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When trying to describe who God is, we often divide God up into his numerous attributes or facets. We talk about the love, goodness, mercy, righteousness, jealousy, etc. It is a way for us to wrap our minds around, at least to a small degree, who God is.

One of the hardest attributes to discuss is the holiness of God. Wayne Grudem in his “Systematic Theology” book describes God’s holiness as:

God’s holiness means that he is separated from sin and devoted to seeking his own honor. This definition contains both a relational quality (separation from) and a moral quality (the separation is from sin or evil, and the devotion is to the good of God’s own honor or glory).

One of the go-to passages in the Bible about holiness is Isaiah 6:1-7. The temple of God is described and Isaiah comes into the presence of a holy God.

Sadly I diminish this passage and I diminish God because of laziness and/or ignorance. The picture that often comes to my mind when reading this passage, is coming to the most glorious temple that I could imagine like the Taj Mahal or the Golden Temple and meeting a god, who is, yes bigger than life, and yes holy in some way, but still comprehensible by my small mind. It would be like meeting the president or the emperor of Japan, or something like that. One may be awed, or may be struck speechless, we may even faint, but when all is said and done it just is “another day in the neighborhood”. This view of God is sinful and often gets me into a lot of trouble.

Today I was challenged to have to explain the holiness of God to someone. The problem we encounter as sinful depraved people.

When Isaiah encounters God in the temple, Isaiah says
“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5 ESV)

R.C Sproul states the word “lost,” in the ESV or “ruined,” in the NIV only begins to describe what happened to the prophet of God. In the King James, the word is translated as “undone”. Here is how Sproul describes being “undone”.

To be undone means to come apart at the seams, to be unraveled. What Isaiah was expressing is what modern psychologists describe as the experience of personal disintegration…

If ever there was a man of integrity, it was Isaiah ben Amoz. He was a whole man, a together type of a fellow. He was considered by his contemporaries as the most righteous man in the nation. He was respected as a paragon of virtue. Then he caught one sudden glimpse of a holy God.

In that single moment, all of his self-esteem was shattered. In a brief second he was exposed, made naked beneath the gaze of the absolute standard of holiness. As long as Isaiah could compare himself to other mortals, he was able to sustain a lofty opinion of his own character. The instant he measured himself by the ultimate standard, he was destroyed-morally and spiritually annihilated. He was undone. He came apart. His sense of integrity collapsed.

R. C. Sproul. The Holiness of God – Kindle Edition.

What could cause a man to disintegrate, to unravel, to become undone? What happened to Isaiah was not caused by some “celebrity”. It was caused by a holy God, but how do you explain this?

The analogy that came to mind:
If you come into the temple and encounter the sun*, in it’s awe inspiring hugeness and power. Imagine staring and the immensity and brightness of the sun, feeling the raw power and pulsing through the temple. We are 93 million miles away, and if we look directly at the sun, it will blind us. It’s intense heat would vaporize us in a millisecond.

How much more will it be, when we encounter the God, who created not only the sun but the entire universe. God’s holiness is an intrinsic part of who He is. God no more could be in the presence of sin than a glass of water could last in the same room as the sun. The heat of the sun will vaporize the water, the holiness of God will “vaporize” the sin.

I don’t know if anyone but for me is going to understand this analogy, but today I gained a new awe of who God is.

This entry ends with this small morsel of who God is, the story doesn’t end. The same Holy God who by every right should vaporize us because of our sin has sent His Son to save us and to make us heirs to Himself and a brother to Christ.

*(Please suspend disbelief, I am not going for scientific possibility, but try to give a glimpse of who God is)

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When life gets tough, people often turns to Romans 8 especially the last 10 verses or so which are so incredibly encouraging

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Romans 8:28–39 ESV)

I have been confronted with the realization that I may be hearing what I want to hear when reading these verses. I want to hear that God will keep us AWAY from tribulation, distress persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword. He will protect us from those things because he loves us. I hear and process God’s good purposes are the world’s purposes, good job, enough money to live (don’t want to be too greedy), good health, good friends, good church, good spiritual growth and live happily ever after.

After listening to John Piper’s sermon to BCS The Solid Logic of Heaven Holds and the Future Grace seminar he gave a couple of days later, I have found that my theology, my understanding has been upside down and wrong.

The danger of the wrongness is that when you go to Roman 8 and you go looking at these extraordinary promises and define them through the lens of worldly entitlement that you think you deserve, you are going to be sorely disappointed. You are going to think that God is letting you down. You think that God is not keeping his promises, he is not loving you. The wrongness will destroy your only hope which is Christ.

If you are anything like me, when I read Romans 8:28 I read: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” and then stop. We define good by our worldly standards. But there is another piece of the verse “for those who are called according to his purpose.” Which begs the question what is his purpose?

