Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Eph. 2:8, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." 

This morning, as with every morning, a million temptations will try to derail me.  I will try not to give in to sin and I will try not to intentionally sin.  I will implore the Holy Spirit to protect and buttress me.   Yet, I will succeed some and fail some.  Today, as all days, will end with a mixed result. 

However, despite the fact that I will succeed in not sinning some of the time and fail in my desire to be obedient at other times, I am at peace.  My "successes" do not justify me and and "failures" do not condemn me.
Rom. 10:9-10, "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved;  for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." 

Rom. 11:6, "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace."

Gal. 2:16, "nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified."

Romans 8:1-2
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.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Calm when the Storms Rage

Mark 4:35-41:  That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”  Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.   Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”  

Tim Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, pp. 57-58:

We have a resource that can enable us to stay calm inside no matter how the storms rage outside.

Here’s a clue: Mark has deliberately laid out this account using language that is parallel, almost identical, to the language of the famous Old Testament account of Jonah.
Both Jesus and Jonah were in a boat, and both boats were overtaken by a storm—the descriptions of the storm are almost identical.
Both Jesus and Jonah were asleep.
In both stories the sailors woke up the sleeper and said, “We’re going to die.”
And in both cases there was a miraculous divine intervention and the sea was calmed.
Further, in both stories the sailors then become even more terrified than they were before the storm was calmed.
Two almost identical stories—with just one difference.

In the midst of the storm, Jonah said to the sailors, in effect: “There’s only only thing to do. If I perish, you survive. If I die, you will live” (Jonah 1:12). And they threw him into the sea.

Which doesn’t happen in Mark’s story.
Or does it?

I think Mark is showing that the stories aren’t actually different when you stand back a bit and look at it with the rest of the story of Jesus in view.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “One greater than Jonah is here,” and he’s referring to himself: I’m the true Jonah. He meant this:
Someday I’m going to calm all storms, still all waves.
I’m going to destroy destruction, break brokenness, kill death.
How can he do that?

He can only do it because when he was on the cross he was thrown—willingly, like Jonah—into the ultimate storm, under the ultimate waves, the waves of sin and death.

Jesus was thrown into the only storm that can actually sink us—the storm of eternal justice, of what we owe for our wrongdoing. That storm wasn’t calmed—not until it swept him away.

If the sight of Jesus bowing his head into that ultimate storm is burned into the core of your being, you will never say, “God, don’t you care?”

And if you know that he did not abandon you in that ultimate storm, what make you think he would abandon you in much smaller storms you’re experiencing right now?

And, someday, of course, he will return and still all storms for eternity.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Because he is satisfied, we have peace....

This is tough for those like me who often base our spiritual health on how we feel about our relationship with God at that moment....or even worse, doubt our salvation when we fail miserably in our attempt to not sin and do all the right things.  

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,  in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Eph. 2:4-10

"The Israelites at the time of the exodus knew they had escaped the night of God’s judgment through trusting in the blood of the Passover lambs on their doorposts.

Notice that the blood was to be placed on the outside of their houses. The blood was for God to see, not for their benefit. The blood was not to make them feel good or feel safe. The blood was not for their feelings at all. The blood was to satisfy God. It was for his eyes alone. God said,  "When I see the blood I will pass over you." (Exodus 12:13).

We have peace, not because we feel good, but because God is satisfied with the blood. Only he can evaluate the worth of the lamb. Because he is satisfied, we have peace."
— Terry Virgo
God's Lavish Grace

Friday, June 24, 2011


By Max Lucado

I’ve wondered at times what kind of man this Judas was. What he looked like, how he acted, who his friends were.

I guess I’ve stereotyped him. I’ve always pictured him as a wiry, beady-eyed, sly, wormy fellow, pointed beard and all. I’ve pictured him as estranged from the other apostles.

Friendless. Distant. Undoubtedly he was a traitor and a quisling. Probably the result of a broken home. A juvenile delinquent in his youth.

