60 Seconds Exhorting You Not to Complain


Ultimately, complaining is you indicting God. 

And that is neither a safe nor a wise thing to do.  

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.  And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.  Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity?  Curse God and die.’  But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak.  Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’  In all this Job did not sin with his lips. 

Job 2:7-10

When you complain, at least 2 sinful assumptions in your heart are being revealed.  

  1. You believe you deserve better than the thing you’re complaining about.  This is sinful because you are denying God’s pronouncement that you have sinned gravely against Him, and the only thing that you truly deserve is His eternal wrath.  You are indicting God’s goodness.  
  2. You believe you know better than God.  After all, you certainly would not have chosen this thing that happened, which is of course why you are huffing and puffing about the fact that it did.  This is sinful because you are placing your own wisdom above God’s.  You are indicting God’s wisdom.  

For a complainer, the chief problem is not the thing he is complaining about.  The biggest issue at hand is the sin in his heart that his complaining is revealing.  

To complain is to indict God for not being good enough and not being wise enough.  And the fact that we are not right this moment in His Hell, the place our wickedness and selfishness merits, is proof that He is plenty good.  And His rocksteady Word and the fact that in contrast to Him I am a fickle, petty, shortsighted man remind me He darn sure is wise

So the answer to the bitterness and anger and fear and rage that swirl around your complaint is not merely to fix what ticked you off.  That won’t fix the underlying cause.  That’s just treating the symptom.  

Ultimately, the solution you need in the midst of your complaint is repentance, followed by wholeheartedly casting yourself on the mercy and wisdom of the God of Jesus Christ.  You must call your sin sin and then entrust yourself to the undeserved love of Jesus Christ.  

But don’t ever think that getting rid of the annoying or frustrating thing will be the ultimate answer.  

Complaining is the symptom.  

Sin is the disease.  

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Politics Is Too Small A Story


So this past weekend the New York Times published an editorial that I think was pretty revealing about a pulse I sense in the current American bloodstream.  If I can put a name to that pulse:  A lot of Americans currently see themselves primarily as actors in a political play.  Whether they are Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, one of the most interesting parts of life to them is this political narrative.  They are willing to make major life choices (like, ahem, who they will be friends with) based on political storylines.  

Now, I think some of this is due to the fact that the secular west that America is a part of has largely removed at least three major components from the center of human life:  Worship of a deity (whether a false one or the one true God of Jesus Christ), marriage, and bearing and raising children.  But it has to put something at the center of its people’s lives, because human beings inherently live for things.  So since deity, marriage, and raising children are pushed to the cultural side, the secular West places a cosmic political battle at the heart of life.  It says that this is what we live for.  By contrast, I don’t think the political landscape is central to the average Nigerian, who is plugged into a church and has six children.

But more than talking about the cause, I wanted to take a second and simply highlight a better story (and, thankfully, a truer story) than the one that cradles mindsets like this editorialist’s.  

Human beings need to see themselves in story.  We are made this way by the Author of the grand Autobiography around us.  This editorialist’s posture makes sense if you see yourself in a story where every human being is either an oppressor or oppressed (or an instrument of oppression).   But that is not the story the Bible tells.  And hence it is not the story we are in.  

The Bible places us in a much grander story, a cosmic narrative in which a spiritual rebel against the good Creating King has seduced humanity to follow him.  And this rebellion has scarred the universe by bringing upon it the curse of death and suffering.  But in this shadowed and groaning world, that good King has entered the drama as chief groaner, and all to take into His own heart and flesh the pain and agony and judgment and death that our sin makes us deserve.  

Through that sacrifice that He willingly and passionately made, and because of the victory He won by coming back from the other side of death, this King is ransoming for Himsef a people out of this wicked rebellion.  He is winning them back.  And He will one day plant them on a remade world, a new creation that is everything that should have been and everything that once was.  

That is the story we are in.  Not one of merely political schema or of America versus North Korea.  Not one of Good People Group A against Malevolent People Group B.  Not one of one humanly constructed ideaology triumphing over another.  (Not even one of how far I can rise at the office or how many people I can get to admire me on Facebook.)  This current American narrative of one political group heroically fighting against a villainous counterpart is too small to live for and too fragile to hope in.  

