The Beautiful Body of the Bride




Sometimes you have that small moment, that snapshot in time where you see something that would fill hundreds of pages to tell. I saw that moment this weekend, as an elderly woman struggled to get out of her car and made a very labored effort to get to her feet, carefully gathering her weight on failing legs as she was steadied by her husband, standing at her door.


And then I saw it.


A look. A smile.


In an instant, that glance showed trust, respect, and a profound depth of love. The bridegroom saw his bride, and she was beautiful.


She gathered herself and straightened her dress. From the look of it, it was a dress she’d worn many times, which surely the old man had seen for years. But he shook his head and gave her a smirk that said, “Wow. You’re beautiful.”


She looked nothing like what our culture tells us beauty should look like: dowdy, tottering, and labored in her movements. Her figure was that of an old lady and certainly wouldn’t grace the cover of a Sports Illustrated magazine.


As I walked into church Sunday morning, I didn’t see the have-it-all-together people that our culture tells us we’re supposed to be, and which much of American pop-christianity peddles.


I saw a bride that looked a lot more like the elderly lady than the swimsuit model. As I entered, I met a man who I re-meet every week. A wonderful brother who never seems to remember that we’ve met, who sits in a row filled with his children and grandchildren, and I’m reminded, though my time on earth is short and often full of pain, that God’s mercy passes from generation to generation.


In front of me were young parents with children occupying themselves with toys on the floor. And as they began to fight over “mine”, I recalled how quickly I do the same, and I glanced up past them to the cross on the altar.




This wasn’t a collection of shiny, perfect people. It’s a collection of failing minds, failing legs, and tired parents. It’s children grabbing for what’s “mine”, but assembled, all, before the cross and gifts of Christ for us.


Later in the service, I watched those same beautiful children and their mother at the communion rail, receiving those very gifts: the children receiving a blessing, and the mother served the supper from her own husband, an Elder.


So this is what it looks like, in all it’s frailty and humanity. And as we attempt to stand on failing legs, the bridegroom sees us not in our weakness, but as the beautiful bride.

I’ll return next week to see the impatient kids, who haven’t learned to hide their impatience as well as I have. And I’ll re-meet my brother, receiving the same warm smile and corny joke that met me last week. And we’ll receive anew our gifts of love from our groom.


I love this bride, and her body is beautiful.





Posted in General

What Difference Does it Make?

I’m at a point in my life, with career and family, where I simply don’t have the time I need to accomplish all of the things I’d like to do. I’m sure this sounds familiar to many of you.  Some of these things are still important, they still matter, but they just get prioritized out.  So, while I still attempt to blog as I’m able, I’ve found that direct interaction with folks through other social media is most often “more bang for the buck”.

As I deal with people who interact with others regarding matters of faith, I’m often fatigued by the tone and content. Sometimes it just seems like it’s just not worth it. I mean, what difference does it make?

It makes ALL the difference.

I’ve been thinking about a good friend of mine, lately. His name is Luis. Luis has a joy for life that only comes from someone who has seen the evil of the world in all it’s ugliness. In his case, it was through combat.  He’s one of the most easy-going, carefree folks I’ve ever known. Until the day he took me rappelling.


As he started to uncoil the myriad ropes, pulleys, and other things-I-don’t-know-what-they’re-called, his mood changed dramatically.  His words were direct. There was no chit-chat. Each phrase, each word had a sternness, and an immediacy that let me know that this was serious. And though this phrase is overused; Deadly serious.


Luis made it very clear, that although there were different styles, different views of climbing, different equipment, one thing was constant and non-negotiable. The rope is the only thing between you and death.  The minute you believe that you can grab the rope and hold on, you’re in deep, deep trouble. You have to fight every instinct to grab the rope with both hand, he reminded me. The hand tucked behind you is a sort of unnatural surrender to the fact that the rope holds.

This reminds me of many of my recent theology discussions on social media.  Does it really matter? If you love Jesus, and I love Jesus, isn’t it all the same without all the drama and theology?

In short; It matters…..tremendously….. to the point of being the difference between life and death.

You see, there are styles. And there are folks who are my, OUR brothers and sisters in Christ who do things a bit differently. And that’s OK.  But the problem is, much of what I see in these differences makes it entirely too easy to begin to grab for the rope.


If I believe that it is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone that I am declared righteous before God, I haven’t left much room for me to trust my grip. But change one thing, *anything* in that sentence and I make it easy to trust my grip.

If I make it grace through merit, I’ve grabbed the rope and started to pull.

If I make it faith and works, I’ve grabbed the rope.

If I make it Christ and my decision, I’ve grabbed the rope.

If I trust my wicked heart of fleeting feelings, rather than trusting in Word and Sacrament, I’ve let go of the rope with both hands!

As some dear friends in Christ often say;

Though I hold not to thee, Christ hold fast to me.


I must admit, as someone who is afraid of heights, and a bit of a control freak, I fought the rope through my first climb. Out of panic, I even attempted to climb on my own strength at one point and still have the scar on my leg, 20 years later, as a reminder. But when I began to trust that the rope would hold, it was incredibly freeing; I was able to enjoy the view. (I hear that there are folks who even sleep overnight on some of the most intense climbing locations like Half Dome.)  Yet, even experienced climbers must fight the “natural” reaction to grab the rope with both hands.  And here I find myself, every single day, failing to trust the one who holds me. That fear never leaves me.

So, my point is this. It matters. It matters tremendously. What seems overly technical, tedious, and often confrontational is often the small difference between life and death.

You’ll be called nitpicky, divisive, unloving, “sharp tongued”, or worse. You will, at some point, be called out as the very reason why people don’t “come to Jesus”.



