Friday, September 30, 2011

A great post from Scotty Smith's blog found on the gospel coalition website. 

Remember this, keep it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” Isa. 46:8-10
Holy and gracious Father, I offer you no pushback this morning for being addressed as a rebel. I not only rebel against your commandments, I also rebel against your gospel—for it seems too good to be true. That’s why I need a Savior as big as Jesus. My only hope is in knowing that you will complete the good work of salvation you began in me. Your purposeswill stand. You do all that you please, and it pleases you to justify, transform and glorify rebels like me… Hallelujah!
Indeed, I have great hope in knowing you are God and I am not. This truth is both disruptive and comforting. Disruptive, because there are some things I’m desperate for you to do—things that make all the sense in the world to me—things that seem in line with the truth of the gospel. But they’re not going to happen. You haven’t decreed them and no amount of fasting and praying will alter the perfection of your plan… Hallelujah!
Yet your sovereignty is profoundly comforting, because there are other things for which I don’t have the faith to trust you—things I cannot imagine coming to pass. Like an ax head floating on water, pebbles taking down a giant, lepers being instantly healed, dead churches becoming gospelicious communities, again… these things happen according to your pleasure and in your timing.
Father, help me “fix it in mind and take it to heart.” You are God and you do as you please. No one can ultimately resist your will, and we’re foolish when we try. You’re not a manageable deity; you’re not predictable; you’re not programmable. You are mysterious—good, but mysterious. Hallelujah, many times over!
As I head squirm in a season of difficult decisions, I’m so thankful that you are a sovereign Father, having equal care for each of your children. I can trust you. I don’t have to panic. I don’t have to worry. I don’t have to take matters into my own hands. I don’t have to fear outcomes, “what ifs,” or “if only’s.” Second-guessing must surrender to gospel sanity.
Father, help me to want your purposes to stand more than I want life not to be messy. Help me to glory in your pleasure more than I obsess about my future. Help me to accept disruption as a necessary part of transformation. There’s no comfort like the comfort which comes from knowing you, and calling you Abba, Father. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ trustworthy name.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Embracing Our Sickness

Here is a brief recap of our Bible study last week @ Rebirth ESTL.

"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 
I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."
Mark 2:17

This week in Bible study, we looked at the passage of Mark 2:13-17, specifically highlighting this last verse. What strikes me about this passage is just how counter-intuitive it is. The God of the universe, perfect and holy, calls an ethnic outcast named Levi. He then chooses to “kick it” with moral outcasts. To top it all off, he declares that he came for those who are sick. Jesus came not to call the righteous, but sinners. The reason I say this is counter-intuitive is because I believe the default mode of every human heart (whether you're from East St. Louis, South Carolina, or Chicago) is religion. In other words, we spend a great deal of energy just trying to cover up the fact that we are sick. We attempt to 'patch up' our sinful heart, or 'clean up' our shame. We think we can solve the problem of sin by making ourselves good enough. I think with many of the kids in East St. Louis, this is the case. There is a genuine desire to know God, or follow Him, or to change. But this is most often pursued by trying hard to clean oneself up enough so that they are acceptable to God. 
This is where the radical nature of the Gospel comes in. Religion says, 'you can clean yourself up, all you need is a little behavior modification, if you do enough external acts of righteousness you can patch yourself up.' But the Gospel tells us quite the contrary. It tells us that we are sick, and we can't make ourselves right. It tells us that the only thing that qualifies us is knowing the fact that we don't qualify. It tells us that we don't need behavior modification, we need a heart transplant. Finally, it tells us that there is One (Jesus), who himself became sick in our place and for our sake, so that through Him we might be made well. The Gospel tells us that our patch up work will never do, but Jesus came to give us completely new life. 
Our study this week concluded by looking at the response of Levi. It says Jesus called him, and in response, Levi 'rose, and followed him.' Jesus didn't call Levi because he was a righteous person by earthly standards. Levi was a sinner. Levi was sick. Yet, Jesus invites him to know him as Savior. He invites him to follow him. He invites him into this unique relationship. The answer wasn't for Levi to make himself look better externally, or try to be more like the religious people of the day (the Pharisees), it was to simply rise and follow Jesus. It was to acknowledge that he is sick, that he can't save himself, and to believe that Jesus could. Being a Christian isn't about patching ourselves up. It is recognizing our sickness, and coming to Jesus as we are. To be made well, we must know we are sick. And for those who know they are sick and turn to Jesus, there is an overwhelmingly amazing remedy. 
My hope and prayer is that God would continue to work in the lives of these guys, causing them to see just how sick they are, yet how complete and marvelous the remedy is.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Page CXVI, a musical group committed to remaking hymns, so that they are accessible and known again is releasing their 4th project today. Click here if you want to check out some of the songs from their new CD, 'Hymns VI'. They are streaming them for free on the their website the rest of the week. The 'Hymns IV' comes out October 4th. 

