Wrestling With Our Sin Nature (Romans 7-9)

I’ve got a problem. I am used to driving down a certain road to another town in our area because I used to drive that road almost every day. These days I don’t do nearly as much driving but it almost never fails that when I get in the truck, I’ll start down that old road. It’s just second nature. I’ll just mindlessly head down the road until my wife stops me, or I get halfway down the road and realize that I was headed towards somewhere else. Going down that road was a part of my life for so long. It had become a part of my muscle memory.

Even though we’ve been set free from sin and are free to worship and glorify God, there are old habits and thoughts we struggle with that are still sinful. There are sinful habits we used to cope with life that call out to us whenever we are stressed out. There are moments where we head down an old familiar path to gossip, outbursts of anger, unforgiveness, hatred, lust, greed, and all sorts of sinful behavior.

The Apostle Paul asks the question, “If I’m free from sin and free to worship God, why do I struggle with sin and sometimes still choose to sin?” He answers by acknowledging the two natures that now exist inside of us. The old man flesh, who keeps reminding us of how we used to be and how we used to handle our issues. And the Holy Spirit of God now living inside of us who prompts and guides us. The two are contrary to one another and can create an inner turmoil. Paul groans and looks forward to the day that Jesus will transform his body and he won’t wrestle with the flesh anymore.

It’s important what Paul shares in Romans 8, that if God is for us, who can be against us. For the Believer, the LORD is working out his character in you. He has put His Spirit in you. You have God Himself moving and working on your behalf to bring you to completion. Press into Him!

Father, Thank you for your amazing grace. Thank you for the way you are transforming me. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who speaks to me when I head down an old roads. Thank you for your amazing grace that doesn’t give up on me. I pray that you would open doors for me to share of your amazing grace with others today.

RESOURCES:

Last Year’s Post

Join us in reading though the New Testament in 90 Days! You can find the plan and previous posts here.

It will All Be Made Clear (Luke 1-3)

I’ve been living in the hospital with a covid-pneumonia for the last week. It has been really disorienting. I’ve kept up with my daily reading plan, but haven’t been able to blog because I didn’t have my computer with me. One of the biggest challenges with the having the pneumonia was needing to be on oxygen. There were moments where it was very difficult to breath, let alone think or read about something with clarity.

When we are sick or dealing with isolation (to keep from getting sick) we can easily get distracted and it can be hard to think clearly. There is so much stuff to “binge-watch” on cable tv and streaming services. We can get wrapped up in different shows and characters because it’s easy to succumb to the mind numbing made-for-tv-dramas and reality shows that are out there. Yet, no matter how interesting these shows are to watch, they are not real. At best they are a distraction and escape from the real world drama we face. At worse they can become an delusional alternate reality were we find ourselves more worried about the fiction on a screen than the people in our lives.

As I read through the first few chapters of Luke this morning, I couldn’t help but notice the clarity that Jesus brings to the world. The world has long slumbered in sin and rebellion against the Lord. People were doing their own thing. It seems as though everyone has forgotten that God has promised to send the Messiah. Then the angel Gabriel appears on the scene, making announcements. Prophets and prophetesses show up in the temple. The forerunner, John the Baptist, is called and commissioned from the womb to be a prophet!

John prepares the way for Jesus, telling everyone to get ready for the Messiah because he is here! Then did you notice the clarity? John the Baptist preaches repentance! He preaches humility of being baptized for the sake of repentance. He uses plain language and addresses the issues where people live. You can’t enjoy the fruit of repentance without the work of repentance. That is how repentance works.

When Jesus comes to the scene, everything will only come into a sharper focus. John said that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and Fire. The Holy Spirit would enable real works of repentance, the fire (fitting the motif of fire being judgement) would judge those works which are not keeping with genuine repentance.

What a mercy it is for the Lord to call us to repentance that we might see and enjoy the work of God in our lives. How scary it would be to live under a delusion that everything is “ok” because we just want to soothe ourselves. The more I hear this call to repentance through the scriptures, the more I see God’s amazing grace reaching out.

Father, thank you for the call to repent. Thank you for Jesus who came to give us life. I pray that we don’t live by distraction or in delusion but that we have eyes to see and ears to hear. I pray we are humble in our walk with you. I pray that we are quick to repent, filled with your spirit, and full of the works of righteousness that can only be done in you. thank you for your amazing grace. In Jesus’ Name.

