

3) So rigid were the beliefs and so desperate were they that not one iota of the perfect theology they had be modified or lost, that many of my classes largely consisted of 40, 50, 60-year-old notes read verbatim sometimes off of purple mimeographed copies. I took out student loans for this opportunity.

4) My primary professor from whom I took nearly half of my classes on the study of God was extremely intimidating. He prided himself on hard tests and if you made the slightest noise or caused the slightest distraction in his class – his lecture would pause and he would stare intently at the perpetrator for what seemed an interminable length of time. During this time, I, and I assume everyone else, would keep their head down desperate to avoid eye contact. Sometimes the lecture would pick up as if nothing had happened, sometimes a lecture to the student would ensue, and sometimes the prof would storm out abruptly. This was my teacher of theology.

5) Another professor had just joined the staff after an absence and he prided himself, he told us, in being an extremely difficult grader on papers. In fact, he said many of you should probably not even try as we would just receive an “F” for our efforts. I took it as a challenge and typed out 4 pages (of a 12 page paper) and brought them to the prof to see if they were satisfactory to him. I had worked hard on them and was proud of them. I went with my friend who also wanted to see if this professor would approve. The professor condescended to read it and said nothing as I waited – then without a word took a black sharpie and wrote “clean fill” on the bottom of my paper and left. I asked my friend – “What is “clean fill?”. He informed me that it was clean fill dirt – ie without substance or merit.

6) I had come to school with some theological convictions – these were not appreciated by some and so for most of my tenure at the school people – many who had never talked to me – would chant in a sing-song voice – “Ken preaches heresy” I know this was meant as a joke and I tried to not let it bother me – but I hated it and felt it undeserved but had no opportunity to defend myself.

7) I was in my room listening to some head banging music by a group called Glad. The song was “Amen” you can enjoy it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdOIY3KH0nI It is a 70-fold “Amen.” My roommate came in, shut it down and said it was against God because it had repetition and so it was evil. I had the presence of mind to read Psalm 136 in the KJV as a defense that God was not against repetition  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/…  The roommate stuck to his guns and insisted it was wrong and I should not listen to it and that the Bible can do what it wants, but that doesn’t mean I should do it.

This is a sampling of stories. A sampling of the culture I was immersed in for 5 years. These are not one-offs – they were my routine experience. This is not to say there was nothing I enjoyed – I had come to college expecting a “Dead Poet’s Society” experience in the study of God https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7OE6bDfM2M Instead I got cold indoctrination with one notable exception – by God’s grace one professor Dr. Myron was kind and encouraged me. Nevertheless, I struggled mightily throughout my college years with sexual issues unable to confess them even to myself for the most part – after all if attending “Eraser” or listening to “Glad” put me out of God’s graces what would real sin do. So I learned, for the most part, to play along – to keep my religious mask in place and to try with all my might to conform to the religious expectations placed on me – to gain the approval of them which meant to me the approval of God.

I’m 18 years removed from this place. But I’m still haunted by it. And God has gently taught me grace – taught me his love – but I still default to performance-based Christianity. Human nature does – and I trained it further –

Many of the people above are equally victims of a system of religion. Had I not been so obviously failing – if I had been able to adhere to the code – I would have joined them. But God showed me my true sin and then showed me he loved me in the midst of my sin. That alone has been able to reach me. And I forget it too.  But then God shows me again – “Ken I love you – where your sin abounds grace abounds all the more – as far as the east is from the west so far have I removed your transgressions.” Call me antinomian if you want – but I believe, that while the law can reveal my sin it cannot change me. It is only by grace – when I see the love of God given for me APART from my performance, DESPITE my failures – only then is my heart set free to love like HE loves.

Thanks for letting me vent.

Temporary Tax Cuts? Horrible for the Middle Class?

Have you heard that the tax bill is “permanent” for corporations and “goes way up after 10 years” for the middle class and there is “no tax relief for the middle class” in the bill? I just read articles this morning from the New York Times, Washington Post and US Today stating these exact things. I want to show you why this is dishonest journalism.

1) There is a rule in the legislature that limits the amount a bill can increase the deficit both by time and dollars. The congressional budget office forecasts what a bill is projected to add to the deficit – in the case of the tax bill it is projected that it will add 1.5 trillion to the deficit. (by the way I don’t think economists can project the resultant economy from a significantly reduced corporate and personal rate accurately over the next 10 years as it has never been done before – so I give little credence to the 1.5 trillion added in deficit spending estimate) This deficit amount is more than would be allowed under current rules IF if extended more than 10 years. The Republicans are not trying to screw the little guy in order to help corporations – they literally cannot make the middle-class tax cuts permanent under current rules. So they are implementing them for as long as they can which will establish a new baseline and allow them to be made permanent in the future – just as the Bush tax cuts were made permanent under Obama. When news agencies report this 10-year expiration window without showing the reason and the more than likely ultimate extension of these cuts and are telling half-truths and failing to serve the public honestly. And believe me they know what I have written above – so it is intentional duplicity. That’s frustrating to me.

2) You have heard almost certainly from almost every news source that you rate goes way up in the middle class after 10 years. From the above paragraph, you can see the half-truth they are telling to say that – but then they say there is no relief for the middle class in the bill – it all goes to the rich and corporations. Do you see the lie here? In 10 years (if there are no extensions to the tax relief) your taxes will revert to as they are now – which they are saying will be a huge increase to your taxes. It can only be a huge increase to your taxes if the bill is in fact significantly reducing your taxes over the next 10 years because at the end of ten years it would just go back to as it is. Again this is a very frustrating deliberate manipulation by the press.

My rule – read source documents or as close to source documents as possible rather than opinion pieces that mascarade as unbiased news reporting

Speaker for the Dead

Many of you know Bob Smith – somehow it has been 7 years since he passed away – If you didn’t know him he was a great and dear friend and I miss him….

