Stephen’s Stoning

I’ve been reflecting on the story of Stephen’s martyrdom in Acts 7 lately: 54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed togetherat him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and…

The Burial of Christ

I read through the account of Jesus’ burial in Mark’s gospel this morning (15:42-47): And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead.And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted…

Helpful Prayers

These are prayers I find helpful to pray in the midst of ministry and life following Jesus. 1) Lord, give me a forgiving heart in this situation. A forgiving heart is different from a willingness to forgive, or even actually practicing forgiveness. A forgiving heart rejoices in forgiveness. It forgives naturally (which is not to say its not difficult!). It moves towards forgiveness instinctively. A forgiving heart desires peace. It redirects conflict and often turns it to good. I want to have a forgiving heart. “A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:18)….

Elijah and the Ravens

One of the portions of Scripture that stood out to me while reading through the Bible in 2011 was the story of Elijah at Mt. Horeb in I Kings 19. I began to think about it over the summer, and then taught the youth from it in September, and then eventually preached from it in “big church” this past June. That entire year the story stayed with me – I turned back to it again and again for encouragement and stability, frequently finding new layers of meaning and significance in it. “What does I Kings 19 say about this?” became…

Gospel Index

A question that my wife often asks me is, “what does it mean to boast in your weaknesses in this situation?” This is a helpful gospel index for me. My default state is not to boast in my weakness. Its not even to feel neutrally about it. Its to fight it, conceal it, and fear its exposure. But this shows the gospel has not gone down deep enough into my heart and subconscious. As I learn to walk with Christ as my confidence, before God and people, I can relax into my responsibilities – my job, for example, or my…

Memorizing the Psalms

I saw a tweet the other week that suggested memorizing Psalms as a strategy for dealing with negative emotions. This seemed like a really good idea, so I’ve been memorizing Psalm 3 over the past several days. Each morning I take one or two verses and recite them over and over in my head until I’ve memorized them. And then whenever I hit something difficult in my day, I speak the Psalm into my soul again and again. In the past, my time in the Word has been more focused on reading and studying than on memorizing and meditating. But…

Salvation and Ministry in II Corinthians 4

I’ve frequently thought in the past about how important it is for our identity to be rooted in Christ while we serve in ministry, so that our ministry does not become our functional sense of worth – for our salvation in Christ to be a greater force in our lives than our ministry on behalf of Christ. But today on a walk it came into my mind that this truth has not only a negative, warning application, but also a positive, encouraging one. When our salvation in Christ is our root-level identity, we are liberated to serve in ministry in…

“Jesus is your Buddy” is not the Gospel

I spoke to the youth yesterday from Isaiah 36-37 on “Letting God be God over enemies.” We are going through a series in Isaiah called “Let God be God,” looking at God’s role in our daily lives over practical struggles such as sin, fear, enemies, emptiness, etc.  I started off my talk by telling the youth that if they have not received Christ’s work at the cross into their lives, then God is still their enemy. I explained that its not harsh to say that, because the bible uses the category of “enemy” to describe our state before God apart…

The Middle of the Marathon

This morning I got up a little earlier and after my morning devotions spent some time reading through every one of my journal entries between March and September 2010. That was a difficult season of my life, a season of waiting and uncertainty. It took me about an hour to read it all (I journal a lot), and I was so encouraged by doing so. It reminded me of the great spiritual value of those difficult seasons of life. They are like spiritual vitamins. As you faithfully plod through them, day by day, minute by minute, step by step, God…

Straw

I’ve been dabbling a bit in Frederick Coppleston’s book on Aquinas, which is really interesting.  I just want to get a bit more of a feel for Aquinas (and Coppleston), and then Augustine later in the fall, by way of contrast before (Lord willing) narrowing in on Anselm in the future.  One of the things I find most gripping about Aquinas is the mystical experience he had while taking Mass on December 6th, 1273. According to tradition, Aquinas stopped all writing on this day, even though he was not yet 50 and in the middle of his Summa Theologica. When…