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The Parable of the Long-Suffering Heir

Long time ago there was a small boy who was brought in from one of the villages in the dark forest that surrounded the castle to live in the kingdom covered in sunlight.

Upon arriving he discovered that he was loved by the king, but the boy never met the king, and never learned why he was loved by the king. But he did meet many of the king’s servants.

He was educated by the scholar, fed by the scullery maid. On occasion a lawyer who represented the king would come along to promise him that one day he would meet the king.

The boy enjoyed the pleasures of the castle: the library, the jousting, the feasts. But there were also pains.

The king’s children abused the boy. They took his blankets while he slept, lynched him in the dark and spread rumors about the boy. In these dark moments, looking out his castle window, the boy would wonder the difference between his new life in the castle and his old life in the dark village. Was there a difference? And where was this king?

One day a lawyer appeared and reminded him that, yes, one day he would meet the king. On top of that the lanky, old lawyer said that the boy would inherit riches — land, ships, libraries and gold. The boy’s spirits would brighten, but then he would wonder how could he be promised so much when there were so many other heirs.

“The king is a wealthy man.”

When the boy became a young man the assaults from the other children ceased, but new pains arrived — sickness, disease and poverty as the fortunes of the kingdom waxed and waned. And looking out his window the boy wondered if there was a difference between living in this kingdom and his old village.

The pleasures also began to pale. The joy was gone it seemed. The boy asked to visit his old village for a day. The lawyer did not like the request, but he did not restrain the young man. So the young man left.

The young man found joy in seeing his old family, in the feasts, the revelry, but quickly that joy turned to pain as he discovered the darkness and sickness behind the shadows of what was going on. His father was a drunk, his brothers and sisters slanderers and sexually impure. A week later, early in the morning before anyone arose, he returned to the castle, sneaking in. The lawyer was waiting for him.

“Tell me about the riches I’ll inherit again,” the young man said.

And the lawyer said, “land, ships, libraries and gold. And the light you have now,” he said, pointing to the rising son. “Except brighter.”

Soon the man married and had children and a sense of joy erupted the following years as he worked at his trade and raised his family. But darkness returned again when his wife fled to the village, never to be seen again. Then as his three children grew up, the oldest disappeared, too, looking for his mother. The man received a letter that the boy had drowned when a ship he was working on sunk.

“Remind me again of my inheritance?” he asked the lawyer.

The lawyer repeated the catalog of riches the man would inherit.

“Will this inheritance replace what I’ve lost here?” the man said.

The lawyer nodded. “Hundredfold.”

As his two remaining children grew up, many more children were born to him as they married, and furnished houses and gardens and feasts and adventures abounded as he took his grandchildren through the castle and the kingdom.

“Grandfather, can we visit your village today?”

The man pondered this request. “Yes,” he said, “it would be a good lesson.” But her father would not allow it, and this caused a fight that ruptured the family relationship. He never saw those grandchildren again.

Another child was trampled by a horse, and the man suffered a stroke, and lost the use of his left arm. He walked with a limp after he shattered his hip falling down a short flight of steps leading down from the podium in his classroom. His best friend died, then the lawyer died. And he still never met the king.

“Remind me again of my inheritance?” he asked the new lawyer.

The lawyer repeated the catalog of riches the man would inherit.

“Will this inheritance replace what I’ve lost here?” the man said.

The lawyer nodded. “Hundredfold. And the sun is brighter.”

“Will I still meet the king?”

The lawyer nodded.

The old man retired his post at the college as he lost his hearing and the pain in his hip became too much. He took to walking through the streets early in the morning, blessing those he met on the way, the florist, the baker, bringing joy wherever he went assured that he would one day meet his king and inherit riches. Until he was struck by a car.

The old man lay in his death bed. He looked at the lawyer.

“Remind me again of my inheritance?” he asked the new lawyer.

The lawyer repeated the catalog of riches the man would inherit.

“Will this inheritance replace what I’ve lost here?” the man said.

The lawyer nodded. “Hundredfold. And the sun is brighter.”

“Will I still meet the king?”

The lawyer looked down at the dying man, laid his hand on his shoulder, and nodded.

“You will finally meet the king.”