RESOURCES:

They were both righteous before God

Which the Lord has Made Known to us

And What Shall I do?

Last Year’s Post

Join us in reading though the New Testament in 90 Days! You can find the plan and previous posts here.

A Few Tips on Consistently Reading the Bible This Year

For those of you joining in on the New in 90 reading challenge, I look forward to reading the scripture together with you! Here are a few tips to set yourself up for success on reading the bible consistently over the next 90 days. These are little adjustments that I have made over the years that have really helped me:

Tip #1: Have a Plan. Whether you start January 1 or some other point in the year, knowing where to read and what to read helps you to focus and get into a place where you can really understand the scriptures. A reading plan that takes you through books of the bible can be especially helpful. There are several great reading plans that are out there and so even if you don’t commit to the New in 90 reading plan, find one and commit to reading through it. That way whe you sit down, you will have a direction.

Tip #2: Have a Set time. I tell my kids all the time, “What get’s scheduled, get’s done.” I know that if I just intend to throw the football or give driving lessons that those opportunities have a danger of being missed or forgotten if I’m not supper intentional. So I put those things on my schedule so that I can commit to doing them. Bible reading is no different.

When it comes to reading the scriptures think of a time when you will be available and ready to focus. For me I’m wired to be wide awake and contemplative at night after I’ve put the kids to bed and so most of my good bible study is done in the evenings. You might be a morning person and 5am might fit just right. If you are new to having a consistent bible reading time, the time of day isn’t as important as being consistent and able to focus. (In college I consistently made A’s in my 10am and later classes and consistently made B’s in my 8am classes… There is so much hype about reading your bible 1st thing, which is great if you are a morning person, but personally I’d rather give the scripture my best attention. I trust the Holy Spirit can still move you in the morning from what you’ve read the night before…Often I’ll study and read at night and then read again the next morning.)

Tip #3: Set out phyisical reminders to read your bible. When I started drinking coffee at home in the mornings I would set everything out the night before so when I woke up all I had to do was push a button. (Now we have a coffee maker with a clock and timer). Setting up or setting out the coffee the night before was a way of setting myself up for a good cup of coffee in the morning. It’s not different when it comes to reading our bibles. Setting your bible out and open to the next reading passage is a great reminder to read your bible. Even if you are reading the pasages on your phone, a physical reminder can help jump start the activity of looking up the passage and starting to read. (I really encourage you to read and interact with a physical copy of the bible because you will have less opportunities to be distracted. Plus I like to underline, highlight, circle words and write comments as I read).

Tip # 4: Read at Least Ten Verses. On days that you are feeling demotivated, reading a few chapters of scripture can seem like a lot and you might be tempted to skip all together. A little trick I learned a while back is to just start reading something. Often if I will start the reading process thinking I’m just in it for a few verses (so I can check off that I tried), but more often than not I’ll finish reading all the way through the scheduled reading. Reading a few verses is way better than not reading anything. Being somewhat consistent in reading the scripture is way better than being completely inconsistent.

Tip #5: Write it down. Interact with what you are reading in the scripture. I like to keep a notebook (laptop) handy to write about my thoughts and reactions to different passages. Because we are reading a few chapters a day, I like to pick one or two things that really jumped out and think about how those things apply to my life. I’ll often ask and answer the five questions I’ve listed in this previous blog post.

Tip #6 Read with a group (accountability). It helps to be reading the same passage as others. I’m always amazed at how we can read the same passage and different individuals pick up on different neuances of the text. I’m also greatly encouraged as I hear of how others apply the same scripture to their lives. The Bible is a book for the community. It wasn’t really intended to only be read in isolation. It was intended to be read out loud to the church. Reading and growing with others fits more with the design of the scriptures than reading it alone with my coffee (as much as I might really enjoy that… I’m an introvert). As we read together through the New in 90 day challenge, feel free to share in the comments what struck you from the daily reading (even if it’s something I didn’t comment on).

Consistently reading the scriptures is one of the best things you can do to grow in your understanding of the Lord. Sometimes we are tempted to think that we can slack one day and make up for it the next, but the kind of strategy that vasiclates between energy and dread (depending on how we feel each day) will never ultimately lead us to a place of contentment. Just like sporatically eating healthy foods and exercising whenever the fancy strikes us won’t lead us to physically fit lifestyle. Consitency really is the key. I pray that 2021 finds you consistently reading the scripture and growing in your understanding and relationship with the Lord.

