Monday, December 21, 2015

What does holiness mean in our world today?

Holiness, for many people, is like this elusive thing that we know we should be grasping after (or we've at least been told we should be), but we aren't really sure what it is exactly we are grasping after or how to grasp after it.

Holiness is first, the defining characteristic of who God is. It is the characteristic that the seraphim call out back and forth over and over to one another about the Lord God in Isaiah 6, "holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is fully of his glory." Then out of God's holy character flow his acts...they are holy because his character is holy. And, because his essential nature is holy, all his acts are holy. Yeah, but what is "holiness"? Holiness is separateness, otherness. Holiness is purity, without sin, without imperfections.  

So, what does that mean for us when God says to us in 1 Peter 1:16, "you shall be holy, for I am holy". God calls us to be holy and expects us to be holy, set apart for himself and pure and undefiled by the world. What does holiness look like in our world today? And, if we aren't pursuing holiness, what does that say about the Christianity we profess (Hebrews 12:14)? How do righteousness and purity relate to holiness that we pursue? What about Christian liberty (Romans 14)? How does the concept of "distinctiveness within the culture" fit into the conversation?

Friday, December 4, 2015


Numbers 6 records for us God's instructions for those that would take a Nazarite vow. The phrase that caught my attention in these instructions was in Numbers 6:2 - "to separate himself to the LORD". 

This phrase is repeated in the chapter on a few other occasions. Even the footnote reveals that the word "Nazarite" means "one who separates" or "one who consecrates" himself. In Numbers 6:8, Moses makes the connection between this separation and holiness. He writes, "all the days of his separation he is holy to the LORD."

To be "separated to the LORD" and "holy to the LORD" carries with it the weight that we are "separated for the LORD" and "holy (consecrated) for the Lord". 

Paul, who himself may have taken a Nazarite vow in Acts 18, draws a couple of parallels for the NT believer in his letters.

In Romans 12:1-2, Paul calls all believers to "present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." 

Then in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, he declares, "you are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."

Since we are the "peculiar" people of God (1 Peter 2:9-11), we are called and compelled by the gospel to be separated and consecrated to and for the Lord. Because He, in his grace through justification, has declared us righteous, we are moved by the presence of the Holy Spirit to pursue a consecrated life unto God.

But, are we really? Or, are we just playing church and playing religion? Do we just do enough to ease our conscience "until the next appointed time"? 

Monday, November 30, 2015

On the Bookshelves

This morning I'm sitting in a Barnes & Noble about to pick up a book for my son we ordered and reading a little. I always like to venture over to the "Christianity" section to see what passes for a "Christian" book these days among popular culture. It's always an interesting perusal. 

Of all the books that were located in their section labeled "best sellers" or "top sellers" within the Christianity section, I think there is only one that I would recommend. And, that was a compilation book of some of CS Lewis's works. And, that's out of about 20 or 25 books on the shelves. And, that doesn't even include the devotional section (don't get me started!)

Among the so-called "Christian" section as a whole, there are books by those who are solidly biblical, and then there are those that are, well, shall we say, not so biblical in their approach.

Dear brothers and sisters, the call for spiritual discernment is as important today as it ever has been. Spiritual discernment is the ability to discern (make judgments, evaluate according to biblical criteria) truth from error (Hebrews 5:14). Tim Challies defines it this way: "the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong." The subtlety of Satan's deception is that he disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) giving a little bit of what is true to suck in unsuspecting readers and slowly but surely going in for the kill to destroy a person's spiritual life and eventually seek to sever their connection to the bible as the ultimate standard of spiritual truth. The cover of the book might be colorful or even not so colorful, but it might be just that, a cover--the clothing of a wolf on the inside (Matthew 7:15-20). Just because it's under the "Christian" label, it may not be truly biblical.

Know the bible. Read the bible. Understand the bible. Read books with discernment.