As my friend Luis told me, there are many kinds of styles, but some of them make it incredibly easy to make the fatal error of trusting your grip and grabbing for the rope. And it wouldn’t have been loving, or tolerant for him to watch me make that mistake, It was, rather, the most caring thing he could have done to point out that I was in danger.

So, it matters. It matters immensely. Because if your faith is in your grip, you will not be spared from the fall. And to tell those who are on the rock face of this life to stop trusting that grip is not unloving, or petty, but it is divisive. Because these are the words of life which divide those who are held, and those who fall.


Stay in the fight. It matters.




Posted in General

MEology vs Theology: Boars in the Vineyard Podcast

This week, I’m excited to bring you a 14 minute excerpt from the outstanding Boars in the Vineyard Podcast (


In conversations, it’s often difficult to help someone understand the difference between the MEology of the local “Big box” church, and the Christ-centered Theology of the christian faith.  I think that Pastors Dan Price and Lewis Polzin have done so quite well in this short clip, and with a good bit of humor.

Thanks you Boars in the Vineyard for allowing me to share this in an easily accessible YouTube format.  If you aren’t listening to their Podcast, I highly recommend it.  Enjoy!


Posted in General

“Potato Head” Jesus and Your Pastrix

First of all, my apologies; If it feels like it’s been a while since my last article, it certainly has.  A couple of months to be exact.   I wish I could say that there was some super-spiritual reason for it, some soul-searching sabbatical, or heartwarming volunteer work with those in need, but to paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson, “that just ain’t the truth.”

No, the absence has been purely vocational. Long work weeks have left little time for anything other than family.   No complaints, as I truly enjoy the work, but the blog certainly suffered.  With that.. this one has been on my mind lately.  Enjoy!

Let me begin this article with a little story:

In 1930, a local art professor named Elias Garcia Martinez, in an act of gratitude to the little village where he spent his holidays, painted a small mural of Jesus, crowned with thorns, on the wall of the local church in Borja, Zaragoza, Spain.



Over time the mural, the face of Jesus, was taken for granted, and gradually began to fade. (Goodness, that’s a blog post in itself.) Everyone seemed to be aware of the issue, and funds were raised to restore Jesus’ image in the little church, but the church continued with little attention given to the the crucified Savior… but then……

A sweet little old lady, 80 year old amateur artist Cecilia Gimenez, stepped up and attempted to right the long-neglected Jesus.  The problem? Senora Gimenez wasn’t a trained artist.  And the result?











What some have called “Potato Head Jesus”.

Which brings us to the subject of this weeks article:  “Sedes Doctrinae”

Sedes doctrinae is a theological term meaning, literally, “the seat of doctrine”.  In other words, it’s where (and how) we find (and define) our doctrine.  I think Ludwig Fuerbringer provided an outstanding definition in his “Theological Hermeneutics“:

“Every doctrine of Holy Scripture is set forth at some place or other very clearly, in proper terms, as the main theme of the discourse.”

In other words, any belief we hold must not only be found somewhere in the words of scripture, but must be found clearly, and in context.  I know many of us have heard the tongue-in-cheek story of using scripture out of context:

A man was seeking to find guidance in scripture, so he randomly flipped his Bible open and, with eyes closed, pointed to a scripture and opened his eyes…. “and Judas went and hanged himself.” (Matthew 27).  Unsettled, he closed his eyes again, let the Bible fall open, and turned pale as his finger now pointed at… “go and do likewise” (Luke 10).  Yes, it’s humorous, but the point is serious; Scripture means what it means and what it means is given to us clearly, in context. You can’t randomly take verses and force them into other context and still be true to scripture.

And that brings us back to the botched painting:

The untrained artist, Senora Gimenez, got the parts right; eyes, nose, hair, tunic.. but goodness, what a mess! While we ended up with something, it was so far from the real Jesus that it was an unrecognizable, grotesque caricature.

With that knowledge, let’s apply this knowledge to a most unpopular and controversial area:  “Women Pastors”


So, how do we know what scripture says about women pastors? Well, we look for the Sedes Doctrinae! Where does the bible speak most clearly, specifically, to this issue?  Does scripture ever answer the question “Who can be a pastor?” How about “Who cannot?”

In this case, the bible most clearly speaks to this issue in what are known as the “Pastoral Epistles” (that would be a pretty good place to look, no?)  What does God the Holy Spirit say through The Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy, where the qualifications for Pastors and Elders are most clearly laid out?

The following from Matt Slick:

“But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but remain quiet.  For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.  And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression,” (1 Tim. 2:12-14 — all quotes from the Bible are from the NASB).

This passage has several interesting areas of discussion, but for our purpose we will focus on authority.  At the very least, there is an authority structure set up by God.  The woman is not to have authority over the man in the church context.  But this does not extend to the political/economic world.  In the Old Testament Deborah was a judge in Israel over men.  Also, in the New Testament, Phoebe played an important role in the church at Cenchrea (Romans 16).  There is no doubt that women supported Paul in many areas and were great helpers in the church (Acts 2:1718:24-2621:8-9).  But what Paul is speaking of in 1 Tim. 2 is the relationship between men and women in the church structure, not in a social or political context.

When we look further at Paul’s teachings we see that the bishop/overseer is to be the husband of one wife (1 Tim. 3:2) who manages his household well and has a good reputation (1 Tim. 3:4-57). Deacons must be “men of dignity” (1 Tim. 3:8).  Paul then speaks of women in verse 11 and their obligation to receive instruction.  Then in verse 12, Paul says “Let deacons be husbands of one wife…”  Again, in Titus 1:5-7, Paul says, “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man be above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.  For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward…”  Notice that Paul interchanges the word ‘elder’ and ‘overseer’.

