Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I am joyless because my joy is often rooted in materialism, the idea of ideal circumstances, perceived perfection and my will being done NOT in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Jesus Christ: Our Help

"8 For because he himself has suffered qwhen tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted "(Heb 2:18)

What does this mean? How does this help come to us? This is the question that I came across in the commentary that I referenced in my earlier post. In this season I do not feel "helped". When I think of help in this sense I think of someone coming to my rescue. I think of a merciful outpouring of the Spirit that my faith would increase as the man in Mark 9 cried out "I believe. Help my unbelief!" (by the way, it's the same word for help that is used in Hebrews). In that passage, we don't know how the man was helped. We know that the demon was cast out, and the boy was restored. Was that Christ's act of helping his unbelief: performing the miraculous exorcism? Or was there a split second Spirit-imparted faith before the casting out of the demon? We don't know. Can we find the answer to what this help is, and is it something tangible that I can say, "look, see how I was helped!" Know that we are not speaking of a miraculous event that will have physical evidence to point to. My fear is that things can happen to cause an emotional change within me that I mistake for real, lasting change within the foundation of my being. My synapses fire differently, I am a different being. You may say, "that is too much to ask, we can't expect that kind of change instantaneously." Really? How is it then that we can accept the doctrine of regeneration that states just that? In an instant we become children of light and our affections turn from death to life, we are made new, yet in a sanctificatory sense we settle for less. This is where my frustration lies. I am paddling in the mist and all of the "help" I have access to doesn't affect my inner-most being. What can I do?

To find the answer, I started by looking for the writer of Hebrews other usage of that word for "tempted".

14 Since then we have da great high priest ewho has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, flet us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest gwho is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been dtempted as we are, hyet without sin.

Here we have the author of Hebrews telling me that Jesus can sympathize with me, He's been there.

A man has found that his wife no longer stirs up feelings of ecstasy, no longer brings him any pleasure while realizing that he only married her because she was wealthy, attractive, and showed him affection. Does the fact that his father also made the same mistake years before, but remained married and ultimately found joy in his bride change the man in question? Maybe he has become infatuated with another woman. Will knowing his father's history and victory help him? Can that change the things that he feels within himself? It may give him some hope, but if he has become weary with trying and no longer wants to, what help is it? That his father has sympathy for him doesn't seem to matter.

A man, while rock climbing alone has fallen and caught himself on a precipice overhanging certain death. He has no support other than the waning strength of his fingertips. At once, he realizes that his doom has drawn nigh. He cannot be saved apart from the miraculous appearance of a helper to pull him up onto the solid ground. Does the fact that other climbers have had similar experiences and survived help him when he realizes that his fingers are exhausted and are now slipping beyond his control?

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The letter to the Hebrews continues. "with confidence…that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need". Once again, what is this mercy and grace in time of need? It must be substantive, tangible and real, not theoretical concept. After all, if faith is the "conviction of things not seen", I must be persuaded from an objective source.

"In Heb. 11:1, however, the sense of elénchos is "persuasion," but not in a subjective sense. Normal usage suggests that "things not seen" is an objective, not a subjective genitive. An elénchos is present as the basis of resting on what is hoped for. Faith does not do the convincing, but God, for the whole point in Hebrews is that faith stands on the revelation, word, and promise of God. Faith is the divinely given conviction of things unseen and is thus the assurance of what is hoped for. "

Therefore, I can't do it. The Spirit of God must persuade me…here I wait…what next?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Learning to Tread Through an Impasse

Working through James Boice's commentary on John's gospel, I have come to an impasse. In the past, I would adopt the best theological theory I could find and move on pretending that I had figured it out. That's not good enough anymore. I have to come up with my own answers from now on. Not just finding that someone else figured it out, but really searching internally and seeking true spiritual union with The Answer. My Christian life has been filled with men and women who have found substance in the person and work of Jesus Christ. They find joy in union with Him and delight in a heart-felt relationship with His person. My fear is that most of my pilgrimage has been vicarious through them, finding comfort in abstract concepts rather than connecting with the reality that He is.

