What Really Matters

What really matters to you? And is your life aligned around it?

Two crucial questions that have the power to re-shape our lives.

For many of us, our life is cluttered with things that are not really that important.

Living a fulfilled life is about learning to clean out the clutter and focus on what really matters.

There are two types of things that really matter to us. The first category consists of things that make us personally feel good and whole. These include economic security, intellectual stimulation, rewarding work, mutually beneficial relationships, and physical health.

But there is another category. You find this category by asking the following question (read it slowly):

What is the thing that could cause you to have joy, even if things don’t go well for you personally? Continue reading “What Really Matters”

Living by Grace

In Philippians 1, the Apostle Paul tells the Philippians that he prays to God that their love would increase (v. 9). This indicates that love is the result of God’s grace in us.

This is further confirmed by what Paul says at the end of the prayer. The fruit of righteousness “comes through Jesus Christ–to the praise and glory of God” (1:11).

In addition, they can be assured of the grace of God because “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (1:11).

This is more controversial than it should be among Christians. One reason for this, I believe, is that people take these truths out of the broader context of Scripture.

So, Christian A will say, “Did you work out your own salvation with fear in trembling, or was it God who was working in you?” Continue reading “Living by Grace”

The Anxiety Cure

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6–7

Sometimes the things I need to learn are the most basic things.

This week, I attended a conference in Mississippi. I believe I went with an open heart to see what the Lord would teach me and what He would do through relationships.

What the Lord showed me was that there are many places in my life where I let frustrations or anxieties just sit there. In virtually every area of my life, there are low-grade frustrations. I don’t think I’m particularly weird because of that. Most of us have them.

But what had I been doing with those frustrations? Nothing. In some cases, they would build up with unpleasant results. Continue reading “The Anxiety Cure”

Comfort in Loss and Struggle

“But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus . . .” (2 Cor. 7:6)

Last week, I had the privilege to officiate at a funeral for one of our members, Ed Sumner. During the funeral, I shared some thoughts on his situation based on 2 Corinthians 7:6.

The Apostle Paul, who penned these words, knew the Word and promises of God well, but he still needed comfort. He was downcast, and God gave him the comfort he needed. How? “By the coming of Titus.”

Ed was also one who knew theology. He was steeped in the Bible. He had shelves full of books.

But Ed was often angry and downcast. He was lonely. He was an only child. He had no relatives. Relationships had not worked out well for him.

One day, Ed showed up at our church. He attended, and he kept coming back.

A few weeks later, he joined our church and stood to profess his faith along with two young girls who were doing the same that day. It was a beautiful picture of the body of Christ in its diversity. Continue reading “Comfort in Loss and Struggle”

Realistic Expectations for Your Children

Here’s a suggestion for you who are parents or will be. Keep a journal of what your children do. If you have a bad day, write about it. If they do something that makes you particularly happy, write about that, too. I would especially suggest this if you have several children.

My wife does not journal a lot. She has written three journal entries over the past five years. However, a few nights ago, she read them, and she really enjoyed it. I’m going to publish some of my own journal entries in a few months where I describe some of the most intimate details of my private life. Just kidding.

In all seriousness, I’m really pleased how my two oldest children are growing and becoming good workers. They are almost 9 and 8 years old. My son is particular willing to work without complaining, even if he is not as thorough as I would like. Nevertheless, I’m quite pleased.

But my 5 and 4 year old daughters drive me crazy sometimes. Every time I try to get them to do even the smallest tasks, they disappear, get “sick,” or suddenly have to go to the bathroom. I was complaining about this to my wife, and she said, “Anna (our oldest) did the same thing when she was five. I just read it in my journal.” I was greatly relieved. We were not failures as parents. Our younger girls were not destined to be eternal couch potatoes, ever avoiding work. They were just being 5 and 4.

This was a good lesson for me. I’ll keep pushing my children to work, but I also want to have realistic expectations. That’s true for all who have subordinates. It’s true as a pastor, and it’s true as a father. “Be patient with all.” says the Apostle Paul (1 Thess. 5:14).

Can You Remember the Time of Your Conversion?

