Monday, October 29, 2007

In praise of Autumn

There is something amazing about the crispness of the air in the autumn. It congers up memories of walks in the woods, fireside chats, and deer hunting. I am reminded of camping trips from my youth, and hearty meals of stews, chili, and homemade soups. I suppose if we took a vote- autumn would be the second highest voted season. When else is a cup of coffee taste that good. When else is a walk so invigorating than through the cool air of the fall day.

I like letting my car warm up- it sort of paces the day. I like the crispness of the fallen leaves and the way the wind blows and swirls them into piles. I like the fact that the grass and even some flowers are still bright with color as if they are making a last stand against the impending weather change. I like the way my dog, who sat lifeless in the summer sun- now springs alive with the quickening in the air.

I like football and the beginning of hockey season the sounds of the stout and hearty playing pick up games in the park near my house. I like starting a fire in the fireplace and curling up in front of the TV with a blanket to keep the chill off. Who doesn't like flannel pajamas? Who doesn't like Hot Coco ... with marshmellows? And what of cider and the apple harvest and hayrides and on and on. To distain the fall-ness of fall- well, it would be unamerican!

No this autumn is worthy of praise- of admiration- of appreciation! Breath deep of its crisp air!

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Parenting is a difficult job. When I think back on it I remember knowing that I was in over my head from the get-go. Fortunately, we had our kids young -and that helped because we were used to staying up all night. I made a lot of mistakes as a father. I spanked the wrong kids, screamed and yelled way to much, I disconnected too often from the family, and was moody often. But I did somethings right too. Among the things I did right were the following.

We ate together every night (even when I ordered pizza on Fridays). This gave us face to face time that ministry and the life of my children couldn't infringe upon.

We celebrated family things alot. B'days, holidays, and special times were guarded so that ministry didn't eclipse them.

I had a date night with my wife most weeks. This put the family in perspective. And, while my kids did their share of demanding things from their folks, the marriage always came before the family.

I was there- for the softball games, the hockey games, the times they wanted to talk.

I tried very hard to keep my promises. I tried to represent Christ to them well-and failed. But at least they know that I am genuine and not fake. What you see is what you get.

There is a lot I would do different. I'd stress a lot less; I'd pray together a little more; I would spend more time reading to them when they were little.

They turned out well. Probably more to their mother's doing that to mine- but I am proud of all my kids. They - each one in their own way- seek to make impact on society. It is a source of pride in the purest sense. Somehow- they found their way to Faith and success.

Thank God! If your in the throes of parenthood- don't give up. It will make a difference to your kids, to the Lord, and to the world we live in.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Gutsy Guilt by John Piper

The closest I have ever come in 26 years to being fired from my position as a pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church was in the mid-1980s, when I wrote an article for our church newsletter titled "Missions and Masturbation." I wrote the article after returning from a missions conference in Washington, D.C., with George Verwer, the head of Operation Mobilization.

Verwer's burden at that conference was the tragic number of young people who at one point in their lives dreamed of radical obedience to Jesus, but then faded away into useless American prosperity. A gnawing sense of guilt and unworthiness over sexual failure gradually gave way to spiritual powerlessness and the dead-end dream of middle-class security and comfort.

In other words, what seemed so tragic to George Verwer—as it does to me—is that so many young people are being lost to the cause of Christ's mission because they are not taught how to deal with the guilt of sexual failure. The problem is not just how not to fail. The problem is how to deal with failure so that it doesn't sweep away your whole life into wasted mediocrity with no impact for Christ.

The great tragedy is not masturbation or fornication or pornography. The tragedy is that Satan uses guilt from these failures to strip you of every radical dream you ever had or might have. In their place, he gives you a happy, safe, secure, American life of superficial pleasures, until you die in your lakeside rocking chair.

I have a passion that you do not waste your life. My aim is not mainly to cure you of sexual misconduct. I would like that to happen. But mostly I want to take out of the Devil's hand the weapon that exploits your sin and makes your life a wasted, worldly success. Satan wants that for you. But you don't!

What broke George Verwer's heart back in the 1980s, and breaks mine today, is not that you have sinned sexually. It's that this morning Satan took your 2 A.M. encounter—whether on TV or in bed—and told you: "See, you're a loser. You may as well not even worship. No way are you going to make any serious commitment of your life to Jesus Christ! You may as well get a good job so you can buy yourself a big widescreen and watch sex till you drop."

I want to take that weapon out of his hand. Yes, I want you to have the joyful courage not to do the channel surfing. But sooner or later, whether it's that sin or another, you are going to fall. I want to help you deal with the guilt of failure so that Satan does not use it to produce another wasted life.