In eight years of trying to minister to my family, myself, and others, I have essentially burned up a wick that may have never been soaked in the oil of the Spirit. Although it may have produced an impressive flame, it was exaggerated and has left me feeling disillusioned, empty, confused, alone, and in despair. I have found myself doubting. Not doubting the existence of God, but rather not finding any faith in the reality or power of the Holy Spirit to ignite real, lasting change. Not the kind of change that says that by having a desire to read the Bible and understand God means that I am regenerate. I can certainly desire those things with a motive to impress others with my knowledge, to find a path to ministry, or simply to satisfy my own curiosity. I assume that I am guilty of all three. I have studied enough that I feel confident enough in my understanding of theology to be of help to others. At the same time, those answers bring no help to me in my time of need. My three alternate conclusions are: I have been deceiving myself for the past eight years; I understand God's redeeming grace, yet haven't apprehended it spiritually; the spiritual experiences expressed by others are simply emotional phenomenon that have more to do with personality traits than an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Understanding the biblical doctrine of grace motivates us to gratitude and reverence because we know that our adoption as sons and daughters of God has nothing to do with our merit. The same is said of our sanctification. We grow because God causes us to grow. We desire to seek after God because he gives those desires. However, when we find ourselves in a stalemate condition, the first questions are man-centered: Have YOU been reading your Bible? When was the last time YOU prayed? Is there unconfessed sin in YOUR life? Why does such bias exist? When I believe that I first became a Christian, I had fervor for reading, praying, and avoiding sin and I believed that it was the Holy Spirit transforming my desires. I certainly had no interest in the Bible and I got plenty of kicks from drugs, alcohol, and illicit sex. Yet somehow I was stimulated by this new-found spiritual realm. Was I really in communication with the Master of the Universe? (Not He-Man!) Did He really give a flip about me? I certainly thought so, to the extent that I was willing to give up much of my 20 years of friendships, and my life as I knew it was forever altered. Is it really possible that I can undo the beautiful work of the Creator of all things? It doesn't seem likely. That is where I am. My head is just as senseless and choppy as my writing.

I started by saying that I reached a question in Boice's commentary that I could not skip over. I am going to conduct an experiment with my life. I will not give up on this thing, but rather continue to study. I will not study with intentions of "knowledge", but rather seeking real answers. Life transforming answers. Things I will not put on my tongue until I have begun practicing them. If I adopt it, I will live it or I won't move on. Spiritual hypocrisy is not always easy to detect, even internally, but given that it is damnable I should take it soberly for my sake and for the sake of my family. I will no longer conform to the "evangelical mold", if I don't believe it I will say it, if I have a problem with it, I will wrestle it, I will not fake it to fit in, or to impress you. I will only rely on the Spirit's power to truly transform my affections towards Christ. As I study I will confront answers, challenge my own thinking at the risk of being stupid and showing my ignorance. If the Spirit is real, He will change me before those closest to me. My prayer is that He WILL be my bridge over these austere waters of discontentment, discouragement, and bitter feelings.

I realize that all of this could be in vain and I could remain in the same depressed state forever, but at least I am seeking…right?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Doctrine of Vocation: A Strong Argument Against Pacifism

I have come to give you life

And to show you how to live it

I have come to make things right

To heal their ears and show you how to forgive them

Because I would rather die

I would rather die

I would rather die

Than to take your life

How can I kill the ones I'm supposed to love

My enemies are men like me

I will protest the sword if it's not wielded well

My enemies are men like me

Peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication
It's like telling someone murder is wrong

And then showing them by way of execution

When justice is bought and sold just like weapons of war

The ones who always pay are the poorest of the poor

-Derek Webb

Is Derek Webb a pacifist? Probably. Does that bother me? Maybe. Could I explain why? Not really. Until now.

Whenever I heard this song, a process of thought would begin to churn the cream of confusion. Is war really justifiable in light of Christs' teaching? Do we excuse the soldier by way of semantics, calling it killing rather than murder?
What about capital punishment? Is the judge that sentences the murderer to death pardoned for his actions? What about the guy that "pulls the lever" or "pushes the button"? What about the jury of the accused? Is retributive justice condonable in an "Age of Grace and Forgiveness"?

One of C.S. Lewis's arguments for Christianity was its coherence, or it's ability to make all things fit together. He said, "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." The doctrine of vocation is one color in the full spectrum of light that allows us to see clearly.

What if I was to decide that people who exceed the speed limit in the parking lot of our apartment complex are deserving of capital punishment, and then proceeded to execute each one with a single shot to the head through their windshield? It would be unethical, illegal, unbiblical, and sin. I am not called to legislate. I am not called to enforce the law or to prosecute those who fail to abide by it. I am most certainly not called to put them to death. But that doesn't mean that it would be wrong for everyone else as well. Those who have been nominated into legislature (ex. Congress) have been given the authority (although nominated by the people, the authority is derived from God Rom. 13) create a law that dictates the speed limit. Those who have the proper education, physical ability, moral fitness, can pass the civil service exam, and then survive Police Academy, may then go on to become Police Officers. They have the authority to see to it that the speed limit is enforced and may even exercise limited prosecutive authority. And so on, through the Prosecutor, Judge, and although my example is a bit exagerrated, even the executioner that injects the lethal dose of Potassium Chloride has been given authority, by God, do carry out their respective duties.