The reason I love Page CXVI is that in their own words, they are a band, "committed to making original music that reflects one of our favorite characteristics about God-beauty." Besides remaking hymns and playing in churches, the same 3 members from Page CXVI also makes music under another name, 'The Autumn Film'. The Autumn Film existed prior to Page CXVI and exists to make music that isn't necessarily 'Christian', but music that nonetheless reflects God's beauty. The Autumn Film tours playing in bars and clubs across the country. I love this groups desire to bring the amazingly rich truth of hymns relevant again, and also their desire to engage culture through the medium of beautiful music. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Assurance in His Grip

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one
will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me,
is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father's hand.
John 10:27-29

Where does your assurance come from? Is it from the strength of your own grip, or is your confidence completely in the strength of the grip of the one to whom you cling? Religion says your assurance comes from the strength of your own grip. In other words, your confidence is based on your performance. If you are standing upon solid ground, it is because you picked yourself up by your own boot straps. I often fall into this trap of basing my relationship with God on how strongly I am holding onto him, or how I am performing spiritual. 

But, the Gospel tells us quite the contrary. Jesus says his sheep know him, not because of how smart they are, or how strongly they cling to him. Rather, they know him and follow him because 1) they were given to him by his Father and 2) because his Father is greater than all, and no one can snatch his sheep out of his strong grip. Therefore, our trust should not be in our ability to hold on to God, but it should be in the strength of the one who holds onto us. 

This idea of God eternally choosing sheep to be his own, and sovereignly gripping them unto the end should cause great wonder and adoration. This is because, when we think about it, in our sinfulness, we were never able to hold onto God unto salvation. We are weak and broken, we had gone astray. Yet, God is so loving, that he died on the cross, as the lamb of God, innocently slaughtered for his people, for his sheep. The only way we could know God and follow him is if he sovereignly chose us, and maintained his eternal grip on us until the end. This should cause praise, adoration, humble service, self-sacrifice, and thanksgiving. 

Though we are weak, he is strong. Christians have the ultimate hope; not they will themselves will be strong enough to grip onto God and follow him, but that they have been chosen and loved by a God who has snatched them from death, given them life, and says he will never let go. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Rebirth East St. Louis

To those who are interested, here is the link to the ministry I've been working with, Rebirth East St. Louis. Rebirth is a ministry aimed at bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the youth of East St. Louis. Right now, I'm coaching football at the public high school and using that as a means to minister to the kids through weekly Bible studies, and simple things such as giving kids rides home, getting to know them, sharing meals with them, and walking with them through their struggles. It has truly been a joy to be able to spend time in East St. Louis and it is my hope and prayer that God would restore and transform this community through the good news of Jesus.

If you are interested in learning more about Rebirth East St. Louis and what we do, or if you want to learn more about the city of East St. Louis, I encourage you to check out the Rebirth website. Also, I encourage you to join me in praying for the youth and the community of East St. Louis. Check out the Rebirth blog for updates on the ministry, ways you can pray, along with recaps of our weekly Bible studies.

Periodically, I'll also be posting on here my thoughts and experiences with inner-city ministry in East St. Louis. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Vast, Unmeasured, Boundless, Free!

"so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."  Ephesians 3:17-19

This past tuesday I had the privilege to join my friends/classmates in a time of worship through the singing of hymns and reading of Scripture. I was particularly struck by this song, 'O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus' and its description of Christ's love; vast, unmeasured, boundless, free. How easily I forget how truly amazing Christ's love is for His people. I am reminded of Paul's prayer in Ephesians 3, that they would know the fullness of God's immeasurable love for them. That is my prayer now. That God would awaken me to the vastness and depths of His love in Christ. 

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me,
Is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
Changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones,
Died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth,
Watcheth o’er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’Tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’Tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to Thee!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

From the NFL to the University of Chicago

An awesome article about Jason Wright, a follower of Jesus, and a former NFL player with the Arizona Cardinals who has forgone an NFL contract worth millions in order to enroll at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business in order to attain his Master's in Public Policy, with the hopes of starting an organization to reach inner-city youth with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Awesome!

You can read yahoo's story here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

From Son to Curse

Another excerpt from Donald MaCleod's, 'The Person of Christ'. 

"He felt forsaken and he was forsaken….In the moment of dereliction, there is no sense of his own sonship. Even in Gethsemane, Jesus had been able to say, ‘Abba!’ (meaning Father). But now the cry is, ‘Eloi, Eloi’ (God). He is aware only of the god-ness and power and holiness and otherness of God. In his self image, he is no longer Son, but Sin; no longer the beloved with whom God is well pleased, but the cursed one: vile, foul and repulsive….

…But now, in the hour of his greatest need, God is not there. When he most needs encouragement, there is no voice to cry, ‘This is my beloved Son.’ When he most needs reassurance, there is no-one to say, ‘I am well pleased.’ No grace was extended to him, no favor shown, no comfort administered, no concession made. God was present only as displeased, expressing that displeasure with overwhelming force in all the circumstances of Calvary. Every detail in a drama which walked a fine line between chaos and liturgy declared, ‘This is what God thinks of you and of the sin you bear!’ He was cursed, because he became the greatest thief, murderer, adulterer, robber, desecrateor, blasphemer, etc., there has ever been anywhere in the world."

A somber reminder of the reality of calvary. At the cross, Jesus Christ, the 2nd person of the trinity, very God of very God, became a curse, and experienced absolute abandonment, taking upon himself the shame and consequence of sin; the consequence that we deserved. This is love. The Son of God stood condemned in our place. The cross wasn't some abstract event were the Son merely suffered theoretically, or only appeared to take on our sins. It is a concrete reality. The Son was really forsaken. He actually became a curse. He actually suffered the physical, spiritual and emotional effects of being under God's wrath. This is amazing love!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Facing Death For Our Sake

"The wonder of the love of Christ for his people is not that for their sake he faced death without fear, but that for their sake he faced it terrified. Terrified by what he knew, and terrified by what he did not know, he took damnation lovingly"

Donald MaCleod in "The Person of Christ"

In the Hours

A hymn by Kevin Twit, 'In the Hours'

In the hours of pain and sorrow,
When the world brings no relief
When the eye is dim and heavy,
And the heart oppressed with grief
While blessings flee, Savior Lord we trust in Thee!
While blessings flee, Savior Lord we trust in Thee!

When the snares of death surround us,
Pride, ambition, love of ease
Mammon with her false allurements,
Words that flatter, smiles that please
Then ere we yield, Savior Lord be Thou our shield
Then ere we yield, Savior Lord be Thou our shield

When forsaken in distress,
Poor despised and tempest-tossed
With no anchor here to stay us,
Drifting, sail and rudder lost
Then save us Thou, who trod this earth with weary brow
Then save us Thou, who trod this earth with weary brow

 Thou the hated and forsaken,
Thou the bearer of the cross
Crowned of thorns and mocked and smitten,
Counting earthly gain but loss
When scorned are we, We joy to be the more like Thee
When scorned are we, We joy to be the more like Thee

Thou the Father's best beloved,
Thou the throned and sceptered King
Who but Thee should we adoring,
All our prayers and praises bring?
So blessed are we, Savior Lord in loving Thee
So blessed are we, Savior Lord in loving Thee

Friday, September 16, 2011

Come and See What God Has Done

"Come and see what God has done: 
he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man"
Psalm 66:5

What are the awesome deeds that God has done? The psalmist goes on to describe them.
  1. "He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot" (vs. 6)
  2. He has defeated his enemies. (vs. 3)
  3. He rules and keeps watch over the nations. (vs. 7)
  4. He has given life to our souls (vs. 9)
  5. "Yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance." (vs. 12)
  6. "But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer." (vs. 19)
  7. He is steadfast in his love. (vs. 20)

This morning, let us recall the awesome deeds of God. Let us remember the faithfulness and steadfast love of our Lord, who has created us, and who has saved our life from the destruction of sin. Because of who God is, and because of what He has done, our response should be the same of the psalmist in Psalm 66.
"Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise!
Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds!
so great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.
All the earth worships you 
and sings praises to you;
they sing praises to your name."