And that is the heartbeat, an all too common one, that I see revealed in this editorial.  And it’s a sad one.  A person who believes the greatest struggle is politics has no greater demon to fight than the other party.  He has no greater worship song to sing than the voices of his favorite pundits.  He has no stronger altar to kneel at than the one engraved with his favorite political issue.  

We have a greater story to live for than Barack Obama versus Donald Trump.  We have a better hope than either house of Congress can provide.  There is a King on the throne, and He has done something remarkable.  

And it’s not done yet.  

He is returning to finish what He started.  

Your Life As A House


I was thinking this morning during a conversation with my wife.  That happens a lot on Saturday mornings, because we both drink coffee and the kids quiet down as we drive around our side of town and sight see.  The thoughts were about people we know who claim to be Christians, and think they are going to Heaven, but who I doubt very much ever talk about, think about, pray to, delight in, or want to obey Jesus.  

I don’t know if such people have ever been taught what Christianity really is.   

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build and was not able to finish.  Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?  And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.  So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.’

Luke 14:25-33

Christianity must, by definition, change and even govern a man’s life.  

Let’s try a mental exercise.  

Picture your life as a house.  

Doesn’t matter what kind of a house.  Bungalow, cape cod, ranch, I don’t care.  Throw a swimming pool in the back if you want.  But picture your life, all of it, as a house right now for me.  

Got it in your mind?  Okay.  

Now, ask yourself, if you are a Christian:  What is your Christianity in that house?  

And be honest.  I can’t hear your answer.  And just as good for me is the fact that you can’t hear mine.  

Is it a trophy on a shelf, sitting there decorating the place and making it slightly more presentable?  

Or is it a lovely picture on the living room wall, commemorating a happy time, but a silent picture, not having any voice at the dinner table or any sway in the discussions of the household budget?  

Is your Christianity the front porch, laced with Christmas lights so that passersby admire and point and even envy what your house must be like on the inside?  

Or is it a bookshelf, filled with knowledge and ideas, kind of the brain center of your house, but not exactly the place you go to when you’re desperate and scared or to celebrate a happy occasion?   

Or maybe it’s the security system, set up around your house to keep you safe from what scary, unknown things might be out there in the world.  But definitely not something you really have to think about daily or interact with or, you know, enjoy.  

Maybe it’s a whole room in your house, a room with a sign over the door that says “My Christian Faith,” and you go in that room every day.  I mean every day.  The hinges on the door need to be replaced because of the sum total of times you go in and out of there to be a Christian for a few minutes or even a few hours.   

What is Christianity in this house that is your life (tucked away in the cul-de-sac at the end of Metaphor Avenue)?

Christianity, true Christianity, demands to be the house itself and the souls inside of it.  It permeates everything that takes place inside that home.  It is not just the same color paint that’s on every room’s walls, it is the foundation and the walls themselves and the plot of land, it is everything that encompasses the living going on inside that address.  It never stops being the very atmosphere in which all the decisions are made, the loving is done, the fights are had, the sins are committed and repented of, the joys are laughed over, the deaths are mourned, the television shows are watched, the lessons are learned, and the prayers are prayed.  Christianity is not a part of a man’s life.  It is his life.  Everything else occurs within it.  

Tonight I will watch some TV with my wife. We’ll take the kids to the grocery store.  We’ll worship as a family.  I’ll sin in anger or fear at some point.  Each of the kids will sin at some point.  I’ll read some Bible.  I’ll pray.  I’ll sin again.  

All of these things are done within my being a disciple of Jesus.  This whole life He’s purchased for me is under His Lordship, His providence, and His love.  I feed my soul healthy food when I think of my life as being totally enveloped by Christ, because that is the beautiful truth.  

That is what being a Christian is.  It is to have a new life, one different from the old, one that He built, then bought, and then paid for.   

It is His.  All of it.  

This life I live has no mortgage.  But it’s His name on the deed.  

Happy Reformation Day!

Just wanted to take a second and commemorate Reformation Day.  500 years ago Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a door in Wittenberg, and a Reformation ensued.  That Reformation centered on what the Gospel really was.  