Wealth Can’t Protect You From These 10 Things

For the longest time I presumed all of the biblical warnings aimed at wealth were not aimed at me. I’m not a man who chases the money. Meaning, not money, motivates me.

Until the day God opened my eyes to the truth.

It came down to true motivation. I didn’t want to chase and accumulate wealth to look wealthy or flashy. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself by way of clothes, car or house. Forget about the Marc Jacobs wardrobe, yellow Maserati or the zip code everyone envied. I just wanted to hoard so I could feel secure.

This also meant I would not spend money. I would live in the one–bedroom on the outskirts of town. Wear the same pair of sneakers for ten years. Drive the sports sedan into the ground. Fix the clunky dishwasher myself. Take hand outs–whether cash, t-shirts or food–when offered. And yes, it would be great if the rest of the family fell in line.

What was the motivation behind this behavior? I imagined that if I had a mountain of money, safely stashed away in several vaults across the continental U.S.A., then I would not worry about mortgage payments, unexpected medical expenses, surprise tax bills, rising food costs, college tuition, market volatility, job loss or retirement. Because of my stash I would know that my family and I were well taken care of. No matter the financial predicament we were secure. We were safe.

This was the verse that stung me:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” 1 Timothy 6:17

And let’s face it, unless you make less than $2 a day, we are all rich compared to the rest of the world. So Paul is speaking to us–to me–when he says, “nor to put your hope in wealth, which is so uncertain.”

The truth is, I am greedy.

Early this year Anthony Robbins published a new book called Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook. He interviewed 50 of the smartest financial minds in the world to discover how someone could be unshakeable–that is “someone who can not only maintain true peace of mind in a world of immense uncertainty, economic volatility and unprecedented change, but who can profit from the fear that immobilizes so many.”

It’s an alluring promise. And I’m his target audience. But really, who doesn’t want true peace in a world of uncertainty? Yet financial freedom is an allusive goal. When will you know you have enough to be free? And what actually is true freedom?

Benjamin Franklin said that “Money has never made man happy, nor will it.” And we know from history that vast fortunes can collapse over night. But while you may achieve a piece of mind about your financial state, there is still much to fear.

For instance, fortify your finances so you are the richest man in the world, but it still won’t protect you from these things:

  • Death
  • Disease
  • Natural disaster
  • Insanity
  • Violence
  • Fire
  • War
  • Riots
  • Car accidents
  • God (see below)

That’s a short list. I could go on. But all is summed up in Peter’s letter: “for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls’.” We shall all wither, and we shall all fall.

All involving the entire chain of creation–from the first molecule to the darkest end of the known universe. The universe, that vast, cold, but beautiful collection of stars and rocks and empty space, without God’s breath, shall wither and fall. That is the condition in which we live.

Wealth, mind you, won’t protect you from God. Shovel it into barns and banks and vaults and caravans so that you can relax, eat, drink and be merry. But be warned, one day God will require your soul. One afternoon you will lie down on your divan, convulse and never wake again. “This is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Or, like one of the most powerful kings to have ever lived, God will transform your mind to a beast’s so you are eating grass and sleeping beneath trees far from mankind. “God is able to humble those who walk in pride.”

It is not bad to possess wealth. To prosper. Nebuchadnezzar’s reason, majesty, sovereignty and splendor were restored once he honored God as the one true king over all. What’s important is what we do with wealth. To whom or what do we devote it? To ourselves? Or to God?

Paul says to put it in God, who does not whither, who does not fall, who does not deceive us. He is the immutable. The imperishable. The everlasting. Eternal life, Jesus said, consists in . And him alone.

See, we don’t need protection from danger or death. We need protection from wealth because it will lie to us. It will tell us we are invincible, superior to all. It will corrupt our hearts and rob us of compassion.

So how do you protect yourself from the corrupting influence of wealth? The best way to protect yourself is to get into the practice of saying with Paul, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

Let that be our prayer.

The Only Way to Perfectly Submit Your Ways to God

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to God, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5,6

The first sentence is straightforward: when we lean on our understanding we play God. We assert we know better than God. Finite beings are doomed to fail at playing the infinite.

The second part needs some teasing out.