God Makes a Way
The backdrop of Colossians 1-3 is Colossians 3:6: "On account of these the wrath of God is coming." Hanging over the whole world is the holy, just, unimpeachable anger of God at sin and rebellion. His wrath is coming, and the salvation spoken of in Colossians 1-3 is the only rescue from it. No one wants to meet the wrath of "the Lamb" when it comes (Rev. 6:16). So God in his mercy provides a way out.

Christ did something in history before we existed that obtained and guaranteed our rescue and the transformation of all who would come to trust in him. The distinctive and crucial thing about Christian salvation is that Christ accomplished it decisively, outside of us and without our help. When we put our faith in him, we do not add to the sufficiency of what he accomplished in covering our sins and achieving the righteousness that counts as ours.

The clearest verses on this point are Colossians 2:13-14: "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the Cross."

Those last words are the most crucial. God set aside this record of debt that stood against us, nailing it to the Cross. Make sure you understand this most glorious of all truths: God took the record of all your sins—all your sexual failures—that made you a debtor to wrath. Instead of holding them up in front of your face and using them as the warrant to send you to hell, he put them in the palm of his Son's hand and nailed them to the Cross.

Beautiful Substitution
Whose sins were punished on the Cross? The sins of all who despair of saving themselves and trust in Christ alone. Who was punished on the Cross? Jesus. That is the beautiful thing we call substitution.

Paul wrote in Romans 8:3, "By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh." Whose sin? Ours. Jesus had none (only the likeness of sinful flesh, not sinful flesh). Whose flesh? Jesus'.

Have you ever wondered what the next verse, Colossians 2:15, means? Right after saying that God nailed the record of our debt to the Cross, Paul says, "[God] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him." This is a reference to the Devil and all his demonic hosts. How are they disarmed? How are they defeated?
They have many weapons. But they are disarmed of the one weapon that can damn us—the weapon of unforgiven sin. Be sure you see the connection between Colossians 2:14 and 15. In 2:14, it says God nailed the record of our debt to the Cross. It's punished. It's finished. And in the next breath, it says that God disarmed the rulers and authorities. He triumphed over them. Sure, they can beat us up, tempt us, scare us, and accuse us, but they cannot damn us. That weapon is out of their hands. Only unforgiven sin damns. And that was nailed to the Cross.
Many see so little of the beauty of Christ in this salvation that the gospel simply sounds to them like a license to go on sinning. If all my sins are nailed to the Cross, then let's all sin that grace may abound (Rom. 6:1). Paul confronted that blindness in his own day and said, "Their condemnation is just" (Rom. 3:8). The reason they will be condemned is that we are saved by grace through faith. This faith connects you with Jesus so that his death counts for your death and his righteousness counts for your righteousness (compare Rom. 5:1, "by faith," and Rom. 8:1, "in Christ"). This faith receives Christ. It's not an adding to what Christ has done. It is a receiving. Saving faith receives Jesus as Savior and Lord and the Treasure of your life.

This faith will fight anything that gets between it and Christ. The distinguishing mark of saving faith is not perfection. It is not that I never sin sexually. The mark of faith is that I fight. I fight not with fists or knives or guns or bombs, but with the truth of Christ. I fight anything that diminishes the fullness of the lordship of Jesus in my life. I fight anything that threatens to replace Jesus as the supreme treasure of my life.

So if all you can see in the Cross of Jesus is a license to go on sinning, then you don't have saving faith. You need to fall on your face and plead that God would open your eyes to see the compelling glory of Jesus Christ.

I haven't mentioned justification, but it is very closely related to the work of God in nailing our sins to the Cross. Justification is the act by which God declares us not only forgiven because of the work of Christ, but also righteous because of the work of Christ. God requires two things for our right standing before him: (1) Our sins must be punished, and (2) our lives must be righteous. But we cannot bear our own punishment, and we cannot provide our own righteousness (Rom. 3:10).

Therefore, God, out of his immeasurable love for us, provided his own Son to do both. Christ bears our punishment and performs our righteousness. When we receive Christ as the Savior and Lord and Treasure of our lives, all of his punishment and righteousness is counted as ours (Rom. 4:4-6; 5:1; 5:19; 8:1; 10:4; Phil. 3:8-9; 2 Cor. 5:21). Justification conquers fornication.

False Hopelessness
Being armed with biblical knowledge of God, Christ, the Cross, and salvation can give such ballast to the boat of your life that the wind of temptation will not be able to tip it over easily. The reason this is not a popular remedy for temptation today is because it is not a quick fix. It's the work of a lifetime.

