Monday, October 31, 2011

The 95's Relivence for Now

494 years ago today Martin Luther nailed his 95-Thesis to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. Today the whole list is still timely and relevant. For we have replaced indulgences with our legalism and we have sought to be made whole by all other means rather than the cross.

Here are a few of his thesis which I feel are worth being pointed out, the rest might be found here.

1. “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said ‘Repent’, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” It is, I fear, often the hope of many churches to have a ‘new-believer’ to sign the card after they’ve walked the isle. To not call for a life of repentance but rather to cushion their number of those they’ve ‘saved.’ (The notch in the belt, jewel-in-the-crown routine.)

32. "All those who believe themselves certain of their own salvation by means of letters of indulgence, will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.” “I’m righteous because I prayed a prayer when I was 5.” Yet now they live like hell and all manner of sinfulness and un-repentance is the life lead. It is simply pure foolishness to place stock and value in your past action, if this is your reason of salvation.

60. “We do not speak rashly in saying that the treasures of the church are the keys of the church, and are bestowed by the merits of Christ.” Gospel, Gospel, Gospel. There is nothing more for the church to teach than the merits of Christ. Yet, there are many who teach much less than the merits of Christ. The term is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism; if Paul heard it he’d be furious, if Luther heard it he’d cuss them out. But we stand by and let the garbage flow from the mouths of ‘eloquent preachers.’ Either you teach about Jesus or nothing at all.

62. “The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God.” If you want to hear something more than the Gospel of Jesus which brings the glory and the grace of God, then you don’t get (understand) the Gospel.

92. “Away, then, with those prophets who say to Christ's people, "Peace, peace," where in there is no peace.
93. Hail, hail to all those prophets who say to Christ's people, "The cross, the cross," where there is no cross.
94. Christians should be exhorted to be zealous to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hells.
95. And let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace.”

Fight the good fight of faith, put on the armor of God and stand firm in these dark times. Welcome to the Christian life, welcome to the war against the demonic and sin. Jesus bids us to come and die. He is our only hope.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ripped from the Journal: My Denial

Peter denied Jesus three times. I’ve denied him so much more, or been ashamed of him so much more. Failing to bear the punishment or disgrace he bore, not being reviled for the sake of Jesus’ name but rather because, “I’m right.”

Though I very well may be right it does not necessitate or mean acting or thinking myself a better or smarter person than the opposite (you know like the Pharisees). Rather it means I ought to speak the truth with and in love to the opposite.

Jesus was not or is not ashamed of me. He did not deny me; in fact he welcomed me in with open arms and brought me in by the shedding of his own blood and the brokenness of his own body. From gratitude I should welcome the scorn of his name; from thankfulness the reproach he endured.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. “ Hebrews 11:1

“This is faith: a renouncing of everything we are apt to call our own and relying wholly upon the blood, righteousness and intercession of Jesus.” John Newton

“...a man will be justified by faith when, excluded from righteousness of works, he by faith lays hold of the righteousness of Christ, and clothed in it, appears in the sight of God not as a sinner, but as righteous...” John Calvin

Faith, it’s a churchy word (just have faith!), it’s also a pop-Christian word (“O I just need more faith to choose between the Chris Tomlin album or the other pop-Christian artists.”), but more than these other two it is a biblical word. Often I marvel at the gravity of words, to take the biblical definition over the dictionary’s definition (for words folks that’s a big deal) and, by God’s grace, live it.

But how do we know we have faith? What makes our faith solid and true faith and not simple some popish thing which whelms us one day and is completely absent the next day?

Allow me to relay what we, as Christians believe. 1) God created something out of absolute void. 2) We jacked that creation up. 3) He sent his Son (who is one with Himself, yet different). 4) Through a women, there was no human dad, God was the Father. 5) This Kid (Jesus) lived a completely sinless perfect life (imagine a six-year-old boy not punching his sibling in the face… difficult?). 6) He was wrongly convicted of being sinful (basically he was too perfect). 7) He was killed (ya know like dead, without a pulse, ummm lights out). 8) He rose from the grave (wha?). 9) He ascended (floated up) into heaven to make intercession for those who have faith in him.