The Pastor’s Family (A Review)

I really enjoyed reading The Pastor’s Family* by Brian and Cara Croft. I am a pastor and my dad was a pastor/ church planter growing up. I really appreciate all the resources that Brian Croft and his team at Practical Shepharding have brought to the table (they really fill a niche that was missing when I entered into ministry). This book was especially impactful and I am very grateful to Brian and Cara for spending the time to write it.

New pastors and their wives often don’t know just how challenging ministry can be on a marriage and family. It only appears that ministry will grow even more challenging in the days ahead as the culture shifts and unreal expectations and demands are placed on pastors (by other or themeslves). I really appreciate the balance that Brian and Cara offer providing both pastor and spouse comment on the issues. I admire their candor and ability to share from their mistakes. I was especially intreagued by Brian’s appeal to both good and bad examples of famous pastors from history who did a fantastic or regretful job of shepherding their own families.

Overall I walked away from the book challenged and inspired. It didn’t share alot of informaiton that I didn’t already know, but it provided something even more valuable, motivation. I want to be sure that I don’t lose my first ministy, my family, while ministering to others. I also want to be sure that I don’t idolize my family and forsake real opportunies to minister. Brian and Cara set forth a very practical way forward to balancing the demands of ministy and ministering to your family that don’t pit those two against one another.

If you are a pastor looking for a very helpful and encouraging read on shepherding your family, this book is for you. I reccomend it to pastors, seminary students, individuals and spouses of those preparing for ministry. It’s a helpful read for those who are already married and have children, but I can see how valuable it would have been to have read this before I was married and had children.

*This is an affiliate link. If you click on the link and purchase any items through Christianbook.com I will recieve an affiliate commission. (It helps me earn money for more books!) Reguardless, I only recommend products / services I use personally use and believe will add value to my readers.

Letter from a hospital bed to my children on the eve of open heart surgery

I had open heart surgery a few years ago to fix a leaky mitral valve that was damaged by a serious infection in my heart. I had already experienced a very small stroke and was in congestive heart failure when they discovered the root issue. I went in for a test to try and figure out why I was so sick and ended up being admitted to the hospital facing serious heart surgery. All this before I had ever turned 40.

I was warned that there was a very slight risk of complications that my surgery could end in a catastrophic stroke and or death. This really struck a nerve because my dad has a stroke in his early 40’s and it had really impacted me in a negative way. I was anxious that something could happen and that it would have a negative impact on my children.

I wrote each of my kids a letter, and I wrote this as a journal article for them to read as they grew older (I’ve edited it slightly to help it read better):

“Today I sit down to acquaint myself with all the things that could go wrong. To be honest, “wrong” on this is just my perspective. I really want to avoid hurt and pain, but they are at my doorstep knocking.They won’t let up until they enter my life like never before.

I write this now so you know my state of mind as I open the door.
There may be consequences for you that I never intended. Should things go “wrong,” it will be grief that comes knocking on your door.

Our scariest moments are the ones where we recognize we have no control. We either run to God or we run away from Him. We either call Him Evil, or we call Him Good. In those moments, there is no middle ground to practice a modified religion.

I didn’t choose this road. But it is the road that is set before me. In a thousand lifetimes I would not pick this pain. But I firmly believe that God has chosen me to endure it and so I will walk it, and you must know that I do not walk alone.

You must know that it is because of suffering that I cling to Him now, more than ever. I find that even in the darkness, and in the quiet, He remains true. So while this is not that path I would have chosen. It is the path that has led me closest to Him and for that I am grateful.

So I have to confess that when I ponder, “what might go ‘wrong’?” I say with confidence, that in some way, whatever happens, it will have also gone “right.” God is still in control.

It can be hard to imagine God is in control when we feel so out of control. I imagine the disciples were completely unnerved at the crucifixion of Jesus. Perhaps they thought all was lost. But three days later he rose from the dead! And the most tragic day in all of history became the greatest day in all of history. The resurrection changed everything. And this is where I place my hope that after whatever darkness may come we will experience the Light of God’s amazing grace.

