Friday, January 2, 2009


This morning I was reading the Psalms and stopped at Psalm 49. I stopped for one reason: I thought I was reading a letter to our culture. Let me explain...

In my short, yet accurate (haha) understanding of American culture, I have found a dilemma. That dilemma is the thought that a person is adequate enough to create happiness in this life to obtain life afterwards. I couldn’t count how many times someone would tell me how “good” they are and how being such a good person will earn them that “big ticket” in the sky. The American idea is: make a lot of money; never break the law; give to tax deductible organizations; say “please” and “thank you;” and last but not least, don’t ever tell anybody what they believe is wrong. Most people believe that if they live by these kinds of standards, then they are pleasing God. Well, this is wrong. Psalm 49 made this point very clear. Yet, with a very critical evaluation…you may be interested to hear.

Psalm 49 speaks of the psalmists’ enemies encamping against him. These enemies are wealthy and put their hope in money (49:6). However verse seven raises a deeper conflict. The Psalmist differentiates between the wealth of a man and the cost of a person. First, “Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life.” (49:7) This statement explains to the world that no man (any man other than Jesus) can sufficiently pay off or give enough wealth to God for the soul of a man. What does this mean? Well, the psalmist is living in constant danger of his life and has to reassure the God whom he delights in. For it would not be comforting to know that his God is not an “either, or” God. In other words, God does not create multiple avenues to himself. You cannot live your life never worshipping him and then try to pay him off for the sake of your soul. The psalmist clarifies this point so as to reiterate his hope in a God who is not persuaded by earthly treasure.

Second, verse eight begins, “for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit.” (49:8-9) Whose life is the psalmist talking about? Answer…the wicked wealthy man. This is rather phenomenal. Verse seven makes clear that he cannot woo God into buying salvation and verse eight clarifies that it is because the cost of his own life is too valuable to buy. Yes, even the wicked of people has values on his life. This cost is so high that nothing he can do could ever pay it off. This is intriguing because it shows the character of God. It displays his unique love for people. In the midst of persecution and torment, the psalmist even shows kindness to his enemy by displaying God’s love for him. However, don’t dumb the definition of love, this man is still an enemy of God, yet his life is invaluable. Verse nine concludes, there is no cost from his own billfold that could keep this man out of the “pit” or hell.

For me, I cannot get over the value that God puts on mankind. This means that no matter if your name is John Q. Hammons and you own half of Springfield, Mo and give to every charity on earth; or if you are Oprah and give everybody in the crowd a Hump-Back Whale; or Barack Obama and try to fix the economy, you will never be able to pay your way into eternity with God. Verse eleven says, “Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they called lands by their own names.” Not even Michael Jordan will ever enter the Kingdom unless the price of his life is ransomed.

So, the question arises, “If even the wealthiest of men cannot pay God for our souls, then what is the cost?” I’m glad you asked. 1Timothy 2:5-6 says, “ For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” There are two unique points to this passage: one, is that God had purposed access to himself through one mediation, Jesus; second, is that Jesus is the ransom for mankind. These two fulfill everything discussed above. First, Paul and the Psalmist both agree that there is one avenue to God. While the psalmist doesn’t say Jesus, he would say, righteousness. Being a New Testament believer, Jesus is God and our righteousness. Therefore, Paul and the psalmist account their righteousness to the same God, which involves Jesus. Second, both Paul and the psalmist understand the value of human life and make effort to illuminate that a ransom higher than man’s wealth must appease. Therefore, Jesus, God and man came down to be the ransom that no man can ever pay.

Do you realize what this means? This means that God recognized a problem and created a solution. Himself! The value of human life is so much higher than anyone could even imagine that God could not be pleased if man tried to earn his way to eternity. Instead, He came down as a man who bled, died, was buried, rose, and ascended to the Father. All of this was accomplished so that man would repent of their efforts to try to please God. These efforts are called sins. Sins are acts that disobey the commands of God. All men have to do is believe and obey the Son of God, Jesus. By this men can be delivered from the “pit.” There is a danger with following Jesus. One must deny themselves and live a life of service to God and other people. This is difficult for the wealthy to do because they like to indwell in their riches and find momentary comfort in material things.
If this is you…ask yourself, “Do I value my self like man, or like God?” God loved you enough to die for you. But don’t let his love fool you, it can also send you to the “pit” lest you repent and follow him.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Character of a Man

Dan went into the hospital concerned with a cough and was informed of pneumonia. However, Doctors later discovered that the pneumonia was covering a worse problem, cancer. For the last couple of weeks Dan has been categorized as stage three. Within the last two days Dan has been staged to a category four. Dan has been worsening by the day and undergoing KEMO therapy to go along with a multitude of med's. This is his current condition.

