7 Things I'm Thankful For Today

"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him...abounding in thanksgiving." 

Colossians 2:6-7

1. A God who faithful even when I'm not.

2. A wife to love, laugh and live life with.

3. A quiver of healthy and hilarious kids.

4. A pulpit from which to preach God's Word.

5. A church filled with people who call me "pastor."

6. A mission to give my life to. 

7. A wealth of loyal, loving friends who stretch me. 

What are some things you're thankful for today?

#InTheRoom Podcast

I have a new project I’m SO excited about and want to invite you in to! Beginning Monday, December 1, I’m hosting a bi-monthly (which I think means twice a month??) podcast called #InTheRoom

 

The concept is simple: I want to bring you into the room with pastors, authors and artists for conversations about the craft of ministry. This is a project I’ve thought a lot about. While there is much I’m still trying to figure out, here are three values you can count on from #InTheRoom

1. Authenticity

These are real conversations with real leaders about real issues. I’m not after canned principles that sound great on paper, but fall sadly short in practice. It won’t be scripted and the only thing I’ll ever edit may be my stuttering attempt at asking a coherent question:-).

2. Diversity

I have a deep conviction that I have something to learn from everyone. Regardless of tribe, philosophy, or strategy - if you’re making disciples of Jesus, I want hear about how you’re doing it. I want to talk with people I may not agree with on every issue (let’s be honest - do any of us agree with anyone on every issue?) because I want to be challenged, stretched, and grown.

3. Vulnerability

I don’t just want answers to the same five questions every leader gets asked on every conference panel. I’m striving for a look behind the curtain of each guest's heart, mind, and ministry. I’m not interested in just stories of success. I want to hear about fear, failure, and the grace of God that is sufficient for all.

So here’s my big ask: Will you listen to the first episode and help me spread the word? 

My first guest is Pastor Matt Chandler and it’s packed full of awesome. I promise you’ll be blessed by so much of what Matt has to share. 

Email, tweet, Facebook, Instagram, homing pigeon…use whatever means you want, but help me get the word out. To join the conversation online, just use the hashtag #InTheRoom. I’m excited about how God’s going to use this podcast in my life and yours. So make a note - Monday December 1. I’m looking forward to having you #InTheRoom!

3 Healing Reminders When the Holidays Are Hard

The holidays are hard.

Finances are stretched, relationships are strained, and emotions are often sensitive. As a result, the holidays are frequently a difficult season, rather than the joyful one we’re pressured to project. 

Maybe you have no idea how you’re going to afford Thanksgiving dinner, or Christmas gifts this year. Maybe you’re dreading the inevitable conflict with a contentious family member. Maybe you’re increasingly aware of the residual pain of a loved one lost. 

If the holidays are hard for you, I want to give you three healing reminders…

1. Jesus is with you.

This can be a lonely time of year for many. It seems all you see are happy couples, happy families, happy friends celebrating together. The holidays also increase our awareness of how much we miss loved ones who have passed away. If you’re feeling lonely this year, listen to the words of Hebrews 13:5:

“I will never leave you; never will I forsake you.”  

What you feel doesn’t dictate what’s real. You are NOT alone. Jesus is with you. 

2. Jesus gets it.


Jesus knows what it is to have conflict with family. Jesus knows the pain of loved ones lost. Jesus knows what it is to be stretched thin, even overwhelmed. Hebrews 4:15 says,

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” 

Because Jesus has experienced what we have, He can empathize with us as well. There is no pain that Jesus is not intimately familiar with. You may feel misunderstood by everyone, but if anyone gets you, it’s Jesus. He understands how you feel, so draw near to Him. 

3. Jesus is sufficient. 

It’s great that Jesus is with you, even better that He understands, but the real question is, “Can Jesus do anything about it?” My opinion on that doesn’t matter. Listen to what Jesus Himself says:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor.12:9) 

Regardless of where you are, what you’re going through, or how you’re feeling, Jesus is sufficient for you - He’s enough! He can comfort, heal, sustain, forgive, and set you free. 

Jesus’ power is not in question.

Jesus is with you.

Jesus gets it.

Jesus is sufficient.

The question is, will you draw near to His throne to receive the grace you need to endure, maybe even enjoy this holiday season?  

Captains Of A Sinking Ship

There has been an unfortunate trend within Christianity these past couple of decades. An increasing number of us have a deep desire to assimilate into culture rather than stand as a refuge of hope outside of it. 