What does it mean to submit all your ways to God? Submit can be translated to acknowledge, which means to know. What should we know? God and his ways, precepts and laws. But submit goes further. Not only are we to know his ways, but we are to consider whether our ways align with his. And if they don’t, we yield to his ways.

We submit.

In the way you work, talk, drive, hangout with friends, write, run, spend time with the family, prepare a meal, contemplate a new house. It’s not just what you do or say, but also what you think. All your ways are to be under the supervision and influence of God.

Why the instruction? An action that is not under the submission and influence of God can lead to painful or difficult circumstances. It is not the way God intended. It is not God’s best.

Lying, for example, on a test. If caught, the consequences could derail any future goal. That would be a crooked path. Even if not caught, the conscience, irritated by the Holy Spirit, would get inflamed, not able to rest until confession is made. You tell the teacher you cheated, and if allowed, subject to try again, but you take whatever punishment is meted out. That is a crooked path, though painful, straightened.

Perhaps lying does not bother your conscience. It then grows into two lies. And these sprout other offenses against God and man, encouraged by your belief that you are getting one over on the man. That somehow you are superior to all men. Even God, if you dare.

This leads to further abuses that continue to complicate your path as you increase in boldness in your deviant ways. A life that is not submitted to God is one of ruin, full of betrayal. Crooked.

He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground, a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the evil of its inhabitants. Psalm 107:33,34

But when all ways are submitted to God, as intended, the consequence is one of calm conscience. Say you resisted the urge to rage at a driver who cut you off. This will keep you from entering into some kind of altercation with the driver, which, depending upon the outcome, could complicate your day. More importantly, you would remain at peace with God.

However, a straight path does not mean you will not encounter trials. Jesus is our example here. He submitted all his ways to God. Yet he endured abuse and ridicule. His closest companion betrayed him, the others abandoned him in his hour of need. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified. How could his path appear the least bit straight?

The truth of the matter is that God removed all the obstacles to Jesus’ appointed goal: the cross. That truth remains the same for us as well. Our appointed goal is to worship God and love him forever. Our appointed goal is to know Christ crucified. God will make that path straight. Trials be damned.

We see this in Psalm 23: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” We have abundance in the face of adversity when we submit all our ways to God.

But now we run into a problem here. Do you see it?

Christ, the God man, was sinless. In all his ways. He was sinless under the enormous strain of the desert temptations after 40 days fasting. He was sinless in the face of the anticipation of enduring the entire weight of the wrath of an infinite God for all mankind’s sins–past, present and future. He submitted all his ways in perfect obedience to God to the point of death, even death on a cross.

We, on the other hand, crack at the slightest discomfort. Or we are fooled by one of Satan’s lies. Or we simply love a sin, a secret sin. The truth of the matter is we will never be able to submit all our ways to God–at least not in the flesh.

What are we to do? We are in good company, mind you.

Before the great and holy God, Isaiah said, ““Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips.” Paul said, “O wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death?”

It is Christ’s perfectly obedient life and work on the cross that saves us. His death pays the penalty for all our sins. In exchange, his life becomes our life. His righteousness our righteousness so that before God we are sinless. God sees Christ in us, and in Christ all our our ways are submitted to God.

Thus, God makes our paths straight and leads us to our appointed goal: life everlasting. This does not mean we can abuse this condition to sin freely. In response to the rhetorical question, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” Paul says, “We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”

In other words, we continue to submit our ways to God, but knowing that when we fail God does not raise an eyebrow nor does he flinch. Why? Instead of our sin he sees Christ. And the only response to that sort of forgiveness is submission.

The Fascinating Truth about a Doctrine We Like to Ridicule

Predestination as gift

Paul opens the letter to the Ephesians with the doctrine of predestination. A doctrine that a lot of people like to trash. That’s unfortunate because God intended it as a gift.

A gift from his heart.

Paul writes that “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world,” establishing the timeline. This was before we were born. Before we even had the potential to earn righteousness. And to make clear this point he chose us before the world was even created. And he did it so “we would be holy and blameless before Him.” In other words, righteous.

Next Paul states that predestination, the act of choosing someone’s date of salvation before time began, was an act born out of his love for us: “In love He predestined.”

