Thursday, March 31, 2011


From Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller:

There is a poem by the literary critic C.S. Lewis that is more or less a confession...I always come back to this poem when I think soberly about my faith, about the general precepts of Christian spirituality, the beautiful precepts that indicate we are flawed, all of us are flawed, the corrupt politician and the pious Sunday school teacher. In the poem C.S. Lewis faces himself. He addresses his own depravity with a soulful sort of bravery:
All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through;
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, reassurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin;
I talk of love - a scholar's parrot may talk Greek -
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.
I talk about love, forgiveness, social justice; I rage against American materialism in name of altruism, but have I even controlled my own heart? The overwhelming majority of time I spend thinking about myself, pleasing myself, reassuring myself, and when I am done there is nothing to spare for the needy. Six billion people live in this world, and I can only muster thoughts for one.  Me.

Sheep (Again)

Mountain view with sheepphoto © 2005 Jule_Berlin | more info (via: Wylio)

By Donald Miller:

In John chapter ten Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd. To those listening, His language is vague. They want to know who is right and who is wrong, who gets into heaven and who doesn’t, and they want to be able to measure the metrics. Jesus doesn’t give them anything they can use to judge that sort of thing, at least not in this chapter (elsewhere, He says if you love me you will obey me). But here, Jesus simply says that He is the Good Shepherd, and the sheep will know His voice.

Not only does Jesus say the sheep will know His voice, but He says He knows them, too. He even says He knows their names. The picture is intimate, guiding, loving and protective. Jesus talks about the enemy of the sheep, the previous guys who didn’t own the sheep but were put in charge of them, and how somebody who doesn’t own the sheep will flee whenever a wolf comes around. But Jesus implies He will not flee, because He loves the sheep.

So how do we know if we are the sheep, if we are hearing Jesus’ voice? Well, at this point we can only conjecture, but I think the conjecture is safe. As we read through the gospel of John, for instance, do we find ourselves sensing there is something special about Jesus? Do we find ourselves curious enough to want to keep following Him, even though we don’t know exactly what that means? Are we hopeful that we can set down all our religious checklists that give us false security (an an insatiable desire for more security, like an addiction) in exchange for a person, the person of Jesus? Do other religions or philosophies (perhaps even what we previously thought of as Christianity, or some mechanical version of Christianity) feel like dead ideas while Jesus seems to be living and breathing and in our midst? If this is true for you, I’d be willing to say you are one of His sheep. After all, He did say that you would hear his voice.

And when we are one of His sheep, Jesus says we will find rest. He says in John chapter ten we will be saved and go out and find pasture. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Not only this, but as we trust Jesus we begin to realize He knows us, personally. He is not like the faith in ideas we previously subscribed to, He is living and breathing and interacting with us. We feel like the Apostles, scurrying behind Him asking silly questions. And it’s comforting to know that He loves us and knows us, even as He and the Father love each other and know each other, which is the kind of love He describes in the same chapter.

Tomorrow, I want to look at a group of people who Jesus stated clearly were not in His flock, and did not hear his voice. It’s sobering stuff.

What Does the Voice of Jesus Sound Like? is a post from: Donald Miller's Blog

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Upside Down Values

 “The pattern of the Cross means that the world’s glorification of power, might, and status is exposed and defeated. On the Cross Christ wins through losing, triumphs through defeat, achieves power through weakness and service, comes to wealth via giving all away. Jesus Christ turns the values of the world upside down.”
— Timothy KellerThe Reason for God

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rock --- not the Sea

Believe God's Word and power more than you believe your own feelings and experiences. Your Rock is Christ, and it is not the Rock which ebbs and flows, but your sea.
    - Samuel Rutherford

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Only One Thing

“There is only one thing in the world that blots out sins. It is not our acts of contrition, not our repentance, not our alms or our good works. It  is not even our prayers. It is the blood of Jesus Christ: ‘the blood of Jesus Christ … cleanses us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7).

