Monthly Archives: May 2016

Keeping Yesterday From Ruining Today

I once heard John Piper say that when he wakes up, “Satan is sitting on my face”, and I can relate. If I had to pick a “worst time of the day” in my life, it would be the time of awakening; it’s at this point that failures of the previous day come back to haunt me.

Maybe you know what I’m talking about. In those early morning hours, I don’t know why, but sometimes it all comes back: that moment I was short with a family member, the missed opportunity to speak up for Christ, perhaps wasted time from a too-long lingering in front of nighttime television…you get the idea.

And for this reason I was recently encouraged from Jerry Bridges’ book, Who Am I. Bridges was a long-time staff member with the Navigators who recently passed away, and from what he wrote, it sounds like he might have at least occasionally experienced the same early morning issues. But what struck me was the verse he applied during these times.

Now of course, there are many verses in Scripture that help us when our sin comes back to trouble us, but this verse seemed to be a favorite of this godly man, and it touched me afresh. As Bridges put it…

“Even today, fifty-five years later, that verse brings sparkle to my life. I often wake up discouraged about something. But as I get dressed and walk down the hall to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee, 1 Corinthians 1: 30 will come to my mind and I say to myself, ‘God, it is of you that I am in Christ.’ And all of a sudden I will break into a great big smile, and the discouragement is gone.” Jerry Bridges, Who am I

Here’s 1 Corinthians 1:30 in full…

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 1 Corinthians 1:30 (ESV)

Do you see? It is because of God’s love, not my own righteousness, that I am secure in Christ with all the blessings therein. And therefore if I didn’t earn redemption by my good behavior, then neither can I lose it with my bad.

The knowledge of this, called to mind and rooted deeply in my soul, delivers me from paralyzing introspection and guilt that might have otherwise ruined another day.

And more than that, the security and hope I find being in Christ leads not to living for self in the day ahead, but rather to striving to live for the One who has so gloriously loved and saved…a sinner like me.


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Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Praying for Josh in the Philippines

On a family trip to Devil's Lake last week

On a family trip to Devil’s Lake last week

Our eldest Josh is flying out of O’Hare Wednesday bound for a six month internship with an organization that does relational ministry among the urban poor in the Philippines. Anyway, for my part, I would like to recruit some folks to pray for what will surely be an extremely challenging half year. Would you consider being a part? He wrote a Facebook post today (below) and gave me permission to share it with you, complete with a way to stay updated. I know the prayers of God’s people will make all the difference in the life of my son. Thanks!

In just a few days I will be embarking on a 6 month service and learning experience in the Philippines. There, I will be interning with an organization which focuses on relational ministry among the urban poor in Manila. I’m so excited to see what God is doing in this particular community, and will hopefully be able to be a small part of that as he continues to work there.

During this time, I will have very limited internet access. For this reason and a few others, I will not be updating my Facebook profile while I’m on my internship (although I will still check occasionally if you send me a message!)

Instead of simply “disconnecting” however, I want to keep in touch with some of you on a deeper and more meaningful level. During my internship in the Philippines, I will be sending out monthly updates via email to those of you who want to know what is going on with me and my community. These will not be overly intimate or revealing. Nor will I have the time to make it personal to each of you. Yet, they should be interesting, including quick updates and descriptive vignettes, while still remaining short (hopefully with some photos too!).

They will by no means come close to being exhaustive. But they will be more meaningful and representative of my experience than a few photos and status updates. You can feel free to respond, and, due to my internet constraints, I may or may not get the chance to write back. Or you can simply read or skim it as you would a Facebook page.

HOWEVER. In order for this to work, I need you to let me know if you want to be on the list! I will be on Facebook for the next few days Before that time, please send me an email at or Facebook message me your email address if you want to receive the emails.

Don’t feel like you have to be my best friend or something to get these emails. Even if we’ve had just one good conversation I’d love to keep in touch. And honestly, it would be a honor to share some of my life with you. Please let me know!

