Three tools to help you memorize Scripture

Pen, Diary and Glasses

Something all Christians should make their aim is memorizing Scripture. Whether it’s important verses, extended passages, or even entire books, there is something powerful about being able to recall glorious truths from God’s Word and preach them to yourself, and share them with others.

So… how do you get started? Here are a few tools I’d recommend:

1. Scripture Typer. This is a great way to ease yourself into memorizing Scripture. The idea behind it is that it uses visual and kinesthetic memory to help you memorize verses. So, you type out a verse as it appears, then you can work on memorizing it by filling in the blanks as you type, and progressively work toward being able to type the verse in its entirety.

For example, one I tried out recently was John 3:16 (HCSB): “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

I typed this out in total, with it present on the screen. Then tried it again with every other word missing. Then did it again with the opposite words missing. Then tried it from memory (which is what the above was typed from).

Neat, huh?

This is a free tool online and is also available as an iOS app. A similar tool is Memverse.

2. Fighter Verses. Fighter Verses is a five-year memorization plan, focusing on “the character and worth of our great God, battling against our fleshly desires, and the hope of the Gospel.” It features a number of different sets that can be used free online, or with the iOS and Android devices (which cost $3 a piece).

3. The memory moleskine. This is the most advanced option, but it’s a terrific for memorizing an entire book of the Bible, something I attempted back in 2011 with Philippians. And best of all, I actually did it. The problem, of course, is that I didn’t keep up on my practice, so I lost about 90 percent of it. However, if you can commit to “tending the garden,” these little notebooks and the process of reading, speaking, writing, and repeating, are amazing. Want to give it a shot? Try Colossians.

Happy memorizing!


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Looking back at 2014, looking ahead to 2015

2015

And that was 2014.

It was a pretty good year, overall, but not at all what I expected. Here are some of the things I’m particularly thankful for:

Our family remains healthy. The kids are super-fun and growing like weeds, and Emily’s about nine months without a full-blown seizure (only experiencing occasional periods of deja vu). This last thing in particular is a huge answer to prayer. Lord willing, the deja vu will reduce further and she’ll someday be able to think about pursuing driver’s education again.

Homeschooling has been a good move. The transition was interesting, but it’s worked. Our kids are working at levels appropriate for each of them, and we can already see where their strengths are and where they need a little extra help. The girls also play a lot better together these days, since Abigail’s getting enough sleep and isn’t entirely peopled out after a long day in public school.

Developing new skills. This year, I was able to branch out into a different sort of writing, including working on a new poverty curriculum for youth groups with my day job and writing a documentary, the recently released Through the Eyes of Spurgeon documentary (you can read about my reflections on that here). These were a lot of hard work, they turned out very well.

But the new year also promises to be very exciting, in a lot of ways. Here are three things I’m looking forward to:

Starting seminary. I’m just a few weeks away from starting my first course at Covenant Seminary, and I have no idea what to expect—both in terms of how much work it will actually be and what impact it will have on my schedule. But regardless, it’s going to be good to get started.

Continuing to pursue publishing. I’ve got a project I’ve been in discussions with a publisher for a while now. Whether the Lord provides the opportunity to move forward or not, we’ll see.

Being a first-time conference speaker. In February, I’ll be heading to Escondido, California, for TruthXchange’s 2015 Think Tank, Generational Lies, Timeless Truths, where I’ll be speaking on social justice and the notion of “deeds, not creeds.” I’m very excited and honored to be a part of this event, and hope you’ll register to attend (I’ll be sharing more on this again soon).

Beyond that, I’m really just excited to see what God does in our family’s lives, in our local church, and in our community in the coming year—no matter how ordinary or extraordinary it may be. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter how majestic or mundane the events of our lives appear to be; it doesn’t matter if we’re well-known or we live in obscurity. What matters is seeing how God grows us ever increasingly into the image of His Son, and in seeing the lost come to know Christ.

Beyond that, everything else is gravy, isn’t it?

No kingdom builders or co-redeemers required

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My day job exposes me to a great deal of literature and communication from “activist” Christians—folks who are very (VERY) heavily concerned with social injustices, sex trafficking, poverty alleviation, and other causes (which, y’know, we should be concerned about). However, whenever I read books coming from this group, or written by people trying to appeal to them, I get a little squeamish about the language used, which usually sounds something like this:

We’re to be world-changers, partnering with God in redeeming this broken world and building his kingdom. 

But if that’s true… why doesn’t it ring true to what the Bible says?

Kevin DeYoung helpfully puts words to my awkward feelings about this in Why We Love the Church. There, he writes:

We need to be careful about our language. I think I know what people mean when they talk about redeeming the culture or partnering with God in His redemption of the world, but we should really pick another word. Redemption has already been accomplished on the cross. We are not co-redeemers of anything. We are called to serve, bear witness, proclaim, love, do good to everyone, and adorn the gospel with good deeds, but we are not partners in God’s work of redemption.

Similarly, there is no language in Scripture about Christians building the kingdom. The New Testament, in talking about the kingdom, uses words like enter, seek, announce, see, receive, look, come into, and inherit. Do a word search and see for yourself. We are given the kingdom and brought into the kingdom. We testify about it, pray for it to come, and by faith, it belongs to us. But in the New Testament, we are never the ones who bring the kingdom. We receive it, enter it, and are given it as a gift. It is our inheritance. It’s no coincidence that “entering” and “inheriting” are two of the common verbs associated with the Promised Land in the Old Testament (see Deut. 4:1; 6:18; 16:20). The kingdom grows to be sure, and no doubt God causes it to grow by employing means (like Christians), but we are never told to create, expand, or usher in the kingdom just as the Israelites were not commanded to establish Canaan. Pray for the kingdom, yes, but not build it. (49)

This, I think, is something we need to remember.

When I see people running around trying to be world-changers, all I see are people running themselves into the ground. Before too long, they’re completely frazzled; burnt out. It’s a burden that’s too much for them to bear.

Fortunately, God’s never asked us to be world-changers. Instead, he encourages us to enter into Jesus’ rest, and be thankful for what has been provided today. To trust him with the needs of tomorrow. And to do the work he calls us to—which, yes, does include social action—not in order to build our inheritance, but as those secure in the goodness of its Builder.


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A year of time-tested theology

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It’s easy to get stuck in a reading rut. When you read the same kind of stuff, over and over, year after year… you get a bit worn out, y’know? That’s why, each year, I put together a new project to keep my reading from becoming stale. In 2014, I had the re-reading project, going back to a book I’d read in the past—some Christian, some non—to add a little more variety.

In 2015, one of the new projects I’m taking on is a fairly big one:

A year of time-tested theology. 

Beginning January 1, 2015, I’ll be reading (and in some cases, re-reading) a number of time-tested, trustworthy works of theology. My goal is to read four major works in the year, the first two being:

The remaining two I’m still deciding on, but I’m open to recommendations. One I’m considering, though, is Augustine’s Confessions.

This is going to be a fun project for a few reasons:

1. 2014 was a pretty dry reading year for me. There were a lot of really good books, but I felt pretty “meh” about the year overall. But old books are a lot of fun. I like seeing how people used language in the past and seeing how it’s evolved over time.

2. I really need to reconnect with theology that predates the Internet. I’ve been spending a lot of time with books written in the last 60 years or so, to some degree at the expense of far too many older, time-tested works. It’s time to correct that, lest I become guilty of chronological snobbery.

3. The reading is spread out. I’m not trying to set myself a crazy goal of reading one of these every couple of weeks or anything like that. These works take time to digest. My schedule for this project means I’ll be reading each work over the course of three months, on average. In some cases, this will still be fairly aggressive, but in others, it’ll lots of space. And with school coming up, I’ll need to make sure I have that space.

Some of my reading will inevitably be discussed here over the course of the year (but I’m not committing myself to a strict weekly series or anything like that). I really want this to be an enjoyable project for me—and if you’d like to join me in it, let me know what you’re planning on reading!

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week there’ve been quite a few really good deals on Kindle books. Here’s a recap along with a few newer ones:

One Sentence That Pastors and Church Staff Hate to Hear

Yep.

Tomorrow’s promise, today’s indulgence

Jeremy Walker:

We can do the same thing spiritually. We promise ourselves that tomorrow is the big day, the day when we will really begin to pray against a particular sin, wrestle against a particular temptation, address a particular habit. And what happens? First of all, our own sinful hearts will incline to one last fling, one last binge – after all, we will be taking ourselves in hand tomorrow. But more than that, Satan will begin to whisper. He will assure us that we might as well give in to temptation – after all, we can repent later and start over the day after. And how often does this happen?

Reading in the age of Amazon

Hundreds of millions of tablets and e-readers have been sold, but today we’re still inclined to think of a book as words on a page. Amazon’s success with Kindle has hinged on recognizing how much more they can be. So where does the company go from here? In a series of rare, on-the-record interviews for Kindle’s 7th anniversary, Amazon executives sketched out their evolving vision for the future of reading. It’s wild — and it’s coming into focus faster than you might have guessed.

A Time to Speak Webcast

If you missed this webcast earlier this week, you can watch this important conversation on race now.

That’s What Gospel Do

Mike Leake:

A couple of years ago Jarrod Dyson, the speedy centerfielder for the KC Royals, scored the game winning run by tagging up on a pop up to the shortstop. If you don’t understand baseball just know that in order to do something like this you have to be crazy fast. Dyson is crazy fast.

When being interviewed after the game, Dyson quipped, “That what speed do”. And it stuck. Now every time Dyson uses his legs to wreak havoc in a game—the announcers will inevitably say “that what speed do”.

Jarrod Dyson has the speed to change a game. In the same way, times infinity, the gospel changes things. Don’t believe me look at this.

3 things I loved about Through The Eyes of Spurgeon

Through the Eyes of Spurgeon, the new documentary directed by fellow Canuck Stephen McCaskell, was released yesterday. This is something we’ve been waiting a long time for. Why do I say “we”?

Because I was part of the team that made it, writing the screenplay.

This is one of the coolest projects I’ve been a part of in my professional career, one that, a couple of times, I honestly wasn’t sure was going to come to fruition. But here we are. The movie’s out there, and it’s pretty great. Here are a few of the things I loved about being a part of making this film:

1. The process of writing a screenplay and seeing it translated to film.

This was the first time I’d written something of this length for the screen. I was surprised by how similar it is in some ways to writing a book. It takes a ton of time to do this right, but most of the time is spent in the pre-work—in the planning and research. Reading biographies, building an outline, figuring out how to describe the scene. Making lots of revisions. Having friendly disagreements about what to include and what to cut in order to keep the documentary from turning into a trilogy… the process of working all this out is a lot of fun, in part because it’s so challenging.

One small regret was not being able to be present for filming (travelling to Europe for at least three weeks wasn’t feasible with my family situation). It would have been a lot of fun to be on hand to help with any of the changes that always come up when people start speaking in front of a camera, and to actually be in these places that I’ve only been able to read about. (But like I said, that’s only a small regret.)

2. The response has been overwhelming.

Last night, I learned that the film had been played over 10,000 times in 110 countries. While many of those viewing were from North America, nearly every nation with an Internet connection is represented.

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On its first day, Through The Eyes of Spurgeon was seen in 110 countries!

I wasn’t sure how to process it when Stephen shared these numbers with me. And when you look at the map and realize that many of the countries are hostile to Christianity, it’s even more incredible. I seriously struggle with how to even describe that. It’s just… wow.

3. My new appreciation for Charles Spurgeon, our brother in Christ

One of the things that is so dangerous for evangelicals is our tendency to turn our heroes into celebrities. So when you come to a man like Spurgeon, it’s easy to see him as this man who was a mighty untouchable preacher. And mighty though he was, he was also a man.

What I loved more than the stories of his ministry and its effectiveness, more than the controversies he faced, and the books he wrote, was learning about his marriage to Susannah, and his struggles with depression and gout and frequent illnesses, and his feistiness as a child and an adult.

