“In those days I will give shepherds after My own Heart.” Jeremiah 3:15

Every generation alive in the USA has experienced their personal identity becoming increasingly disengaged from honoring old virtues to being concerned with something much more shifting and elusive. This process heightened when Boomers personal identity became increasingly associated not with the narrative of one’s private life but with the projection of one’s public image. Indeed, in the popular perception, image and authentic life were separated from each other. Great emphasis was placed on the skillful presentation of one’s “image.”

We’ve seen, by way of the sexual harassment exposure of late, how people become performers who stage their own characters and accomplishments. This is an art that often requires one to transcend the need to tell the truth in order to practice techniques of management impression, even at the cost of losing a self in order to please an image-maker or breaker.

A whole industry has now grown up to teach people how to market themselves by creating appealing and desirable images of one’s favorable identity.

In this new world, you are not someone that is; you can be someone that is constructed.

Jeremiah 3:15 is a promise to trust God for in prayers of faith; namely, that in these new covenant days we may expect God to raise up new leaders among His people.

The reason for hope is that God, truth, or reality is part of the warp and woof of who we are in His world – made in His image – however strong we may be at suppressing Him, truth, and the reality of who we truly are. I have great hope in the new prophetic leaders among the millennial age, who will disrupt spin and spinners. These new prophets in contemporary culture but not of it are also priests, who are priestly with their invitations to grace in Christ. This proclamation group of God’s excellencies will equip and lead like kings and queens a mighty kingdom of Gospel-lovers against the forces of worldliness, the war-raging attacks of our sinful natures, and the demonic powers aimed to shame people into fear and hiding. This, however, will only take place by God’s Spirit poured out in greater measures in our time.

#Ecclesiastes for our Time

My dear friend, Dr. Zachary Eswine, has written an excellent book in a fine series on the Old Testament. I fear both Ecclesiastes and Zack’s book may be overlooked, even though they are very suitable for readers today.

Here is wisdom on our relationship to money, health, church, life in a fallen and ordinary world, leadership, and purpose. Zack is wise, and his writing style is captivating. It was such a pleasure to read, and I am sure you will be glad you spent your money on this more than a sandwich or movie rental.

You’ll be surprised, and capture what the writer of Ecclesiastes is saying to our culture.

#GodintheWasteland: David Wells

The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, his grace is too ordinary, his judgment is too benign, his gospel is too easy, and his Christ is too common.

The fragile self adrift in the relentless tumult of modernity inevitably begins to experience the weariness and emptiness to which post-modern writers, composers, and artists have so uniformly pointed. This agonizing sense of weightlessness that we once thought only God would suffer in modern culture now turns out to be ours as well.

David F. Wells. God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams (Kindle Locations 402-402;1157-1158). Kindle Edition.

#Intentionality for Christ at Midlife

Midlife, for most of us, is a season of routine and endurance when retirement and ease seem more and more attractive. We will experience a noticeable decline in health and at least a slight increase in weight. By forty-five, the body’s metabolism slows down, causing weight gain. It is a great time to take aim and to get serious about diet and exercise. Our middle years are our best decades to make our greatest contributions in our callings, but it is a season marked by loss. There is a common loss of health, hope, parents on earth, children at home, friendships nearby, and more. Although this will vary according to the individual, these losses are a common part of life. Only an intentional approach to overcome these challenges will make this season transformational for the subsequent spiritual formation season of legacy.

Robert Davis Smart. Intentionality for Christ: What’s My Aim? (Kindle Locations 223-228). WestBow Press. Kindle Edition.

Who Shall be Remembered by Most in 2017?

There are some things we ought not to forget, and very few of us that the rest of humanity will remember. The scriptures encourage us to remember the following:

Remember the Sabbath Day (the third commandment);

Remember the poor (Ga 2:10);

Remember the persecuted & prisoners (Heb 13:3);

Remember your creator (Ecc. 11:7-12:8);

Remember the sayings of Jesus (Acts 20:35);

Remember your children’s tears (2 Tim 1:4); and

Remember from where you have fallen (Rev 3).

Some people will be remembered from the bible. For example, Peter exhorts us to: “Remember Lot’s wife!” Lot’s wife was a professed believer; her husband was a “righteous man” (2 Peter 2:8). She left Sodom with him on the day when Sodom was destroyed; she looked back toward the city from behind her husband, against God’s express command; she was struck dead at once and turned into a pillar of salt! And the Lord Jesus Christ holds her up as a warning sign for His church; He says, “Remember Lot’s wife!” Remember: the Gospel privileges Lot’s wife enjoyed, the particular sin she committed, and the judgment, which God inflicted upon her.

In post-biblical history, however, we may not remember the most watched and adored of our time. In a BBC article entitled: “Who will be remembered in a 1,000 years?” (21 December 2017), Zaria Gorvett considers the fame of a boxer.

In the secluded western corner of London’s Highgate Cemetery stands a large marble tomb. It’s long and box-like, with a life-sized sculpture of a dog slumped at its foot. The stone is mottled and tendrils of strangling ivy are creeping up its base. An inscription reads “Erected to the memory of Thomas Sayers”.

