Promises

God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Jesus who called us to His glory and virtue by which He has granted us His precious and very great promises, so that through them we are able to possess all that He has provided. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

We ask of God, and He will give us nations for our inheritance. I believe the glory of God will cover the earth like the waters cover the sea. (Psalm 2:8)

We are redeemed from the curse of the first Adam because of the finished and perfect work of the second Adam, Jesus. (Galatians 3:13)

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6)

When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. (Psalm 56:3)

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)

I will live, move, & make decisions by faith and not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

We fear the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. In every area we lack wisdom, we request it, & believe we receive it. In all our ways we acknowledge Him, & He will direct our paths. (Proverbs 9:10, James 1:5-6, Proverbs 3:6)

The blessing of Abraham comes to us in Christ Jesus. He shows us where to go to, He blesses us so that we may be a blessing to all the peoples of the world. (Galatians 3:14, Genesis 12:1-3)

Great is the peace of our children for they are taught of the Lord. (Isaiah 54:13)

The Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need. (Psalm 23:1)

I am like a tree planted by the rivers of water. I will bring forth fruit in season. My leaves will not wither. Whatever I do will prosper. (Psalm 1:3)

We delight ourselves in the Lord and He will give us the desires of our hearts. (Psalm 37:4)

As we give, it will be given unto us: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. (Luke 6:38)

There is no lack, because our God supplies all our needs according to His riches in glory. (Philippians 4:19)

Jesus bore our sins in His body on the tree, therefore we are dead to sin and alive to righteousness and by His stripes we were healed. (1 Peter 2:24)

We can expect both forgiveness and healing because Jesus Himself took our infirmities and bore or sicknesses. (Matthew 8:17)

We present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit inside of us quickens our mortal bodies in times of need. We stand on this promise. (Romans 12:1, 1 Corinthians 6:19, Romans 8:11)

I will not limit God because He will do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

We will bear one another’s burdens, remember the poor, and meet urgent needs. (Galatians 2:10, 6:2, Acts 4:32, Titus 3:14)

We will do nothing through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind consider others better than ourselves. We will look out not only for our own interests, but also the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

We overcome the evil one by the blood of the Lamb, the word of our testimony, and by not loving our lives even unto death. (1 John 2:13, Revelation 12:11)

*These are not all direct quotes from Scripture, but written how I often pray them or speak them out. These are not exhaustive, but a few examples of how I attempt to bring God’s truth to mind, heart, and mouth. 

 

Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, & Racialized Sin

Blog - Alton SterlingTroubling thoughts keeping me up late and waking me up early:

1. It’s devastating to see non-Christians more torn up over black people dying than white Christians. I’m sad and angry and embarrassed and grieving.

2. Implicit bias is more dangerous than overt hatred because it operates underground. It has been stunning to witness all the racism that has risen to the surface over the course of Obama’s presidency. My head was in the sand.

3. Refusal to address racialized sin has undermined our capacity to fulfill our Romans 12:15 calling to “mourn with those who mourn.” (Mika Edmondson) As a son still grieving the loss of my father, I can tell you how incredibly healing it is when you encounter people who choose to grieve with you. And how painful it is when people do not. I grieve and feel for the family of Alton Sterling. My heart breaks for the family of Philando Castile. Their lives matter.

4. Refusal to call out racialized sin has blocked our capacity to heed the warning of the prophets of old: Repent. It is embarrassing that it has taken the ubiquity of cell phone cameras to open the eyes of culture to injustice that has been there all along. If the church won’t say it, it seems that God will allow Youtube or BET to bring it to light. Injustice must be confessed. Hatred must be addressed. Indifference must be forsaken. The blood of the innocent cries out to heaven. God forbid that we block our ears. I have been a part of the problem, and I repent. My silence has been part of the problem, and I repent. I have benefitted from a system where the playing field is not level.

5. If you question the need to repent of corporate or systemic sin, then I challenge you to consider Nehemiah (1:6) or Daniel (9:20). These giants of the faith found the need and humility to repent of both personal and corporate sin. Tell me what I can do, people ask me. Please read The New Jim Crow. I don’t want to hear another white person tell me they never owned a slave. I never want to hear another white person bring up black on black crime. Enough. Lord we confess our sin of racism, which we have sinned against You. Have mercy.

6. Sunday morning is still the most segregated time of the week. Why are all the black kids on one side of the spiritual cafeteria while all the white kids are on the other side? Because the church forgot who we are. The church forgot our prayer, on earth as it is in heaven. And in heaven it’s every tongue and every tribe gathered in reconciled unity under the blood bought banner of Jesus.

7. I don’t want to hear another person invalidate the pain. Or fear. Or suspicion. Or anger. Or hurt. Or outrage. The tears are rolling and the hearts are broken. Friends are asking me, how can people be so passionate about abortion and human trafficking and clean water halfway across the world, and then be so cold to death in their own backyard. These same people that prayed with you, worshipped with you … How can they be so blind? And it’s hard to not feel like they’re blind on purpose. Maybe they wouldn’t pull a trigger, but how can they be so silent when it happens? If my white brothers and sisters in Christ don’t get it, what white person will? I thought they’d be different. I’m angry. We’re struggling – in a different way. A lot of us in a speechless way.

