Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Frightened Little Girl

"See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven" (Matthew 18:10).

A co-worker approached me this morning with a prayer request. She was at work during the ice storm a couple of days ago. Since her husband had been laid off from his job, he was able to stay home with their 7-year old daughter. She assumed that they were safe and warm in their home.

However, in the middle of the day, a drunk (or high) man broke through their front door. He started to attack her husband. Thankfully, her husband was able to fight back. The assailant fled, but the husband had been bloodied during the unprovoked attack.

The police took a while to get to their house due to the ice storm. My co-worker's husband had protected their daughter from physical harm, but he could not find her after the attack. He did not know that he could not protect her from the emotional harm of seeing her father attacked by a crazed drug addict. With the help of the police, they finally found the daughter hiding with their dog in its shelter.

The police believe they know the identity of the criminal, so he should be in custody soon. However, the daughter cannot sleep. Her previously safe world has been violently shaken. In fact, the whole family has been shaken by the experience.

I don't know why these kinds of evil events happen to anyone, especially young and innocent children. If you are reading this, please pray for this little girl and her family. They feel vulnerable and scared.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Contact Church's Girls Choir and True Womanhood

The Girls Choir of the Contact Church of Christ (above)

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God" (Titus 2:3-5).
While reading Nancy Leigh DeMoss' True Woman Manifesto (, I noticed this goal:

"Live out the mandate of Titus 2--as older women, modeling godliness and training younger women to be pleasing to God in every respect; as younger women, receiving instruction with meekness and humility and aspiring to become mature women of God who in turn will train the next generation."

Then, I read the Logsdon's post about the Contact Church's girls choir, and recognized that the women of the church are fulfilling that goal. See for the story.

Friday, January 23, 2009


"The poor you will always have with you..." (Matthew 26:11).

I have been thinking about Jesus' comment that we will always have the poor with us. Why would he say that?

I have come to believe that Jesus considered poverty a perpetual problem in this life because of its multifaceted and complex causes. This is a list of a few of the causes of poverty that I have observed over the years:

1. Disabilities. People with mental, physical, and emotional disabilities can have a difficult time finding and retaining jobs that pay living wages. Their disabilities may be congenital, or they may be due to injury. A mentally retarded man will not make good wages, no matter how hard he works. A wheelchair-bound woman with ALS will not be able to work. A man with schizophrenia will have great difficulty retaining his job. Furthermore, as much as they need it, those with disabilities will find it more difficult to find a job that offers health care benefits.

2. Dysfunctional Families/Divorce. Unstable families, divorce, and couples who live together outside of marriage create disadvantaged children. These children grow up dealing with issues of distrust and insecurity. Often, they deal with depression and the cultivation of unhealthy relationships. They look for love, but tend to find it in the wrong places. They can have emotional scars that hinder their ability to make wise choices in life. They are more likely to repeat the sins of their parents and repeat the cycle for the next generation. Since divorce and single parenthood disrupts family income, poverty often follows.

When a child grows up physically, sexually, or emotionally abused, the impact follows him or her throughout life. They will be prone to depression or to violence or to both. They will be haunted by their past. It will be terribly hard for them to make wise decisions about their future as they run from their past. Suicide is a strong temptation in their worldview. They do not have the strength to fight their battles alone. They were robbed of their dignity in childhood. They will face very difficult days as adults. Their finances are merely one of their problems.

3. Drug and Alcohol Abuse. Drug addicts and drunkards have very difficult lives. They do not enjoy healthy relationships. They have trouble finding and maintaining good jobs. Sometimes the drug and alcohol abuse starts as a result of the first two causes of poverty. They try to self-medicate in an effort to escape their problems of physical, emotional, or mental pain. Sometimes the addiction starts because of an effort to fit in with friends who are abusing drugs and alcohol. They make irrationally bad choices. In either case, drug and alcohol abuse does nothing but harm. Furthermore, if they become sober after spending time in jail or prison, the likelihood of ever finding a job paying above minimum wage is almost non-existent.

So do we give up on people in these kinds of situations? No. We come alongside them and become their friends. We share our time, resources, advice, and faith. They need true friends. They need the hope that comes from Christ. They need a new start to life, and the encouragement to persevere when the times get tough. Wealthier Christians do not need to passively shake their heads in sadness over their plights. Everyone can help in some way.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

"Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous--how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed"
(Psalm 139:14-16, New Living Translation).