Yet I wonder if that is so true. We have no evidence (save Judas’s silence) that would suggest that he was isolated. At the Last Supper, when Jesus said that his betrayer sat at the table, we don’t find the apostles immediately turning to Judas as the logical traitor.

No, I think we’ve got Judas pegged wrong. Perhaps he was just the opposite. Instead of sly and wiry, maybe he was robust and jovial. Rather than quiet and introverted, he could have been outgoing and well-meaning. I don’t know.

But for all the things we don’t know about Judas, there is one thing we know for sure: He had no relationship with the Master. He had seen Jesus, but he did not know him. He had heard Jesus, but he did not understand him. He had a religion but no relationship.

As Satan worked his way around the table in the upper room, he needed a special kind of man to betray our Lord. He needed a man who had seen Jesus but who did not know him. He needed a man who knew the actions of Jesus but had missed out on the mission of Jesus. Judas was this man. He knew the empire but had never known the Man.

Judas bore the cloak of religion, but he never knew the heart of Christ.

We learn this timeless lesson from the betrayer. Satan’s best tools of destruction are not from outside the church; they are within the church. A church will never die from the immorality in Hollywood or the corruption in Washington. But it will die from corrosion within—from those who bear the name of Jesus but have never met him and from those who have religion but no relationship.

Judas bore the cloak of religion, but he never knew the heart of Christ. Let’s make it our goal to know … deeply.

From Shaped by God (original title: On the Anvil)
Copyright (Tyndale House, 1985, 2002) Max Lucado

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Not a Spare Corner of God's Heart

“Oh, you are not dealing with trifles when you are dealing with the love of God to you.  It is not a spare corner of the heart of God that He gives to you, as you may give a little love to the criminals in the jails, but the great, inconceivably vast heart of God belongs as much to every Christian as if there were not another being in the world for God to love!  Even as Jehovah loves His Only-begotten, so does He love each one of His children.”

C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of the Old Testament

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Michael Spencer, who blogged as The Internet Monk, died about a year ago at way too early an age.  He was a brilliant and often controversial writer, teacher and pastor.  This is one of my favorites.  Romans 7 (I do the things I don't want to do and don't do the things that I want to do) and Romans 8 (Therefore there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus) in a more modern conversation with himself.  The original post is here and was called Confession.  Enjoy the GOOD NEWS at the end.  It is indeed Good News for us all!

I don’t like the fact that I can give a really good talk on prayer when I rarely pray.

I don’t like it that I can read Matthew 5:23-24 and, as far as I can recall, never take a single step toward obeying it.
I don’t like that I can sin and then condemn someone else’s sin in almost the same breath.
I don’t like it that I’m convinced people need to understand me, but I take so little time to understand others.
I regret that I’ve spent so much of my life seeking to make myself happy in ways that never led to real happiness at all.
I don’t like it that I’ve accumulated so much stuff I don’t need, and I’m so reluctant to give it away.
It causes me real sorrow that I’ve said “I love you” far to little in my life, especially to the people I love the most.
I don’t like the fact that some of my students think I’m a hero, when I’ve done nothing more than be an unprofitable servant.
I hate the difference between what I know and what I do.
I hate the fact that I can use words like “radical” describing what others should do in following Jesus when I’m the first one to want to play it safe.
I don’t like that part of me that thinks everyone should listen to what I say.
I wish I could see myself as God sees me, both in my sinfulness and in the Gospel of Jesus.
I regret using so little of my life’s time, energy and resources for worship and communion with God.
I despise that part of me that always finds fault, and uses that knowledge to put myself above others.
I am embarrassed by the words I use that come so easily from the tongue but have little root in the heart.
I regret taking so few risks in the cause of living a God-filled life.
I despise the shallowness of my repentance for sin that has caused hurt and pain for others.
I don’t like that part of me that can make up an excuse, even lie, almost endlessly in the cause of avoiding the truth and its consequences.
I don’t like that I can talk of heaven in a sermon or at a funeral, but very little of me wants to go there.
I regret that I have loved my arrogant self far than I’ve loved my self humbled in Christ.
I regret that so much good advice, good teaching and good example was wasted on me.
But I am glad for the endless mercies of the Lord, and the amazing fact that those mercies extend to me, today and every day.
I am glad that Christ my substitute took this sorry life, pathetic obedience and lethargic worship and exchanged it for his perfect righteousness.
I am glad that the Holy Spirit is remaking and raising dead men- even at age 52.
I am glad that one day I will look at all these failures and regrets and they will have been transformed into the very glory of Jesus Christ himself.
I am glad that God has cast the very things I most dislike about myself into the depths of the sea and has removed them as far as the east is from the west.
I am glad that when I return in shame and embarrassment, my Father meets me running, covers me with his gladness and throws me a party in the presence of the naysayers and pharisees.
I am glad that Jesus takes these things I loathe about myself and says “It is finished. Come you good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord. Today you will be with me in paradise.”
I am glad Jesus says “Before I have called you servant, but now I will call you friend.”
I am glad Jesus says “Who condemns you? There is now no condemnation because you are in me and I am in you. If I am for you, who can be against you? Go, and sin no more.”

