My Worst Enemy

I won’t waste your time:  My worst enemy is my own sin.  

I am always tempted to look at what others have done to me, or are currently doing to me, or how I’m being shortchanged in a certain way as my biggest problem.  It makes sense to a shortsighted, self-centered mind.  

“The thing that’s really screwing up my life is that I’m not getting __________.”  

“Man, if I didn’t have to deal with _________ anymore…”

But the reality that my own sin is far more deadly, and robs me of far more joy and peace, than any other single thing.  My own sin kills far more of my peace, my friendships, my ministry than any single other person or circumstance.  
My idolatry is deadly, as I value pleasure and creature comforts more than communion with God.  “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 58:13-14)

My anger and unforgiveness are deadly, as I hold a grudge in my heart against someone rather than trusting the Lord to deal with it.  “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’  To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Romans 12:18-21)

My pride is deadly, as I think that such and such a thing would never happen to me, because I don’t make bad choices like so and so.  “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:  ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus:  God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.  But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me, a sinner!  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’” (Luke 18:9-14)

These things are far more toxic to me than any gosippy coworker, any politician, any cultural trend, any career threat, any backbiting relative.  The sin in my heart poses a far greater threat to my joy than any external force that might come against me. 

But thankfully my worst enemy is the very thing my Savior and His Spirit offer, day by day, to free me from.

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Romans 8:13


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.  


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).


60 More Seconds of Christian Comfort

Look at the birds of the air:  they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  And why are you anxious about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow:  they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 

Matthew 6:26-30

Look around you, Christian.  God feeds birds and causes flowers to grow and makes lilies and tulips beautiful.  This is His world.  And if you have truly been born again in Christ, then the God who owns and runs this universe spent His all to adopt you.  

Look at how tender this God is with robins and finches and dandelions and grass.  And you are His child.  Trust Him!

The word Jesus uses at the beginning of verse 28 doesn’t mean just to watch.  He uses a word like that in verse 26, but in the sentence that begins verse 28 He uses a word that means to study or observe or learn from.  So, seriously:  Go outside and look.  Step into your backyard and watch the petals of a flower flicker in a breeze like a candle flame, and know that every step in that dance is by His hand.  Go look at a tree and see the odd shape and direction of its branches, gnarled like an old man’s fingers, and know that every moment from that tree’s first break through the soil to its falling back down back into it are all by the decree of the God who loves and adopted and values you, Christian.  

“Do you see that sun coming up over the horizon, over there, tracing the blue sky with its warm gold?  Do you see that bright yellow star our side of the earth is facing right now?  Study it.  Look at it.  Birds and plants and stars and sins; this is all in His hands, child.  Trust Him.”

This is a good God.  This is a King we can trust.  This is a beautiful, caring, creating, provident, kind, remaking, rescuing, adoring, wise God.  

Let us seek His Kingdom first.  

Let us trust Him.

Grace and peace.



Let This War Kill Him

One of the most freeing parts about being a Christian is being on the right side in a war that’s already been won.  

And one of the villains who has been laid down in that war is all of the worst things inside of yourself.  

We’re preaching through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) as a church right now, and one of the things that Jesus does for me as I read it and think about it and pray through it is to reveal to me how many wicked things there are inside of my heart.  In the corners, under the floorboards, stuck up in the attic, in all sorts of hidden spaces within my heart are some disgusting things.  And He knows about them. 

And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 

Matthew 6:16-18

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 

Matthew 7:3

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 

Matthew 5:22

Jesus knows how wicked I can be.  He knows.  My greedy motives and petty, little grudges and pretentious, false religiosity are all before Him.  

The wickedness in my flesh and soul do not surprise or perplex Jesus.  

And He says that as I am conformed more and more to Him, as I’m made more and more teleos (Matthew 5:48; “perfect” or “complete” or “mature,” e.g., Hebrews 5:14) as I am grown as a Christian by grace through faith, those sick and awful pieces of myself are getting laid low.  

There is hope for the Christian.  There is hope for me.  I am a territory being conquered by a good King.  My heart is a battlefield, and I myself am a soldier on the right side.  

This war will end someday, and all the veterans like me will stand in the light of our Sovereign, with bodies and souls that will be big enough and clean enough to enjoy Him to the fullest.