That takes faith to believe. So how do we know whether or not we have faith? “This is faith: a renouncing of everything we are apt to call our own and relying wholly upon the blood, righteousness and intercession of Jesus.” Because everything else is worthless in our eyes when compared with knowing Christ Jesus our Lord; because even though the facts seem ludicrous they make complete sense; because God loved us and made us alive together with Christ; because there is an assurance beyond reason and logic which presses us to know and love and die for this irrefutable truth.

“Therefore… let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Monday, October 24, 2011

The 'Ahhh' Effect

“Our wisdom in so far as it ought to be deemed true and holy wisdom consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” John Calvin

This is an extremely applicable quote. It is typically taught to have a high view of self, to have a good “self-esteem.” Yet this idea of self-esteem would run contrary to the biblical idea of being known or knowing yourself.

For self-esteem is, in a sense the idolatry of self. By definition it means: “confidence in ones own worth or abilities.” But biblically speaking we, you and I, are not worthy. So to see a worth that is not there is to make something it is not, namely to place self on the pedestal of supremacy.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying go around being a Debby-Downer nor am I implying your need to have no confidence. Confidence is extremely important, but not confidence in whom we are, will be, or have been, but rather confidence in the person and work of Jesus.

This wisdom we are given of God, this Bible we have to read doesn’t only teach us about God, it teaches us about ourselves. It is an infallible inerrable living document (and by living I do not mean changing) and is continuously showing us ourselves as in comparison to God.

Therefore it is crucial to know who God is to better understand yourself. I would submit that you may have a good idea of who you are outside of the knowledge of God but you will never truly know yourself unless you are pitted against your Creator. For in this God given action of knowing God there is the deep and abiding realization of your need for a Savior, the passion to be joy filled, and the hope to endure all things.

So to know oneself is to better understand God; to know God is the root of knowing oneself. Their intertwining is deep and the root of the two must eventually become one for the believer, it is, at least, the groaning we feel somewhere near our heartstrings.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Timing Fight

“Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:42

No time for training; no time for development; no time for baptism. He had no time for understanding the deep Theological nuances of the faith, no time to proclaim this gospel boldly to others, no time to read the Bible. Only enough time to die. Simple (and by simple I mean miraculous) belief was all that saved this man.

Just as Paul informed the Galatians as to the foolishness of their striving to be accepted rather than their striving from (or because of) acceptance so it is here. Nothing may be or can be added to this one unassailable fact: “It is finished.” Not it is finished but you need to do a wee more, not it is finished but you need to pray the prayer but simply and astoundingly just, “It is finished.”

And it remains so now for us. There has been no special revelation to the Church to begin to earn your salvation (and the likelihood of that happenings is zilch). As if the world full of iPhones and iPads and cars could change the message and reality of Jesus’ finished work.

Either there is belief or unbelief, belief being the understanding of the finality of Jesus’ work, and unbelief being the since of legalistic religion, trying to earn or gain the position of acceptance. On the one side is the understanding of striving because you’ve been loved the other side is to work for (to gain) that love – which is an altogether sad story.

Fight to believe the work as done. Cling to the hope that Jesus is sufficient for salvation. Strive to see the cross as wonderful. Press on to know this God of Victory. For, “My God has broke the serpent’s teeth, and death has lost it sting.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Literary Things

I finished reading the Harry Potter series over the weekend, and then I promptly began reading Dracula (you know just reading books pop-Christianity has damned at some point but are now classics) at the recommendation of a good friend. But back on the track of Harry Potter I wish to relay something, something that I feel, rather know to be truer than the weird legalism that tells people certain books send you to hell if you read them.

"Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, &, above all, those who live without love."

Love. We over use the word to be sure. In Harry Potter it is the only thing, which kills Voldemort (Ahhh! I said his name!). In The Count of Mounte Cristo love is the only thing that keeps Edmond Dantes from carrying out his revenge (Yea, the movie screwed that up bad). In A Tale of Two Cities love is what presses Sydney Carton to be executed in the place of Darnay saying, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.” In the Christian narrative the thing that brings about the end of Satan, sin, and death is the love of God. “For God so loved the world…”

This ethereal thing, this love, is powerful, in literature it proves to be the downfall of the antagonist; in Christianity it presses God to save man; and in life we are pushed to give up dreams and fight for those we love. To sacrifice and compromise to see the good of another carried out.