Understand, I’m not saying we should all move into the woods, burn our secular music (anyone else do that when they were young?), or stop watching movies. I am saying that we need to get honest about the desires of our hearts. 

Many of us want to live like, look like, and sound just like our culture SO THAT we will be respected and accepted by it. That’s like wanting to be captains of a sinking ship.

When the Titanic struck an iceberg and began to sink, people were scrambling around doing lots of things, but there was one thing nobody was doing: posturing to be captain of the ship. Their only concern was getting off the ship and for some, to help as many others as possible do the same. 

In the same way, our concern shouldn’t be ego-boosting influence within the culture. Our culture is in opposition to God and will thus sink just like the Titanic. Our concern should be having and helping others experience peace with God and that’s impossible to do AND be universally accepted by a culture in opposition to God. 

In Luke 6:26 Jesus said, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to false prophets.” Here’s an important point:

If no one speaks well of you, you may be a jerk. If everyone speaks well of you, you’re not living like Jesus. 

So whose pleasure and approval will you live for today? Will you seek the approval of the sinking ship of our culture or the approval of our sovereign God? Culture will sink, God will not. Let’s be sure we’re seeking the right approval. 

How True Change Happens

In our house, it's my job to take the garbage to the curb on Monday mornings. On more than one occasion in the summer months, I’ve walked outside to find both the inside and the outside of my garbage can covered in…

Wait for it…

MAGGOTS. 

If you’ve never experienced this, I don’t even have the words to describe just how disgusting it truly is. It smells horrible, looks horrible and believe it or, not, sounds horrible as you can hear them sliming all over one another. (Still reading? I know it’s gross, but I have a point…)

Let’s say I grab my hose and spray off the outside of the can and don’t do anything about what has caused the real problem on the inside. What’s going to happen? Within moments the can will be covered again because what’s on the outside came from the inside. Sin is the same way. 

In Matthew 23:25-28 Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for projecting pure lives apart from pursuing pure hearts. We do the same thing. We go to painful lengths in order to project that we are righteous people. We go to church, tweet a verse from our quiet time, give generously, serve sacrificially and live in community with other believers. Understand, those are all good things, but Jesus said we can succeed in all those things and still miss what matters most - our hearts. 

Sin is a problem of the heart (Matthew 15:18-19). The reason you and I do what we do - the reason we struggle with pride, deceit, anger, lust, gluttony, and laziness - is because our hearts are poisoned by sin. This is why any solution to sin and its fruits that does not address the heart is entirely unhelpful. We’re not sinners because we sin, we sin because we’re sinners (Ephesians 2:3). 

So, how do we move from external obedience to internal transformation? Simple: Only the perfect blood of Christ purifies our hearts. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

The more we press into the purifying work of Christ, the more we change - from the inside out.

 

The Battle Continues

“It is finished.”

Those may be the three most life-changing, sin-destroying, and eternity-altering words in the Bible. 

Having lived a sinless life Himself, Jesus took the sins of the world upon His own shoulders and died the death that we deserved, in order to give us the life we didn’t. As He humbly hung and breathed His last, He uttered these three words of victory - “It is finished.” There is no more price to be paid. There is no more atonement needed. Jesus paid to purify our hearts and lives because we could not. But don’t miss this: 

When Jesus said “It is finished,” He was speaking of the war, not the battle. 

Christians are called to kill the sin that Jesus has conquered. Jesus dealt the decisive and devastating blow to our sin, but a battle still rages and we must fight. We’re to work, toil and strive to suffocate our sin.

Sadly, too many Christians cry about sin and its effects but give zero effort to actually killing it. In fact, it seems we do nearly everything other than kill our sin

So, what would it look like for you to go to war on your sin today? Prayer, God’s Word, and Biblical community are all weapons God’s called us to wield in our war on sin. The war has been won, the battle continues. The question is, will you take up these weapons and follow the Spirit of God into this battle? 

What Do You Champion?

We’re all champions of something. I don’t mean in an athletic sense. A champion is a person who fights for a cause, product, or way of doing something. We’re all champions of something, the question is “what”?

In Matthew 5:9 Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” So according to Jesus:

The children of God are champions of peace.

