Monthly Archives: July 2012

Christian Radio You Can Trust

With the Christian radio stations in our town, it’s hit or miss when it comes to airing solid, biblical preaching.  Ligonier Ministries has taken that factor out of the equation to create RefNet: 24-hour Christian internet radio.  Throughout the day and night, RefNet will broadcast preaching from men you can trust like R.C. Sproul, John Piper, John MacArthur, and Alistair Begg, as well as great music and biblically-based audio dramas for families.  Here’s the website site and click here for more info, plus check out the video below.



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The Folly of Misplaced Expectations

You and I have things that we desire other people to do.  We desire our spouse to treat us with respect, we desire our co-workers to work efficiently with us on the new project, we desire our children to obey the first time we tell them, and the list goes on.   Certainly, there is nothing wrong with these desires in and of themselves, but something changes in our hearts when these desires become expectations.  Expectations move desires to another level.  Expectations take something you would like to have happen and turn it into something you anticipate will happen.  I think that when this happens, you’ve set yourself up for discontentment.  A desire understands that a person may or may not do what it wishes, but an expectation is more pig-headed, even making decisions that depend on the fulfillment of what it wishes.  Therefore, there’s a lot more distance to be let down when the expectation is not fulfilled; there’s a lot more to lose.  And in the wake of unmet expectations is a heart that is bitter, depressed, or anxious.

Does this mean that we should not have expectations?  I don’t think so.  It just means that our expectations are misplaced.  When we place expectations on people we set ourselves up for discontentment because people are sinful and limited.  Sometimes people meet our expectations and sometimes they even exceed our expectations, but many times they don’t even get close.  God, on the other hand, does not have the capacity to be unfaithful.  He is perfectly loving, perfectly wise, and perfectly sovereign, so to place certain expectations on him would not be to set ourselves up for discontentment since he has everything necessary to be completely trustworthy.

But we must be careful with what expectations we place on God.  We should not expect God to do whatever we want, but we should expect him to do whatever he says he will do in his Word.  For example, Jesus says in Matthew 7:11, If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!  With these words we can and should expect that God will always give what is good to his children when they ask.  But it would not be right to expect that goodness to come to you according to your specific desires (i.e. – “God will give me this job with this company”).

As well-intentioned as we are, we humans often do not do what we say we’re going to do, so let’s place our expectations on the one who will always keep his Word and rest in the delight of seeing those expectations never going unmet.

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An Uncommon Reason to Love God’s Word

If you are a member of a gospel-preaching local church, then you probably know quite a few people who you would say love God’s Word.  I hope you love God’s Word as well.  As believers we should love God’s Word.  But why?  No doubt there are many reasons: because his Word is true, because it’s sufficient to tell us all we need to know to live obediently, because it gives hope, because it gives life, because it gives wisdom, etc.  Then there are the reasons that are centered on the character of God (i.e. – “I love God’s Word because God is ______” or “I love God’s Word because God does_____”).  Certainly, we love God’s Word because he is love, because he sent his Son to die in our place, because he created us, because he is faithful, etc.

I think that most of us would agree those are all reasons why we love God’s Word, but consider the psalmist’s reason in Psalm 119: All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies (v. 119).  In a world where God’s love and patience are emphasized above his justice, we must strive to make the psalmist’s reason for loving God’s Word one of our reasons as well.    Does the fact that God sends people to hell cause you to love his Word?  That question may sound harsh to you, but lets turn it around and ask it this way: if God did not send people to hell would that cause you to love his Word?  Do we really want a god who doesn’t punish sin?  I don’t think that I have ever met a person who doesn’t want someone to go to hell.  Even the most relativistic people I’ve met want the Hitlers and Stalins of the world to be punished. Can we trust a god who doesn’t judge the sins of genocide, murder, and rape?  And if we can’t trust him, can we truly love him… and his words?

Consider this: our God is just, but he’s not simply partially just (i.e. – punishing only the sins that the majority deems evil).  No, all wickedness is punished one of two ways: in hell or through Jesus Christ as substitute.  May God’s perfect justice lead us to cherish his Word more fervently as we consider what it would be like to serve a god who let evil slide.