That's not to say that these people cannot sin against their profession. In the example of the executioner, he/she does not have the authority to execute at will. Just sticking a lethal dose of Potassium Chloride into his enemy's neck just because, is not what he was commissioned to do. Likewise, a soldier who has been commissioned by his country to carry out acts of war has not been given the authority to rape women. But as long as that soldier is acting within the commission he was given by his authority, he is within God's will, with the exception being a commission to deny Christ.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Doctrine of Vocation

As I continue to search for oases in this dry sojourn, I have certainly found a source of refreshment in a book titled, "God at Work, Your Christian Vocation in all of Life" by Gene Edward Veith, Jr.

It may not seem likely that in a season of darkness a book about vocation would bring much to bear on discouragement or disillusionment. It seems that grace lurks where you least expect it. Which shouldn't suprise me, knowing that it is grace that seeks me, not vice versa.

Anyhow, the book has been interesting, enlightening, as well as encouraging. This post is to primarily to point you to Mr. Veith and say that it is well worth the $10 you will spend on it at Check it out here.

Obviously, the doctrine of vocation is simple enough to grasp. However, like so many other aspects of the Christian life, just grasping the concept isn't the goal. Jesus didn't come to teach theological concepts about spiritual life that we are to embrace in some rational, stoic fashion (even though that is what I have primarily done as has my wife). He taught us who He is in spite of who we are. You can understand that in a rational sense, or you can be embraced by that truth and caught up in rapture realizing what that means for your life. It will affect the way you brush your teeth, drive to work, respond to pain, treat your children, spouse, neighbors, and friends. It will truly change your life when the Spirit leads the information out into your living.

The same applies for any particular doctrine, but especially the doctrine of vocation because this is where we live. Martin Luther understood this well, and wrote about it. In his book he writes, speaking about the lowly servant girl, and what would happen if she were to apprehend the doctrine of vocation, she, "would dance for joy and praise and thank God...with her careful work, for which she receives sustenance and wages, she would obtain a treasure such as those who are regarded as the greatest saints do not have." "How could you be more blessed or lead a holier life?" "In God's sight it is actually faith that makes a person holy; it alone serves God, while our works serve people. Here you have every blessing, protection, and shelter under the Lord, and, what is more, a joyful conscience and a gracious God."

Luther also wrote to the servant girls, "If you do your household chores, that is better than the holiness and austere life of all the monks."

In closing, if you or anyone you know is struggling with the humdrum life of an unimportant, meaningless job, get and absorb this book and this doctrine!


Lesson #1 - Puffed Up with Knowledge

"Thinking you understand the gospel but applying it only to salvation is like barely releasing your sail and slogging through the waves." -Dee Brestin-

For the past seven years of my walk with the Lord, I had been warned against being "puffed up with knowledge". Well, it happened anyway. Don't get me wrong...there is a place for knowledge, but it is useless without applying it. I know...we're all guilty of that to some degree, but that still doesn't make it right and good.

For quite some time now, I have longed to understand what it means to "apply the Gospel" to your life. I had read and listened to teaching. I understand that we can take all of life and see the Gospel in it all, but for some reason I just couldn't get my arms wrapped around what that looked like aside from "knowing" it. I can give you the Gospel. I can give you biblical counsel. I can tell you lots of spiritually wise things, but there was something lacking. Until we moved here, I couldn't tell you what that was. But now, with the Lord's help, I see what I is/was the "affection" for Christ...the ability to "know" Christ as a real person. I haven't known Christ as my personal Friend. There hasn't been much of anything "personal" in my view of my relationship with the Lord. A good way to put it...knowledge disconnected from my heart.

By His grace, things are changing. My affection for Him is growing as I have had to depend on Him alone through the various trials and hang-ups I've faced since moving. What has had the most impact is seeing and experiencing His intimate and specific care for me through each difficulty. He has made Himself known to me by specifically confirming things I've read through hearing them again the next week at church or/and confirming the things I've heard that week in church through my readings the next week. Travis and I have had conversations before church and in service the pastor would speak specifically about whatever it was we were talking about. It has been amazing.

Now, has God always been caring for me intimately and specifically? Absolutely! But did I have the eyes and heart to see it? NO! I believe the Lord took me to the place where I could no longer carry myself with my knowledge and wisdom, my position in leadership, my reputation, my personality, my strengths, or my relationships. But He's picked me up and carried me to a place where none of that matters...where He is all I have to rely on to carry me because I can't do it anymore. And quite frankly, I don't want to. My will is broken. In His arms...that's where I am.Here is a scripture that the Lord moved in someone during service on May 10th to share with the rest of the was for me...Him specifically caring for me.

