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One Glorious Hour in Maximum Security – Part 2

My story of preaching at Waupun Correctional Institution Chapel this past Saturday begins here

Chapel at the prison is electrifying. That’s the word for it. Reminds me of Johnny Cash’s classic live album, “At Folsom Prison,” except with Jesus. There’s a saying that goes, “You may never know that Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you have” and the men walking into chapel on Saturday had Jesus and not much else. I was thinking about that as I sat down near the front and watched the guys come in.

There was James, a guy who attended my study for 5 or so years, and I would guess is one of the godliest men I’ve ever met. He’s about 35, has another 12 years or so on his sentence. I don’t know what he did – I never ask the guys – but I’ve thought he would make a great pastor on our staff. Of course, I’ve never mentioned that to him.  If my misty memory serves me correctly, James is one of the many men who have testified that prison is the best thing that ever happened to him.  And by the way, in all my years of doing prison ministry, I have never heard a guy proclaim his innocence (think Shawshank Redemption).  I’m sure many prisoners do, but most of the guys I minister to seem to feel that for the most part, they have gotten what they deserved.

And I saw Luegene, who appeared really glad to see me. He once told me about stealing 20 bucks as a little boy and then feeling guilty about it. So he did the only right thing you can do with a guilty conscience and a 20 spot burning in your pocket – he flushed it down the toilet to “give it back to God.”  You’ve got to hear him tell the story, though. Your sides will split from laughing so hard. (Side note: as this is a reblog, I found out later talking to Luegene that I had confused him with another guy who had come to my Bible study also – easy to do as Luegene the kind of totally delightful character who would tell a story like that. I believe the guy’s name is Corey who gets credit for a weird kind of honesty)

The gospel I preach has brought me to a rock – solid conviction that I believe makes prison ministry possible: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12 (ESV)  I cannot, therefore, sit in judgment of these men, for I know my own heart.  I have never taken a man’s life…except perhaps that is, in the darkness of my own imagination, as Jesus said that anger and hatred make me an accessory to the crime of murder.

First, second, third or fourth degree murder – before the Judge of all the earth – what does it matter?  I’m guilty, and so are they.  Our only hope is mercy.  And our only hope for mercy is a substitute, Someone to serve the sentence for us.

Three years ago, I began visiting and sharing the gospel with a man in a hospice in Fond du Lac.  This man told his son about our church; the son started attending, and along the way, came to faith in Christ. The son’s name was Mike – he was the warden at the Walls.  Now, Mike is a wonderful friend who is serving the Lord alongside the rest of us at Edgewood.  He was baptized a couple of months ago.

Prisoners, wardens and pastors…the ground is truly level at the foot of the cross.

(This three part story concludes tomorrow and is a reblog from May 2012)

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Posted by on June 8, 2016 in Uncategorized


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One Glorious Hour in Maximum Security

Waupun prison

Waupun Correctional Institution, affectionately known around town as “The Walls”.

I went to prison on Saturday, but thankfully, only for an hour or so.

Waupun, population ~12,000, is home to not one, not two, but three prisons – two maximum security and one minimum. I’ve been leading a Bible Study at the maximum security Waupun Correctional Institution for about 7 years. It’s an architecturally beautiful structure right in the center of town. I’m there on the second and fourth Thursdays from 12:30 to 2. No real prep is required for these studies: usually I just take a recent sermon I’ve preached at church and half preach it, half discuss it with the guys who come.

But this past Saturday I went to the Walls to preach at the Saturday chapel. I had done it once before, but Saturday is not the best day for me. It’s usually the day I’m writing out my sermon (I manuscript it, about 95% word for word) so sometimes I think of it like a 12 – 14 page term paper every week. Saturday is always a crunch day for me, so taking 2 hours in the middle of the day can be a little scary. This past Saturday, at the day’s halfway mark, I was at a nice place in my preparation, and I headed off to preach in a good mood.

Shortly after noon, I got to the front gate, and was met by Todd, the correctional officer who oversees the chapel most days when I come. He’s a gregarious guy, friendly, seems to enjoy his work, and though he’s usually not at the front gate, everything is different on weekends. Someone had to be there to escort me in – what the correctional officers affectionately call a “ride,” and Todd was the guy to do the job.  Todd says he’s going to visit our church…and read my blog.  You out there, Todd?