Paul answers that question in the next verse:
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
(Romans 8:29 ESV)

I know I am doing something really stupid in this post and that is playing theologian, just bear with me a little longer. There is one more question that needs to be asked is “how is He going to conform us to the image of His Son?” I think Paul answers that question in Romans 8 God is going to use tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, dangers, swords, death, life, angels, rules, powers to help shape us.

Here is what I am hearing from Piper and reading in other places in the bible, is that bad things are going to happen. I live in a third tier suburb of Minneapolis, persecution doesn’t happen not like what Paul talks about. But bad things do happen, death, health issues, job problems, marital problem etc etc. The enemy (the world, the flesh and the devil) has countless weapons at his disposal to destroy us. Paul is not promising, that God will protect and we will not ever experience these attacks or the war with the enemy.

I believe that Paul is saying that God will bring us through the war, the trials, the tests as conquerors. God will give us all that we need to do that. I think this parallels what Jesus said in his High Priestly prayer in John 17:11,15.

Paul is saying that as we starve to death God will give us all we need as we starve to death. Paul is saying that as we are being stabbed God will give us all we need. As we go to war against the enemy he will give us what we need and we will conquer

There is more to say about this…

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“Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15 ESV)

Job says this. Job says it in the midst of losing everything, sores on his body, friends who condemn in self-righteousness instead of love him. Job says this when it seems even God has turned on him. I have never been through what Job has, not even close. Though I am holding on to this verse very tight right now.

The Christian life is a double edge sword, on one edge God will save us from his wrath, love us, take care of us and provide for all our needs. On the other other edge he promises to shape us, to mold us, to forge us and transforms us to be like His son. If you look at the most glorious promises in the bible they promise not one or the other, but both.

Probably one of the most quoted promises is

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
(Romans 8:28 ESV).

We focus on that God will make all things work together for good and often neglect the last part of the verse, which is who are called according to HIS purpose. Another one is this:

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
(Philippians 1:6 ESV)

Again what is his purpose or good work? I think that work is, God working to transform us minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day into the same image, the one we lost at the fall, as His Son.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)

What does Job 13:15 have to do with the transforming work of God? Two words, “It HURTS”!

Despite how blameless and upright Job was, God in His providential will allowed satan (and Job’s (so-called) friends) to destroy his life, to teach satan, Job, his friends and us something about Him. The lessons Job learned definitely were painful. The other biblical person I think about is Joseph. Joseph had a few issues that God felt needed to be corrected. Joseph was very well used by God, but the process to be shaped into the person God needed to save Israel did not sound any where close to fun.

The ultimate example is Christ Himself. I don’t understand all the implications of this and in fact it staggers the imagination that Christ becomes perfect through suffering. If I understand this a little bit is that Christ became “more perfect,” his experience became “deeper” because of the suffering.

“But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering”
(Hebrews 2:9–10 ESV)

Now back to the beginning “Though he slays me, I will hope in Him”…
Over the last several weeks/months I have come face to face with God fulfilling his promises in me. I have stupidly and with bravado at times prayed for God to transform me, to put me into the furnace to forge and make me as He wants me to be. He has taken me up on my prayer. Every time he does, I either whimper like a baby or throw a temper tantrum of a toddler (maybe there is a reason why I am named Todd).

I have spent so long comfortable in my life. I don’t want to give up my sin or my life as I know it. There is a myriad of emotions that I go through, guilt, shame, loss, frustration, anger, and I often show those in very sinful ways. Some of the pain is stripping away the comfort and entitlement of my sin. Some of it is fearful of change. Most of it is probably the realization that I am not in control. I am no longer “I AM” in my life.

God continuously, relentlessly strips away the sin, the dross, the garbage, the manure, the dirt of my life to continue to work towards transforming me into the image of His Son. Each degree of the furnace, each flick of the knife, the pressure of the master’s hand shaping me into what He wants us to be, will cause pain, but because of Who He is, I have hope.

The process feels like it will kill me at times, but I will hope in Him. Even though it hurts there is no other way. I trust in Him because of what He has already done!

“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons… For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
(Hebrews 12:7–8, 11 ESV)

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If complaining was an olympic sport I would be world champion, maybe even champion of the universe. I am very good at it. I am very good at being the victim. I am very good at being the legalist, either of those positions give me the opportunity to complain and complain I will. It is one of those things that comes with the territory of depression and my sinful nature.

If someone treats me badly, I am the victim and complain. If someone is not reacting the way I want them too, I complain. If someone is driving to slow, to fast, to whatever, I complain. If my job is not going well, I complain. If someone doesn’t love me the way I want them too, I complain. If someone is not living up to the standards that I think they should, I complain.

I don’t say this because I am proud of my complaining, I say it because it is not a very attractive quality and does not honor and glorify Christ. I notice it and I know it needs to change. Complaining is one of those sins that sometimes seemingly taste so good until the bitterness and bile of self-righteousness comes back up my throat. My throat is raw and sore because of it.