On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the United States, I want to honor a couple of special pro-life ministries.

The Contact Life ministry of the Contact Church is an important part of the larger urban ministry. Pregnant young women and girls are receiving good training, wise spiritual counsel, dependable friends, and physical necessities as they begin the process of motherhood. You may read about it at

Christian Services of Oklahoma offers adoption services, foster care, and a maternity home for young mothers who need a home. You may read about it at

Both ministries are special to us. Janet and I are members of the Contact Church, and we have adopted through Christian Services of Oklahoma. We appreciate everyone who helps in those great ministries!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Get Real

As one agnostic young woman noticed (, a genuine Christian faith cannot be built on theories of deconstructionism and doubt. Christian leaders who promote such things make a mockery out of Christianity, and need to repent.

Praying for President Obama

"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

I will be the first to admit that I did not vote for President Obama. Unless he changes to a pro-life position in the next election cycle, I do not plan to vote for him the next time either.

However, I like the man. I like his commitment to being as good a husband and father as he knows how to be. I like his challenge to men (especially young black men) to step up and be real men, honorable and respectable men in their families and communities. I like his commitment to civility. I admire his ability to face obstacles with confidence and courage.

President Obama has a difficult job. He has a few flaws in his political philosophy that could cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent children over the next few years. He faces terrorists and an unstable economy. Who knows what else he will face in the next few years?

The president needs our prayers. He needs our respect and our willingness to help him. He needs good advice and advisers. He needs sound spiritual counsel as he faces problems we can only imagine.

I want to follow Rick Warren's example at the inauguration this morning. (On a side note, I loved that Mr. Warren prayed in the name of Jesus in English, Spanish, Hebrew, and Arabic so that no one would misunderstand the object of his faith.) I want to pray for him to be the best president possible. I'm committed to doing it, too.

The Christian Chronicle has published an outstanding editorial about respecting and honoring our political leaders at I would recommend for every Christian to read the good ideas conveyed in the piece.

Happy Birthday, Christopher

I posted this 2 years ago on the day before Christopher's 4th birthday. I am re-posting it today on the day before his 6th birthday.

Tomorrow will mark your 4th birthday, Christopher. With that in mind, I would like to share a few thoughts about your birth and adoption. You will not be able to understand everything that I am writing today, but someday you will.

First, I want you to know that God answers prayer. Your birth and adoption were the answer to 9 years of prayer by your mother and myself. We had hoped and prayed for a long time for your arrival. God was preparing us to become your parents, while teaching us patience and perseverance during those years of waiting. Then God answered our prayers with the son of our dreams.

Second, your birth and adoption crossed racial barriers. You were born on the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2003 to a young black woman who chose a childless white husband and wife to be your parents. It was appropriate that you came into our lives on the day after a day set apart in our country to honor the memory of the man who had a dream of racial barriers being broken.

Third, your birth and adoption signified the value of choosing life over abortion. You were born the day before the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing all abortions in the United States. Your birth mother made a brave decision in choosing adoption over abortion in her situation. We were honored to be entrusted with protecting, nurturing, and helping to shape your life ever since.

Finally, I want you to know that Christopher means Christ-bearer. We were unaware of the meaning of your name when we chose it, but we look forward to seeing how you will live out its meaning. We pray that you will follow Christ closely all the days of your life, and take him with you wherever you go.

Christopher, you are a special child. You are loved. You are blessed and a blessing.


Monday, January 19, 2009

In Memory of Martin Luther King Jr.

This is an excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s sermon "The Drum Major Instinct," which he delivered on February 4, 1968, just a few months before his murder. In it, he described how he would like to be remembered.

"If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don't want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Noble Peace Prize--that isn't important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards--that's not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school.

"I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

"If you want to say that I was a drum major, say I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace... I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that's all I want to say."

How would you like to be remembered? You're writing your own eulogy every day.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I just finished reading Heaven by Randy Alcorn. In the book, Mr. Alcorn makes the case that Christians can anticipate not only going to heaven when we die, but also the time when heaven will come to earth in the end.

His thesis is based on Revelation 21:1-5, which states,

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.' He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'"

He challenges the common perception that our final state of existence will be non-physical and boring. At our anticipated resurrection, we will experience an actual physical resurrection just like Jesus did. "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised" (1 Corinthians 15:13). Since Christ has been raised, his followers hope to be raised like he has been.