My first few times visiting the prison years back were intimidating. I thought once to count the number of gates and metal doors I had to pass through to get in. Suffice it to say, there were a lot. I don’t know if claustrophobia comes from being in locked places that are not easily exited, but if so, I can see how someone with such a malady would have a very difficult time in the Walls. Todd and I walked through the many accesses until we reached the large inner courtyard. Usually the place is a beehive of activity, prisoners and guards walking about, but on Saturday, it felt like a ghost town.

We proceeded to the chapel building, where I met one of the two prison chaplains at the Walls, Chaplain Francis, a man who has become a friend through the years. He’s a catholic from India, and returns home for a month-long visit almost every year. He greeted me downstairs in his office, and then I went to a medium sized room where I looked over my sermon for 10 minutes or so. Around 12:30 p.m., he escorted me upstairs to the large chapel…

Part 2 is tomorrow…

(This is a repost from May 2012)



Posted by on June 7, 2016 in Uncategorized


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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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Why We Sin…and the Truth That Sets Us Free

We sin for the same reason that Eve sinned – we believe that God’s way is NOT the way of joy and happiness. In short, we are tempted by a lie, the same lie the enemy told Eve: “God does not have your best in mind.” This is what the Serpent insinuated to Eve in the Garden:

“God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:5 (ESV)

Paraphrased, the enemy said: “Eve, the only reason God told you not to eat that fruit is because He is not on your side – He doesn’t want the best for you.”

In other words, He doesn’t love you.

In our day, the lie regarding God’s character forms the heart of Satan’s temptation in our lives. And we soon find ourselves leaning toward pride, impurity, deceit, anger, greed, and a mile long list of other sins.  All because at heart, perhaps subconsciously, we don’t believe God’s heart toward us is kind, and therefore, living according to God’s ways is not in our best interest.

The Truth That Sets Us Free

But what if there were something that could convince us down deep in our hearts of God’s love? What if there was a truth that, applied to our hearts, convinced us once and for all that God did have good plans for us, that His ways are best? Might that truth enable us to say no again and again to the powerful but “passing pleasures of sin”? Well, I have good news (so to speak!). Jesus said that we would know the greatest kind of love – when someone substitutes himself for another so that the other might live…

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 (ESV)

And ever after He said this, Jesus’ followers have been drawing our attention to the love of God found when Jesus offered Himself on our behalf…

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10 (ESV)

God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person– though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:5-8 (ESV)

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 2 Corinthians 5:14 (ESV)

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20 ESV)

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25 (ESV)

The truth stated over and over again in the New Testament is that the cross is THE WAY that God has demonstrated His love for us. The cross is a demonstration of God’s love because it is where Jesus substituted Himself for us. In other words, understanding the substitutionary atonement of Christ leads to understanding His objective love. Therefore, if you want to convince someone that God has their best in mind, point to the cross. And if you want to be convinced yourself of God’s kind intentions toward you, look at the cross…and remember His love. As Pastor Matt Chandler illustrates….

“It was the cross that wooed me out of depression after the oncologist told me I would have two years. (I thought), ‘Is God against me?’…And yet it was the cross that sits on the right hand of our stage that in our sanctuary, wrestling with the Lord, that I was reminded, ‘How can you for a second believe I am not for you?'”

Therefore, Calvary is not only the glorious act of God that takes our sins away; but contemplating it is also one of the great ways we avoid doubt and sin going forward. Now this kind of contemplation is not a quick-fix on Tuesday to stop sinning on Wednesday but a lifetime project to help us in our struggle with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Since we so easily forget His love, we need to be reminded again and again throughout our lives. No wonder Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper – He wanted us to remember that we are forgiven…and he wanted us to remember that we are deeply loved.