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The Psalmist’s Theology of Suffering

I find these verses from Psalm 119 some of the most helpful in the Bible for grasping a right perspective of suffering and what we should remember as we’re walking through trials:

Psalm 119:67 – Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.

v. 71 – It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.

v. 75 – I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.

v. 92 – If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.



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A Better Way to Think About Getting Time with God

If all of you were sitting in front of me as a class of students and I was your teacher, I would ask you, “How many of you are frustrated by your busy schedules?”  This is an educated guess, but I think the majority of you would raise your hand.  My wife and I are busy with three young children and a calendar jam-packed with ministry events, but some of the retired people I know are busier than they were when they were working fifty hours a week.  Most likely, there are few people we know who aren’t busy, so it’s easy to get people to empathize with us when we can’t find the time to meet with God in His Word.

We have these grand ambitions of spending good, solid blocks of time meditating on Scripture and responding in prayer, but from our perspective, it seems like we fall victim to the various interruptions in our schedules that are impossible to plan for.  I understand well the dreaded arrival of the unexpected phone call or minor crisis at home, but I think we can spend more time in God’s Word if we’ll change our perspective a bit.

First, we need to stop seeing ourselves as people at the mercy of our schedules – “I’d like to spend time with God, if my schedule would only allow it.”  Often, we act as if our schedules are some sovereign force that we must appease with our submission.  God is the sovereign one, not our schedules.  We must always seek to please him, but that is a far cry from bowing the knee to every circumstance we’re faced with.  In fact, many times pleasing the Lord means not answering the phone, closing your office door, and saying “no” to someone’s request.

Second, we talk in terms of “having the time” or “finding the time”, but I think these phrases can perpetuate a passive mindset in regard to using time wisely, as if we’re saying, “If the time isn’t there, it isn’t there.”  It is better to think along the lines of “making time” instead of having it or finding it.  Making time means actively cutting things out of your schedule or preventing certain things from entering your schedule.  Like taking your lunch to work instead of eating out to make room in the budget, making time in your schedule is an attack on your schedule instead of allowing your schedule to attack you.


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Prayers to Inform Your Prayer Life from Psalm 119

In  my time with God each day I’ve been enjoying walking slowly through Psalm 119.  I guess I’ve never realized how truly instructive this portion of Scripture is.  So, to demonstrate this, here are the prayers of this psalm that I believe will be most helpful to my prayer life:

  • Psalm 119:18 – Open my eyes, that I may behold
    wondrous things out of your law.
  •  v.34 – Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
    and observe it with my whole heart.
  • vv. 36-37 – Incline my heart to your testimonies,
    and not to selfish gain!
     Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
    and give me life in your ways.
  • v. 76 – Let your steadfast love comfort me
    according to your promise to your servant.
  • v. 88 – In your steadfast love give me life,
    that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.
  • vv. 132-133 – Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    as is your way with those who love your name.
    Keep steady my steps according to your promise,
    and let no iniquity get dominion over me.

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A Prayer for All the Second-Borns

Today, our second born child, Justin, turns three.  Just as there are challenges that are unique to being a firstborn, so it is with our second-born children.  Which is why I have crafted this prayer for Justin, and all the other second-borns who stand with him.

Gracious Father, thank you for crafting every millimeter of Justin just the way you did.  He is an immense blessing to our lives and we ask that you would continue to give us what we need to be good stewards of him, raising him according to your Word and pointing him to the cross.

We first ask that you save his soul… by your grace… through faith in the redemptive work of Jesus… who died in the place of sinners.  Rescue him from sin and cause him to be engulfed in the ocean of your glory and majesty.

Secondly, we recognize that there are certain temptations Justin will face as the second-born that are different from those of his older brother and younger sister.  So, we ask you to help him realize these temptations and fight hem with your power and promises.  

We ask that you will help him find his identity in Christ (loved as a son no matter what he does) and not based on how he measures up to his his brother (the firstborn) and his sister (the baby of the family).  Make him to believe that you give us our identity (with all its privileges) when we believe in Jesus for salvation, and there is nothing he must do to earn this identity.  