As always, your prayers for me are greatly appreciated.


Posted by on May 24, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Why Cohabitation is Counterproductive (Tim Keller)

From Tim Keller’s message on Matthew 5:27-30…

The biblical view of sex is vastly different from culture, but it is one of the most attractive things about Christianity.

Jesus starts by saying, “You have heard it said, no adultery,” and He is accepting the Old Testament ethic.

What Jesus is saying is, “No sex outside of a covenant.”

The word covenant is archaic. It is a category of thought. A covenant creates a relationship, a relationship far more loving and intimate than a merely legal relationship, but it’s also far more binding and enduring.

Covenant versus consumer relationship:

A consumer relationship is where you’re relating to a vendor and you have a relationship as long as the vendor is giving you a product at a good price.  But you’re always looking for an upgrade. And so what you say to your vendor is “We have a relationship but you’d better keep adjusting to me, because if you don’t meet my needs I’m out of here because my needs are more important than the relationship. We have a relationship but if I can get my needs met better somewhere else, that’s where I will go.”

But a covenant relationship is exactly the opposite. The consumer relationship says, “You adjust to me or I’m out of here”, but a covenant relationship says, “I will adjust to you because I’ve made a promise”. And the relationship is more important than my needs. My needs are less important than the sustenance of the relationship.

Now if two people get into a relationship and one is a consumer and one is a covenanter, that will be bad for the covenanter because he will be exploited. If you get into a relationship and you’re not both covenanting, it will be exploitative. But if both of you get into a relationship and say we’re done with the consumer relationship, and you get into a covenant relationship, which is what it means to get married…three things will result…

(Three results of living in a covenanted sexual relationship, i.e. Marriage)…

1. You will finally have a zone of security and safety where you can finally be yourself.

You see, in a consumer relationship, you’re always marketing, you’re always selling yourself. You’ve got to perform. You’ve got to meet the other persons needs or you’re out, but in a covenant relationship, a marriage, you finally have a zone of safety where you can get rid of the facades. You can finally let him or her know about your insecurities. You can finally be yourself where you can finally stop spinning and selling.

2. In a covenant relationship, where you are committed to a person in spite of your feelings, deeper feelings grow.

So for example, the other covenant relationship aside from husband and wife is the relationship between parents and children. And all of you know that in parenting you get very little back, for a long time, and they never catch up. You give and you give and you give, and it’s not a consumer relationship at all. You adjust to them, and you give and you give, and what’s weird is, you do it and so you’re so invested in your children, that even when they in no way act in a lovable way, you love them. There’s a deeper, richer feeling because you’re invested in them. And in the same way, if you treat your relationship, your marriage as a covenant relationship, if you’re committed in spite of feelings, deeper feelings grow.

So you have a place to develop the deeper richer when you commit in spite of your feelings.

3. There’s a freedom. Covenantal relationships bring freedom.

Kierkegaard put it like this, if you’re in a relationship where you have to feel it, if you’re not meeting my needs, if I don’t feel the love, then I’m out of here. If you’re in a relationship like that, then you are a slave. You’re a slave to your feelings. You’re a puppet on a string of your feelings. And where do your feelings come from? They come from your physiology to some degree, your body chemistry, they come from your past (“She reminds me of my mother.”) And everyone else says, there’s nothing wrong with that. Nobody else has a problem, but you do. But Kierkegaard says, if you don’t want to be a puppet on a string, make a promise, where your partner does not have to adjust to you but you adjust to them.

And what’s this got to do with sex? Everything. Because the Bible says that sex is not a consumer good but a covenant good.

A consumer good is a way you keep someone in a relationship because they have a need….I need sex every so often. Sex is a way for me to feel good about myself. It makes me feel adored and loved. So I go out and find somebody who will meet my need. And sex becomes a consumer good.

But the Bible says that sex was not designed to be a consumer good.

