There is a Sermon in Their Outstretched Arms & Cries for “Daddy”

When you are a little kid you are very aware of your parent’s presence. As a Dad I see this when my two little toddlers sense me tiptoeing out of the room and then proceed to chase me down. At this stage in their lives they have weighed the cost of me doing a load of laundry or fetching something out of the basement against them being alone. And they have sided with the latter in every case. They are aware of and cherish their parents’ nearness.

There are many ways to apply Jesus’ teaching that we must become like a child in order to enter the kingdom (Mt. 18.1-6). The picture of a child fully trusting in and enjoying their parents with admirable simplicity comes to mind. Along with this a child’s awareness and cherishing their parent’s closeness and care. More to my point, another implication of becoming like a child is being aware of and cherishing God’s nearness to us.

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Reflections from the Mid-Point of Life’s Marathon

This past year I ran my first marathon. As I ran I continued to chart my progress and endurance. Each mile marker rendered judgment against my goals. How am I doing? How will I finish?

The marathon is a fitting analogy for life. With the passing of each year there is a mile-marker of personal evaluation. There is an opportunity to take inventory, evaluate progress, and look ahead toward the finish.

To be honest, I have not done a lot of the latter. I have not looked ahead to the finish line and estimated my time. Like so many others, I like to live “mile-to-mile” making quick adjustments, taking advantage of quick bursts to make up for moments of laziness on the hills of life. While these inventories and adjustments are an integral part of doing what we set out to do they will not compel us in the same way as look at the end.

A look at the end of our life, the finish line, will bring a couple of things into focus:

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The Gospel Brings Freedom to Truly Love

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 Jn. 3.16)

What is love? In short, love is joyfully and willfully sacrificing yourself in the service of others for the purpose of seeing them blessed. This is what we see in the gospel and this is what Christians endeavor to do as we respond to the gospel. The Gospel is the most heart-melting and liberating truth. It models and motivates true love.

The type of love we have in the gospel is total acceptance even in light of full disclosure. God knows how sinful we are but accepts us eternally based upon the doing and dying of Jesus.

As has been said by others before, “We are more sinful than we can ever have imagined but we are more loved than we can ever have hoped.”

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Don’t Slash the Gospel Tires with that “I Can’t” business

It was Jesus who taught that “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Lk. 6.45). It makes good sense then that we can get a good read on what is in our hearts by what comes out of our mouths. Particularly as Christians, we can learn a lot about what we believe about the gospel by listening to ourselves talk.

There is one phrase that is particularly indicting. It is a phrase that unwittingly slashes the gospel tires while making a personal excuse. In other words, this phrase deflates the gospel of its power while inflating us with an excuse. As a result, I think we should dump it from our vocabulary. The phrase is: “I can’t.”

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Don’t Look Past the Privilege of Prayer

We take a lot for granted. Advances that once seemed like life-changers are now staples. It’s hard for us to imagine but there was a first day with electricity, running water, and the Internet. Now these privileges are expected.

In the Christian’s life the same could be said of prayer. Prayer is not an unalienable right of all people, like voting in America when you turn 18. Instead, prayer is a blood-bought privilege for those who trust and treasure Jesus.

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Husbands: A Tip that Could Save Your Marriage

With a title like this there is little room for dilly-dallying along the way to the answer. So without much introduction, here is the tip that could save your marriage: Get a part-time job.

There. That’s it. Husbands, if you want to save or strengthen your marriage, get a part-time job.

I should say right off the bat that I am not talking about a literal job that will pull you away from the home for more hours. Instead I’m arguing for the husband to approach his time at home with his family with the same thoughtful intentionality and engagement that he would if he were to go to work.

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True Religion

It is popular today to decry the word “religion.” And I suppose the goal here is a good one: to show the futility and falseness of a ritualistic, cold, unlively, practices of religious stuff. At the same time the word religion is a biblical word, used in James 1:27. It describes the practice of godliness. In other words, the religion of the Christian is simply Christian living in light of the gospel (Jam. 1:17 ff.)

