Quote: Danger

[In confronting your friend about an addiction]
You are at a critical moment. Pay attention to the relationship. You are raising these issues because you love him. You are not confronting him for your benefit, but for his. Don’t let the person blame and defend. Stay on track, and don’t give in to your own frustrations or fears. Don’t play by the person’s defensive and attacking rules. Don’t take the insults or disrespect personally. Keep in mind that this person is most likely in danger. The fact that you have been hurt by his words and actions might not be the most important issue at this moment. Whatever disrespect you hear is ultimately disrespect toward God himself. You are witnessing a person who wants radical independence, and you know that any life other than that of faith and dependence on Christ is doomed to failure.

— Edward T. Welch

Question: So you used to be an atheist

Someone asked:
So you used to be an atheist/agnostic. How did you come to know Jesus?

I won’t bore you with too many details, but it was a very long journey. In the end no “proof” or “argument” won me over.  I also wasn’t looking very hard.  In high school a guy in my homeroom found out I played drums. He asked me to play, I politely declined, but he offered a ride and mentioned there was free lunch at church. I asked if there were girls.  He hesitated, then affirmed. My original motive was hot girls.

The church I attended was gracious enough to allow an atheist to play on their praise team.  I liked the sermons, I liked the pastor, I liked the people (well most of them anyway). But the gospel then was just another religion in a handbag full of them.

Around college a lot of the Bible began making sense. It was actually horrifying because nobody, and I really mean nobody, wants the Bible to be true. And I saw how the Bible played out in serious believers who actually read the dang thing and totally loved Jesus.  They were nowhere near perfect but man, were they passionate. My mockery of these weirdos soon turned to respect … and a horrible fear.

I could say I was “saved” in college, but I still lived exactly as I wanted to.  I didn’t understand the gospel until my mid-twenties.  It was not any overnight epiphany but a slow-burning revelation, understanding the person and work of Jesus, the God who became a man and whispered forgiveness through dying lips on a cross. I studied the Resurrection for a while because that would seal the deal for me.  And so it did.

Three years of seminary later, I’m preaching what I used to hate. Like a scaled down Apostle Paul. Having been an atheist/agnostic, I saw how much hatred and ignorance and straight up messed-up-ness I had, much more than I would have ever admitted on my own.  I see now that I had turned off entire parts of my brain to justify a godless universe, and when I talk to atheists today, I remember my former smug rage that worshipped the flesh between my ears. 

I also have the advantage of seeing church as an outsider.  So much of the American church makes no sense to me.  Reading the Book of Acts and then walking into a modern church is like meeting Superman who turns out to be a three foot troll.  The backdoor politics (which I’m well embroiled in now) is nauseating.  In most meetings I just sit there amused while elders argue over paint color and programs-programs-more-programs. I keep thinking, If God tore off the roof right now you’d be all be dead or blind. Can we do some Jesus work now? Think you can maybe keep half an eye on eternity?

Absolutely no one would ever have thought I would be a pastor, and a large sample of my church population is uncomfortable with it.  Which means there are people who are uncomfortable with God’s radical grace — you know, the God who can change Sauls to Pauls and Goliaths into dead.  I’m living proof that God can do as He wants. Not perfect proof, but yes, passionate.

Sending Cards

There’s something intimate about a card with a hand-written note that beats any email or text or even a phone call. There’s also something about opening up your mailbox to find an envelope with your name on it, someone’s real handwriting, and those wavy little ink lines showing it’s been sent by the post office.

I have about three dozen cards from my first pastor mailed to my house, though I saw him nearly everyday and we lived only fifteen minutes apart.  I’ve saved them.  I treasured his time in writing a personal note, going up and down the aisle looking for the perfect card, sealing it with his own DNA (literally).  We communicated by every other means, but those cards melted even the coldest of weeks more than anything else could.

I’ve been sending cards to friends every week. I look forward to Mondays, my day off, when I can pull up to that familiar blue box and drop it into the void of no return. Nothing like sending cards, nothing like getting one. Just for the heck of it.

By the way: Hallmark is having a sale at most grocery stores right now: Buy one, get one free. I promise I’m not promoting them.

Quote: Fragile

The grand difference between a human being and a supreme being is precisely this: Apart from God, I cannot exist. Apart from me, God does exist. God does not need me in order for Him to be; I do need God in order for me to be. This is the difference between what we call self-existent being and dependent being. We are dependent. We are fragile. We cannot live without air, without water, without food. No human being has the power of being within himself. Life is lived between two hospitals. We need a support system from birth to death to sustain life. We are like flowers that bloom and wither and then fade. This is how we differ from God. God does not wither, God does not fade, God is not fragile.

— R.C. Sproul

Quote: Calvary

Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to be saying to us, ‘I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’ Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.

— John Stott

Quote: Find

But whatever you do, find the God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated passion of your life, and find your way to say it and live for it and die for it. And you will make a difference that lasts. You will not waste your life.

— John Piper

Quote: Ally

God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion.

— C.S. Lewis

Quote: Outshines

Jesus abounds in compassion for you in your hurt. More than that, he rescues you from your wounds, so they do not define you. It is his glory to make you a new creation, to adopt you as a child of God, and to heal you, and that glory outshines any shame that could possibly come from what’s been done to you.

— Mike Wilkerson

Quote: Fix

If you’re a Christian mainly because you want to be changed, that’s a problem. If you’ve given your life to God mostly because you are tired of yourself and want to be a different person — well, that may suggest you’re merely using God to fix you. That’s not faith. That’s not love of God. That’s love of self.

— Mark Galli

Quote: Continued

“The Christian religion is the religion of sinners, of such as have sinned, and in whom sin in some measure still dwells. The Christian life is a life of continued repentance, humiliation for and mortification of sin, of continual faith in, thankfulness for, and love to the Redeemer, and hopeful joyful expectation of a day of glorious redemption, in which the believer shall be fully and finally acquitted, and sin abolished for ever.”

— Matthew Henry

Quote: Receive

“It looks as though it is possible to ‘receive Christ’ and not have him for what he is. One way to describe this problem is to say that when these people ‘receive Christ,’ they do not receive him as supremely valuable. They receive him simply as sin-forgiver (because they love being guilt-free), and as rescuer-from-hell (because they love being disease-free), and as protector (because they love being safe), and as prosperity-giver (because they love being wealthy), and as creator (because they want a personal universe), and as Lord of history (because they want order and purpose). But they don’t receive him as supremely and personally valuable for who he is. They don’t receive him the way Paul did when he spoke of ‘the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.’ They don’t receive him as he really is — more glorious, more beautiful, more wonderful, more satisfying, than everything else in the universe. They don’t prize him or treasure him or cherish him or delight in him.”

— John Piper

Quote: Adulterous

“We are an adulterous generation. We love man-centered error more than Christ-exalting truth, and our rational powers are taken captive to serve this adulterous love. This is what Jesus exposed when he said, ‘You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the time.’ In other words, your mind functions just fine when seeking out partners in adultery (like comfort and safety on the sea as more precious than Christ), but it cannot see the signs of Christ-exalting truth.”

— John Piper

Quote: There

“There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. (They hang there, the stars, like notes on a page of music, free-form verse, silent mysteries swirling in the blue like jazz.) And as I lay there, it occurred to me that God is up there somewhere. Of course, I had always known He was, but this time I felt it, I realized it, the way a person realizes they are hungry or thirsty. The knowledge of God seeped out of my brain and into my heart. I imagined Him looking down on this earth, half angry because His beloved mankind had cheated on Him, had committed adultery, and yet hopelessly in love with her, drunk with love for her.”

— Donald Miller