A peacemaker is someone who strives to live peaceably and pursue peace at every opportunity. Notice, there’s an active and a passive component to peacemaking. Let’s start with the passive component…

Peacemakers Are Peaceable.

To use a biblical term, a peacemaker is NOT “quarrelsome.” In 1 Timothy 3:3 Paul says elders aren’t to be “quarrelsome.” So to be peaceable means to be un-hostile, or inclined and predisposed to peace. Peacemakers aren’t looking for a fight all the time.

We all know someone who is always looking for a fight. Social media is filled with people like this - quarrelsome, cheerless, combative people. You could post a picture of kittens and sunshine and they’re like, “Really? Kittens and sunshine? I like puppies and rain.” Maybe you live with a person like this. Maybe you are a person like this. This kind of combative attitude is the opposite of being a peacemaker. Peacemakers strive to live peaceably. 

Let me qualify this by saying that living peaceably doesn’t mean you live a life of appeasement. Appeasement seeks to sweep things under the rug so as to avoid conflict. Being peaceable doesn’t mean you avoid conflict, it simply means you don’t go looking for it. 

Peacemakers are peaceable. 

Peacemakers Pursue Peace.

Notice Jesus doesn’t say, “Blessed are the peacekeepers.” He says, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Peacemakers try to live at peace, but they also try to make peace in relationships that are broken and fight for peace in the world. 

I had a conversation after preaching a few weeks ago with someone struggling through a relationship with lots of conflict. They loved this other person, but there had been no communication for a while and they weren’t sure how to initiate it after such a long time. We came up with a little plan, covered the plan in prayer, and they set out to put it into action.

That’s peacemaking. 

Where is your peacemaking opportunity today? Maybe you have an opportunity to ask God for the grace to live more peaceably. Less combative, more kind. Less aggressive, more loving. Maybe  you have an opportunity to pursue peace. Maybe you need to apologize to someone, or initiate reconciliation. Maybe you have an opportunity to mediate peace between two friends. 

The children of God are champions of peace. Let’s remember the peace we’ve been given by God and pursue the peacemaking Jesus has called us to.

Talk Less. Listen More.

One of the BEST things about the social media is how it gives everyone a voice. One of the WORST things about social media is how it gives everyone a voice. Social media has made it so easy for you and I to rip off a tweet, status update, or blog post about every passing opinion that goes through our minds. As a result, we do lots of talking and little listening in our culture.  

James 1:19 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” This verse is an indictment against the way we’re to prone to live and behave, especially in our culture of 24-hour news cycles and social media. We form fast, strong opinions that we spout despite having painfully limited information. 

I don’t know about you, but my feeds are filled with everyone sharing their “two cents” about complex political issues, celebrity shortcomings, and situations surrounding visible Christian leaders. Understand, I don’t have a problem with opinions and public debate. What I think we should all have a problem with are opinions formed without first-hand information. 

If we’re not careful, we end up fueling a fire we’re called to extinguish. This is what happens when we’re slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to get angry. The more we talk, the less we listen. The less we listen, the more we’re liable to harm. We harm by hurling insults and we harm by repeating information that harms. Christians are called to be peacemakers. So, as a general rule, if it doesn’t build up, it shouldn’t be on our lips. 

So, what if we spoke less and listened more today? What if we dug deeper and sought to understand, before we labored to be understood? Would it really break the internet to have one less post about about Mark Driscoll, Steven Furtick, or whatever other leader is in our collective crosshairs this week? 

This doesn’t mean we don’t learn from what’s happening around us or engage the larger conversation happening within Christianity. The Bible simply demands that our speech build up rather than tear down. We need to ask ourselves...

  • Am I trying to build up, or tear down?
  • Is this true?
  • Do I know for a fact?
  • Am I the person to say this?
  • What am I trying to accomplish?
  • Does this glorify God?

We have to ask these questions. I suck at it but today I want to listen more than I talk and seek to understand more than I seek to be understood. Join me?

A Reminder Of Who We Preach

It's easy as a preacher to get "up in your head" while preaching. Here's an important reminder of who we preach from my good friend, Pastor James MacDonald...