The human Spurgeon is much more interesting than the ivory tower dwelling hero we’ve turned him into. He was a man, one familiar with the same trials and temptations—and like us, did not always resist. This is something we should always remember. Spurgeon—like all the saints who’ve gone before him and since—is our brother in Christ. He’s one used mightily by God, to be sure, but he is one whom we will bow beside when we come before Jesus, not one we will bow to.

I hope you’ll check out the documentary if you haven’t already. Watch it with your friends. Watch it with your family. I hope it’s as much of an encouragement to you as you watch it as it was for all of us who played a part in making it.

In awe of the incarnation

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And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us… John 1:14a

Let’s just stop and sit with this verse for a moment: “The Word became flesh.”

It’s so easy for us to lose our sense of awe at little things like this. To read a verse like John 1:14 and gloss over what it says. But we should never do this.

Ever.

Remember: Jesus—the Word through whom all things were created; the light of the world, who brings salvation to all who believe in his name—became flesh. That God would take upon human flesh is simply mind-boggling:

  • The omnipresent became present.
  • The infinite would become finite.
  • The invisible became visible.

And what’s more—he dwelt among us. Literally, Jesus, John says, “pitched his tent” among his people, calling us back to the days of the tabernacle in the wilderness. There, in his tent, God dwelt among the people, though he could not be seen by them. But Jesus, the Word made flesh, could be seen and could be touched.

The only Son—unique and one-of-a-kind, who is exactly like the Father in all of his attributes.

Do not shrug this off. Do not nod in assent. Let your jaw drop as you really think about what John has just said. Jesus is the Word made Flesh. Immanuel, God among us.

Photo via Lightstock

Praise Him for everything!

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If you want to know Him, if you want to know His smile, if you want to know something about this living realization that God is your God and that He has loved you “with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3), that you are His child and that He will never leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5)—if you want this living witness of the Spirit, this ultimate assurance that is given through the love shed abroad in our hearts, going upward and back to Him in praise, worship, adoration, and thanksgiving, then begin to praise God for what you have.

Praise Him for everything—for the gifts of life and health and strength. Many people are ill and laid aside and cannot attend a place of worship. Do we thank God for our health and strength, our faculties, for all these gifts that He showers upon us so constantly and so freely? Thank God! David, of course, keeps on repeating this: “Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name … my mouth will praise thee with joyful lips” (Ps. 63:3–5). And on he goes, even down to the last verse where he says, “The king shall rejoice in God.”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Seeking the Face of God, 135-136


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Complacency, conviction and the Christian response to ISIS in the West

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“I was one of you. I was a typical Canadian. I grew up on the hockey rink and spent my teenage years on stage playing guitar. I had no criminal record. I was a bright student and maintained a strong GPA in university. So how could one of your people end up in my place? And why is it that your own people are the ones turning against you at home? The answer is that we have accepted the true call of the prophets and messengers of God.”

That’s what John Maguire, a 24-year-old convert to Islam from Ottawa, Ontario, told the world in a video that appeared online in recent days, which you can watch below:

I’ve been sitting with this video, the related National Post article, and Maguire’s call to Muslims in the West since I learned of it on Sunday. “You either pack your bags, or prepare your explosive devices. You either purchase your airline ticket, or you sharpen your knife,” Maguire says in the video.

The rhetoric is powerful—and, of course, dangerous. Dangerous because there are, inevitably, people who will heed this call because of the conviction with which it is made. Make no mistake: regardless of how polished this piece of propaganda is, and how Maguire’s message is almost certainly scripted, there is conviction in what he says.

When he tells Muslims in Canada to sharpen their knives, he means it. When he tells us that people will be targeted indiscriminately, he means it.

Conviction is a dangerous thing for Canadians, because we have so few. We are people placated by socialism, with consciences dulled by secularism’s hollow values of personal happiness and the accumulation of wealth. Maguire rebelled against this, seeing these values for what they are: empty and hollow.

The problem is, he replaced them with something overtly evil.

But it’s also dangerous because of the people who will continue to try to dismiss such things as a mental illness on the part of Maguire or other young men like him who’ve converted to Islam and either fled Canada to join ISIS or taken up arms against the nation on native soil, as in the case of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau and Martin Couture-Rouleau.