All sin that the blood of Jesus Christ has covered is forever annihilated before God. God no longer sees it, and I could use even stronger language without straying from Scripture. ‘God himself seeks them,’ says a prophet, ‘and  no longer finds them’ (see Jer. 50:20). He has put our ‘sins behind his back’ (Isa. 38:17) so as not to look upon them any more. He will ‘hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea’ (Micah 7:19), and in beholding us in Christ, he beholds us without sin, just like Christ himself, who was made ‘to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Cor. 5:21).”
— Adolphe Monod
Living in the Hope of Glory

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. . .I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”    John 10:11,14

Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”   John 10: 27-29.

By Jim Martin, the pastor of Crestview Church of Christ :

Early one morning, I began reading 
Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey by Margaret Feinberg. I had just made a cup of coffee and anticipated reading just a few pages. However, I found it very difficult to put the book down.

In the book, Feinberg recognizes that the daily life described in the Bible is very different from her own in the suburbs. Consequently, many of the stories of the Bible speak of the produce of the land, the vineyards, or the sheep and the shepherd. She decided to pay attention to the portraits of God that use these images and try to better understand their significance.

This book begins with Margaret's visit to a shepherd's home in Oregon. This is the section I had difficulty putting down. Margaret's interaction with this shepherd caused me to think in fresh ways about the shepherd/sheep relationship.

The following is an excerpt:  
On the way back to the larger, lower pasture, Lynne grabbed another scoop of grain. Opening the gate, she once again called, “Sheep, sheep, sheep.” We sat on the grass as the flock pushed toward us en masse, hoping for a tasty morsel. As the food dwindled, my friend Mario remained. A few others stood by as I scratched each in turn under the chin.

The sun dipped below the fiery horizon, leaving a faint glow of rose and tangerine in the sky. Lynne and I sat in the field with the sheep. At one point, the smallest lamb, Swan, who had watched us all day, dared to break from her mother and head toward Lynne. The shepherd extended her palm, wiggled her fingers, and spoke the lamb’s name. Swan hesitated and then came forward to experience the gentle touch of her shepherd for the first time.

Lynne withdrew her hand. Swan stepped forward, wanting more. With a swift one-armed move, Lynne grabbed the lamb and held her. Swan melted into her shepherd’s arms.

“Once they respond to my beckoning I have them forever,” she said as Swan rested her tiny head in the palm of Lynne’s hand.

Lynne sounded a lot like Someone I’d been reading about.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Prayer about God’s Sovereignty and Our Sanity

At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”     Daniel 4:34-35
Almighty Father, I need to “bookmark” this passage and return to it often, for it doesn’t just tell the conversion story of a pagan King, it’s the ongoing story of my heart. We’re never more sane than when we raise our eyes towards heaven and focus our attention on you. Navel gazing, circumstance watching and daily-news fixating never serve us well.
Father, help us to understand the glorious implications of your perpetual enthronement. Your dominion as the only eternal dominion. November elections and political insurrections; the world economy and temperature instability; earthquakes and oil leaks; multiplied conspiracies and conservative tea parties don’t affect your reign one micro-bit for one nanosecond.

For your kingdom endures from generation to generation. There never has been, nor will there ever be any nervous sweat, furrowed brows or anxious pacing in heaven; not one moment of consternation or vexation in the corridors of paradise; no need for a plan B to emerge from the Big Boardroom.

Father, you do as you please with the powers of heaven and the peoples of earth. I praise you for marshalling  the powers of heaven for the salvation of ill-deserving rebels like me and the ultimate transformation of the entire cosmos. Though many tried to hold back your hand; though many said “What are you doing?”, nevertheless, you chose the sacrifice of your Son and the “foolishness” of the cross, as the greatest demonstration of your sovereignty and grace.

The only King who could say, “Behold the world I have made” is the only King who would say, “Behold the people for whom I die.” Father, the greatest sanity is gospel-sanity. Keep us sane, Father, keep us gospel-sane.

