The Secret To Not Losing Heart

The secret to not losing heart is where we look

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 so we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us and eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

It?s amazing that Paul didn?t lose heart. ?His list of sufferings goes on and on – he was beaten numerous times, scourged, left for dead, shipwrecked, spent long stints in prisons, opposed at every turn, threatened, hated, abandoned, betrayed, mocked, and had people constantly trying to undermine his work.

Yet he didn?t lose heart. ?He calls his sufferings ?light and momentary,? though they were extremely painful and lasted for years. ?They don?t sound light and momentary to me Paul. ?Our outer self wasting away sounds heavy and long-lasting. ?So Paul, how do you see them as light and momentary? ?How do you keep from losing heart?

Paul wouldn’t claim he had some secret way to make it so he didn?t feel the bite of the whip. ?He wasn?t a Pollyanna who only saw the world through rose colored glasses.? He really suffered.? Yet he didn’t lose heart.

So what was his secret? ?How did he keep from losing heart? ?How did he stay so joyful and hopeful?

It was where he looked.

He looked ?not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.? ?He kept his focus on things above. ?Eternal things. ?And as he did so he was able to make a comparison.

It was the comparison that showed his earthly afflictions to be light and momentary. Looking at his afflictions by themselves, they were heavy and seemingly unending. ?But IN COMPARISON to the incredible rewards they were producing in heaven, IN COMPARISON to the eternal weight of glory they were forming above, IN COMPARISON, his earthly pain was light and momentary. ?In fact, the glories and rewards he saw in heaven were BEYOND ALL COMPARISON to things here.

But this realization only takes place AS (big word!) we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.

To the eternal. ?To the heavenly weight. ?To the glory. ?So it was Paul?s constant focus through the eyes of faith on the eternal joys of heaven, the eternal glories and rewards that his sufferings here were producing that gave him courage to not lose heart. If he had focused only on his sufferings here, he would have given up.

So Paul made a decision where to keep his gaze – on things above. ?On eternal things. ?Not on the momentary. That?s how you can get through your affliction. ?It?s what you look at. ?It?s where you focus. ?Though your suffering is great here, keep comparing it to your reward. ?Keep comparing it to the joys of heaven. ?The weight of glory Jesus has prepared for you that you will enjoy for 10,000 times 10,000 years. ?The rapturous beauty of Jesus you will feast on forever and ever.

Don?t lose heart. ?In the blink of an eye you?ll be in heaven.

There you?ll say ?Compared to this, my suffering on earth was nothing. ?Compared to this my suffering back then was a blip.? ?Don?t lose heart. ?Keep looking above.

New Study Finds That 95% Of Nerdy White Christian Men Claim to Love Rap


NEW YORK (Reuters): A new study released by the Gallup Group revealed that 95% of all nerdy white Christian men say that they “strongly dig rap music, yo”.

“We were pretty surprised by the results of the study,” said Thomas Menchen, leader of the study. “When you think of the white, nerdy, Christian demographic, you don’t usually think of rap music. You think of books like Systematic Theology and artists like Michael Card and Fernando Ortega. But for some unexplainable reason, white nerdy Christians are flocking to Christian rap. We suspect that John Piper is somehow responsible, although we can’t prove that yet.”

Timothy Green, who participated in the study, said, “Yeah man, when I listen to Lecrae on the way to work I get so fired up! I’m like, ‘Yeah booiiii, let’s do some computer programming for Christ! True dat!’ My coworkers think I’m a total wild gangsta. I’m thinking about putting some chrome rims on my Toyota Camry.”

Ian Keller, who also participated in the study, said, “I can really relate to the music. I didn’t exactly grow up in the hoods, but we all come from a hood of sorts. You know, my dad worked like 50 hours a week, and when you combine that with my soccer practices and trying to fit in on the marching band, it was rough. When Trip Lee belts out those phat rhymes, I’m like, ‘Yeah dog, we be chillin!’ I like to listen to his music when I read Grudem and Carson for my devotions.”

Pastor Dan Carson said, “I listen to Flame before I preach a sermon. I put on my noise?canceling headphones, sit in my office, and get psyched up. When I get to the pulpit I am seriously pumped up. Plus, it helps me connect with the more urban members of my congregation. Instead of saying, ‘You struggle with sin,’ I say, ‘You be fallin’ over your sin like you was ballin’ in the gym.’ It really resonates with people.”

Thomas Menchen said, “Honestly, this study throws all sociology to the wind. We plan on releasing a follow up study next month.”

John Piper could not be reached for comment.

New Free Music From Crossway Collective

My friends at Crossway Church in Lancaster, PA, are getting ready to release an album called “Nothing Worth Knowing”. In order to promote their album they’re giving away three songs from it. You can listen to the songs with the player below.

You can also download them for free here.

I Think I’ll Just Be A Normal Christian From Now On

photo from Thomas Fisher

FACT: We Christians love labeling ourselves.