But the problem is not mental illness, unless one is willing to honestly suggest that the thousands of men and women living in the Middle East who have joined ISIS and other terrorist organizations have exactly same identical mental illness. For that many people to manifest precisely the same symptoms in exactly the same fashion stretches credulity. No, it’s not a problem of mental illness. It is, as Albert Mohler pointed out in his analysis of this story, a worldview issue. The common denominator for all is Islam.

Now, don’t read me as saying all Muslims are terrorists or anything like that. I’m not. But what is attractive for many—and especially young people like Maguire—is its conviction:

  • There is a clear right and wrong.
  • There is no moral ambiguity.
  • There is a larger purpose to life.

But what Maguire and many like him have latched onto, whether you believe it to be an accurate reflection of Islamic teaching or not, is a lie. In the same way that many Canadians continue to latch onto their illusion of safety—after all, we’re so nice, and we have delicious maple syrup. Why would anyone want to hurt us?

Mohler turns Maguire’s call for Western Muslims to wake up back on Western Christians, and he is right to do so. We do need to wake up to the realities around us. So what does that look like?

I’d suggest three things:

Embrace our convictions. We believe that God gives us eternal life, not through the uncertain means of trying to merit it through our works and war, but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son who came to live on our behalf, and to take God’s wrath upon himself for us. And because of that, we can embrace our great purpose, which the Westminster Catechism states so well, “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

Fundamentally, if you do not believe this you are not a Christian, as I’m sure most (if not all) reading this would agree. At least not in any meaningful sense of the word.

Live by our convictions. But practically, too few of us actually live as if this is true. We have embraced what Luther called a theology of glory and abandoned a theology of the cross, spending ourselves on trivial things and seeking to make a name for ourselves, even as we claim to be doing so for the sake of the Lord. We run ourselves ragged and do not enjoy God’s rest. We are not people who are at peace. For this, we need to repent, and to learn to take seriously Christ’s words in Matthew 11:29, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Share our convictions. But we are not called to simply live by these convictions, but also to share them. The gospel message is humanity’s only hope for peace with God, and eternal joy. And all of humanity will stand before Jesus, either to enter into his kingdom or to be sentenced to hell. But we are not called to command people everywhere to submit or perish, using force and fear as our weapon, and rejoicing in the death of the wicked as, it seems, Maguire and ISIS do. Instead we plead with the lost, calling out, “Why will you die?!” We do so as those desperate to see the dying saved and adopted into God’s family.

 

In other words, we speak out of love. Love for God, and love for our neighbors.

And yet if we do not do this—if we prefer our comfortable life, if we think going to church on Sundays and giving to the poor is what God has in mind for us—we’ve missed the point. We must embrace our convictions. We must live by them. And we must share them—because if we don’t, we may be perpetrating a greater evil than any that ISIS can.

Sermon prep, itinerant ministry and time management

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On Sunday, I preached two sermons in a small Baptist church in Orillia, Ontario. In all honesty, they were probably B- (or worst case, C+) sermons: faithful, reasonably coherent, but not brilliant. The evening message especially so. There were some places where the message in the evening service could definitely have benefitted from some additional clarity and precision. (I was preaching from Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1, and I don’t think enough of my thought process made it into my message as would have been beneficial.)

Because of my various responsibilities—full time employment, family, writing and so on—even with good time management, I often am working up to what’s closer to the last minute than I’m comfortable doing. To some degree, this is my own fault. But it’s also one of the difficulties of itinerant ministry. Sermon prep has to fit around the rest of life, in a different way than I suspect it would even for the bi-vocational pastor (bi-vocational friends, feel free to correct me on this point). This doesn’t mean cutting corners, but it does mean the 25-40 hours of prep some folks put in isn’t an option.

At best, it’s more like 15. And when I have two messages to prepare, that same amount of time has to be used for both.

Which is a bit nutty, I know. Not impossible, but definitely challenging.