A couple of years ago I encountered a quote from Jonathan Edwards (If you don’t know who Jonathan Edwards is, he is one of the most influential preachers that ever was, see John Piper’s bio on him). My pastor showed it to me and it took a couple of years for it to take root in me. It is from his book Charity and its Fruit. Charity and its Fruit is 15 sermons about 1 Corinthians 13. So instead of me blathering about it, why don’t I show you the quote:

…Love to God disposes men to have regard to the hand of God in the injuries they suffer, and not only to the hand of man, and meekly to submit to his will therein. Love to God disposes men to see his hand in everything: to own him as the governor of the world, and the director of providence, and to acknowledge his disposal in everything that takes place. And the fact that the hand of God is a great deal more concerned in all that happens to us than the treatment of men is, should lead us, in a great measure, not to think of things as from men, but to have respect to them chiefly as from God — as ordered by his love and wisdom, even when their immediate source may be the malice or heedlessness of a fellowman. And if we indeed consider and feel that they are from the hand of God, then we shall be disposed meekly to receive and quietly to submit to them, and to own that the greatest injuries received from men are justly and even kindly ordered of God, and so be far from any ruffle or tumult of mind on account of them.
                                                                                        -Jonathan Edwards Charity And Its Fruits 

Read what Edwards says here. Now read it again!

Let me try to break this down, so maybe my brain can understand it a little better:

  • God is in control of EVERYTHING, plain, simple, period, end of sentence.
  • God is concerned about what happens to us and desires good for us (Matt 6:25–34 & Romans 8:28 among others)
  • God orchestrates the irritating, hurtful, frustrating situations we encounter in life for our good. No matter if “man” means them for evil or not. (“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good,”(Genesis 50:20 ESV))

Which means that our complaining ends up being directed at God since He is the one who orchestrated the event. This means we end up in a Job situation. I am not certain I am ready to meet God face to face with my complaining in the way that Job did in Job 38
“Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.”(Job 38:1–3 ESV))

This CHANGES EVERYTHING, the rules just changed. How does this affect your responses to life’s frustration, trials, tribulations? How does this affect the way you react to people?

Every time I read this quote from Edwards and think through it, I do a double take. I am not sure how to live this out, in someways it brings up more questions than answers.

  • Does it mean that I allow people to take advantage and hurt me?
  • Does it mean that you never react?
  • When do I react?
  • How do I react?

I don’t have answers to those questions. I do know how powerful God’s providence is. I do know that God having control is the only thing that makes sense in my life. Random chance or that I am in control leaves no hope for me. For now, this quote is sinking into my soul and it is slowing me down, making me think and pray and get counsel before reacting. Hopefully each day I will learn to do that more and more.

What are your thoughts? How do you live this out?

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Not dead yet… It really is the perfect title for my life right now. In just a few days I will be turning 45 years old, getting close to a half century. Probably over half my life gone. Most of it wasted. Most of it waiting to die. Most of just wanting to die, not really understanding I already was dead. So here I am once more on the playground of the broken hearts (a song lyric that I used to start many journal entries) and yet my heart is broken, maybe not in the way you expect. Yet my heart sings. My soul tries to thrive in what God has given me. I have so much I have to learn. I have so much that I need to understand. There is hope, not in myself, but hope in God. How can I study, read, and pray to God and not find hope. The enemy keeps trying to destroy me but I am not dead yet.

I am not dead yet. It is a good thought. It is a good theme for where I am at. It is a positive. The enemy wants me to give up. The enemy wants me to fade away and die. Everyday I fight that battle.

The battle is the same. The memories of my life, the people I hurt, the things I screwed up, the games I play, the women I slept with or lusted after, the people I hurt, the people I lied to, the things I stole, and every single rotten, stupid and embarrassing thing that I have done come back to haunt me and it comes back often, daily, many times a day. The enemy keeps coming back and saying. You deserve to die. It is time for you to die. Every time I mess up, every time I make a fool out of myself he comes to try to convince me to give up and die. You know what the enemy is right. I deserve death. I deserve Hell, every part of my soul knows that. And yet… And yet… 

The gospel, the gospel oh my Lord the glorious gospel. I think maybe in the tiniest way I am beginning to get it. How do I explain how I revel in the glorious gospel. How do I explain to those who have never really experienced the need for the gospel. How do I explain it is my only hope. The only way that I have a chance for life. The only way the gospel works is if I  truly accept the fact that I deserve hell, I deserve to be nailed to the cross, for every single sin that I have ever done or ever will do. Over and over again punished and tortured in the worse of ways for the sins I have done. The gospel only works when I face the fact that I rebelled, defied and despised God. The gospel only works when I come face to face with the fact I have done everything the accuser says and deserves every bit of the wrath of God.

And yet…

The gospel doesn’t depend on who I am, what I do, how good I am or any subjective measure or effort that I could expend. Look at me, who the hell am I. I am a fat, old, prideful, stupid foolish, worthless man who has delusions of grandeur and worth and just one of the walking dead.