In each case, the one who is an elder, deacon, bishop, or overseer is instructed to be male (See article There were deaconesses, so there can be female elders and pastors).  He is the husband of one wife, responsible, able to “exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).  We see no command for the overseers to be women.  On the contrary, women are told to be “dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things” (1 Tim. 3:11).   Why is it that it is the men who are singled out as the overseers?  It is because of the created order of God that Paul references (Gen. 1-2; 1 Tim. 2:12-14).   This is not merely a social custom that fell away with ancient Israel.

Additionally, in the Old Testament in over 700 mentions of priests, every single one was a male.  There is not one instance of a female priest.  This is significant because priests were ordained by God to hold a very important office of ministering the sacrifices.  This was not the job of women.  Therefore, from what I see in Genesis 1-2, 1 Timothy 2, and Titus 1, the normal and proper person to hold the office of elder/pastor is to be a man.”
I’ve heard the arguments which seek to justify female pastors and deacons (though I’ve found that most churches which support female pastors rarely have a deaconate.)

The most common are some variation of the following:

1. There were women deacons in scripture! (i.e. Phoebe in Romans 16:1)

Incorrect.  The greek term from which we get deacon (διάκονος/diakonos) is used over 30 times in the New Testament.  While it is translated “deacon” it is also translated as “servants”, “waiters”, government official, and deacon/pastor.  To show the wide semantic range of this term let’s look at examples:

Paul is a diakonos (minister) of the gospel (Col 1).

Mary spoke to the diakonos (servants) at the wedding in Cana (John 2)

People serving tables were diakonos (waiters/servers) (Luke 17, Acts 6)

The government is called a diakonos (servant) of God (Romans 13)

So, unless the government is a pastor/deacon, the waiters in Luke and Acts were pastors/deacons, and the servants at the wedding in Cana were all pastors/deacons… we clearly have some more digging to do. And to begin, we use the primary tool… context.

Phoebe was a diakonos, a servant. A helper. Which is why every major translation (including those used by congregations supporting female pastorship) translate diakonos as “Servant” in Romans 16:1 (NIV, KJV, ESV, ASV, NASB, HCSB, NKJV).

So, do we see any clear teaching in 16:1 as to the role of Pastor? No, and certainly not even an argument as to the use/translation of diakonos here would supercede the sedes doctrinae found in 1 Timothy.  1 Timothy lays out the requirements for a Pastor/Deacon, while Romans 16 simply mentions a female servant/helper in passing.

2. Under Christ, Men and Women are equal!

Didn’t Paul say something about, there is no male or female, greek or jew, or something?

Yep, Galatians 3:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus,”

See? All are in Christ! Bam!

Well, let’s look in context:

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ haveput on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[g] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring,heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:23-29)

The context is clear. Galatians 3 isn’t about Pastoral qualifications, it’s about salvation. In that sense, we are absolutely all one in Christ Jesus!


In summary, the case for female pastors must be made from either assuming a particular use of the term diakonos in Romans 16 and taking Galatians 3 out of context. Call me biased, but when I have to one day stand before God and defend how faithful I was with His word, I’m not super-comfortable with that combo.

The case for a male-only pastorate is both explicit, and in a context specifically speaking to this subject in both the affirmative and the prohibitive.

 Affirmative: It doesn’t get more clear cut than “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be…” (Galatians 3)

Prohibitive: ” 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” (Galatians 2) In fact, Galatians 2 lays out authority from God the Father, through Christ, for the Church, to the Apostle, to Pastors and Leaders.

At the risk of sounding snarky, which position looks like an accurate painting of Christ found in scripture, and which appears to be rough brushstrokes of “nose”, “eyes”, and “tunic”?


I’ll close with this as we look at Sedes Doctrinae:

If someone, ANYONE, makes an assertion, something they say that God says or scripture says, look up what they are saying in scripture and *in context*.  If someone is preaching about giving, or who can preach, or who is baptized, or what communion means, I plead with you to look to the scripture for where it most clearly, and most specifically speaks to these subjects.

And for your homework… what is it that is “pressed down, shaken together, and running over in Luke 6?”  Feel free to post your answers in the comment section, on the marc5solas facebook page, or tweet them to marc5solas!

In Christ,


Note: 2 great articles by Matt Slick at CARM for further reading!




Posted in General

On Your First Job, From Dad

It’s rare that I post something of a non-theological nature, but I thought I would share a bit of my personal life this week.  My oldest daughter is taking her first job (a retail job at the mall).  Here are some “Dad thoughts” that I shared. I pray they may also be of use to those starting this phase of life.


As you enter the working world, a couple of thoughts from someone who loves you (and happens to hire, manage, mentor, and unfortunately fire people.)

Congratulations! The fact that you’re even stepping up to the plate and taking a job sets you apart from nearly half of the people in this country.  Never take for granted that a job, any job, makes you a contributor; A giver in a land and culture dominated by takers. Employment is something to be proud of.

With that said, there are a few things I’d like you to know.  A few principles that, if understood, will greatly aid you as you move into the next 40+ years of working life:

1. Nobody owes you anything.  That may sound harsh, but your job isn’t guaranteed. It’s not owed to you. The company you choose to work for is in the business of business, not in the business of giving people jobs. The fact that your employment allows them to make money is, at the very basic level, the arrangement. Never forget this.

2. Employment is a trade: You are trading your time and effort for money.  This sounds obvious, but you need to understand this.  You are trading a priceless commodity for cash. If you don’t determine for yourself the balance of this exchange, you’re going to get overworked, underpaid, and miss out on life.  Only you can determine what this balance looks like.