We choose to lift our eyes to heaven today and fix our gaze on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, and we cry with unfettered, unabated joy, “Hallelujah what a Savior! Hallelujah what a salvation!” So very Amen, we pray, in the name and for the glory of the true King, Jesus.

A Prayer about God’s Sovereignty and Our Sanity is a post from: Heavenward by Scotty Smith

Sunday, March 20, 2011

What would you fear if anyone found out about it?

What in your life would you fear if anyone found out about it?

What would horrify you if it were exposed before your family, your friends, your acquaintances?

In gospel repentance and faith, we fearlessly expose ourselves to Judgment Day in the present. That’s what the confession of sin is, a revealing of what Jesus already promises to reveal on the Day of Christ (Luke 8:17).

Our problem is that we often, like Adam before us, want to hide our temptations, and especially our sin, to cover it over to save face. Hiding, though, is exactly the opposite of what a Christian does when confronted with satanic designs. The darkness is where these evils latch onto us. Instead we can preemptively shine light on this, with God in prayer and in our authentic accountability to the Body of Christ, his church.

Our Christian reluctance to speak honestly about temptation is precisely why Christians often believe themselves to be unbelievers. All they see of other believers is this façade of smiling, peaceful Christ-followers. They assume then that the internal life of every other Christian is just a continual festival of hymns as opposed to their own internal life in which the hymns are interrupted with constant gossipy chatter, violent rage, and hard-core pornography.

This is exactly how the satanic powers want it. They want the prideful and oblivious to stay that way, until they fall and slink away in isolation, where they can be devoured.

Preaching the gospel to ourselves, though, reminds us continually that we are sinners and that we can stand only by the blood of Jesus. We can walk only by his Spirit prodding us on. We need one another, as parts of the same body together.
Russell Moore 
Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Bread of Life

Let us never doubt for a moment, that the preaching of Christ crucified – the old story of His blood, righteousness, and substitution – is enough for all the spiritual necessities of all mankind. It is not worn out. It is not obsolete. It has not lost its power. We need nothing new – nothing more broad and kind – nothing more intellectual – nothing more effectual.

We need nothing but the true bread of life, distributed faithfully among starving souls. Let men sneer or ridicule as they will. Nothing else can do good in this sinful world. No other teaching can fill hungry consciences, and give them peace. We are all in a wilderness. We must feed on Christ crucified, and the atonement made by His death, or we shall die in our sins.

                 - J.C. Ryle

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Clover is Over

"Blessed is the man who is done with chance, and who never speaks of 'luck'; but believes that, from the least to the greatest, all things are ordained of the Lord."

- Charles Spurgeon
The Clover Is Over
The Gospel. {period}

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How an Inferiority Complex Can Be a Form of Pride

From Justin Taylor:

Tim Keller, writing in his new book King’s Cross (on the Gospel of Mark), looks at how saying “I’m unworthy” can sometimes function not as a plea for deliverance but as a form of pride:
There are two ways to fail to let Jesus be your Savior.
One is by being too proud, having a superiority complex—not to accepted his challenge.
But the other is through an inferiority complex—being so self-absorbed that you say, “I’m just so awful that God can’t love me.” That is, not to accept his offer.
Keller goes on to quote from John Newton’s letter to a very depressed correspondent:
You say you feel overwhelmed with guilt and a sense of unworthiness.
Well, you cannot be too aware of the inward and inbred evils you complain of, but you may be (indeed you are) improperly controlled and affected by them.
You say it is hard to understand how a holy God could accept such an awful person as yourself.
You, then, not only express a low opinion of yourself (which is right!) but also too low an opinion of the person, work, and promises of the Redeemer, which is wrong. . .
You complain about sin, but when we examine your complaints, they are so full of self-righteousness, unbelief, pride, and impatience that they are little better than the worst evils you complain of!
                        —Works of John Newton, vol. 6, p. 185.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rather Leave Untouched

Praying is no easy matter. It demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person, to see there what you would rather leave in darkness, and to touch there what you would rather leave untouched. 
           - Henri J.M. Nouwen