In a covenant, when you have made a promise, sex becomes like a sacrament, an external visible sign or a symbol of a visible reality. That’s why it’s so meaningful. When you use sex inside a covenant, it becomes a vehicle for engaging the whole person in an act of self giving and self commitment.

When I, in marriage, make myself physically naked and vulnerable, it’s a sign of what I’ve done with my whole life.

Because by giving up my independence and making this promise, sex is supposed to be a sign of what you have done with your whole life.

And that’s the reason why sex outside of marriage, according to the Bible, lacks integrity. You’re asking someone to do with their body what they are not doing with their life. You’re saying, let’s be physically vulnerable, let’s do physical disclosure, but not whole life vulnerability.

That’s the reason why C.S. Lewis puts it perfectly, a perfect description of the biblical sex ethic:  “The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside of marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union, the sexual, from all other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union.”

To have physical union without whole life union is a lack of integrity. And if you have sex inside a covenant, then the sex becomes a covenant renewal ceremony. It becomes a commitment apparatus. You’re getting married all over again. You’re giving yourself all over again. It’s incredibly deepening and solidifying and nurturing. What you’re saying when you have sex is I belong exclusively to you and I’m acting it out. That’s what sex is. I’m giving you my body as a token for how I’m giving you my life. I’m opening to you physically as a token for how I’ve opened to you in every other way. That’s how it’s supposed to work. And then sex becomes a deepening thing, a nurturing thing. It’s like covenant cement…like covenant glue. It’s a covenant renewal ceremony.

But when you use sex outside of marriage, what are you saying? You’re saying, I love the feeling I get when I’m with you. You’re taking, not giving. You’re receiving and yet holding on to your life. You’re holding on to your independence, so you’re receiving and you’re not giving. It’s a consumer good. And when you use sex like that, you damage its ability to be a commitment apparatus.

The Christian psychiatrist John White years ago wrote this…”the bodily exposure that aroused and accompanies sex can be profoundly symbolic and powerfully healing if it’s a concrete sign of what’s happening in the whole relationship.” So it only makes sense that sexual relations be confined to marriage, for mutual disclosure and tender acceptance is not the activity of a moment but the fabric of a lifetime’s weaving. And each time sex is physical disclosure without being complete personal disclosure and commitment, some of its life-giving and healing nature is destroyed. In other words, you damage your ability to use it inside a covenant. And this is one of the reasons why there are all these books and articles coming out which very carefully point out that (even in the NY times) cohabitation seems to be counterproductive.

The April 14 issue of the New York Times had an article by a clinical psychologist entitled “the downside of cohabitation”…pointing out that there are more and more studies showing that people who cohabit are more likely to divorce than people who don’t. This is totally counterintuitive to the average young adult in NY city. Because two thirds to three quarters of all young adults say that if you live together before marriage, you’ll figure out if you’re compatible. But this clinical psychologist points out that this is impossible and here’s why…one thing that men and women agree on is that their standards for a live in partner are lower than they are for a spouse, so, as one woman said, “I felt like I was on this multi year, never ending multi audition to be his wife.”

Now here’s what she is saying, if you’re living together, here’s what you’re always thinking, “Can I do better than this?” So you’re trying to find out if you’re compatible which is a nice way of saying that you’re trying to find out if this person is good enough to marry. Whether I can do better, so you’re looking for an upgrade, so what is sex in a situation like that? It’s marketing. It trying to attract, or entice.


Posted by on May 17, 2016 in Uncategorized


Are the Promises of Safety in the Bible True?

I have long wondered what we are to do with verses like this…

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty… A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place– the Most High, who is my refuge– no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. Psalm 91:1, 7-10 (ESV)

Psalm 91, quoted above, is also the passage that Satan quotes to Jesus, urging Him to throw Himself off the temple because…

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. Psalm 91:11-12 (ESV)

This question is on my heart because I just preached Psalm 121 this weekend, which among other things, promises us…

The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. Psalm 121:7 (ESV)

All evil? Really? On the face of it, the promise just doesn’t make sense, for we all know (or know of) believers who have lost their lives for their faith, or have had untold evil done to them and have therefore suffered in many ways. Certainly we all know believers who have, at least according to human accounting, died before their time.