3. Earn your job every single day.  When you leave work ask yourself “Did I do enough today to earn the right to come back tomorrow?”  There are people who are content to do as little as possible to stay employed. Don’t be one. You aren’t above hard work or getting your hands dirty. Show initiative. Before you leave for the day ask your boss if there’s anything else that needs to be done. Separate yourself from the pack.

4. Learn your business. What do Abercrombie & Fitch, McDonalds, and Barnes and Noble have in common? They’ve invested in buildings, inventory, and people to do one thing: Make profits for their shareholders.  The only difference is in how they do it. Learn how your employer makes money, and help them make more. Better service? More sales? Less waste? If you don’t know, ask your boss. If your boss doesn’t know, ask their boss. You’re now prepared to take the job of the boss who didn’t know.

5. Learn everything. Learn the entire business. Use free time to learn other roles. The more you know, the more valuable you are to your employer. The more valuable you are, the more you make.  I personally know a board member of a Fortune 500 retailer who started in the shoe department.  It doesn’t matter where you start. Learn everything; How to run the registers, how to close out registers, how inventory works. Ask questions.

6.  Work to serve. Our faith teaches us that our vocation is the way by which God blesses the earth. There are no worthless or insignificant jobs.  While it’s obvious that the farmer raises food for us to eat and the truck driver brings it to our town, some aren’t so obvious: The person taking the trash out at the fast food restaurant ensures that our meals aren’t contaminated. There are no worthless jobs, and nobody who shows up and puts in an honest days work is to be looked down upon. Ever.

7. Find mentors. Starting at the bottom? Good. Learn the business from the ground up. Learn from everyone; from some how to lead, and from some how not to lead. When you find those you respect, tell them.  Ask them questions. What do you need to know to make the next step? What do they wish they would have known at your age? What can you do to improve yourself, your team, and your company?  I can count on one hand how many people have done that who have worked for me. I remember them by name, and they’ve all been successful.

8. Be the CEO of You, Inc.  A mentor once told me that in the business relationship, the only person negotiating for you and your family is you.  That means that you need to intentionally manage every aspect of your working life; How much time are you willing to trade for money? How much are you worth? What do you want to do? How do you gain the skills to do what you want? Is this the right company for you to do it?

9. Integrity. Work hard. Your work is a reflection of you, your family, and your faith.  I can’t overemphasize the value of hard work and integrity. Over the course of your career, your integrity can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Never sell it.  I’ve seen people end their careers by selling their integrity. Don’t do it. If it’s not yours, don’t take it. If you didn’t earn it, don’t take it. Don’t “fudge” your hours or expense reports. If it’s $9.84, it’s $9.84, not $10.  Your integrity is worth more than $ .16.

10. Enjoy yourself.   Enjoy the people you work with. You’re going to spend a lot of time at work. Get to know people and what matters to them. Your co-workers aren’t tools to use, they’re people who are making the same time-money trade that you are.  Everyone in a company has an important role; the CEO is no more important than the first-day high school student folding t-shirts or taking orders at the counter. Don’t believe me? Ask the company who lost millions in stock value over high school employees making stupid YouTube videos while on the clock. Whether you’re the CEO or the grocery bagger, never judge your worth or anyone else’s by title or salary. I’ve scrubbed toilets and I’ve flown on the company jet and I’m no better now than I was then.  Treat everyone you work with the respect they deserve. Like you, they’ve earned it by stepping up to the plate.


I love you. I respect you taking this step into responsible adulthood.


Now, head up… smile… and show ’em what you’ve got!



Posted in General

A Conversation: Experiencing Life-Change in Authentic Community

I’ve been so moved by personal testimonies of life-change recently that I’ve decided to “join the conversation” regarding “life change” in “authentic community”.  I think I’ve found a community truly “living out” this “message of hope” in a “radical” way…

Young people sharing their life-change with other young people; Spreading the message and creating  hope in authentic community.


“I was just living day to day. I didn’t really have anything to look forward to. As soon as (it) came into my life, I was like Wow, I never want the day to end.


“Sometimes I’ll listen to a lesson and think, oh yeah! Why didn’t I think of that!”


“Before, I was kind of sad and lonely.  My initial reaction was like, ehh, but when I heard about the conference, I really wanted to go.”


And what a conference! Thousands of people, great music, strangers linking arms and becoming friends around this message of hope.


“I’m here, 900 miles from my home with at this conference with a population 4 times the size of my town in this building.”


“Before, I had about 7 friends. Now I have about a few hundred.”

These are people who are committed, living radically, and not bowing to social norms. They are impacting their culture.

“These kids are taking these lessons to heart, we need to allow men to be sensitive and to care about one another and not call them weak for caring.”

Here’s more info if you’d like to make a decision to become a follower, and begin a conversation about radical life change in authentic community:



Get it?

Look, you can have those things.. ALL of those things (life-change, community, conversation, conferences, acceptance) around ANYTHING.

Share ground with the rest of the world if you like, but our call is not change the world or promote “life change”, we’re to proclaim the gospel of Christ crucified for sinner. The other stuff? While not bad, it’s subjective, and it’s certainly not unique.  Start preaching life change and you’re standing in line with the Bronies.  I’ll pass, thanks.

Your Bro (that’s brother, not bronie) in Christ,


Posted in General

“One Way Love” by Tullian Tchividjian: A review



It’s not every day that you get an e-mail from a well known Christian author and speaker. (OK, maybe that does happen to you everyday, but it certainly doesn’t for me). So, when I got an e-mail from Tullian Tchividjian, best selling Christian author, speaker, grandson of Billy Graham, and owner of a name you can’t pronounce… I was both thrilled and worried.