There are three clarifying aspects of this “true” religion.

1.) It involves hearing- there is an authority here, it is the Word of God. True religion is ordered by the authoritative Word from above. Instead of making up rules and turning preferences into commandments and binding consciences with external practices, true religion rests is the hearing of God. This is why we work to confess sin and receive the truth (Jam. 1.19-21).

2.) It involves doing- the doing here is related to the hearing. After all, if one hears and does not do then he is deceived. One of James’ great burdens in this letter is hearing and doing. The doing flows from the hearing. If there is no doing, or obedience then there is good reason to believe that it is not true religion (Jam 1:27, 2:13ff.).

3.) It is before God- so often religion, in our popular sense of the word, is about the performance of men before men. The Bible places the emphasis upon God as the audience (Jam. …

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Book Review- The Hole in Our Holiness

Imagine a college football coach calling a team meeting after his players receives accolades from the media and fans for their on the field performance. Instead of pats on the backs he sits them down and gets serious, pointing out a couple of troubling trends with their play. The team may feel good and even look good to fans, but to the discerning eye there are major omissions that bring concern.

In The Hole in Our Holiness, Kevin DeYoung is like that coach (or at least a team captain) on the gospel-centered team. He is pulling aside the squad, amid rounds of applause for its resurgent emphasis on gospel grace, and pointing out the danger of an underdeveloped theology and practice of holiness.

DeYoung writes: “The sky is not falling, and it won’t until Jesus falls from it first. But we don’t have to pretend everything else is wrong to recognize we don’t have everything right. There is a gap between our love for the gospel and our love for godliness. This must change. It’s not pietism, legalism, or fundamentalism to take holiness seriously. It’s the way of all those who have been called to a holy calling by a holy God.”

DeYoung is calling people back to the biblical concept and practice of holiness. This is an ambitious undertaking in and of itself, but what’s more, DeYoung sets out to do it clearly and concisely (in just 144 pages!). In spite of the challenge, I think he hits a home run. …

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A Day in the Life of a Broken World (in the Apple Store)

The other day I was in the Apple Store and overheard the sales pitch that most of us have heard concerning the hardware. “Macs run great. They never break. I’ve had mine for like 23 years.” We all nod in amazement because we have been led to believe that while the machines are not manufactured in heaven they are just short of glorified.

But have you noticed what happens right after you say you are going to buy the computer? The salesman immediately starts angling for the Apple Care. In other words, he starts to sell you the warranty. It turns out that these things are not perfect. They do break. And the couple of hundred frog-skins is actually a good investment.

Isn’t this the reality of this broken world? Don’t you live in light of this tension all of the time? You are always hearing products overhyped and then you see them break. We should expect it. The world is broken.

As it turns out, technology (and science) cannot save. They can improve our lives but they cannot save them. Even Apple has its flaws.

This is tremendously important to remember as a Christian. We must remind ourselves amid the arms race for technological salvation that it is not equipped to meet ultimate needs and provide ultimate happiness. This reality is achieved by God entering into our world to bring deliverance to us from this world. God is not committed solely to improving our lives but to redeeming them. As his creation …

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Look for the Particular Sins Wrapped in Good Deeds

Everybody has one of those friends who is supremely skilled in deconstructing the plots of movies or books. This person adeptly peels back the layers of the story like one of those wooden Russian dolls; they just keep on going and going. My wife and I love going to movies with this guy. In some ways we get more out of the pre and post movie than the actual movie. He thinks deeply and comprehensively about the story  as a whole and the various individual parts.

I don’t think I can become this guy in the theater but I desire to be him in the prayer closet.

Let me explain: I have become more “skilled” in identifying the overt sin in my life (selfishness, frustration, envy, etc) but it is the underlying sin that I too often miss. In particular, I am talking about the tendency toward a sinful, self-bent even in the pursuit of good things! 

This is as troubling as it is difficult.

Let me give some examples:

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