What is the Void in Your Life?

Do you believe the lie that your life consists in the abundance of possessions? Have you been deluded into chasing after something in this world thinking it’s going to fill the void in your life? Wake up from that delusion and seek Jesus Christ as your all in all. View the full sermon, “Covetousness: One of Those Respectable Sins“. Covetousness is the desire to have. It’s a desire fed by the belief that my life consists in what I have. My life isn’t going to be right unless I have a certain thing. I’m not living. It’s not really life. I’m not really living unless I have that. It’s that void. What’s the void in your life? The thing that there is this emptiness there. I’ve got to have that. You keep feeling like: Well, if I’m really going to be happy in this world, I have to have that thing. You see, that’s what’s happening here. The man in the parable – what was it he wanted? Many years of relaxing, eating, drinking, being merry. I will, I will, I will… he laid up treasures for himself. The man who wants the inheritance? He has the same mindset. What’s the mindset? That that inheritance was crucial to his life. His happiness hung on it. You see, the man who has a bunch, even more than he knows what to do with, his happiness – he’s got it all calculated – his happiness rests on what he has. This man who doesn’t have, he’s got the same mindset. He’s thinking his life isn’t going to be right as long as his brother’s running around. This isn’t fair. His brother’s got all the cash. He’s got all the goods. He’s got all the possessions. He’s got all the cattle, all the… Read More

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How to Fight Envy in the Workplace

I think I do a decent job at my work—I like most of my tasks and most of my colleagues. But I struggle with job envy. A few of my colleagues are remarkable at what they do, and I’d love to have both their abilities and their opportunities. How can I know if I just need to settle down and be content, or if I’m in the wrong job and should be looking for something where I can be brilliant? First off, I appreciate the authenticity in your question. This is an honest tension I believe most of us struggle with. While it can be easy to glorify the world-changers at the top of the org chart, most of us are plodding along in our daily work, grateful for the opportunity our job affords us and struggling through the muck of the mundane. This feels more like the daily life I’ve come to know. Regardless of our status, though, that ancient thief of joy—comparison—is always knocking at our door. So I hear the longings beneath your question. I hear the discontentment, which flows from a frustrated identity. After all, if our identity is misplaced, our work and our worship tend to be as well. As my former pastor and friend Scott Sauls often says, “God has not called you to be awesome. Rather, he has called you to be humble, faithful, forgiven, and free.” We can leave the awesome to Jesus. Content ‘In All Things’ The apostle Paul offers some helpful insight when it comes to wrestling with contentment. Consider the popular verse: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). This has been overused as a sports-team motto, inspiration for passing that test you didn’t study for, and generally bootstrapping your way to success through life’s… Read More

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Scoffing Isn’t Funny

Once, while leaving a peewee soccer game, in a moment of terrible weakness and even worse judgment, I passed one snack-size bag of Cheetos and a single mini Gatorade to two children in the backseat of my car. The backseat brew of these elements and the messy chaos that ensued seems a fitting illustration for the combination of scoffing and the church. What could possibly go wrong? When scoffing masquerades as humor in a church, what results is way ickier than orange-fingerprinted seats or a Gatorade-splattered sunroof. Scoffing is not humor. The wittiest people I know don’t even carry it in their tool belt. We define a “scoff” as a mock or a jeer, but scoffing often defies definition and is more clearly identified by the emotion it seeks to evoke. Rather than aiming at love or joy, scoffing shoots for sadness, heartache, or anger. It reduces someone to a punchline. It extorts laughter from unkindness. Exclusion is scoffing’s aim. We scoff when we crack a joke in order to expose another’s sin or weakness, or when we share stories that make us look big and others small. When we cloak disrespect in humor or paint the lipstick of giggles on gossip, we are guilty of scoffing. Scoffing is not humor. The wittiest people I know don’t even carry it in their tool belt. Each of us is susceptible to dishonoring speech; this sin of scoffing affects us all. We may have fallen into it in adolescence, but it doesn’t require the breeding ground of high-school insecurity to fester and seep into adult conversation, too. Scoffing is often crafty and sophisticated; its subtlety entices us. It’s not funny, and yet I’ve chosen to scoff more times than I’d like to remember. Have you? Repenting of the Icky Heart God’s Word… Read More

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Who Is the Most Pro-Life President in History?