Thrilled at the opportunity to read it pre-release for review here…

and worried, because I’m not a fan of most of the “Christian” books which hit the shelves these days.

Could I be honest and bash what I felt to be a bad book or bad theology by someone who had been gracious enough to personally send it to me?  I’m afraid I could be, and while I can no more compete with Tullian’s popularity than I could his tan, I knew I’d have to.


Let me make this review as succinct as possible:

You need to read this book.  Correction, you need to read this book and tell other people to read this book. I have no tie to the author or the publisher, but I hope you buy a dozen copies of this book and give them away to your closest friends.


Because at this point in the churches history (even, especially in the reformed community), this message is desperately needed.

I may not win any friends for saying this, but here’s why we need this book and we need it now:

For the last several years, we’ve gotten a steady diet of the call to be radical.  Now I get it, I really, really love guys like Francis Chan and David Platt. Their example and plea to get off the sidelines and live in light of the gospel is not only necessary, it’s GOOD. But many young brothers and sisters went the wrong way (like our hearts are prone to do) and took these good examples as law… and soon began to question me on whether they were being “radical” enough. (To the point of questioning their “fruit” and very regeneration).

Again, no matter how much I emphasize that I don’t think guys like David Platt were advocating this AT ALL, it’s where it was taken.  In conversation, young brothers were struggling with whether or not they were “radical enough” or whether they needed to be reckless to be radical.  Law does what it does, and it condemned.

As I struggled through this with friends, I had to work through law and grace with each of them.  I remember thinking, “If we could somehow get ‘Law and Gospel’ to the masses, we could battle this problem.”

“One Way Love” is exactly that book.  I know Tullian to be a gifted communicator (Jesus+Nothing=Everything is an outstanding book), but the handling of Law and Gospel in this book is masterful.  While it’s the bread and butter theology of confessional Lutherans, it’s not something you expect to see in a (no offense) popular Christian title. Yet, here it is, in perfect form.


In an era where brothers and sisters are discovering the doctrines of grace and working out from a purpose-driven evangelical mindset, I’ve seen the struggle as one set of law is exchanged for another.  This book contains both the full weight of the law and the beautiful freedom of the gospel.

At the risk of sounding flippant, this is Walther’s Law and Gospel, within reach of the masses.

I give this book the highest recommendation I can give….

I’ll be giving this to my teen daughters and buying copies for their friends.


(By the way, Tchividjian rhymes with “religion”. Knowing that will win you major points at the next conference… you don’t want to be the other guy; the one that rhymes Sproul with owl)


Posted in General

Just Quit: How Nike got it Wrong

Screen shot 2013-07-27 at 10.31.38 AM

One of the upsides of working in a predominantly non-Christian (and often openly anti-Christian) environment is that I get asked the tough questions. Not only about the Christian faith, but about why the world is the way it is.  On many things we’ll all agree:

The world isn’t fair. Behind the masks we all wear, people are hurting and the world can be a harsh place of broken dreams, broken relationships, and broken lives.

We also agree that we want the world to be a better place. Deep down, we all know that it’s supposed to be better, and our desire to make it better is a good thing.

But where we part, where Christianity parts with every other worldview and stands alone is in HOW we do this.

I want you to get this:

Every single worldview, apart from Christianity, will solve the problems of the world, and define their “greater purpose” by what Adolf Koberle described as climbing one of three ladders.

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It is so important that you not only understand the futility of climbing these ladders, but how our human nature attempt to smuggle them into our faith.  While various generations cyclically move between the three, and while some cultures or denominations lean harder into one than the others, make no mistake about it… these will lure us away from our trust in Christ and His atonement; of the central theme of all scripture: Christ crucified for Sinners. And to lose that is to lose our very salvation, for only faith in Christ can save.  That’s as serious as it gets.

The reason these ladders are so tempting, so alluring in fact that they provide the framework for every non-Christian religion, is that we *want* them.  It’s how we’re hard-wired. And they tempt us with the promises of our “best life now”, discovering our “purpose in life”, “life change”, “changing the world”, and ultimately leading to reaching God to receive His approval, blessing, and “favor”.  Learn the ladders, learn the temptation, and learn the lingo by which it’s been smuggled into the church since the 1st century.

This week we’ll discuss a ladder which at first glance hasn’t been as much of a threat to our generation as it was to our parents and grandparents.  Under closer examination, we’ll find that we’ve simply put the same deadly poison into a prettier bottle.

The ladder is Moralism.

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“The way of moralism seeks to earn God’s favor, or a satisfying life, through the achievement of moral perfection – always doing what is right, avoiding wrongdoing of every kind, keeping oneself under control by sheer willpower and a scrupulous conscience.  Certainly, the desire to be good is a laudable sentiment – if it only could be accomplished.” – Gene Edward Veith,  The Spirituality of the Cross.

S0, moralism is seeking to achieve what we’re after by doing the right things and not doing the wrong things. In this way, we will receive God’s favor, blessing, and attain the awesome life we’re looking for.

See the problem? Who is in control? Who is doing the *doing*?  Any grace here? I mean, if I’ve earned it, God owes it to me, right?  And if I don’t get it? God has robbed me. He’s failed me.

I see moralism fail again, and again, and again in those around me who either hate christianity, or given up on it completely.  So why does it still allure us?

As westerners, and particularly as Americans, it just sounds right. It not only aligns with our natural sinful bent to “save ourselves” it matches everything our culture values: hard work, self-determination, and discipline.

So, what does this look like? How does it develop and ultimately fail?

First of all, the enemy has to convince you that you’re actually capable of pulling this thing off; that you can do it.

Secondly, once you realize you can’t do it, you’ve got to change the rules as you go. We lower the bar.