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19 (ESV)

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Posted by on April 26, 2016 in Uncategorized


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A Great Secret of Prayer…

Here is John Calvin from his Institutes of the Christian Religion expressing a great truth about prayer:

“If we would pray fruitfully, we ought therefore to grasp with both hands this assurance of obtaining what we ask, which the Lord enjoins with his own voice, and all the saints teach by their example. For only that prayer is acceptable to God which is born, if I may so express it, out of such presumption of faith, and is grounded in unshaken assurance of hope. He could have been content with the simple mention of faith, yet he not only added confidence but also fortified it with freedom or boldness, that by this mark he might distinguish from us the unbelievers, who indeed indiscriminately mingle with us in our prayers to God, but by chance. The whole church prays in this way in the psalm: “Let thy mercy be upon us, even as we have hoped in thee” (Psalm. 33:22, Comm.). Elsewhere the prophet lays down the same condition: “In the day when I call, this I know, that God is with me” (Psalm. 56:9 Comm.). Likewise: “In the morning I will make ready for thee, and watch.” (Psalm. 5:3 Comm.). From these words we conclude that prayers are vainly cast upon the air unless hope be added, from which we quietly watch for God as from a watchtower.”

What is He saying? Don’t pray unless you “add hope” that God will answer! Grasp with both hands the truth that God answers prayer, and never let go of that truth. Prayers should always be sent to heaven with an “assurance of obtaining”. Look in particular at the verses Calvin quotes. He is saying that our heavenly Father wants us to be confident in praying; He wants to know that His mercy will be upon us (answers will come) according to how we have hoped in Him.

So pray an “acceptable” prayer today…the kind of prayer which believes a prayer-answering God is hearing you.


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Posted by on April 19, 2016 in Uncategorized


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A Sign That Your Money, or Anything Else, is an Idol

We know that idols still exist today, but spotting them in western culture is trickier than it was 3,000 years ago when they sat on altars in the center of a family home.

An idol is anything that we look to for the security and significance that we should only find in God. And if this is the case, well, then, the sky’s the limit on what can actually be an idol. My job can be an idol, my spouse, my car, my children, etc.

And yet it’s the idol of money that Jesus speaks to so clearly in Matthew 6:24…

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (ESV)

Of course money can be an idol, because it is so very easy to find self-worth (significance) and security in a large bank account.

But how do you really tell if your money is an idol to you, or if anything else you have falls into that category? Tim Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods has been a help to me in discernment, but reading in Proverbs the other day, I found another sign: Idols make you “calculate inwardly” and keep you from focusing on what really matters.

In Proverbs 23, our writer has just finished warning us not to “toil to acquire wealth”, to be “discerning enough to desist”, for money disappears easily, or as he says, it “suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.”

And then he says this…

Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy;
do not desire his delicacies,
for he is like one who is inwardly calculating.
“Eat and drink!” he says to you,
but his heart is not with you.
You will vomit up the morsels that you have eaten,
and waste your pleasant words. Proverbs 23:6-8 (ESV)

When something is an idol, you must constantly inwardly calculate whether you will lose it; in other words, you can never rest your mind. This is why, when you are eating dinner with a “stingy” person, someone who serves and worships money as an idol, you can never really have a true conversation with him – he is always “inwardly calculating”, thinking about his money and what he can do to keep it from “sprouting wings.”

As the writer puts it, “his heart is not with you.” In contemporary idiom, “his mind is somewhere else.” Therefore, you “waste your pleasant words.” Idolaters make lousy conversationalists.

And such is what idols do to us again and again. Whether it is money or a girlfriend or a job, if the particular object has become an idol, we lose ourselves in it and are always “inwardly calculating” what we can do to keep it from going away. Idols keep our minds from rest.

In fact, many people, understanding salvation incorrectly, relate to the true God incorrectly as a idol. They believe that they are saved by works and not by grace through faith, and therefore they are always inwardly calculating: “Have I done enough? Does God love me yet? What can I yet do to prove my sincerity? Have I earned my way into God’s acceptance?”

But in a relationship with Jesus Christ, when God becomes my Father and will never “sprout wings” and abandon me, I need never calculate again. As a result I find myself loving Him in return, and the only “calculation” I do is relaxed and joyful, centering around this question: “How can I take everything I have, my money, my relationships, my work, etc., and use it all in passionate service of this good and gracious God who has freed my heart and soul?”

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5 (ESV)



Posted by on April 12, 2016 in Uncategorized


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