The most famous scripture in all time (John 3:16) gets a lot of play. But it is grounded in this fact: we would not believe if we had not been predestined. God’s love is on full display in both acts. So why do we disparage one doctrine (predestination) and not another (human responsibility)?

The full verse reads as follows: “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of his will.”

God’s love and kindness is on full display in predestination. And it only gets better.

We are predestined for a lavish inheritance

This act of predestination is achieved through the work of Christ: “In Him we have redemption through his blood, forgiveness of our sins.”

And again the full display of God’s love: “according to the riches of his grace which he lavished on us.” To lavish involves indulgence and excess. And we see exactly what that is in the next phase of this letter.

“In Him also we have obtained an inheritance.”

Not only do we become part of the family, but we also get part of the inheritance. And we are promised this through the Holy Spirit, whom we receive: “you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise who is given as a pledge of our inheritance.”

Before salvation we were excluded from the commonwealth of God. We were aliens and strangers. But now we are family. Sons and daughters.

We are predestined because of his great love

And in chapter two of the letter we see the full purpose of Paul’s focus on predestination: foreordaining one to salvation is the only solution to dead people (who can do nothing). This is the condition we are found in: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” In other words, impotent. Destitute. And at odds with the creator of the universe: “children of wrath.” Our case was hopeless.

Then verse four: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us.” We cannot fathom this great love. The immeasurable depth and width and height and length. But we get a sense of it when we realize our true condition: “even when we were dead in our sins.”

Why? Because of his great love.

He took our corpses and “made us alive together with Christ.” Why? Because he loved us.

We are predestined by God’s choice

And Paul makes it clear who’s behind this work: “by grace you have been saved.” There is no boasting. We are at God’s mercy. And it is a glorious thing.

It is glorious for those who he “raised up with him, and saved us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Our salvation rests in predestination and Jesus Christ. Not once are we given credit for anything. Because corpses can’t do anything.

And we see the historical progression of salvation through Paul’s argument:

  • we are saved from the penalty of our sin (past – predestination)
  • we are saved from the power of sin (present – Jesus Christ, redemption, his blood).
  • we are saved from the presence of sin (future – glorification, the Holy Spirit, our inheritance)

Predestination is as beautiful as glorification, our future hope.

Reasons why resist predestination

Yet we resist it because it doesn’t sit well with our human nature. Our distorted belief in fairness. Our fierce wish for self-sufficiency and independence and reward for our good behavior. Our sense that we deserve glorification. And this is Paul’s point.

This doctrine should humble us. It should force us to see that no one is superior or sits on higher ground: “among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind and were by nature children of wrath.”

Even Paul. He has earned nothing.

And when we recognize our helplessness and the hopelessness of our case and understand that in love he chose us, we collapse under the relief that we have been saved from destruction and marvel at such an act of grace.

Predestination is a beautiful thing because it ultimately ends with us worshipping him, as God intended. Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:6: “to the praise of the glory of his grace.” But this point is fully driven home in 1:12: “to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of his glory.”

The purpose of predestination is that we might recklessly worship God. So the question is: how can we trash that?

The Dangers of a Literal Reading of Psalm 139

Baby Psalm 139

In Psalm 139, the favorite text of self love, “For you formed my inward parts, You wove me in my mother’s womb; I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” …

You’ll see how interpreting it literally will create problems.

For example, this is a text often quoted to condemn abortion. Unfortunately, this introduces religion into a topic embraced by the non-religious, which makes it a non-starter. But you don’t need Psalm 139 to condemn abortion. Its barbarity is plain enough—depending on how you define a human being, of course. So you must do your homework. However, .

Furthermore, to suggest that God had direct involvement in each and every birth causes problems, too, when we consider birth defects, miscarriages, and delivery complications.

Psalm 139 and the miracle of birth

Consider the “miracle” of birth. With over seven billion people on the earth, from the young to the old, then add the births throughout history, this makes giving birth hardly rare or exceptional. More like an assembly line in a factory.

The case of defects or miscarriages makes sense in this context. We expect mistakes in a factory. Randomness will account for mistakes. However, allow God direct involvement behind each birth — “you wove me in my mother’s womb” — and on occasion he screws up. Misplaces a chromosome, wraps a feeding tube around a neck, gives the nod for an early exit. But no worries, despite these mistakes, he had a pretty good record, ye ole literalist.