This day, let us shout for joy, and glory in the awesome deeds of our God!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Knowledge of God's Providence

From the Heidelberg Catechism:

Q: How does the knowledge of God's creation and providence help us?

A: We can be patient when things go against us, 
          thankful when things go well,
          and for the future we can have good confidence
          in our faithful God and Father
          that nothing will separate us from his love.
          All creatures are so completely in his hand
          that without his will, they can neither move nor be moved.

If I'm being honest, I often fail to trust in God's providence. At times, my heart is restless rather than patient, and is marked by fear and insecurity  instead of confidence. Yet, for the Christian, we have every  reason to put our full trust in the providence and provisions of our Heavenly Father. The reason is,

"If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all,
how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"
Romans 8:32

I need to be reminded of and take comfort in God's radical love. If God was willing to give his Son to rescue me, surely he will see me through until the end. Surely, I can trust him in my day to day activities. To trust in God's providence, we have to look no further than the cross. Our faithful Father will provide. He has in the past, he is now, and he will in the future. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Tragedy of Living for the American Dream

This sermon clip never gets old. I need to be reminded that the gospel of Jesus bids us to die to ourselves and to live to Christ, counting all things as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus as Savior. The comfort of the 'American dream' pales in comparison to the joy of being found in Christ. Further, this joy of being found in Christ empowers us to live radically as part of God's mission to bring redemption to the world.

A Prayer for Finishing Well in the Gospel with Our Friends

HT: Scotty Smith

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. Heb. 3:12-14
Dear Jesus, I’m so grateful for the dear friends you’ve woven into my life—a Gospel posse of rich diversity. Since I’m an introvert, the journey of investing my heart in long-term relationships has required, and still requires, a lot of your grace—grace that you’ve been faithful to supply.
I’ve already gripped the handle of a couple of friends’ caskets, and other friends will do the same for me one day. More than ever, I want us to finish well together—together in the gospel. What will this look like and what will it require of us, Jesus?
My temptation is to treat my easiest friendships like a broken-in pair of Birkenstocks—I just enjoy them without much thought or effort. It’s a great gift to have a few friends who can finish each other’s sentences, endure one another’s jokes, appreciate each other’s quirks, and accept one another’s weaknesses. Surely this is a gospel gift.
Yet, Jesus, we’re still foolish people, capable of acting out in very destructive ways, prone to wander, easy targets for temptation. We can play games and avoid one another at precisely the times we need each other the most. Help us never to minimize or marginalize the deceitfulness and hardening power of sin. Help us take each other’s heart struggles seriously.
With all of my being, I trust in the grip and sufficiency of your grace; I know that you willcomplete the work of salvation in us. But your Word is so very clear that continuance in gospel faith is a sign of a real faith. “We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” That doesn’t scare me, but it does sober me.
Jesus, may we hold each other accountable for believing and trusting fully in the gospel. There’s no greater gift we can give each other, none. Keep giving us fun times together, but even more so, give us a growing faith in you, our all-gracious Savior. Give us passion and persistence in preaching the gospel to our hearts daily, until this day gives way to the Day of your longed-for return. So very Amen I pray, in your all-glorious and loving name.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Power of a New Affection

A quote from Thomas Chalmer's, 'The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.'

"The way that we diminish love for sin is by displacing it with love for God stimulated by greater understanding of his grace through Christ."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thy Will Be Done

A great hymn we sang in church today @ the Journey: West County

My God and Father! While I Stray by Charlotte Elliott

My God, my Father, while I stray
far from my home, on life's rough way,
O teach me from my heart to say,
Thy will be done!

Though dark my path, and sad my lot,
let me be still and murmur not,
or breathe the prayer divinely taught,
Thy will be done!

What though in lonely grief I sigh
for friends beloved, no longer nigh,
submissive still would I reply,
Thy will be done!

If Thou shoulds't call me to resign
what most I prize, it ne'er was mine:
I only yield thee what is thine;
thy will be done!