Isaiah 43: 1-4
But now, thus says the Lord,
your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
"For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I have given Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your place.
"Since you are precious in My sight,
Since you are honored and I love you,
I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life.

If you read on to verse 5 it says "Do not fear, for I am with you;". Again, I believe He meant it for me.

You know what's changed? God hasn't...but He changed me. I expect to hear from Him when I go to church, when I read His Word, and when I fellowship with His people. I expect Him to answer prayers. I expect Him to encourage me. I expect to see Him in all things. I expect Him to care for me intimately and specifically.

I have to say, I've been tempted to dwell on the question and thoughts of...why did it take almost eight years to understand these things...look at the time wasted....I could have been enjoying the affection for Christ all these years instead I had been getting "puffed up with knowledge". Instead, I reject those thoughts and remind myself of His sovereignty...His goodness...His faithfulness....His infinite knowledge and wisdom....His Word that says "God causes ALL things to work together for good to those who love God , to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8: 28). As my pastor said in one of his sermons "delay never thwarts His purposes, it only polishes His work". Once again we see that His ways are not ours.

The cool thing is, even with all the knowledge and wisdom I have, I couldn't have taught myself any of this. HE alone receives ALL the glory...He will share it with no one.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Peace in the Storm

Have the past months been easy? Doubt it! Like I said….bittersweet….not easy. But are all good things easy? No, they’re not. Moving to Texas has been an experience I would describe with the well-known phrase, “peace in the storm”. We have faced great difficulties within our hearts, but yet at the same time have experienced the peace that comes from knowing you are being led by the Lord. Quite honestly I never knew moving away from everything that I’ve known my whole life would be so difficult. During the time of preparing to move I had created a great fantasy movie in my head as to what life would be like. (I do that…fantasize…and it usually sets me up for a big ole let down.) Well, needless to say, I forgot to use imperfect, sinful people and a fallen world in my fantasy movie. Ouch!

Like I said, the difficulties have been a matter of the heart not the physical. The lessons the Lord has taught me personally could only be learned by moving me a thousand miles away from my comfort zone and everything that was familiar and safe to me. Boy He knows just what He’s doing and just how to get your attention. As I share some of the lessons He has so graciously taught me, you will begin to see how they are things I would have had a hard time learning had I remained where I was. I can’t express enough how the Lord has so tenderly and specifically cared for us over these past months and how grateful I am for His abounding grace accessible to me at all times.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bittersweet beginnings...

New beginnings….how bittersweet they are. It was exciting to think about “starting over” in a “new” place. I never in my life had a significant thought about Texas. The only thing related to Texas I ever really had a thought about was the city of Dallas…whenever I heard it mentioned throughout my life I would be reminded of the show my mom use to watch when I was little.

Well, not anymore. We now call the Dallas/Fort Worth area our home. We live just north of Dallas…minutes away…in a town called Prosper. What moved us?....the Lord of course! Without going into all the details leading up to the move, let me share with you just a couple highlights. At the time, we had been driving almost an hour to a church in Winona Lake, Christ’s Covenant Church, that was in the “adoption” process with the Sovereign Grace Ministries. Travis had prayed and searched for jobs in that area to move us closer, but that wasn’t God’s plan. The Lord confirmed our felt need to be under the Sovereign Grace Ministries and He did this by bringing a job offer to Travis that would move us a thousand miles away from family and friends, but yet even closer to a Sovereign Grace Church. Now, I don’t recall telling the Lord that moving a thousand miles away from absolutely everything that was familiar to me just to get me closer to a strong local church would be okay, but I guess I get to see once again that His ways are not ours. He answered our prayers and surprisingly I am delighted He answered the way He did. There is a peace and comfort that comes when He confirms His will for you as you are attempting to discern His will for your life.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Here I am, a blogger. Never would have thunk it. Hmmmm..... Why you ask? Well, I've been disappointed in myself at the amount time I spend wasting on facebook. Don't get me wrong, it's a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, but in such a "surface" sort of way. It allows me not to go too deep...keep my distance. I really don't want that to be a long term habit. So, I thought having a blog would enable me to still communicate with everyone on a deeper level and post pictures of the family. I also think this will be a way to begin implementing more "journaling" in my life. I already journal my prayers and praises during my quiet time, but I've been wanting to journal more separately about our journey as a whole family. The Lord has and continues to do a mighty work in us since our move and I feel it is a work worthy to be recorded and shared with those we love. My prayer is that our blog is one that gives you the ability to see the work of Christ in our lives whether you're ten miles or a thousand miles away. Of course I have much to catch y'all up on, but we have plenty of time.... I look forward to sharing our lives with you.... ALL the glory goes to HIM!