Sunday, May 30, 2010

Moral Vulnerability

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp.

The following post is one that I would encourage you to spend some time thinking about. If you don’t have time now then bookmark it and come back later. It’s a very good description of the road to sin, sorrow, destruction and redemption.

If you are honest you will recognize the well worn path. It’s one that most of us travel fairly often. If you are among the overconfident and deceived, it will make you think of someone else.

Don’t just read it once; meditate on it and let God speak to you. Get familiar with it while you look at it from a distance. Perhaps next time you hear the tempting call to get back on the path you will recognize what is going on in a different way than you have before. Maybe you will catch yourself before it’s too late. Or maybe you will find yourself traveling the path right now.

Following is the complete meditation. I couldn’t find anything I could cut for this post without diminishing the whole.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

Beauty compelling
Tugging, seducing
Wanting and craving
Weakened resolve;
Lingering, staring
Moral transgression
Look of desire
Selfish rebellion
Act of betrayal
Weakened resolve.
Long consideration
Dreams of possessing
Evil hoping
Enemy lurking
Heart now racing
Battle raging
Nervous thinking
Flesh growing weaker
Drawn to the darkness
Weakened resolve.
Wrong seen as righteous
Plausible lies
Twisted pretenses
Self swindling
Guilty logic
Deluded perspectives
Weakened resolve.
Deciding and choosing
Date and location
Concrete plans
Words of acceptance
Verbal contract
Shared deception
Tracks covered over
Weakened resolve.
Deed now accomplished
Fleeing the scene
Dark of night
Trembling hands
Afraid of discovery
Made up stories
Weakened resolve.
Morning remorse
Hard to imagine
Fear of discovery
Rehearsed denials
Lust unweakening
Purity lost
No undoing
Weakened resolve.
Protecting secrets
Telling lies
Acting the part
Believable excuses
Internal battles
Hunger for more
Weakened resolve.
Haunted by guilt
Crushed by conviction
No more delusion
Power of truth
Weakened resolve.
Stain of iniquity
Remorse of transgression
Cries for forgiveness
Hope for mercy
Cast on compassion
Admission of guilt
Weakened resolve.
Bitter harvest
Sweet forgiveness
The grace of cleansing
Joy in acceptance
Rescuing Savior
Loving Redeemer
Patient Father
Acting in power
Sin's bondage broken
No more compulsion
Freedom is given
Weakened resolve.
Confession of weakness
Tell of His mercy
Worship and service
Willing obedience
Resisting temptation
Steps of protection
Weakened resolve.
Seeking assistance
Sacrifice gladly
Witness to battle
Praise and thanksgiving
Long perseverance
Gone is deception
Weakened resolve.

Here are two questions from the meditation:

Try to identify evidence of moral vulnerability in your life. Where are you tempted to see as beautiful what God says is ugly? Where are you tempted to believe plausible lies? Where are you tempted to hide or cover your tracks?

Where do you need the help of God's grace so you can confess, seek help, stand and fight, refuse to listen, and speak the truth?

Here are my final thoughts:

Sin will take you places where you don't want to go.
Sin will cost you more than you want to pay.
Sin will keep you longer than you want to stay.


Get this book and join the journey:

Olive Tree – PDA or Smartphone

Amazon - paper

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Jennifer Knapp

I have been listening to Jennifer Knapp – The Collection today; such great music and lyrics. I came to appreciate her music long after she faded from the public. I always wondered what happened to her.

It was with great sadness that I read a few weeks ago that she was snatched by the devil. Here is the story. I guess it’s a good reminder that no one is above temptation and deception. It doesn’t matter that you were once blind and reveled in the sight of salvation. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest…and destruction soon comes.

I will go on listening to the music that I have. It will be with sadness inside. I will pray for her restoration.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Rhubarb Crisp

Made this tonight from some yummy rhubarb from our yard.

1 cup flour
1/2 cup oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter

4 cups rhubarb, cut in 1/2 pieces
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup water

Mix together flour, oats and sugar in large bowl. Stir in butter with fork to make a crumbly mixture. Set aside.

Combine rhubarb, sugar, flour, cinnamon and water in 8x8 baking dish. Stir to mix well. Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave 3 minutes on high.

Sprinkle topping evenly over rhubarb mixture and press it in a little. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes or until topping is golden and crisp.

9 Servings



Sunday, May 23, 2010

What in the World Is Hyssop?