Third, when confronted with the fact that we’re not doing it, we look for the exit. We either despair, or we quit. (Would it surprise you if I told you that quitting was the actual solution here?)

See, scripture is clear that we are held to God’s perfect standard of righteousness, revealed to us by God in the Ten Commandments, and summarized, and reinforced by Jesus in the New Testament gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

The first thing we do is to look for the out. Am i doing it? Scripture gives us a great example of our natural reaction when being confronted by the law:

The rich young ruler, the pharisees, and Marc.. we all do the same thing:

“Don’t murder? Check. Don’t steal? Check. Don’t commit adultery? Check.”

But Jesus would have none of it.

Not committing adultery? How about lusting after a woman?

Not stealing? How about selling everything you own and giving it away?

How about loving God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul and loving your neighbor as yourself?

How’s that working out for you? Ever missed it? Once? Game over.

And I think, deep down, we know this. We’re “sophisticated” enough to not believe ancient paganism where throwing virgins into volcanoes makes the crops grow, and that “God is gonna getcha!” if you wear jeans to church.. but are we really any more sophisticated? Before we get too smug, ask yourself if we’ve really just traded one path for another on the road of moralism?  Will God now bless us for sacrificing 10% of our paycheck instead of the virgin? Have we traded “God’s gonna getcha!” for the threat of missing a “life of favor” if you don’t follow the latest trend of purpose-driven, audacious, missional law?

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See, just like the rich young ruler and the pharisee, none of the things they were doing were BAD, they were just INSUFFICIENT!

You want to help others? Stay faithful to your spouse? Feed the poor? Vote for human rights? ALL GOOD!  But the moment you judge your standing before God, you’ve missed it. When these activities (what we do and don’t do) become the standard by which we judge ourselves and the world around us, we’ve walked away from the only thing which can save us… knowing that Christ’s work alone is sufficient.

So, we take these things we do/don’t do and start measuring other people by them. Since we’re the standard, we’re nailing most of what we hold other people to… and it starts to sound like this:

Real Christians don’t go to the movies.

Real Christians vote X.

Real Christians don’t (insert your pet cause here).

While we mock the legalistic moralism of our ancestors (wearing suits, not wearing makeup, not drinking or smoking, not watching TV, or going bowling) we’ve simply replaced the legalistic moralism of the pharisees with the internal moralism of the post-modern (“live audaciously”, “live missionally”) not so that you won’t “go to hell” like our ancestors, but that you would receive “favor” and “double portions” (from the mundane like getting better parking spots, to the sublime, like financial abundance.) in short, we’ve actually gone past “Do what Jesus did” to “Think how Jesus thought”!

And in the end, what have we lost?

We don’t love God with all our heart, because at the core, we don’t really need Him. We’ll do the work, you give us what we’ve earned.  We don’t really need Christ’s forgiveness because we’ve (pretty much) kept the standard we’ve created for ourself.  And we won’t love our neighbor as ourself because they’ve created their own standards (which don’t match mine).  It’s easy for me to divide my world into “us” (those who vote, act, and think like me) from “them” (those who don’t).

So, to wrap it up.. be very, very careful of the ladder of moralism. If you’re still attempting to “Just do it”, you can’t accept what Christ has already done.

You can’t receive with empty hands of faith if those hands are wrapped around the rungs of a ladder.

If you’re attempting to “do it”, you by definition cannot receive the very thing, the ONLY thing which can save you!

Jesus never said “You just gotta begin to..”. He said “It is finished.” Rest in Christ’s finished work. If you hear any variation or spin of “if you will ____, God will ____”. God’s not making trades. There is no quid pro quo. The only thing you bring to God is your sin and open hands of faith. If you come to Him, works in hand, you are rejecting the very thing, the ONLY thing which can save you; Christ’s work on your behalf.

So, Nike has it wrong. Don’t “Just do it”, just quit. Stop trying to earn God’s favor through your works. Even at your best, you can’t do it.  Christ has done it all through His atoning work on the cross. Your sins are forgiven. You stand perfectly justified before God, clothed in Christ’s righteousness.

And that, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is real “favor”.






Posted in General

Joel Osteen and In-N-Out (Redux)

If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating an In-N-Out Burger, you are missing out on one of the little, artery clogging,  pleasures of life.

As for the name, it’s about as basic and simple as you could get.  You come in, get your burger, and go out.  Fast, easy, and well.. tasty.

Inside of you is hunger, outside of you are tasty burgers for your enjoyment.  You go there, get one, and satisfy your hunger. There are no burgers inside of me, so I go out, where there are burgers.  Simple. Not exactly deep theology here.. right?

Can you imagine the absurdity and utter confusion of getting that basic premise wrong?

Would it be absurd? Would it be mocked?  You would think so, but I recently saw this obvious error applauded and treated as if it was the deepest, most philosophical, life-changing truth imaginable by no lesser names than media mogul Oprah Winfrey and “christian” Pastor Joel Osteen.

Before you think I unfairly listed Osteen as “christian” (in quotes), let’s watch his latest appearance on Oprah’s “Lifeclass”:

Did you catch the quote?

“You’ll never rise any higher than you see yourself.” – Joel Osteen

Hmm.  So, how high I rise (externally/out) is based upon me (internal/in) and how I see myself (internal/in).

So the answer to the external is from within.. how I view myself, and as he states later, what words I speak about myself.

You’ve got to see this… Joel Osteen’s view, his teaching in the role of “Pastor” is that the external is determined by the internal (You, your view, your mindset, and your words).

Sounds good, and boy, does it sell.  Oprah has built a multi-billion dollar media empire. Joel Osteen “Pastors” the largest church in the United States, it’s also helped sell books like “The Secret” and spin up careers of Oprah’s other Lifeclass speakers.  But what does scripture say?  Is THIS the message of Christianity, that the internal controls the external?  That it’s IN that controls OUT?