In addition,  (not to mention maternal mortality rates). Who’s fault was that? There was a reason large families were more popular back then.

Not so much today because of the improvement in medical knowledge and technology, raising our expectations so each and every birth we expect to be “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Out of duty, we thank God.

What a poetic reading of Psalm 139 looks like

Allow a non-literal reading, a poetic reading, and we begin here: God commanded Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply.” In other words, reproduce. Have babies. Subdue the earth.

Adam and Eve inaugurated the use of the reproductive system (designed by God). However, before they could get the venture off the ground, the system was warped by sin. Birth is now cursed. And this admits a better explanation of defects, miscarriages, and complications.

Finally, we must not read this literally for this reason: it pins the responsibility of the birth of both good and evil people onto God.

Ivan the Terrible reads Psalm 139?

Lying on his bed as a small boy, Ivan the Terrible may have recited Psalm 139: 13 – 14 to himself in the dark. Unfortunately, Ivan went on to become a ruthless, paranoid czar of Russia.

Argue it was his freedom of the will that is to blame for his wickedness, but God was not blind to who he was forming in the inward parts of Elena Glinskaya, his mother. Why not allow the uterine lining to slough off in week 16? Or not craft the baby at all?

God cannot be the literal hand behind each birth. Too much riding on that.


The Messiah: Eleven Meditations from the Book of Mark (Free)

Messiah Cross

You can start reading a PDF version of  right now.

In a two month period back in August and September of 2009 I published several articles on specific events in Jesus’ life found in the book of Mark.

Events that demonstrate his unlimited power over nature, sickness, and demons. Events that strike terror. That create awe. That even hardens hearts.

But hardened hearts indicate one thing: They knew Jesus to be dangerous.

Jesus is dangerous. And glorious. And worthy to be worshipped. He’s not tame nor tranquil, but terrifying to the wicked and triumphant to the humble.

It’s these events that provoked Peter to declare, “You are the Christ.” And it’s these events that provoke the righteous to fall to the ground and declare, “You are our Savior.”

And that is the appropriate response to the one who came to earth to bear the punishment for our sinsMessiah_Meditations so that we might live. Jesus is God as man. In the end, that is who these events declare Jesus truly is.

And so I’ve pulled these articles together in one post. And I even had them transformed into a PDF version: .

Read the individual articles here.

Son of Man: Something You Will and Won’t See
Several things happened the day Jesus healed a crippled man. Several things nobody saw but believe in fact did happen. [Mark 2:1-12]

How the Conquered Storm Points to Christ
The story of Jesus stilling the tempest demonstrates Jesus’ unlimited power and the two ways we can respond to this power. [Mark 4:35-41]

The Demoniac Proclamation of Christ
There’s something quite potent to the story of the demon-possessed man that drives the heart of a Christian to it. [Mark 5:1-20]

The Scandal of Jesus in Nazareth
In the small, isolated village of Nazareth Jesus taught one Sabbath day. Everything as it should be. Except for one thing. [Mark 6:1-6]

The Messiah: Peter’s Confession of Christ
Peter confessed Jesus was Christ. Who do you say Jesus is? The answer will determine your eternal destiny. [Mark 8:27-30]

Discipleship: The Law of the Cross Prevails
What does it mean to follow Christ? In just 100 words Jesus taught his disciples the price they must pay to follow him. [Mark 8:34-38]

Transfiguration: An Otherworldly Peek at the Messiah
Jesus’ transfiguration had two very specific purposes. Here’s what you need to know. [Mark 9:2-13]

Anointed: A Reckless but Beautiful Act of Worship
Jesus said Mary’s one act of reckless worship was beautiful. What are you willing to risk for Jesus that he might describe as beautiful? [Mark 14:3-9]

Failure: Peter’s Denial of Jesus Christ
All four gospels record Peter’s betrayal. The purpose? To draw a vivid distinction between man and God. [Mark 14:66-77]

Crucifixion: The Messiah Mocked on the Cross
Obedient to the end, Jesus dies on the cross, rejected and mocked. But his death ushers in another world. [Mark 15:31-32]

Death: The Messiah Commits His Soul to God
Even in the depths of humiliation, Jesus was declared the Messiah. Declared by a person you’d never expect. [Mark 15:33-39]

Four Ways to Use The Messiah Book

Want some ideas on how to use The Messiah? Here are four.