In the end, not only will people enjoy the resurrection, but the universe itself will take part in a physical resurrection and be restored to the condition in which it existed before sin entered the "very good" creation of the beginning. "The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God" (Romans 8:19-21).

In the new heavens and new earth, resurrected and glorified people will enjoy the presence of our Savior forever. God will live with us. He will give us opportunities to serve based on how we have handled our responsibilities on the old earth. We will enjoy life with each other without the presence of relationship-destroying sins like envy, pride, hatred, or any other sin. A new culture will develop as we use our gifts and abilities to continually enrich the lives of others.

Although Mr. Alcorn engaged in some speculation about what the future may hold, his general thesis is solid. We can look forward to a new heavens and a new earth in our resurrected and glorified bodies. Christians will enjoy the presence of God forever. To his credit, when he engaged in speculation, he admitted it. He acknowledged that he could be wrong on some of the details, since he was using his imagination to describe in more detail what the Scriptures reveal in a more general manner.

Heaven is a book worth reading. It inspires hope for the future. It warns against the alternative of hell. It motivates people to trust in Christ and to follow him. It encourages the use of one's gifts and abilities to love people and honor God in concrete ways as we await the coming resurrection and renewal of creation. It prompts people to appreciate God in all his glory.

"Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we look forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" (2 Peter 3:11-13).

"I Want to be President"

While watching the news about Barack Obama's upcoming inauguration with me this morning,
Christopher announced, "I want to be President!" Maybe someday...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Job, My Ministry

"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody" (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

Like most Christians, I do not spend most of my time doing official "church work." Most of my ministry involves serving my family and the people on my job. Here are a few ideas for ministering on a secular job that I have found beneficial:

1. Contact the people at your workplace who are going through difficult times. I have made it a habit to call people who have been suspended for drug abuse and theft, as they await the outcome of investigations. They have appreciated prayers and offers to help. Usually they are surprised that they have been contacted by anyone, especially a Christian, but they love knowing that someone cares about them despite their innocence or guilt. One former co-worker told me, "I always thought of you as a kind of ornery one, for sure, but a pastor anyway." I'm not a pastor, of course, but she was trying to let me know that it meant a great deal to her that I had cared about her and her problems. People need to know that God's people care about them despite their sins. They need to see a God of grace in the lives of his church.

2. Offer to pray for your customers. I have met people who have been going through surgery, cancer treatments, the loss of spouses, and recovery from broken bones. Each one has appreciated the offer to pray for them. It has built a rapport with several of them.

3. Seek help from your local church and other Christians. I have added my customers and co-workers to my local church's prayer list (with their permission). I have sought help from our food bank for someone who was needing help. I have sought help from our recovery minister for those who have had drug and alcohol addictions. I cannot do everything. Often, I cannot do much of anything. I need the help of fellow Christians with many of the situations I have faced.

If you have other ideas about how to serve Christ on the secular job, please feel free to leave a comment. I'm always looking for ways to do it more effectively and consistently. Thanks!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Love, War, Torture, and Human Dignity

This morning, I listened carefully as a local radio host interviewed a Catholic priest who had written an article critical of torturing terrorists. The priest argued that Islamic terrorists bear the image of God just as every other person on earth does. Therefore, they should not be tortured. It is dehumanizing and demeaning.

The talk show host and his listeners did not agree with his argument. They made the point that terrorists should not retain human rights. The terrorists had forfeited all rights when they started to engage in the murder of American citizens. Some callers completely denied the idea that terrorists are human beings. They considered the terrorists to be animals.

From a biblical perspective, the priest made the better argument. Of course the Islamic terrorists bear the image of God. They are not animals.

However, the question is not: Do Islamic terrorists bear the image of God? The question is: Is it morally acceptable for the government to torture them in order to save innocent lives?

On the one hand, Jesus told his followers to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44). Islamic terrorists certainly fall into the category of the enemies of Christians.

On the other hand, Christ wants his people to love their neighbors (Matthew 22:39). The innocent people who are the targets of the terrorists would certainly fall into the category of our neighbors.

So what do we do when two commandments seem to conflict? If a woman were being raped in front of my house, would it be enough for me to plead with the rapist to stop raping my neighbor? Or would the loving thing be to use whatever force necessary to stop the rapist, even if it meant hurting or killing him? I believe the answer would be to try to stop him verbally, but to kill him if necessary. It's loving when we call for repentance, but it's also loving to intervene with force when necessary to protect the innocent.

