Happy Birthday America!

If you know me well (and have followed this blog for some time) you know I have some things to say regarding our role as Christians in America. This year, I will only give a few bullets for us as believers to remember as we celebrate this great day:

  • It is right to celebrate our liberties as they have been given us by our founders. But don’t make your national freedom ultimate in your life. Freedom is a terrible God, but our God gives wonderful freedom.
  • Our citizenship as believers is first and foremost with Jesus and only second with our nation. Thus, our ultimate joy comes from Jesus and His love rather than our nation, which will fail us.
  • Because our citizenship is with Christ, we can worship together with every other believer in the world. This nation is where we live now, but our eternal home will be with Christ and those from across the world.
Let’s remember these great truths as we celebrate today! Also, pray for my brother-in-law as he is signing in with the Air Force today.

For what it’s worth

It has certainly been  a while since anything has come up on this blog. School is (sort of) ending for the year and I will be intentionally carving out some blogging time within the near future, as I have missed it. What I wanted to do with this post is comment on very recent victory by American Troops: the killing of Osama bin Laden.

As I rode home from work this morning I pondered the comments I had heard from some co-workers regarding his death. There has been jubilation and rejoicing in light of this victory, and with good reason- our forces have been searching for him for a long time. But riding home, I couldn’t help but think of Ezekiel 33.11

…I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live…

This turned through my mind and upon returning home, I read this from Denny Burk:

I think Christians are right to contemplate how jubilation (like we see on TV right now) is consistent with Ezekiel 33:11, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.” It is no surprise that many Christians are asking, “If God is not delighting in the death of the wicked, then how can we?” I think there is confusion on this point because this verse is easily misunderstood. The second part of the verse is key to understanding its meaning. The text is not trying to say that God never delights in the death of the wicked. Rather, the verse means that God prefers for sinners to repent rather than to perish. If they refuse to repent, God delights in His own justice enough to punish them appropriately (e.g., Psalm 1:5-65:4-668:2Isaiah 13:1-22Jeremiah 18:11). For this reason, we have to be willing to praise God for His justice one way or the other (Psalm 139:19-22Proverbs 11:1028:28Revelation 19:1-3). (read the rest here)

As believers, we also need to remember a few things:

  1. All of us are evil and wicked at heart, and we should not seek the death or punishment of others solely on the basis of their injuring us.
  2. God does delight in sinners coming to know him, but (as Burk says) ultimately is glorified and delights in his justice (see the first comment below for a restatement). And,
  3. Christ took the brunt of God’s justice at the cross on behalf of sinners like me,  you, and even bin Laden. Our rescue is not based on our own goodness, but Christ’s rescue by his grace through our faith in him.
In light of these truths, we should indeed mourn the fact that bin Laden rejected Christ’s sacrifice, but also rejoice that God still gets great glory and praise in his justice being done in our world today.
For more in this vein: Christopher Morgan (GC blog) | Michael Wittmer (Don’t stop believing blog)

Discouragement

Life is often times discouraging. People let you down, leave the Church, forsake the faith, and overall, are just as sinful as you. I know people who have been so discouraged and distressed about their church that they have left the ministry over it. In light of this, I’m reminded of what a great friend and mentor of mine once said:

We must always keep the rewards and blessings of our ministry and calling before us to prevent our hearts from being discouraged- Matt Wallace

Cloud of witnesses

We must first remember that there is a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Hebrews 11 and 12 speak of those who came before us who had faith that God was working. These were servants who were persecuted, slaughtered, misled, betrayed, led through the wilderness, and dejected, but still had faith that God would deliver them. And he did, not because they were strong, but because he is faithful.

For the hope set before him

The greatest hope that we have is that of Christ. We can look at God who became man and remember that he is worthy of all our praise because for the hope set before him, he endured the greatest shame and discouragement at the cross. No one else has been through that on our behalf and he wants us to remember his suffering in that.

What is the greatest reward? Jesus. What is the greatest blessing? Being used by him. We long to be used by him for his glory, and though it doesn’t always seem that way, Jesus is using our ministries in some way. Pray that the Spirit will reveal to your heart the encouragement you need.

On this note, I have stumbled across this song by Laura Story. The powerful truth behind it is that God is showing his great mercy and blessings even when we think he’s letting us down. Listen, and worship our savior:

I want a big Christmas

Happy Saturday before Christmas everyone!!

Yes, the object of your stress is a week away, but in the midst of the chaos, let’s not forget this important truth:

Father, we’re not the ones who “do” Christmas, you are, and there’s nothing merely “merry” or “little” about Advent. The size of our Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with how much discretionary money we have to spend on bigger and better gifts. It has everything to do with how much of Jesus we see. I praise you that every Christmas is huge, delightfully huge, irrespective any economy or currency.

Go click on the link and read the rest. Pray that God will apply this in your own life and heart before you ask it for others.

