2 Corinthians 12:8–10 (ESV)
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
When I was going through seminary I held down a part time job working for Grainger Industrial Supply. I worked in a branch office doing a lot of different tasks from helping customers to sweeping floors. Mostly, I worked in the warehouse loading and unloading trailers, stocking shelves, and managing inventory. The Lord was really good to us through that job. I was paid well and had full medical coverage. The people I worked with were great. I really genuinely liked them, and I think they liked me too.
The truth is, I was the low man on the ladder while I worked there. Everyone knew I was in seminary, and that I was a short timer in the company. I was never going to climb the ladder or push anybody out of a job. We all knew that when lay-offs came, I was the first one gone. (It’s true. It happened to me twice in 5 years, but my bosses always found a way to get me back or keep me working at another branch. I always appreciated that.) Continue reading
There is nothing in this world I can claim to be an expert on except one: sin. I’m an expert on sin. It is my constant companion. Temptations are ever-present and ever-beckoning. Like Philip Melancthon, I can and do become obsessed with my sin. It is easy for a Christian, concerned rightly with holy living, to live in a state of continual defeat. Our Enemy whispers in our ears that we are no good, that we are a failure, and that God can not possibly love us. We all need a Luther to tell me that because of God’s grace, we can sin boldly.
Sin is not my only companion. I have another, his name is Jesus, and he is the Christ. He tells me something different. I am lovely because I am made in the image of God. I am good in God’s eyes because of Him. He tells me that trust and dependence on him alone will bring me to true righteousness. Continue reading
Prayer is hard for some of us. It just is. It is a common and ongoing struggle for Christians from the beginning of our faith. Martin Luther even talked about distraction in prayer being a problem. I admit that I struggle with concentration in prayer. I would’ve been right there in the garden sleeping with the disciples when Jesus needed them to pray with and for him. At times, I’ve been horribly frustrated with myself because of this. It’s like I have prayer ADD.
A few years ago, I discovered I pray best when I’ve read or said something as a way to “prime the pump.” A little preparation beforehand goes a long way for me. This realization happened for me when I found that I prayer more readily after reading scripture. It is has if I hear from God through scripture, and that movement then prompts me to pray. This pattern feels more natural to me. Continue reading
Reputation: the beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone or something
I have a friend named Reputation. Reputation makes me feel good about myself. He tells me that others like me. Reputation is fond of me. He only sees my best qualities, and he only says positive things about me to everyone else. He campaigns for me, and encourages others to pat me on the back. Reputation enjoys reminding me that I have something to offer God. He is always telling me that God should be proud to have someone like me in his service. I like Reputation. He’s a good guy to hang out with. He and I have a symbiotic relationship. I take good care of him, and he takes good care of me. If I groom him just right, keep him properly bathed, polished, trimmed, and combed, he sings for me the songs I like to hear and tells the stories about me others like to believe.
(Updated this post to better reflect my feelings on the video, so if you read it earlier, you might have the wrong impression. Sorry about that.)
What do you think of this new Francis Chan video?
I think Chan is right on one level. We should see our possessions as gifts from God given to us for His purpose, and for His glory. We need not worry about hoarding possessions, though we should certainly be wise and prepared for the future. Continue reading
In recent years, I’ve gone through what I can only describe as a theological awakening. This change started when I began seeing the Kingdom of God mentioned everywhere in the bible, and I’ve since come to believe that the message of Jesus and the apostles was not salvation, but the establishment of God’s promised kingdom through the presence of His chosen King through which salvation is also available.
Now, I find myself working out the practical implications of this, and it isn’t easy. I’ve thought a lot about how Christians are to act in this world, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the way of Jesus really is radically different from anything else we see around us. I accept that the message of Jesus was the coming of the Kingdom, and that the Kingdom is already present wherever Jesus is. If Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is present among those who follow Him, then the Kingdom is present among them too. If the calling of the Christian is to be like Christ, this means that preaching the message and living out the ethics of the King and his Kingdom are our primary calling. The Kingdom of God looks like Jesus, and the people in the Kingdom should look like Jesus too.
Romans 6:8–14 (NET)
6:8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 6:9 We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 6:10 For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. 6:11 So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
6:12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, 6:13 and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness. 6:14 For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace.
I’ve been giving some thought lately about two different concepts for the Christian life: abiding in Christ, and considering ourselves dead to sin. What do these mean, how are they related, and what do they look like in life? As I read this passage in Romans, I can’t help but think about my sin. I think about the sin I both hate and love, and to that which I want to die. But how do I die, and conversely, how do I abide in Christ? Continue reading
Matthew 18:1–4 (NET)
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a child, had him stand among them, 3 and said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn around and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven! 4 Whoever then humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
As his time on earth was nearing its end, Jesus began focusing more attention on the specifics of kingdom life, and how disciples are to live in community with one another and in influential peace with the world around them. Jesus’ teaching here begins with a foundation, and what follows in chapters 18 and 19 is built on that foundation. I want to take a few posts to talk about Jesus’ vision for community life, and I’ll begin today with the verses above so to give us a foundation for this discussion.
Have you ever allowed yourself to ask “what if” questions? I do. What if Christians really lived sacrificially? What if I could get over myself long enough to be really effective in serving Jesus? How different would the world look?
There is this story in the Gospel of Matthew that I’m sure I’ve read, but hasn’t gotten my attention until recently. Matthew 17:24-27. In Jesus day, there was a 2 drachma temple tax placed on all people over the age of 20. This tax was collected by temple representatives and was used to pay for temple expenses. This was not a new tax, it seems all the way back in Exodus 30:11-16 where God through Moses is explaining to the people about this financial “sacrifice” of atonement. Exodus refers to the tax as a 1/2 shekel sacrifice.
“The Long Walk” by Joey Remmers
I’ve had trouble writing this week. The inspiration isn’t there, nothing is exciting or interesting to me. I spent a couple of hours yesterday sitting at a keyboard writing a paragraph here and there, and then deleting it. I have three drafts started for different topics, and all of them are sitting there staring at me. As I prepare for my weekly teaching, and thinking about some upcoming sermons, I feel like I’m wading through mud up to my knees. I’m moving forward, but not very quickly. It takes quite a lot of creative energy to have something valuable to say week in and week out. Real writers, not hacks like me, talk about staring at a keyboard for hours and struggling over writing even one sentence. This is the nature of trying to communicate valuable truth. It takes effort, and much of that effort ends up in the trash can.
As I was considering this problem, it struck me that most of the Christian life feels like this. Sure, there are moments when things move quickly, emotions run high, prayer comes easily and often, and we live with a clear sense of purpose. But the truth is that most of the Christian life, when viewed over the long-term, really is a long, steady walk in the same direction toward Christ. There are ups and downs, but what God wants is consistent obedience over the long haul of our lives.