1 Peter 5:8 "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour"

Monday, November 16, 2015

Been thinkin'...yes, that can be dangerous

Busy, busy, busy...our lives, right? Who said we had to be that busy? Have we succumbed to pressure of the culture to join the "rat race"? Have we let the "way of the culture" be in the driver's seat of our lives? Have we done some of this to ourselves? Have we bought into a particular "rhythm of life" that is not conducive to giving attention to the things that matter the most?

Have we done the same thing in church life? Ah, didn't know that's where we were going with this, huh? What if a "calendar stuffed" with activity after activity, event after event, isn't actually helping us accomplish the mission that Jesus gave us to accomplish? What if we began to evaluate all of our decisions about activities, events, etc. based upon their potential to advance the totality of the disciple-making enterprise: connecting with those far away from God, establishing relationships, providing a rhythm of life that is conducive to discipling others, worship, etc.......what if?

What would change? How would our priorities shift? What would our calendars look individuals, as families, as churches? How can we give greater intentionality to our calendars and our lives for the purpose of the Great Commission?

This...this is a work in progress...

Monday, October 12, 2015

Walking with God

My dad preached our homecoming service yesterday with Beulah Baptist Church. He preached a sermon about Enoch in Genesis 5 who "walked with God". 

And, wouldn't you know it, one of my devotional readings this morning was about that very text, "walking with God". It was from Oswald Chambers' devotional, My Utmost for His Highest

Part of his meditation on the concept of "walking with God" went as follows:
The test of a man's religious life and character is not what he does in the exceptional moments of life, but what he does in the ordinary times, where there is nothing tremendous or exciting on. The worth of a man is revealed in his attitude to ordinary things when he is not before the footlights. 
So often, we are looking for the next big event, the next mountain-top experience, the next emotional burst. What if, instead of looking for the "next big thing", we simply "walked with God" daily in communion with him following Jesus rightly related to the Father in the "ordinary" things of life seeking to do what Jesus did in making disciples?

Monday, August 3, 2015


There's quite a bit of talk (and has been for some time) about church growth. Do you want "your" church to grow? Some random thoughts have come to my mind lately, mostly in the form of questions.

  • What kind of growth are we talking about?
  • Are we talking numerical growth?
  • Are we talking spiritual growth? Or, both?
  • What kind of growth do we aim for?
  • Do we want "flash in the pan" kind of big spurt growth?
  • Are we talking about slow, sustainable growth?
  • To use Andy Stanley's phrase, are we looking for "deep and wide" growth?
  • What kind of growth do we normally celebrate in our specific Christian circles?
  • Are we even to "seek" after growth, and do we measure "growth" using the same standards of measurement the world does?
  • Why do we celebrate "success" the way we do?
Anyway, I don't know that I've come to answers to all these questions that satisfy my curiosity; in fact, I'm pretty sure I haven't. I'm just trying myself to follow Jesus and help others do the same.

Why do we have to complicate things so much? Just sayin...

Thursday, July 2, 2015

In the Wake of...

We are seeing the fulfillment of the “perilous times” Paul spoke of in 2 Timothy in a very pronounced way in our day. In fact, we are seeing the other part of his prediction: “while evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived”. Therefore, in one sense, what is happening in our society should not surprise us. While we as Christians are not suffering physical persecution, a hostile and intolerant attitude toward Bible-believing Christians is present in many sectors of our society. The form of persecution that many Christians are experiencing in our society today varies from marginalization in the public square to personal intimidation to just louder shouts from those who oppose us. It is true, whether a good thing or not I don’t know, Christians have had a more positive and respected place in our society in the past; but, those days are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Jesus says to his kingdom citizens in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Peter writes to his audience, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

So, what is the Christian response? Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

In all seriousness, I’m not sure recent events change anything for the church and her primary mission.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Cross

I found the following devotion encouraging from The Heart of the Matter:

