Saturday, November 10, 2012

The World Is Not My Treasure, Christ Is

Jesus drew me into Himself by placing people in my life who looked very different from the rest of the world.  These people were similarly imperfect and broken, but they were also very different from all of the people that I had know to this point in my life.  These Christians were not living the selfish lives devoted to idol-worship like everyone else I knew to this point in my life.  These Christians epitomized what it looks like to devote a life with the goal of bringing glory to God.  They renounced, by action, the worship of money/stuff, self-praise/success, a good time, etc.  I became a Christian because the way that my new friends lived, boldly declared "Jesus is alive."

If we truly believe that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever; if we want to make people glad in God, our lives must look as if God, not possessions/success/worldly-happiness, is our joy. If you truly understand and are gripped by what Jesus did for YOU on the cross, if you truly have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, if you are a Christian by Jesus' definition, finding joy in Him should be easy.  He freely lifted you from the eternal weeping & gnashing of teeth that you had earned by your sin (your cosmic treason against the creator of everything) and gave to you as a gift freedom, joy ..even heaven.  Christian, does this excite you!?

In 1 Tim 6:17 Paul warns about setting hopes on riches, comfort, money, etc.  Why?  Because God offers us something better.  He says that God "richly supplies us with everything to enjoy".  What more do you need outside of Him?  The Creator of the universe is pursuing an everlasting one-on-one relationship with you.  And yet, we continue to stray.  We continue to seek out temporary relationships with fallen people, to build our personal success, comfort, etc.  Why?  C.S. Lewis famously stated, we are "like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

Friends, no one cares that you drive an Audi, that you shop at Neiman Marcus, eat at the expensive steakhouse downtown, are friends with people in high places, or spend your weekends doing nothing but relaxing & watching football on your massive TV.  Firstly, all of these worldly things will burn & you're not going to them with you when you die.  Secondly, it is simply not impressive.  You're worshiping the same things that everyone who is apart from Christ in this world is worshiping.  John Piper wrote in Don't Waste Your Life that "The world is not impressed when Christians get rich and say thanks to God.  They are impressed when God is so satisfying that we give our riches away for Christ's sake and count it gain."  Or as Donald Miller once wrote: how much would you enjoy a movie about a guy who spent years to earn enough money just to buy a Volvo?  You would want your time & money back after watching that movie.  It's not impressive.  It's not significant.

I know that I have money/responsibilities/connections to show that these things are not my god(s), Christ is.  However, practically living this out is much easier when you're a jobless college student.  Unfortunately, most of us gradually transition into a job that pays in actual US currency.  It has taken me almost a hear and a half to realize just how difficult it is for a Christian to faithfully live amidst such wealth.  I do not indent to throw out a blanket statement demonizing money.  I do believe that it can be a blessing from God and there are plenty of biblical cases to support that claim.  I also believe, in more cases than not, that Satan provides excessive wealth to rip away the joy offered through the cross by Jesus and replace it with lesser-joys.  Satan may also offer us wealth/comfort/success so that the difference that I noticed in the Christians who led me to Christ is not visible.  Isn't that his aim?  Christian or not, idols blind us from true joy.

Lecrae has some great words on the topic: "Ain't nothing wrong with havin’ it. Matter fact, go and get it But if you find identity in it then go ‘n forget it". I do miss the encouragement of living alongside of Christians whose joy is found in Christ alone; who look different than the rest of the world; who could pay cash for that penthouse condo you just bought (though you can't really afford) but instead live moderate lives because they don't need all of these worldly things.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said in The Cost of Discipleship: "The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ".  Friends, Jesus Christ is is an exponentially greater treasure than every in this world.  Chose to look different and don't be deceived: you can't serve two masters (Matt 6:24).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Come to Me" - Jesus

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-30
What an amazing invitation that Jesus offers to us!  I have been repeating it to myself for the last week and each time it weighs heavier and heavier on my heart.  In last week's sermon on Luke 22:47-53, Pastor Mark Driscoll noted: "It's not enough to sit under good teaching or to believe it - you have to do what it says."  Yet, how rarely do I go to Jesus with my burdens?

When we think of "doing what scripture says", we often think of following some sort of a law or rule.  However, here, Jesus commands us to do something quite different.  He invites us to follow Him.  He says that when we follow Him, we will find rest for our burdened souls.  Why?  Because when we follow Jesus, He offers, us freedom/rest/closure/forgiveness for our past grievances.  He also offers a much greater end goal for our lives...the only perfect end goal possible, Jesus.

Our sinful hearts often try to replace a few words in verse 28 to say "I will come to myself, myself being a laborer and heavy laden, and I will give myself rest."  Doesn't that sound foolish?  And yet, I, along with every single non-Christian try to do this daily.