I had the honor of speaking at his funeral and I thought I would share my comments from that today in memory of him and in hopes that even now God can use his death for your good.
“I want to thank DiAnna for the opportunity to speak today, though I’d rather be doing almost anything else rather than speaking at the funeral for my dear friend Bob Smith.  Two weeks ago I was in the Tri-Cities with Bob doing our regular bargain shopping trip and if you had told me then that I would not see him again – that he’d be gone 4 days later – I could not have imagined it.  When DiAnna called me Thanksgiving morning with the news, I accused her of joking with me for 5 minutes before she finally convinced me that she wasn’t.   The realization brought me to my knees.  I was telling my wife, Christie, that I had imagined losing her or losing my parents and what that would feel like – but I just never thought of losing Bob.  He was so full of life – wasn’t he?  How can Bob be gone?
In speaking today I have a couple of purposes.  Those of you here today are here because in some way Bob’s life touched yours – and this is an unexpected and shocking loss.  You’re grieving.  We’re grieving… And I want to be with people who knew and loved Bob – I want to mourn his loss with you and celebrate his life.  I want to honor and pay my respects to this man whom we all valued for all that he was.  Many of you have posted your comments and memories about Bob on Facebook.  My wife and I wept together as we watched so many of you change your profile picture to a picture of Bob.  Thank you for sharing – there is great comfort in grieving and remembering together.   So for the next few moments I hope you are comforted as I share some of my memories about Bob.
Taking stock of a life and trying to summarize its significance and meaning – I’ve discovered the last few days – is not an easy thing to do.  How do you measure a man?  How do you express how all the little mundane routine things of life measured up to something huge – to something precious and valuable?  Life just happens – relentlessly the days pass and rarely do we try to take stock of what it all means – we are just living.
I remember when I moved to Moses Lake about 6 years ago, remarking or really complaining to my wife that I had no friends.  Not close ones.  I knew and enjoyed lots of people but not anyone who really knew me well – and still liked me anyway.  I met Bob my first week working at Genie – in the materials department.  David Dyer was our supervisor and needed volunteers for an overtime Saturday project – I volunteered because I needed the money and Bob volunteered … well because Bob was crazy about overtime.  I remember a few weeks into Genie David asked Bob and me again if we would work overtime – Bob of course immediately said yes and Dave turned to me and I hesitated.  I was like “I’ve just worked a 55 hour week I really don’t want to come in tomorrow” and was about to voice that sentiment when Bob, sensing what I was about to say, interjected with – “Oh yeah Ken will be there too –  Come on Ken it will be fun.”  As if cleaning up outside the high bays at Genie was the best thing he could think of doing on a Saturday.  As soon as Dave left, Bob scolded me.  “You looked like you were going to say ‘No’ you can’t do that.  It is a good thing I was here to save you.”   Ummm….. Thanks Bob….
But on that first Saturday project it was fun, and while I didn’t know it at the time I was finding the friend I was longing for.   Bob struck me at the time as smart and likable as we discussed money management and investing, which was to have a major impact on my life.  But he also struck me as more than a little eccentric.  I mean who has 200 jars of peanut butter?  And I’d never seen anyone get so excited about 99 cent cheese.  Who pours cayenne pepper in their eyes – on purpose anyway?
Very early on Bob invited me and my family over for dinner.  My wife asked me about him and I said…. “Well, he’s this outrageous, crazy guy who says some things that are a little shocking, but you know they invited us so…  It’ll be okay.   And it was okay.  And then he invited us over again the next week.  Which we thought was strange, but we went again.   Then he invited us over again and we saw a pattern developing and decided we better have them over.  I had said I wanted a friend – a close friend – but I hadn’t ever considered how that happened.  Bob taught me that friendship – deep friendship rather than casual – involves investing time in each other.  It is not our cultural norm to be in each other’s homes on a very regular basis.  Home is our retreat – the world stays out and when someone breaks that barrier we often think of it as an intrusion.  Bob taught me that deep friendships are formed when we let people into our personal spaces and by investing time in each other’s lives.
And he invested in many of your lives as well.  Tom Cox, Bob and I made 150 pounds of Thai food over the course of 2 days – Making vanilla will Dan Delano – going to the movies with John Gamble – he spent a lot of time with several of you in weight training.  And Bob appreciated each of you.   Even though I have been gone from Genie for over 2 years, it is almost as if I never left because Bob kept me up to date on everything going on.  If I could replay all the things Bob has said to me about you over the years I know you would feel how much he appreciated you.  I can’t mention all of you, but I do want to say specifically to Tom Cox how much he appreciated your friendship and partnership at work.  He really cared for you and respected you.  I know he would have trusted you to fill his shoes as difficult as that must be for you.  And Bob Rogers I don’t know you like I know Tom, but I feel like I’ve got to know you through Bob.  He very much appreciated, enjoyed and respected you and your leadership as his boss.  Each of you made an impact with Bob as he made one with you.
Bob had a great sense of humor and lighting quick wit, and if you didn’t get offended you never laughed so much as when you were with Bob.   I’m sure everyone in here has a Bob story.  Some of my favorites include the ball-kicking story, the Ben-Gay story–yes I know about that–the raisin story (which is really my story but Bob made it funny and made me tell it to every person at Genie) , the theater story – and over time we can share each of our stories with each other in memory of Bob.  I want to share one story about Bob that seems to capture his way with people.  Bob could say things to people that if I said them they would take me outside and beat the heck out of me.  I think Bob could get away with it because he always said things without malice.  So around Christmas time Bob made me go to Walmart with him to look for deals.  I really didn’t want to go to Walmart and who does around Christmas time, but I went.  And it was packed with people and I found myself getting increasingly irritated.  As we were walking down the candy aisle the lady in front of me stopped and there was no way to get around her since the aisle was so crowded.  Then the guy behind me rudely said “why don’t you guys get out of the way – your blocking my path.”  As if we could just magically move out of his way.  I was about to tell this guy exactly what he could go do with himself when Bob grabbed the front of my shirt and ducked down in front of me hiding his face and said, “Ken hide me from the mean man.  Where’s your Christmas spirit Sir?  Ma’am is that your husband?  Is he a jerk?”  I hung my head in embarrassment and tried to hide myself.  But you can probably guess what the “mean man” did… he laughed.  No way in a million I could have pulled that off, even if I wanted to.  But Bob could lighten the mood and confront the issue without being angry.  He understood and accepted that people are not perfect and was somehow able to sympathize with their frustration.  On my last trip with Bob last Friday, my van was filled and overflowing with over $1000 of groceries and guy just pulled out right in front of me and made a U-turn.  I had to slam on the brakes and I was instantly angry.   As the guy passed us he knocked on his head saying “sorry my bad.”  My attitude was like “Yeah – your bad”  but Bob leans OVER MY SEAT and waves at the guy and says “no problem, it’s okay” with a huge smile.  It was not fake – it came out of him spontaneously.  I wish I had more time with him just to have that trait rub off on me.
Bob was unusually genuine.  Most people have a least some level of façade they are maintaining.  But with Bob, he was pretty much what you saw.  Bob told me he only got drunk one time, but he wasn’t any less inhibited – he stayed exactly the same.
There are a lot of traits you could list about Bob – hard-working, funny, smart, family man, loyal, easily delighted, enthusiastic, extroverted, faithful, but I think the one that will stick with me the most was his ability to encourage me and make me feel valuable.  When I was feeling down after being laid off at Genie, Bob was constantly calling me to check on how I was doing.  And even in my new position at Bank of America I have at times felt overwhelmed, but Bob just consistently encouraged me to hang in there and gave great advice on dealing with obstacles there.
There is one other part of Bob I cannot help but share – I know he would want me to.  As you know Bob had a blunt way of speaking at times.  Not necessarily polished.  And I think if he were able to tell me he would say “don’t pull any punches here, Ken – I want my friends to hear this.”  So as much as I can I want to honor how I think Bob would like this said…   Death is not just a realty for Bob.  Every single one of us in this room will die.  The Bible says “It is appointed to all men once to die and afterwards to face the judgment.”   That is a stark reality.  There is no escaping it as much as we might like to.  And to add insult to injury the manner and timing of our inevitable deaths is an unknown.   It could be in an instant and while we are young like Bob.  We could be old and senile.  It could be cancer or an accident.  We don’t know.   The manner of Bob’s death and his youth should make us think about our own mortality and what we will say to God at that judgment.
Bob was not a particularly religious man.  In fact he bore some severe scars from religion.  Bob also knew he wasn’t perfect and despite the honor we are rightfully giving him for the life he lived, I think we call all agree that he had his flaws.  And so do each of us.  “Flaws” is not blunt enough – failures – sin – evil.  When Bob stood before God on Thanksgiving Day I guarantee he did not walk up to God and say, “Hey, let me in – I never did a thing wrong – I am perfect.”  Nor did he say “Well I did my best God and I think if you weigh the good things I have done against the bad things I have done – it should come out ok.”  Now that is what is commonly believed.  And that may be true in comparison to other people, however that answer – “I was a good person” – the Bible says will get you sent straight to Hell.  Bob made me say it.  And I long for you to hear it and receive it.
Jesus said “I did not come for the righteous (the people who think they are good), I came to bring sinners to repentance.”  He said, “I did not come for those who don’t need a doctor, I came for the sick.”  So please stop thinking you are going to make it to heaven because you are good – you aren’t good enough and if you think you are Jesus says “I didn’t come for you.”  When Bob stood before God on Thanksgiving, his answer to why he should be in heaven was –  GRACE.   Grace…. Grace is when you are given something you don’t deserve.  And grace was poured out for you on the cross two thousand years ago when Jesus who was God came down from heaven as a man and poured out his life’s blood that you might be forgiven.  It is HIS perfection – not yours that qualifies you for heaven.  If you will humble yourself enough to confess your sin and your need of grace.  The Father is waiting with open arms to receive you, just as he received Bob here on this earth and in heaven 9 days ago.  It doesn’t matter how bad you have been – Where your sin is great, his grace overflows cleansing you of all impurity.  Only by receiving that grace can a man as imperfect as Bob or as sinful as me stand in the presence of God – accepted and forgiven.  I hope that you will not let his opportunity of Bob’s death and the truth of this message be lost or forgotten.  I would be happy to talk to you anytime if you have more questions or want to pray.
In conclusion I would like to talk to Bob’s family.  To DiAnna’s parents – God put your daughter with you for perhaps the most difficult thing she has faced.  God certainly knew Bob would die and he prepared your home and your hearts to comfort DiAnna though this time.  To Bob’s Mom and Steve – I am very grateful to have come to know you through the trips over to Seattle that we made.  I know think were rough for a while especially after Bob’s dad died, but I know that Bob loved you and he knew you loved him.  Thank you for your words to me yesterday on what I meant to Bob.  I will miss him for the rest of my life.
Mercedes, Alexis and Jag – Thanks for sharing your Dad with me – he was a great man and a treasured friend and I hope I can help as much as possible with his loss.  It is okay to cry and to grieve and you miss him always.  He loved each of you very much and he always wanted to show you that.  Remember him coming to your soccer games and the gifts he gave you and the one on one time you got to spend with him this year.  It meant a lot to him.
DiAnna – Bob was so excited about the marriage group he was in with you this year.  He talked about it all the time.  He even skipped movie night with me to be at it.  Bob met his match in you.  And you met your match in him.  I know you will grieve this loss for a long time to come and no matter how long we live there will be a scar.  But I know we both would say that as painful as this time is – the loss would have been greater if we had never known Bob.  Please lean on us.  Bob’s friends are your friends.   And we are here for you in whatever way we can help.
And to Bob – Can’t wait to see you again Buddy.”