"In order for God’s voice to move through a human mouthpiece, that person must have a true sense of Who the sermon is about, which begins with a clear understanding of whom it is not about. We have all seen the preacher who is so self-conscious that the voice of God is lost. Do you like me? Do you think I am interesting? Am I keeping your attention? Did you find that humorous? Am I pushing you too hard? Are you glad you’re here? Will you come back next week? Have I spoken too long? Am I doing a good job? When such issues of insecurity plague the mind of the preacher ad nauseam, God’s voice in the sermon is silenced. Nothing stifles the Vertical thunder like a horizontal preacher full of insecurities because he sees his role larger than it actually is. A favorite story I have known so long that I lost the source involves C. H. Spurgeon working with a group of young preachers and one in particular who was handsome, articulate, and very self-inflated. When his turn to preach came, he bounced to his feet and bounded up the steps with great energy, wanting the giant Spurgeon to sense his enthusiasm as he entered the pulpit. Early in his sermon, however, the gifted novice fumbled his notes, floundered at regaining his composure, and failed to even finish what he had begun. Quietly he stooped to recover his fallen paper and bowed his head as he slipped from the stage and snuck to his seat, brushing back a tear. Turning to him, Spurgeon said, 'If you had gone up the way you came down, you could have come down the way you went up.' Bam, I love that story! It reminds me of Paul’s instruction to all preachers: 'For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.'" 

From "Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs For. What Every Church Can Be."

 

The Promise of Seeing Jesus

The power of a promise is an amazing thing. Think about it…

The promise of dessert has the power to get my kids to eat dinner. The promise of graduation has the power to help many students endure difficult seasons of education. The promise of promotion has the power to cause people to pursue excellence in their workplaces. The promise of a new mobile device has the power to cause us to hate a perfectly good mobile device we already own. The promise of weight loss has the power to woo us into horrible things like juice fasts and wheat-less diets.

Few things have more power than a good promise. The Bible is filled with promises. The Bible promises that one day Christ will return and restore all things to the perfect condition in which they were created. On that day Revelation 22:4 promises us that we will “see His face.” That may seem insignificant, even anti-climatic to you, but let me tell you why I think that may be the most significant promise in Scripture.

When you look into the face of Jesus, every ounce of pain will pass away.

When you look into the face of Jesus, all the doubt and disappointment will disappear.

When you look into the face of Jesus, the clouds of confusion that consume so much of this life will finally clear.

No wonder Jesus said true happiness was tied to seeing God (Matthew 5:8). As it turns out, the thing we’re all looking for is what we’ll only experience when we look into the face of Jesus. 

The promise of seeing Jesus should have great power in our lives. This promise should encourage us, inspire us, motivate us, humble us, and give us a deep hope of better things to come. Christ is coming, Christian, and on that day you will see His face. In that moment, all seasons, experiences, and problems that seemed so significant will be eclipsed against the backdrop of seeing Jesus’ face . . . I promise. 

Stop Serving Jesus Like It's Jury Duty

It is one of my greatest dreads: going to the mail box and finding that horrible little card informing me that I have been selected for jury duty. They might as well write, “You’ve been chosen to have all joy sucked from your life on this date.” No one wakes up on a Tuesday thinking, “I really wish I could be selected to sit in a uncomfortable box and make $17 a day to listen to people argue.”  Nobody serves jury duty because they want to; we serve jury duty because we have to. 

The problem is, many of us serve Jesus the same way. 

Often you and I serve God more out of duty than delight and as a result, dishonor God and miss out on the joy of obeying Him. In Matthew 5:6, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

That word “righteousness” is used a couple different ways in the New Testament. For instance, when the Apostle Paul uses it, he does so most often as a synonym for “justification”, the instantaneous act of God declaring us forgiven of sin and righteous by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. However, Jesus doesn’t use this word that way even one time in the gospel of Matthew. When Jesus uses the word “righteous”, He’s talking about obeying God’s will God’s way. Now, notice that righteousness has two parts.

1. Righteousness means obeying God’s will.

This is pretty straightforward, right? To obey God’s will means we do what He says to do and we don’t do what He says not to do. But, that’s not the totality of the righteousness prescribed by Jesus.

2. Righteousness means obeying God’s will God’s way.

This means we obey God out of love and delight rather than out of begrudging duty. One of the things we’re trying to teach our kids at our house is to obey right away, all the way, with a right attitude. That’s what Jesus longs for from you and me: immediate, complete, and willing obedience. 