The cross changes you. From birth, each of us was under the control and dominion of sin. In his physical death, Christ broke the spiritual power and authority sin had over us. In Galatians 2:20, look at the words, “I have been crucified.” The verb tense points to a definitive action in the past, with a continuing and permanent result. What Christ did then on the cross permanently alters who you are now and who you will continue to be. But Paul goes even further. He says, “I no longer live.” Paul is saying that the changes inside him are so basic to who he is as a human being that it is as if he no longer lives! Yes, he is still Paul, but because of his death in Christ, he is a Paul who is utterly different at his core. When you grasp the fundamental nature of this change within you as a believer, you will begin to grasp your true potential. You are not the same as you once were. You have been forever changed. You no longer live under the weight of the law or the domination of sin. Christ’s death fulfilled the law’s requirements and broke the power of sin. You do not have to give in to sin. You can live in new ways amid the same old situations, because when Christ died physically, you died spiritually. This constitutional change is permanent!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Operating Agenda

The scripture for my devotion this morning was Philippians 2:1-11. Paul David Tripp wrote the following as an application for life from this passage:
"And this sacrifice forms the operating agenda of the kingdom from that time on. Jesus, by his bleeding and broken body on the cross, not only gave the kingdom of God its life and hope, but its paradigm for living as well. That history-changing death on the cross is also the life-changing call of Christ to everyone who would follow him. And as it did on the cross, that willingness to die will always result in life. This kingdom is a kingdom of the cross, and everyone who celebrates that sacrifice is called to drag a cross along with them every day."
What is the real operating agenda of your life and mine? What is the paradigm through which we are approaching and living life today?

What caught my attention in reading the text in Philippians was what Paul says next (Philippians 2:12-17), specifically verses 14-16a: "do all things without grumbling or questioning (murmuring), 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, holding fast to the word of life."

The way of the cross, the way of sacrifice, the way of Jesus in Philippians 2:5-11 is the paradigm for us to shine like lights in the darkness of the world. We are called to "light up the darkness" (from the movie I am Legend) with the light of the gospel. This is the way of "holding fast to the word of life" and holding it forth.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Blogscoop for March 16, 2015

Do you reflect a follower of Jesus?

7 Suggestions for the first 7 years of marriage

10 Predictions about the future of the church - These are some interesting thoughts on the future of the church.

How to protect yourself from these 10 toxic people - This is a good article AND a bit convicting if we use it as a mirror for our own lives instead of those "other" people.

Technology and the Christian Life - An excellent word on the matter here.

Friday, February 13, 2015

God's Faithfulness and the Extension of Grace

This was a really good devotion this morning by William Smith from the devotional, Heart of the Matter. I pray that God will use it in your life to encourage and strengthen your faith:

Have you made mistakes so big that the promises of God can’t hold for you any longer? If you think so, focus on God’s response to his people’s multiple failures. He gives Isaac, the child of promise, to Abraham despite Abraham’s faithlessness. He remains faithful to Isaac, giving him offspring to continue the promise. God never abandons Jacob. He sends Joseph to Egypt ahead of his murderous brothers to provide for them during a famine that would have killed them all and ended the promise. God never gives up on the first families he chose. He remains faithful despite their faithlessness. The Old Testament doesn’t tell stories of perfect people who are blessed for their goodness. They’re just as much a mess as most of us. God exposes all of the sordid things his people do to give you hope. He is not only the author of their faith but the finisher as well. He overwrites their failings—and overwrites yours as well. The golden thread running through Scripture does not belong to any faith-filled, loyal human. It belongs to our fiercely faithful God, who towers benevolently above the mess of his people’s lives. See beyond the flawed people in the foreground to a gracious God behind them, a God who continues to reconcile and redeem, creating a family for himself, a family of faith.

I was particularly struck by the part that says, "the Old Testament doesn't tell stories of perfect people who are blessed for their goodness. They're just as much a mess as most of us." That was very comforting to me.

