For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:6-7 ESV)

“I am weak but He is strong.” Last night, I became very tangibly aware of just how much my life as a Christ-follower is on display every moment as a constant act of both denying self and glorifying God.

I spend a lot of time at Denny’s in Branson. It seems to be the hang-out place of choice for my friends and me, namely because we can sit in their smoking section for hours to read, chat, and drink our soda or coffee without hassle. The servers know us well (some even come sit and chat with us) and we even have our own designated booth.

Last night after my friends had cleared out to go home, I stayed behind to do some reading. Pretty soon, the manager, Rhonda, came over and started chatting with me. I am not sure how the conversation started, but we began discussing my involvement with Church Army (a Christian drug and alcohol rehab program) church services on Saturday nights. At this point, she made some statements that nearly put my jaw on the floor, comments to the effect of:

I knew there was something different about you guys. It is because you are a Christian…

I have teenagers and I can only hope that they are as kind and respectful as you and your friends are.

Now, in all the time I have spent at Denny’s, I have never had an open conversation with any of the staff about Christianity or the gospel (other than when, once, my server asked if I was a minister, to which I replied, “sort of…”). But when I am there, I usually read my Bible and/or a Christian book. What astounded (and convicted) me about Rhonda’s comments was that, even without my efforts to intentionally share the gospel, she could tell by my actions and the actions of my friends that we were Christ-followers.

Then Rhonda told me that one of her new employees had made some bad decisions which had led his life down a rough path and that “he could use someone like you to be a positive influence in his life”. I have made plenty of bad decisions in my past that have taken my life down sinful paths and I have had to deal with the consequences of those decisions. Sin in its various forms is still (and always will be) a daily battle for me. But God has been gracious to redeem me from my sinful nature and He is “transform[ing me] into [His] image from one degree of glory to another…[by] the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV).

So, I am far from perfect, and I do not even consciously live every moment of every day aware of how my words and actions are perceived by those with whom I come into contact. But the Lord is strong and faithful in these weaknesses and His power is still on display through me at all times.

When I left Denny’s, I gave Rhonda two copies of my phone number and email address, one for her and one for the server who needs a positive influence in his life. I do not know what will come of it, but I will be praying for them and checking up on them each time I am at Denny’s. And, Lord willing, I will be more intentional about making God’s glory known through my actions and my words.

Please be praying for Rhonda and her employee. Each of our hearts is sinful to the core, and even in recovery and rehab, sin still fights to be the lord of our hearts. Pray that they will come to know the all-glorious redeeming love of Christ and that sin’s power will be broken in their hearts.

Also pray for me. I go to Denny’s for leisure, but God has made it clear that there is a harvest there. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s work of conviction and regeneration in the hearts of my dear friends at Denny’s and pray that I may be an instrument in God’s hands to that end.

 

If I must boast, [let me] boast of the things that show my weakness. (2 Corinthians 11:30 ESV)

 

 

A Love Affair with Treasure Hunting

Posted: March 11, 2011 in My Life
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I have always loved the idea of treasure-hunting. Whether its finding old rusty metal parts in a creek bed or the possibility of happening across a trove of Civil War gold in one of the many caves around here (Southwest Missouri), it excites me. Now I have a new treasure-hunting hobby: geocaching!

If you are like most of my friends, your response to the word ‘geocaching’ is one of two: either you have no idea what it is, but you know it sounds complicated, or you know exactly what it is and groan because you have no interest in it, even though your friends cannot stop talking about it. Well, my friends…I’m talking about it!

Geocaching and I had a brief love affair last spring (2010) but it was a short fling and we quickly broke off (it was my fault). I just got too busy with other summer-esque things: going to Moonshine Beach, float trips, camping, etc. not to mention the day-in, day-out activities, like church and work. But I am pleased to announce that geocaching and I are back together at last!

I don’t want to leave anyone in the dark, so for those of you asking, “What the frick is geocaching?”, here is the official answer from the official website, Geocaching.com:

Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.

If this tickles your fancy at all and you are not already a geocaching nut, check out the video below, then check out the website for more fun and to get started.

All you need is an adventuresome spirit and a GPS device (who doesn’t have one of those nowadays with all those smartphone gizmos?). I am ready to put my treasure-hunting skills to use this spring (when I am not working and fishing), and I recently found out that my 70-ish year old Sunday School teacher is a geocacher also, so maybe we can buddy up. P.S. if you live in the Branson area and are interested in geocaching, go here and send me a message and maybe we can buddy up too!

What are your thoughts on geocaching?

Have you done it before? If not, have I inspired you to give it a try?