God doesn’t just want your obedience, He wants your heart. Righteousness is obeying God’s will God’s way. Until we obey God’s will because we want to, because we love God and want to trust and serve Him, our lives may appear righteous, but God sees otherwise. We need to repent of doing even the right thing the wrong way.  We need to stop serving Jesus like we do jury duty and start serving Him out of the love and delight that He delivers by grace.

The Need For Renewed Preaching

Friday is the day many preachers are sitting down to do the difficult work of writing yet another sermon. I'm familiar with the thoughts that pervade our prep: "Is this going to come together? Does it even make any difference? Will God use my imperfect preaching to accomplish His perfect will?"

Despite the questions and doubts, we sit at our keyboards today and pound out our best attempts at a clear, concise and compelling sermon. If you're a preacher like me, allow this inspiring reminder from Lloyd-Jones of the importance of our task to fuel your efforts today:

“Is it not clear, as you take a bird’s-eye view of Church history., that the decadent periods and eras in the history of the Church have always been those periods when preaching had declined? What is it that always heralds the dawn of a Reformation or of a Revival? It is renewed preaching. Not only a new interest in preaching but a new kind of preaching. A revival of true preaching has always heralded these great movements in the history of the Church. And, of course, when the Reformation and the Revival come they have always led to great and notable periods of the greatest preaching the Church has ever known.” 

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones from Preaching & Preachers

 

What are you preaching this weekend? I'd love to pray for you...

 

Want John Piper To Teach You To Study The Bible?

Like many, I've always loved the preaching of Pastor John Piper. He inspires me as a preacher, theologian, and writer. More than anything else, Pastor John has helped me love to study the Bible. This is why I was so excited to hear him say that he wanted to give the remainder of his life and ministry to helping people learn to the study the Bible for themselves. The result of this vision is Look At The Book

Look At The Book is a collection of 8-12 minute video labs in which the camera is on the text, not the teacher, and Pastor John walks us through his own meditation on the text. I've watched a few of these and found them to be instructive, informative, and inspiring. I'd highly encourage you to check out this important project. You will benefit richly.

To get you started here is a short meditation on Luke 12:32. 

Sarah McLachlan, Three-Legged Dogs, and Genuine Mercy

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 When it comes to mercy, we tend to emphasize the emotional aspect of it. The Bible reveals that mercy is more than feeling compassion for someone who is suffering. Mercy is the action taken to alleviate the suffering. Listen to this 5-minute clip unpacking a Biblical definition of mercy...

6 Reasons To Worship Weekly

Few things frustrate pastors more than the inconsistence attendance of weekly worship by the people who call their church “home.” I grew up in a home where we rarely missed church. Now I’m a pastor, so it’s even more uncommon that I miss church. So, I may not have the most objective view point on this, but I never cease to be amazed at the reasons people are willing to miss church. Sporting events, sleep, and social gatherings are just a few of the sad reasons people skip church without a second thought. 

What concerns me most is not the numbers missing from our attendance, but the blessings missing in the lives of those who make a habit of missing weekly worship in a local church. Here are six blessings we receive when we gather for worship on a weekly basis…

1. Worship

Yes, I know you can worship in your car, in your living room and anywhere else you choose to ascribe worth to Jesus. BUT . . . something unique happens when we worship Jesus TOGETHER. When we join with our church family and the angels of heaven and lift high the name of Jesus, God’s glory is evident in a special way. Some of the most powerful moves of God in my life have happened in a weekly worship service. I won’t begin to try and explain it, but God’s presence is uniquely displayed when we gather each week. 

2. Community

The Christian life is becoming increasingly lonely in our culture. It’s not popular to profess Biblical faith in Jesus anymore. That’s why it’s such good news that God hasn’t just saved us from our sin, but also TO a community. The New Testament has no category for a lone ranger Christian who is disconnected from a local church. Community should happen throughout the week, but at the very least, we need weekly connection with other followers of Christ. 

3. Prayer

One of the greatest honors I experience as a pastor is when people ask me to pray for them. Each week we pray for wisdom, healing, strength, assurance, freedom, salvation . . .  I could go on and on. It doesn’t have to be a pastor, but you need people praying over you. Not just FOR you, but OVER you. People who will lay their hands on you and lift their voice over you and pray for God’s good will in your life. That can and should happen every time we gather.

4. Feeding

Deuteronomy 8:3 says, “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” You need to be fed with the Word of God. Yes, you need to be in God’s Word everyday, but you also need to hear the Word preached! I’m thankful for technology and love the way podcasting allows us to reach more people with the message of Jesus, but when podcasts replace the weekly preaching of a local church, we have a problem! You need to sit under the faithful preaching of God’s Word or your soul will slowly starve.