God, the creator of heaven & earth, has extended an offer to you and I to take over our burdens, debts & sins, and carry them away to nail them to the cross.  We have been given an invitation to serve a God who can both figuratively and literally move the mountains (Jeremiah 4:24) and yet we pridefully toil day in and day out with futile (I mean this figuratively in most cases, yet literally in some) attempts at moving pebbles.

It doesn't stop there, Jesus offers an invitation to even more than freedom from guilt, pain, sin, etc.  He extends His hand down into the pit of Hell which we ALL (Romans 3:23) deserve to burn in Hell for eternity with the likes of unrepentant sinners like Hitler, Bin Laden, Charles Manson, and quite probably Ghandi; and offers an eternal party with Him in Heaven. 

Christian and non-Christian, accept the invitation, cast your burdens of Jesus Christ, accept freedom, turn from your sin and come to Jesus.  He has already done the work and made the first step.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bonhoeffer on Peace

On August 28th 1934 Dietrich Bonhoeffer delivered his famous "Peace Speech" to the assembly gathered at the Conference at Fano.  The speech is (in general) in response to the official German Church pledging allegiance to Adolf Hitler.  In Eric Metaxas' biography of Bonhoeffer, he says that the assembly was breathless, that they would never forget what they just heard, and they were uncomfortable, but it was hard to miss the power behind the 28 year old Bonhoeffer's words:
"There is no way to peace along the way of safety.  For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe.  Peace is the opposite of security.  To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself.  Peace means giving oneself completely to God's commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes.  Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God.  They are won when the way leads to the cross."
Wouldn't it be incredible if we would all live up to his vision and step out in faith.  If we were to use the weapons that God has given us: the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, readiness given by the gospel of peace as shoes, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sin in Disgusting

This weekend I biked 65 miles (doing it in less than 4 hours is also worth mentioning) in and around the city of Seattle.  It was a great ride.  I particularly love these long rides by myself because it gives me a few hours to just think, pray & reflect.  Often my thoughts are spurred on by something I see along my ride.

Given Seattle's 12.9% homosexual population (source) it was only a matter of time until I ran into one (or two) in public.  My first reaction was surprise...I can't say that I've ever seen two grown men walking down the street holding hands.  But as I continued to ride and pray about what I had just witnessed something clicked.

I grew up in a hard-working blue-collar town just south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  I am certain that if you picked this pair of men and moved them to Pittsburgh (or any blue-collar town) they would get all sorts of strange looks and comments.  If you asked many of these residents why they don't approve of the actions of these two men, many people would say "it's gross", "it's wrong", "the round peg doesn't fit in the round peg", etc.

To cut to the chase, the Bible speaks of many sinful lifestyles.  1 Corinthians 6:9 says:
"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality"
Maybe 1 Timothy 1:9-10 makes my point more impactful:
"Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted."
Many of the wonderful citizens of not only Pittsburgh but Seattle alike, would be disgusted by a petophile (sexually immoral), or a murderer (does the Casey Anthony murder trial ring a bell?), slave drivers, liars, etc.  Because of our sinful nature, many seem to want the sin of homosexuality to slip by as being "okay" because it's "progressive" (all the way back to the stone-age right?).

My point is that when people, particularly non-believers are grossed out by two grown men holding hands I think it is ultimately a disgust of sin.  Like the Gentiles in Romans 2:15, they "show that the work of the law is written on their hearts".  God is disgusted by sin.  We are His image bearers.  Thus, we (many of us) are disgusted by sin, as we should.  Because homosexuality is a sin, we should be disgusted by homosexuality.  We do, however, need to be careful to not single it out as the only sin prevalent in our culture (and cultures dating back thousands of years).

Ultimately, we are all un-deserving of God's kindness and free gift of grace.  Sin is sin, it is just that we all have our choice of flavor.  Just as much as an axe murderer, a pedophile, US politician or a homosexual, I need to ask for God's forgiveness and turn from my sin.  And it is only through the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, God's sinless son, dying in my place, and rising again, that I have forgiveness and freedom.

Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health

A few months ago, before moving out west, my pastor in Harrisburg handed me a really good book titled "Ten Questions To Diagnose Your Spiritual Health" by Don Whitney. I read it soon thereafter and as I often do, took notes via computer. Tim Challies posted a link to the Kindle version of the book Amazon is offering for FREE (a used hard copy is pretty inexpensive too). I figured that I would give my plug for the book and post a few of the notes I took.

I'm sure Paul's primary motivation in giving me the book is because I mentioned how I often struggled reading through the Psalms.  I've always felt as though I couldn't relate to much of the extreme lovey-dovey or persecuted church sounding psalms.  Paul (and Don) suggested praying through not just the Psalms but all of scripture.  In short, it really gives light and personal meaning to much of the scripture that may seems distant from us...because it's really not.  Praying through Romans 8 is particularly incredible.