Prosperity Gospel Fuel?

Verses like these not only seem to give fuel to the false gospel of health and wealth, but the real danger here is that a Christian might read these portions of God’s word and begin to feel that…he is not truly saved; or to express a slightly different concern, that he doesn’t measure up in some way to deserve God’s loving-kindness and hand of protection.

“If I were really godly,” he or she thinks, “then the cancer wouldn’t have come to me. Perhaps I should have prayed harder or worked harder for God’s Kingdom. Maybe He really just doesn’t love me.”

But a little while ago, I was reading Luke 21, and I came across this wonderful insight…

“You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish.” Luke 21:16-18 (ESV)

The context? Jesus is speaking of the destruction of the Temple which would happen in 70 A.D., but He’s really using that forthcoming event to speak of the end times just before His return. But here’s the helpful thing: in one breath, the Lord says, “some of you they will put to death,” and in the next breath, He says, “Not a hair of your head will perish.”

Do you see? The Lord is saying that for the believer, it’s possible to be put to death by enemies, or by cancer (the effects of The Fall) or disease or violent crime, etc., and yet, to still be able to say that not a hair of your head has perished. How so? Well, Jesus is referring to the glorious doctrine of the resurrection, a truth that we must interpret all these other passages in light of.

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:51-55 (ESV)



Posted by on May 10, 2016 in Uncategorized


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A New Way to Pray for Someone

I just took a walk on the boardwalk behind the church this afternoon, and as I was praying for my kids, I had an idea, “What if I took The Lord’s Prayer and used it to pray for them?” Okay, so it’s probably not a “new” way to pray, but I don’t personally remember using the format of the Lord’s prayer exactly this way before.

Of course, in the end, The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer for the whole Christian community, as the requests are always for “us” and “our”, but there are certain principles within it that can teach us what is important to pray specifically for individuals that we love. So, here’s how it might go, praying for an imaginary Christian friend named Bob:

Our Father: Pray that Bob would know God’s love, that is, the love of his heavenly Father. “I pray that Bob would know deeply how much you love him. I pray that he would know the height, and width and length and depth of the love of Christ, that he would know the love that surpasses knowledge and be filled up with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3).”

Who art in heaven: Pray that he would grow in his understanding of God’s sovereignty and power. (Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Psalm 115:3 ESV) “Oh, Father, that Bob would know your limitless power in light of what he is going through today, and that as a result of knowing your power, he would seek You for help and answers.”

Hallowed be Thy Name: Pray that his life would bring glory to the name of God. “Lord, may Bob’s life honor You. Use him to bring glory to your name. May he always treat Your name as holy and honored.”

Thy Kingdom come: Pray that he would be used in the furthering of the Kingdom of God. “Father, I know that Bob is trying to reach his neighborhood for Christ. Go before him. Use him to speak words of life. Give him boldness in speech today.”

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven: Pray that Bob would know God’s will for his life, and walk in God’s ways. “Lord, give him wisdom about the decision he needs to make, and help him to live his life today in complete obedience to you.”

Give us this day our daily bread: Pray for whatever spiritual, emotional, relational, or material needs he has. “Father, he’s been unemployed for two months now. Please provide a job for him that fits his gifts and provides for all his material needs.”

Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us: Pray for Bob to have a sensitive heart regarding sin in his life, and to always remember the glorious gospel and the price that was paid for him. Pray that he would keep “short accounts” with God. And pray that he would be a person of grace, freely forgiving anyone who wrongs him.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Pray that God would keep him from sin, and protect him from Satan. “Lord, you know that Bob is struggling with ________. Help him to walk in holiness. And I don’t know what plans Satan is making against him, but thwart the enemy, Lord!”

In Jesus’ name, Amen!


Posted by on May 3, 2016 in Uncategorized


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