November 25, 2015

The Best Portion

The correct answer is pecan pie. At least, that would be my answer if you asked me what portion of pie I would like to be served at my Thanksgiving Day meal. Because I am an adult, I will probably get some say-so in whatever portion of the food items get put on my plate. If you’re a kid you might have your portion chosen for you and handed to you on a plate. You might like your portion, or you might wish you had a better one.

Since this is Thanksgiving, I can’t think of a better time to consider some of the godly wisdom from our Puritan forefathers. The Pilgrims were Puritans after all. And although Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) lived about a century after the original Puritan settlers came to New England, I believe his words are especially appropriate for us as we consider what we are most thankful for.

Below are excerpts from Edwards’ wonderful sermon, “God the Best Portion of the Christian.” His main point is that of all the things we could ever want for our ‘portion’ in life, the best we could ever desire is God Himself. No other good thing, on earth—or even in heaven—compares to Him!
"Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee." -- Psalm 73:25

. . . the psalmist takes notice how the saints are happy in God, both when they are in this world, and also when they are taken to another. They are blessed in God in this world, in that he guides them by his counsel. And when he takes them out of it, they are still happy, in that then he receives them to glory. This probably led him, in the text, to declare that he desired no other portion, either in this world or in that to come, either in heaven or upon earth. — Whence we learn, That it is the spirit of a truly godly man, to prefer God before all other things, either in heaven or on earth . . .

Now, the main reason why the godly man hath his heart thus to heaven is because God is there; that is the palace of the Most High. It is the place where God is gloriously present, where his love is gloriously manifested, where the godly may be with him, see him as he is, and love, serve, praise, and enjoy him perfectly. If God and Christ were not in heaven, he would not be so earnest in seeking it, nor would he take so much pains in a laborious travel through this wilderness, nor would the consideration that he is going to heaven when he dies, be such a comfort to him under toils and afflictions. The martyrs would not undergo cruel sufferings, from their persecutors, with a cheerful prospect of going to heaven, did they not expect to be with Christ, and to enjoy God there. They would not with that cheerfulness forsake all their earthly possessions, and all their earthly friends, as many thousands of them have done, and wander about in poverty and banishment, being destitute, afflicted, tormented, in hopes of exchanging their earthly for a heavenly inheritance, were it not that they hope to be with their glorious Redeemer and heavenly Father. — The believer’s heart is in heaven, because his treasure is there . . .

If God were not to be enjoyed in heaven, but only vast wealth, immense treasures of silver, and gold, great honor of such kind as men obtain in this world, and a fullness of the greatest sensual delights and pleasures; all these things would not make up for the want [lack] of God and Christ, and the enjoyment of them there . . .
Edwards also has some powerful questions in the “application” section at the end of the message.  Here are two to think about:
If you could avoid death, and might have your free choice, would you choose to live always in this world, without God, rather than in his time to leave the world, in order to be with him?
Were you to spend your eternity in this world, would you choose rather to live in mean and low circumstances with the gracious presence of God, than to live forever in earthly prosperity without him?
Finally, consider this beautiful application:
Application: First, hence we may learn, that whatever changes a godly man passes through, he is happy; because God, who is unchangeable, is his chosen portion. Though he meet with temporal losses, and be deprived of many, yea, of all his temporal enjoyments; yet God, whom he prefers before all, still remains, and cannot be lost. While he stays in this changeable, troublesome world, he is happy; because his chosen portion, on which he builds as his main foundation for happiness, is above the world, and above all changes. And when he goes into another world, still he is happy, because that portion yet remains.
May God give you a hunger and a desire for Him above all else. And may God feed your soul along with your body this Thanksgiving! 

October 29, 2015

Powerman and Mosquitoboy: Robot Invasion

Well, here it is.... the completed series of Powerman and Mosquitoboy: Robot Invasion!

This was the final series of these kids videos we made back in my superhero days. 


The previous series was Deceptor's Revenge



God designed us for His happiness.

 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” –Psalm 139:14


We’ve all been infected by the virus of sin. 

“Death spread to all men because all sinned.” -Romans 5:12b


You must be born again.

“In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’” –John 3:3


Don’t copy the crowd.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world…” -Romans 12:2, part


God transforms us through His Word

“…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” -Romans 12:2, part 2

July 10, 2015

Keep the Fire Blazing

A good bonfire is meant to be seen from space. A fire that you can barely see is hardly worth having. The same is true for our spiritual lives. Paul wrote to Timothy and told him to “fan into flame” the gift that he had been given by God (2 Tim. 1:6). Some think this gift may have been Timothy’s ministry itself, a spiritual gifting, or simply the work of the Spirit in Timothy’s life helping him to serve God with a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.