Here is a short excerpt from my notes of each chapter:

Chapter 1: Do You Thirst For God?
In Philippians 3:10, Paul wrote of the passion that propelled him: “that I may know Him”. Don points out that he already knew Jesus more closely than perhaps anyone else ever would. “The more Paul progressed in spiritual strength, the more thirsty for God he became.

Meditating on John 4:14 (“whoever drinks of the water I shall give him will never thirst”, John Piper says: “When you drink my water, your thirst is not destroyed forever. If it did that, would you feel any need of my water afterward? That is not my goal. I do not want self-sufficient saints. When you drink my water, it makes a spring in your. A spring satisfies thirst, not by removing the need you have for water, but by being there to give you water whenever you get thirsty. Again and again and again. Like this morning. So drink, John. Drink”

Chapter 2: Are You Governed Increasingly by God’s Word?
Don asks a few questions:
  • Do you find yourself inquiring - consciously - how the Bible speaks to specific areas of life? 
  • Do you ask others, perhaps those in spiritual leadership or who are mature, to help you apply Scripture in particular situations?
  • Is it your practice to actually turn the pages of the Bible in search of the will of God?
I am very convicted by what Don writes in this section. He consistently asks how is scripture changing our lives. Do we simply admire God’s truth or do we LOVE it? What difference do we see in our relationship with God this year, versus last?

“You know that God’s Word is growing in its influence over you when you can point to increasing numbers of beliefs and actions that have been changed because of the potency of specific texts of Scripture” (35).

Chapter 3: Are You More Loving?
A predominant “badge and character” of a growing Christian is an increasing love for others. Not Paul, John the Baptist, D.A. Carson, or John Piper live up to the 1 Corinthians 13 standard of love...only Jesus Christ can/has done that.

As people living in a fallen world, we often wrongly call things “love” that are actually “natural affection” (Romans 1:31, 2 Timothy 3:3)...we naturally love certain people, like our parents or children. We also mask our self-love with “love”...before calling something love, we should ask ourselves “Does it please me first?”

Chapter 4: Are You More Sensitive To God’s Presence?
“I do not mean that we should frequently feel a supernatural presence, for that can be extremely unreliable. Nevertheless, it should not be unusual for us, wherever we are, to recognize that ‘God is here’” (56).

While God’s physical presence surrounds us just like the air (Acts 17:28), “To know the indwelling presence of Christ, one must first, in Jesus’ words, “Repent, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15)” (59).

“The basis of our experience with God is God-revealed truth, not our individual, idiosyncratic opinions about God. We are then much more likely to sense the presence of God as He really is rather than as a God compromised of our preferences” (61). If we take the Rob Bell approach of relativism, then how do we know that we didn’t just have an encounter with a demonic presence masterfully masquerading as an “angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14).

“it’s one thing to long for a sense of God’s presence while not experiencing it, and another to live routinely with no awareness of His absence” (64). The first is marked by the Christian’s agony (as when Jesus cried “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me” - Mat 27:24), the second of apathy.

Chapter 5: Do You Have A Growing Concern For The Spiritual And Temporal Needs Of Others?
In John 4:24, Jesus tells us to “worship in spirit and truth”; however, most of us have an emphasis on either spirit or truth. But in Mark 6:34-44, Jesus cares for the 5,000 physically. Don rephrases James 2:15-16 by saying what we say when we fail to care for people’s temporal needs: “I love you so much and am so concerned about you that I want to give you the words of eternal life, but I don’t care enough to address your basic and pressing physical need”. However, the existence of a need does not always mean a call to meet it. Not even Jesus responded to every need He could have met (Luke 12:1).

Chapter 6: Do You Delight In the Bride Of Christ
“Just as candy delights a child, so the child of God does not have to be persuaded to delight in the supernatural spiritual sweetness found only in God’s church. Delight in the church is inborn in those who are born again” (85).

“The reason why growing Christians so readily delight in being with the saints of God is the real presence of God Himself living within ordinary people we know. Ultimately, you are delighted by Him in them” (86).

Chapter 7: Are the Spiritual Disciplines Increasingly Important To You?
Spiritual Disciples - “the God-ordained means by which we bring ourselves before God, experience Him, and are changed into Christlikeness.”

1 Timothy 4:7 says “Discipline yourself, for the purpose of godliness”. But also keep in mind that these spiritual disciplines are not by themselves the marks of Christlikeness as the means to it (96). Time spent in these disciplines does not matter quite as much as how much they are influencing us.

Chapter 8: Do You Still Grieve Over Sin?
“The closer you get to Christ, the more you will hate sin; for nothing is more unlike Christ than sin” (102). The more like Christ we are, the more sincerely we can join Paul in calling ourselves the worst of all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).

