The Idol of Approval

April 22, 2011 § 4 Comments

On Sunday night my family went over to one of pastor’s home from our church. In the car I gave my kids the standard lecture, “I want you to sit still, don’t make a mess, don’t talk too loud, etc.” No such luck. One of my children decided that sitting still was over-rated and got up about 78 times, another decided that screaming was a good way to ask their sibling for a toy. My neck was getting tighter and tighter, my blood was almost boiling at this point. Now some instances are disobedience and some are just kids being kids, for example, our pastor was telling us about this lovely new rug that they had just purchased, at that very moment my oldest does a little twirley ballerina move and knocks over an entire glass of liquid on the new heirloom.  The response from our host was, “It’s fine, no big deal,” and at the same time, “Someone get a wet towel, quick!” Kids spill all the time right, I was way beyond  “that’s just what kids do.” Needless to say, I was done.

On the way home I was mad and I made sure everyone knew it. When we walked in the front door my wife gave me a look of disappointment, so I entreated her to explain the look, she said to me, “Dear, there is sin in your heart. You are mad at the children because they made you look bad. You care more about what people think of you than you do about them.” Boom.

We have been reading, thinking, and talking a lot lately about idols that control our hearts and she nailed me. I find security, satisfaction, comfort, and control by being approved of by others. But in the end all of our idols will let us down, every time, no exceptions. My happiness in other people’s approval failed me Sunday night, my idol failed me and I was left empty. But it’s in that place, a place of realizing that we have no hope, where we are ready for the balm of the Gospel to change us. Because its only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we can find an object of for our affections, a place to find our security, satisfaction, comfort, and control that won’t ever let us down, even when we let Him down.

So once my kids were in their pajamas, I had them all sit on my bed and I told them that daddy had disobeyed God and that I had sinned when I got mad at them. My 3-year old looked right at me and said, “God should put you in Hell for your sin.” She is right. But then my 4-year old looked right me and said, “But he isn’t going to, because Jesus died for you dad.” I was undone, the balm that only the Gospel can bring was ministered to my heart by two little girls that spoke the words of life.

Parents, husbands, wives, pastors, don’t live in the façade of the perfect life, you’ll never change and your people won’t either.

Shedding Light in the Darkness

March 19, 2011 § 1 Comment

I was recently listening to song by Andrew Peterson, called Planting Trees, and in the live version of the song he tells the story of how the song came to be. He was on a retreat with in a breakaway group with, what he calls, several remarkable people, authors, pastors, and musicians. The question to discuss was, “In what ways are you personally pushing back the darkness, pushing back the curse?” The answers in the group where generally about preaching to large groups of people, writing influential books, and writing beautiful songs, but Andrew’s wife was in the group too and her answer to the question was beautiful, “I am shedding light in the darkness by raising these 3 children in the Lord.”

Andrew goes on to share that he often receives encouraging notes, and letters, and emails about how his work is a blessing to people but that his wife, and most mothers, don’t receive the honor and praise for their ministries. The truth is that moms have a beautiful and glorious opportunity to tangibly share the love of Christ everyday with their children, to show them truth and love and beauty.

There are no shortcuts in life, hard work and a lot of grace and often many years, is the way to see any fruit that is really desired. I am thankful to God for my wife who loves our children and me unconditionally and is shedding light into the darkness, down the hall from me, even as I write this. So I want to honor her for her labor in love in the Lord.

Thomas Brooks

March 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Puritan, Thomas Brooks, wrote Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices offering helpful ways to embrace God’s grace and to flee from sin. I found Remedy 4 under Device 2 to be particularly illuminating and helpful:

Seriously to consider, that even those very sins that Satan paints, and puts new names and colors upon, cost the best blood, the noblest blood, the life-blood, the heart-blood of the Lord Jesus. That Christ should come from the eternal bosom of his Father to a region of sorrow and death; that God should be manifested in the flesh, the Creator made a creature; that he who was clothed with glory should be wrapped with rags of flesh; he who filled heaven and earth with his glory should be cradled in a manger; that the almighty God should flee from weak man—the God of Israel into Egypt; that the God of the law should be subject to the law, the God of the circumcision circumcised, the God who made the heavens working at Joseph’s homely trade; that he who binds the devils in chains should be tempted; that he, whose is the world, and the fullness thereof, should hunger and thirst; that the God of strength should be weary, the Judge of all flesh condemned, the God of life put to death; that he who is one with his Father should cry out of misery, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46); that he who had the keys of hell and death at his belt should lie imprisoned in the sepulcher of another, having in his lifetime nowhere to lay his head, nor after death to lay his body; that that HEAD, before which the angels do cast down their crowns, should be crowned with thorns, and those EYES, purer than the sun, put out by the darkness of death; those EARS, which hear nothing but hallelujahs of saints and angels, to hear the blasphemies of the multitude; that FACE, which was fairer than the sons of men, to be spit on by those beastly wretched Jews; that MOUTH and TONGUE, which spoke as never man spoke, accused for blasphemy; those HANDS, which freely swayed the scepter of heaven, nailed to the cross; those FEET, “like unto fine brass,” nailed to the cross for man’s sins; each sense pained with a spear and nails; his SMELL, with stinking odor, being crucified on Golgotha, the place of skulls; his TASTE, with vinegar and gall; his HEARING, with reproaches, and SIGHT of his mother and disciples bemoaning him; his SOUL, comfortless and forsaken; and all this for those very sins that Satan paints and puts fine colors upon! Oh! how should the consideration of this stir up the soul against sin, and work the soul to fly from it, and to use all holy means whereby sin may be subdued and destroyed!

Nate Dogg

March 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Nate Dogg was known for his monotone, melodious, and stern voice, often bringing a unique intensity to rap songs. Nate Dogg had a stroke in 2008 and died two days ago, March 14th. I spent some time this morning listening to some of Nate’s tracks and I was struck with two things.

First, when listening to 21 Questions, by 50 Cent, Nate Dogg’s refrain goes like this:

Girl…It’s easy to love me now
Would you love me if I was down and out?
Would you still have love for me?
Girl…It’s easy to love me now (Woo!)
Would you love me if I was down and out?
Would you still have love for me?
Girl…

What’s striking is that I have rarely met anyone with that kind of love and dedication. People desert people when they are down and out. People don’t want anything to do with lawbreakers. I know because I have been there. I lied, cheated, and stole and was rightfully punished for it. But few were remained close. Now, I understand why and I couldn’t say for certain that I wouldn’t have done this same thing.

The reality is when we commit the kinds of crimes that I did, or the more garden-variety Gangsta crimes, our crimes are not just against victims, friends, family, the State, or even ourselves, our crimes are first and foremost against a Holy God (Psalm 51:4). But God goes further than Nate Dogg does in this 50 Cent refrain, God doesn’t just love us when we are down and out, He becomes a man, Jesus Christ, lives the life we could never live and dies the death we deserve to die. He assumes our flesh and becomes a man, but he perfectly obeys the law of God, he never breaks it. Yet still at the end of his life he is rejected, he is the ultimate one who is down and out, he experiences the worst possible kind of rejection, while on the cross he is rejected by God “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). He is rejected in our place, we deserve to be rejected by God forever, but God shows his great love for us by being rejected for us, so that we might be able to spend eternity with God in Heaven.

The second observation from reflecting on Nate Dogg is that the Gangsta lifestyle that he evangelizes with is the source of his own death. The sin that promises joy and life leads to the grave. 41 years-old. But that’s how all sin is, to paraphrase the Puritan Thomas Brooks, Satan knows that if he would present sin in its own nature and dress, we would run from it rather than indulge in it. Therefore he presents sin to us, not in its own proper colors but he paints a false veneer over it with the name and show of something virtuous, or worth having, or promising pleasure or happiness or satisfaction.  Satan does this so that we may the more easily be overcome by it, and take the more pleasure in committing of it. Pride, he presents to the soul under the name and notion of neatness and cleanliness. Covetousness he presents as ambition and drive. Partying is presented as having a good time.