The Trump tax plan: adoption tax credit and conservative economics

Two ways to think about taxes. Everyone should pay a portion of their income (as small as possible) to ensure that defense and infrastructure needs are met or… 
the tax code should be used to press the agenda of whatever the current whim of the US Congress is – ie tax credits.
Tax credits also inflate the cost of the product they are incentivizing or artificially support what would otherwise be a nonviable product.
I am for the elimination of most tax credits (targeted) in exchange for the overall reduction and simplification of taxes for everyone (broad)
Reducing taxes on corporations is NOT a “give-away” for nasty corporations it is an expense reduction to YOUR employer that allows for better margins and increased profitability that benefits you as an employee and as a consumer. Corporations in the US are taxed higher than any other industrialized nation at 35%.
Eliminating a 500 dollar teacher’s credit, or housing interest deductions or electric car credit or student loan interest or state taxes while 1) doubling the standard deduction 2) increasing the child tax credit to 1600 (to offset the loss of the 4000 exemption) 3) lowering significantly the tax rate for nearly everyone 4) eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax 5) Making it much simpler to file (no milage records to keep, no need for most people to itemize) These changes more than offset any loss from tax credits – How does that not make sense?
The sacred “adoption credit” This is a more significant loss because it is such a large credit but here are some questions for all those waxing eloquent on the evils of removing this credit. 1) Why do you believe your neighbor should be required to pay anything via taxes for you to adopt a child? 2) What percent should your neighbor be forced to pay in order for your moral outrage to go down – 100% 75% 10%? 3) What was the cost of adoption before the government began subsidizing it? 4) Why do you believe that funneling your money through the government for adoption is MORE efficient than having your friends and family have more disposable income to aid with the cost of adoption?
A simplified code and reduction in actual taxes paid and removal of special credits for the elite in Washington’s agenda (even those I agree with) is a great proposal regardless of the fact that Donald Trump proposed it.

But God Sent His Own Son…

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“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

“He did not even spare his own Son but offered him up for us all”

I had one of those awful dreams one has from time to time where someone you love dies. This time it was my son, Benjamin – I woke up literally in the throes of grief. It was visceral, raw, heart-rending. I’m sure many of you know what I’m talking about – every once in a while a dream is so real it engulfs you.

I woke up in tears and God says –

This is how you are loved. I gave up my son so that you might be with me. What more must I do to prove my love for you?

How casually we look at the cross! How easily we turn it into a sentimental “precious moment” suitable for the living room or our necks.

But God’s son was “pierced for our transgressions” he was “crushed for our iniquities” it was through his death that we can have peace with God and be healed.  God sent his Son knowing the agony – knowing the pain.

God intentionally endured the “searing loss” of his only son so that through Him, I and all who would just turn and look to him for life – can have the joy of basking in the Father’s presence without fear and without shame.

“I need no other argument – It is enough that Jesus died and that he died for me.”

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Is Justification about Ethnics or Ethics? A Response to Tom Wright What a Difference an “N” makes.

NT Wright

NT Wright is a brilliant NT Scholar and a leading teacher on the New Perspective on Paul. A very simplistic summary of one of the tenets of NPP is that there was no issue in scripture around whether law keeping was the means of attaining salvation. Judaism according to Wright already had grace built in so it could not be a religion of works. Thus the issue in Galatians and Romans on justification is not over whether someone can be saved by doing good works but whether someone must be Jewish rather than Gentile.

NT Wright writes: “In Romans 10.3 Paul, writing about his fellow Jews, declares that they are ignorant of the righteousness of God, and are seeking to establish ‘their own righteousness’. The wider context, not least 9.30–33, deals with the respective positions of Jews and Gentiles within God’s purposes – and with a lot more besides, of course, but not least that. Supposing, I thought, Paul meant ‘seeking to establish their own righteousness’, not in the sense of a moral status based on the performance of Torah and the consequent accumulation of a treasury of merit, but an ethnic status based on the possession of Torah as the sign of automatic covenant membership? I saw at once that this would make excellent sense of Romans 9 and 10, and would enable the positive statements about the Law throughout Romans to be given full weight while making it clear that this kind of use of Torah, as an ethnic talisman, was an abuse. I sat up in bed that night reading through Galatians and saw that at point after point this way of looking at Paul would make much better sense of Galatians, too, than either the standard post-Luther readings or the attempted Reformed ones.” http://ntwrightpage.com/2016/07/12/new-perspectives-on-paul/

Wright: “virtually whenever Paul talks about justification he does so in the context of a critique of Judaism and of the coming together of Jew and Gentile in Christ.”

I do not disagree with Wright that the Gospel brings together Jew and Gentile. It does.

Eph 2:11-14 “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility”

It is a significant change from the focus on the chosen people – Jews – to the chosen of all races, nations and people groups. But it should not replace the more significant focus that all Jews and Gentiles fall short of the glory of God and stand in need of salvation apart from works and through the imputed righteousness of God obtained by grace alone through faith alone. Wright seeks to move to the background this main point and foreground the ethnic issue to paraphrase J.I. Packer. I do not believe scripture does this.