5. Correction

You and I think some crazy things. Because we think incorrectly, we believe incorrectly, feel incorrectly, and behave incorrectly. In addition to feeding us, God’s Word also corrects us. Failing to live God’s way is dishonoring to God and dangerous for you and me. One of the most loving things God can do is correct us with His Word. A loose connection to a local church is living right on the edge of isolation. Isolation will eventually result in deterioration of your faith. 

6. Instruction 

None of us knows everything. We need other people to instruct us in the areas where we are deficient. Friends, small group leaders, and pastors all serve as vehicles through which God instructs us with His Word. We need to be reminded of the gospel, instructed in its implications, and taught to live in a way that reflects God’s gracious will for our lives. 

When we make a habit of skipping weekend worship, we rob ourselves and others of the blessing God intends corporate worship to be. I’m NOT saying that it is a sin to miss church for any reason. I am saying that it MAY be sin if we’re missing church for every reason. I am saying we may have mis-prioritized our lives. I am saying that attending worship one or two times a month is typically insufficient for spiritual health. Weekly worship should not be a burden, but a blessing God has shown us as His people. 

Let’s work to make weekly worship a priority. Let’s gather for worship, community, prayer, feeding, correction and instruction this weekend and every weekend the Lord allows.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

Platform Is Not The Problem

A lot of Christian leaders are talking about personal “platform” right now.  A few are teaching us how to build them, while most seem to think they should be torn down. The conflicting messages are enough to leave you shaking your head, not sure what to think. So for what it is worth, here’s my two cents…

A platform is a neutral. 

A platform is a tool. 

A platform is simply the sphere of influence through which you spread your message. 

What matters in building a platform is motive. If you build a platform to boost your own ego and fame, then your platform is a soul-crushing problem. If you build a platform from which to preach the gospel, then your platform is a powerful means of making Jesus known. 

The problem is not platform, but depravity. 

I will be the first to admit that what starts as a desire to spread Jesus’ name can quickly become a self-serving pursuit of one’s own fame. (Obviously I want to become famous for rhyming…).

We have to continually uncover what is in our hearts. Why do we tweet what we tweet, blog what we blog, and pin what we pin? Whose name are we trying proclaim? When our platforms feed our pride, will we repent and seek the sanctifying grace of God’s Spirit? 

You have a platform whether you like it, or not. The real question is, “Why?”

 

Donuts & Our Deep Desire For Comfort

We live in a country and a culture built on a commitment to comfort. We live in pursuit of what we want, when we want it, exactly how we want it. When there’s conflict with what we want, when we want it, or how we want it, you’d think the world was turned upside down. 

Chicago was recently hit by a big storm (huge surprise, I know.) The wind took down power lines, which meant that hundreds of thousands of people had no electricity. Our neighborhood was without power for just under 24 hours, which was just enough time for the food in my fridge to go bad. Since we woke up to no breakfast, I did the only thing a good husband and dad can do in survival mode: I went to get donuts. 

Apparently I wasn’t the only husband or dad with this idea because the place was packed. After waiting in line to place my order, I was handed my box of donuts and only then informed that their credit card machine was down and they could only take cash. Since all I had was my debit card, I was in quite the predicament. On the outside I appeared to handle it fine, but inside I was irate because God-forbid I have to wait another fifteen seconds before stuffing my face with fried dough. My attitude in a situation like this reveals my commitment to comfort. 

My guess is, I’m not alone. The reason you hate sitting in traffic is because you’re committed to comfort. The reason you get irritated when your internet runs slow is because you’re committed to comfort. The reason you complain about the weather, your boss, your teachers, your parents, and your job is because you’re committed to comfort. 

The problem with our commitment to comfort is this: The Christian life is incompatible with a commitment to comfort. The entire convention of the Christian life is counter-comfortable. In Mark 8:34 Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” There is not one part of that invitation that suggests comfort. Though we’ve invented entire theologies to the contrary, the fact remains: Disciples of Jesus live lives of denial, not indulgence.

Today you and I have an opportunity to turn from our love of comfort and embrace the call of Christ. It starts with little shifts in our attitude and responses. Let’s trust that Christ is better and that Christ is enough for us and drink deeply of the peace and satisfaction He brings regardless of how uncomfortable life may be. 