Christmas: not just for happiness

You would have to be living under a huge rock to not know that Christmas is on it’s way. For many of us, this means happiness, family time, and lots of food and celebration. For others, this means despair at the loss of a family member or an illness. In light of this, you need to read this article.

If you are celebrating with your family this Christmas, read it and realize what’s really important. If this is going to be your hardest Christmas yet, read it because you need healing. Here’s an excerpt:

Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness. Jesus came for daughters whose fathers never told them they were beautiful. Christmas is for those who go to “wing night” alone. Christmas is for those whose lives have been wrecked by cancer, and the thought of another Christmas seems like an impossible dream. Christmas is for those who would be nothing but lonely if not for social media. Christmas is for those whose marriages have careened against the retaining wall and are threatening to flip over the edge. Christmas is for the son whose father keeps giving him hunting gear when he wants art materials. Christmas is for smokers who cannot quit even in the face of a death sentence. Christmas is for prostitutes, adulterers, and porn stars who long for love in every wrong place. Christmas is for college students who are sitting in the midst of the family and already cannot wait to get out for another drink. Christmas is for those who traffic in failed dreams. Christmas is for those who have squandered the family name and fortune—they want “home” but cannot imagine a gracious reception. Christmas is for parents watching their children’s marriage fall into disarray.

Christmas is really about the gospel of grace for sinners. Because of all that Christ has done on the cross, the manger becomes the most hopeful place in a universe darkened with hopelessness. In the irony of all ironies, Christmas is for those who will find it the hardest to enjoy. It really is for those who hate it most.

I can think of a few people who really need the truth of this article this Christmas. If you know of people, be sure they see it.

Merry Christmas!

It is the time of year when every store everywhere is getting ready for the Fall and Winter Holidays. A month ago we started to see Halloween costumes come out, within a few weeks there will be Thanksgiving trimmings being offered for cheap, and throughout this whole time we will be seeing Christmas ornaments and decorations slowly begin to emerge. For instance, a certain store that I happen to frequent due to my current employment situation has already gotten it’s entire Christmas collection up and people have been purchasing decorations there.

Soon, eh?

In addition to people complaining about stores not wishing them a Merry Christmas (as covered here), there will soon be hundreds of Christians wishing for the de-commercialization of this holiday. There will be complaints that the decorations are out too soon, wishes for people to understand the true meaning of the holiday, and flat out rejection of any celebration of Christmas as we know it because of it’s pagan roots.

But what if?

This year, instead of complaining about the early decorations and commercialization of Jesus, what if we took the time to rejoice in Christ instead? Consider the truth of the Gospel:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5.21)
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Phil. 2:5-11)
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
(Matt. 1:21-23)
Our savior, who is God, took on flesh and was born into poverty and died so that we may gain his riches. So maybe don’t complain about the stores celebrating early. Maybe we should be out-celebrating them. They are excited for the celebration of materialism, we celebrate the King above all kings. Who should be happier to rejoice?

I’m Engaged!

I’m sure most of the eight people who read this blog know this, but it is true: last Thursday (9.2.10) I asked my girlfriend Emmalie Fellows to marry me and she said yes! So I figured I would use this post to tell a bit about us.

We met just over a year ago at our school when she began taking classes there. After many conversations and long chats over facebook, we eventually ended up with each other’s phone numbers and moved on from there. On October 25, 2009, I told her I had feelings for her and she agreed to date me- which is interesting because that same night I told her that I was dating with the intention of marrying my next girlfriend (i.e. her). This didn’t scare her off and we proceeded to spend more time with each other and grow into love.

Moving on

Before the end of 2009, we began to talk about marriage more seriously. I knew that I wished to marry her and she was pretty sure about me. As a side note, shortly after Tim Sewall heard about our accident, he said that we were going to get married (she must love me if she let me drive her car home after flipping it!). Over the course of these nine months, we have been praying and seeking God’s guidance in our lives. It has been a long process making sure that this is what God would have for us. But it turned out to be fruitful, as we have decided to share love for each other for the rest of our lives.

Prayer

We could really use prayer. Seriously. As we are planning this wedding, we are still both attending NEBC, which means that there will be more stressful moments to come this semester (and it only just began). We need patience with those we’ll be working with in this process. We need strength to remain focused on Christ and not one another. This is something that is very foreign to many people: I don’t want Emmalie to be the center of my universe and she doesn’t want me as hers. Christ is greater, he is to be praised and held worthy to direct my life and right now, he is directing us together that we might serve him better. We also do not want to be apart another summer (she was the head cook at Camp Berea this past summer and I was working to get a new job which meant I was broke). Needless to say, it was difficult for us to remain focused on Christ while we were missing time spent together. This also slipped into our visiting times where we weren’t able to concentrate on growing towards Christ together because we were “too busy” working to catch up after the week(s) apart.

Thank you for your prayers! We are looking at a June wedding and are counting the days as they pass.