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. Devotional is indented.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Psalm 51:7

It seems such a strange request from a man who's in the throes of grief over sins that he can't deny and can't take back. I would propose to you that it was exactly the right thing for David and for each of us to pray whenever we're confronted with our sins. But when you first read the word in Psalm 51, it does make you wonder, "What in the world is hyssop?"

What you really need to know, in order to understand the grieving in David's request, is Old Testament history. David's mind goes to that original Passover, when the firstborn of Egypt were stricken dead and the houses of Israel that had blood on the door frames were passed over. What does this have to do with David's request? Here it is: God directed the Israelites to take a branch of hyssop and dip it in blood and paint the door frames with it.

Here is David, grieved by his sin and bowed before God between the "already" and the "not yet." Already the blood of the first Passover had protected Israel from death and made their exodus to freedom and the land of promise possible. Already the Mosaic system of constant animal-blood sacrifices covered the sins of God's people. But the promised Lamb had not yet come. Not yet had his blood been spilt, once and for all, in the final moment of sacrifice that forever ended any need for further sacrifice.

What a blessing to live in this time where we can experience Christ’s blood shed for us. We live in the reality of that not just hope of what will come.

When your sin really does become ugly to you, when it produces pain in your heart and sickness in your stomach, you celebrate forgiveness, but you want something more. You want to be clean. You long to be once and for all purified from all sin whatsoever. You want your sin to be once and for all washed away. You want to be free of every dark residue of sinful thought, desire, word, or deed.

That is where we live. We can be clean – whiter than snow. That is what God tells us; our sin isn’t just covered, it is gone.

I don’t think we can really grasp that. We hold sin over our own heads and we’ve all had someone else hold our sin over our head. It doesn’t matter if it has been confessed and grieved over; it’s still the wedge, the trump card that can be pulled out whenever it’s needed. So it’s hard to think that God isn’t that way and He knows the depths of our heart. He knows all the sins, big and small and yet He chooses to forgive and with that forgiveness the sin is cleansed and gone, never to be brought to our attention again. He more than anyone could uses it against us but never does.

David never sang that great, old hymn "Nothing but the Blood," but maybe he'll hear it some day and remember the tear-stained prayer that followed the visit of Nathan. Maybe someday he'll celebrate final cleansing with a chorus of the ages singing:

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
O precious is the flow,
That makes me white as snow.
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Here is a question from the meditation:

Look back on your life. Identify the many, many places where you need to celebrate how God daily delivers you from sin. What things that once plagued and controlled you are no longer part of your life? (Be concrete and specific.)

Look ahead. Where do you see the need for more of God's cleansing? What things still tend to tempt and trap you? Pray and seek God's help.


Get this book and join the journey:

Olive Tree – PDA or Smartphone

Amazon - paper

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bristol Palin – The New (Expensive) Role Model

I was somewhat disturbed today after reading that Bristol Palin, daughter of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, is hitting the lucrative speaker circuit. I guess in her short 19 years she has become such an expert that she is expected to get between $15,000 and $30.000 for each appearance. (Yes, I am jealous; few people listen to me and it’s free.)

She will speak about being a young single mother, experiences on the campaign trail, her parenting approach and her outlook on life. Is anyone forgetting that she is only 19? Is there such a vacuum of people with real life experience that our new experts are still teenagers?

I’m not very impressed with what I have heard from her already. In her noble attempt to discourage other teenagers from following the path she has taken, it seems that the gist of her message is that being an unmarried teen mother is hard work and not much fun. She speaks of things like not being able to do all the things other kids get to do. My sense after listening to her several times is that her message makes abortion seems like a good option for a kid who finds herself pregnant. Now I know that is probably not what she wants to convey but maybe that is the problem of having a teenager become the expert.

I’m glad Bristol Palin didn’t abort her child. She took the hard road and as time goes on, she will experience the blessing that right choices bring.

What is wrong with the adults that won’t leave her alone to learn from life, to raise her child and to hopefully get married to a responsible young man who will help her in this difficult job? Oh yeah, that brings up the father of the baby and another sad part of this story: as in most cases like this, the relationship didn’t last but the consequences did.

There are lessons to be learned from Bristol Palin’s life but I’m not sure she is the best one to tell those stories, at least not during this time of her young life.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nathan's Legacy

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. Devotional is indented.

