Saturday, November 6, 2010


Don't we make things so complicated? In our attempts to be more organized or focused we can easily end up complicating things in the name of simplicity or efficiency. We can make being a Christ follower so complicated at times that we feel overwhelmed. I recently came across these videos created by Praxis Church in Tempe, Arizona and thought I'd pass them along. I love there simplicity.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk

Rufus Wainwright’s song, “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk,” contains the following lyrics:

“Cigarettes and chocolate milk
these are just a couple of my cravings
everything it seems I like's a little bit stronger
a little bit thicker
a little bit harmful for me

if I should buy jellybeans
have to eat them all in just one sitting
everything it seems I like's a little bit sweeter
a little bit fatter
a little bit harmful for me

and then there's those other things
which for several reasons we won't mention
everything about them is a little bit stranger
a little bit harder
a little bit deadly

it isn't very smart
tends to make one part so broken-hearted”

Hedonism seems to be the world’s motto. Most of the time we’re told that true freedom is found in hedonism. If you’re not familiar with the definition of hedonism it goes something like this, “pleasure is the greatest pursuit.” (Hedonism could also be called the devil’s playground.) Rufus Wainwright’s song, “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk” is a pretty interesting revelation of the progression and temptation of the pleasures this world has to offer. (1 John 2:15-16)

In yesterday’s devotional we talked about our affections, our cravings. In Romans 6 Paul calls us to put away the cravings of the flesh and present our bodies to be instruments of righteousness. Simply put, we’re to take our cravings and submit them to God’s authority. Where my cravings are in conflict with God’s Word, I’m to put those cravings to death. (This isn’t easy.)

So, what’s so the big deal with our little cravings? According to Wainwright’s song these small cravings turn into bigger cravings…harder to put to death, cravings. Consider the following line in Wainwright’s song, “everything it seems I like's a little bit stronger.” Wainwright also writes, “tends to make one part so broken-hearted.” Even he knows that there is always a progression. Eventually, we need more. We need it more frequently. Eventually we’re in the fight of our life, for our life. Sometimes it’s the silliest things that turn into the most deadly things…to our body and our spiritual life. Sin always cost us something. Consider these words from Matthew 16:26, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

Where in your life have you already experienced the progression of sin? Where in your life are you letting the silliest things get by? Sometimes, it’s just a little bite from an apple that takes your life.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tricky. Tricky.

Our culture rewards the proud. The confident. Those with will power. The successful.

Success is a dangerous thing. Isn't it strange how fast success can breed arrogance? It always amazes me how we have to guard against arrogance and pride when we achieve any level of success. Whether you experience success in the classroom, the boardroom, or in ministry your heart can easily and quickly give birth to arrogance.

Think about it. You have a few successes and you begin to think more highly of yourself than you should. You have a few successes and other people begin to think more highly of you than they should. People begin to pay attention to you. Pretty soon success and attention lead you to think more highly of yourself and you begin to expect things. Your acclaim begins to feel like a custom made suit. You begin to embrace the esteem of your peers. You begin anticipating it. You expect it.

Eventually your heart grows cold. When you embrace success and believe your own "press" pride almost always stains your heart. This is an unfortunate cycle. Very powerful. Very seductive. Very blinding. You can easily point it out in the lives of other people, but can't see it in your own life.

Unfortunately arrogance eventually isolates you from others. Your arrogance begins to push others away and build bridges people don't think they can cross anymore. At first people placed you on the pedestal. Early on you reluctantly stood on the pedestal. Over time you began to add notches to the pedestal yourself so you could climb higher, where you belong. Eventually you're so far up on the pedestal that people are no longer your concern're looking right over the tops of their heads. They've become your means to an end.

A few weeks ago I read the following devotional written by Charles Spurgeon:

"But there the LORD in majesty will be for us a place of broad rivers and streams, where no galley with oars can go, nor majestic ship can pass." Isa. 33:21.