As we grow nearer to God, we are continually convicted of sin in our lives that we previously had no clue even was sin. A.W. Pink explained, “It is not the absence of sin but the grieving over it which distinguishes the child of God from empty professors [of faith].” Thomas Bernard said: “Our sense of sin ins in proportion to our nearness to God”. Thus, “increased sensitivity to your sin is a mark of growth” (103).

Repentance should not be heartless and mechanical. Godly sorrow is much more than admitting your imperfections - rather, it brings about repentance, a change of mind about the sin that produces a change of behavior. Without true repentance, there is no godly sorrow.

Chapter 9: Are You a Quick Forgiver?
This does not mean that we are forgiven BY forgiving others, but that the character of true Christian will be quick to forgive. KNOWING that God has forgiven me of a debt of sin that I could never repay, I am willing to forgive others.

Our forgiveness should not be dependent on repentance of the other party. As soon as the nails were driven through Jesus’ hands, he prayed “Father, forgive them”.

Chapter 10: Do you Yearn For Heaven And To Be With Jesus?
“There’s nothing uniquely Christian about longing for an end to a wearying existence and the beginning of a new and more restful one” (124)...even Buddhists, Muslims, and atheists want that. Thus the question should not be “Do you yearn for Heaven?” but rather “For which Heaven and which Jesus do you yearn?” A Christian should feel less and less at home in our sin ridden world and instead look forward a holy place, holy people, and a holy God.

Sorry that ended up being so long. I tried to abridge my notes as much as possible without losing anything significant. If you're really too lazy to read the book, I'd be happy to send you the rest of my notes.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


It would be an understatement to say that a lot has changed in my life since my last post.  I would first like apologize to anyone that may have thought that I fell off the face of the earth...I'm still here.  Here's a very brief life update:

My last day of work in our Harrisburg office was April 17th.  I left for Pittsburgh later that day, to begin a 5 day cross country road trip to my new home in Seattle, WA.  You can see some pictures HERE.  The trip was amazing and something that I wish every US citizen could/would do.  It is amazing what our country has to offer...I would much rather do that drive again than spend a week on some Caribbean island.

After living in a Bellevue, WA hotel for 2 weeks I headed to China (Shanghai, Kunshan, Shenzhen, Longhau, Zhuhai, Hong Kong) for another 2 weeks (for work).  This was an amazing experience and was certainly eye opening.  Three things stick out in my mind: (1) The food usually tasted pretty good but there are heads and bones on/in everything. It's not much of a stretch to say that I ate in a Petco while there.  When you walk in they hand you a net and you pull out what you want to eat from a room full of aquariums.  Then they cook and serve it...eyes still glaring up at you. (2) Several places in China have far worst pollution than LA.  I wish I had worn ski goggles because it burns your eyes.  (3) The Chinese are some of the most friendly, caring people that I've ever met.  I'm looking forward to a return trip...hopefully I'll be able to speak a little more Mandarin by then.

On Memorial Day weekend I moved into my new high-rise downtown Bellevue (eastside of Seattle) apartment as soon as my flight home landed...and I slept on the floor in my unfurnished apartment for a few days...literally, I didn't move for a few days (good thing I had Monday off!).  I've since furnished my apartment, found a church (that was a tough one...Mars Hill being so close and all), found great community at Mars Hill, have gotten settled into the area & work, and have even gotten back into the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook...if only I could get back into that mass-reading plan.

I'll hopefully get back into this in the next few days.

Monday, April 18, 2011

My Cross Country Road Trip

I guess by now most of you know that I recently accepted a relocation offer from my company to Redmond, WA (east-side of Seattle). While most all of my belongings are being taken by truck, I was given the option to take 3 extra vacation days and drive across the country from Harrisburg, PA to Redmond, WA.  I'm also incredibly fortunate to have a friend coming along for the ride.  Even more fortunately, his hilarity will undoubtedly make this a trip to remember for a lifetime.

Here's my tentative route:

View Larger Map

First evening (187 miles): Harrisburg, PA to my parent's house - need to do a quick last minute cosmetic car repair and it's on the way.
Day 1 (540 miles): Belle Vernon, PA to Chicago, IL - meeting up with some friends from Shure at an amazing blues bar
Day 2 (934 miles): Chicago, IL to Mt Rushmore, SD - who doesn't want to see some giant faces carved into a mountain?  Though, I can say with near certainty we're not making it all the way there in one day and will probably stop 3/4th way.
Day 3 (590 miles): Mt Rushmore to Yellowstone, WY - 'nuff said
Day 4: Spend the day in the park
Day 5 (771 miles): Yellowstone to Seattle, WA

All in all, that's just over 3000 miles through 11 states...I'll post some pictures when it's over.