I was reading Acts 15 this week and found a passage that relates to this discussion. A debate erupts in the early church as to whether a man must be circumcised to be saved.

Acts 15:1 “But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them”

So it appears that Wright is correct – the question is not “must I adhere to the law to be saved but must I become ethnically a Jew to be saved.” And indeed that is what is first brought up. But the debate does not stay there. As the Pharisees continue to make their case they begin to insist that not only must they be circumcised to be saved (Ethnic) but that it is necessary that believers keep the law of Moses (Ethical, Moral, Performance) to be saved.

Acts 15:5: “But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”

Peter then address the group and moves the debate beyond the ethnic issue (though that remains) to the larger issue of how anyone obtains salvation.

“And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

When Peter says they are putting the Gentiles under “a yoke…that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear” he is not talking about an ethnic issue. Peter is not saying being Jewish is the problem for him – he is saying adhering to the moral requirements of the law of Moses is the problem for him and all Jews and now Gentiles. This is the larger issue the ethnic one reveals.

His solution to the failure of all people Jew and Gentile to be able to keep the law of Moses?

God “cleansed their hearts by faith.” And “We believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

So the debate begins with the discussion of whether Gentiles must become ethnically Jews but ends on the more significant point how can both Jews and Gentiles who fail to keep the law of Moses be saved. Answer: Grace alone through Faith alone. This is the paramount issue.

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Romans 9 on the Free Will of God to Save

Romans 9

The Statement

“Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

WHOOOAAAA God …hates???? That would be unjust!!

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!

This must be about something else not about God saving people…

15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

But I thought salvation was based upon my free will….

16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

But surely God has mercy on everyone right?

17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Well if God is hardening people and saving people without regard to the person and based only on his own will, then it would be immoral of God to hold people accountable for their actions

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”

SEE!! I told you!!
*Note Paul does not retract his statement or say “No, No you have misunderstood me.”

Response 1

20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

Response 2

22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

This passage is amazingly clear that God is the initiator of salvation and HIS will is the decisive will in the salvation of individuals.

The Glory of this truth is that no matter how far you wandered from the Lord, no matter how deeply you have indulged sin God is able to rescue and redeem. And the corollary is no matter how good you imagine yourself to be or how much work you have done to reach God – your strivings are insufficient to move God towards you at all. NO!! If we are to be saved it is by free grace alone. God is the complete Savior or none at all.

Romans 9 on the Free Will of Man to Believe

Brief Thoughts on Acts 9

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The bent of Paul’s heart to rage against God is the same bent of every heart apart from awakening grace.

The need of Paul to be knocked off his horse by the blinding light of the Lord is not a “Paul” need. God must reveal himself or we perish.

The response of faith in Paul once the Lord revealed himself personally to Paul, is the same response everyone has when the Lord reveals himself to you. Faith

Believers are all “chosen instruments.”

“And when he (Paul) had come to Jerusalem” Paul went to the church where it all started. The place he had approved of the murder of one of its deacons. Paul attended church in a place where he had murdered one of the beloved congregants. What amazing power the Gospel has to reconcile the vilest offender.

The church was multiplied as it Walked in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

When illness and death struck a church member, Peter an apostle was called by disciples of the Lord, and Peter raised her from the dead. By this means the gospel was spread throughout Joppa and many believed.

Application:

1) Thank you Father, for calling me – saving me, how I sense my desperate and wicked heart apart from Your saving grace. I am unworthy but grace to be a chosen instrument

2) Lord Let me embrace the vile, love sinners, trust the greatness of your call and your gospel as I encounter the broken.

3) Lead my heart to the fear and comfort of the Lord that your name may be magnified in my life.

4) Lord do the necessary miracles to spread your Good News in Moses Lake so that many will believe.

My Introduction (to a probably very distant book)

The latter half of Albert Einstein’s celebrated life was spent on a grand quest – a quest to unify multiple disciplines into one simplified formula that would explain how everything works in the universe. Einstein called it Unified Field Theory. Modern physicists refer to the “theory of everything.” Einstein failed to achieve his goal. Though one of the brightest minds the world has ever seen devoted 20 years of work to this goal it was ultimately unsuccessful, and most modern physicists would say that Einstein was seeking something that has now been proven not to exist. Einstein wrote concerning Unified Field Theory, “Our situation is the following. We are standing in front of a closed box which we cannot open, and we try hard to discover about what is and is not in it.”

Though this book will touch on all of salvation from justification to glorification, it will primarily focus on progressive sanctification. And as I read through Einstein’s biography a number of years ago I felt there was something common between Einstein’s pursuit and the pursuit everyone has – one solution that answers every problem. I remember after reading through Einstein I began praying to understand what I dubbed the “Unified Theory of Sanctification.” Seriously! I prayed, “Lord help me understand the relationship of law and gospel, justification and sanctification, faith and works, effort and dependence. Help me understand and be able to speak to how all these concepts relate to each other.” And my second and more desperate prayer was, “Lord, I don’t want to just understand the concepts, but I want to experience your work of sanctification to the depths of my being.”

If you are reading this I suspect you too are on a quest – A quest to know Jesus better and serve Him well. You are seeking to “lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets” us all. You are seeking “to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” Perhaps you have grown weary or despairing in the journey, or perhaps the compelling beauty of Christ has grown dim in your eyes – Maybe you are weary of life and struggling to understand its meaning. The central aim of this book is that we (author and reader) would have our gaze refocused on Jesus Christ who is for us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

This is not a self-improvement book, I’m not looking for you to get it all figured out, rather my goal is that you would be encouraged to find soul-satisfying hope in Christ who is our life. I have spent most of my Christian life trying to determine what is and is not in the “box” of sanctification. And I have spent much of my Christian life in pursuit of the “holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” And while I have neither Einstein’s genius nor his mastery of subject area, I do have one thing in common with him – failure. This is not in any way a cause for me to celebrate – quite the opposite. Not only is my knowledge of sanctification frustratingly incomplete, but even more discouraging is the fact that my life doesn’t measure up to what I do understand. So you need to know right up front – I don’t have pat answers – if you are looking for that this isn’t the book for you. This is far more of an impressionistic painting than a hyper realistic one. There are fuzzy edges. There are things I cannot fully explain or connect. More than that there are certainly things I misunderstand – that I have wrong. And while God’s Word is certainly without error my comprehension of it is not. If you are anything like me when I crack open a new book I tend to think, “Finally this guy is going to give me the answers I’ve been looking for,” only to discover he is battling the same problems I am. I am a fallen human being. I don’t know all the answers and I don’t have it all figured (as this book should thoroughly demonstrate). All I can do is point as a fallible creature to the creator. At the end of the day our hope rests not on any man but one – The Man – Christ Jesus.

That is not to say that I have not profited greatly from many different authors. If the requirement for any of us is that we must understand it all and have it all working perfectly in order to minister to people we are of all men most miserable. Thomas Edison famously replied when asked about whether he was discouraged at his failure to produce an electric light bulb after many attempts, “I now know definitively 9000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work.” I am perhaps not quite as ebullient as Edison – there have been many difficult and discouraging days – but certainly the Lord has been a patient teacher. And my hope is that what Christ has taught and is teaching me through His word will be helpful and encouraging to you in your own pursuit of the one great treasure – the One who truly is the answer to all that is wrong with us – our glorious savior – Jesus Christ the Righteous. If this book enables you to see a little more of Jesus as precious and frees you by that look a little more from the snare of sin then it will have accomplished what I have earnestly prayed for myself and for you.

