Inner Turmoil – The Good Kind

These last few months have been a blessing. As children of God, we can be sure that God is sanctifying us. He is doing the work of making us holy, shaping us in His image. Very often, this goes unnoticed. God in his grace has allowed me to see the sanctifying work He is doing in my life now. This sounds glorious but it has proven to be extremely difficult. Working hard to mortify sin is not easy and often found myself wondering why I love this world so much. In my reading, I came across a quote that has encouraged me greatly.

“We may take comfort about our souls if we know anything of an inward fight and conflict. It is the invariable companion of genuine Christian holiness. It is not everything, I am well aware, but it is something. Do we find in our heart of hearts a spiritual struggle? Do we feel anything of the flesh lusting against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, so we cannot do the things we would? Are we conscious of two principles within us, contending for the mastery? Do we feel anything of war in our inward man? Well let us thank God for it! It is a good sign. It is strongly probable evidence of the great work of sanctification. All true saints are soldiers. Anything is better than apathy, stagnation, deadness, and indifference. We are in a better state than many. The most part of so-called Christians have no feeling at all. We are all evidently no friends of satan. Like the kings of this world, he wars not against his own subjects. The very fact that be assaults us should fill our minds with hope. I say again, let us take comfort. The child of God has two great marks about him, and of these two we have one. HE MAY BE KNOWN BY HIS INWARD WARFARE, AS WELL AS HIS INWARD PEACE.” -JC Ryle 

Lessons From Little League

baseball

One of my favorite childhood memories is pitching with my brother in the backyard of our old home in Cresskill, NJ. These were the years when we were in little league and baseball ruled our lives. We would frequently run out back and take turns simulating games 3 outs at a time. I’d pick up the catcher’s mit and let Paul throw warm up tosses and simulate 3 outs of pitching. We’d call balls and strikes, walks, strikeouts, the whole 9 yards. We’d lose baseballs in the bushes around us and sometimes hop the fence because of a wild pitch. Then we’d switch spots and he’d catch while I pitched.

Sometimes after our baseball games, we’d stick around on the field and throw these simulated games. One year while Paul and I were in different leagues because of an age cutoff, my coach saw me pitching to my brother. I only had one pitch – the “fast” ball. When you’re a kid, all that matters is that you throw strikes and I would throw them pretty consistently. My coach was stunned at how I would throw strike after strike after strike. So come next practice, the coach called me out of center field and told me to come pitch during one of our practices. I begin throwing warmup pitches and I’m throwing them right at the catchers mit, over and over and over, strike after strike after strike. The coach was excited that he now had another relief pitcher.

There was one problem. I had never pitched to a catcher while a batter was standing in the box there ready to hit. This changed everything. I walked 5 batters in a row because I was terrified of hitting them. Once batters were involved, I tanked.

This story in a lot of ways mirrors my life in ministry. When I think about concepts, ideas, plans, counsel and wisdom in and of themselves, I can flourish. If you tell me how I would handle a hypothetical situation, how I would form a particular ministry, how I would talk to a brother stuck in sin, I can throw strike after strike after strike. When scripture is in a vacuum without any intersection with real people, real plans and real circumstances, it’s easy to formulate sound insight.

Texts of scripture like “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…” (Col 3:16) is not difficult to explain, dissect and teach. It’s another thing entirely to look someone in the eye and admonish them out of a deep fear of God and love for a brother, to live out the realities of the verse instead of explaining it.

This XPA role has opened my eyes to the amount of fear I have. I’m afraid to make a mistake, I’m afraid that a wrong decision will haunt me, I’m afraid to say hard things to people I care about even though they are necessary. I’m afraid because these things affect real people. I’m afraid I won’t throw a perfect strike but that I’ll hit them and knock them over in a painful, errant way.

This is where I see the beauty of Jesus and his gospel. 1 John says that “perfect love casts out fear.” I love this indicative statement. It’s a simple yet tremendous reality. This perfect love comes from God himself in the person of Jesus, his sacrificial death on the cross and his glorious resurrection. He is the perfect picture of this perfect love. It is not my courage that extinguishes this fear. It is not charisma or smooth talk that can cast out fear. It is not my ability to say things perfectly without error or my precise planning that casts out fear. It is only the perfect love displayed in Jesus that can cast it out. As the gospel roots itself deeper in my life, as I know and believe the perfect love of Jesus, fear of rejection, fear of hurting someone, fear of making mistakes, fear of saying or doing the wrong things are cast out.

My boldness doesn’t come from me, my plans or my words but from the boldness of Christ who courageously and humbly took on God’s wrath and in so doing loved perfectly.

My Heart’s Tension

There has been a huge tension in my heart these days. On one end, there is this deep despair. Reading news articles about the Gosnell trial, Jason Collins fallout,  Marathon bombings and a petition out in the military to call evangelizing “treason” has made my heart heavy. There is a deep longing in my heart, pleading with God, “LORD, SAVE MANY!!” and yet it seems like it’s impossible, that it’s not going to happen. It looks like the gospel is being snuffed out, that satan has this huge fire blanket that he’s throwing on whatever flames of Christianity is left in this country.