“I don’t think evangelicals are united on every position [President Trump] takes or says,” Franklin Graham said in a recent interview, “but they do recognize he is the most pro-life-friendly president in modern history.” This remarkable claim has also been made by Vice President Mike Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Aza, and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, has also said Trump is the “most pro-life president in history,” as has Brent Bozell, head of the Media Research Center and Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life. The assertion has become one of the most unexamined talking points in pro-life activism. But is it true? And, more importantly, does it matter? To judge the veracity of the claim we must first establish some relevant criteria. In 2016, I wrote “Why It Is Imperative that Presidents Be Pro-Life” and outlined six ways U.S. presidents have a limited, but substantial and broad-based, role in protecting life and defending the most vulnerable in society. (For the purposes of this post, I’ll use the term “pro-life” as it is most often used—as a synonym for anti-abortion.) 1. Preserving the Pro-Life Riders Each year pro-life provisions or “riders” are attached to the annual appropriations bills, preventing public funds from supporting abortions, abortion providers, or abortion promoters. Presidents Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Trump have all supported such riders. Category winner: Four-way tie 2. Filing of Amicus Briefs in Cases Before the Judiciary Where a case may have broader implications, amicus curiae briefs are a way to introduce those concerns, so that the possibly broad legal effects of court decisions will not depend solely on the parties directly involved in the case. Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Trump have all filed amicus… Read More

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Should I Pay for My Child’s College Tuition?

I have four children, and most of them will probably enroll in college. My question is, how much of their tuition should we pay? When I went to college, my parents told me that was my financial responsibility. On the other hand, college is a lot more expensive now, and we have enough money to help with some of the costs. Should I withhold help so my children learn to manage their expenses? Try to pay for the whole thing? Aim for something in between? I love your approach to your children’s education. When they were born, your children totally depended on you. From that day forward, your task as parents is to gradually but steadily prepare them for the coming day when they will be on their own. Moses, Jesus, and the apostle Paul all reminded us that while children need to start out with a father and mother, the day does come when they must leave them (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5; Mark 10:7; Eph. 5:31). College often provides the final transition from relying on you to living independently before their Lord. You’re planning for this already, and that’s great. As you know, God has gifted each of your children differently. You’ll have to help them discern which path will prepare them for the highest and best use of their own individual gifts. While not everyone needs to—or should—go to college, that experience can build character and provide a base of knowledge and wisdom that can be applied to almost any calling your children may receive throughout their lives. It sounds like you already see that, for most of them, college is in the future. But you also have shown wisdom in seeing that college education is a joint endeavor. Without your assistance in transitioning to stand on their… Read More

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Start the Year with Praise

1 Timothy 1:17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen (CSB). At the conclusion of every year, most people conduct at least a casual evaluation of what kind of a year it was for them. Answers range across the whole spectrum from “horribly terrible” to “most excellent”. I can understand the reasons many say, “I’m glad this year is over! I hope the new year will be much better!” My wife and I went through a series of years (2010-2015) that we were glad to see end. Looking back now, I think we can see the hand of God’s blessing on us at all times during those years, even though we suffered. Our Sovereign God was very merciful when it was hard to discern his hand of blessing. And we’re thankful! Regardless of how you and I evaluated the past year, I know how we ought to begin 2020: with joyful praise to the Lord our God! If you had a difficult year, remember to keep the living God in your focus in the new year. If you think last year was great, don’t forget the Father in heaven who has loaded you with benefits. Wherever you are on this spectrum, a godly response will require ongoing repentance and faith. By this I mean that we will need to have our thoughts of the true and living God transformed by his word, and then to trust him each step of the way. It is important to both have our minds renewed (Rm 12:1-2) and to commit ourselves to the Lord. It doesn’t do any good and even is spiritually harmful to say, “I will trust God better this year,” if we have wrong ideas and thoughts about God. For example, can you trust God if… Read More