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gospel v. Legalism

Gospel v. Legalism

Great Quotes from recent sermon by Tullian Tchividjean (Billy Graham's Grandson)

Wrong:        My standing with God is based on what I do
Right:          My standing with God is based on what Jesus has done

Wrong:       Our actions are the root to God’s favor
Right:         Our actions are the fruit of God’s favor

Wrong:       Obey so that God will be Happy with you
Right:         Obey because God is Happy with you

Wrong:      Our obedience to him does not motivate his infinite happiness with us
Right:        God’s infinite happiness with us motivates our obedience to him

Wrong:      I am obligated to live for God so that God will love me
Right:        I am free to live for God because God has already loved me

Wrong:     Our works drive God’s love for us.
Right:       God’s love for us drives our works

Wrong:     I obey.  Therefore, I am accepted.
Right:       I am accepted, therefore, I obey.

Wrong:     I have to live this way in order for God to be happy with me
Right:       I get to live this way because God is happy with me

Wrong:    My daily relationship with God is based on my radical struggle for Jesus
Right:      My daily relationship with God is based on Jesus’ radical struggle for me

Wrong:     God’s approval comes from our improvement
Right:       Our improvement comes from God’s approval

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Yet....the Good News!!

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through 
Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, 
God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  
And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law 
might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 
Romans 8:1

The bad news is far worse than making mistakes or failing to live up to the legalistic standards of fundamentalism. It is that the best efforts of the best Christians, on the best days, in the best frame of heart and mind, with the best motives fall short of that true righteousness and holiness that God requires.
Our best efforts cannot satisfy God’s justice. 

Yet the good news is that God has satisfied his own justice and reconciled us to himself through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son. God’s holy law can no longer condemn us because we are in Christ.
— Michael Horton
Christless Christianity

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

You are not Naked

From Jon Acuff:

Easter is about grace. And when I think about grace, one of the things that stops me short of believing in it is shame. This post, written last year, is about shame and grace and the reason we’re not naked:

I don’t want to brag, but I’m pretty awesome at applying band-aids. And make no mistake, there is an art. Because if you go too quickly and peel them the wrong way, they stick to themselves and you end up with a wadded up useless mess instead of the Little Mermaid festooned bandage your daughter so desperately wants to apply to a boo boo that may in fact be 100% fictional.

Half of the injuries I treat at the Acuff house are invisible or simply wounds of sympathy. My oldest daughter will scrape her knee and my 3-year old, realizing the band aid box is open will say, “Yo dad, I’d like to get in on that too. What do you say we put one on, I don’t know, my ankle. Yeah, my ankle, let’s pretend that’s hurt.”

But sometimes the cuts are real, like the day my 5-year old got a scrape on her face playing in the front yard. I rushed in the house and returned with a princess bandage. As I bent down to apply it to her forehead, her eyes filled up with tears and she shrunk back from me.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I don’t want to wear that band-aid.” She replied.
“Why? You have a cut, you need a band-aid.” I said.
“I’ll look silly.” She answered.

Other than her sister and her mom, there was no one else in the yard. None of her friends were over, cars were not streaming passed our house and watching us play, the world was pretty empty at that moment. But for the first time I can remember, she felt shame. She had discovered shame. Somewhere, some how, this little 5 year old had learned to be afraid of looking silly. If I was smarter, if I had been better prepared for the transition from little toddler to little girl, I might have asked her this:

“Who told you that you were silly?”

I didn’t though. That question didn’t bloom in my head until much later and I didn’t understand it until I saw God ask a similar question in Genesis 3:11. To me, this is one of the saddest and most profoundly beautiful verses in the entire Bible. Adam and Eve have fallen. The apple is a core. The snake has spoken. The dream appears crushed. As they hide from God under clothes they’ve hastily sewn together, He appears and asks them a simple question:

“Who told you that you were naked?”