I am very much grateful for the mercy and grace of God. As we grow in our understanding of the grace that has been extended to us, we are able to extend that same grace to others. Who needs an "extension of grace" in your life today?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Jonah, the Great Commission, and You

This past Sunday at our church, Beulah Baptist, we finished our series through the book of Jonah. The story of Jonah began with a rebellious & runaway prophet who heard the call of God to go to the "nations", represented by the city of Nineveh, but refused. Then we saw a relentless God pursue Jonah through a series of circumstances to draw Jonah back to himself; God was working on Jonah so he could work through Jonah. As God worked on Jonah, we saw a repentant prophet as he spent time with the Lord in the belly of a big fish. As Jonah preaches in obedience to God's call, God's mercy is demonstrated in the repentance of the people of Nineveh and the relenting of God to bring disaster on them. However, Jonah doesn't like that, so we see a pouting prophet in Jonah 4:1-11. God continues to work on Jonah's attitude through a few object lessons so Jonah can see his own limited view of God's mercy and justice and his own ethnic idolatry (as one commentator called it).

So, what were our "takeaways" from that series that connect Jonah with the Great Commission and us?

Here are four of the big ones:

  1. God is working in this world to redeem for himself a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation through the advancement of the Great Commission.
  2. God is more interested in the advancement of the Great Commission than in our personal comforts in this world.
  3. God works on us in order to work through us for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
  4. God will not tolerate sinful attitudes among his people toward people of other races or ethnic groups.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Blogscoop on February 2, 2015

When You Know You Have a Church Problem

10 Distractions Regarding Worship Music

Seven Trends in the Offertory in Churches - Interesting article

How Martin Luther King, Jr. Overcame White 'Christian' Supremacy - excellent article from the author I mentioned in the sermon yesterday

When You Don't Have Time to Pray - Dude, I know how he feels. Very encouraging.

How to Fall Out of Love - Interesting article and not what you think

Ordinary Kids Read as Infrequently as Ordinary Adults - As someone who loves to read (I didn't used to years ago), this was an interesting article.

Will Heaven Have Oceans? - May have a little issue with the definition of "heaven" given that Revelation 21 and 22 are referring to the "eternal kingdom", but it is, nonetheless, a good article.

The Benefits of Church Membership

Thursday, January 1, 2015

It's a New Year, 2015!

Well, 2015 has arrived! Many people will be reflecting on the past and anticipating the future. What will 2015 hold? How will things turn out in the world? How are you processing things personally? Donald Whitney has a great post about reflection and anticipation with some great questions to consider as you look forward to 2015. You can check it out here.

It's also a time to think about and put down some concrete goals you want to meet this year and some concrete habits you want to establish in your life. I've been doing that over the last few days as well. I took a legal pad and made three columns at the top: personal, ministry, and family. Those are the categories under which I've spent some time praying about what kind of goals God would have me pursue in 2015. Under each category, I've written 4 to 5 goals and/or habits that I want to cultivate this coming year.

There are several resources that I've used to help me in the process. Check out Michael Hyatt. He has a great blog about using Evernote to help keep track of your progress in reaching your goals. You can also check out Donald Whitney as well.

I shared with our church family this past Sunday about "Running Strong, Finishing Well, and Making our Days Count for Eternity" from 2 Timothy 4:6-8. In Paul's epitaph, he exemplified three commitments that we must make if we are going to run strong, finish well, and make our days count for eternity.

We must:

  1. Make the necessary sacrifices for running strong
    • Romans 12:1-2
    • Hebrews 12:1-3
  2. Strive to meet the conditions for running strong
    • Fight the good fight
    • Finish the race
    • Keep the faith
  3. Look forward to the rewards for running strong
    • Crown of righteousness
Paul is not referring to "earning" one's salvation. It is one's salvation in Christ that enables and empowers you to in fact run strong according to the grace of God that is at work in you (Philippians 2:12-13) through the Holy Spirit. Our commitment to these three strategies are the spirit-filled response to the gospel.

Now, let's run strong, finish well, make the days count for eternity, together! Godspeed!