Help him to praise you for the differences between he, his brother, and his sister.  May he embrace the strengths and gifts you have given him (no matter how different they are from his siblings’) and use them to honor you as Savior and Lord.

Cause him to love his brother and sister deeply, seeing them as friends and blessings instead of  rivals.  Give Justin the grace to fight bitterness and jealousy toward his brother and sister and pursue a camaraderie that encourages strong faith and fervent worship.

Help Justin to see his placement in the middle of the siblings as your grace to him, and by your grace may he turn every temptation to complain about it into and opportunity for praise and growth.

God, please help us, as his parents, to remember these temptations he will face and give us the hearts we need to love him as you love all your children in Christ: without favoritism.

In Jesus’ excellent name, Amen.


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The Devious Art of Distraction

In our day and age, all we have to do to find something to distract us is shift our eyes from one direction to another.  There are tons of things that stand ready to take our time and energy away from what truly matters.  If I asked you to make a quick list of distractors in your life, you would most likely rattle off things like any number of apps on your phone (Facebook, Twitter, Words with Friends, etc.), television shows, your different media gadgets (ipad, Kindle Fire, etc.), maybe novels, talk radio, the news, sports, shopping, or idle chit-chat.  But something we need to consider is that we often make distractors out of admirable things.

Distractors don’t have to be those things we do that end in very little productivity; they just have to distract us from the things that are more important.  It may be that while your wife is at her small group you put the kids down for bed and spend two hours cleaning the house.  She gets home and is delighted as she sees the floors are clean enough to eat off of, and you feel good because you accomplished something valuable so that your wife doesn’t have to spend the next morning laboring over a mess.  After sacrificing like this, who can say anything negative about you?  I mean most husbands would have nestled themselves down in front of the tv until their wives got home, right?  No one can bring a charge against how you used your evening, but in your heart you know there was something else you should have been attending to that is more important than cleaning.  It may be something like  the checkbook you haven’t balanced in weeks or, perhaps, it’s that you have not sat down to read your Bible and meet with God in days.

Cleaning so your wife can rest is admirable, but we frequently use even better things to distract us from what we don’t really want to do.  Sometimes we even use family or the church in this way.  What person can be incriminated for spending time playing with the kids or engaging in deep spiritual conversation with another brother or sister in Christ?  The fact is, because our hearts are deceitfully wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), we choose to distract ourselves with things that are good so that we can mount up a defense against the accusations that are thrown at us… whether they be from others, our own consciences, or even God’s Word.

Church, we must ask God to reveal the schemes of our hearts to us and help us honestly prioritize how we use our time and energy so that we do the most good for his glory and our joy.

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Focusing On God’s Word in the Hospital Waiting Room

We’ve all experienced those occasions in our lives when our emotional stress level is so high it seems like we can’t focus on anything.  Whether it’s at the kitchen table with a stack of bills or in the hospital waiting room pacing back and forth, we’ve been there.  And if you’re anything like me, you know the best thing for you in those times is to pull out your Bible and put yourself face to face with God’s truth, but there’s an excuse that pushes that knowledge to the side: “I can’t concentrate on anything else right now; I’m too distracted”.

Listen to these encouraging words from Psalm 119, Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes (v. 23).  The psalmist is not going to let anything get in the way of him meditating on God’s word.  Certainly I’ve seen hardship and trial, but I’ve never had government officials near the top of the hierarchical structure seek to oppress me personally.  I have neglected God’s Word for much less, yet the psalmist, under these circumstances, is committing to think intentionally on God’s word.

My point is that it is possible to focus your mind and heart on the Bible even when your circumstances are leaving your head spinning.  We say we’ll meditate on God’s word when things settle down, but we desperately need to be reminded of God’s truth when things are unsettled.  Plead with God to help you focus on his truth, if you can, get away from the kitchen table and out of the waiting room for a while, and then open up your Bible and drink deeply.


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11 Reasons Why Working with Kids is not Second Rate Ministry

Today, over at Kingdom People (one of my favorite blogs), Trevin Wax gave me the wonderful privilege of writing a guest post on serving kids in the local church.

Check it out here and pass it on to your church’s children’s ministry volunteers if you think it will be of benefit.


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