This is not me griping, and I hope it doesn’t sound that way. I am very thankful for the ministry opportunities available to me, and for the patience of congregations like this one who seem to enjoy having me there (I’m back there this weekend, which will be my third in a row and sixth time overall). But one of the things I’m increasingly finding myself challenged by is how to manage my time more effectively,1 especially with school coming up. What I know this means for me is there are going to have to be more opportunities I say no to, and probably even more of my current responsibilities I’m going to have to reevaluate.

But am I alone in feeling crunched like this?

Bivocational preachers, how do you manage your time? Fellow itinerant preachers, how do you navigate these time management issues?


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Best gift ever

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On Wednesday, I dropped off Abigail at the house after her check up with the optometrist (kid still has 20/20 vision!), and mentioned to Emily that the fundraiser had just gone live. She hadn’t had a chance to see the video I’d made (with the help of my talented colleague, Aveleen) and asked to watch it.

The kids, naturally, wanted in on this, too (mostly because they’ll take advantage of any opportunity to watch a video).

After they finished watching, Abigail ran upstairs suddenly. I assumed she had gone to play or use the bathroom; instead,  she came back beaming, and held out her hand to me.

Inside was $2.27.

“What’s this for, honey?” I asked.

“To help you with school.”

Hudson immediately shouted, “I’ll get money too,” as he and Hannah ran upstairs. They returned with an additional 35¢, and big, bright smiles.

I just about lost it (in a good way). It wasn’t because of the money—it was the spirit behind it. They just wanted to do this, and it was so cool to see them act upon their desire to be generous.

Best gift ever.

The first glimpse of the promise—and the hope of promises still to be fulfilled

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So where the promise begin? Where do we see the first glimpse into God’s plan for restoration?

The very moment sin entered the world.

When God created the world, He called it “very good”—it was a world without sin, without suffering or sorrow. Everyone and everything lived in perfect harmony. But, the crafty serpent—the one John identifies as Satan himself in Revelation 12:9—came and tempted the first woman with a promise:

To be like God.

He questioned God’s command, placing doubt into the mid of Eve—and Adam who was right there with her.

So the two ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and “their eyes were opened.” And when God saw what they had done, and confronted them, God cursed them all. He curses the woman to pain in childbirth and enmity between her and her husband. He curses the man to fruitless toil, instead of fruitful labor.

But notice, even as He curses the serpent, God makes a promise:

The LORD God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15)

And here we have it: the first glimpse into the promise.

One day the offspring of the woman would come. He would be injured—his heel would be bruised by the serpent—but he would crush the serpent.

That’s the promise: this mess that was made would be undone by the death of the serpent—and his death would come at the hands of this Promised One.

And the good news is this hazy first glimpse into the promise is just the beginning. Over time, the Lord would make the identity of the Offspring clear… beginning with a promise to a pagan man, Abram (later Abraham), from whom He promised to make a great nation, and to whose offspring he would give the land of Abram’s sojourning (Genesis 12:1-7; 13:15; 17:18).

And as we continue to read through the Old Testament, the promise becomes more and more clear. The promise was repeated to Isaac, and then again to Isaac’s son Jacob, and then once again to Jacob’s son Judah. And from Judah’s family, we meet another man, a man named Boaz, who would redeem a Moabite woman named Ruth and her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi. And Boaz and Ruth would have a son, named Obed, who would have a son named Jesse… and he would have a son named David.

And to David, God made another promise, saying He would “will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. …the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (see 2 Samuel 7:8-16).

David, the man after God’s own heart, God’s “prince over [his] people Israel,” was a man. He would die, and his son would take the throne after him. He would build a house for the Lord, and his kingdom would be established forever. But this promise, though it referred to Solomon in part, wasn’t about Solomon. Instead, it was Someone who would come after. And as Israel abandoned the Lord, God continually prevented their outright destruction for the sake of his eternal covenant with David. And as he would send prophet after prophet, he continued to speak this promise:

The offspring of David, the “stump” and “branch” of Jesse, would come. And we would know Him because of a sign: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

And of this child, it was said that, “the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousnes from this time forth and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

So who is this one whom God promised to send?

One upon whose shoulders the government would stand. One whose government and increase would never end. Whose throne and kingdom would be established forever.

God Himself.