What the gospel depends on is the rock hard objective fact of Christ on the Cross. The gospel is authored through the fiery love of our Creator God. The God who chose to love those, who hate him in everything they do, He gave His most treasured Son to save a wretch, to save a worm like me. He killed His Son on the cross to take my sin and raised Him to defeat death and give life.

In John 11 Jesus calls Lazurus back from the dead. In that same way he starts my dead heart beating and brings me from death to life. I am finally beginning to understand there is NOTHING I can do to save my life. It doesn’t matter if I like myself or not. It doesn’t matter if I am married or not. It doesn’t matter if I have a lot of friends or if I am alone. It doesn’t matter if I have the job I want or not. It doesn’t matter if I am treated the way I want to be. What matter is what happened on a cross on a hill in Jerusalem 2000 years ago.

I lost this truth for a while, maybe I never had it, I don’t know, but God has revealed it to be me again. God has taken the stone that is my heart and breathed life into it and made it start beating again. There is hope where I never thought I would feel hope again. 

Though I may lose sight of this at times, I pray that you help me keep rediscovering this truth over and over.

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One of the Prayers from the Valley of Vision

Oh Changeless God

Under the conviction of the thy Spirit I learn the more I do the worse I am,

the more I know, the less I know,

the more holiness I have, the more sinful I am,

the more I love, the more there is to love.

O wretched man that I am!

I have a wild heart, and cannot stand before thee;

I am like a bird before a man.

How little I love they truth and ways.

I neglect prayer,

by thinking I have prayed enough and earnestly, by knowing thou hast saved my soul.

Of all the hypocrites, grant that I may not be an evangelical hypocrite who sins more safely because abounds, who tells his lusts that Christ’s blood cleaneth them, who reasons that God cannot cast him into hell, for he is saved, who loves evangelical preaching, churches, christians, but lives unholily

My mind is a bucket without a bottom, with no spiritual understanding, no desire for the the Lord’s Day, ever learning but ever reaching the truth always at the gospel-well but never holding water.

My conscience is without conviction or contrition with nothing to repent of.

My will is without power of decision or resolution.

My heart is without affections and full of leaks

My memory has no retention, so I forget easily the lessons learned and thy truth seep away.

Give me a broken heart that yet carries home the water of grace

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Scotty Smith is  a pastor who has a blog at the Gospel Coalition. In his blog he does something very unique, humble and very helpful. Instead of taking a subject and explaining distilling it, and showing his expertise. He takes a bible verse, and he writes a personal prayer about it. He is literally praying through the bible. One of the things I appreciate about his prayers is they are not generic, they aren’t showing us how to pray, he is sharing with us his heart, his struggles and his relationship with God. Check out his blog and start praying through his prayers.

One day towards the end of February he started tweeting a series of tweets on “growing in grace”. The first thing I thought was great, another list of spiritual disciplines that I have to figure out how to do. But as he continued to tweet these I realized how utterly practical they are. If we are to be the light of the world, if we are to live lives that people want to start asking us questions on why we are different and what our lives and Hope is based. It might be worth looking and praying through this list of tweets. I am guessing Scotty is not tweeting these things as exhortations for us, as much as exhortations for himself. His tweets continue on, which means I will never get comprehensive list from him. I bolded some of the ones that hit me square in the eye and I have to really think through, Which ones hit you? Which ones make you say “ouch”