When Chenille and I heard of this news about a week ago, we immediately hit our knees and prayed earnestly for him and his lovely wife Karilynn. Dan and Karilynn are friends of ours in Missouri who attend our old home church, Boulevard Baptist. Our relationship began with Chenille; Dan and Karilynn were involved in Chenille's life during college at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Chenille, losing contact with them for a time was reunited with them through "random" circumstances. This circumstance led to Dan and Karilynn's commitment to Boulevard Baptist. Dan and Karilynn were in a phase of finding a church home when they ran across Chenille. This intersection was the best happening for the two of them. Ever since their joining to the church four years ago, they have been heavily involved with serving the church and gaining family amongst believers.

There is something unique about this couple. They are in their fifties (I presume) and have no children. Not because they don't want them, but because they are unable. I remember several years ago when Chenille and I went to their house for dinner; Dan explained to me their grief of not having children and then prompted to explain to me how the students in FCA and at the church are their "adopted children." All over their house are pictures of young men and women whom they have influenced over the years. This was encouraging.

When I heard the terrible news of his disease, I could not help but think of this passage in John, "Woman, behold, your son! Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home." (John 19:26-27) I thought it amazing that Jesus, while on the cross thought it significant that his mother make family with those of whom share in his death. It is in the cross of Jesus that his very own mother can become the mother of the disciples and visa versa. So too is it with fatherhood, sisterhood, brotherhood, etc. Dan is the mold of this passage. I can see him at the feet of Jesus and Jesus telling him, "behold, your daughter." Yes, Dan treated my wife like a daughter. Never before have I seen a man (not even her own father) treat her like he does. I can recall every Sunday Dan would hug my wife as though he was hugging the daughter he could never have. Always curious about Chenille's well being, Dan would sarcastically (but slightly serious) make sure that I am treating her like a queen. So many times Dan would express to her his gratitude for introducing them to the church. Even today, he gives her thanks.

Yesterday at church, I approached Dan and expressed to him how he has been a great father to Chenille. He was grateful, however, his demeanor was impressive. He do I say...fixated on Christ! So many stories he was telling me about men and women all over the world praying for him. He was so entrenched in the love of Christ, it was hard for him to stay composed. So in love with the local church that he would not miss a Sunday even if he was coughing blood and mucus. So enamored with the body and teaching of the gospel, he hugged my wife with a powerful hug and thanked her for bringing them to such a wonderful church. I was moved. Little do we know, this may be the last words we hear him speak.

After church we were driving home and I said to Chenille, "you can really know a lot about a man's character when they are about to die." Dan's mind has been so entrenched with the cross that even up to his death he will give Jesus all glory. This is what I desire and long for. I pray that when Dan leaves this world, he will leave a legacy that will impact all his children of whom is my wife.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Busy Blessing

The last two weeks have been some of the most busy, stressful, and blessful times of my life. If I have to pinpoint a time where life was balancing on the hinges, Thursday, November 20 would have been that day for me. Prior to that day, the following were closing in on my mind: sermon preparation; two research papers; two essays; an Acts 29 Boot Camp; the Song of Solomon Conference; and Thanksgiving week with family. Yes, this may be a norm for some of you and your stress levels, but for me, this was a challenge.

Sermon Preparation (Due Sunday, 23)

I was asked to deliver a sermon on Sunday, November 23. I took the challenge weeks in advance and began making preparations. I was preparing over Malachi 3:16-4:6 and was finding it to be very rewarding. By the time Sunday was approaching for me to deliver my sermon, I felt confident that I had the content understood, however, I was uneasy on sermon delivery. With writing my research papers and the Boot camp and Conferences approaching, I knew my time was slim. Time was slim indeed. I found myself with fewer and fewer time preparing for delivery and having to exhort more time towards my family and school responsibilities. By the time Sunday had approached I was confident that preaching the Word of God was going to have to be a move of the Holy Spirit. With little sleep and much prayer, the Lord brought me through to deliver a Jesus honoring sermon.