Digest 03/10/2011

Posted: March 10, 2011 in Digests
Lenten Lights — Yesterday (Ash Wednesday) marked the beginning of the Lenten season. However, it is not too late for you to take part in this reflective season leading up to the celebration of our Lord’s death and resurrection at Easter. Even if you are not Roman Catholic, Lent can be a good time for you to prepare your heart and life for a deep experience of the Easter season. John Piper has put together this small booklet to guide your study during this time. (You may purchase a copy of the book, or you can read it free online.)
Protect the Flock by Excluding Visitors — A brief comment on Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s policy toward non-members. While I agree with what is said, I think two cautions must be given. (1) This policy, while meant to protect the flock from false teaching, should not be used as warrant to neglect our duties to evangelize unbelievers (which I do not believe CHBC does–see comment thread, post by “Anne”). (2) It seems in my experience and a general trend in American Christianity to be that generally the unbelievers are not the primary threat to a flock; its those who are fairly acquainted with the teachings of Scripture, claim the name of Christ but evidence little or no fruit of a genuine conversion, and may even already be members in our churches that can do the most damage.
Can A Person Be Evangelical and Not Believe in Hell? — R.C. Sproul Jr.: “The difficult truth of the matter is that language, while actually having the ability to communicate, is not static. Words have real meanings, but those meanings are grounded both in history and in usage. Sometimes those two come apart, and a word is caught in the tension. ‘Evangelical’ is just one of those words.”
Tips for Engaging in Honest Theological Dialogue — Words are important, and how we use them can build others up or tear them down. “As iron sharpens iron”, so our theological discussions should spur each other on to greater faithfulness to the Word, not be a cause of divisiveness among brethren. Lisa Robinson provides some insightful do’s and don’t’s for when we engage each other in theological dialogue. (I have included some more tips for theological dialogue for this blog here.)
Love Wins — A Review of Rob Bell’s New Book — I have always been told regarding political elections, “If you do not vote, you have no right to complain once the candidate takes office.” Book reviewing is much the same way: If you have not read the book, you cannot critique it accurately. Lately, though, I have seen a lot of words flying around the interweb about this book and its potential leanings toward Christian Universalism. While much of what has been said has been fairly biblical and thought provoking, it has been centered around one video, not based on a thorough reading of the book itself. I have chosen to keep my silence until I read the book for myself, but Tim Challies has previewed the book and gives some great preliminary insights.

Digest 03/04/2011

Posted: March 4, 2011 in Digests

I’m posting this morning from my Android’s WordPress app because my mom and I are heading to the lake to do some fishing before the rain hits this afternoon. It has been in the 60’s and 70’s here in Southwest Missouri for the last week or so, so the lake temperatures are just beginning to rise. Hopefully it will be productive fishing.

Israel, Arabs, and the Family of God — Over against dispensationalist attitudes, John Piper gives what I believe to be a much more biblical perspective to the Israeli/Arab disputes in the Middle East. Our primary concern, he says, is fair treatment of fellow Christians–both Arab and Israeli–and not preservation of the secular state of Israel, per se.

The Rob Bell Circus — If you’re familiar with the world of theoblogy at all, you’ve probably heard about the recent controversy concerning the promo video for Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins. I have chosen to reserve my opinions and prejudgments until I read the book, and I think Michael Patton’s thoughts most closely reflect my own at this point.

Sorry for such a brief post. I hoped to have more links this morning, but I am at the lake so the rest will have to wait.

Tolle lege!

When confronted with the daily temptation to sin–to give in to the desires of the flesh–how do we remain obedient to Christ? How do we avail ourselves to the Spirit’s power to “provide a way of escape” (1 Corinthians 10:13)? John Piper gives us an excellent way:

Like Piper, I find that often each day I am faced with a choice either to obey Christ by means of the Spirit who gives me the grace to stand or to disregard the gospel, give in to my flesh, and do what I want. O God, may I find the grace of obedience infinitely sweeter than the emptiness of fleeting pleasures!

This conflict between my old sinful nature and my new creation (regenerated by the Spirit) often feels overwhelming and I wonder, Why keep going? At times, it seems it would be easier to just give in to sin and live according to the flesh than to “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). In times like this, I need a great big reality check, and Mark Driscoll’s words help me put things into perspective:

What about you? Do you ever feel like the daily battle is lost before it is even fought? Do you ever respond to temptation to sin by saying “I know what the gospel says but I think I will do ________ anyway”?

How do you avoid this mentality? What ways have you found help you tap into the Spirit’s power to resist a “sin more so grace may abound” mindset? And what keeps you daily–even minute by minute–from throwing in the towel because following Christ is actually harder than you thought it would be?

Simul Iustus et Peccator

Posted: March 1, 2011 in Light-hearted

What better way to start a new blog than with a visual depiction of one of Protestantism’s distinctives: