Are You Who You Want To Be?

This basic, yet profound, question is posed by the musical group Switchfoot in their song, ‘This Is Your Life‘. Call it ‘taking inventory’, or call it ‘goal setting’, I think it is vital that every person ask the question, ‘Am I who I want to be?’.

As I read the Bible I get the distinct sense that God wants us to be a certain kind of person. Someone might protest, ‘Doesn’t God love us the way we are? Isn’t His love unconditional?’

God’s love is unconditional in the sense that there is nothing we can do to earn it. We are incapable gaining God’s favour through human effort. If God were to place before us conditions to meet, if He were to require from us a certain a level of morality to attain to, or a bar to reach, all of humanity would be in big trouble.

I fear, however, that those who talk about God’s ‘unconditional love’ aren’t speaking in these terms. I often get the sense, listening to folks who employ this phrase, that they mean to communicate that it doesn’t matter how we live. It doesn’t matter what we do, or don’t do. It didn’t matter in the past, it doesn’t matter now, nor does it matter in the future……because God’s love is unconditional.

I hear in the Scriptures something different. Everywhere I turn I hear the message: it does matter—it hugely matters how I lead my life. Again, I’m not talking about earning God’s favour. Rather, I’m talking about getting in step with God’s plan because, living in step with God’s plan is a much more fulfilling place for you and me than living outside of His purposes.

I am convinced that in order for me to be who I want to be, in order for me to be who I was designed to be, I need a close connection to Jesus Christ. Not only do I need to embrace and receive Christ, but I need to prefer Christ over all things.

I recently spoke about this and invite you to listen in.

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Embracing Christ. Preferring Christ. This is the way of joy.

You can also listen to Switchfoot’s song, ‘This Is Your Life’.

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As always, your feedback is immensely appreciated.

All According To Plan

The death of Jesus was no accident. It wasn’t a tragedy. It wasn’t a plan gone awry. The Gospels clearly reveal that the crucifixion of Jesus was God’s plan from the beginning.

This morning I delivered a message based on John, chapter 19. From this account we glean three essential tenets of the Christian faith:

1) God was and is sovereign in the activities of this world

2) The Scriptures are entirely reliable

3) Jesus is who He says He was (see, for example, Luke 22:69, 70)

Have a listen—I’d be glad to read your feedback.

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Admittedly, my message this morning is not an exhaustive treatment of what the crucifixion of Christ means. Undoubtedly, my words are inadequate in conveying all that was accomplished by the death of Jesus. Nonetheless, I hope you might be encouraged by what you hear in this message, your faith strengthened, and your resolve to follow intensified.

You may also be interested to read my notes from a message delivered in 2005, entitled, The Empty Cup. This message examines the nature of Jesus’ suffering and His substitionary atonement.

Shattered Perceptions

It was only a matter of time before my 5 year-old daughter realized that I wasn’t invincible after all. I have always cherished my daughter’s perception of me. I am certain that she thinks more highly of me than anyone else on this earth does. If my own perception of myself was half of what Anya’s view of me was, I’d undoubtedly have a ‘swelled head’. When Anya is with me, her courage soars. Often, when she asks me to help with something or to accompany her somewhere, Anya explains her reason for asking, ‘Papa you’re not afraid of anything!’ (Truthfully, I’m afraid of a bunch of things—a list too long for this post!). Yes, as far back as she can remember, Anya has regarded her ‘papa’ as a sort of Superman. I’m a bit sorry I couldn’t have ridden this out a little longer!

You see, Anya’s perception of me was shattered this past Saturday when she observed that I could hardly walk. I had been playing hockey (I’m a goalie) the night before and, to make a long story short, I blew out my knee trying to make a save (he shot it wide). After some initial agony, I recovered enough to finish the game without any difficulty. However, by the end of the evening I began to have trouble walking. By Saturday morning, I was a mess. I had never seen Anya so alarmed. I then realized that she had never seen me in any physical pain before. And here I was, limping, grimacing, and groaning with the slightest of movements. I was sure that she was profoundly affected by this sight because she promptly did everything I asked of her without any hesitation or complaint (those of you who remember raising 5 year-olds know how amazing that is!).