Sermon: The Sovereignty of God and the Sufficiency of Christ

KJV was requested by the host church – It had been a while 🙂

Would a Loving God Kill?

 

Powerful sequence in Amos 4

“I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities,
And lack of bread in all your places,

Yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord.

 

I also withheld the rain from you
When there were yet three months to the harvest…
…So two or three cities would wander to another city
To drink water, and would not be satisfied;

Yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord.

I struck you with blight and mildew…

Yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord

I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt;
I killed your young men with the sword…

Yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord

I overthrew some of you,
As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah…

Yet you did not return to me declares the Lord.

Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel;
because I will do this to you,
prepare to meet your God, O Israel!

For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind,
And declares to man what is his thought,
Who makes the morning darkness,
And treads on the heights of the earth –
The Lord, The God of Hosts, is his Name!”

Questions and Implications.

1) What degree of sovereignty and involvement does God have over nature?

2) What degree of sovereignty and involvement does God have over the “bad” stuff that happens in our lives?

3) What is God’s ‘commitment level’ to maintaining our personal comforts?

4) What does God desire most for us to have according to this text?

5) How does a God who according to this passage causes hunger and thirst – destroys and kills fit with your definition of a loving God?

6) What is God’s purpose from the text for taking these actions?

7) What does the passage say about man’s stubborn pursuit of the creation over the creator?

8) Why do you think God would be so dramatically committed to this purpose?

Continue reading “Would a Loving God Kill?”

5 Things We Could All Do to Support our Teachers, Students and Community

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All of us can see things we would like to be different in Moses Lake – reduced violence and drugs, better jobs and pay, more restaurants and shopping (Olive Garden and Winco anyone?). As a society, we have become so dependent on government to initiate and determine change that we have forgotten that we live in a country that (for now) recognizes our inalienable rights to be free. However, if we fail to avail ourselves of this freedom – if we fail to invest ourselves with our time and finances to create the community we would like to have, we will not only not have the community we want, but we will also lose the freedom that has long been cherished in this country. I’ll be the first to admit that I have felt powerless to change anything. I’ve had the attitude of “well – I guess that’s how it is.” I care – things seem off – but I don’t know what to do. Maybe you are in the same spot. Continue reading “5 Things We Could All Do to Support our Teachers, Students and Community”

Why Did Jesus Weep?

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John 11:14 “Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.

John 11:35 “Jesus Wept”

What is Jesus glad about in verse 14? That “he was not there” Glad that he was not there to prevent Lazarus’ death! Not there to heal him of his sickness! Jesus says he is glad he was not there. Let this verse alone sink into your theology. God has something greater in mind for us than only healing or even preventing us from dying – Something so much greater in his mind that he says something as seemingly calloused as “I am glad I was not there” to heal and prevent death.

So what is this thing Jesus so passionately wants for us? Continue reading “Why Did Jesus Weep?”

The Solution for Shame in the Satisfaction of God

Intro:

Introduced to this church via Bob Smith –

Review Series – Beginning to End

Communion with God – is the great end for which we are made – Philippians 3:8-9

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Continue reading “The Solution for Shame in the Satisfaction of God”

Moses Lake Bond Vote Recounted and Challenged

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1) I was and remain strongly in favor of the school bond passing. It is essential, in my opinion, to the success of our public schools and health of our community.

2) I was relieved that the bond had appeared to pass by the narrowest of margins

3) I was irritated by the challenge to the bond count but figured it would just delay the certification of a passing vote.

4) The attached article indicates the challengers have the following questions. a) Were all ballots with signature issues treated according to the law – that is was an attempt made to notify each uncounted voter that their ballot was not being counted due to signature issues? b) Were voters who had signature issues and voted in favor of the bond contacted by school officials while those who voted against the measure were not contacted? These are valid questions.

5) As much as I am in favor of the bond passing it must be passed legally and without partiality. If any manipulation or favoritism entered the process that should rightfully be exposed.

6) In short, I am in favor of the entire process and vote being exposed to intense scrutiny so that the vote results are unquestioned by the people in Moses Lake. This has the potential to divide us particularly if the process is not brought to light. My hope remains that the investigation will show everything was done with excellence and integrity and the vote stands, but I support the right of voters to inspect and challenge the integrity of the voting process particularly in a vote this close.

7) Finally, if the vote is shown to have been mishandled and the outcome reversed, I would encourage both sides to neither gloat nor demonize the other. It takes all of us to make this community successful. If the outcome ends up not being what we desired let us leave behind vitriolic statements and disparaging words, and with humility continue to invest in our community. Moses Lake is where we all live – let’s not tear it up over this issue. Can we not persuade and even argue passionately for what we believe is best in a way that inspires rather than destroys? I think we can and if we do we will build our town up regardless of vote outcomes because we will be truly demonstrating care for each other as a strong community should. So Moses Lake friends and neighbors lets stand together, even in our differences, for the good of this place we call home.

Thanks again for listening and considering.

Conservatism in a Donald Trump Era

3 Issues in the new Trump era.
1)  Rule via executive order.  Republicans and conservatives rightly were incensed over the way president Obama thumbed his nose at the opposition and bypassed congress by executive orders.  Trump is doubling down on Obama’s precedent and the right is largely silent about it or excuse it.  We do not have a king.  We believe in limited government with checks and balances.  The law making body of the US is the congress not the president.  Whether I am in agreement with the substance of Trump’s changes does not matter – making the change in a way that honors the well designed checks and balances of our founders does.
2)  When Obama nominated his cabinet the sneaky democrats found a way to cheat past the 60% requirement to break a filibuster by changing the 60% requirement rule with a 50% vote.  Republicans were rightly incensed.  But now that power has shifted into their hands they are taking advantage of the same rule they had said was wrong.  I agree with their original assessment and believe that they should change the rule back with a provision that it cannot be changed without a 60% vote.  I realize this is unfair because the democrats benefited from the rule change and we would likely have some of Trump’s nominees rejected, but I believe it would be the right thing to do.
3)  For the last 8 years Republians have hit Obama over the head with his exponential driving up of the debt.  He took it from 10 trillion to 20 trillion during his time in office.  It is deplorable and the republicans were right to denounce it.  But now, with a Republican majority in the house and senate and the white house, the first order of business for the Republicans was to pass a budget which BY THEIR OWN ESTIMATES drives up the debt another 10 trillion to 30 trillion in the next ten years.
Where is the conservative party?  I like some of Trump’s direction.  I like the Department of Education nominee.  I like the SCOTUS nominee, but at what cost?  If we drive over the top of our opponents because we presently wield the power it will come back doubly when the power shifts hands again.  Let’s return to a conservative, limited form of government as envisioned by the founders, rather than continuing down the well trodden road of power hungry politics.

Why I am Voting Yes for Moses Lake Schools

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6 reasons why I am supporting the new high school project.

 

 

 

  • Having an excellent school district matters to everyone not just those with kids or grandkids in the school district. Good school districts attract top professionals to our community.  Good school districts improve home valuations.  Good school districts make for better employees.  We cannot “kick the can down the road” again.  Our schools cannot be excellent without this investment in our future.  We are simply out of room.   I believe that if we are short-sighted on this vote we will be failing our kids and our community.

