My writer's creed:

My Writer's Creed:
Every writer’s work should be suitable to warm oneself by a fireplace on a cold day, either by the burning it produces in the heart and mind or by the blaze it stokes as its pages are cast on the coals! Both are useful. For those who are served in either sense, I resolve to write as much as I possibly can!

Monday, December 5, 2022

A Quick-hitter on Blessing

Jesus said, It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). This explains why God is blessed above all.

The Father gives life (Jn 5:21), and every good and perfect gift (Jas 1:17) and he gives the Spirit without measure (Jn 3:34). Jesus the Son gives salvation (Ac 4:12; 1 Thes 5:9; 2 Tm 2:10; Rv 7:10), life (Jn 5:21) and sustenance (Jn 4:10; 6:27). The Spirit gives life (2 Cor 3:6) and all spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:4-11).

In short, since God is the source of all giving, he is blessed above all.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

The Real Costume Party

As Halloween approaches again, I was thinking about what extent to which our church-sponsored Trunk or Treat events engage the culture with any mission-critical traction. This post isn't about that but rather about something else that occurred to me as I thought about the costumes themselves.

I realized that the costume choices this October 31st will mostly be either truly costumes or ironically barely costumes at all. Many will dress as superheroes. These would fit in the first category, for if we really believe what the Bible says about us as humans in our post-Fall state, we do not essentially measure up to the word. (Funny, that we dress up in the fall, isn't it?) On the other hand, many will dress as a villain, whether the cartoonish or the gruesome, the ever-popular violent slasher, the ghoulish or demonic. These fall into the second category, for the biblical doctrine of depravity - and our own experience - teaches us that these costumes resemble our true clothing more than we wish. If Robert Downey Jr. went trick-or-treating as Iron Man, his attire (even if he borrowed the authentic garb from his movie wardrobe) would still be a costume, but if Charles Mansion dressed as a psychopathic murderer, not so much a costume at all.

Now, here's the real irony. We make a big deal - and a huge commercial enterprise - out of one day a year, October 31, and may not really be dressing up so far from the street clothes of our true nature. Yet, many people will truly dress up in costume dozens of times a year around 10am on Sundays. Millions are in the large rooms of our church buildings, and many of them are even on stage. Wolves in sheep's clothing. Sheep dressed up like perfect, flawless little lambs but who really are lame, diseased and filthy.

Yahweh's prophets scolded his people for bringing the worst of their flocks for sacrifice. The Apostle Paul reminded us that it is WE who are the sacrifices, and for many of us, the quality control department is no better managed than it was in Malachi's day. God doesn't like playacting - the literal meaning of hypocrisy - any more than he did 2700 years ago.

Good thing we believe the gospel.

For the biblical Christian, life - including the corporate worship gathering - is not a charade. We don't pretend to be perfect. A true hypocrite doesn't really want Jesus but acts like he does. We true Christians really do want Jesus, but we struggle to stay true to what we want. So, if we follow the advice of Jesus and his apostles, we own our sin, regret it, repent of it, confess that God is right about it, and then we believe the gospel and trust God to keep making us more like the Jesus we love.

When we are pretending to be okay is when we are farthest from it, because our gospel family is where we are reminded of our Help. Why mask up? We should huddle in worship not pretending that we are not truly filthy and lame - not flaunting it, but not pretending it is not so. Church is not to be a costume party but a treatment center. We come for gospel-infusions, for without them we die. What good is it when we comment on the quality of the coffee while trying to hide the fact that we are bleeding out inside? If we are transparent, we may truly be helped and encouraged, and find help to share our unbearable loads.

So, wear the costumes on Halloween. Have fun with that. Really! And do yourself a favor: leave the costumes at home the rest of the time and come gather with the church to worship the one true Superhero who is rescuing you from death and bringing you into eternal life. (As Nathanael from The Chosen would say, "That's Jesus, by the way.")

Yeah, I got that.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Called to Ministry?

Many of us evangelicals today have learned to ask potentially misleading questions, and these emerge from the misguided, sometimes even unbiblical categories we have created for ourselves. One that struck me recently is this one: "Do you think you might be called into (the) ministry?" We fish with this question in altar calls, in revival meetings or conferences, in youth camps.

Now, I know that what we usually mean to ask is whether someone is sensing a calling to vocational ministry, which usually involves special training in a Bible college and or seminary. Mostly, we're asking, "Do you think God wants you to go into a career in church work or para-church work?" If anyone is ever voicing a stirring toward any kind of Christian ministry we need to be affirming. But let us also be careful to not imply categories and hard lines that are unbiblical.

Many of us have come to think that - or at least act as if - ministry (in the Bible, the common word for a minister is Gk. diakonos, meaning servant) is primarily a special calling for only a select few of God's people. This theological error sets us up for at least a couple of practical errors.

The layperson may conclude ministering is not their thing, or is only occasionally or rarely so. Serving is something they do once a month in a rotation in children's church or as an usher or on a music team, or maybe they serve occasionally in helping with a potluck fellowship dinner. For the Christian, ministry is not discretionary - there is not an opt-out position.

The vocational minister may also compartmentalize in a similar way. They may see their service only according to the specific responsibilities of a job description. They minister during office hours and on Sundays, perhaps going the extra mile on those urgent after-hours appointments when a church member is in crisis. Even vocational ministry is more than a job.

The Bible paints a different picture that this. Ministry is not for a select group of Christians, nor is it neatly compartmentalized into little snapshots of our calendar. Understanding ministry this way is much like thinking that giving offerings is only for some Christians, or that a Christian is obligated to give only a tithe of his income and then may do whatever he wants with the rest of his resources. These are not NT views (nor OT ones, for that matter).

Paul painted a picture of service in Rm 12:1 that is not qualified nor compartmentalized:

Romans 12:1 (CSB)

1 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.

This picture recalls the sacrifices prescribed in the law of Moses for God's people to enable them to live holy lives with God in the center of their community. Yes, it is true that those from a select tribe were appointed to minister as priests at the tabernacle (and later, temple), but all of God's people were supposed to be serving one another - and even the outsider - in lifestyles of compassion, justice and generosity. Paul brings that notion to the church, placing Christians in the mash-up role of both minister and sacrifice. This is a call to follow the pattern of Jesus, who is the unique heavenly High Priest that offered himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for sins (Hb 9:11-14). We are to give ourselves, our lives, completely to God, as servants.

So, the question, "Are you called to ministry?" can be misleading. If you are a Christian, the answer is always, "Yes!" Whether you believe God is directing you to a certain role or perhaps to a degree of financial support that enables a vocational focus in your service is a different question. Of course, many people are called to ministry roles (especially teaching and other leadership roles) that are greatly enhanced if they can be supported to the extent they can devote a "workweek" portion of their time to a focused preparation and execution of that service. There are unique roles for which the Holy Spirit and the church "set apart" certain people (e.g., Paul and Barnabus in Acts 13:2). We who are in those kinds of supported positions are extremely blessed, and I for one am profoundly thankful (and sometimes still amazed) that God provides these opportunities.

Still, like Paul, we must all be prepared to give ourselves completely to whatever ministry God has prepared for us (Eph 2:10), whether that is in a fully financially supported role, a bi-vocational situation, or as a lay-person. All of us are ministers, and we must remind one another of this. Perhaps we should change our question: "What kind of ministry is God calling you to?" "How is God ministering through you in this season of your life?" And remember that serving God by serving others takes many forms, whether those fit into our neat, "churchy," categories or not. If you are offering it as an act of worship to God, it is service. Offer it wholeheartedly like Paul commends:

Colossians 3:17,23-24 (CSB)

17 And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

23 Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, 24 knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.

Thursday, August 12, 2021


 Thank you, God, that today I can take stairs three at a time (upward). May I praise your goodness when I can't take one more step!

Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Other Great Exchange

We Christians talk a lot about the “great exchange” of substitutionary atonement, and rightfully so. No concept of the gospel is more core than to realize that Jesus took the wrath of God due us and in exchange gave us his own perfect righteousness.


But there is another great exchange that is key to one’s reception of the gospel. This exchange determines whether that other exchange ever happens for an individual. Paul talks about this other exchange in Rm 1. In fact, he talks about several exchanges that seem centered on one in particular: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (v.25).


It is important to realize this exchange happens in the heart. This word is used in two key statements by Paul, one in v.21 and one in v.24. It translates a Greek term that refers to a coalition of mind, will, and emotion. This means the exchange of the truth for a lie is more than mental. It is a blend of wrong thinking, wrong deciding, and wrong wanting. Naturally, this coalition leads to wrongdoing.


This reality is being not only expressed but held forth as the highest value in our culture today. Everyone is being encouraged to “live out your truth.” Pop culture is peddling this value. The universities are providing doctrinal frameworks to ensure it. You might be surprised at how strongly the administrative powers of public education are pushing it, even down to the preschool levels. Value systems have been replaced. The most important thing to teach a kindergartener now is not A-B-C or 1-2-3 but that everyone should be free to be their “authentic self.” Chaos and perversion are the logical outcomes, and we are seeing plenty of these!


When we attempt to proclaim the gospel to someone in word and deed, we do well to realize that they have already made this terrible exchange. They have exchanged the truth for a lie, the priceless for the worthless. Deep down, they probably realize their own “truth” is not working. Most will double down, moving farther away from God’s truth, trying desperately to tweak their own truth until it seems to work.


Paul paints a vivid picture of our own moment. This terrible exchange of the truth of God for a lie leads to others. Those who reject God’s truth also exchange “the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man” and other creatures (v.23). This is idolatry, or false worship, and it is everywhere in a culture expressing “my truth.” Because of this idolatry, God delivers people over to unnatural passions and behaviors – another terrible exchange (vv.26-27). Of course, this isn’t new to the world, but it is certainly playing out in a dramatic scale today. Because of idolatry people have been turned over to a corrupt heart, and their lifestyles follow suit (vv.28-32).


The point is that we Christians help nothing if we go on crusades to “reclaim” our culture and bring the pagans back in line. We, most of all, should understand that we are powerless to overturn darkened and corrupt hearts. After all, we couldn’t do it for ourselves. That was and is the Spirit’s work. All we did (and continue to do) is quit saying “no” to him and started saying “yes.” Only then was our thinking, deciding, and wanting transformed, as it continues to be so (Rm 12:2).


We speak the truth, sure. We call sin “sin.” But our mission is to proclaim the gospel. That is the only power that brings salvation (Rm 1:16). It saves by revealing God’s righteousness (v.17). We can’t convince people of the truth. We can’t ultimately compel them to believe or to live by it. We can only be bold in proclaiming it.


The cost of faithful gospel proclamation is going up. To not be ashamed of the gospel (v.16) is to refuse to back off proclaiming Christ. Gospel-oriented living will naturally cause us Christians to stand out in contrast to our culture. The pressures will increase, but we have one job: testify about Jesus. It is not to hammer the sinners, but to lovingly proclaim the gospel. It does the work. The Spirit brings to life. We testify, and we pray that the Spirit will win over the hearts of the lost to these two great exchanges. If they are willing to exchange their “own truth” for the truth of God, then God will exchange the righteousness of Jesus Christ for their own sin. 

Good News #zinger

The good news (read gospel) that most people want to hear is that everyone else (including God) will give them what they want.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Counting Blessings #zinger

 God gave us eternal life so we have time to continue counting all our blessings in Christ.