In Romans 12, the apostle Paul urged Christians, "Do not repay evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:17-19).

Then, in the next chapter, he adds, "For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer" (Romans 13:3-4).

So is it morally acceptable for the government to torture terrorists in order to save the lives of innocent people? Yes. It's the government's duty to terrorize those who would kill the innocent, and it could be the most loving thing the government could do for our neighbors. At the same time, Christians need to be praying for the terrorists' hearts to change while calling on them to repent from their evil. Both actions can be motivated by love.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

You Have God's Permission to Enjoy Life

"A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?" (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25).

"God isn't displeased when we enjoy a good meal, marital sex, a football game, a cozy fire, or a good book. He's not up in Heaven frowning down at us and saying, 'Stop it--you should only find joy in me.' This would be as foreign to God's nature as our heavenly Father as it would be to mine as an earthly father if I gave my daughters a Christmas gift and started pouting because they enjoyed it too much. No, I gave the gift to bring joy to them and to me--if they didn't take pleasure in it, I'd be disappointed. Their pleasure in my gift to them draws them closer to me. I am delighted that they enjoy the gift.

"Of course, if children become so preoccupied with the gift that they walk away from their father and ignore him, that's different. Though preoccupation with a God-given gift can turn into idolatry, enjoying that same gift with a grateful heart can draw us closer to God. In Heaven we'll have no capacity to turn people or things into idols. When we find joy in God's gifts, we will be finding our joy in him.

"All secondary things are derivative in nature. They cannot be separated from God. Flowers are beautiful for one reason--God is beautiful. Rainbows are stunning because God is stunning. Puppies are delightful because God is delightful. Sports are fun because God is fun. Study is rewarding because God is rewarding. Work is fulfilling because God is fulfilling.

"Ironically, some people who are the most determined to avoid the sacrilege of putting things before God miss a thousand daily opportunities to thank him, praise him, and draw near to him, because they imagine they shouldn't enjoy the very things he made to help us know him and love him.

"God is a lavish giver. 'He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?' (Romans 8:32). The God who gave us his Son delights to graciously give us 'all things.' These 'all things' are in addition to Christ, but they are never instead of him--they come, Scripture tells us, 'along with him.' If we didn't have Christ, we would have nothing. But because we have Christ, we have everything. Hence, we can enjoy the people and things God has made, and in the process enjoy the God who designed and provided them for his pleasure and ours.

"God welcomes prayers of thanksgiving for meals, warm fires, games, books, relationships, and every other good thing. When we fail to acknowledge God as the source of all good things, we fail to give him the recognition and glory he deserves. We separate joy from God, which is like trying to separate heat from fire or wetness from rain.

"...Every day we should see God in his creation: in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the friendships we enjoy, and the pleasures of family, work, and hobbies. Yes, we must sometimes forgo secondary pleasures, and we should never let them eclipse God. And we should avoid opulence and waste when others are needy. But we should thank God for all of life's joys, large and small, and allow them to draw us to him" (Randy Alcorn, Heaven, pp. 177-178).

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tony Dungy's Retirement

Tony Dungy, my favorite football coach, retired today ( I'm going to miss him. He personified dignity on the football field in my eyes.

In honor of Coach Dungy's retirement, here are a couple of my favorite quotes from his book Quiet Strength:

"The lesson (that his father taught him)...was that you shouldn't allow external issues to be a hindrance, whether those issues are based on race or any other factor. Things will go wrong at times. You can't always control circumstances. However, you can control your attitude, approach, and response. Your options are to complain or to look ahead and figure out how to make the situation better" (p. 16).

"That's what this is all about. Touching lives. Building a legacy--not necessarily on the field but in those places that most people will never see. Trying to be faithful in the position God has given me. I love coaching football, and winning a Super Bowl was a goal I've had for a long time. But it has never been my purpose in life.

"My purpose in life is simply to glorify God. We have to be careful that we don't let the pursuit of our life's goals, no matter how important they seem, cause us to lose sight of our purpose.

"I coach football. But the good I can do to glorify God along the way is my real purpose. I want to help people see the path to eternal life through Christ, to enjoy an abundant life now, and to fulfill their God-given purposes here.