We’re Reformed, we’re Charismatic, we’re emergent, we’re justice seeking, we’re seeker sensitive, we’re adoptional (I don’t think that’s a word), we’re missional, we’re called to foreign missions, we’re radical, we’re Christian hedonists, we’re organic, all-natural, authentic, and label-loving. You get the point. And I have been extremely helped by so many of these categories. I’m so grateful for the push towards adoption, for Reformed theology, for Christian hedonism, and for the evangelistic emphasis of the missional minded folks.

But sometimes all the labels can be a burden to me. I’m sure the problem is totally with me and my legalistic self, but it seems like each label carries specific requirements with it. If I’m going to be missional I need to be highly focused on reaching out to my community with the gospel. If I’m going to be adoptional I need to create a community of adoption within my church and possibly adopt children myself. If I’m called to missions I need to be constantly thinking about and praying for the unreached people groups in the world. If I’m truly seeking justice I need to be making a concerted effort towards ending sex trafficking in the United States. You get the point.

There are a lot of blog posts and tweets and status updates that remind me of all that I should be doing. I need to more missional, more missions minded, more focused on the Holy Spirit, more authentic with my neighbors, more committed to the cause of adoption, more careful with my eating habits, and more ?committed to ending sex trafficking in America.

And don’t get me wrong, each of these things is truly biblical. It’s right and good to reach out to the community and to adopt children and to reach the unreached people groups and to fight against horrific things like sex trafficking. But I can’t do all these things at one time with equal intensity and fervor. I’m a pretty limited guy. I’m married and I have three little girls who want to play with dollies and puzzles. I have a yard that needs mowing and a grandpa that needs visiting and people in my church who I need to pray for. I battle physical anxiety from time to time, which puts real physical limitations on what I can do. Most of the time I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water.

So I think I might just be a normal Christian from now on. In John 15:5 Jesus said:

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

I take this to mean that if I stay close to Jesus and spend time with Jesus and have lots of Jesus’ word in me, I will produce much fruit for Jesus. I’ll do the things that Jesus wants me to do. I’ll be a truly fruitful, successful Christian. Maybe I’ll adopt kids, but maybe not. Maybe I’ll be a missionary to India, but maybe not. Maybe I’ll host a community outreach…maybe not.

If I stay close to Jesus he’ll lead me into the good works that he has prepared for me.

The reality is, the folks in my church who are the most fruitful for Christ are simply those who are closest to Christ. I think of long-term member Tim McKelvy. I don’t think he could tell you what it means to be missional but he and his wife Donna are constantly reaching out to people. I think of my 93 year-old grandfather who probably couldn’t articulate Reformed theology and yet does a Bible study at a nursing home every single month. I think of my dad, who isn’t “adoptional” and yet has adopted two kids.

I want to be like Tim and Donna and my grandpa and my dad. They’re just normal Christians who stay close to Jesus and trust Jesus to make them fruitful.

Here’s to normal.

What Are You Getting Out Of Christ?

“Love [Christ] in his person, his excellencies, his loveliness, and not just for what you can get out of him.” — David Clarkson

What has Christ done for you lately? ?Has he blessed you financially? ?Has he given you the spouse of your dreams? ?Has he healed you? ?Has he moved upon your children so they flawlessly and cheerfully obey your every command? ?Has he removed your every affliction?

In other words, what are you getting out of him?

Has he given you your best life now? ?Are you enjoying health, wealth and prosperity? ?If not, why are you following him? ?What?s in it for you?

Oh, not to mention that he has redeemed you, personally absorbed God?s wrath for you, brought you to God and is transforming you into his very likeness. ?Not to mention that he?s given you eternal life and the hope of seeing his glory face to face. ?Not to mention that he has purchased your forgiveness, justification, and righteousness. ?Not to mention that he?s interceding for you day and night and loves you with an everlasting love. ?And delivered you out of the realm of darkness and brought you into his kingdom of light, and made you part of his royal priesthood and holy nation that you might declare his excellencies.

Jesus has done so much for each of his children it will take us all eternity to begin to appreciate it. ?But even more than all he?s done for us, he gives himself to us.

Jesus himself is our righteousness, our wisdom, our strength, our hope. ?He gives himself to us – his excellencies, loveliness, beauty, joy, and power – if we have him, we have all that he is.

Remember, Jesus himself is our treasure, as wonderful as all the other blessings are that he gives us.

Lord Jesus, open the eyes of our hearts today to see more of your beauty and excellence, and help us to love you for who you are rather than what we can get out of you.

No Boys, It’s Not A Ghost

When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. ?Jn 6:19

It’s the middle of the night, the disciples are miles out to sea. ?The wind is howling and the waves are battering their little boat. They’re drenched. Rowing with all their might. Getting nowhere. Then they see something. Can barely make it out in the darkness. It looks like the faint outline of a man. Is it a man standing up in a boat? No there’s no boat. Is it someone walking along the shoreline? No ? they’re 3-4 miles from shore. ?What is it?? The apparition is coming directly toward them. In terror they cry out “It’s a ghost? (Matthew 14:26).