Indeed, it was an embarrassing couple of days for me. At church, on Sunday, I received multiple offers to borrow canes. One gentleman went so far as to suggest that it was time for me to ‘hang up the skates’. Frankly, I was a bit surprised that in the myriad of counsel I received, no one suggested that I ‘rub some dirt on it’ and ‘walk it off’!

Well, as of today, I’m walking somewhat normally. However, the perception my daughter had of me has been forever altered. While I delighted in her view of my physical durability, I am grateful that she has discovered the inevitable truth that her father is a fragile human being. I am thankful that my daughter is learning the need to trust in some One infinitely more wise, reliable, and capable than her earthly father.

You could say that Anya is learning something that many of us need reminding of: every human being we encounter will eventually let us down. Even our parents, our spouse, our best friends, will falter and fall short in meeting our expectations and satisfying our desires. We need something more. We were made for something more.

I love the way one of the Puritans, Matthew Mead, puts it: “Be convinced of the utter insufficiency and inability of anything below Christ Jesus to minister relief to your soul.

I’ve learned the hard way the truth of that statement. I’ve turned to other things and other people to heal what ails me. I’ve turned to other things and other people to fill the void inside. Like my daughter, I too had my perceptions shattered. None of these could adequately satisfy my innermost desires. I have however learned that Christ can—and He has.

Jesus Christ is the One being who will never fail us. He will never desert us. He is neither vulnerable nor fallible. He is worthy of our trust, respect, and our worship.

As I continue the journey toward Easter and beyond, I am convinced anew of Jesus’ ability to minister relief to my soul. I’m so grateful for that.

Alistair Begg Defends Preaching

I came across this gem of a message while surfing on youtube.com. This audio is provided by desiringgod.org, delivered by Alistair Begg in 1998 at the Desiring God Conference for Pastors. Quite frankly, Begg is my favourite preacher. If I aspire to preach like any man, it is him. I have attended the annual pastors’ conference held at Parkside Church, where Begg pastors, every year since 2002. I have registered for this year’s conference (May12-14). Have a listen–I’d like to hear what you think (although you might want to get a bowl of popcorn or something to help you settle in, the message is an hour+ long!).

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Your King Is Coming

Today, all over the world, churches are commemorating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem with ‘Palm Sunday’ celebrations. What sometimes gets overlooked in these celebrations is an event that contributed to the massive crowd that met Jesus that day. Jesus had recently brought a dead man back to life–his good friend Lazarus (John 11:38-44).

This was no resuscitation. Lazarus had been dead 4 days. He was in the tomb. Lazarus’ family tried to dissuade Jesus from going in because of the foul smell. Jesus persisted and, with the authority of One who is fully Divine, Jesus commanded Lazarus, ‘Come forth!’……and he did!

This remarkable miracle did not take place in isolation, but amid a gathering of Lazarus’ friends and family. In other words, there were many eyewitnesses to Lazarus coming back to life. And, as you might imagine, these eyewitnesses couldn’t contain themselves. The word of this miracle spread quickly, and John’s gospel credits this as the reason for the huge crowd that greets Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.

It should also be noted that these people were no mere curiosity seekers–these people shouted cheers indicating their belief that Jesus was their promised Messiah. Jesus was the one that they had been waiting their entire life for and, having now found Him, they were ecstatic!

I get that. I get what it’s like to find someone who fills a person’s deepest void. Jesus has done that for me. He’s my King. More than that, He’s the King. He’s an accessible King–yes, He actually wants to hear from you and from me. He’s the great life-changer and the ultimate life-giver.

That’s what we celebrate on Palm Sunday, that’s what we celebrate at Easter, and that’s what charges me up every day of my life.

So, can I ask you: What’s your relationship to the King? I’d love to hear your story.

If you are interested in mine, have a listen to the message I delivered this morning at St. Giles Kingsway, entitled, ‘Your King Is Coming’.

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