8. Someone has to be different. If you’re a majority, we need you to model the way in humility and understanding and contrition and repentance. Grieve. If you’re a minority, your challenge is something like what you’re needing from white believers. Be different. It is rare to hear a God-centered response in times like these. When the heat is on, Christians are so tempted to play the predictably tune of the rest of the world. Taking their cues and becoming echoes of whatever talking head they just heard. Stop being an echo when you were made to have a voice. I just hung up the phone with Civil Rights activist John Perkins. This is the man whose brother was killed by white policemen. This is the man who was imprisoned and beaten to the point of death because of the color of his skin. This is a man who bears in his body the marks of racial injustice. Yet he constantly warns me: Feel the pain. Be angry. But bring it to Jesus, and let Him make it redemptive. If your eyes move away from Jesus, you won’t see straight. You never beat hate with hate, you beat it looking at the One who took it with whips and thorns and beatings.

9. If you are reading this as part of our faith family, I charge us afresh to embrace our call to offer this world the Gospel alternative. It’s a day to pray and fast and weep. To have hard feet and soft hearts. To open our mouths and spend our lives. To be a community with too much brown to be called a white church, and too much hispanic to be called a black church – a body that models the diversity and reconciliation and redemption and healing and power and grace and justice and mercy of God’s kingdom. I was supposed to be on preaching sabbatical for one more week, but I’ll be coming back early to address these painful realities from the heart of the kingdom of God. Please pray for us.

10. The people with the most hope lead. So let’s go lead, because we have hope. Not because of where we are, but because of where He is: sitting on a throne of justice

So great a salvation

Do not neglect so great a salvation. (Hebrews 2:3)

There is so much debate regarding the possibility – or impossibility – of losing salvation. But the far more practical danger is neglecting salvation. Oh to live in the reality and the fullness of this great salvation.

Indeed there is a salvation-like promise to drugs and porn and fame and fortune and a thousand other little god-substitutes. But they always break their promises.

So great a salvation is altogether unique.

Pardom from all guilt. Forgiveness of all sin. Full atonement. Fresh start. New nature. New name. New covenant. New spirit. New heart. New eyes. New ears. New creation. New birth. One day he will make all things new.

So great a salvation.

Healing from sickness. Comfort in brokenness. Power to overcome. Strength for the journey. Joy inexpressible. Peace inexplicable. Access to the Father. Innocence that we long for. Love that we were made for. An inheritance without compare. A seat in heavenly places. Angels to protect us. A kingdom that cannot be shaken. Freedom, authority, purpose, destiny, hope, and a future.

Do not neglect so great a salvation.

Stir up your gifts, develop your talents, discover your place, and do your deal. Set your mind on things above, number your days, refuse to waste your life, and go. Having been loved, love. Having been served, serve. Having been forgiven, forgive. Having been reached, reach. Having been rescued, rescue. Having been changed, change.

Maybe we should do less talk about joining a movement, and just go move something. In the name of the author of so great a salvation. Jesus.

5 reasons the Gators will beat Ole Miss this weekend

5. The Swamp. Noise. Humidity. Sellout. Magic.

4. Hargreaves > Treadwell. WR Laquon Treadwell is great, but CB Vernon Hargreaves III is greater.

3. Catalyst. The last time Ole Miss came to town they served as the catalyst for a Gator national championship, as Tebow gave the legendary speech. Rebels pull greatness out of Gators.

2. Fourth down. The Gators own 4th down. Coach Mac pulls the trigger on 4th down.

1. Did I mention the Swamp? I tried to find tickets to the game but would have had to mortgage my house to buy them. The fans will be out in force. And only Gators come out alive.

Modesty

Modesty.

I know. The word feels retrograde. In the real world, if you’ve got the merchandise, you advertise it. If you’ve got the body, you flaunt it. If you know it, you show it.

But there’s something about modesty.

There’s something about having more on the inside than we see on the outside. There’s something about meeting someone who surprises you with their generosity or honesty or intellect or virtue or beauty. In a world where we snap a hundred photos to find the one most flattering for social media, we brace ourselves for the eventual letdown. The unveiling. The descent back down to earth. You see a celebrity in person, only to be surprised by how they really look. Or you encounter a public figure at an airport, only to be disappointed by how they really act. Or you buy the product, only to discover how it really performs.

We have mastered the craft of marketing.

And it’s not just Coca Cola and Honda. It’s individuals and clubs and churches – fighting for their share of the market. It’s me. Every time I act like I know more than I do. Every time I make that clarifying comment to manage your opinion of me. Every time I wear that speedo at the beach. Maybe not.

There’s a better way.

Christians pay a lot of lip service to humility. C.S. Lewis would say that the utmost evil is pride, and that every other vice grows out of it, which makes the utmost virtue humility. But what does humility look like in the real world?

Modesty.

It means we really don’t have to sound more educated or look more appealing or manage our image in a way that shows off our assets, whatever they may be. Some assets are physical; some assets are cultural; some assets are moral. We really do not have to compete for the market share of whatever market we think we’re in. It means churches really don’t have to be cool and you really don’t need to stress over your style. And yes, it does mean we should consider the sensual effects of the clothes we wrap around our bodies. But what a miscarriage of virtue to reduce modesty to the physical apparel of females in a culture intoxicated with immodesty on every front.

Yet we’ll never embody this kind of humility until we’ve had a first-hand encounter with the beauty of modesty for ourselves.

I’ve often been troubled by Jesus. High on the list of the things I would do differently is His approach to self discolsure. If you skip to the end of the Bible you read with no uncertainty that He is King of kings, Lord of lords, creator and judge of the living and the dead. But what drove me crazy in my college religion classes, and what has disturbed me over the years is why won’t Jesus just make it more clear? Arrive in majesty, not in a manger. Demonstrate Your might, not your weakness. Prove Yourself. Validate. Impress. Amaze. Strut. People’s exhibit Alpha and Omega.

And yet He holds back. He goes slow.

He is born to peasants. And He waits. After 30 years He goes public. Yet it seems minor. He teaches and He heals. But I want him to shout. Instead it seems like He whispers: I am the good shepherd. I am the light of the world. I am the bread of life. I am who I am. It’s a burning feeling when you’re with Him. It’s a burning perspective you never imagined. Occasionally it seems like Clark Kent opens his jacket and flexes his muscles. But the result is something like Peter on his face: “Depart from me, I’m a sinful man.”

And that’s the point.

If all He wanted was slaves, then cosmic special effects would do, and the endgame would be fear. But He’s not a politician scaring you into a vote, and He’s not a CEO persuading you into a sale; he’s an Abba wooing you into relationship. He wants children who love Him, not merely because they must, but because they have tasted and seen how good He is. His humility is not a disguise and His modesty is not a mistake; it’s at the very center of His self-revelation.

I wonder what would happen in our world if we decided to make His way our way. This weekend our faith family has the honor of meeting with one our favorite missionaries. He fights injustice, rescues slaves, plants churches, makes disciples, invades darkness. But you’d never know it when you meet him; he’s too modest for that. And so he follows in the steps of our Leader: he’s changing the world. I dare you to join him.

Medical update – overwhelmed

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4)

I’m still groggy from the drugs they use to knock you out for surgery, but I feel like the cleansed leper who had to come back and give thanks to Jesus. The last thing I remember was looking at the ceiling of an operating room. The next thing I know my wife is explaining that God had granted our petition: the cyst on my vocal fold had disappeared. She watched the camera go down my throat two weeks earlier, and she was now looking at the pictures of two healthy vocal folds. As we prepared for surgery, the doctor said I would not be back to full strength until March. A four-month recovery is now reduced to just a few days, to restore the body from the effects of putting equipment down the throat for surgery.

I am in awe. I am overwhelmed at the fervent prayer support and affection of God’s people. I’m so serious: thank you, a million times over. I am extremely grateful for an incredible doctor. But I am melted, stunned, and humbled by the goodness and greatness of a king named Jesus.

If you’re interested in pictures, here are the before and after. Pic 1 has the cyst, pic 2 has none. This is not Christianese: Deepest thanks and greatest glory to God.

ImageImage

Catching our breath

“Let Us make man in Our image…”

It wasn’t the dust or the fingers or kneecaps that reflected the divine image. It was that invisible part. The breath of life. Because we were made for so much more than we can see or smell. We were made for more than flesh.

We were made for the deeper realities. Deeper purposes. When humans walked away from God the deeper things went dormant and the flesh began to rule. The dust was never meant to be our defining characteristic. When we live by what can be tasted and touched alone we settle for a diminished existence. Something less than the real life. The full life.

We miss the ruach. It’s the Hebrew word for wind, spirit, breath.

It’s not that there is a moral divide between the physical and the spiritual. Biblical faith does not get caught up in the gnostic error of condemning all things physical and elevating all things spiritual. Jesus does not call us to simply pursue the invisible and ignore the earthly. We are to be fully human.

Made of dust. But defined by His breath of life.

When they bit the fruit they really did die. They became fractured. Alive, but dead. Human, but less than. Incomplete. Not just them, but us … missing something we can not put our fingers on.

We lost our ruach, and we’ve been trying to catch our breath ever since.

That’s why the problem has never just been the dust we were made from. It’s the dust without the Ruach. That’s the essence of what the Scripture calls “the flesh.”

And that is why the best news we ever received was when God would take on flesh. Because what the first Adam lost, the second Adam has restored. Fully God, fully man. Recapturing the original intent: made of dust, but defined by our breath of life.

And if you’ll look to the One who lost his breath on the tree we call the cross, you’ll catch your breath, and find your life.