Monday, June 20, 2011

Not a threat. It’s a promise

Mike Horton, in Christ the Lord:

As Christ is the answer to our guilt and condemnation (through justification), so he is the answer to our bondage and corruption (sanctification). He takes away not only the verdict, but also the slavery. To justify us in the heavenly court without giving us the gifts that, by virtue of that heavenly verdict, belong to us would be cruel and unjust on God’s part. No, he does not simply put money into our bank account and then leave us stranded along the side of the road, beaten and bruised.

 Holiness is not an option for the Christian. But hold on — I can hear the hearts racing: “Holiness, the impossible dream?” To be sure, “but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Holiness is not an option; it is a requirement.

But this is not a threat. It’s a promise. What God began he will finish (Phil 1:6). In Christ we are already holy, righteous, sanctified, reconciled (1 Cor 1:30). Now we are called to live what we are, not to become what we are not yet.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


by Scotty Smith
     As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?  Ps. 42:1-2
Loving Jesus, there’s no craving more demanding than thirst. It’s neither patient nor polite. When we get even a little dehydrated, we’re usually quick to slake thirst’s unrelenting demand, one way or another. Thirst will not be denied.

Because this is true, we join the Psalmist in crying out, “Jesus, intensify our thirst for you. Create within us an unremitting longing for rich communion with you. Keep us panting like the deer which pants after streams of water—the unpolluted, undistilled, never-ending brooks of your bounty. Keep us redemptively discontent until we find fresh refreshment in you.

Quickly drain and smash the broken-cisterns of our own making. Don’t let us be even momentarily satisfied with any other beverage than the draft you draw, the potion you pour, the life-giving libation you alone can give.”  
If we take up King David’s lament, “When can I go and meet with God?” you answer back, without delay, “Right now, my beloved, do not wait. If you’re thirsty, come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:38)
If we should say, “But Jesus, where can we find you?” You answer back even quicker, “Not in the Law; not in your strivings; not in your labors; not in your earnestness; not in your self-loathing’s; not in your vain promises, but only in the gospel.
Come and fall into the rivers of my delight. Stand under the cascading waterfalls of my grace. Open your heart wide to my supply and I will over-fill you with everything you need and more than you want.”
Even so and evermore, Lord Jesus, school us well in pant-theology. As you are the Lord of demand and supply, fill us afresh than we might be a people to the praise of your glory and grace. We pray, in your all glorious and all generous name.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Heart Problems

"The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart
Winston Churchill

Luke 6:45
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Matthew 13:15
For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'

John 14:27
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.
Romans 5:5
And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Philippians 4:7
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Jesus was God’s answer to the problem of a bad reputation

Now we need to look at the shadow side of this parable [of the talents]: the third slave who was given only one talent and did not do anything with it. Here is a somber warning without doubt. There are two ways of being unfaithful. There is the “hot” way, which is to abuse our powers and use them destructively. This is the sin of commission. Then there is the “cold” way of being unfaithful, which is to do nothing at all and therefore neglect and abort one’s potential. . . .  (You can read the parable by clicking here)

[It] may have been that the smallness of his talent led him to conclude that what he did with it did not matter. If I believe anything at all, it is this: in God’s universe, there is nothing that is insignificant. The great things were first of all little things that were lifted up to God in reverence and gratitude, and then used to the fullest. It is a mistake to confuse size with value. . . . 