You have a tremendous weapon against the Devil when you know your punishment for sin has already been paid in Christ and your righteousness before God has already been achieved in Christ, and you hold fast to these truths with heartfelt passion.

With this passionately embraced theology—the magnificent doctrines of substitutionary atonement and justification by faith (even if you don't remember the names)—you can conquer the Devil tomorrow morning when he lies to you about your hopelessness.I WIll Rise
What will you say to him? Micah 7:8-9 is a picture of what you say to your enemy when he scoffs at your defeat. I call this practice "gutsy guilt." The believer admits that he has done wrong and that God is dealing roughly with him. But even in a condition of darkness and discipline, he will not surrender his hold on the truth that God is on his side. Pay close attention to these amazing words. Use them whenever Satan tempts you to throw away your life on trifles because that's all you're good for.

Micah 7:8-9 is what victory looks like the morning after failure. Learn to take your theology and speak like this to the Devil or anyone else who tells you that Christ is not capable of using you mightily for his global cause. Here is what you say.

"Rejoice not over me, O my enemy." You make merry over my failure? You think you will draw me into your deception? Think again.
When I fall, I shall rise. Yes, I have fallen. I hate what I have done. I grieve at the dishonor I have brought on my King. But hear this, O my enemy, I will rise. I will rise.
When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. Yes, I am sitting in darkness. I feel miserable. I feel guilty. I am guilty. But that is not all that is true about me and my God. The same God who makes my darkness is a sustaining light to me in this very darkness. He will not forsake me.

I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. Oh yes, my enemy, this much truth you say: I have sinned. I am bearing the indignation of the Lord. But that is where your truth stops and my theology begins. He—the very one who is indignant with me—will plead my cause. You say he is against me and that I have no future with him because of my failure. That's what Job's friends said. That is a lie. And you are a liar. My God, whose Son's life is my righteousness and whose Son's death is my punishment, will execute judgment for me. For me! And not against me.
He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. This misery that I now feel because of my failure, I will bear as long as my dear God ordains. And this I know for sure—as sure as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is my punishment and my righteousness—God will bring me out to the light, and I will look upon his righteousness, my Lord and my God.

Falling Less Often
When you learn to deal with the guilt of sexual failure by this kind brokenhearted boldness, this kind of theology, this kind of justification by faith, this kind of substitutionary atonement, this kind of gutsy guilt, you will fall less often. Why is this so? Because Christ will become increasingly precious to you.

Best of all, Satan will not be able to destroy your dream of a life of radical obedience to Christ. By this Christ-exalting gutsy guilt, thousands of you will give your lives to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.

John Piper is the pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. This article is adapted from a message delivered at Passion '07.

Mitt Romney? Your Kiddin, Right?!

Recently Dr. Wayne Grudem ( a prominent Evangelical Professor) endorsed Mitt Romney for the Rebumblican Presidential Candidate. I have trouble with that endorsement-especially while the Primaries are the only opportunity to craft a platform that will speak with any type of moral authority for conservatives. Dr. Grudem says that "the best predictor of future performance is a person's past track record"- and I agree. So let's take a look at what Grudem calls his "stellar performance".

"Stellar performance" in his record
Romney's entire political career has been built by catering to the eastern liberal establishment. That he is now attempting to remake himself into a conservative is suspect to say the least!

Mitt Romney has been a consistent pro-abortion politician since entering public life. His track record is there for anyone who wants to examine it. According to one well-researched account, "Mitt Romney has a long history of supporting pro-abortion candidates and causes, and aggressively sought the support and endorsement of groups such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood. Indeed, Romney is still listed today as a member of the Republican Main Street Partnership, a group supported by Billionaire leftist George Soros dedicated to shifting the GOP leftward on social issues such as abortion rights and stem cell research.

"Romney also has a history of assisting the careers of other prominent pro-abortion politicians. In the 1992 presidential race, Romney endorsed and voted for pro-abortion liberal Democrat Paul Tsongas in the Democratic primary and just three years ago endorsed and made a television ad for Democrat Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson, a former Planned Parenthood attorney.

"As Governor, he issued state proclamations honoring 'Right to Privacy Day' which until 2005, specifically referenced the Roe vs. Wade case.

"Romney repeatedly took extreme stances on abortion throughout his career and consistently made statements such as this one: 'I believe that Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it . . .'"

"There simply is no doubt that Romney was one of the most pro-abortion Republican office holders in the country."

Further, on the issue of "gay rights," Mitt Romney's record is clear. He has consistently facilitated the radical homosexual agenda.

