What A Handshake!

There are a select few people that I have met who simply by the shaking of their hand and a few words of greeting from their mouth have made such a deep and lasting impression on me. Ray Engel is one of them. For those of you who knew Ray you’ll quickly resonate with me on this. Besides his actual hand shake (which I would always brace for because it was like a vice closing on me), his smile and encouraging words never seemed to be absent. His joy was contagious. His intentionality of greeting everyone who came into church was inspiring. You got the feeling that he knew his role and his role was to lovingly welcome people. I will miss him greatly.

I was reading through 2 Corinthians 5 a few days ago, Ray came to mind. Continue Reading

The Beauty of Our Union With Christ

Theology can have a “bad rap.” Unfortunately for some, when they hear the word “theology” they think of big books, dry professors, and endless debates about terms and definitions that cause either defensiveness or boredom—either way it leads them to avoid it altogether. But theology (the study of God from the Bible) deserves another shot, for when theology is done right it can lead to doxology.

“Here we go again. Another fancy word!” Oh, but please be patient with me, for there is much to be gained from good words. Continue Reading

Christ and a guilty conscience

The other day, one of our boys started acting oddly. He had been pleasant, talkative, and enthused earlier in the day, but quite suddenly became withdrawn, quiet, and emotional. It wasn’t the first time this particular child had a swing like this, but it soon came to light that his actions were because he had done something wrong and felt guilty about it. His conscience was vexed, and he reacted by retreating and resisting us.

It’s hard to say exactly what was going through our little boy’s mind, but he clearly felt and knew something was wrong. Interestingly, the guilty feelings and subsequent reactions were largely brought out by my presence. Seeing me prompted him to remember he had done something wrong, and the guilt came on more strongly.

Does this sound familiar to you? Continue Reading

Doxology from Theology

Perhaps along with many of you, if I had to rank which person in the Bible was most influential in my life (besides Jesus himself), I think I would say that it was the apostle Paul. Of course, he does have an unfair advantage in that he wrote thirteen of the twenty-seven New Testament books (not to mention his prominent place in the book of Acts). It’s not in how many words he wrote that I find Paul’s influence, however. Rather, it is in what he wrote and how he wrote it that has been used by God to help so many people. Continue Reading

Jesus Christ: The Bread of Life

What if I were to say that we should not read the Bible literally? How would you react? What would you say to me? I would hope you’d immediately be on alarm and asking some probing questions. If I was indeed saying we don’t have to read the Bible literally—taking it at face-value, seeking to receive what it says as true, good, and authoritative—from there you should see to it to have me removed from being a pastor!

On the other hand, if I meant that we should not read the Bible literally when the context of a specific passage demands a figurative reading, hopefully then you’d say, “Ok, I get it. Yes, that’s right.” After all, if the person writing or speaking in the Bible wrote or spoke using a metaphor, they’d scratch their head if we took it literally.

Let me give an example: Continue Reading

Fighting Forgetfulness

“I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 9:1).

We are a forgetful people.

I’m not talking about standing in the grocery store wondering what that fourth item is that you kept repeating to yourself because you didn’t take the time to write it down (not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything 🙂 ). I’m talking about living in the present circumstances of life, all the while neglecting to reflect on how God has treated you in the past. And while forgetting that fourth item at the grocery store is frustrating (because you have to go back again and get it!), how much worse off are we when we are not recounting God’s “wonderful deeds” to our souls?

We have much to learn here from what King David writes in the above verse. Or maybe I should say, we have much to apply here. Continue Reading

Now Why This Fear?

“Of the making of many Christian congregational songs there is no end” (a “take-off” of Ecclesiastes 12:12). And in many cases, I wish there was an end! Why? Because so many are either doctrinally weak or just plain “off.” Along with that, many are man-centered—lacking a focus on God and what He’s done in and through the glorious gospel of His Son Jesus Christ.

Then along comes a song like we sang this past Sunday, and I totally change my mind. Continue Reading

A Hunger For God More Than Food

“The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth.” These two sentences, from John Piper’s book, A Hunger For God, are jolting. I don’t know about you, but I had to reread it several times to first see if I agreed with it, then a couple more times to realize and come to grips with the implications of its truth.

As you perhaps still contemplate whether or not you agree with him, let me add something clarifying to what he wrote; Continue Reading

Fighting Temptation With a Superior Satisfaction

I want to pick up from last week on how we fight sin in our lives. I emphasized then that it is so important for us to see sin for what it is: that which steals joy, not gives it. It lies to us, telling us that if we choose its pleasures we’ll be happy; but of course we won’t—at least not in any true, deep or lasting way. Like an ox that may be able to taste some good oats while being lured to its slaughter, so too sin may have its pleasures, but those will quickly be forgotten as the consequences of its siren song take effect.

We must keep this truth in front of us. We must tell ourselves that the sin calling to us is seeking to trick us and lure us to our death. It will not—it cannot—be able to deliver what it’s promising.

However, as important as it is to fight sin by recognizing its ill-effects, this is not enough. Continue Reading