1. Book.

Read it and move on. Pretty straightforward. You could take it a bit further and brag [or rag] on it–whether here, Scribd or your social media site of choice.

2. Devotional.

Print the book out and hunker down each morning with a chapter. Meditate on the messages like you might a page from Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest.

3. Tract. 

The book is 30 pages of very short chapters, so it’s easy to read. And the content [the identity of Jesus] is perfect for introducing non-believers to the gospel.

4. Study Guide.

Print this book out and walk your study group or Sunday school class through it. Could stretch into an eleven week course.

Did I miss one? Let me know.

One More Thing

Some of you might want to know why I’m giving this book away for free. It basically comes down to this: Your attention is precious to me. I should be paying you.

In a way, with The Messiah, I am. So go .

I hope you enjoy it. And please, let me know what you think. I love hearing from you.

Is the World a Better Place Since Christ?


The short answer, though hard to answer concretely, is no. Yes, we are living longer than 100 years ago.  Birth mortality in developed countries is near zero. Living standards have increased.

But are we really any better off? And if so, has Christianity contributed?

The Enlightenment is a curious moment in history. A moment that said human society could be improved. A moment that believed in progress, human potential, and reason. In contrast, as a rebuff, as if to say in the centuries leading up to the 18th century, it also said society was not improved by Christianity.

This, too, is not true.

But perhaps instead of asking “Has Christianity improved society?” we should say, “Can Christianity improve society?” The answer is yes.

But here’s the thing: Christ made no promise he would improve human society (“the poor will always be among us”). His was not a physical, political, or even social campaign. His was a spiritual, moral, religious campaign.

One of the heart, the spirit.

He came to reconcile man to God by redeeming him from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for mankind, conquering sin, evil, death, and establishing his kingdom — one that is on earth, the one that is now (“the kingdom of God is near,” that is, salvation) — but more importantly the kingdom in heaven, in the future, the not yet of the promise.

A by-product of this campaign, however, is the transformed lives of men, women, and children on earth, who often challenge and change society for the better. What John Hick called “a hazardous adventure in individual freedom.”

It could be as simple as a father surrendering his life and putting his faith in Christ, who ends up ending generations of alcoholism and abuse, so that a family embraces the light of Jesus and seeks to serve him rather than hide and destroy in the dark.

Or it could be monumental like fighting to end slavery or abortion or establishing a hospice or a school or taking the gospel to the unconverted, the unreached, the hard to reach. The Red Cross, one of the largest, oldest, and most visible organizations that exists to relieve the suffering caused by war, bears its Christian origins in its name.

Furthermore, every generation of Christians has an outstanding mandate from God to multiply, be fruitful, and to subdue the earth. This mandate, given to Adam and Eve, extends to us, so that we must have dominion over the earth: build schools, hospitals, businesses, support the arts, the government.

And so on.

What is clear is that while we are on the earth man’s heart is always dark, always wicked — their throats an open grave, mouths full of curses, minds bent on destruction — and none fear, let alone, seek God. Man is eager to do what it is right in his own eyes — and eager to approve of those who do such things that deserve death — so that the regenerative work of Christ is necessary at all times.

This explains why, no matter how hard we work to “subdue the earth,” no matter how hard we fight evil, and even achieve an era of peace, evil will always regroup and surge once again so that in an era when slavery is universally condemned human trafficking persists, exploitation of the weak goes unchecked, and fornication blossoms among the unwed.

Hick once again:

Because this is a pilgrimage within the life of each individual, rather than a racial evolution, the progressive fulfillment of God’s purpose does not entail any corresponding progressive improvement in the moral state of the world. Evil and the Love of God

That which was evil becomes good. And wickedness ever grows. As does gossip, slander, disobedience, murder, selfishness, envy, strife, malice, arrogance.

Man is an exquisite and fertile inventor of evil.