Why are they frightened? Why don’t they expect it to be Jesus? ?Because he’s never done anything like this before.

He’s done some astonishing miracles but none like this. This is completely unexpected. They have no category for a man walking on water. God’s provision for them is so completely surprising they’re terrified at first.? No boys, it’s not a ghost.? It’s Jesus, coming to help you in a way you never could have imagined.

God has ways of providing for us that we can’t possibly imagine.

So often in our trials, we try to figure out how God is going to help us. ?”I could sell hot dogs on Main Street over my lunch hour.” “I could check out that dating site, ?I could buy a lottery ticket — maybe that?s how God will provide for me.?

God has ways of providing that aren’t even on our radar screen. He put a gold coin in the mouth of a fish to pay the temple tax. (Can you imagine Peter saying, How am I going to pay this tax?? I know – I’ll go fishing.? Maybe I’ll catch a fish with a gold coin in its mouth.)? God caused the soles of the Israelites shoes to not wear out for 40 years. He provided water from a rock and manna from heaven. He multiplied a few loaves and fishes to feed thousands. He provided a ram in a thicket for Abraham. ?In our darkest hours, Jesus comes walking over the chaotic waters of our lives and gets into our little boats and everything?s ok.

This is why Jesus says don’t be anxious about tomorrow.

We don?t need to know how God is going to provide. ?All we need to know is our heavenly Father loves us and has ways of meeting our needs that we haven’t conceived.

We simply need to submit our requests to him with thanks and his peace will guard our hearts. And after he?s provided for us, we?ll say we never could have imagined God would have helped us that way. ?And once again, we?ll have something to marvel about in our wonderful God.

How about you?? How have you seen God provide unexpectedly for you?? Do you have any stories of how God brought answers to prayer you never could have imagined?

Interruptions, Vexations, and Disappointments

I recently read this quote from The Minister as Shepherd by Charles Jefferson. I found it to be provoking and challenging to me as a pastor but it applies to all Christians too.

The shepherd grows in patience. As long as he lives, his work makes heavy demands on his powers of endurance, but they respond to the call. The work of a shepherd is full of interruptions, vexations, and disappointments, but these try his soul and refine it.? In working with human nature a man gets something of the patience of a mother. He is not daunted by a score of failures. He does not surrender to apparent defeat. If doing the thing nineteen times is not sufficient, he is willing to do it the twentieth time.

May we all be as patient as a mother with each other (I know mothers aren’t always patient, but go with the simile). ?May we be undaunted by the failures of our brothers and sisters and keep bearing with each other. After all, hasn’t God been patient, forbearing, and long-suffering with each of us?

Stuff Of the Day: Better Bible Study, Jim Gaffigan, and 10 Pranks To Pull On Your Friends

SONG I LIKE OF THE DAY: I’m really enjoying The Shins new album. I especially like the song “Rifle Spiral”. Listen to it with the Spotify player below.

BIBLE STUDY TIPS OF THE DAY: Mark Driscoll gives seven suggestions for better Bible reading. Read it here.

JIM GAFFIGAN VIDEO OF THE DAY: Jim Gaffigan is funny. And he talks about whales.

TEN PRACTICAL JOKES OF THE DAY: I enjoyed this video. Just be careful about who you prank.

Bewildered? Confused? Perplexed? Good News.

How many of your prayers contain this phrase, ?God, I don?t know what to do??

A lot of mine do. There are many things in the Christian life that are rock-solid, clearly defined, black-and-white ? but let?s face it, there are a lot of important things that aren?t so clear either. How do I lead my family in this situation? Should I confront my friend about his impatience or overlook the offense? What does love look like towards this person? There are times when I frankly have no idea what the right way forward looks like.

How can we pray ?God I don?t know what to do?? without succumbing to despair and discouragement? There are numerous ways that the Bible answers that question, but let me give you a very simple one I?ve been thinking about recently.

When I don?t know the way forward, God does. (I told you it was simple.)

Romans 16:27: ?to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ!?

One way of defining wisdom is to say that it is always choosing the best means to achieve the right goals. Wanting your family to grow in love for God?s Word is a great goal, but try accomplishing that goal by reading the book of Leviticus in its entirety to your four-year old over her Lucky Charms tomorrow morning. Good goal, bad means. But God never has that problem.

God always chooses the best means to reach the best goals. In fact, the entire creation was woven together by this never-confused, never-perplexed wisdom of our only-wise God.

Proverbs 3:19-20: ?The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens;? 20 by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.?

So are you perplexed, confused, or bewildered today? A blog post can?t give you the right answer to every situation you might be facing. But let this be a simple reminder of a profound truth: God does know. Let your prayer today be offered in faith: ?God I don?t know what to do, but You do!?

James 1:5: ?If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.?