On the other hand, I’m consistently STUNNED that God saves. The fact that God would save EVEN ONE is blowing me out of the water. As I have been reading Deuteronomy, I cant help but realize that Moses is kind of a jerk. The Israelites are about to enter the promised land and all Moses does is tell them, “you’re a stubborn people”, “you’ve turned aside”, “stiff necked”… There is NOTHING redeemable about these people. NOTHING – and Moses is making sure that they know it… geez Moses, rub salt in the open wound. And then Moses hits them hard with this AMAZING truth, “The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his TREASURED possession… It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you… but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers.” Moses says “YET the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them.” These crappy people, the LORD TREASURES them… UN.. BEE.. LEE.. VUH.. BULL.. 

With my faint and limited spiritual vision, I look upon humanity and realize that whatever good we see is utterly cursed by the fall. RC Ryle says of humanity:

“I admit fully that man has many grand and noble faculties left about him, and that in arts and sciences and literature he shows immense capacity. But the fact still remains that in spiritual things he is utterly ‘dead,’ and has no natural knowledge, or love, or fear of God. His best things are so interwoven and intermingled with corruption, that the contrast only brings out into sharper relief the truth and extent of the fall. That one and the same creature should be in some things so high and in others so low – so great and yet so little – so noble and yet so mean – so grand in his conception and execution of material things, and yet so groveling and debased in his affections – that he should be able to plan and erect buildings like those to Carnac and Luxor in Egypt, and the Parthenon at Athens, and yet worship vile gods and goddesses, and birds, and beasts, and creeping things – that he should be able to produce tragedies like thoes of Aeschylus and Sophocles, and histories like that of Thucydides, and yet be a slave to abominable vices like those described in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans – all this is a sore puzzle to those who sneer at ‘God’s Word written, ‘ and scoff at us a Bibliolaters. But it is a knot that we can untie with the Bible in our hands. We can acknowledge that man has all the marks of a majestic temple about him – a temple in which God once dwelt, but a temple which is now in utter ruins – a temple in which a shattered window here, and a doorway there, and a column there, still give some faint idea of the magnificence of the original design, but a temple which from end to end has lost its glory and fallen from its high estate.”

God, you’ve given yourself to us in the person of Jesus, to love a fallen people. None of us are “saveable” but you chose to love. So I pray you’d look upon the people in our day, in our time, in the midst of this turmoil and love them, treasure them, save them.

An Unforgettable Week

Las week has been insane. It has provoked much prayer, thought and reflection.

I wanted to share the story of one brother who has been influential in my fundraising efforts and some resources that help me process some of my thoughts.

Stephen McAlpin is a friend and colleague who helped me get started in the fundraising process. Stephen is a church planting resident at Hope Fellowship Church in Cambridge, MA. In December 2012, Justin and I met with Stephen over lunch to learn from his successful fundraising efforts. I would not have been able to get started without this brother. I’m deeply thankful for him. Last Friday, early in the morning, Stephen and his wife Emily woke up to the sound of gunshots in Watertown, MA. The shoot out between the marathon bombers and the police was happening right in front of his house. As I’ve heard his interviews on NBC and CNN, I was deeply thankful for the way in which he displayed a strength, courage and love for his community that was rooted in his faith in Jesus and bore witness to Jesus and His gospel. I encourage you to read his story.

THE BOSTON BOMBERS WERE OUTSIDE THEIR HOUSE

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Here is a blog post from Justin. It is GOD’S faithfulness that is our hope.

THE MARATHON, HOPE AND GOD’S FAITHFULNESS

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Lastly, this short clip speaks to the truth that #BostonStrong is very strong… but it is not strong enough.

XP Day in Troy, NY!

Hello everyone,

Justin and I will be heading to Troy, NY in the morning to attend XP Day at Terra Nova Church.

The purpose of this day is to equip and further train executive pastors. The executive pastor role is a backstage role. The executive pastor gets noticed only if something goes wrong. I’m hoping this will be an opportunity for Justin and I to learn about how to better serve the church well from the second chair.

Please pray for us as we travel. Pray for safety over us. Pray we’ll learn. Pray we’ll build relationships. Be excited with us and for us. We’re hoping this will be a helpful time that will bear much fruit.

Time to go pack.

Financial Checkpoint

outrun-magadrive

Hey everyone.

I’m excited to announce that I’ve just crossed the $60,000 mark. I’m 75% to goal in only 2+ months into the XPA role. That is straight bonkers. Be excited with me as each of you have been an unbelievable grace to me. This is a huge checkpoint. That means I can work through June of 2014 without burden! (I hope this explains the “Extended Play” from the old school “OutRun” video game screenshot – Dont read into it too much though. I’m not driving a red Ferrari Testarossa nor do I have a yellow haired lass by my side)

So thankful to have so many people with me and for me.