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! 

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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.  

60 Seconds On Needing Some Time


Spiritually speaking, a shallow heart is about as bad as a hard heart.  A man who is thrilled by Jesus for a short time and then wanders away is ultimately in no better a position than a man who hates God and would rather be a leper than a Christian.  

And because of this, the true state of a man can only be revealed over time.  Whether he has truly been born again through faith is, whether he is really a Christian, isn’t something his fellow human beings can have good confidence in until some time has passed.  “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands,” Paul says.  

I want to celebrate when people say they’ve believed in Jesus.  I want to encourage them.  I want to hug them into the brotherhood.  But I also need to be careful about implying to them or to the church that I know that they’ve truly been converted.  I really can’t know that, not right at the beginning.  

I don’t ever want to pretend I’m certain about something which time must confirm.  

Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land.  And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:  Listen!  Behold, a sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.  Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil.  And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away.  Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.  And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.’  And he said, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’  And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables.  And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.  And he said to them, ‘Do you not understand this parable?  How then will you understand all the parables?  The sower sows the word.  And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown:  when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.  And these are the ones sown on rocky ground:  the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy.  And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.  And others are the ones sown among thorns.  They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.  But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.’

Mark 4:1-20

30 Seconds On the Kingdom


And he said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.’ And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’ And he said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.’ And he said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’ With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything

Mark 4:21-34

Let the Word examine your heart, here, and bring you to repentance if you need be.  And show you what to repent of.  What’s your attitude about the Kingdom?  When you see lost people doing what lost people do, how does your heart respond?  When you see the church, with all her imperfections and all her beauties, what is your first reaction?  Does your heart beat in time with Jesus’?  Do you want to see the Kingdom grow out and grow up?  Do you love the lost enough to suffer for them and enough to serve her?

Pray for laborers, He said.  “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

May I be on both ends of that prayer:  The one who asks and the answer to it.  

A Catechism for Our Day


The Word of God is always relevant.  And our hearts will be healthier when they are brought under it.

A Christian who brings Scripture and the God of Scripture to bear on his thoughts, emotions, choices, philosophy, theology, self-talk, vocation, family dynamic, behaviors, hobbies, and habits will be a Christian whose spiritual muscles and bones and organs are working properly.  This is one of the reasons Christians have historically written catechisms.  We need to know the Word and we also need to know how to apply it.

So with that in mind, let’s bring the Word to answer some questions for our day.

Q:  How should I approach and think about racial strife and protests?

A:  “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).

Q:  What if I think our President is a terrible one?

A:  “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

Q:  How do I live out my Christian faith at my job?

A:  “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15).

Q:  What does it mean to be a man or to be a woman?

A:  “For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God” (1 Corinthians 11:8-12).

Q:  What is marriage?

A:  “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:18-25).

Q:  What is the point of life?”

A:  “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8).