The phrase “fan into flame” can be translated as “keep constantly blazing” (Wuest). It does not necessarily mean that the fire had gone out or died down, but it points to the fact that Timothy had to work to keep the fire going all of the time. It is an ongoing task. Fires burn out and die unless there are maintained. 

This applies to our spiritual lives as well. What will happen to our flame if we do not attend to the fire? For a regenerated believer, God will never let the fire go out completely—but it may smolder.

Do you ever feel that your spiritual life is smoldering? Sometimes it doesn’t seem to be giving off any heat. Instead of being visible from space, there is hardly a trace of smoke. What do you do?

How does a person attend to a literal fire? 

There is more than one way that a fire can go out. A fire needs fuel. A fire needs oxygen. A fire needs heat. Take away any of those and the fire goes out. The same is true for our spiritual fire.

We need to keep fueling our faith with the Word of God. Our faith needs to feed off the fuel of God’s promises in Scripture. That is why Paul could have hope as he awaited execution in a Roman prison—because his faith was fueled by the “promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:1).  Keep fueling your faith with knowledge of God’s promises and character.  

We need dependence on the Holy Spirit as oxygen. Fuel needs oxygen to ignite. In the same way, the Holy Spirit causes His Words of Scripture to ignite in our hearts. Just as a fire needs both fuel and oxygen, the words of Scripture and the work of the Spirit always go together. Fires burn hot when they get the wind they need. If your spiritual life is smoldering, pray for God’s Spirit to blow on your embers.

We need to keep the fire stirred by Christian work, ministry and service. Maybe your spiritual life is cold because the embers need to be stirred up. Maybe you are dormant because of a lack of activity. Get involved with something. Volunteer. Serve. Speak. Do something and see if it gets the flames going. 

And just as coals burn hotter when close together we need Christian fellowship to keep our fire hot. When coals are spread apart, they get cold. (Heb. 10:24-25)

Don’t douse your fire with buckets of sin. Wet wood doesn’t burn.

I don’t want to get allegorical, but these are some of the things that the Bible calls us to do regardless. The key point is that we need to attend to our spiritual lives constantly. When we don’t keep watch, or when we don’t put forth any effort, the fire will not blaze as it once did.

June 27, 2015

On Marriage and Gender

Recalibrating our Thinking on Marriage and Gender

Our society has lost a stable understanding of marriage and gender. Our collective understanding used to be informed by the biblical worldview and an understanding of creation's design and purposes. However, for most people that worldview has been replaced by arbitrary opinions that are the ever-changing concoctions of human invention. This will not end well for us.

Here are outlines and videos for three recent messages on marriage and gender that are especially relevant for the situation we find ourselves in today. Regardless of current laws, it is vitally important that we recalibrate our thinking on these issues from a biblical worldview. For the good of society and our families we need to be equipped to help others think clearly on these matters.

[Jesus] answered, 'Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?  So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.'" -Matthew 19:4-6

Ways the World Gets Marriage Wrong - part 1
  • The world thinks that marriage is a human invention.
  • Marriage is a human institution given to us by God. It is not a human invention, so we are not free to change it however we wish. On the other hand, marriage was given by God to all humanity and that is why we recognize non-Christian marriages of a man and a woman as real marriages. 
  • The world does not remember why marriage is between one man and one woman.
  • The Biblical pattern for marriage is one man and one woman (Genesis 1-2). Jesus Himself affirmed this in Matthew 19:4-6.
  • It is grounded in the design of this world. (1) There is a natural chain linking marriage --> sex --> conception --> raising children. The reason most people no longer understand marriage is because they have lost the awareness of this natural chain. (2) In addition, of all the possible combinations that we could consider for marriage, the combination of one man and one woman is the only combination that produces life. Therefore, the historical definition of marriage was the only one that was not arbitrary.
  • Marriage is designed by God to picture the relationship between Christ and the Church. (Ephesians 5:22-33)


Ways the World Gets Marriage Wrong - part 2

  • The world thinks marriage is just a contract, not a covenant.
  • Marriage is not just a human contract. If marriage was just a human contract we could adjust the terms however we wanted. Instead, marriage is something sacred. Real marriage is something that God does. Jesus said, "what therefore God has joined together" (Matt. 19:6). 
  • The world think marriage is primarily about the personal happiness and fulfillment of adults.
  • Marriage used to be understood as that which unites a man and a woman and any children that might result from that union. The new idea of marriage is merely a public recognition of a romantic relationship of two adults. 
  • The world forgets the purposes of marriage. 
  • The public purposes of marriage: (1) for children: Marriage keeps moms and dads together so that children grow up being cared for by their own mother and father in an intact, stable family. (2) for women: Marriage protects women from men who would sexually take advantage of them and abandon them without taking responsibility for their children. (3) for men: Marriage  civilizes men and forces them to act responsibly. These purposes are good for any society and are not specifically Christian.  
  • The biblical purposes of marriage: Biblical purposes of marriage include (1) the glory of God, (2) procreation, (3) the raising of children to love and serve the Lord, (4) God-pleasing intimacy--without the sin of fornication, (5) companionship between a man and a woman--cohabitation without scandal, (6) complementarity, (7) sanctification, (8) to picture the relationship between Christ and the Church.