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Covetousness: One of Those Respectable Sins

Covetousness is a heinous, horrible, damnable sin that will lead to everlasting punishment and unspeakable torment for those who practice it. And isn’t it fearful how few people seem to even realize how wicked this sin is? May God help and keep us from being deceived by covetousness. Ephesians 5:5 – For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

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Churches That Merge to Plant More Churches

When we hear about two churches merging to become one, we tend to think it’s due to something negative. Perhaps one or both is dying, and a merge keeps them alive. Or maybe a church has lost one of its pastors for some reason, so they merge with another church to find healthy leadership. At times, churches do merge for these types of reasons. But how many church mergers have you heard about that come together for the sake of the lost—churches that merge in order to plant more churches? That’s what happened with two local churches in south Detroit. To talk with us about how a church merger can advance the cause of the gospel, I’m excited to have my friend and fellow pastor, David Doran Jr., with me on the podcast today. David is the lead pastor of Resurrection Church in Lincoln Park, Michigan. He is married to Abigail, and they have four children. Listen to this episode of Churches Planting Churches. Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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5 Reasons Matthew Begins with a Genealogy

The Bible contains 66 books by at least 40 different authors, is written in three different languages, describing three different continents, all written over a period of at least 1,500 years. It has hundreds of characters and numerous genres. Sometimes it’s narrative; other times you have beasts flying around with a bunch of different eyes; and then there are love poems. We don’t read many books this complex anymore. So it seems a compelling and summative introduction would be in order for the New Testament. But modern readers are confused by Matthew’s introduction. On his first page, Matthew begins speaking about Jesus with a genealogy. We might be tempted to let our eyes skim down and get to the real action. But Matthew begins this way intentionally. In many ways, this is the most fitting and compelling introduction to the New Testament imaginable. Here are five reasons Matthew’s genealogy is the introduction of introductions. 1. Matthew’s Genealogy Summarizes the Story of the Bible The first 16 words in English (eight in Greek) summarize the entire story of the Bible so far. Do you want to know how a disciple of Jesus shortened the Old Testament story? Look no further than Matthew 1:1. The story of the Bible can be understood by looking to key characters who carry the story along: Adam, Abraham, David, and Jesus. Adam is not explicitly named, but his story is contained in words “the book of the genealogy,” which could also be translated “the book of Genesis.” The explicit phrase (βίβλος γενέσεως) occurs in the Greek Old Testament in only two places, Genesis 2:4 and 5:1. Genesis 2:4 is about the origin of heaven and earth (place), while Genesis 5:1 concerns the origin of Adam and Eve (people). Though the Old Testament can be a confusing… Read More

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Bible in a Year – my Favorite Plan!

Never before in human history have so many people had such easy access to the Bible – or people of any faith to their sacred books, for that matter – than we have to the Scriptures. Reading through the entire Bible in a year is a terrific goal for any year. And my very favorite reading plan is the quirkily-named, “Bible Plan for Shirkers and Slackers.” What’s to like? Most reading plans are ruined if you miss a couple of days, feel guilty or a failure, and bail out. This has a special feature: you can miss a day or even days, and still not jump the tracks of the plan! You just pick it up where you left off. Click to download! Bible-Reading-Program-for-Shirkers-and-Slackers It only takes about 70 hours to read the whole Bible, that is, an average of 1 hour and a quarter per week. That makes it about the length of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, which is to literature what the rack was to the Inquisition. The Bible is a much better read! Happy 2020! “Bible in a Year – my Favorite Plan!” by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica Share this: Like this: Like Loading… Related Visit Open Our Eyes Lord

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5 Things to Consider When a Missionary Asks You for Money