But the text itself suggests that the real problem was one of mistrust. . . . Nothing distorts our humanity quite as much as the sense that there is not enough and therefore one has to fight or flee. Of course, more than anything else, this distortion is what Jesus came to cast out. The serpent put the whole human race off track by casting false aspersions on God’s character. He projected onto God what this slave projected onto his master—that God was hard, cruel, dishonest, and untrustworthy. It was to undo this misrepresentation that Jesus entered into history. In a study group, I heard author John Killinger claim that “Jesus was God’s answer to the problem of a bad reputation.” Killinger believes that reconciliation finally occurs when we let Jesus “show us the Father” and disprove forever the serpent’s distortion.

From Stories Jesus Still Tells by John Claypool, revised second edition (Cowley Publications, 2000).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Grace (not snakes) on a Plane

Jon Acuff at Stuff Christians Like Blog.  Always funny:

You know that small dog that barks at cars, ’cause they’re large, loud, moving objects? He’s got that shrill, sharp bark that chips away pieces of your soul each time you hear it? But you don’t mind because you drive by him pretty quickly and he’s gone. You know that dog? He was on my flight last week. And he was pretty sure that, if he barked long enough, he’d be able to scare away the large, loud, moving object we were all on. Or he was doing the dog version of an NFL touchdown dance, showing off to all the other dogs that had to ride in the back of the plane with the luggage, while he relaxed in an aisle making frequent visits to “barktown.”

Hard to say, but in that moment I was not bubbling over with grace and kindness. But then I remembered the post I wrote about Grace Spots.

The idea was that there are some places where I have to be really deliberate about showing grace to people. The post was inspired because I was a jerk to someone at a restaurant.

That was a dangerous post to write, though, because it’s easy to blog about grace and less easy to actually live it out. Especially on a plane. So now that I’ve been traipsing about the country and doing terminal writing, I thought it might be good to figure out a few people I needed to show some Grace on a Plane.

1. The person who seems surprised we landed.
I feel like dropping out of the sky from 35,000 feet, giving 19 “please put up your tray table” announcements and making contact with the crust of the earth would be enough of an indication that the flight was over. But sometimes I get stuck behind passengers that seem surprised it’s time to get their carry on luggage out of the overhead and move on. Let’s be honest though, at worst, that’s costing me 3 minutes of wait time. I need to quit being such an impatient punk. If someone’s having trouble getting their luggage down, I should help, not fume. Grace on a plane.

2. The person who jumps out of their seat when you land and cuts in front of you to get off.
That’s the great thing about being ungracious, you get to be frustrated by both situations. You get to complain about the person who takes too long to get off the plane and the person who gets off too quickly. The truth is, that guy might have a connecting flight he’s going to miss if he doesn’t get off. Or he’s been out of town for a month on a business trip and his three year old is down at baggage claim waiting for him with his wife and he’d pop the emergency exit and use that awesome slide to get out faster if he had to. I don’t know his story, and some punk writer named Jon Acuff said on a blog called Stuff Christians Like that it’s easy to judge someone when you don’t know their story. Grace on a plane.

3. Chatty McGee.
I’ve got headphones in. They’re bright white and could not be more obvious looking. I’ve got a bunch of writing to do right now. I can’t talk. I’m really busy. What’s that you ask, what am I working on? I’m writing a blog that’s about Jesus and being compassionate to people and reaching out to people and … oh. Dang it. Grace on a plane.