Ways the World Gets Gender Wrong

  • Many in the world assert that gender is a spectrum rather than two distinct categories.
  • The Bible teaches that there are two distinct genders. (Genesis 1:27; Jesus' words in Matthew 19:4)
  • Biology teaches that there are two distinct genders. Gender differences are rooted in our chromosomes. The presence of a Y chromosome indicates that a person is male and the absence of a Y chromosome indicates that a person is female. This is objective and true even for those with developmental or genetic anomalies.      
  • Most of the world thinks one gender is better than the other.
  • The Bible teaches that both men and women are created in the image of God, equal in dignity and worth.
  • The world thinks there are no important differences between genders--and if there were that would be a bad thing. 
  • The Bible teaches that men and women and different, and are so by God's good design.
  • The world thinks we have autonomy over our gender.
  • As sinners we crave to be our own law-makers. Instead, the Bible teaches that God is sovereign, not human beings. Our genders are given to us by God and are a matter of fact, not feelings. It is good to be a man, and it is good to be a woman. Embrace the gender of the body that God gave you. 


June 2, 2015

Thoughts on Finishing My PhD

Or, “ You Think You're a Big Boy, That's So Cute”

Many people have congratulated me on recently finishing my PhD. I defended my dissertation in January and I walked in May. I really appreciate everyone’s kind words, and I will admit that it was a ridiculous amount of work.

However, there is something that happened in our family a few years ago that really helps me put that in perspective. When my son Luke was still the baby in the family, we told him that he needed to start learning to pull up his own pants “like a big boy.” It worked. This was perfect motivation because, like most little boys with an older brother, he wanted desperately to be a big boy.

We didn’t think much of it until weeks later when Luke came storming into the living room with his fists clenched in anger and his lip quivering. As he stood there crying and huffing, we asked him what in the world was wrong? He stomped, “Eric told me I’m not a big boy!”

This had us perplexed until we remembered that we had told Luke that he needed to pull up his pants like a big boy. He had latched onto that. And now, since he could indeed pull up his pants all by himself, obviously he was a certified big boy. In his mind, he had arrived!

I remember looking down at my son as he stood there arguing in tears that he was a big boy. I smiled and laughed to myself. There he was, knee high to me, barely out of diapers, and crying because someone told him he wasn’t a big boy—which, by the way, is not a very ‘big boy’ thing to do. I remember thinking to myself, Oh,  you can pull up your pants and you think that makes you a big boy… That’s so cute.”

That got me thinking about God up in heaven and some of the accomplishments that we have in life. And I knew that eventually I would finish the PhD program and get my doctorate. It is easy for things to go to your head sometimes. But I imagined God looking down on me one day and thinking, Oh,  you got your degree and now you think you’re a big boy… That’s so cute.”

(You can click here for a short video of me telling this story.)

May 8, 2015

Steps to a Clean Heart

It has been rightly said that the whole Christian life can be summed up in three “G” words: Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude. We can see these three themes in Psalm 51, written by King David after he repented of his sins of adultery with Bathsheba and the slaughter of her husband Uriah (2 Samuel 11-12).  When I taught a trilogy of messages on Psalm 51 (one, two, three) I split the passage using those three themes.

As Christians, we don’t hide the fact that our deepest need is for a clean heart before a holy God. Even as Christians, we fail and fall short. However, Psalm 51 is an ideal passage for study and meditation concerning the Biblical way to deal with an unclean heart.  In this Psalm we can discern at least eight “steps” for getting our hearts right with God after moral failure.

1.      Approach God, focusing on His character. (v. 1)

Notice that David comes to God focusing on His “steadfast love” and His “abundant mercy.” Unless we work to remind ourselves about God’s revealed character, we will either come to Him in the wrong way, or we will be too afraid to come to Him at all.

2.      Honestly admit the truth about your sin. (v. 2-6)

David denied his sin for at least nine months. He tried to cover it up. He tried to ignore it. David was miserable during that time. In Psalm 32:3-4 David admitted, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.”