"We are all role models to someone in this world, and we can all have an impact--for good" (p. 301).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Solid Man

"LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?

"He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart
and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,
who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath
even when it hurts,
who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

"He who does these things
will never be shaken" (Psalm 15).

As I read these verses recently, I kept thinking of a fellow member of the Contact Church. In fact, he was instrumental in persuading Frank Lott to leave his ministry in Chicago in order to help start the urban ministry which eventually evolved into the Contact Church.

Jim is in his 70s, but he has never retired from serving the Lord. For 40 years, he worked in the insurance business. He became such a respected businessman that he was urged by leaders of his political party to run for Congress. He declined the offer, believing it would be detrimental to his family (as I remember his reasoning).

He has been a pillar of faith and faithfulness throughout his life as a follower of Christ. While working a full-time job, Jim often served as an interim preacher for small congregations that were in need of someone to preach "in the worst possible way." As he describes it with a little self-deprecating humor, "I fit the qualifications."

I remember when the urban ministry was just getting started, Jim and his wife Judy invited a couple of young homeless men to live in their house until they got on their feet. At that point, I became impressed with not just his ability to communicate and to encourage, but also with his willingness to take risks for the sake of Christ and others.

In the years I have known him, I cannot remember Jim talking in any negative way about anyone. I suspect that he has had to confront some bad behavior and troublemakers, but he must have done so privately. He does not tend to talk about such things.

Jim is a solid Christian man who has made a difference without seeking to draw attention to himself. Even today, he teaches an average of three private Bible studies each week, in addition to teaching Bible classes and filling in as a preacher at the Contact Church when needed. He is a model of character.

When I reach retirement age, I hope the same kinds of things can be said about me and my legacy.

Friday, January 09, 2009

God's Promise to Believers

"Those who know your name will trust you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you" (Psalm 9:10).

Difficult times come in life. Dreams fade away. Friends are lost. Enemies are made. Health deteriorates. Jobs are lost. Churches collapse. Wars start. Role models fail. Frustrations and anxieties multiply.

But God has made a promise to those who trust him and seek him: He will not abandon them. He said it, and he meant it. Everything else may go wrong, but he will not forsake us. He's as good as his word. We can trust him on it.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Walking past Janet on my way to the computer, I mentioned, "I'm going to write about hell." She just rolled her eyes, as if to say, He just doesn't know how to stay away from controversial topics. I'm sure she's right.

Actually, I have been reading a fascinating book called Heaven by Randy Alcorn. I have never read anything quite like it. The book clarifies some of the vague concepts that I have had about heaven for a long time. In addition, it has filled me with a greater passion about going to heaven. I plan on writing about heaven after I have finished the book in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, I would like to share a good quote about hell from Why We're Not Emergent by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. It is found on pages 198-200.

"We need the doctrine of eternal punishment. Time and time again in the New Testament we find that understanding divine justice is essential to our sanctification. Believing in God's judgment actually helps us look more like Jesus. In short, we need the doctrine of the wrath of God.

"First, we need God's wrath to keep us honest about evangelism. Paul reasoned with Felix about righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment (Acts 24:25). We need to do the same. Without the doctrine of hell, we are prone to get involved in all sorts of important God-honoring things, but neglect the one thing that matters for all eternity, urging sinners to be reconciled to God.

"Second, we need God's wrath in order to forgive our enemies. The reason we can forego repaying evil for evil is because we trust the Lord's promise to repay the wicked. Paul's logic is sound. 'Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord' (Rom. 12:19). The only way to look past our deepest hurts and betrayals is to rest assured that every sin against us has been paid for on the cross or will be punished in hell. We don't have to seek vigilante justice, because God will be our just judge.

"Third, we need God's wrath in order to risk our lives for Jesus' sake. The radical devotion necessary to suffer for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus comes, in part, from the assurance we have that God will vindicate us in the end. That's why the martyrs under the throne cry out, 'How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?' (Rev. 6:10). They paid the ultimate price for their faith, but their blood-stained cries will be answered one day. Their innocence will be established when God finally judges their persecutors.

"Fourth, we need God's wrath in order to live holy lives. Paul warns us that God cannot be mocked. We will reap what we sow. We are spurred on to live a life of purity and good deeds by the promised reward for obedience and the promised curse for disobedience. If we live to please the flesh, we will reap destruction from God. But if we live to please the Spirit, we will reap eternal life (Gal. 6:6-7). Sometimes ministers balk at the thought of motivating people with the threat of eternal punishment. But wasn't this Jesus' approach when He said, 'Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell' (Matt. 10:28)? Sometimes we need to literally scare the hell out of people.