 

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn?

I spent most of my high school math classes staring at my teachers in a state of perpetual confusion. I’m awful at math. Even when I worked hard, pursued tutoring, and dated the valedictorian of my class, I still didn’t get math. It was like a foreign language to me, so there I sat, eyes crossed and clearly confused. This had to be the way Jesus’ listeners looked at Him much of the time. 

I’m currently teaching through the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, which I believe to be some of Jesus' more controversial and counter-intuitive teachings. In Matthew 5:4, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Right off the bat, that had to be confusing, right? Another way of translating the word “blessed” is “happy.” So you have to think everyone was shaking their heads, wondering if they’d heard Jesus correctly. “Did he really just say, ‘Happy are those who mourn?’” 

Though it may be confusing, this sentence is significant in our relationship with Christ. To “mourn” means exactly what you’d think: to feel grief or sorrow. The real question is what exactly is Jesus calling us to mourn? Let’s start with what He’s NOT saying.

Jesus does not mean, “Happy are the sad people.” That makes no sense. Jesus isn’t saying that those who have lost loved ones, lost jobs, those who are abused and hurting are actually blessed and happy because one day they’ll be comforted. Like the poverty praised in Matthew 5:3, the nature of this “mourning” is spiritual. 

Here’s what Jesus means by the word “mourn”: to mourn is to feel a sincere grief due to sin. This grief has two components:

1. To mourn means to grieve my sin. 

2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret…” Godly grief isn’t the disappointment of getting caught or suffering consequences. That’s the way my kids respond when they’re disciplined. They always cry, but rarely because of what they’ve done and usually because of the consequences it’s caused. Godly grief, the mourning Jesus describes here, is a sincere sadness due to grieving the heart of God.

2. To mourn means to grieve social sin.

I am challenged by the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 119:136. He writes, “My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.” The sin of this world should spark godly sorrow in our hearts. Sadly, when we see the sin of those around us, we’re prone to feel disgust, judgement, or irritation. While I’m not saying that’s aways inappropriate, it’s often motivated by selfish motives rather than sanctified ones. 

The mourning that leads to true happiness is a sincere grief due to our own sin and the sin that stains this world. When you think about your sin and the sin you see around you, what do you feel? God wants us to feel grief. Godly grief leads us to repentance and the promise of Christ’s coming comfort (Revelation 21:1-4). Take some time today to consider your sin and ask God’s Spirit to break your heart the way your sin breaks His.

 

Stream entire sermon on this topic here...

How To Grow In Your Grief For Sin

In Matthew 5:4 Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." The mourning Jesus mentions here is a sincere grief due to sin. Sadly, most of us simply don't grieve our sin and the sin this world suffers from. We downplay it, we justify it, we ignore it, and we accept it - but few of us actually grieve over it. So how exactly does one grow in spiritual grief? Here are three suggestions...

1. Godly grief grows from the seed of God's Word.

In Romans 7:7 Paul says, "Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known my sin." Simply put, you can't grieve sin you're not aware of. As we plant God's Word in our hearts, it uncovers the presence of our sin. This is one of the countless reasons it's so crucial we plant Scripture in our hearts each day.

2. Godly grief grows in the soil of God's holiness. 

Comparison has a way of creating clarity. Only when we compare ourselves to the spotless canvas of God's holy splendor do we get a sense of our sin. If our Godly grief is going to grow, our understanding of God's holiness must as well. This growth demands study. In addition to God's Word, I would highly recommend A.W. Tozer's The Knowledge of the Holy

3. Godly grief grows by the sustenance of God's Spirit. 

John 16:8 says, "And when he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin..."  You can't grow in Godly grief apart from the nourishing and convicting work of the Holy Spirit. Think about a plant. I know less about plants than Lady Gaga knows about modesty, but here's what I do know: If you take a perfect planter, fill it with healthy soil, plant a seed in it, and place it in a dark closet it, it will not grow. It needs the sustenance of sun and water. Just like a plant can't grow without sun and water, people aren't convicted of sin apart from the power of the Spirit. We are dependent on the Spirit for this work and prayer is always the proper response to dependence.

Let's seize the daily opportunity to get in God's Word, meditate on His holiness, and beg the Spirit to break our hearts for what breaks His.