In 1 Corinthians 9:15 Paul wrote, “The Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” This is good news for those in ministry, including missionaries. It’s also good news for the local church. Many Christians give generously to their church, as well as to other gospel causes such as parachurch ministries and other support-raising ministers. But sometimes, when the phone vibrates with another text from a missionary seeking support, we might be tempted to think: Why do they keep texting? Don’t they know asking for support this way doesn’t fit my beliefs about missions? If I don’t respond, will they get the hint? Money Measures Our Heart   Money gets a lot of ink in the Bible—for good reason. Shortly after his warning about laying up treasure on earth, Jesus declares: No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matt. 6:24) Such words challenge us to consider where our treasure is, and thus to examine our hearts (Matt. 6:21). As John Piper has said, “Money is the currency of Christian Hedonism in the sense that what you do with it—or desire to do with it—can make or break your happiness forever.” With a new year only hours away, here are five things to consider as you ponder whether or not to include missions and missionaries in your year-end giving. 1. Recognize the Missionary’s Intent The support-seeking missionary is not to simply trying to get money. Missionaries want to see Jesus change lives, and they are inviting you into God’s kingdom work. On collecting money from the Corinthian church, Paul wrote: “For we aim at what is honorable… Read More

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China Sentences Pastor Wang Yi to Nine Years in Prison

From Paul Mozur and Ian Johnson, at the New York Times: A secretive Chinese court sentenced one of the country’s best-known Christian voices and founder of one of its largest underground churches to nine years in prison for subversion of state power and illegal business operations, according to a government statement released on Monday. Wang Yi, the pastor who founded Early Rain Covenant Church, was detained last December with more than 100 members of his congregation as part of a crackdown on churches, mosques and temples not registered with the state. This revolting development is symbolic of a much larger wave of persecution against religions (not just Christianity) that are deemed threats to state power. In northwest China, authorities have detained around a million Uighur Muslims in “re-education camps.” Most persecuted Christians around the globe will never be known to western Christians, but Pastor Wang Yi happens to be an unusually prominent unregistered church leader, whose work garnered a visit to the Bush [43] White House in 2006. Perhaps most importantly, Wang Yi and the Early Rain Covenant Church were featured in Ian Johnson’s brilliant The Souls of China, arguably the most important book written on the modern growth of religion (again, not just Christianity) there. What did Wang Yi do to attract the attention of Chinese authorities? Simply being the leader of an unregistered house church is likely not enough to land someone in jail (at least not yet), but Wang Yi and his church allegedly distributed publications and DVDs without government approval, and ran an unapproved school and seminary through the church. Moreover, as Mozur and Johnson write, “Wang had become known for taking high-profile positions on politically sensitive issues, including forced abortions and the massacre that crushed the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989.” He also publicly criticized… Read More

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Old Paths for a New Year

This time of year is filled with all things new. We clean out our closets and drawers to make room for the new Christmas gifts we’ve received. We flip the calendar on a new year and consider all the upcoming year holds. We set new goals and resolutions to make needed changes in our life. As Christians, we also sometimes look for the “new” for our spiritual lives. We look to new strategies and methods to help us grow in our faith. We look for new devotionals or books to inspire us in our growth. We may peruse blogs, listen to podcasts, attend conferences and retreats—all in the hopes of finding that one thing we haven’t yet tried that will help us grow in our faith. While we’re grateful for new books and can often benefit from new resources, to grow in Christlikeness we don’t need a fundamentally new approach. We need an old one. The Lord has already given us everything we need, and it’s been available all along: the means of grace. Means of Grace When Christ commissioned churches to make disciples, he gave simple instructions: “[Baptize] them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20). The disciples were to make new disciples by preaching and teaching all that Jesus commanded. They were to then baptize these new believers. The extraordinary grace of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, worked through these ordinary means to grow the church. It’s the same for us today. To grow in Christlikeness, we don’t need a fundamentally new approach. We need an old one. Theologians use the term “means of grace” to describe God’s provision for his people. Louis Berkhof defines… Read More

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