Month: November 2018

A Necessary Word About Sin

The Prodigal Prophet is a collection of sermons and reflections by Tim Keller on the prophet Jonah. If you have never read anything by Keller, I recommend you check out any of these other books:

The Prodigal God, about the lost son and elder son parable.

Counterfeit Gods, about the idols of our time (like $$$, sex, power, beauty, status)

Generous Justice, one of the best books on how goodness, justice, charity, and grace flow together.

But I digress. Here is the thought from Keller’s Prodigal Prophet I want to pass on.

At the core of our disobedience and refusal to follow the ways of God is that we do not trust God has our best interests at heart.

“All sin against God is ground in a refusal to believe that God is more dedicated to our good, and more aware of what that is, then we are. We distrust God because we assume he is not truly for us, that if we give him complete control, we will be miserable” (p. 137).

That is vintage Keller.
That is vintage theology.
That is vintage spiritual psychology.
And that is vintage FLOURISHING.

The way to abundant (real and eternal, more and …

Read More

Two General Strategies for Building a Good Life

There are really only two big strategies for building a good life. There will be dozens of variations for each, but in the end, there are only two things you must do to build a good life.

First: Do much more of what is good, true, and beautiful. This is the positive strategy, or what the Apostle Paul calls, “the put-on strategy.”

Second: Do much less of what is bad, wrong, and harmful. This is the negative strategy, or what the Apostle Paul calls, “the put-off strategy.”

Here are some put-on strategies: prayer, forgiveness, love, humility, service, generosity, kindness, encouragement, worship, trust, having a meal with good friends, kissing babies (preferably those who belong to your friends), watching YouTube videos of puppies, and the list could go on and on.

Here are some put-off strategies: alcoholism, drug addiction, pornography, noise, stress, staying in a bad job, not telling the truth, covering up mistakes, refusing to work on a bad marriage, letting your kids run your life, wallowing in guilt, staying stuck in shame, complaining, criticizing others, comparing yourself with others, being cynical and sarcastic, acting like a victim, living with a sense of entitlement, not getting help for anxiety and …

Read More

Five Things I’ve Learned About Reality

While there are many more things I have learned about reality over the years, here are five of the most important perspectives.

ONE: You can ignore reality.
For example, you can ignore the skin blemish that looks bad. 

I am sure you and I are alike in this. We have a tendency to ignore, downplay, minimize, withdraw from, and escape from those parts of reality we don’t like. The ostrich can and does put its head in the sand. You and I do the same all the time. We have the early warning signs of a problem, and we choose inaction and ignorance over engagement.

TWO: You cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.
For example, you cannot ignore the melanoma and what it will do to you. Alex Haley reminds us, “If you don’t deal with reality, reality will deal with you.”

I see this all the time in conversations with people. They are dealing with the consequences of the reality they have ignored. Our Counseling Center experiences this as a way of life. People often wait way too long to get professional help about their worsening problems. They wait until the consequences have become unbearable!

I recently used …

Read More

Life is Constant Adjustment

Life is in motion. Life is swirling, changing, evolving, dancing, flowing–and that’s what you need to do as well.

God is on the move. The Spirit, like the wind, courses through this world, uncontrolled, unforced, unencumbered. You need to do so as well.

Following Jesus is a journey, a process, and, hopefully, a progress. “Come follow me,” Jesus says, and then he’s on the move, going places the disciples did not anticipate, designing encounters they did not foresee, meeting people who were not on their agenda (like women, Samaritans, Roman soldiers, the demonized, children…).

To follow Jesus means to hold life loosely.

To follow Jesus means living is a constant adjustment, a daily course correction, an hour by hour aligning to the North Star.

Life is not static, nor is it predictable. Accidents happen.

Life is not mistake free, nor will it ever be.

Life is not fixed in cement or cast in iron. Interruptions intrude, sometimes rudely. Change is constant. One blunt suggestion comes from Ralph Marston: “If something goes wrong, don’t whine about it. Have a spine about it. Adjust, adapt, and move forward.”

So yes, make plans. Make the best plans you can. Work as hard as …

Read More

Shaped by God’s Good Words

We live in a time when we are ambivalent about or even opposed to sustained reflection, deep discernment, and lingering engagement about things that matter the most.

We live in a time when distractions are constant, endless, intrusive, and powerful. (Like what we experienced during Black Friday – distractions, hectic pace, fast pursuits of the elusive gifts…).

We live in a time when our ability to focus and give concentrated attention to the issue, or person, or problem, or opportunity in front of us is in decline. If that is true for the things we can see, how much harder is it when it comes to the invisible God?

Therefore, we live in a time when Christianity itself is at risk and where discipleship is in decline. It was for a reason that Jesus asked, “Will the Son of Man find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).

The gospel is “cognitively costly” (Alan Noble). The Words of God are enlightening, renovating, regenerating, illuminating, and transforming. “Be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Romans 12:1-2). But they require attention and engagement. These words must be received, welcomed, held to, adopted, believed, and lived.

Then we will live as children of the …

Read More

Jesus is More Than a Cause

Causes are as easy to pick up as they are to put down. Or, more accurately, we don’t put causes down so much as we forget them. Putting them down would require some intentional meditation on the validity of the cause. Instead, we simply move on to something else.  Alan Noble, Disruptive Witness

Jesus is not a cause. Christianity was never meant to be a cause. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Jesus is not a part of life. Jesus is all of your life. Jesus is not an addition to your life. Jesus is your life. In Jesus, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

Jesus is not interested in part of you. Jesus is passionate about all of you. The famous quote from Abraham Kuyper reminds us of that: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”

May Jesus have all of you. And may you have as much of Jesus and his beauty and glory as you can possess.

That is why we are here for you.

Pastor Brian

Read More

Radical Church and Stories of Gratitude

It was one of those hard choices. I was going to  Ethiopia to teach leaders and work with our partners (Ethiopian Outreach Ministry, Project Adopt a Village, and LWCC Dire Dawa). I was asked to stay an extra day to be a part of the graduation program for pastoral training in Sendafa.

But that meant I would miss Cardboard Testimony Sunday, something I have never missed each year at Living Word.

With some reluctance I agreed to attend and speak at the graduation ceremony. I talked on the theme of “Loving the Church Jesus Loves,” a good topic for graduates who plan to work in and for the church.

That night, about 11:00 p.m., I was sitting in my seat on the plane and thought, “I am glad I spoke at the graduation, but I am going to miss Sunday at Living Word.” So I prayed for the church service and settled in for the 16 hour flight.

As soon as I was home Sunday afternoon, I heard about how wonderful the service was. I was able to watch it on Monday on our website. If you haven’t watched it, you can check it out here.

I am grateful for …

Read More