Spurgeon writes, "The Lord will be to us the greatest good without any of the drawbacks which seem necessarily to attend the best earthly things...Lord, if thou send me wealth like broad rivers, do not let the galley with oars come up in the shape of worldliness or pride. If thou grant me abundant health and happy spirits, do not let "the gallant ship" of carnal ease come sailing up the flowing flood...Should I be so supremely happy as to enjoy the light of thy countenance year after year, yet let me never despise thy feeble saints, nor allow the vain notion of my own perfection to sail up the broad rivers of my full assurance."

Lord, protect us from the seduction of success. Forgive us for our pride. We look forward to the day we are able to enjoy all that you have for us without turning in on ourselves with pride and arrogance.

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6

Could God oppose me while the world holds me in high esteem?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Devotional Life

How would you describe your devotional life? Students ask me this question all the time. It seems like we're in search of the right way to spend time pursuing the Lord. I know my own personality tends to be pretty systematic. I like to know what steps I should do or how I should go about something or how someone else goes about something...though I rarely read the instructions/directions to anything.

One thing I've learned from asking this question is that it seems to be a little different for everyone. A lot of what your devotional life looks like will depend on your personality. Some people are morning people while others are night owls. Some people enjoy being alone outdoors while others enjoy sitting alone in the library or prayer closet, etc. Some people need to have a routine to ensure they are actively pursuing the Lord. In other words, you've got to do what works best for you. Your devotional life might not look exactly like others.

I do think you need two constants in your devotional life: prayer and the Scriptures. We need to commune with the Lord through prayer and we need to hide God's Word in our heart. Whether we spend this time during the day/night or inside/outside we need to be pursuing the Lord through prayer and Scripture. Additionally, I advocate for reading books that stir your affection for Christ and His Word.

I'd also note that our devotional life isn't just an hour with the Lord in the morning or the evening. It's something we need to walk in throughout the day - walking with Him by the Spirit, as we go.

Just for are two videos I think you may find interesting:

Friday, October 8, 2010

There is too much noise in my cave!

I read the most unfortunate and disheartening verses today in a very brief opportunity of quietness in my life:

“And he said, ‘Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘what are you doing here, Elijah?’”

This is an unfortunate text because my life is filled with constant noise. Have you ever stopped to consider how noisy your life is every day? From the sound of my iPhone alarm every morning, to the light going off at the end of the day – nothing but noise. Nearly every morning I wake up to my alarm (with a quick follow-up of the voice of my 1-year-old son, Eli). By the time my alarm goes off in the morning Eli has been asleep longer than he was awake the day before.

I leave my house on most days to meet students for one-on-one discipleship at local coffee shops here where I live – I love this part of my job. I love being able to encourage these young men that God has placed in my life. Sometime around brunch I’ll end up in my office – an office I share with two, sometimes three, other people; people whom I enjoy working with immensely. You can image the noise. Before I know it the afternoon has flown by and it’s home for dinner to see my wife and son. I love my family. I play with Eli for a while and then he’s off to bed. Finally, Cary and I have some time to unwind a little with a sitcom or two. Noise…from the sitcom…not Cary; great conversation with your spouse isn’t noise.

Aren’t all of our days similar to this? Busy. Noisy. Constantly on the go. More than likely we’re doing good things too, right? What about the “still small voice” of God? For a long time I worked hard at stealing time from my schedule during the day for a few moments with the Lord. My spiritual life really became more like multitasking. I recently heard a pastor refer to multitasking as telling the first one to get your attention that they’re not important enough for all of your attention. Wow. My multitasking spiritual life was really sending a message to God that He wasn’t important enough for “all” of my attention. This same pastor said, we get so far away from God that we can’t hear Him or have any sense of Him in our life. We get so far away from Him that we aren’t able to hear His still small voice. We get so busy that we equate busyness for intimacy with God.

I think one of the most difficult things we could do in this life is try and find a place where we can get alone in total solitude. Think about. Where could you go, right now? I’m thinking about my day…1-year-old at home (not asking him to stop acting like a 1-year-old!), share an office with 2, sometimes 3 people (can’t ask them to leave)…ideas? I could rent a hotel room for myself…expensive. I could yell fire somewhere to force everyone else to leave, but that feels like a bad idea! I can’t take a retreat into the mountains everyday…I still have to go to work.