Research/Essay Papers (Due Thursday, 20)

Nothing is more exciting than every professor assigning all "do" assignments on the exact same day. It is really a blessing of school. Not! This was my case with all my papers. Spending countless hours in the library and often having to survive off the caffeine addiction of coffee, I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. Amidst all of this great suffering for the great name of academia I was trying to balance husbandry, fatherhood, minister, and student simultaneously. Whoa! Needless to say, I was able to complete the two research papers but had to ask for an extension on my essay papers. Before you condemn me on slacking in my school work, know that I chose to make my family and sermon preparation a major priority over school. Since time has passed, all homework has been completed and the semester is almost final.

Acts 29 Boot Camp (Wednesday, 19-20)

Boot Camp? What the heck is the Boot camp? First, Acts 29 is the name of a church planting network based out of Seattle Washington. The founder of the network is a man named Mark Driscoll. He is current pastor at Mars Hill Church, Seattle. The Boot Camp is created for those who want to church plant through the network. Chenille and I are planning on planting through this network and when we heard that they camp was going to be held in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, we knew that it was wise for me to go. Chenille could not go because of work, so I had to suffer by missing school and work. If you want to know more about the camp or the network, click on this link.

The stressing point for me during the conference was knowing that my papers were do that Thursday and I had a sermon to preach the following Sunday. Wait, I also had to pick up my mother at the airport on Saturday. Yes, my mind was full. Yet, in the meantime I was able to enjoy the time with much of my church family and two really good friends of Chenille and I, Stiko and Kelechi. These two are praying and considering church planting with Chenille and I. So, our time at the conference was fun and informative.

Song of Solomon Conference (Friday 21-22)

After the Boot Camp and the turning in of my research papers, I was glad to go home to my wife and take her to north Dallas to a marriage/sex conference. Having some weight lifted off my shoulders, this conference was needed. We traveled to Dallas after work on Friday, only after dropping Ethan off at some friends for the night. When we arrived in Dallas, we realized we forgot our Bibles and the laptop. Yes, the laptop with my sermon outline. No big deal, I was only going to be preaching the Word of God on Sunday! Needless to say, it was worth not having that stinking laptop so that I could focus on more important issues like sex. Oh yeah.

The Conference was led by Mark Driscoll (Ironically), who had prior engagements to teach at the Acts 29 Boot Camp and the Song of Solomon Conference. So, I was blessed twice with good teaching. Friday night and Saturday morning were honoring times of walking through the book of Song of Solomon verse by verse. Driscoll illuminated some facets to our marriage that we (all married people) need to work on. With good news, Chenille and I have been advancing greatly in our marriage and our love for one another. If you want more about this conference, check out Driscoll's sermon series over Song of Solomon called, The Peasant Princess.

By the time the conference was over, we had to rush home, get Ethan and later pick up my Mother from the airport.

Thanksgiving Week with Family (Saturday 22-30)

After my hectic week of school deadlines and conferences it was like salt to the wound when Ethan caught the stomach bug literally a day before Nana Mel came to town. However, the would be spent well.

My Mother came into town on Saturday evening. and left on Tuesday morning. During the time she was here, we were able to take her out to eat and enjoy watching the movie Madagascar II. My Mom was never seen without her camera phone in hand taking pictures of Ethan. This was good for her because this was the first time that she has been able to see Ethan since he was born. For you who don't know, she lives in Pennsylvania. So, we had a good time.

Only one day after my Mother left back to Pennsylvania, Chenille's Mother and Step Dad, Doug came into town to celebrate Thanksgiving with us. We were happy to have Thanksgiving at our home because traveling is difficult for us, especially when going home consists of visiting 5-10 different homes.

On Thanksgiving we decided to go to the Fort Worth Turkey Trot. Chenille, Debbie, Ethan, and I walked/ran the 5k while Doug ran the 10k. Let me be honest, if my stomach wasn't queasy, I would have manned up the 10k with Doug. haha After the Turkey Trot, we came home, Chenille and Debbie cooked our food while Doug, Ethan, and I hung out until it was time to eat. When time came to eat, two of our friends/neighbors (Tim and Jill) came over to eat with us. This was fun because Chenille and I love company. Overall, Thanksgiving was great. We had family and friends we could enjoy and I had my beautiful wife to stare at while I ate her bomb mashed potatoes.

There it is, in a very compact nutshell. The most stressful blessing I have ever encountered. I hope I wasn't too vague in my description, but if I start to give good detail, then I will write more than is necessary for a blog.