But more than these nifty little things it must be highlighted that love is the reason God saves anyone. Yet we expect it to be love for us, when reality speaks to the love of himself being the cause for redemption. Egomaniacal? Yes, thank God. ‘Cause if God is to be God he must worship what is most worthy of worship and if God is most worthy of worship then he must worship God or prove to be in contrast to his own law of idolatry.

Pity those who live without love. Pity because there is no power, no hope, and no joy. Pity because there is nothing more exquisite than love. Pity because the love of God has proven, will prove, and is proving itself to be the end of the fall.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Legalism Vs. Discipline

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Galatians 3:1-3

This would be the Paul-getting-all-up-in-some-Galatian’s-faces passage. Twice he calls them foolish and twice he asks them a rhetorical question to help them further understand their ludicrous thinking as ludicrous (no, not the rapper). Yet more often than not these words rip directly into my heart, into my thinking, into my actions.

I would guess the majority of us struggle deeply with that fine line between self-discipline and religious legalism. Having our ‘lists’ so neatly centered in our brains so when they are transgressed by someone, anyone else we are appalled at their actions. Or the opposite, of fighting so hard against lists so when someone tries to dictate a certain truth to you your gut reaction is to punch them in the face rather than listen.

But before the ideals of self-discipline may come to bear on our lives we must first understand (and by understand I mean if we don’t get it the rest fails) it is the Spirit who enables faith and it is the Spirit who is perfecting (sanctifying, redeeming) us.

Now, in all our self-discipline if it is placed on the shoulders of others rather than left to being SELF-discipline we have made it a religious legalism. Also, when we start to see discipline in terms of ‘have to’ rather than ‘get to’ it becomes religious legalism. Lastly, when we start to see discipline as more important than Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection, we’ve made our discipline our functional savior… a functional savior to hang ourselves with.

Have we begun in the Spirit to now be perfected by the flesh? Did we receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? These are the questions we must ask ourselves often, though our motivations can nor never will save us our motivations must be thoroughly examined, indeed we must learn to have quick minds. For in the course of life, or even just a day, we strive (because of the work of the Spirit) to be found in Jesus to the glory of God. Because He is our joy, not our actions or our intentions, Jesus, He is and can only ever be the one who saves us, completes us, and gives us true lasting joy.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hell & Heaven

“They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.” 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10

Do you have those verses you love but forget you love them until you read them again, or is that just me? This particular one, when brought up, I love to read then I’ll sit there and go, “how did I forget how much I love this text?!?” It, this verse, shows us a few many things.

First, the punishment of unbelievers, “They,” means, “… who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thess 1:8)” Inside this punishment is the constant continual action of eternal destruction. Which means it goes on for eternity (true story). This is not unclear; this is not guesswork on the meaning of a word. ‘Eternal’ means eternal and ‘destruction’ means Frick-this-is-hell. In modern vernacular, it’ll freaking suck! So arguing the semantics of the ‘end of hell’ is about as illogical as wondering if McDonalds is healthy for every meal.

Second, the part I love to read with vigor, “… When he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who believed…” ‘Glorified… marveled at,’ he’s not saving us because we are worthy of redemption; he’s not saving us because he is so head-over-heels in love with his creation; he is saving us because he loves himself and loves us enough to give us what is vastly more gorgeous than all things, he loves us enough to give us himself!

Let’s not mix any meanings here, there will be and is Hell, it’ll be eternal; it’ll be awful. But the juxtaposition is just as unimaginable, to glory in God and to marvel at Him, AKA Heaven. I say this all not to tout the I-want-to-scare-you-into-belief doctrine, but to simply go, we must deal with Scripture and when verses like this pop up we must understand them in relation to the whole Scriptural narrative. Hell (God’s vengeance on sin) is real, yet Heaven (Glorying in and marveling at God) is just as real.