This trial brought me closer to the Lord and that was a purpose greater than my own personal comfort could have ever been. I pray you press into the Lord no matter what comes your way. He has a way of taking the hardest circumstances and using them for his glory. It took me decades, but looking back and see how he used my dad’s stroke to work in my life. You may not see it or feel it now, but never lose the hope and true optimism that comes with trusting in the promises of God. – DAD”

I am grateful that my kids didn’t need to read that letter/journal entry. But I’m glad I wrote it for them. It helped me process some of my own feelings about my dad’s stroke (for the curious, he survived and I’ve written more about it elsewhere). I swore I’d never go into the ministry because of his stroke and the surrounding story, but as I look back, I’m probably in ministry because of it.

To this day we don’t know the cause of the infection in my heart. We probably won’t ever know. I’ve had to make peace that some things in life aren’t meant for us to understand on this side of eternity.

Family Discipleship (A Review)

I really liked Family Discipleship* by Matt Chandler and Adam Clark! It was a great read! The book is written on a level that is easy to access and is helpful to anyone who is new to figuring out how to disciple their children. It provides a much needed shot in the arm of encouragement for men to lead their family well.

Chandler and Griffin both have excellent perspectives on leading a family and Family Discipleship* is full of both biblical and practical insights. For example, one of the authors talks about reading through a journaling bible for each child and writing thoughts/ prayers for that child as they read through. They also discuss godly habits, disciplines, and rythms of life as well as planning special events, mile markers, and milestones for their children’s journey through life.

All in all it is a great book! I reccomend it to anyone trying to figure out how to lead your family well. It’s best recieved by new parents or parents of todlers, but its never too late to start the journey of discipleship and this book reflects that with insight for older children as well. Certainly there were many insights that I gleaned from it and I’ve got kids in three different stages of development!

If your looking for a basic “how to” for family discipleship, this is a good book to get you started.

*This is an affiliate link. If you click on the link and purchase any items through Christianbook.com I will recieve an affiliate commission. (It helps me earn money for more books!) Reguardless, I only recommend products / services I use personally use and believe will add value to my readers.

Dark Clouds Deep Mercy (A Review)

Sometimes we hurt. Sometimes we cry. Sometimes we are depressed. Our cluture often doesn’t want to take time to express and feel the negative. In American Christianity there can be a strong pull to pass over the negative in favor of the positive side of things. Certainly there is a lot of optimism to our faith (Jesus defeated the grave!) but there is also room for lament (Jesus went to the grave). We all go through pain, loss and unexpected challenges. Sometimes we feel the sharp edges of our broken world. It can be unbarable to somehow talk as if rainbows exist without rain clouds or as if the resurection happened without the crusafixion. We need to grieve and lament in a broken world.

Dark Clouds Deep Mercy* was a really fantastic read and very helpful in understanding a fuller picture of God’s sovereignty in our suffering. Written from a place of his own lament, Mark Vroegop, candidly shares how to pray through the laments found in scripture. As pastor he has been instrumental in helping individuals and groups process their own lament in a biblical way.

Dark Clouds Deep Mercy* is both exposition of some of the key texts of scripture (like Lametations, some of the Psalms, etc.) and exposition of the heart in lament. Vroegop writes in an intelligent but open style that allows the reader to enguage in the language of lament. I found the book extremely helpful in my own life and it’s one that I will probably pass on to others.

From a pastoral perspective, Dark Clouds Deep Mercy*, is a fantastic resource to begin figuring out how to lament and lead people through a lamenting process. There are a few really goood resouces in the index. Should another edition be published, I’d like to see more information on leading a group prayer time and other aspects of corporate lament that were shared in the book. The tools are there, but in a rough form.

*This is an affiliate link. If you click on the link and purchase any items through Christianbook.com I will recieve an affiliate commission. (It helps me earn money for more books!) Reguardless, I only recommend products / services I use personally use and believe will add value to my readers.

Honoring Our Heroes

Tuesday Morning, September 11, 2001 many of us saw the best and worst of humanity play out in real life down the street and on our television screens. America had been attacked! Real fathers, mothers, children, brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, friends, people… real people, ordinary people, were viciously attacked by a radical Islamic terrorists. We didn’t see it coming!

At first we wondered if it was planned? We had a hard time believing that someone would plan such a vicious attack on civilians. We watched the second plane hit, learned about the Pentegon attack, and heard of the other plane that was crashed into a field on American soil. Many of us sat glued to the television praying, not even knowing what to say, because we didn’t know what was happening.