So today I thank God for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which has always and will always be the only way of salvation for sinners.  Any teaching which contradicts that Gospel is a spiritual poison.  And I hope someday our fellow souls in the Roman Catholic communion will teach only and purely the Word of God, and not the commandments of men.  

If anyone says that by faith alone the impious are justified (that nothing else is required to obtain justification and that it is not necessary to use one’s own will), let him be anathema.

Roman Catholic Council of Trent, 1545-1563.  

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 

Romans 3:28

Faith alone in Christ alone is what saves a man.  We cannot be made right with God by any other means.  

So today I thank God for the Gospel, and I also thank Him for all the men and women who have stood on God’s Word and faithfully proclaimed that Gospel, Martin Luther among them.  The Gospel, that God justifies sinners through faith in Jesus Christ, is what the world needs.  

Happy Reformation Day, all.  And to Him be the glory! 

There Will Be Pain


If you are not prepared to see setbacks, you are not prepared to see the Christian life.  

If, however, you are simply not prepared to withstand setbacks, then you actually have one of the ingredients necessary for the Christian life:  Broken, incapable humanity.   

One thing you must not be able to do if you are to be a Christian is survive on your own.  There are no Clint Eastwoods among this species.  None of us have a rugged, mysterious self-determination.  We are His, and He has rescued us from what we would have drowned in.  

You must know that this life He makes for us, this thing we call Christianity, is thoroughly laced with pains, because He uses pains to grow us.  Not all of them are agonizing; some of them are like the surprisingly pleasurable muscle pain the day after a good workout.  But some are agonizing.  Some are like a car wreck you only just barely survived from.  If you are a Christian and have never thought anything like, “Please, Father, I’m not sure how much more I can take, please be tender with me tomorrow,” then I can tell you you almost certainly will.  And it will be a blessing, though it probably won’t feel like one.  The moments I think I can’t slog on anymore, not one more step, are the moments I feel least like someone who is trying to be a Christian and most like someone who needs to be a Christian.   If I can do some word play, the moments of intense pain and doubt are the ones when I feel least like a Christian and most like a Christian.  

One of God’s prophets, an anointed and faithful minister of the Word of God named Jeremiah, wrote this through the moving of the Holy Spirit:

Cursed be the day on which I was born!  The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed!  Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, ‘A son is born to you,’ making him very glad.  Let that man be like the cities that the Lord overthrew without pity; let him hear a cry in the morning and an alarm at noon, because he did not kill me in the womb; so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb forever great.  Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame? 

Jeremiah 20:14-18

Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?

If you do not want to see setbacks or pain, do not begin the Christian life.  It is threaded with them.  But it’s important to know first that it is threaded with them the way a tapestry is interwoven with grays and blacks an browns in order to highlight the brilliant yellows and the bright azure.  The pain is designed, in other words.  It is a part of the story being told.  It is purposed.  It is not an end unto itself.  

I have been a part of churches dying, I have seen family members die, I have had bills I could not seemingly pay.  My wife and I have had our cars break down, health scares in our little ones, and we have been wounded by Christians very close to our hearts.  We have seen Satan assault the church and our family, people reject the love of Christ, beloved families torn apart by selfishness or sexual sin, and been sapped of all our earthly strength.  But we have never been abandoned.   I have always had the Spirit of Christ to strengthen me, the promises of Christ to give me hope, and the love of Christ to remind me of who God says I am.  

Be prepared to see setbacks and feel pain and stumble in your own clumsy, self-centered, shortsighted way, Christian brother or sister.  It is a part of the life we have chosen and that chose us.  And if you are considering Christ for the first time, count the cost.  Because there is a cost.  

But take heart.   If you trust in Jesus Christ, you will never have to stand merely on your own two feet.  Despite all the pain, all the isolation, all the falls, you will never be a man wholly unto yourself. 

You will never be abandoned. 

This God always finishes what He starts.  

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge — even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you — so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

1 Corinthians 1:4-9

I Know, Brother and Sister


If you’ve ever been at a crossroads where you felt like the choices were to let yourself drown or to dig in and cling to Christ and just be a Christian, I know how you feel.  

I know what it feels like to be dead certain that if you keep going in the way that God commends, if you keep trying to live the Christian life, you’re going to have the snot beat out of you.  Life is going to just grind you to bits.  I know.  