If a guide asked a group if anyone has heard of this man, then they would shake their heads blankly. At the time of his death the situation was very different. It was the winter of 1865 and Sayers, who began his career as an illiterate bricklayer, had risen to become the most celebrated sportsman of the Victorian age.

This was England’s first bare-knuckle fighting champion. In his final match, which he fought largely one-handed in a Hampshire field, he was watched by thousands. Special trains were chartered to transport the spectators, who included fellow Victorian superstars like the novelists Charles Dickens and William Thackeray. Even the Prime Minister of the day, Lord Palmerston attended; Parliament shortened its hours especially and Queen Victoria asked to be informed of the result.

When he died a few years later, the funeral procession stretched for two miles and included some 100,000 people. The cemetery descended into chaos as people climbed trees and trampled tombstones, hoping for a better view.

One hundred and fifty two years on, his reputation has turned to dust. He’s still well known to history’s records and boxing triviality – but to the rest of us, he needs an long introduction.

Should it be our goal to be remembered? Surely not, among men, but our prayer like many in the psalms and beyond remain the same; namely, “Remember me, O Lord!”

Only once in David’s Royal City did God become Human

Do you know this sacred music?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdDeFgXXG-s

Once in royal David’s city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby,
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ, her little Child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall:
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.

For He is our childhood’s pattern;
Day by day, like us, He grew;
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles, like us He knew;
And He cares when we are sad,
And he shares when we are glad.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above:
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He is gone.

Christmas is in the Prepositions

How much theology is in a preposition!¹ Come to the cradle of scripture, as Martin Luther would say: the cradle of scripture is Christ.

First, the preposition with

Christ is with us. In Isaiah 7 “the heart of the people shook like the trees in the wind” because they were on the verge of disintegration. Isaiah came to King Ahaz to comfort him, but Ahaz refused comfort. Nevertheless, Isaiah gave them a word and a sign. The word: calm down and do not fear. The sign: A virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son, the Christ. Just when the people of God were threatened with abandonment, the people were asking: where is God? Isaiah said: “God is with us.” Not a brief visit, but God incarnated into humanity forever.

Secondly, the preposition for

Christ is for us. Interestingly, when people suffer (Satan wreaking havoc)  they imagine that God is not for them. Worst than saying everything is against us, we say “God is against us.” Christmas says that God is for us. He is on our side, and He will cause everything to work for us (Romans 8:28, 32-33).

Thirdly, the preposition in

Christ is not only with us and for us, He is in us. Christ enters into our center of being, our heart, and into our very identity.

Christmas is about three prepositions. Christ be with me; Christ be for me; Christ be in me.

There are three doctrines: the incarnation, the atonement, and the ascension.

There are three Persons of the Trinity: The Father affirms creation, the Son atones for us; and the Spirit indwells us.

Are you lonely? Christ is with us.

Are you guilty? Christ died for us.

Are you empty? Christ reigns in our hearts.

Christmas is about three prepositions.

¹John Stott preached a similar outline to this, and i found it helpful as a Christmas meditation.

Continually Beat the Gospel into your Head! #Counseling

“Justification: Here I must take counsel of the gospel. I must listen to the gospel, which teaches me, not what I ought to do, (for that is the proper office of the law,) but what Jesus Christ the Son of God has done for me : that is, that He suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The gospel wills me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consists.

Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.”

–Martin Luther, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (Philadelphia: Smith, English & Co., 1860), 206.

#SpiritualWeapons for Gospel Identity

Christians are waging war, but not according to the flesh. We wage spiritual war, not like the crusades in the Middle Ages. Satan wounds our minds and souls with lies, not cuts. Although evil takes human forms, we are waging war against the demonic realms of Satan and his angels beyond the human and unseen to the human eye (though present and real).

Satan is a the father of lies and he deceives, tempts, and slanders us frequently. What we fight against are his strategies or devices (2 Corinthians 2:11), which are twofold; temptation and accusation.

Satan’s Two Main Devices: Temptation and Accusation

1. When we overestimate our identity and believe God is all grace and less holy, we are vulnerable to Satan’s temptations.

2. When we underestimate our identity and believe God is all holy and less loving, we are prime candidates for Satan’s accusations.

People’s Two Main Errors: Overestimate and Underestimate

1. When we overestimate Satan we ascribe too much power to him, and we become fearfully superstitious.

2. When we underestimate Satan we ascribe too little power to him, and we become secular.

In C. S. Lewis’ introduction to Screwtape Letters he wrote how the demons “themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist and a magician with the same delight.” (Lewis, C. S.. The Screwtape Letters . HarperCollins. Kindle Edition).

We are not dependent on specialized “super” ministers to work their magic for us, nor do we believe the secularist spin that every explanation is due to natural and scientific causes.

In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 we are taught how to fight with truth/Gospel and prayer/faith to wrestle down Satan’s lies in our minds, taking them captive. We renounce the “thoughts, arguments, and lofty opinions” raised up against what we know of God and our true identity with authority and confidence in Christ.

  “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of  God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (Emphasis mine).