. . . when Nathan the prophet went to him. Title of Psalm 51

No shouts
No pointed fingers
No flashing eyes
No red-faced accusations
No inflammatory vocabulary
No bulging forehead veins
No derogatory names
No scary threats
No arrows of guilt
No cornering logic
No "how dare you?"
No "I can't believe you would!"
No "what were you thinking?"
No public confrontation
No, none of these.

There is so much to learn from this story of David, his horrible sin and Nathan’s confrontation. There is the way we usually confront someone and the way God confronted David through Nathan.

Just a humble prophet
Telling a simple story
A sinner with a sinner
Not standing above
Alongside, together
Wanting to be an instrument
Hoping to assist a blind man to see

There is the difference! The objective wasn’t to expose and humiliate David but to bring him to repentance and back to God. The messenger came as a fellow sinner.

And letting God
Do through a familiar example
Painted with plain words
What only God can do
Crack the hard-shell heart
Of a wayward man
And make it feel again
See again
Cry again

The words of this meditation are so powerful. I’m not giving all of them here. Get a copy of the book and enjoy all of them for yourself.

But the harvest
Of a man of grace
Giving grace
To a man
Who doesn't deserve grace
But won't live again
Without it.

How powerful we could be in other’s lives if we would come to them in this way. Not confronting because we are angry or because we were messed with but because we are agents of God’s grace; coming as a fellow sinner, humbled by our own failures.

A question from the meditation:

Are there people in your life whom you are tempted to motivate toward change by harsh words, increased volume, tight logic, and angry accusation?

That’s the way I usually do it, especially to my kids. But I’m starting to see the emptiness of that approach. Hopefully I will abandon it completely; to stop before I start; instead to bring the words of grace that will represent God’s heart to them.


Here is a video of the author, Paul Tripp speaking this meditation and giving some background on the book.


Get this book and join the journey:

Olive Tree – PDA or Smartphone

Amazon - paper

Monday, May 10, 2010

Missional vs Evangelism

I first heard the word missional a few years ago. It’s not the same as being a missionary but spoke more of a lifestyle of living in a way that expressed Christ to others.

I liked the idea because I had never been very good with evangelism. Being introverted, I didn’t do very well in striking up a conversation with strangers and telling them about Jesus. So the idea that living a Christian life in front of people as a form of evangelism appealed to me. They would see with their eyes what Jesus was like. Of course the new problem was that a lot of the time I didn’t do a very good job of showing Jesus.

As time went on I found out that there was a reason that a lot of people and churches were going the missional route rather than good old fashioned evangelism. It’s because they were being honest about what they believed; turns out that they don’t believe in evangelism. There are people that believe that what Jesus did on the cross wasn’t really for everyone. It’s the belief that only certain people are the elect and therefore allowed salvation. John 3:16 doesn’t really mean that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Those are just code words. When decoded it means that someone can only believe if God lets or makes them believe.

So the result of this belief is that you can’t go out on the street and tell someone that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life. Maybe He doesn’t. Maybe the wonderful plan He has for them is election to damnation for that is the opposite of election to salvation.

I also found that a lot of the church-planting movement fits in and is intertwined with this whole thing. It’s summed up in the “if you build it they will come” idea. You set up a church and invite people on a journey. The old altar call is a thing of the past too. You can’t really call people to salvation if they might not be part of the “called” group. So people come to the church and if they are one of the elect then salvation will take hold. If not then they will probably drift away.

Now I know these thoughts are a bit simple and unpolished but I hope you get the idea I’m trying to convey.

We need to understand that words have meaning and consequences. When we use words we need to know what they mean and also what someone else means by them. It can make a big difference.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Lord's Prayer

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. Devotional is indented.

Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. Psalm 51:4

I don't think you could say more dangerous words than those found in the Lord's Prayer. I don't think you could pray a more radical prayer. I don't think you could wish for something that will turn your life more upside down than this. I think that most of the people who say these words would probably hesitate if they really understood what they were saying.

It’s interesting to have this devotional referencing the Lord’s Prayer come at this time. I have been thinking about a section in this prayer for the past few weeks and have some thoughts that are percolating up that I will write about at a later time. I have had my own thoughts on what a deep prayer it is.

Here are the radical words I have been alluding to: "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). I must admit that I don't always greet God's kingdom with delight. There are things that I want in my life, and I not only want them, but I know how, when, and where I want them! I want my life to be comfortable. I want my schedule to be unobstructed and predictable. I want the people around me to esteem and appreciate me. I want control over the situations and relationships in my life. What I am saying is that I want my kingdom to come and my will to be done.