And I know what it’s like to think there’s just no way you can keep going.  You just can’t.  The depression, the anxiety, the fear, the self-hatred, the anger that hollows you out and eats away at the relationships that should be most important to you; these things have all made just being awake unbearable.  They’ve turned you into something you never expected:  A tired, tired believer.  

Here’s my Friday evening, Dunkin’ Donuts fueled blog version of an outstretched hand to you:  Cling to Him and don’t let go.  Grab Jesus, and drop everything else as you do.  Drop your hopes for being a great employee, the mirage sketch you had in your head of a perfect family life, your impossibly high standards for yourself and for others; let them all go and grab Jesus Christ with both hands.  

I know how searing, life-changing pain feels.  But I’m telling you from the deepest parts of my soul:  You really can trust this man.  He will be here for you.  

That’s it.  No cliches; I’m going to go carve pumpkins with my wife and kids now and I don’t have time to try and be pithy.  But I mean this from my heart:  Trust Jesus.  

I can’t promise you what’s coming down your pike.  But here’s what I can promise you:  He will not abandon you.  

26 Theses


This month, much of the Gospel-believing world will celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s putting up 95 theses, or statements, against the Roman Catholic application of “indulgences.”  The 95 theses of October 31, 1517 were one in a fairly long line of objections to unbiblical teachings and emphases by Roman popes, cardinals, bishops, theologians, and priests. They were short sentences Luther believed to be true and was willing to stand for and debate.  

I am no Martin Luther.  I never will be.  I’m an ordinary Christian dude who serves in the church and is trying to love his wife and raise his kids and see some people saved and kill his own sins, day by day.  No one will remember me a hundred years after I’m dead (if Jesus doesn’t return first), and no one will commemorate this little blog post 500 years from now (if Jesus doesn’t come back first).  But in memory of my Christian brother, here are some statements (I only had 26) on contemporary Christianity and the Christian life that I stand for, and would be willing to debate.  

  1. Only God can make you love God. 
  2. Jesus Christ loves to save sinners.
  3. It is good that Jesus Christ loves to save sinners, because every human being walking the earth right now was born a spiritually dead sinner.  
  4. Men who are still in their sins chafe under and rebel against the kingship of God.  
  5. God’s Kingdom is one that fights to save those who want to kill it.  
  6. Men and women are not the same.
  7. It is a part of God’s good design that men and women are not the same.  
  8. A culture that denies that men and women are different will not do well at teaching men how to be good men or women how to be good women. 
  9. Marriage is God’s creation, and He designed it as the union of a man to his wife for life.  
  10. Young, married Christians should be delighted at the prospect of having large families at the expense of their creature comforts, knowing how much their God values children.  
  11. There is no way to simultaneously affirm sin and be obedient to God.  
  12. Homosexual activity is sin.  
  13. There will be many men and women in resurrected bodies enjoying Jesus for eternity who once lived in homosexual sin, but who were then washed through the grace of God.  
  14. There will be many men and women enjoying Jesus for eternity who were washed from all sorts of sins.  
  15. The primary thing standing between a man and the Kingdom of God is not bad information but a bad heart.  
  16. God gives new hearts to those He saves. 
  17. If a man wants to be around a bunch of nice people who are just like him, he does not want the Christian life.  
  18. If a man is impatient, he will not be a good evangelist, and all Christians are called to be evangelists.  
  19. Those who do not care about the lost throughout the world do not know Jesus very well, if at all. 
  20. If your gospel never prompts you to take risks, it isn’t Jesus’ Gospel.  
  21. If you are more passionate about a present political kingdom than the global growth of faith in Jesus Christ, your primary allegiance is to the wrong kingdom.  
  22. God saves by grace through faith alone in Christ alone.  
  23. If I say one thing and the Bible says another, I am wrong.  
  24. The Bible is good and is wholly true.  
  25. It is sin that brought death into the world, and one day Jesus will cast death into a lake of fire.  
  26. Jesus is coming back, and when He does He will make all things right and raise those who love Him and have believed in Him to eternal life.  

Happy early Reformation Day, all.  

Stay faithful in the Lord, and keep reforming.