Thus, as Jesus said, “The poor will always be with you.” His point: do not neglect the poor, the broken, the sick, and forgotten (remember his prior mention of the judgment of goals and sheep in the same sermon). Remember, seeing a large crowd of hungry people Jesus “he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

But, more importantly, do not neglect the higher priority: worship of him.

There is a time for meeting the needs of orphans and widows. But don’t get distracted, overwhelmed, frustrated, or desperate by the abundance of needs or the lack of improvement in our society.

We must also take the time to adore our crucified Lord, and remember, the Lord who will ultimately, in the future, eliminate every disease, right every injustice, resurrect the dead, and restore the groaning earth to it’s healthy, abundant origins.

In other words, Jesus will conquer evil once and for all. Not in our lifetime. But with his return. In the meantime, we must be light in a dark place. Even if this place grows darker, even if evil increases for a spell or wickedness endures for centuries.

Do not lose hope, because Christ has conquered all, and Christ will conquer all.

The Criminal as Metaphor for Religious Hypocrite


Megalomaniacs. Control freaks. Irresponsible citizens. Uncompromising. Tyrannical. Destructive. Chase down kicks at any cost. Play the world and people like a chess game. Exploit kindness and insecurity.

These are words that describe criminals. And according to some psychologists its behavior that is unique to an individual as early as four, five or six years old. It’s what informs the idea that you don’t rehabilitate criminals–you habilitate them.

Rehabilitation suggests a criminal was once pro-social. The truth is they never were in the first place. They never learned of ways of getting along in this world most of us learned as children. They’ve only known anti-social behavior.

I needed to share that to put what I’m about to say in context.

The Criminal as Hypocrite

Reading the back half of Samenow’s book on rehabilitating criminals suggested this: many therapists, psychologists, counselors and sociologists are duped by criminals in rehab.

In treatment the criminal is well-groomed, polite, neatly dressed and productive most of the day. He contributes during group therapy. Excels in his work programs. Taps into creative talents.

What he doesn’t tell you is that there isn’t a day that goes by that he doesn’t think, “I’m here picking up things to tighten my game up.” By this he means he is learning to be more cautious so he can avoid getting caught in the future.

And he’ll only confess to one failure: getting caught.

The Criminal Adapts to Get His Way

The lesson is this: compliance doesn’t equal internal change. A criminal simply adapts to his confinement.

Upon release, however, his reformed attitude will be corroded. Having a taste of prison, he may become shrewder and more cautious, but he continues his exploitative way of life, abandoning the entire effort to be responsible and commits more crimes.

It comes down to a question of his choice and his will. He prefers it his way (prefers being his own god)–not their way. But if he is in prison or treatment he is willing to do it their way so he can get back to doing it his way sooner.

So he plays the game.

The Religious Hypocrite Adapts to Get His Way

This is no different from religious hypocrisy. A man is crushed by some event in his life–he is caught in a string of adulteries and his wife threatens to leave with the kids.

The man promises reform. He promises to break old habits. Attend church. Read his Bible. Join a men’s accountability group. Pray. Volunteer on a short-term missions trip.

He plays the game.

Over time his wife begins to soften. To relax her guard. To trust him. She and the kids move back in. And everything seems fine. Eventually the man sees that he’s got what he wants–his family back. So he begins to slide back into old sin.

I know this behavior personally. I played this game for ten years.

It started when I crashed hard after a life of hard living. I wanted things to change. So I attended church every Sunday and Wednesday. Taught in Sunday school. Tithed (actually, it was my wife who tithed). Volunteered in drama events. Prayed hard. Hung out with Christian people.

But I hated it. Every moment.

I wore the perfect mask: a man who appeared to be devoted to his God and family only to have his heart wicked and deceptive. I was a rebel in disguise. A hypocrite of the first order. Criminal playing the system so I could get out of trouble and get my own way.

Litany of Questions for the Religious Hypocrite

Are you playing the game so you can get your way? Are you adapting to your religious environment, but not changing on the inside?

Are you indulging in a secret sin? Excited that you are getting one over on your friends? Spouse? Children? Are you justifying your lies? Are you convinced that moral rules apply to everyone–but you?

Do you fling your self only at sins that become grossly apparent and disturb your peace or reputation? Is the only reason you flee from trouble and suffering is to get your peace with God back?