I think that when I have prayed the Lord’s Prayer in the past I didn’t take it so personal. In thinking about these lines I took them in a general sense. I wanted to see God’s kingdom on earth. I didn’t see how the prayer was for a shakeup in my own life.

In this way I stand with David. In David's kingdom, Bathsheba would be his wife. In David's kingdom, Bathsheba would have had no husband. In David's kingdom he could have Bathsheba and the blessing of the Lord on his reign at the same time. So, David acted out of zeal for his own kingdom, forgetting that he was sent as the ambassador of a greater King.

Maybe this is the kingdom of our imagination. We have our dreams of what would make life good and pleasurable. It’s not bad to dream as long as we put God’s kingdom first so our own thoughts don’t lead us into sin.

"Thy kingdom come" is a dangerous prayer, for it means the death of your own sovereignty. It means your life will be shaped by the will of another. It means that you will experience the messiness, discomfort, and difficulty of God's refining grace.

You see, the prayer that Christ taught us to pray is the antidote to sin. Since sin starts with the heart, it's only when my heart desires God's will more than it desires my will, that I'll live within the moral boundaries that God has set for me. And it is only God's grace that can produce this kind of heart.

I think I will always pray the Lord’s Prayer differently after these thoughts. It’s about me and what God wants to do in me and not just about a generic prayer for generic people.

A question from the meditation:

Do you find joy and hope in knowing that as God calls you to live for his kingdom he frees you from being in bondage to your own little kingdom of one?

That is the good news. I don’t have to change myself. The amazing grace of God is available to do the work in me. Yes, it brings hope.


Get this book and join the journey:

Olive Tree – PDA or Smartphone

Amazon - paper

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The “A” Word

I read a story told by deceased singer/songwriter Rich Mullins. He said that as a child his favorite time of the year at church was Christmas. He said that it was the one time of the year that you could say ass in church and not get in trouble. Rich said: “I used to sing that line out of that carol over and over again.”

There is another “a” word that rarely if ever gets said in church; it’s the word abortion. As a prolife activist I spent many years trying to get pastors to address abortion. For the most part it was a lost battle.

It seems that the murder of defenseless innocent children would be something the church should care about. By our relative inaction we show we don’t. For sure, we don’t want to do anything controversial.

The sad result is that our silence results in death and destruction. Women faced with an inconvenient pregnancy hear the only voice speaking, that of the world, and believe that abortion will solve their problem.

An old statistic showed that about 24 percent of women who identify as born-again Christians have had an abortion. That’s not before they were born-again but while they were. I would guess that today the statistic is the same or maybe higher. We delude ourselves when we look around our churches and say that it can’t be true, at least not in our church. The truth is that our silence results in dead babies and damaged women, not to mention what happens to the fathers of these babies.

Most pastors don’t address abortion because they are afraid of offending or hurting the women who have already had abortions. The truth is that the women are already hurting. If the pastors speak up, not only will they save lives but they may help the post abortive woman start down the path to healing.

Would you like to do something to prevent abortion? If you are in the Denver area I would invite you to join us at the abortion mill. If you have never been to one, I can assure you that it is less frightening than you may think. Many lives have been saved because someone cared enough to tell the truth outside an abortion clinic.

Here is a link to get you started in prolife action.

It’s time to break the silence and break the power of the “a” word.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Unfailing Love

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. Devotional is indented.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. Psalm 51:16

I wish I would live with You in view;
Eyes to Your glory
Ears for Your wisdom
Heart for Your grace.
But I live with me in view.
Eyes to my kingdom
Ears for my opinion
Heart captured by my will.
Isn’t that the battle we live in every day? As a Christian I want to please God but even on the best of days I find myself more wrapped up in my concerns than in what pleases God.

So I don't find pleasure in Your glory,
I don't delight in Your law.
But my heart doesn't rest;
I know there's a better way.
I know You are God
And I am not.
That is the yearning of every true Christian. We know there is more; we want to be free from ourselves. We want His kingdom to come in our lives and His will to be done in us…as it is in heaven.

My sin is more than
Bad behavior
A bad choice
Wrong words.
My sin is a violation of the relationship
That I was meant to have with You.
My sin is an act
Where I replace You
With something I love more.
Every time we do that we are disappointed. We live unsatisfied lives, realizing that we messed up again, were fooled again.

