The Gospel Primer

I’m benefiting from a new book these days. It’s called The Gospel Primer, by Milton Vincent.

Here is a satisfying quote:

God did not give us His gospel just so we could embrace it and be converted. Actually, He offers it to us every day as a gift that keeps on giving to us everything we need for life and godliness. The wise believer learns this truth early and becomes proficient in extracting available benefits from the gospel each day. We extract these benefits by being absorbed in the gospel, speaking it to ourselves when necessary, and by daring to reckon it true in all we do.

Sounds life-changing…

Here’s another from a friend of ours, in the same book…

The gospel isn’t one class among many that you’ll attend during your life as a Christian – the gospel is the whole building that all the classes take place in! Rightly approached, all the topics you’ll study and focus on as a believer will be offered to you “within the walls” of the glorious gospel. –Mahaney, p. 75-76 of The Cross Centered Life

And one last one from Vincent…as he is reflecting on Romans 1:16…

Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Indeed God’s power IS seen in erupting volcanoes, in the unimaginably hot boil of our massive sun, and in the lightning speed of a recently discovered star seen streaking through the heavens at 1.5 million miles per hour. Yet in Scripture such wonders are never labeled “the power of God.” How powerful, then, must the gospel be that it would merit such a title! And how great is the salvation it could accomplish in my life, if I would only embrace it by faith and give it a central place in my thoughts each day!


The Greatest Game Ever Played

Francis Quimet had no idea how this one was going to end. I do. I watched this movie two weeks ago. But I won’t tell you. You can watch the storyline unfold and get caught up in all the drama yourself. If Lucia and I were watching this movie with you we most certainly would be watching it from different perspectives.

You would be curious, hopeful and maybe even at times anxious as to ending of the greatest game ever played. We would be assured, calm and certain of the ending and though we could get caught up in the rapidly changing events of the movie we would be anchored by the truth that the Writer has brought this one to a satisfying conclusion.

Rom 8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Don’t be fooled. For the Christian it ends well. Those whom he has predestined he has also called. And for those whom he has called he has also justified. And for those whom he has justified he has also glorified. In God’s mind all the “words” of Romans 8:30 are in the past tense. The Writer has written the script. That which he has begun he has completed and the “movie” has been sealed to the day of our redemption. (See Phil 1:6; Eph 4:30)

From God’s perspective the movie is over. Just because we are still living it out, meandering through the morass, does not mean that Someone is not aware of how it ends. And thanks be to God that he knows. We are glorified in the mind of God. It’s done. The gig is up. The show is over. The fat lady has sung her song. We are seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus (Col 3:1). In the mind of God future glory is our present hope, our present tense assurance.

Now here’s a question for you: Are you more aware of the difficulty of the journey, the challenges of the journey, the sin in the journey or our Great God who has already brought things to a satisfying conclusion because of the Cross?

Let me ask it another way: Are you really living in the good of the gospel?

Go for it! Live well, live full. Take a chance from the bunker. Swing hard. Live in hope. Don’t worry about the rough or the next time you slice it into the woods because this one ends well. I would tell you, but I want you to walk the fairways, soak it in, watch the movie, all the while trusting in your great God who wrote the script.

I can tell you this much. It ends very well!!

Animal Cracker Restaurant

Miss Christa babysat tonight so we could go to Cross Current, our parent/youth ministry. She is the world’s greatest babysitter. She patiently serves and is kind to the kids. She imitates the gospel by forethought. She planned this animal cracker restaurant, a treat the kids always look forward to. Here is a pic from the evening.

Haydn’s first email…from Hilton Head

Hello, my name is Haydn. I went to Hilton Head, South Carolina to go to the beach. I had a good time. The oars you see behind me my daddy bought at Sports Authority for my birthday. Daddy bought me and Tristen a big boat with oars so we can go out in the ocean.