 

  • The cost: 135 MILLION.  Freak out!  Go ahead… get it out of your system.  I get it.  I’m not a big proponent of raising taxes.  But most of the time my taxes get sent out to fund who knows what (like 80 million dollars for unused Afghanistan embassies… really).  These funds are staying here.  They help all of us improve this place we call home.  Now how much is it really going to cost you?  The median home price in Moses Lake is $145,800 (http://www.zillow.com/moses-lake-wa/home-values/).  This bond is for $1.46 per $1000 of assessed value.  That means that the average person will be paying 212.86 a year – that’s 17 bucks a month.  I don’t want to trivialize 17 bucks – I live on a tight budget too – but it is doable.  It does not break me.  And 17 bucks a month for a new high school, a remodeled high school and a new elementary school seems like a pretty good deal.  Many hands make light work.  Let’s do this together! http://www.moseslakeschools.org/files/_XKFov_/035b503c4414a1fe3745a49013852ec4/MLSD_MAILER_12-2016.pdf

 

  • Obviously I’m for this. I think it will make us a better community, improve the educational quality for our kids, and that it allows us to be part of making a community of which we are proud.  Still have questions or concerns?  There are two remaining bond meetings you can attend TUESDAY, JANUARY 31, 7:00-8:00 PM, Board Room 940 E. Yonezawa Blvd and TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 7:00-8:00 PM, Board Room 940 E. Yonezawa Blvd.  Please do not just vote “no” without being fully informed.  This vote will have a significant impact on the next generation here in Moses Lake.  http://www.moseslakeschools.org/files/_XKFov_/035b503c4414a1fe3745a49013852ec4/MLSD_MAILER_12-2016.pdf

 

Thanks for listening 🙂

 

So Let it Be – Peace in the Storm

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Reading today in I Kings 11 and 12

Due to Solomon’s sin of going after other gods, God says his kingdom will not endure. And the prophet Ahijah says this to Jeroboam: “Behold I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and will give you ten tribes…”

But how will he do that? After all Rehoboam, son of Solomon – the greatest king ever – is the king over all Israel.

Well, basically Rehoboam ignores the pleas of the people and the advice of his older advisors to lighten the yoke on his people. He instead says to the people. “My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” (Note to self: not a good campaign message)

And then this verse in the Holy Writ:

“So the king did not listen to the people, FOR it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the Son of Nebat.”

What “a turn of events!” Young counselors had to give the bad advice to the king – Rehoboam had to ignore the advice of his wisest advisors and the pleas of his people – And the people had to chose to revolt just days after the death of the wisest king in their history and most prosperous years of their existence.

God is not passive in the affairs of men. He does not surrender his sovereignty nor bow at the altar of man’s free will. Man chooses as his sin-oriented nature desires and God’s sovereign will is not in the least thwarted. He will accomplish what he desires. His will reigns supreme!

Isaiah 55:8-11                                                                            

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Being convinced of God’s sovereignty and being convinced of God’s goodness and being convinced that by the blood of His son you are His child – is a powerful trinity of truths that I have found to be a strong anchor in the midst of my darkest days. They are like bright rays of the most beautiful and compelling light penetrating to the depths of my grey-clouded world. Let these truths be fastened firmly in your heart and you will find you have the ballast in your boat to weather any storm. So let it be.

The Valley of Achor – A Doorway To Hope

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Joshua 7:24: “And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.”
Hosea 2:15 – “I will make the valley of Achor (which means trouble) a doorway to Hope.”
Some of you need hope. For some of you everything looks dark – you have tried for so long to deliver yourself and you despair that there is any hope for you. You long for a hero– for a rescuer – for a Substitute but doubt that anyone really cares. And yet no matter how dark your past – no matter how bleak your future seems – God desires in this moment to enter your valley of Achor and deliver you from your debt of sin. For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. So I want to lift up before you today – Jesus Christ – the perfection of God – He was broken for you! He was slain for you! He will not reject you because of what you have done and he will not receive you because of the good you do – NO! With grace there is no merit except His – You can rest in his perfection for you – You can trust that in His dying your debt was paid – He is a willing Savior.
Surrender and come delight yourself in Jesus and his work for you on the cross. Today is the day of Salvation.

Cuba, Castro, Kaepernick and Cabdrivers

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I asked my Cuban-born cab driver how he felt about Castro dying
He said, “I don’t care that he died.”
I asked him if he thought things would be different in Cuba
He said, “No way – the people ruling are too hungry for power.”
I asked him about Colin Kaepernick.
He said, “Who?”
I told him the NFL quarterback who supports Castro.

He still didn’t know about him so I told him about Kaepernick and he had this perfect response.
“The great thing about America is that you can think whatever you want and it is ok.  I couldn’t do that in Cuba.  But I think this quarterback is a great fool and doesn’t know what he is talking about.”
Made my day!

For What Does My Heart Sing? A Thanksgiving Meditation

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Here it is Thanksgiving morning again.  The family is still asleep.  It is quiet and my mind is turning over the question, “What am I truly thankful for?” For what does my heart sing in gratitude and delight? Continue reading “For What Does My Heart Sing? A Thanksgiving Meditation”

Was Hillary Robbed? Why the Electoral College Makes Sense.

Let’s keep this as simple as possible.

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The first principle that needs to be understood is that when our founding fathers were setting the shape of this country there was great concern that states maintain their rights and equal representation. So two houses of congress were formed. The House of Representatives which is comprised of members proportionate to the population of each state. And the upper body, the Senate, which has 2 senators from each state regardless of population. This was to protect the rights of smaller states. This is a long-standing tradition of protecting the rights of the underdog in this country.

The electoral college functions in much the same way. By way of example suppose we hypothesize with only 4 states. Suppose California had a population of 4 million and received 4 electoral college votes. Florida has a population of 3 million and receives 3 electoral votes. Washington receives 2 votes for it’s 2 million and Maine receives 1 vote for its 1 million.

Now suppose in California 70% of the population love and vote for Hillary. That’s 2.8 Million votes for Hillary and 1.2 Million for Trump.
Then the other 3 states vote solidly for Trump at 60% for Trump. That would be 3.6 Million votes for Trump and 2.4 Million for Hillary. So the interests of 3 of 4 states would solidly be in favor of Trump and the electoral vote would be 6 for Trump and 4 for Hillary.

But if we used pure popular vote it would be 5.2 million for Hillary and 4.8 Million for Trump and Hillary would win. Now you may think Hillary should win in this scenario because she received the most votes, but if she won the will of 3 of 4 states would be disregarded for the sake of one state simply because of its population advantage. So the Electoral college is the best solution for having a measure of influence based on population size while maintaining appropriate rights and influence for each individual state.

If you are on the losing side of this race you may not like it, but this system is vastly superior to letting highly populous states have all the decision-making ability for every other state.

Note: the actual way electoral college voters are distributed are by the number of federal congresspeople in each state. So Washington State has 10 representatives (based on population) and 2 senators so 12 total Electoral College votes.  

What Manner of Love!

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Tonight I dreamed.

In my dream my Dad, with whom I’m very close, was ill Continue reading “What Manner of Love!”

The Passing Darkness in the Already Shinning Light

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I John 2:8 “Because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shinning.”
There seems to me to be a great chasm between my most holy and righteous works and God’s righteousness. It is a chasm unscalable by my great discipline or willpower or ability. It is infinitely high I cannot get there. The law – the command – that I must get there is not meant to imply that I can, simply that I must. And if I don’t destruction awaits.

Continue reading “The Passing Darkness in the Already Shinning Light”

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Only Trump vs Never Trump

I think some of the differences lie in

1) Only Trumpers consider Hillary to be way more evil than Trump – While never Trumpers think it is impossible to distinguish.

2) Only Trumpers believe that Trump will do what he says and is committed to a conservative course of action this is why you overlook his character deficiencies for the sake of his policies – While never Trumpers consider him to have zero credibility to do what he says he will do and maintain that his one commitment is to himself. He is not operating off of principles he believes but off of what he believes will advance himself and his personal agenda. And he will use whatever force he can including lying to accomplish it.