"Fifth, we need God's wrath in order to understand what mercy means. Divine mercy without divine wrath is meaningless. Only when we know that we were objects of wrath (Eph. 2:3), stood condemned already (John 3:18), and would have faced hell as God's enemies were it not for undeserved mercy (Rom. 5:10) can we sing from the heart, 'Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!'

"Sixth, we need God's wrath in order to grasp how wonderful heaven will be. Jonathan Edwards is famous (or infamous) for his sermon 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.' It's still read in American literature classes, usually as a caricature of the puritanical spirit of colonial New England. But few people realize that Edwards also preached sermons like 'Heaven is a World of Love.' Unlike most of us, Edwards saw in vivid colors the terror of hell and the beauty of heaven. We can't get a striking picture of one without the other. That's why the depiction of the heavenly New Jerusalem also contains a warning to the cowardly, unbelieving, vile, immoral, idolaters, and liars whose place is in 'the fiery lake of burning sulfur' (Rev. 21:8). It's unlikely we will long for our final salvation if we don't know what we are saved from.

"Seventh, we need the wrath of God in order to be motivated to care for our impoverished brothers and sisters. We all know the saying that Christians are so heavenly minded they are of no earthly good. The idea is that if all we think about are heaven and hell we'll ignore ministries of compassion and social justice. But what better impetus for social justice than Jesus' sober warning that if we fail to care for the least of our brothers we will go away to eternal punishment (Matt. 25:31-46)? The wrath of God is a motivator for us to show compassion to others, because without love, John says, we have no eternal life, and if we don't share our material possessions with those in need, we have no love (1 John 3:17).

"Eighth, we need God's wrath in order to be ready for the Lord's return. We must keep the lamps full, the wicks trimmed, the houses clean, the vineyard tended, the workers busy, and the talents invested lest we find ourselves unprepared for the day of reckoning. Only when we fully believe in the coming wrath of God and tremble at the thought of eternal punishment will we stay awake, keep alert, and be prepared for Jesus to come again and judge the living and the dead."

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Pro-Life Articles

"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well" (Psalm 139:13-14).

World Magazine contains several excellent articles about the pro-life movement in its current issue.

An article about the American pro-life movement of the 19th century can be found at (This was an interesting piece of history which is generally unknown, even in pro-life circles.)

About 15 years ago, the pro-life movement made a conscience shift in its strategy. As a result, the abortion rate in the United States has declined nearly 25%. The story can be read at

A disproportionate number of African American babies die by abortion each year. In recent years, a number of black leaders have become aware of this tragedy. They have begun to work to overcome the problem. The story can be found at

More articles may be found on the magazine's home page. Janet and Christopher have given me a subscription to the magazine as a gift for the past two Father's Days. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a great news magazine from a Christian perspective.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Reasons to Love Jesus: #4 His Anger

Jesus became angry at the right time for appropriate reasons. His anger was never driven by selfishness, narcissism, or fear.

Jesus Christ became angry when someone used religion in an inappropriate way.

"When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, 'Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!'" (John 2:13-16).

Jesus Christ became indignant when children were mistreated and not allowed to approach him.

"People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.' And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them" (Mark 10:13-16).

Jesus Christ became angry and distressed when people allowed rules to stand in the way of helping others who were hurting.

"Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, 'Stand up in front of everyone.'

"Then Jesus asked them, 'Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?' But they remained silent.

"He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored" (Mark 3:1-5).

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Blessed Life

"Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.

"But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

"Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

"For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish" (Psalm 1:1-6).

Delighting in the law (or instructions) of the Lord and meditating on it produces a blessed life. It makes one stable, strong, and productive like a tree which bears fruit for the benefit of others near streams of water in an otherwise dry environment.

Choosing the other course creates instability in one's life. One becomes fidgety and anxious...always walking, standing, and sitting. Such a person looks for counsel and approval among the wicked, sinners, and mockers. As a result, he lacks the substance of faith and character to withstand the winds of life and the judgment of God. He is useless to everyone.

As the new year begins, I want to concentrate on cultivating a delight in the law and instructions of the Lord. I want to practice meditating on those instructions so that I may be able to bless the lives of the people around me.