But I don’t like going out in the ocean because the waves knock me over. Tristen was in the boat the first time at the ocean and the waves knocked her out. I do love my boat a lot and my oars and I can’t wait to go back to the mountains where the big pond is so we can get in it and paddle around with our boat. That will be fun. Ansa can also get in the boat in the mountains.

However, I do want to go back to the beach also. I love the beach. Grandpa let us come and stay with him and grandma for my birthday. It was Tristen’s birthday also. I turned four years old on that Tuesday and Tristen turned six years old on the next Monday. Grandpa told us about an alligator that stayed in the back pond behind the condo and he said it eats children so we were afraid and knew we could not go back there.

Tristen really wanted to see the alligator, but he never came out when we were looking. I didn’t see the alligator at all. Grandpa saw him a couple of times and took his picture one time. It made me afraid, but I was glad to know he was there because I didn’t want to get eaten up by him and Tristen said she didn’t want to die either.

We loved the swimming pool at the beach. Grandpa and Grandma bought us a very large whale that we could ride. He was a bit hard to ride in the pool, but he was lots of fun. We also put our boat in the pool and that was fun as well. We turned the boat over and used the bottom like a platform to jump off of.

We also pretended it was a house. And we could get under it and hide. That was fun. We got in the Jacuzzi with Grandpa and that was fun too. The water in the Jacuzzi was very hot. It was over 100 degrees. We couldn’t stay in their too long, but it was fun. We also got sunburned and you can see the marks on Ansa’s back where her swimsuit lines were.

Then we made our picture with Grandpa and Grandma in the water. Daddy took it and that was nice. We love the beach. It is my favorite place to go. There is so much to do down there. As we were leaving we stopped by the Bargain Box and daddy bought me and Tristen a cowboy hat, which is what I wanted for my birthday. Then we went to Subway and ate lunch and then we went to the Home Goods Store and Daddy bought some lamps and some other things. It filled up the van to where we almost had no place to sit. But we figured it out and squeezed in and everything was fine.

Thank you for reading my story. I had a good time.
Love you!

Tristen’s first email…from Hilton Head!

Hello Mommy!

This is my first email and I wanted to send it to you. Thank you for all the birthday presents you gave to me. I liked them all and I’m very blessed to have you as my mommy. I’m very happy.

And I liked my birthday party as well and the big number six candle you bought for me. I got some roller blades at the Bargain Box in Hilton Head, South Carolina and I can’t wait to learn how to roller blade.
We had fun at the beach. I like digging in the sand and I made some new friends while I was down there. One of my new friends is behind me in this picture. There was a bit water area that we could play in. We dug in the sand and floated in the boat and it was so much fun. Part of the area I am standing in right now.

From Tristen, love Tristen!

Taking out the Trash!

No, this is not a morbid walk into the intricacies of my deceived, depraved heart. As John Donne said much better than me,

“Poor intricated soul! Riddling, perplexed, labyrinthical soul!”

The inter-maze of my heart is daunting and depressing for sure. And I am self-deceived, YES! However, I do have enough awareness—by the grace of God—about the doctrine of man and the doctrine of sin to know and balance somewhat suspiciously the futility and dangers of introspection to the biblical necessity of introspection. In short, I am exhorted by Scripture to look, but not linger. For every one look I take at my sin I want to take 10 looks to the cross. This is merely a feeble attempt to take one look.

In addition, as I read Ephesians 4:22 I must be aware of what to “put off” in order to, … well, put off the old man. I cannot put off the old man if I do not know what to put off. If I must take out the trash then I need to know I where the trash is. I cannot take out something that I either do not know what it is to take out or, even worse, where it is. I must know both the what and the where.

Fortunately, I do not have to think too long about the “where” question. I need to put off the sin that is in my heart! My heart is where my treasure is. But the “what” question can be a bit tricky. Therefore, through prayer, counsel and personal reflection my goal is to change by the grace of God, to mortify the deeds of the body, for the purpose of glorifying God in my sanctification.