3) Only Trumpers appreciate Trump’s strong-armed approach ie if you disagree with me or resist me I will threaten to sue you – I will discredit everything about you via personal attacks, not facts – I will attempt to manipulate the press to undermine you. You consider his attacks candor and political incorrectness and take it as proof that he is not an insider and can’t be bought or sold. Never Trumpers see this behavior as feckless, with anti-American totalitarian instincts not dissimilar from Obama’s “screw you I’m going to issue an executive order” but with less intelligence and even more potential for damage.

4) Only Trumpers believe no matter what horrible character flaws Trump may have we must vote for him because a democrat is always worse. Never Trumpers feel that Trump as the standard bearer for conservatism or even republicanism has the potential to do more damage to conservatives than a Hillary presidency because the litany of stupid things he will say or do he will do in my name as a conservative. The litany of stupid things Hillary will do will be done in the name of liberalism. I am not suggesting here that I would have rather given up the presidency to let Hillary shoot herself in the foot but since we are down to these two choices and believing what I do about Trump I cannot see an iota of good than can come from voting Hillary or Trump.

Does God Need My Service?

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“God is not served by human hands as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. ”

Been thinking about this text for a while. Lots of implications but I’ll just give you a little of what I’ve been mulling lately.

God is not as interested in my activity for him as my faithfulness to him. I tend to think the other way…”maybe I haven’t been as faithful as I would have wanted, maybe I haven’t loved him the way I should, but at least I did _____ activity for him. I really helped him out there.”  Continue reading “Does God Need My Service?”

Grace is Practical

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You don’t have to have your eyes open very wide to realize there is something horribly wrong in the world. I recently picked up a book given to my oldest son Steven by his teacher – Mrs. Copley. It is titled simply “Night” and the book describes the horrors of a young Jewish boy by the name of Elie Wiesel trapped in Nazi concentration camps. The book describesJewish captives being forced to dig their own graves while Nazi soldiers shot their children and then the parents themselves. Elie had a mentor by the name of Francois Mauriac whom he asked to write the forward of his book describing his experience. Mauriac in attempting to understand what young Elie had to endure wrote,

“Let us try to imagine what goes on in his mind as his eyes watch rings of black smoke unfurl in the sky, smoke that emanates from the furnaces into which his little sister and his mother had been thrown after thousands of other victims.”

The thought is unfathomably awful. That was less than 70 years ago. Elie was with us until just a few months ago.

Continue reading “Grace is Practical”

Dealing With Worry – A Meditation on Isaiah 31-32

worry

Meditation on Isaiah 31-32
Worry reveals my doubt in the Lord’s sovereignty and/or His goodness. When I worry I am constantly hatching new schemes to fix my own problems. When things go wrong I tend to utilize other resources – usually myself – rather than depending on God.
But God says – “Woe to those who go down to Egypt and rely on horses.. but do not look to the Holy one of Israel.”

How to Love God – Part 2

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How to Love God Part 2

John Bunyan: “When God brings sinners into the covenant of grace, he doth first kill them with the covenant of works, which is the moral law, or ten commandments.”

To sum up yesterday’s post I argued that the main work of the law is to reveal God’s holiness and righteous standard and to then apply that standard of holiness to us in order to show our sinfulness. I proposed that even the command we think of us a softer New Testament command, namely to love, actually comes from the Old Testament and Jesus’ interpretation is even more difficult. I also said that the law of God is not able to change us by itself, but that its main job is to reveal to our hearts our sinfulness and push us to Christ for righteousness that comes through faith.  Continue reading “How to Love God – Part 2”

How to Love God – Part 1

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How to Love God

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” Luke 10:25-27

We often think of the above text as a New Testament command – a softer summation of the Old Testament laws. But actually the lawyer was quoting the Old Testament. Continue reading “How to Love God – Part 1”

Black Lives Matter – Words vs. the Movement

I agree that black lives matter and matter greatly. I disagree with the movement, Black Lives Matter. Continue reading “Black Lives Matter – Words vs. the Movement”

Do Your Best and God Will Do The Rest?

luther

To the extent the Law of God is made attainable with statements like

– do your best and God will do the rest – we not only cheapen what the law says we lose grace in the process.

The law clearly says “your best efforts” are not going to be sufficient – more than that they are only going to serve to condemn you. God is not saying for us to do what we can and whatever we can’t do he will make up the difference. Instead he is saying our best efforts are tainted with sin and instead of calling us to work our way up to him by doing better he calls us to Faith in the Perfect One. Continue reading “Do Your Best and God Will Do The Rest?”

Morning Mercies in the Word

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I am increasingly appreciative of the Word. It has a way of speaking by the Holy Spirit that nothing else can do. I don’t know about you but there are a lot of other voices in my head – and the Word of God is able to transcend them and speak with clarity words of correction – words of hope – words of beauty and glory that I would not otherwise hear. Into a world filled with relativity and homespun, self-serving philosophies the Word of God is an anchor of truth. It is like a bright beacon of light cutting through the fog on my own thoughts and the muddle of this world.  Continue reading “Morning Mercies in the Word”

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

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‘Twas the night before Christmas – no not the one with tinsel and bows and Christmas trees – the one over 2000 years ago. Almost no one knew what was coming and even those that had an inkling did not understand the magnitude of the moment.

For most people it was just an ordinary night. No baited breath for what presents might be opened the next day. No day off work. Just an everyday day. The world was teetering on the edge of the most remarkable event in its history Continue reading “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”

Does God Ordain Evil?

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Observation on God’s sovereignty in today’s Bible reading:

1) Jeremiah 1 “Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

God’s sovereign choice does not mean Jeremiah is a robot (without will and incapable demerit or merit) Jeremiah has a will but it is a contingent will not a sovereign or free will that God alone has. Continue reading “Does God Ordain Evil?”

Every Good Story…

castle

Here is what I have noticed about every story– there must be a plight. There must be a peril to be rescued from – Kirk must have Klingons endangering the Enterprise or there is no story – there is no glory – there is no rescue. Can you imagine Superman flying at the speed of light – shadow boxing – “don’t be afraid – I’m here to save the day” if there were no bad guys – if there was nothing to be rescued from? You would think that guy is crazy. What is he doing? Saved me from what? Continue reading “Every Good Story…”

God’s Will – Man’s Will

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  1. I believe every person who sees the depth of their need and the beauty of Christ will willingly come to Christ
  2. I believe that no one is able or willing to see the depths of their sin or the beauty of Christ unless God reveals it to them.
  3. I believe God reveals a man’s sin and Christ’s beauty to those He calls.
  4. I believe that everyone the Father wills to call will believe
  5. I believe that all who believe choose willingly to do so because God has shown himself as beautiful.
  6. I believe God has good purposes in not revealing Himself as beautiful to every person

6 is probably the least palatable to the church, but it is most clearly stated in Romans 9

Crying Out in the Darkness Psalm 107 – a Meditation

darkness
Life feels sometimes like I’m wandering in a vast desert with no place to rest.

Sometimes it feels like my life is ebbing way in a hopeless search for satisfaction.

Sometimes all seems dark and it seems I will never find the light. I keep on trying to find my own way out of the darkness because I feel there is no one else I can really trust.

But then I realize I can’t even trust myself because I pursue my own selfish and sinful ends. And though I know my sin harms me I follow it to the gates of death.