  • A sign you’re growing in grace. The more you learn about Jesus & the gospel the more you realize how little YOU know.
  • A sign you’re growing in grace. If you’re “finally” Reformed, you don’t confuse knowledge with spirituality
  • A sign you’re growing in grace. If you USED to be a Charismatic, you don’t atrophy into dead or dry orthodoxy
  • A sign you’re growing in grace. If you USED to be a Dispensationalist, you’re not cynical about those who still are
  • A sign you’re growing in grace. The gospel still astonishes & humbles you. It’s not just cliche or the name of your tribe
  • A sign you’re growing in grace. You don’t use your car horn to curse bad drivers, but appropriately caution & warn them
  • Another sign you’re growing in grace. You get sucker-punched by condemnation for sin less often, but convicted much more
  • Another sign you’re growing in grace. Your spouse and children are the first to notice the signs
  • Another sign you’re growing in grace. You recognize the subtle ways you’re living justification by sanctification
  • Another sign you’re growing in grace. You no longer simply assume if you can pay for something you really can afford it
  • A sign you’re growing in grace is not texting or reading emails on your pda while driving, with or without kids
  • A sign you’re growing in grace is a commitment to pray for people you’d really rather gossip about
    • A sign you’re growing in grace is still being gracious to telemarketers when they call your protected phone number
  • A sign you’re growing in grace is when you use less labels to dismiss people or marginalize their comments
  • A sign you’re growing in grace is just grabbing a brownie without looking for the biggest or best crust-edged brownie
  • A sign you’re growing in grace is a commitment to give your spouse focused, unrushed attention at the END of the day
  • Another sign you’re growing in grace. You quote Jesus more than you quote Tim Keller
  • Another sign you’re growing in grace. You talk about your justification 10 times more than your victimization
  • Another sign you’re growing in grace. You throw less pity-parties, because you go to Jesus quicker than to self-contempt
  • Another sign you’re growing in grace. Your repentances come quicker with less pouting, excuses and vain promises
  • Another sign you’re growing in grace. On a 2-lane-becoming-1 road, you don’t speed up just to jet around 3 extra cars
  • Another sign you’re growing in grace. You’re in your seat in the worship center 7 minutes early to pray for the service
  • Another sign you’re growing in grace. You don’t try to take 23 items through the 10 item speed check out line at Publix
  • Another sign you’re growing in grace. You catch people “doing it right” in a 3 to 1 ratio to “doing it wrong”
  • Another sign you’re growing in grace. You’ve actually read Nahum and Obadiah
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: When your team (Tar Heels) gets THRASHED by your arch enemy (Duke) & you humbly own it
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You grieve how touchy, pouty and defensive you can be
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: People you’re talking with don’t just hear your words but experience your presence
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You recognize quicker when you’re importing last year’s anger into today’s disappointment
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You practice the anatomical ratio of ears to mouth: Listening twice as much as talking
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You say “always” and “never” less often, and “I’m so sorry” a whole lot more
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: The more you understand your union with Christ the more you crave communion with Him
  • A sign you’re growing in grace. You realize that Presbtyerian and Reformed types are .07% of the entire Body of Christ
  • A Qualification Tweet: White, American Presbyterian and Reformed types represent .07% of the world-wide Body of Christ
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You don’t pontificate judgment on a country if it experiences an earthquake or tsunami
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: Repentance is becoming less something YOU do and more Someone you trust, namely, Jesus
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: The word “overcomer” in Revelation makes you think about Jesus, THE Overcomer, not you.
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: Your cry for a changed heart is louder than your cry for relief
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You notice a person’s dignity before you notice their depravity
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: The Bible reads you as much as you read the Bible
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You laugh with louder gufaws, & cry with hotter tears, because the gospel is at work.
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You’re learning to repay good for evil without being self-righteous or pious about it.
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: The Bible reads you as much as you read the Bible
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You laugh with louder gufaws, & cry with hotter tears, because the gospel is at work.
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You’re learning to repay good for evil without being self-righteous or pious about it.
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: The word “godliness” makes you think about what Jesus has done for you, not vice versa
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You don’t have to form an opinion about everything, nor a need to always share yours
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: The time lapse between the Spirit’s convicting and your repenting is much shorter
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You take way less time getting dressed each morn & the main thing you put on is Christ
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: “Lent” is the 40 weekdays before Easter, not the past tense of “lend” or navel filler.
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: Your use of caller ID reflects your commitment to love well, not simply avoid people
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: People are rarely offended by how tied you are to your cell phone or laptop
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: Your idenity is MORE tied to who you are in Christ than to your Myers-Briggs profile
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: What you are behind the steering wheel is a demonstration of the power of the gospel
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You don’t do penance to impress Jesus; you do repentant faith which unites you to Jesus
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: Christian art doesn’t mean more paintings of the Lord’s Supper or Jesus with children
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: When at the “Y” or gym of choice, you do less mirror gazing and more working out
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You don’t violate confidences. You can be trusted with the brokenness of others
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You enjoy, but you don’t flaunt Christian liberty. Act like you been there before
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: Prayer walks are yielding as much satisfaction as shopping sprees, maybe more.
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You will do everything you can NOT to do unnecessary damage to a person’s reputation
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: When you hear the word “perichoresis” you think about the Trinity, not gum disease
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You’ve given up trying to be the 4th member of the Trinity
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: Your family and friends can relax around you more than they did last year.
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You think about fixing people less and loving them more
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You know the difference between an Armenian and an Arminian
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You waste less food & time, and your committed giving is becoming cheerful giving
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You’re aware of the racist that lives in you, not just in the Bubbas & rednecks near you
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You don’t trust signs, just Jesus
  • A sign you’re growing in grace. You unplug your affirmation-junkie umbilical cord from people by believing the gospel
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You don’t objecify your church for criticism. You weep with her as a member of the family.
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: When in Starbucks, you don’t judge the people who sit in the best chairs for hours
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You find yourself choosing to use the phrase, “You don’t get me” less and less
  • A sign your’e growing in grace: It takes minutes not weeks to recognize when you’ve fallen back into works righteousness
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: Your theology always leads to doxolgy, not merely to you being more right than others
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: Compliments don’t intoxicate you and criticism doesn’t decimate you
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: If you’re a UNC grad, you’ve been very humble today about thrashing Duke last night
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You remember the names of your checkout attendants where you usually buy your groceries
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You don’t linger at religious TV programming just to fuel contempt & make snide remarks
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You can enjoy God’s gifts without reservation & share God’s gifts without hesitation
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: Your thoughts of heaven are more about the transforming of this world than escaping it
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: God’s promises claim you more than you claim them
  • A sign your’e growing in grace: You don’t “dis” legalism disproportionately to antinomianism
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You argue less about the timing of the Spirit’s baptism & thirst 4 more of his fullness
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You feel like you’re just beginning to appreciate all the riches and depth of John 3:16
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: Less cynicism about other people’s sins and more tears over your own
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You don’t care squat about infralapsarianism, but you’ll defend the gospel with your life
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: The work “trafficking” moves you to work for justice, not complain about too many cars
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: It’s getting easier not to retaliate, get even, or even crave God’s vengeance
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: When U hear the word “mortification” U think about killing sin, not being embarrassed
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You’re increasingly less quarrelsome, sarcastic and easily offended
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: Your neighbors are glad they are
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You’re increasingly Trinitarian
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You can find Jesus in the Book of Obadiah
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You’re content, even glad knowing that God sometimes answers your prayers with “No.”
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You’ve got a whole lot more confidence in Jesus’ prayers than yours
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: The phrase, “meriting God’s favor” has been ripped from your salvific vocabulary
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: The passive righteousness of Jesus lights an active fire in your heart for kingdom work
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: The word “idolatry” makes you think about your heart more so than Greek temples
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: When you think about “blessings” from God, suffering makes your list
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: Your spouse marvels at how much better you are at listening than early in your marriage
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: Nothing makes your blood boil more than false gospels.
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: When speak about “the victorious Christian life” you’re referring to Jesus, not you.
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: When you hear the word “sanctification,” you think about Jesus & his work, not yours
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You don’t debate eschatology, you live it.
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: Places like Haiti, Dafur and Somolia aren’t “missions targets”, but family
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You desire less stuff rather than simply buying more
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: Missions isn’t a budget line item but a core passion & preoccupation
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You’re thinking more about the new heaven & new earth than the intermediate state
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You don’t feel the need to pose and pretend as often or as much.
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You’re just as excited about what the gospel frees you FOR as what it frees you FROM
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You spend way less time stuck in the paralysis of analysis
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: The gospel is freeing you from dead orthodoxy and live heterodoxy
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You’re cultivating an informed mind with an enflamed heart and engaged hands
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You love “bracketology” but you REALLY love theology.
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: Because of God’s grace at work in your heart, it’s getting harder to gossip, nag & snarl
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: The gap between your sound doctrine and your actual discipleship is narrowing
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You repent freely and regularly, to your spouse and children
  • A sign you’re growing in grace: You won’t be watching NCAA tournament basketball games at work “on the sly”