Sin kills. It killed Nate Dogg and it will kill everyone else. But death doesn’t have the decisive word, Jesus Christ conquered sin, Satan, and death when he rose from the grave giving us the opportunity to spend all eternity in his presence.

Our only hope in life and death is if we belong body and soul, in life and in death, to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watched over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven. In fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him. – Heidelberg Catechism

January 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 69, was charged last Wednesday with eight counts of murder for the deaths of seven babies and one patient. This story is so gruesome and horrific that when my wife and I read it in detail we both were brought to tears. Dr. Kermit Gosnell delivered babies alive and then killed them with scissors by severing their spinal cord.

Thankfully, the media is portraying this man as a wicked criminal, but we should ask ourselves: why is this so heinous? As you read the bitter details of this story you read that the District Attorney calls Gosnell’s clinic a House of Horrors, the DA reveals that Gosnell kept jars of severed feet on his shelves, Gosnell allowed a 15-year-old high school student to perform intravenous anesthesia on patients, and Gosnell’s licensed cosmetologist wife performed late-term abortions for decades in an impoverished Philadelphia neighborhood.

But is it the conditions that make this story deplorable? Is it 15-year old makeshift anesthesiologist that makes this story disgusting? Is it Gosnell’s hairdresser wife doing Gosnell’s dirty work for him that is most sickening? Is it the low-income neighborhood that bothers us so much?

What if we moved the story here:

The Lovejoy Surgicenter Abortion Clinic in Portland, OR, located in an upscale part of town down the street from Starbucks. Would everything be ok then? If the severed feet weren’t kept in jars but instead disposed of in the dumpster out back? If 15 year-old interns couldn’t administer the drugs they could only watch the professionals do it? If the hairdressing wives of abortionists drove their BMW’s and Mercedes sippin’ lattes and texting on their iPhones instead of performing abortions?

No, it wouldn’t, because the babies would still be dead. Stop kidding yourself into thinking that Kermit Gosnell’s crime is the condition of his clinic and other secondary issues. Kermit Gosnell’s story is despicable because the story gives you a glimpse into the reality of abortion as baby killing. The feet in jars make you vomit because they are feet in jars, real feet from really people, not simply a cluster of cells. If Dr. Gosnell had some old tumor in a jar on his shelf no one would think twice about it, but he has feet in a jar on his shelves. Feet come from people, people that Dr. Gosnell killed. And the abortionists at the The Lovejoy Surgicenter Abortion Clinic are killing people too.

There is an argument that says that a big part of the problem with pro-choice America is that most people don’t realize that the baby growing inside of them is actually a baby. This fact is mostly clearly seen in the statistic that 90% of women, who intend to have an abortion, but first get an ultrasound, do not go through with the abortion. This is simply because the ultrasound makes clear to the woman that she is a mother and that the thing in her womb she almost killed is her child.

Let us pray that Dr. Gosnell’s story be an eye-opening experience for men and women considering an abortion, that they might realize the thing growing in the womb is in fact their child.

High Tech Photos of Fetal Development

January 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

This Sunday is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, a day dedicated to celebrating all stages of human life. This video in particular shows the beauty of human life while still in the womb.

Alatheia Hope is 3.

October 23, 2010 § 2 Comments

Our sweet little girl, Alatheia, turned 3 on Thursday. I really like birthdays and I always try to make them special for my family members. We like to take the time to celebrate and thank God for the person’s life. For Alatheia, I made a picture board and put it out the night before so that she could wake up to it (thanks to my friend, Chelsi, for giving me this great idea and inspiring me to make it a family tradition). We also spent the day taking a family trip to Cannon Beach where Alatheia’s dreams of taking her shoes off and eating candy came true. Here are a few pictures from the day.

3 years old!

Daddy with the birthday girl

Waking up to her birthday board and the pom-poms that Aunt Megan helped me make.

Annelissa at Cannon Beach

Benjamin enjoyed the wind

Benjamin was excited about his sister's birthday

It was really windy