“To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thess. 1:11-2

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Victim Vindicated

“Somewhere in this wretched tale there must be line where the victim gets his way just one time.” (NEEDTOBREATHE)

The villain seems to be treacherously strong. Knowing that he’s beaten but seeing him destroy and attempt to usurp the throne he’s wanted for so long. Evil is everywhere. The days are evil, the times they are fallen. People seem to be falling at the edge of his sword with every glance in every direction.

Friends are consumed with substances and bottles; roommates strive to be made whole by a pitiful boy; students are herded through massive rooms and taught anti-truths that seemingly look like truth but won’t stand the test of reality outside the classroom. Deism is the new Christian. And Jesus is not the point of faith in many spheres.

So who’s the victim? Are we the victims in the sense of being the ones surrounded by the vast broken of the world? Is God the victim because his name is the one defamed? Are the people in these pitiable plights the one’s victimized?

I’d offer we are the victims, but nothing is technically happening to us. I’d say the people in the situations are the victims, but often times the reason they’re there is their own volition or their own provocation. I’ll submit that God is the victim and that is what is true.

“But if God is the victim then how can he be God? A weak God is no God. Christians are sorely inconsistent.” might be some thoughts (and quite frankly I wrestled with this as I wrote up there). Here is my reasoning: God is the one being directly ‘sinned’ against. While I see my friends suffer and while my friends suffer he is the one against whom the sinning is done, “Against you, you only, have I sinned
 and done what is evil in your sight.” (Psalm 51:4)

He will vindicate his name (Rom12:19). He will judge the quick and the dead (2 Thess 1:5-12). He will save the redeemed (John 17). He will put death to death and right all wrongs; he will catch the tear and uplift the broken. He will comfort the mourner and give his kingdom to the righteous (Matt 5:2-12).

The victim will get his way, the line in the tale reads, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Rom 11:36)”

Shakespeare Will Always be a Difficult Read (again)

(I repost this one - again - cause it gets me every time)

There is much I do not understand. Much that will always remain a mystery. Much that I will always marvel at with childlike awe; much that will consume my attention for an amount of time that I’ll never know because I am transfixed; much will always be unattainable for this mind to grasp.

But beauty remains there, even in the mysterious. It is rapturous, a sunrise or sunset. Though they’ve happened from the beginning of time we still marvel at them. Every night the sun goes down and the colors shock; every morning the sun comes up and the cool gentile radiance warms us. The stars circling in the heavens on a clear night and in the outskirts of Wichita they are nearly indistinguishable from each other. The smile of a baby, the warmth of a dear hug, the love of a mother, the tenderness of a good father, the smell of a new (or really old) book all of these things are beautiful. But even beauty I will never fully know.

I will never behold with my own eyes the depths of the seas. I will never see the sunrise from the moon. I will never fully understand the love of Picasso. I will never fully grasp the depth of Mozart and Bach. I will never savor the full goodness of French cuisine. I will never fully gain an intimate eloquence with the English (or any) language and Shakespeare will always be a difficult read. But I feel I know something.

Rather I feel I know some things. I concur with John Newton, “I know only two things, that I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” This is all I will ever know for certain. Though the constellations will change and the sun cease to rise and set in due time, this one fact remains completely unassailable. Jesus Christ came to save sinners.

All my ranting and raving and kicking and screaming will not change it. All my looking to something or someone else to save me will not change it. All my hatred of this idea of me being fraught with sin cannot change it. All the sophisticated ethical debates I can conjure up against this idea cannot change it. It remains completely the same and has so for centuries and ages and will for eternity (past and future). Jesus Christ saves sinners.

I feel that all beauty and all radiance and all splendors may be lumped together and it would be incomparable to the sheer beauty of these two knowable things that Jesus Christ saves sinners. Though tears run freely at this thought and though the stars shine for this one purpose and though the trees raise their arms for this one purpose and though the sun sets and rises for this one purpose it does not compare to the simple idea that Jesus Christ came to save sinners.

Though our sin runs deeper than we’ll ever know Jesus’ finished work runs deeper. Though our curse is our nature Jesus’ nature is our new nature. Though our righteousness is as filthy rags Jesus’ righteousness is given to us. Though we can never pay this debt back we are seen as paid for.

“I know only two things, that I am a great sinner and Christ is a great[er] Savior.”