Are you doing good deeds so you can persist in sin? Are you abusing –examining your good deeds so you can justify your sins? Are you seeking other ways to repent of sin than running to the lordship of Christ?

Are you wrestling to get out from underneath the yoke of God’s discipline? Are you behaving like the rich young ruler who was willing to abandon it all–except for this one sin?

Are you indulging a sin on account of God’s mercy? Do you have a secret wish for a sin and would indulge it if guaranteed you wouldn’t get caught? Are you eager to finish a sin? When you lose a battle with a sin, do you delight in it? Are you constantly surprised by sin?

Do you hate the negative consequences of sin–but not the sin itself? Do you use the fear of hell and death to fight sin? Are you resisting God’s chastisement?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are in a dangerous sort of sin. You don’t love God. You love your peace. You love your self. And you love your sin.

You are a religious hypocrite. Repent. Confess your sins. Run to Christ.

As John Owen said, “The foundation of true mortification is based on a hatred of sin and a sense of the love of Christ. A hatred of sin is grieving over what grieves God. God will not relieve you of lust or sin or their consequences if your motive for killing sin is self love.”

Don’t play the game.

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Jesus Feared Falling into the Hands of the Living God

Raised Hands

It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:31

No one knew this better than Christ on Good Friday. He predicted the moment: the Son of man must suffer and die.

In the garden of Gethsemane he wept over the moment. He asked, if it was God’s will, to take this moment away. Not the betrayal. Not the abandonment. Not the arrest. Not the interrogations. Nor the mocking, spitting, or scourging.

He himself said “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Jesus feared the moment the cross was raised and the sky darkened and the creator of the universe — the other wholly being with the power to create the vast universe with billions of galaxies — unleashed his wrath.

Not on the world, but the singular and innocent person Jesus Christ. God in the flesh.

We can get a sense of the intensity of this wrath when we picture that power which created the universe is channeled into wrath. And then remember that Jesus was to suffer the wrath reserved for all sinners — past, present, and future.

No wonder his cage was rattled.

But because of Jesus Christ believers will never experience this wrath. And for that we should fall on our knees in praise.

Fairest Lord Jesus

Fairest Lord Jesus, ruler of all nature,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Thee will I cherish, thee will I honor,
Thou, my soul’s glory, joy, and crown.

Fair are the meadows, fair are the woodlands,
Robed in the blooming garb of spring:
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer,
Who makes the woeful heart to sing.

Fair is the sunshine, fair is the moonlight,
And all the twinkling, starry host:
Jesus is brighter, Jesus shines purer
Than all the angels heav’n can boast.

Beautiful Savior! Lord of the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, praise, adoration,
Now and forever more be thine.

From Münster Gesangbuch, 1677, translated 1850, 1873

Hid in Christ: A Hymn on Colossians 3:3

Hymn Hid

This is my attempt at writing a hymn. It’s a commentary on Colossians 3:3: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

I don’t know anything about writing music, but I figured it couldn’t be any harder than writing a poem. You be the judge.

Long ago we once stood under the wrath of God
Long ago we once lived for the filth of Ichabod

Out in the open, upon the war plain,
Famous for our sin, famous for our shame.

Yet in spite of our resistance, you, our Lord, came,
The conquering king who lived, died, and rose again.

You called out our name, and purchased our pardon,
Joined us to God and ushered in our peace with heaven.

Then rose to the sky, high above the clouds,
To sit on the throne as final judge of the end.

Now hid in Christ, dead to darkness, and lowly,
forgiven, cleansed, and with great joy, holy,

We roam as strangers in humble, dull flesh,
Longing for our Lord in this wilderness.

But one day You will return, one day to be revealed,
One day Your glory will shine, our highest ever, revered.

A blast of the trumpet will arrest every man’s eye
on the Lord himself descending from the sky.

And on that same day, drawn to our King,
Among the wild train of heavenly beings,

We, too, will appear in this great story
unashamed children of his matchless glory.

Ichabod means “.” I don’t really know what “living for the filth of Ichabod” means. Maybe it means living for the pleasures of the world.

Cut me some slack. It rhymed with God. And it has nothing to do with the Sleepy Hollow story.