Help me
To see
To acknowledge
To weep
And say,
"Against You, You only have I sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight."
And then help me to rest
In Your mercy
In Your tender mercy
In Your faithful love,
Even as the war goes on.
That is the thing we need to remember. The war goes on, even if we have victory one day. The next day it starts up again and we have to fight against ourselves and what we want.

A question from the meditation

Where does the little kingdom of self tend to get in the way of the work of God's kingdom in your life? (See Matthew 6:19 - 34)
I live a life of limits. I know what I can’t do, what I am afraid to do. And sometimes God wants me to do something big for Him. Maybe not something that anyone else would think is big, but it is huge for me because my kingdom can’t support or envision it.


Get this book and join the journey:

Olive Tree – PDA or Smartphone

Amazon - paper

Saturday, May 1, 2010

2010 Men’s Retreat – 3

Thoughts from the 2010 BV men’s retreat. Saturday morning – Austin Krokos talking.

Nobody said it was easy…fix your eyes on Jesus.

Hebrews 12:1-2 encourages us to lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles and then to fix our eyes on Jesus. Each of those helps us to do the other.

Another key is Hebrews 11:13. The righteous who are mentioned in that chapter acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. That will make a big difference in how we live. Are our eyes on earthly things and pursuits or do we live like we are longing for another place?

Hebrews 12:1 goes on to tell us to run the race with endurance. Because of hope we bear up. We are patient under things and circumstances. This quality of character does not allow us to surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial. Boy do I need that!

It is in focusing on Jesus that this is possible. It’s not my willpower or strength but His that gives me victory. I need to let Jesus live through me. The Helper has been sent (Jn 16:7) and God has given us Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that the Scripture has been given for teaching, for reproof, for correction and training in righteousness. As a result I will be competent and equipped for every good work.

It seems that if I take advantage of the resources that God has given I will be ready for what comes my way even if it is not an easy path.


2010 Men’s Retreat – 2

Thoughts from the 2010 BV men’s retreat. Saturday morning – Chuck Fallon talking.

Born to be Wild

What makes us roar? Prodigal child, freedom, pain, joy?

What is the righteous form of wildness?

Galatians 5:1 says it is for freedom that Christ set us free. Verse 13 says that we shouldn’t use that freedom as an opportunity for the flesh but to serve one another in love. Could it be in that passionate freedom that we find what we were really meant to be?

Am I the same man internally as externally? Is my life consistent? Am I the same at church, at home and at work?

How is pain used in my life? I have found that many times I don’t make lasting changes apart from some kind of pain. Back pain has taught me to be very careful of what I do. The pain of broken relationships and marital strife causes me to want to change so I can avoid that same pain in the future.

Sometimes instead of going to the source of pain, we seek to numb it through various forms of “medication.” Alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, adrenalin, and escape are some of the ways.

Sometimes it’s hard to understand the pain. It seems too severe or unnecessary. Do we trust God that He does all things for our good? And of course there is some pain that is the result of our own doing but that too can be used for good.

When God raises the temperature in our life it’s always exactly right. It will not be so high that it destroys us but high enough to burn away or cleanse us from the thing that left alone will harm us.

The following quote from Sir Winston Churchill came to mind:

When you feel you cannot continue in your position for another minute, and all that is in human power has been done, that is the moment when the enemy is most exhausted, and when one step forward will give you the fruits of the struggle you have borne.

Take one step more and hang on a little longer. There are things going on in the background and the hope in a good God gives us endurance.


2010 Men’s Retreat – 1

Thoughts from the 2010 BV men’s retreat. Friday night – Chris Little talking.

Attention, Direction, Destination

What gets out attention determines our direction and our direction determine our destination.

Am I giving my attention to the right things; to the things that will set me in the right direction so I will end up at the destination I desire? Am I making wrong turns and being distracted?

Proverbs 27:12 – The prudent sees danger and hides himself but the simple go on and suffer for it. Both see the danger but the outcome is vastly different. The wise person stops and thinks. They are not deceived by and avoid the pitfall. They respond differently.

Sometimes we live a disconnected life. We think that today’s small choices have no impact on the future. A small deviation today results in a multiplied error later.

Are we on a happiness quest or a truth quest? A happiness quest will lead to justification and rationalizations – “whatever makes you happy.” Smart people end up doing very stupid things.

My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.
Proverbs 3:11-12

I am thankful to be here and looking forward to the work that God will do.