The written word of God, inspired by God the Holy Spirit is clear.. it’s not the SOLUTION that’s in us, it’s the PROBLEM!

(I’m going to intentionally quote a LOT of scripture this week. I want the sheer weight and volume of scripture which speaks to this core issue to blow you away.  While Joel Osteen doesn’t quote a single verse, here is a mere sampling of God’s word on the issue. Read them all now, or later, but they’re here for your reference.)

1. Men are born in sin:

  • Psalm 51:5 – Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
  • Genesis 8:21 – the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”
  • Psalm 58:3 – The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
  • John 3:6 – “That which is born of the flesh is flesh”

2. As all men have sinned, they are slaves to sin:

  • John 8:34 – Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”
  • Titus 3:3 – For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
  • Galatians 4:8-9 – Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?
  • Romans 6:6,16,17,19,20 – We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey…? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed… For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
  • Romans 7:14 – For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

3. The heart of sin is UNABLE and UNWILLING to do good. It is, in fact, HOSTILE to God:

  • John 3:20 – “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
  • Romans 8:7-8 – For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God
  • Colossians 1:21 – And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds
  • Psalm 58:3 – The wicked are estranged from the womb;
  • Ephesians 2:12-13 – remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
  • Ephesians 2:3 – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
  • Proverbs 15:9 – The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord
  • Proverbs 15:8 – The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord (c.f. Proverbs 21:27)
  • Proverbs 28:9 – If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.
  • Isaiah 64:6 – We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
  • Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please [God]
  • Romans 8:7-8 – Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
  • Psalm 10:4 – In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
  • John 3:20 – “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
  • Isaiah 65:1 – “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
  • Isaiah 64:7 – There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
  • Romans 3:10-12 – “no one seeks for God.”

So, if we are born in sin, slaves to sin and hostile to God, unable to do good works… is the heart a good place to be looking?

Yes, for those in Christ, He has changed their heart of stone into a heart of flesh.  But.. where does that come from? IN or OUT?

Our righteousness? OUT! It is an external (or what some call “alien”) righteousness. Our only hope in life and death is the external/OUT righteousness of Christ!

“The first is alien righteousness, that is the righteousness of another, instilled from without.  This is the righteousness of Christ by which he justifies though faith, as it is written in I Cor. 1:30:  “whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”  In John 11:25-26, Christ himself states:  “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me…..shall never die.”  Later he adds in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”  This righteousness, then, is given to men in baptism and whenever they are truly repentant.  Therefore a man can with confidence boast in Christ and say:  “Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, his suffering and dying, mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, suffered, and died as he did.”  Just as a bridegroom possesses all that is his bride’s and she all that is his—for the two have all things in common because they are one flesh[Gen. 2:24]—so Christ and the church are one spirit [Eph. 5:29-32].  Thus the blessed God and Father of mercies has, according to Peter, granted to us very great and precious gifts in Christ [II Pet. 1:4].  Paul writes in II Cor. 1:3; “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

– Martin Luther

So, do you see the completely backward message of Joel Osteen? Not only is it not biblical (Did you hear a single mention of Jesus, or a single passage of scripture in his dicussion?) it’s the polar OPPOSITE of biblical Christianity.  And he’s telling unregenerate sinners (who the bible says are slaves to sin and UNABLE to please God) that they are blessed and victorious?  That’s not just incorrect, it’s rank heresy. He’s speaking peace and victory to people who in their unregenerate state are destined for hell.  Smiley face and sweet voice or not.. that’s the cruelest act I can think of a man committing, and to do it while presenting himself as a “Pastor”?  God have mercy!

False teacher much?

So, the takeaway here is this:  Get the In-N-Out right, your only hope is OUT, through the external/alien righteousness of Jesus Christ through faith in Him for the forgiveness of sins.



Posted in General

CAPTCHA and God’s Plan for your Life


As you may have noticed, there was no article last week. I’d like to say it was for some wholly holy (see what I did there?) endeavor, but it was due to a career move for which I am truly grateful.  And that has me thinking this week about vocation, careers, and God’s plan for my life.

This was an issue which bothered me for a long time, and it may be something you struggle with as well. If so, I pray this article is helpful.

As a young Christian, I really REALLY wanted to please God. And it was important (to the point of obsession) for me to know what God wanted me to DO.  Sure, I was saved, but now what? What is God’s plan for my life?  Where does He want me to go to school? Who does He want me to date, and to marry? Where does He want me to work?

And to be honest, it got pretty goofy.  Simple decisions weighed me down as I wrestled with what God would have me do in nearly every mundane sitauation.  And since, after multiple times reading the Bible cover to cover, I’ve yet to find scripture addressing college selection or career choice, I did what all of us tend to do… I looked for “feelings”.

Funny thing, feelings. You can convince yourself of just about anything.  Like the time I came home on military leave, convinced that eventually God would have me marry a nice girl from my hometown. I shared this information with a friend.. who happened to be engaged to said girl.  (Yes, that happened. And yes, I still want to pound my head against the desk everytime I think about how stupid I’ve been in trusting these “feelings”. By the way, they’re a beautiful couple who have been married for more than 15 years, raising a beautiful family, and doing great work in Christ’s name.)


So, then, where do we go to find “God’s plan” for our life? Our jobs? Our college majors?

Let’s start with the basics:

You want to please God. I get that. That’s not a bad thing.. but realize that God is *perfectly* pleased with you in Christ. PERFECTLY.  There’s nothing you can do to please God more. Get that. So, where scripture doesn’t speak, we have freedom.