According to a World Net Daily report, "A website paid for and authorized by the Massachusetts Democratic Party has posted a picture of a flier reportedly passed out at a 2002 'gay pride' event by then-gubernatorial candidate Mitt Romney expressing support for homosexual rights.

"The flier, on red paper, claims to have been paid for by 'the Romney for Governor Committee and Kerry Murphy Healey Committee' and reads, 'Mitt and Kerry wish you a great Pride Weekend.'"

For Mitt Romney to now say that he "took every conceivable step within the law to defend traditional marriage" is an outright exaggeration.

On the subject of gun control, Mitt Romney promised that he would not change the gun laws in Massachusetts--a state that has some of the most draconian gun restrictions in the country.

In 2002, Mitt Romney said, "We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts; I support them."

For the "dope" on Mitt Romney's leftist anti-gun record, see the Gun Owners of America's report:

Let's look at Romney's record on illegal immigration, Mitt Romney has supported with his own funds candidates who refuse to challenge the open boarders and didn't take any opportunity to address the issue in Massachusetts . We need to be careful that Republican politicians don't make dupes out of the so-called Religious Right.

What about his "superior intellect"?

Romney has a Law degree from Harvard Business School. But, as one freind of mine said- if he is not smart enough to know that he is a part of a cult, how can we trust him to run the country.
The obsurdities of the Mormon faith are many. Sacred underwear, becoming a god of your own planet, living near Kolob (a fictional star), the Temple, the garden of Eden is in Missouri (though the Tigris is in the MiddleEast), the curse on the dark skinned peoples who were less than valiant in the pre-existence, etc.

What is important to people of Biblical faith is no mystery. The sanctity of life remains highly important. It is also important that Bible believing Christians hold to conservative and originalist interpretation of the constitution which sees that faith, morality, and values can have an important place in this country. (As opposed to those redactionists who see a 'freedom from religion' instead of a 'freedom of religion'). Traditional Marriage is also important to those who hold to the faith. A commitment to the belief in personal responsibility, a strong defense, and a
fiscal responsibility usually make the list, too.

My concern is for those who want to back a "winner" against Hillary Clinton. Are we willing to sell out in the primaries- rather than vote our consciences? Is there really Biblical justification for settling, compromising, etc. Especially when there is a Huckabee running? People of faith need to send the message to the Republican party- that they aren't willing to be fooled again.

I think the more that we understand the political landscape - we will refuse to be taken on as a drone of the Republican Party. Rather we vote our consciences in the primary- at least. If the primaries still give us Romney then at least we have expressed out values to the party. In the end- nearly anything is better than a socialist in the White house.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

New Orleans Habitat Trip

Thanks for your prayers. As we went to LA we found a discouragement that was difficult to image. The devastation was so widespread that it was a bit overwhelming. As in the picture above- the black mold was everywhere. The trailer has been occupied for 2 years by some family that can't find a way to afford the fixes for the house. (Actually, in probably needs to be torn down- gutted at minimum) Sadly, families are waiting for funds from insurance companies and the government. But the funds trickle in slowly. Few are working on their homes. Many have abandoned their property. Gangs and violent offenders are making these areas a haven.

We only spent 4 days in NOLA but we worked hard to make life better for a couple families. It is really a drop in the bucket but we hope that it makes a difference.

Hearing God- Another Level

I don't know about you but there are moments that challenge me as a Christ follower. These are the moments- truly subjective moments- that are not about sinning or walking righteously but rather hearing the will of God - discerning it. These are two or three perfectly righteous possibilities, but the will of God may be a bit fuzzy. This is another level. Let me explain.

There is a fundamental level of following Jesus. Learning to adapt to and embrace the values of heaven. Living by the principles of scripture. Adopting a christian world view that values what God values. This is a difficult adjustment and, frankly, takes years to be reformed- to have, as the scripture says, our minds renewed. I have walked with God for 30+ years and struggle to embrace the values of a heavenly citizenship over and above those espoused by every media outlet and every person I meet on the planet.

But there is another level. This is the level that hears God. Prayer life consists of more than moments of devotion but of a lifetime of devotion. Prayer infultrates every cell of our lives. There is no longer a distinction between doing and being. The object of our affections becomes the fellow of our fellowship. But there is the challenge of hearing God in the everyday decisions. To buy this, to hire him or her, to live here (or there), to drive this car... what is God's will?

How are you at this spirit led lifestyle? Too many talk about the christian life as if it is a surrender to Biblical positions and subjecting ourselves to principles that are revealed in Scripture. But life is more than black and white- it is a walk with the Spirit. God help us to hear him in the everyday decisions.

Gal 5.25 "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep step with the Spirit."