While many stood still in fear, shock, or wonder, there was another group of men and women who quickly mobalized and went running into the fray. They were our first responders. They were just as surprised as the rest of us, but they had a duty that day. Many were off work, but they still geared up and ran into those buildings. Some who were in the building that day been trained as volunteers and instinctively started to lead people to safety. Many entered into the fray never to make it back home.

We gained a new appreciation for our first responders that day. It has become a day to remember and honor our heroes. We had always known that if we were in danger and we called, the fire truck would come, the ambulance would get there, the police would arrive. We always knew that there was a cost, but on that day we saw that cost paid over and over by incredible men and women who went to help.

In the years since, we have had time to reflect and notice that we have alway had heroes in our midst! They enter our lives at our scariest moments (when we face a health crisis, a fire, or are the victim of a crime) and walk us through them. They bring us peace when our world is anything but peaceful.

It always comes with a cost. Sometimes the cost is relatively low and its just an inconvenience. Sometimes the cost is emotional, knowing you did everything right, but still wondering and feeling like you lost or it’s the heart break of the broken situations they enter that seem so broken they will never heal. Sometimes the cost is high, too high, when our friends and heroes don’t come back.

As I was praying for some of our local first responders today and reflecting on 9/11, I came accross this verse:

He who follows righteousness and mercy Finds life, righteousness, and honor. – Proverbs 21:21

I am grateful for our first responders, especially those who I know in our own community. I count it a privildege to be a friend and pray for many by name. I know them to be men and women of character who enter into difficult situations and are genuine peacemakers. I have found them to be men and women of honor.

Typically at this time of year, our church sponsors a breakfast for the first responders in our community! I genuinely enjoy being able to celebrate and honor these men and women. This year, for the first time, we have had to alter our plans (Due to the virus) but I look forward to celebrating our local heroes in the days ahead, because I believe them to be men and women worthy of honor. I am grateful to God for thier service in our community and the thousands upon thousands like them around the nation and globe who step in to help when help is needed most.

Thy Kingdom Come

Jesus teaches us to petition God with is that HIS kingdom would come. To understand this we first have to grasp “His kingdom.” The kingdom of God is anywhere the King reigns. It is a physical place and a spiritual reality.

Remember that we live in a seized state. Men and women are separated from God by their sins. Satan, the Prince of the power of the air, has a rule and dominion over the earth. We are the resistance clamoring for the rightful King to return.

It is an election year. We have narrowed the field for president. It’s important to vote. You might have a candidate that you want to win the election. Maybe they fit your ideals. Maybe they promised you something better than the other guy. Maybe you’re just scared of what will happen if the other guy gets elected. So you anticipate and hope that so and so get’s elected or doesn’t get elected.

This supersedes that! This is not just a desire for the right candidate in the right office, but that all the people of the land will recognize Jesus as king. When you pray, “Your kingdom come,” you are talking about your house and you are talking about your neighbor’s house.  You see what’s most relevant isn’t the changes that take place or don’t take place in the White House, what is most relevant is what changes are taking place in your house! Is Jesus LORD or do you still run the show?

Day 78: 1 Peter 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 1 Peter 1-3 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

How are you different now that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior? That question is worth considering. The Apostle Peter deals with personal holiness (living lives that are more like Jesus than who we used to be) in the first few chapters of 1 Peter.  Christians are to be holy because we serve a holy God and if He is in us, then we should be becoming more like Him(1:15-16). We don’t become holy in order to get saved, we are saved by the blood of Jesus and made to be holy (1:18-21). Similarly we are not kept in holiness by our own power and strength, we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to move forward in our personal holiness (1:22-23).

Sometimes the way we treat other people hinders our ability to prayer or the effectiveness of our prayers. That’s at least what Peter says about how husbands ought to treat their wives (3:7). Our relationship to others really does matter when it comes to the business of prayer. How is your relationship with those closest to you right now? Have you been a good husband, father, mother, wife, son, daughter, etc. Are you honoring God in your relationships or do you sin quite often and still expect to go to God with grace and ease in your prayer life.

Sometimes the most effective thing we can do to increase our prayer life is to repent of our sin to those we have offended and seek healthy relationships (kind of like James 5)… Then our burdens flow freely to the Lord.

FATHER, Thank you for the cross and the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. I pray that we are conforming to your image and that we see holiness develop in our lives. I pray that we would keep short accounts with one another and be quick to confess our sins that our prayers may not be hindered. Thank you for the strength to lead your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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