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I don’t know how many people would know this. I have always wanted to get married and have a family. From the time I was 9 years, old chasing girls on haystack hill, I knew I wanted a family. I don’t think I ever went through that phase where I thought girls had cooties (though I think I now know a few who do). As I got older the want and desire of family grew, I wanted the loving wife and beautiful family. For some reason I always wanted a daughter. I think there is a special relationship with some dad’s and daughters. That is not to say I didn’t want sons too, but a daughter definitely was part of the picture.

I am not writing this to bemoan my single status. I am not writing this for sympathy. I don’t think I will ever get married and I am content with that. God has shown me some possibilities on where He wants me to go and I am willing to go. If someday He brings a woman in my life, I am all for marriage, but for now I don’t believe it is in the picture. I write this because I want to show I have an inkling of what it is to love a wife and a child. I may have no idea of the reality of that love, but I have a taste in the desire for it.

I am going to shift gears, so you are going to have to bear with me for a few minutes. Some of the verses that often echoes in my mind are from Isaiah 47:8-10. If I understand the intent of Isaiah, he is taking to task the Babylonian for trusting in their society, in their ways and that they no longer need God. Sounds like the great “American Dream”. We have so much money, so much of everything. We are self-sufficient, self-confident, and rarely need God. Boy does this describe me. Instead of running to the Almighty God of the bible. I run to the god of Todd, worse than any stump shaped like an idol.

Switching back to families.. Hang on we are almost there (yes I do have a point someplace in my incoherency)

Two families that I only know through the internet are facing the loss of their children. The first I have followed for over a year and have mentioned on facebook, are Aaron and Holly McRae and their daughter Kate. Kate Mcrae has gone through brain surgery, radiation, chemo and finally remission only to find out that there is a very good chance that their daughter has more cancer. The second family is Doug and Jessica Rumbold and their daughter Jada. They found out about their daughters aggressive cancer a few months ago. There was a story about them at the Gospel Coalition website and Doug has his own blog.

What all this setup has been for is to introduce you to the huge powerful God and intimate father that both of these families have come running to. Both of these families have come to their Genesis 22 moment where they have to give their children over to God. They no longer can count on money, doctors or anything on this earth to save them. Whether he heals their kids or takes them, they only can trust that God will do good for those who love Him and are called to His purpose. These families are being refined in the furnace of affliction and their faith in Christ is so strong.