With this pursuit in mind I have sought, prayed, asked and reflected in an attempt to attack my pride, turn and glorify. What I have in these confessions is my personal, well-cultivated sin list. As Gollum would say, “This is my precious”, the things that are near and dear to my heart. And, unfortunately, my “precious” is in the plural. I’ve never been too loyal to one idol. I enjoy and pursue many idols of the heart.

But praise be to God. There is a solution to all of this and it is found on a hill. Once I find the trash I will have the joyful and grace-filled privilege of taking my trash to that hill for proper disposal.

Confession #1
Self-righteousness—Here is a foundational sin in my heart. It is simply me having a higher view of myself than God is pleased with, which works out with me being tempted (and sometimes yielding to the temptation) to compare myself to others. This foundational sin when yielded to leads to condescension and arrogant attitudes toward folks or even worse because of this great love I have for myself I can live out biblical hatred in the sense that I either don’t serve other folks or I’m so hardened by this sin that I have diminished sensitivities to the Spirit moving me to serve others. What I mean by this last statement is that my sin has diminished my spiritual “radar” so to speak to the point where I can’t sense how to serve others.

How do I know when I’m sinning with self-righteousness? Here are some indicators:

  1. I’m not kind or loving toward others.
  2. I’m critical and/or gossip about others.
  3. I do not serve others.
  4. I am demanding of others.
  5. I’m quicker to think of the sins of others than my own.
  6. I’m judgmental.
  7. I’m selfish and will posture or manipulate the situation for my own good before the good of others.
  8. My desires and hopes come before others because of my high view of self.
  9. I can become angry quickly.
  10. I can become impatient quickly.
  11. I am tempted to not think the best about others, about situations and/or about God because my first thought is about myself, what is best for me from my sinful perspective.
  12. And worst of all my conscience can become so hardened by the sin of self-righteousness that I live some sort of deserving mindset and lifestyle. This is self-deception.

Solution: The Gospel!!

Off to the hill I go…

Juxtaposing Suffering and Joy

As I was contemplating a conversation last evening while studying my new favorite book this morning (1 Peter) I was going over the verses for tomorrow in one of the commentaries (vss. 3-9) and ran across this thought in verse 8.

Here is verse 8:

”Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,”

Here’s the thought:

“Peter’s main point in the verse is clear. Believers who suffer are not dashed to the ground by their troubles. They love Jesus Christ and rejoice in him even though they have never seen him and do not see him now. Their lives are characterized by a hope that fills the present with love and joy.”

And this is how I prayed this morning, “That my life would be characterized by a hope that fills the present with love and joy.” (I like that word “fills”. That is quite cool.)

I think that gets at what I was inadequately trying to say last night: that as we talk about, work through, discuss with others our troubles, trials and sufferings that our words are surrounded by and impregnated with (or characterized by) “a hope that fills the present with love and joy.”

Peter is juxtaposing Suffering on one hand with a life that is characterized by a hope that fills the present with love and joy. Here’s the question: are my words (and my thoughts) so equally balanced? Do I weigh-in with more words about the suffering realities of my life? Or do I weigh-in with the suffering realities of my life AND equally (or more than equal) weigh-in with a heart that is full of hope that FILLS the present with love and joy?

This is how I want to be before God, my wife, my kids and my friends. I never want to shrink back from the painful realities of life, but I want my heart to be filled with hope, love and joy to the degree that it comes out and I’m characterized by it and others feel and experience it. Another way of getting at it is by asking this question: How am I characterized? Do I come across as a person weighed-down in present suffering or a person who is going through present sufferings, BUT is filled with hope, love and joy? The question is not will I suffer. We know the answer to that one. The question is how am I characterized as I suffer?

I’m aware that if I’m going to get to that place of overflowing hope, love and joy then I must “enter into the chamber” and see and talk with the Invisible One who gives such grace.

Thus, let’s let the hard work begin…off to the prayer chamber I go…