So what can I do? I’m constantly amazed to hear about the spiritual giants of church history and their tenacious pursuit of God, men waking up before the sun to pray and read Scripture. Luther once wrote about his need to spend 2 hours a day in prayer before the Lord. These stories make me wonder…how tenacious am I? How tenacious are you? Do I really want to make time for God? Am I keeping Him at a distance, willingly? I can’t control a lot of the noise in my life...some of it I wouldn't change for anything, but I can get up before it starts.

"There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it." -Brother Lawrence

God came to Elijah in a still…small…voice.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Restoration and Redemption

Liberal/Moderates want us to embrace people at the cost of a literal interpretation of Scripture. Just take a look at the headlines…they’re filled with a soft gospel and at least some level of tolerance toward sin. On the other hand, Fundamentalists seem to forget what it means to struggle with sin. They expect others to line up and look the part…at least on the outside…and they extend very little mercy to those who are in an ongoing struggle to overcome sin.

This week I read a blog by Donald Miller. The blog topic was about homosexuality in the church and how it should be handled. The author went on a rant about how the church seems to adopt the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” military policy when it comes to homosexual temptations and church leaders boast about a Bear Grylls masculinity which isolates those struggling with sexual identity. The author’s main conclusion was, “Got a struggle? Talk about it. If people condemn you, move on to actual followers of Jesus who will not.”

The immediate response from the 100+ commenter’s seemed to fall along the line of tolerating sin at the risk of being intolerant. While I agree with some of the author’s points we need to remember to uphold the Scriptures regarding sin.

The bottom line…we should love people while we’re walking alongside them with a literal interpretation of Scripture…giving them room to be honest about their struggles to overcome sin. Too many times we belittle the struggle and therefore mock those who are struggling. When we do this we close the door on opportunities to minister to people.

Consider these words from Al Mohler’s blog regarding the suicides of four teenager boys connected to disclosures or struggles with homosexuality, “When gay activists accuse conservative Christians of homophobia, they are also right. Much of our response to homosexuality is rooted in ignorance and fear. We speak of homosexuals as a particular class of especially depraved sinners and we lie about how homosexuals experience their own struggle. Far too many evangelical pastors talk about sexual orientation with a crude dismissal or with glib assurances that gay persons simply choose to be gay. While most evangelicals know that the Bible condemns homosexuality, far too many find comfort in their own moralism, consigning homosexuals to a theological or moral category all their own. What if Tyler Clementi had been in your church? Would he have heard biblical truth presented in a context of humble truth-telling and gospel urgency, or would he have heard irresponsible slander, sarcastic jabs, and moralistic self-congratulation? What about Asher and Billy and Seth?”

One church’s motto I’ve read recently goes something like this…”It’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to stay that way.” We’re to love people and take their struggles seriously, but that doesn’t mean we’re to sit back and let them be. After all, the Gospel is “repent and believe”.

If we know someone who is struggling to overcome sin we shouldn’t gloss over his or her struggle. We’re called by Scripture to come alongside them and walk with them toward freedom from that sin. In his blog Mohler continues, “We can only look at this news account and grieve. As Christians, we just have to wonder. Was there no believer to befriend Tyler and, without loving his homosexuality, love him? The homosexual community insists that to love someone is to love their sexual orientation. We know this to be a lie. But no one who loves me should love nor rationalize my sin. The church must be the people who speak honestly about sin because we have first learned by God’s grace to speak honestly of our own.”

1 John 5:18, “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.”

When is the last time you had a friend call you just to ask how you were doing?

When is the last time you called a friend and asked her if she needed to talk?

When is the last time you were open and honest with someone about a struggle?

A few things we need to remember: All Christians struggle with sin: 1 John 1:8, 10. Sometimes we fall in our struggle against sin: 1 Corinthians 10:13. But, those who indulge in continuous unrepentant sin are not true believers:1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

The church is called to be a place of restoration. We’re called to lift up the Gospel of redemption and lift up people as well.

When our agenda is about anything else…I’m afraid we’re missing it.

I recommend reading Mohler’s blog post I referenced above.