Monday, October 10, 2011

Crazy Big Stuff

God is the gospel. It gets said a bunch around our church. It gets explained just as often. However, it is what we cling to – the gospel – and therefore we must press ourselves in every aspect of our lives to have a deep and abiding understanding and passion for this God who is our good news.

For as the illustrations of the life preserver was used yesterday so too is it applicable today (& not just cause it’s cloudy and drippy as I’m writing this). All our life and all our eternity depend on this one thing, this one bit of news. Yet we so often forget our hope, our joy and our God.

It’s a pivotal idea, really, to think that God saved us for Himself, not for our own good, but for Himself. Scripture is replete with passages speaking about God’s redemption of man for his own glory. (A personal favorite is Isaiah 48:9-11.) But more often than not we catch ourselves spiraling downward into thoughts of personal greatness because we’ve been redeemed (maybe that’s just me – but I doubt it.)

But here it remains; Jesus came to glorify the Father in the redemption of sinners (in other words, God came to glorify God in the redemption of sinners). We’re not the center of the universe, we’re not the center of the world, we’re not even the center of God’s plan, God is the center of God’s plan. He must be.

If God is to be God then He must worship that which is most worthy of worship, namely himself; if however He turns to worship man then He is not God and therefore cannot be good and thus must not be worshiped by us.

God is the gospel. He has wooed us and saved us to himself, for himself and by himself. So it is before this God we worship one who is so far above and beyond our thoughts so as to make us feel tiny in comparison, yet who stooped to love us and give us the greatest possible thing in all of creation (and out of creation), He gave us himself.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Vacation Thoughts (pt. 2)

1. Breckenridge, Colorado will be the closest to heaven some people will ever get.

2. NorthFace, Chaco's, & the latest & best climbing gear will never save a man... Neither will his intentions.

3. God bring me a godly wife.

4. Rest, rest, rest God us in control, trust him, hide in him.

5. Hey Matt, Chad, & Dave, I finished my meal!

6. This time change crap is weird & messing with my eating habits.

7. From now on the warmth of the sun will & should remind me of the embrace of a loving Father.

8. The Church is an odd organism.

9. I'm ready to do my call.

10. One wreck can quite literally & effectively shut down a large portion of Denver.

11. Home has nothing do with the place, but rather the people.

12. My bladder can last one (1) full gas tank.

13. Kansas gives out free coffee when you cross the state line.

14. People with NASCAR stickers should always be driving faster than me.

15. I find the big pictures of (or about) Jesus on the side of the road creepy & ineffective.

16. I successfully navigated Denver & three other towns in the mountains, but Newton is a screwy little town.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Vacation Thoughts (pt. 1)

Just got back from my trip to Colorado. These are some of the thoughts that ran through my head while gone. I wrote them down 1) cause I write everything 2) cause they could be beneficial to others & 3) cause I'm odd like that. Some are serious most are random, enjoy!

1. Construction, you stupid

2. I can sing as loudly as I want... Wherever I want.

3. Small town folks stare at you funny when you have a deep v tee-shirt on.

4. I bought Funyuns with my subway sandwich cause no one will whine about my breath or the smell of them stinking up the car, ‘cept me.

5. My antenna killed a butterfly.

6. If I were a pastor in Western Kansas church discipline would involve high noon, a saloon fight, & six shooters.

7. There's a sign for a Denver Restaurant outside of Hays, Kansas further illustrating the void of nothingness in Western Kansas.

8. I crossed the state line... Where's the mountains?!?

9. Are those clouds or mountains?

10. To get to heaven (the mountains) you have to go through hell (Denver traffic).

11. I hate & love the word nostalgia.

12. The Civil Wars is great mountain music.

13. Bon Iver is perfect Harry Potter reading music.

14. If you speak sarcasm fluently you're accepted in Kansas, but everywhere else they just don't get it. True story.

15. People look at you funny when you're eating alone.

16. It's 45 degrees, time to put up your creepy napkin sized shorts. K? Good.

17. A babbling mountain stream will always be more beautiful than my most favorite guitar solos, singers, or banjo players.

18. Why is it that leaving helps you find yourself more in Christ than staying in the familiar?

19. If it wasn't for money I'd do this more often.