I hold them up as what faith and love for God is suppose to look like in the midst of trials. They may never know that maybe one of God’s purposes in their suffering is to strengthen a single man’s faith and show him how big and beautiful our God is.

I ask you to pray for these families and also ask you to praise God for these family and their faith in Him.

What does Isaiah 47:8-10 have to do with families? I am sure you are wondering why I am making wide ranging post here, but it isn’t. When everything is going good and everything is cruising along. The job is going well. The wife is beautiful and happy and the perfect help mate. The kids are growing, healthy, intelligent and are going to be everything we expect. Life is perfect. You have little bumps in the road and with your knowledge, with your money you are able to solve those problems. I don’t have the family, but you get the point. You love God, but he is not your first love, you are the king of the world and got everything under control then something happens… You can’t fix it, your money can’t fix it, your world shatters. There is only one place you can turn… We have no choice we turn to God.

As you look at the stories of both the Mcrae’s and the Rumbold’s stories we see how powerful and loving God is in these world shattering, desperate situations. It is in these situations where we believers, know God will show him self most. We need to praise Him for being there in these moments.

This is where I thought this blog would stop, but as I write this, I have been hit with another thought. This post has definitely gone to a couple of places I didn’t expect…. So if it is gibberish, well deal with it and see if maybe there is something you can get out of this.

Why don’t we trust God in the intimate, daily details of our life? Why is it that we think that we have the small things under control? The daily things, the mundane things, the things that seem so small that it would be a bother to God. If you look at Matthew 6:25-34; 10:29-30, the small things matter to God. So why don’t we turn those things over to God?

I think I know my answer…
I know that God will take away the things I love most. (Yes I know I am suppose to say I love God most, but let’s face reality, I don’t, I still love myself to much) I am afraid that God will take away my throne, my self-worship, the sin that I covet and pretend is too small to offend him. God so loved the world that he sent his only son not only to save us but to transform us into the same image as His Son. And I think as much as I say I want to be transformed. I think often I want to stay in my sin. As I think this through, and as horrible as it sounds, I think that I would be more willing to sacrifice my child than sacrifice some of the sins and idols that I hold dear.

God’s rescue plan is not just to be there for those big moments in life. I want to love God like the Mcrae’s and Rumbold’s do. God wants to replace the deceitful, poisonous, sinful heart of stone, with a living heart that beats to the tune of His Son. God wants to permeate our life and be a part of everything, he wants to transform us from broken, fallen people into the same image as His Son, from one degree of glory to another.

Are we willing to give up our fallenness in order to become more like Him? Are we willing to sacrifice in the way Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac, the things we love most to God in order to become more like Him?

One last thing, go spend some time in the Mcrae’s and Rumbold’s blog and look and look at their relationship with the Lord and see how alive and fruitful it is.

Holly Mcrae’s blog:
Aaron Mcrae’s blog:
Doug Rumbold’s story at the GC:
Doug Rumbold’s blog:

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This post is directly from Mark Altrogge on the site he and his son Stephen blog on. Mark is a pastor, writer, lyricist  and more. Check out his site at and read everything from the ridiculous to the most worshipful. One little trivial note. Mark has the same birthday (though two years older than my pastor, I wonder if that is why they have similar humor).

The post says it all. Read it

Amaze Me Again

Thank you for your grace, O God
That you would look on me
A wicked sinner
A selfish, uncaring, God-hating sinner
Dead in sin
Enslaved to sin
A putrid-mouthed, foul-hearted sinner
Undesirable, worthless, wandering,
Hopeless, miserable sinner
A stench in your nostrils
Defiled, dirty, polluted, vile, rotten,
Infected sinner
And you would send your beautiful,
Holy, radiant, glorious, pure,
Sinless, obedient Son,
Who loved you infinitely and perfectly
The apple of your eye
To take my richly deserved punishment
To put on my filthy, stinking, leprous rags
As if they were his own
As if he had been the one to spit in your face
As if he had rejected you
And crush the life out of him instead of me,
To pour out hell upon his soul
To abandon him in darkness,
To show him no mercy,
To pour out your grace on me.
O make me amazed, astonished,
And eternally grateful.

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In July 2008, One of my favorite bloggers Mark Altrogge (Pastor and Song writer) posted an entry on his blog about “the prayer of a pimply-faced 14 year old”. Nine years later that prayer was answered and David Altrogge married Sarah (read the entry it is a great entry). The thing that struck me most is the last line of this blog entry “If you’d like to see a video of the first kiss visit Evidences of Grace” (which is another blog). How cute, right?

I ventured over to the other blog and something else caught my eye about these two “Sarah and David had never kissed each other or anyone else for that fact before today. Their very first kiss was today at the altar. How incredible.”