But lest any poor soul should be discouraged under the display of this providence [in conversion], because he cannot remember the time, place, instruments, and manner, wherein and by which his conversion was wrought; I will therefore premise this necessary distinction, to prevent injury to some, whilst I design benefit to others.

Conversion, as to the subjects of it, may be considered two ways; either as it is more sensibly wrought in persons of riper years, who in their youthful days were more profane and vile; or in persons in their tender years, into whose hearts grace was more insensibly and indiscernibly instilled, by God’s blessing upon pious education. Continue reading “Can You Remember the Time of Your Conversion?”

Updated: Guidelines for True Christian Living

Update: You can download a PDF of the book here.

I have completed my translation of French Huguenot preacher Pierre Allix’s Guidelines for True Christian Living. You can read it by clicking on the title of the book. Here is my preface to the book:

Our catechisms cover the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. We do well to master them. However, there are few resources that set forth in a simple way how to live a Christian life. I believe that Peter Allix’s book does just that. If you take into account the 50 principles that he sets forth here, I believe you will be much better equipped to live a godly life. This book is simple enough that young children can understand it. I intend to use this book to teach my children the basics of godly living. I will be gratified if others put it to the same use.

And here are a few highlights from the book:

  1. To fail to reflect upon our conduct is to live without reason. But to not consider the state of our heart each day is to live without piety and godliness. We must see what good acts we have omitted and what sins we have committed. (9)
  2. We may think we are innocent because we do not commit any great crimes. But let’s be honest. Most of the things we do are far removed from the real purpose of our lives. Oftentimes, we just waste time doing nothing. This negligence is not innocent, even though it may not be the most criminal. (11)
  3. Let us be ashamed at such an imperfect Christianity. Let us be ashamed to do less by the fear of Jesus Christ, by this Jesus whom we ought to love, than by the fear of men who are not worthy of either our love or fear.
  4. Continue reading “Updated: Guidelines for True Christian Living”

How Do We Pursue Peace?

Peace should be a high priority for all believers. We should do all that we can to make sure that the church is a harmonious and pleasant place in which to worship. Each Christian should be peaceable. But what does it mean to be peaceable?

Wilhelmus à Brakel in his Reformed classic The Christian’s Reasonable Service gives this definition of peaceableness:

Peaceableness is a believer’s quiet and contended disposition of soul, inclining him toward, and causing him to strive for, the maintaining of a relationship with his neighbor characterized by sweet unity—doing so in the way of truth and godliness. (4:91)

Continue reading “How Do We Pursue Peace?”

Advice on Evangelism

  1. “If you are not capable of speaking to certain individuals, and about such matters, speak to others. Begin with beggars and children, by whom you are not intimidated, and discuss general and rudimentary principles.”
  2. “If you know three words, then teach others two, even if you were only to say, ‘We are going to die, which will be followed by eternity.’ This could be a means to somebody’s conversion.”
  3. “Fruit upon your words does not come forth from you. You will not be held accountable for fruitfulness, but for faithfulness. If any does not wish to hear you, you will be able to find another who will readily hear you. If anyone laughs, another will weep.”
  4. Continue reading “Advice on Evangelism”

What Is Crooked Cannot Be Made Straight

The following selection is Martin Luther’s comments on Ecclesiastes 1:15: “What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be numbered.”

Cicero writing from his own experience says, “Alas! How constantly it happens that as sure as anything has been devised, and planned for the best, and with the greatest industry, it turns out so badly and so strangely!” God however herein does well, that He blows away and brings to nothing whatever man meditates and undertakes. For as soon as any plan of us men succeeds a little, from that hour we begin to take the honor to ourselves. Forthwith ambition begins to stir within us, and we think to ourselves, this I have done, for this are my country and fellow men indebted to me; and we grasp at the honor which belongs alone and entirely to God. Wherefore, if God is to continue Lord, and to assert and maintain His first commandment, He must only suffer the lesser part of our thoughts to turn out well, and both in the courts and councils of kings and princes, and in all other affairs, so soon as, and whenever anything has been deliberated and determined, show that the words “if God wills it” still retain their full force. Continue reading “What Is Crooked Cannot Be Made Straight”