The more I write about my frustrations and my lack of grace, the sillier it all seems to me. But maybe there’s hope. A few weeks ago, a lady spilled a glass of white wine on me and my backpack. I got off the plane smelling like a box o’ wine. And I just laughed it off and helped her clean it up. Maybe I’m becoming less of a jerk. Maybe.

Have you ever needed grace on a plane?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Two Trees

“Adam and Eve faced temptation about a tree in a bright, sunny garden, a paradise with no pressure. But Christ faced temptation about a tree in a dark garden, a garden given the name that meant ‘oil press,’ and certainly he felt squeezed like an olive in a press on that dark night, to the point that his sweat was like drops of blood.

If Adam and Eve obeyed God about the tree, they would live. If Jesus obeyed God about the tree, he would die.

Jesus obeyed. And through his obedience he gained for us far more than Adam lost for us through his disobedience.

Adam lost for us the beautiful ‘naked and not ashamed’ of the garden. But at the cross, Christ hung naked and full of shame. It wasn’t his own shame. It was your shame and my shame. He ‘endured the cross, despising the shame’ (Heb. 12:2) so that ‘everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame’ (Rom. 10:11).”

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Trust God with what God already knows.

From Phillip Yancey's book on Prayer:

I know what happens in human relationships when I remain at a shallow level. With casual friends I discuss the weather, sports, upcoming concerts and movies, all the while steering clear of what matters more: a suppressed hurt, hidden jealousy, resentment of their children's rude behavior, concern for their spiritual welfare. As a result, the relationship goes nowhere. On the other hand, relationships deepen as I trust my friends with secrets.

Likewise, unless I level with God - about bitterness over an unanswered prayer, grief over loss, guilt over an unforgiving spirit, a baffling sense of God's absence - that relationship, too, will go nowhere. I may continue going to church, singing hymns and praise choruses, even addressing God politely in formal prayers, but I will never break through the intimacy barrier.

"We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.", wrote C.S. Lewis.

To put it another way, we must trust God with what God already knows.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


By Max Lucado

The seven-year-old son of our neighbors died last week. They are devastated. So are we. What can we tell them?

- QUESTION #148 -
In my med-school class we discussed the place of prayer in the hospital. As you can imagine, we heard strong opinions on both sides. What are your thoughts? What is the purpose of healing prayer?

God is a good God. We must begin here. Though we don’t understand his actions, we can trust his heart.

God does only what is good. But how can death be good? Some mourners don’t ask this question. When the quantity of years has outstripped the quality of years, we don’t ask how death can be good.

But the father of the dead teenager does. The widow of the young soldier does. The parents of a seven-year-old do. How could death be good?

Part of the answer may be found in Isaiah 57:1–2: “Good people are taken away, but no one understands. Those who do right are being taken away from evil and are given peace. Those who live as God wants find rest in death” (NCV).

Death is God’s way of taking people away from evil. From what kind of evil? An extended disease? An addiction? A dark season of rebellion? We don’t know. But we know that no person lives one day more or less than God intends. “All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old” (Ps. 139:16 NCV).

But her days here were so few . . .

His life was so brief . . .

To us it seems that way. We speak of a short life, but compared to eternity, who has a long one? A person’s days on earth may appear as a drop in the ocean. Yours and mine may seem like a thimbleful. But compared to the Pacific of eternity, even the years of Methuselah filled no more than a glass. James was not speaking just to the young when he said, “Your life is like a mist. You can see it for a short time, but then it goes away”
(James 4:14 NCV).

In God’s plan every life is long enough and every death is timely. And though you and I might wish for a longer life, God knows better.

And—this is important—though you and I may wish a longer life for our loved ones, they don’t. Ironically, the first to accept God’s decision of death is the one who dies.

While we are shaking heads in disbelief, they are lifting hands in worship. While we are mourning at a grave, they are marveling at heaven. While we are questioning God, they are praising God.


From MAX ON LIFE: Answers and Insights to your Most Important Questions
Copyright (Thomas Nelson, 2011)