How incredible, indeed. Here are two people who lived out God’s commands. This summer I had the honor to be at a wedding of two people who are very dear to me, who lived out their lives in obedience too.

There is a beauty in their obedience. There was a God glorifying beauty in the first kiss between husband and wife. The first kiss between my two friends is something that I will remember for a long time because the results of their obedience ended up in something so God Glorifying.

Why am I talking about this, you wonder? What does this have to do with anything? What do I know about marriage?
I know nothing about marriage and am finding out that I know even less about love.

What I do know about is the results of sin. I don’t know who reads my blog, not sure if anyone does. But if you are someone at the cross roads between obedience and living for yourself or if you are questioning God’s commands about purity, here are some things to think about.

I didn’t go down the road of obedience, I went down the road of living for myself. My first kiss was to a girl some 25 years ago and I have been with others too, who either despise me or hopefully just have forgotten about me.

Five years ago God claimed me as His own. God calls us to purity and holiness. The battle rages within me as much as I want to be pure and holy, the false promises of the world keep trying to tempt me. The seduction of the pleasure of sinful sex is extremely powerful

Though it is possible that I will get married and it will be a beautiful God glorifying marriage. I will always have the echo of my past memories in my head trying to destroy what marriage is suppose to be and trying to make it into the image the world portrays.

Albert Mohler, in 2004 gave a talk about “The Seduction of Pornography and the Integrity of Christian Marriage” (available in a manuscript and audio form) to the male students of Boyce College. I am stealing the quote from the infamous Justin Taylor. See the contrast between one who believes and lives by the worlds lies or lives by the command for sexual purity:

Two Pictures: Purified vs Pornified

I encourage young guys in particular to read it and listen to it.
Here is an excerpt, where he talks about two pictures of male sexuality:
The first picture is of a man who has set himself toward a commitment to sexual purity, and is living in sexual integrity with his wife. In order to fulfill his wife’s rightful expectations and to maximize their mutual pleasure in the marriage bed, he is careful to live, to talk, to lead, and to love in such a way that his wife finds her fulfillment in giving herself to him in love. The sex act then becomes a fulfillment of their entire relationship, not an isolated physical act that is merely incidental to their love for each other. Neither uses sex as means of manipulation, neither is inordinately focused merely on self-centered personal pleasure, and both give themselves to each other in unapologetic and unhindered sexual passion. In this picture, there is no shame. Before God, this man can be confident that he is fulfilling his responsibilities both as a male and as a man. He is directing his sexuality, his sex drive, and his physical embodiment toward the one-flesh relationship that is the perfect paradigm of God’s intention in creation.
Mohler then asks us to consider the picture of another man:
This man lives alone, or at least in a context other than holy marriage. Directed inwardly rather than outwardly, his sex drive has become an engine for lust and self-gratification. Pornography is the essence of his sexual interest and arousal. Rather than taking satisfaction in his wife, he looks at dirty pictures in order to be rewarded with sexual arousal that comes without responsibility, expectation, or demand. Arrayed before him are a seemingly endless variety of naked women, sexual images of explicit carnality, and a cornucopia of perversions intended to seduce the imagination and corrupt the soul.
This man need not be concerned with his physical appearance, his personal hygiene, or his moral character in the eyes of a wife. Without this structure an accountability, he is free to take his sexual pleasure without regard for his unshaved face, his slothfulness, his halitosis, his body odor, and his physical appearance. He faces no requirement of personal respect, and no eyes gaze upon him in order to evaluate the seriousness and worthiness of his sexual desire. Instead, his eyes roam across the images of unblinking faces, leering at women who make no demands upon him, who never speak back, and who can never say no. There is no exchange of respect, no exchange of love, and nothing more than the using of women as sex objects for his individual and inverted sexual pleasure.
By logical consequence, he achieves sexual gratification at the expense of women who have been used and abused as commodified sex objects. He may imagine a sex act as he fulfills his physical pleasure, but he almost certainly does not imagine what it would mean to be responsible for this woman as husband and accountable to her as mate. He can sit in his soiled underwear, belching the remnants of last night’s pizza, and engage in a pattern of one-handed sexual satisfaction while he “surfs the net” and forfeits his soul.
Here’s the point:
These two pictures of male sexuality are deliberately intended to drive home the point that every man must decide who he will be, whom he will serve, and how he will love. In the end, a man’s decision about pornography is a decision about his soul, a decision about his marriage, a decision about his wife, and a decision about God.
Pornography is a slander against the goodness of God’s creation and a corruption of this good gift God has given his creatures out of his own self-giving love. To abuse this gift is to weaken, not only the institution of marriage, but the fabric of civilization itself. To choose lust over love is to debase humanity and to worship the false god Priapus in the most brazen form of modern idolatry.
You can
read it and listen to it online.
If you are struggling with sexual sin or any sin. Find a trusted Christian brother and bring the issue out into the light and through God’s mercy and grace, and your discipline you can become the man God wants you to be.

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