And in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the child who would be born of a virgin, God did come. And his government has been established. There will be no end of His rule. He will reign with justice and righteousness forevermore.

This is the good news we celebrate at Christmas, the greatest Christmas gift of all: the coming of the Lord.

God fulfilled His promise. And if God fulfilled this one—one that literally changed the entire world—will He not do the same with those yet to be fulfilled?

For the Christian, Christmas isn’t just about celebrating the birth of Jesus, nor is it only celebrating the fulfillment of a promise made long ago. It’s a reminder that God will fulfill every promise He has made to His people—that the good work He has begun in us will be brought to completion, that He will indeed make all things new, and that all who believe will stand before Him forever, without fear of judgment.


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Where I’m going to school—and how you can help!

A few months ago I shared that I was thinking about going back to school. This wasn’t an easy thing to talk about—or even to think about and pray through! You know how people like to say, “If God’s in it, you’ll feel peace about the decision”?

Yeah, no. I’m pretty sure I’ve never experienced that. Ever.

But, I felt convicted that I needed to start going down this road. Honestly, there are way too many guys out there who are naturally pretty sharp and intuitive, but only rely on that, and wind up train wrecks as a result. And I’m not interested in being one of those.

Fast forward a few weeks to October and my last update(s) on this journey. By mid-October, I had completed the application process with a reputable seminary (this is important), and had been accepted as a student. And at the end of January, I will begin working on my Masters of Arts in Theological Studies at Covenant Theological Seminary.

To answer a couple of important questions:

  • Am I moving to Missouri? Nope. I’ll be learning via distance education.
  • Am I becoming a full-time student again? Nope; I’ll be continuing on with my current employer and working on my education on the side. It’ll take me a couple of extra years, but it’ll be worth it.

So, the journey is about to begin, and I’ve got a favor to ask:

Will you help me with paying for my tuition?

My family’s conviction is to avoid accumulating debt in going to school. The last time I was in school (a three-year diploma in graphic design), I paid for entirely with student loans. This time around, I can’t do that. For me, and for my wife, it would be wrong for us to do so.1 So, I need to raise about $28,000 to cover my tuition and incidentals.

And I would love it if you could help by giving five dollars to my campaign at YouCaring.com.

Five dollars might seem like a drop in the bucket. And maybe it is. I mean, it’s a comic book or a latté. But it’s often the seemingly little things make a huge difference. And if enough people gave this, my goal would be met in no time.

Would you partner with me and my family on this journey and give five dollars to help me pay for school?

What is evangelism?

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My latest article at ExploreGod.com:

I have a confession: I am quite possibly the world’s most timid evangelist. I don’t wake up in the morning thinking, Maybe I’ll get to share the gospel today! I know a few people like that—which is great—but that’s just not me. Not even a little.

When I really sit down and think about my hesitancy, though, I realize I’m being silly. Why should I be afraid to tell someone about the gospel? This is the “good news”—the greatest news anyone could ever hear, actually! Why wouldn’t I want to share all that I believe is offered—forgiveness, a relationship with God, eternal life—through Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the grave? After all, as a Christian, I believe this is of “first importance.”

Some of my nervousness about sharing my faith comes from bad experiences I’ve had. I’ve tried telling non-Christian family members about Jesus. But rather than engage in the conversation, they simply nod and then ignore me. I’ve had people dismiss everything I say. I’ve been told that if I don’t lead at least five people to Christ every year, I’m not doing my duty as a Christian. I’ve even tested out the idea that we can share the gospel just by the way we live our lives—to no avail. In the end, I had neighbors who thought I was really nice, but they didn’t learn about Jesus at all.

And yet, I don’t use my timidity as an excuse for not sharing my faith. I can’t ignore that the Bible clearly says that we all are called to evangelize. In fact, I’m more confident than ever that I not only can but must share the good news with those around me.

So what’s changed? Why am I, a spectacular “failure” as an evangelist (to date, I don’t know if I’ve ever actually led a single person to Christ), not discouraged?

Because I finally learned what evangelism truly is—and the good news about its results.

Read the whole piece at ExploreGod.com – What is Evangelism?


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