What this frees us from is thinking that any given career is more or less pleasing to God.

God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does!

God uses you in very normal, “boring” ways every day to accomplish His will on earth.

But that’s not very “audacious” or “radical”. And because of that…

God’s people have struggled with this since the beginning of time.  Remember the purpose driven mantra which has become the favorite “life verse” for millions?


11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11

If you take this verse as being about *you* then you end up with a wonky theology which says that God has this amazing plan and it’s your job to discover it.  The problem?  Not only is it nowhere in scripture, but it’s incredibly damaging to believers.

See, the vast majority of the time, our life isn’t EPIC, it’s mundane. And if you think that anything less than epic isn’t pleasing to God you begin to see vocation (jobs) as either spiritual or non-spiritual. Working at the church, then, becomes “more holy” than, say, working at McDonalds. Spending the weekend at a “retreat” becomes “more godly” than changing diapers or bathing your kids.

Do you see how damaging this is to folks who are “just” living a “normal” life? How do I please God when “all I do” is get up, drive to work in traffic, do my  job, come home and take out the trash?  How does the mother changing diapers and cooking dinner please God? This is just “regular” stuff, right?


This mentality is what caused damage in the early church as men and women who were “really” devout and dedicated to God ran off and joined monestaries, becoming nuns and monks. It created two categories of Christians; essentially, amateur/part-time, and professional.


But the problem is that scripture doesn’t teach this.  God has chosen to work through common means to accomplish His will: Ink, Paper, Water, Bread, and Wine… and people.

Each night as my daughter goes to bed and prays The Lord’s Prayer, one of the peitions is “Give us this day our daily bread”.  And God DOES give my daughter her daily bread. How? Not through direct deposits of manna on our lawn, but through the farmer who grows the crops and raises the livestock. Though the truck driver who delivers it to the grocery store. Through the grocer who sells it. Through her mother who makes delicious meals. Through me, as I drive in traffic every day to earn a salary.  Even her very life is a gift of God; Not through a creation out of the dust (like Adam), but (as bluntly and tactfully as I can put it) the “means” of her mother and I.

God. Uses. Means.

God uses these means to accomplish His will on earth.

Martin Luther called these “masks of God”.  While we know that God is sovereign over His creation, and that God will bring His perfect will to pass, the means by which He does so are often hidden to us.

So, while I know that my command (and pleasure) is to be used as a means of gospel proclamation, I don’t know (and may never know this side of heaven) the ways in which my vocation is used to accomplish His will.

Remember the verse from Jeremiah 29:11? Most of those people died as slaves during the 70 remaining years of captivity. (Seriously, if you think that’s a promise for your “best life now”, you might want to check out my article here:

So, even in this situation, what was God’s guidance to these people in their day to day life as He worked, sovereignly, to free them?

4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. – Jeremiah 29: 4-7


Big purpose for their lives.. ready?  Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat what you grow. Get married. Have kids. Work for the good of your community. Pray for your community.

Not very epic, huh?


How about praying “audacious” prayers? God’s big plan for your life?  I’ll be honest, that stuff sells like hotcakes. People gobble it up faster than Steven Furtick, Mark Batterson, and Rick Warren can churn it out.

But that’s not what scripture teaches.

When Jesus himself (a pretty good authority on prayer, one would think) taught His disciples to pray, how “audacious” and “radical” were His prayers?

Give us daily bread.

Forgive us our sins.

Lead us not into temptation.

Deliver us from evil.

Bookmark that on each end with God’s epic plan for the exiles (plant gardens, build houses, and have families) and God’s great comission to His followers (proclaim the gospel, baptize, and make disciples) and you start to see a God who works in the mundane, pedestrian lives of normal people to accomplish His magnificent plan.  There are no “nominal” vocations when seen in light of God’s use of means!

Which leads me to CAPTCHA (because I’m a nerd, and I think like that).

Even if you don’t know CAPTCHA by name, you’ve certainly seen (and hated) it if you’ve ever tried to do anything from purchase movie tickets to use various facebook functions online.


While most people know that it’s purpose is to ensure that the fields are being filled out by a person rather than a computer, and for security.. here’s what you may not know:

Those weird words in goofy fonts that you have to type?

Those are scanned images from printed books, often books which are out of print and not available online.

See, when books are scanned, OCR software doesn’t do a very good job on old ink or old fonts.  What used to take hours for a proofreader to go back and manually review and correct now happens in seconds as problem images are pushed out via reCAPTCHA. What you’re doing when you read these words and type them in is actually proofreading an old book and providing valuable feedback!   So while you can’t see the big picture of daily activity, the part you play is infinitely more important than they seem!


So, young mother, you are absolutely being used, powerfully, of God as you change that diaper. Read that again. I’m not overstating this. God is using your work as a mother as His “mask” as Luther said, His means for accomplishing His will on earth.  If you work oustside the home and rush home to get the kids fed and bathed and in bed, you are the very means by which God is caring for them.


Dad, as you fight traffic and work through your day, you are being used as the means by which God cares for His creation.


Student, as you struggle through homework, you are serving God. You are preparing skills which God will use to providentially care for His creation as you serve your neighbor.

So rest in the salvation we recieved by grace through faith in Christ. Know that you stand righteous before God, clothed in Christ’s righteousness. You don’t have to DO anything to earn His favor… and in doing so be freed to wisely pursue a career, a family (or not), knowing that God is sovereignly using you to administer his creation.

LOVE God and SERVE your neighbor, knowing that you’ll fail in both but that you are perfectly *perfectly* justified before God in Christ.



NOTE: I’ve only very briefly touched on this subject. For an ouststanding article, and links to primary sources, I highly recommend this article:





Posted in General