To add insult to injury life is so hard. Friends die. Sickness hits. Finances are always a struggle. Parenting. Marriage. I feel often at my wit’s end. Continue reading “Crying Out in the Darkness Psalm 107 – a Meditation”

Should I Be Happy or Holy? – Hint: The Answer Starts With an “H”

happy-or-holy

TRUE OR FALSE
“God doesn’t care if you are happy. He cares that you are holy.”

I know this post is a little longer than normal but sometimes it takes few paragraphs to say something! So in the spirit of Shakespeare’s Polonius statement “As brevity is the soul of wit…. I continue.”
Continue reading “Should I Be Happy or Holy? – Hint: The Answer Starts With an “H””

Jesus VS The Olive Garden

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I’m sitting in an Olive Garden in Bloomington, IL. My thoughts of what heaven will be like do not much exceed this. Continue reading “Jesus VS The Olive Garden”

Is Transformation the Highest End for Which We Were Made?

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If we shine the light too brightly that Christianity is mainly about personal transformation – we create a hierarchy that encourages people’s natural inclination to push their sin underground and pretend to be more than they are. If we, instead, shine the light brightly on the beauty of Jesus – His Holiness – His Compassion – His Glory – His Grace – His Work on the Cross – His Resurrection – His Rescue of Sinful People perhaps we in church would quit our introspective, self-focused, navel gazing, and our mask-wearing, self-deceptive posturing. We could lift our gaze outside of ourselves to worship and glory in a God who loves sinners. We could focus our energies on knowing Him and delivering the same good news we have received to our friends. And then perhaps true transformation would occur as well.

When Being a Good Sailor is Not Enough

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The law is like a man in a sailboat with a sailing instruction manual. He knows what proper sailing is – He may even possess a lot of technology to aid him in sailing. But his knowledge and tech cannot move him across the water. Only wind can do that. So we must stop preaching the law for change. We must stop running to the law to make us good sailors. Only the gospel can fill our sails with wind. The grace of the Father in rescuing sinners by the blood of Jesus is the good news – is the gospel. Oh Spirit, breathe your wind in our sails!

Come & Dine With Me

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I had this picture come to mind on Sunday while in church.

You remember the scene in the movie Hook with Robin Williams where he has met the Lost Boys and he sits down at the end of a very long day to what he thinks is going to be a glorious meal, but when the lids come off there is nothing. Peter is starving – dying for something to eat, but he can’t see the food.  We are like this sometimes.

Continue reading “Come & Dine With Me”

Delighting in the Truth and Power of God’s Word

I believe and affirm that the Bible is true in all it asserts and denies. That it is reliable and worthy of my confidence and wholehearted dependence. I affirm that it should be interpreted with a common sense (literal) hermeneutic which means simply that the plain meaning of the text is accurate. This does not mean there is not metaphor or simile Continue reading “Delighting in the Truth and Power of God’s Word”

Ode to Baseball and Ken Griffey Jr

The Kid. Junior. Goofy Smile. Sweetest swing you have ever seen. Tomorrow an all-time great – the greatest player I’ve watched in person play – Ken Griffey Jr will take his rightful place among the best of the best. I’ll be watching with an old friend Continue reading “Ode to Baseball and Ken Griffey Jr”

The Ultimate Benefit of the Gospel

At the center of the good news of the gospel is Jesus Christ.

The ultimate benefit of the gospel is not that we can now do good works, or that we won’t go to hell, or even that our sins our forgiven as great as all those things are– the ultimate benefit is Continue reading “The Ultimate Benefit of the Gospel”

Marriage & Divorce

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DisclaimerChristie and I just celebrated 20 years of marriage.  It has been good and sweet and difficult and humbling.  Please don’t despair from the happy picture, there are many times it has been ugly.  The statement below is what I have been convinced of from Scripture.  I truly believe that God is able to keep you in your marriage even through extreme difficulty.  

Marriage is a picture of Jesus’ covenant-keeping love for His bride. The radicalness of the love of Christ is pictured many ways – Jesus’ death on the cross for hell-bent sinners being number one.

Continue reading “Marriage & Divorce”

Creation and The Fall – A Dramatic Reading

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Brilliant light – light so pure and piercing – light radiating in an incomprehensible spectrum – light so bright as to be unapproachable.

In the midst of the light, on a throne, high and lifted up – the God of gods and the King of kings – the Lord of all the hosts of heaven – the most high and glorious One sits in radiant splendor.

In complete harmony and joyful anticipation, the Father in His transcendence, the Son in His majesty and the Spirit in His unrestrained might stand to deliver the proclamation.

The mighty Seraphim’s chant of “Holy, Holy, Holy” crescendos in power and intensity. The surrounding angelic host have trumpets poised over trembling lips.

Then with a voice thunderous as the rush of thousands of crashing waves and raging rivers and so powerful that none of the angelic host remains standing, Jehovah speaks Continue reading “Creation and The Fall – A Dramatic Reading”

The Cross Speaks

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Dean Koontz: “Everyone talks about justice, but there can be no justice where there is no truth, and these are times when truth is seldom recognized and often despised.”

If you grew up in a conservative Christian culture like I did you probably feel as if the world is coming undone. Continue reading “The Cross Speaks”

Beholding the Beauty and Glory of the Lord

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There is one way and only one way that we are sanctified and that is by beholding the beauty and glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Continue reading “Beholding the Beauty and Glory of the Lord”

Fairy Tale Church

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What if church were a place where…

…people felt the weight of their own sin more than yours
…the undeserved grace of God was experienced so strongly that you were truly loved despite your failures and flaws
…you could confess your faults and reveal all the is ugly about yourself with brutal honesty without fear of rejection or censure
…others celebrate the new creation God is still forming in you
…you were forgiven without hesitation because of your value in Christ
…living unreconciled was not even a thought because of the love of Christ
…others volunteered to help bear your burdens
…people gladly gave their time, their money, their ears (to listen not to fix), their whole lives to serve each other
…true community – genuine relationship were the norm, not the exception
… unbelievers and believers, “bad sinners” and sinning saints were equally received and grace was given without measurement

It begins with you – giving based on what Christ has given you rather than on what the other person deserves.

A real passion for each other and Christ stems from experiencing God’s genuine passion for us. Continue reading “Fairy Tale Church”

How to Love Sinners – God and Homosexuality

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Love does not require that one accepts everything about a person. True love may require, in fact, that we speak to someone about the error of their ways.

As a parent, if my child wants to play on the railroad tracks, it is, in fact, unloving if I say “Sure, honey, do whatever you want.” If I correct my child for doing something that is harmful to them – it is not a rejection of them as a person if I seek to stop them from doing what they want to do. It is because I care for them that I tell them not to play on the railroad tracks. Continue reading “How to Love Sinners – God and Homosexuality”

Nothing in this World…

There is a God who if you “be good” he will help you feel good = Moralistic Therapeutic Deism NOT the Christian Gospel.

Instead Christianity says

There is a God, who seeing the evil of mankind, sent his own Son, Jesus, as a man to suffer and die in their place so that all who are willing to abandon their own goodness and bank their lives on the goodness of God, will obtain a great treasure – Jesus Christ himself.

This does not mean that life will be easy or you will feel good all the time. What it does mean is that nothing in this world – terrorism, poverty, divorce, loneliness, suffering, even death itself – is able to separate you from the love of God.

#Never Trump is not immoral

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I do not think a person needs to be perfect to be president of the United States. I certainly am not. But neither do I believe they are qualified if they shamelessly and repeatedly make their sin their glory and boast. It is for this reason, I cannot Continue reading “#Never Trump is not immoral”

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