There is hurt in God’s voice as He asks this question, but there is also a deep sadness, the sense of a father holding a daughter that has for the first time ever, wrapped herself in shame.

Who told you that you were not enough?
Who told you that I didn’t love you?
Who told you that there was something outside of me you needed?
Who told you that you were ugly?
Who told you that your dream was foolish?
Who told you that you would never have a child?
Who told you that you would never be a father?
Who told you that you weren’t a good mother?
Who told you that without a job you aren’t worth anything?
Who told you that you’ll never know love again?
Who told you that this was all there is?
Who told you that you were naked?

I don’t know when you discovered shame. I don’t know when you discovered that there were
people that might think you are silly or dumb or not a good writer or a husband or a friend. I don’t know what lies you’ve been told by other people or maybe even by yourself.

But in response to what you are hearing from everyone else, God is still asking the question, “Who told you that you were naked?”

And He’s still asking us that question because we are not.

In Christ we are not worthless.
In Christ we are not hopeless.
In Christ we are not dumb or ugly or forgotten.
In Christ we are not naked.

Isaiah 61:10 it says:
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.

The world may try to tell you a thousand different things today. You might close this post and hear a million declarations of what you are or who you’ll always be, but know this.

As unbelievable as it sounds and as much as I never expected to type this sentence on this blog:
You are not naked.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Simplicity That Troubles Many People.

By Max Lucado

“. . . whoever believes in him shall not perish . . .”

Can I really trust that “whoever believes in him shall not perish”?

Jesus’s invitation seems too simple. We gravitate to other verbs. Work has a better ring to it. “Whoever works for him will be saved.” Satisfy fits nicely. “Whoever satisfies him will be saved.” But believe? Shouldn’t I do more?

The simplicity troubles many people.

We expect a more proactive assignment, to have to conjure up a remedy for our sin.

Some mercy seekers have donned hair shirts, climbed cathedral steps on their knees, or traversed hot rocks on bare feet.

Others of us have written our own Bible verse: “God helps those who help themselves” (Popular Opinion 1:1). We’ll fix ourselves, thank you. We’ll make up for our mistakes with contributions, our guilt with busyness. We’ll overcome failures with hard work. We’ll find salvation the old-fashioned way: we’ll earn it.

Christ, in contrast, says to us: “Your part is to trust. Trust me to do what you can’t.”

By the way, you take similar steps of trust daily, even hourly. You believe the chair will support you, so you set your weight on it. You believe water will hydrate you, so you swallow it. You trust the work of the light switch, so you flip it. You have faith the doorknob will work, so you turn it.

You regularly trust power you cannot see to do a work you cannot accomplish. Jesus invites you to do the same with him.

Just him. Not Moses or any other leader. Not even you. You can’t fix you. Look to Jesus....and believe.

From 3:16 The Numbers of Hope

I am not but I know I AM.

I am not what I ought to be. Ah, how imperfect and deficient!

I am not what I wish to be. I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good!

I am not what I hope to be. Soon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection.

Yet, though I am not what I ought to be,
nor what I wish to be,
nor what I hope to be,
I can truly say, I am not what I once was;
a slave to sin and Satan;
and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge,
‘By the grace of God I am what I am.’

             -John Newton

Monday, March 7, 2011

Good Things Which Become Ultimate Things

Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity apart from him.....

Most people think of sin primarily as “breaking divine rules,” but Kierkegaard knows that the very first of the Ten Commandments is to “have no other gods before me.” 

So, according to the Bible, the primary way to define sin is not just the doing of bad things, but the making of good things into ultimate things. It is seeking to establish a sense of self by making something else more central to your significance, purpose, and happiness than your relationship to God.

-Tim Keller, The Reason For God

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 
and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28

I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are very wise and very beautiful; but I never read in either of them “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden.”  – Augustine

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Quote of the Week - John Newton

When I hear a knock at my study door, 
        I hear a message from God.

It may be a lesson of instruction;
perhaps a lesson of patience:

but, since it is his message, it must be interesting.”
               —John Newton