Let but my fainting heart be blest
with thy sweet Spirit for its guest,
my God, to thee I leave the rest;
thy will be done!

Renew my will from day to day;
blend it with thine, and take away
all that now makes it hard to say,
Thy will be done!

Then, when on earth I breathe no more
the prayer oft mixed with tears before,
I'll sing upon a happier shore,
Thy will be done!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Our Faithful Father

From the Heidelberg Catechism, question 26.

Q. What do you believe when you say, "I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth"?

A. That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them, who still upholds and rules them by his eternal counsel and providence, is my God and Father because of Christ his Son.

I trust him so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and he will turn to my good whatever adversity he send me in this sad world.

He is able to do this because he is almighty God;
He desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Covenant of Redemption

"Thus in a marvelous way the doctrine of the covenant maintains God's sovereignty in the entire work of salvation. It far surpasses the covenant of works to the degree that Christ exceeds Adam. God's threefold being is manifest much more clearly in re-creation than in creation. It is the Father who conceives, plans and wills the works of salvation; it is the Son who guarantees it and effectively acquires it; it is the Spirit who implements and applies it. This entire work of salvation is God's work exclusively; nothing derives from humans, it is all pure grace and undeserved favor."

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Abridged in One Volume., page 402.


Dec. 30, 1951 - Sept. 4, 2011

I love you. There is none who could ever replace you in my life. You were my beloved father, and mom's sweetheart of 30 yrs. More evidently, your heart was set on the things of the Lord. I know at this moment you are dancing and singing praises in the presence of your Savior, Jesus. Praise the Lord for your life here with me.


Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.

Psalm 27: 3-4

Jesus, The Ransom For Many

"Truly no man can ransom another 
or give to God the price of his life,
for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice,
that he should live on forever
and never see the pit."
Psalm 49: 7-9

"even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, 
and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Matthew 20:28

Our ransom is a price so costly that no man, nor we ourselves are able to pay it. This psalm tells us that no man is able account for ransom price of ones life, in order that they should live forever. Yet, most of us spend our entire lives trying to justify our existence and in some sense 'ransom' our lives. The previous verses in this psalm reminds us that regardless of physical wealth, we are still not able to pay the price. We need the same reminder. The comfort of having physical 'things' and possessing earthly wealth  will not solve this problem. In the same way, many of us try to pay our own ransom, that we should live forever, with the wealth of our good works. We figure if we do enough good things, or are good, upstanding citizens, then surely this is enough that we should live forever. But the truth remains, no man can suffice for his own, or another's ransom. We cannot pay the price.

However, the gospel tells us that this is exactly why Jesus came. Our sin has created a debt that we could never repay, whether with physical wealth, or spiritual. Jesus is the only one qualified to pay this ransom. No man can pay for another mans ransom, because each man himself is sinful, and is in need of being ransomed himself. Yet, Jesus was fully man and fully God. He himself was sinless. Therefore, he is qualified to pay this ransom price. And how did Jesus pay the ransom? He ransomed us from the price of our sin by dying on the cross. He payed the debt for our sins by taking upon himself, the iniquity of us all. 

So, this morning, let us be reminded that in ourselves, we are helpless and hopeless. We are sinful, and could never ransom ourselves that we may live forever. We are sentenced to the pit. But, in the gospel, we have hope. Jesus lived the life we should have lived, and died the death we should have died, in order to ransom us from the reign of sin. Jesus tasted death, so that we could live forever, and not see the pit. Let us look away from ourselves this morning, let us look away from our self-justifying attitudes and ego-centric hearts, and let us look to the cross, where Jesus so lovingly paid our ransom. This is our hope, joy and peace. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Centering Our Thoughts On God's Steadfast Love

"We have thought on your steadfast love,
O God,
in the midst of you temple"

Psalm 48:9

Is that something you have done today? Have you spent a period of time dwelling on how the Father has loved us. He has redeemed us from the shackles of sin, he has restored us unto himself, to know and enjoy him forever. He has adopted us into his family when we were alienated orphans. He loved us when we were loveless. Indeed,  throughout the day we should be centering our thoughts on the steadfast love of God in Christ. Re-orientating our minds and hearts on the gospel of God's love will have a transforming effect on our life. Reality is completely changed when we know and experience the steadfast love of our God. And this is the steadfast love of God, 'not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.' (1 John 4:10)