Here in Psalm 51, David faced up to his sin. He uses three words for sin. Transgressions means to cross a boundary in rebellion. Iniquity is from words meaning “twist” and “go astray.” It indicated perversity, depravity, and waywardness. Sin means missing the target; failing to do what is right.  

David admitted that he really sinned (v. 3). He admitted the serious nature of his sin—that all of his sin is really against God. Yes, David sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah, but he wrote, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (v. 4). All sin is rebellion against God. David also acknowledged the depth of his sin problem—he sins because He was conceived and born as a sinner (v. 5). He admitted that, at the root, his heart is sinful. Sin is so deeply ingrained in us that only God can scrub it out. And unless we acknowledge the truth about our sin that will never happen.
3.      Appeal for cleansing, depending on the blood of the Lamb of God. (v. 7)

David asks God for cleansing. Literally, he is asking God to “un-sin” his heart. In fact, in verses 7-12 David asks God to grant twelve distinct requests. This is an example for us. Cleaning is there for the asking but it does not come without asking.

As Christians, we might wonder how David could ask for forgiveness apart from Jesus. However, verse 7 says, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.” If you are wondering why David mentioned the hyssop plant, remember that the most famous use of hyssop in the Old Testament was during the original Passover. The Israelites were told to use hyssop to apply the blood of the sacrificed lamb to the doorframe of their houses so they would be spared from the Destroyer. Hyssop points back to the Passover, and the Passover lamb points ahead to the true Lamb of God. When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming he cried, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) If you want cleaning, you must depend on the blood that was spilled in your place by the true Lamb of God.

4.      Desire inward renewal and a cleansed heart. (v. 8-12)

It isn’t enough just to be pardoned of our guilt. David knew that his sins of adultery and murder flowed out of his sinful heart. David knew that unless God would change his heart he would be right back at it like an unreformed criminal set free from prison. Genuine heart change is something only God can do.

Genuine repentance means not wanting to have the desire for that sin anymore. You may still struggle with that desire as a temptation, but you don’t want that desire anymore. We don’t pray, “God forgive me of that, but let me keep the love of that sin in my heart.”

5.      Promise to teach others the lessons you have learned. (v. 13)

Genuine repentance and forgiveness makes us willing to tell others the stories of our sin and the consequences—so that we can warn them and plead with them not to make the same mistakes. We accept that our sins were seriously bad; and we also accept God’s forgiveness which frees our tongues from being paralyzed by guilt. This puts us in the right position to help others from falling into the same pits.           

6.      Praise God for His character and compassion. (v. 14-15)

Psalm 51 was written by a man who was forgiven of adultery and murder. Amazing Grace was written by the former captain of a slave ship. The loudest praise comes from the lips of the largest forgiven sinners.

7.      Continuously keep contrite heart before God. (v. 16-17)

God would rather have us slaughter the pride in our hearts than slaughter animals for sacrifice. We are not forgiven by being sorry for our sins—even by being genuinely sorry. Forgiveness only comes because Christ died for us. But to accept that, we need a broken and contrite heart.

False repentance is merely being sorry about consequences. Genuine repentance means being deeply grieved about offended the King we realize we should never rebel against. A contrite heart isn’t just something for the start of the Christian life. For all of our Christian life we need to stay humble and contrite before God. It is a part of gratitude.

8.      Pray for others. Move your focus outside of yourself—to others and the glory of God. (v. 18-19)

David concludes Psalm 51 by praying for the good of Zion and for God to delight in burnt offerings given to Him. The last “step” of going to God for a clean heart is to move our focus from ourselves to others. This is spiritually and emotionally healthy. A heart bent by sin is twisted back and looks only at itself. A cleaned heart looks outward and upward.

Footnote: My thinking on these steps was spurred by James Boice’s commentary on Psalm 51. I used his wording for what I call step five. 

April 14, 2015

How I Grew My Mega-Church By the Age 35

A lot of young guys in ministry read books that could be titled How I Grew My Mega-Church by the Age 35. These books get published, bought, and read because these are examples of success. These are the models of how to accomplish great things. They stir the hearts of young guys in healthy and unhealthy ways.

I have a few of these books on my shelf too. But when I think about where several of these pastors are today, I think a title for the sequel could be How I Blew Up My Ministry by the Age 45. I’m sure these sequels wouldn’t sell as many copies to starry-eyed hopefuls, but they should be required reading too. Don’t follow a blueprint until you see how well the building lasts.

Maybe the best book for young guys in ministry to read is The Tortoise and the Hare. Slow and steady. Win the race. 

1 Cor. 9:24-27

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...