Reclaiming St. Patrick’s Day

In recent years, gospel centered Christians have done an excellent job of returning to the true story of St. Patrick. To celebrate this day only by wearing green and drinking would be a tremendous shame. Here are a few more important things to think about on St. Patrick’s Day than leprechauns and alcohol.

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1. God speaks most clearly in the midst of suffering.

As a boy, Patrick’s home was attacked and he was taken captive into slavery. It is likely that he endured sufferings beyond what most of us can imagine during that time. Through his immense suffering and pain, God began to reveal himself to Patrick and call him to gospel ministry. Often in the darkest times of suffering in our lives, God reveals himself to us simply and clearly. Sometimes it takes being in the furnace to realize that God is with you and calling you to himself. Are you in the midst of suffering? Listen for the voice of God.

2. God called Patrick out of more than one kind of slavery.

Not only did God provide away out of his slavery to an Irish king, he also called him out of slavery to sin. No doubt Patrick’s time spent in physical slavery shed light on his spiritual slavery simultaneously and opened his eyes to the presence of God. Believe in Jesus Christ, turn away from your old life of sin, and you will be given true freedom.

3. The Christian life requires taking up a cross, not avoiding one. 

Before his return to Ireland to begin his gospel ministry, Patrick famously wrote, “I am ready to be murdered, betrayed, enslaved – whatever may come my way.” He rightly understood that if he actually lived a true and authentic Christian life, murder, betrayal, and slavery were much more likely to come his way than kindness and acceptance from the masses. The Christian life is not an easy one. Throughout most of the New Testament, Jesus and Paul warn believers just how difficult this life will be. The Christian life involves taking up a cross of suffering and following Jesus, not avoiding it at all costs like most of us do.

4. Christians are called back into the darkness in order to share the light.

Patrick prepared for ministry and began his journey back to Ireland to share the gospel in the dark land in which he had been enslaved. Can you imagine how difficult this must have been? Can you imagine the weight on Patrick’s heart and the memories that haunted him as he returned to the land where he was an escaped fugitive? But Patrick returned to dark and sinful Ireland with the gospel of light. Like Patrick, Christians are not called to abandon the world, but to engage it; not to put up a wall, but to put up a light so that darkness will be driven out. That light is Christ. Have you been redeemed and called out of slavery by Christ? Return to the dark world out of which you were rescued and take the light of Christ with you.

5. Serpents can be driven out.

Though legend states that Patrick drove snakes out of Ireland, no such thing ever happened. BUT, through Patrick’s missionary efforts a spiritual revival broke out in Ireland and the devil’s forces were repelled by the light of Jesus Christ. No evil, no sin can stand up against the power and might of Jesus Christ. The devil wields tremendous power against those without Jesus, but against those emboldened, empowered, and called by God to spread his gospel message – not even the gates of hell can prevail.

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Believers, let’s reclaim St. Patrick’s Day. Let’s make it a day of reflection and recommitment to a missionary lifestyle. Let’s make it a day of remembering a faithful man who answered God’s call and changed the spiritual landscape of a nation for centuries. Who knows what God might do through us if we recommit ourselves to living on mission and shining the light of the gospel into the surrounding darkness.

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Book Review: Tim Keller’s “Jesus the King”

1431624741340Tim Keller has helped re-tell and narrate the story of Jesus Christ for the modern reader. He walks through key passages from the Gospel of Mark, with occasional glimpses into the other Gospels, and expounds about the significance of deeper meanings of each passage. The book is separated into two parts: The first part focuses on the identity and person of Jesus. The second part focuses on the mission of Jesus.

Whether you are a new believer or have been walking with Jesus for most of your life, this book will help take you deeper in your understanding of the King to whom you have pledged your allegiance. In each chapter, Keller highlights a unique part of the story of Jesus in order to help us grow in our understanding of the true identity and purpose of Jesus life and death.

There is nothing more transformative – nothing that inexplicably inspires change within us, than taking a close look at who Jesus really is and understanding what He really came to do. In other words, by truly getting to know our King and grasping the gospel message with our hearts and minds.

Keller takes complicated passages and complex truths and simplifies them with eloquence and personality. However, the book is not merely intellectual – Keller would never stand for such a thing. It is wonderfully practical and transformational as well. It is only through believing in and truly encountering Jesus that we can enter into His life.

Jesus is the King of all, whether or not we acknowledge him as such. But as soon as we believe and have faith and confess that He is truly our King, everything changes. This book is about exactly that – who Jesus is, what He did, and how those two things change all who believe in Him.

 

My rating:                             10/10

Goodreads rating:           4.37/5

Amazon rating:                 4.8/5

The Deadly Side Effects of Biblical Illiteracy

The statistics on Biblical illiteracy in our nation are astonishing.  Just 14% of Americans read the Bible every day. Almost 70% consider themselves knowledgable about the Bible, and yet only 43% can name the first 5 books. The statistics of Biblical illiteracy in the church are even more staggering. Only 45% of regular church attenders read the Bible more than once a week while a whopping 20% don’t read the Bible at all! Church attenders say that their top reasons for not reading the Bible are that they don’t have time (46%) and that it is too difficult to relate to or understand (16%).

The Statistic Brain Research Institute reports that the average American watches more than 5 hours of TV per day, so we can safely assume that “not having time” is not a legitimate excuse in almost all cases. So why is it that we don’t read our Bibles? Why is it that 1/5 regular church attenders never reads the Bible? How can anyone claim to be a follower of Jesus without being immersed in His word?

If people would actually pick up their Bible and read it, they would find some very helpful verses that just might make them more likely to read it more often. 1 Timothy 3 tells us that all Scripture is profitable in the Christian life. In Luke 4, Jesus himself blocks the devil’s attack with Scripture recitation and says that it is God’s word that gives him strength even more than food (and he said this after not having eaten for 40 days!). In Joshua 1, God commands Joshua to meditate on Scripture day and night so that he will be able to obey God.

Scripture reading, comprehension, and application is absolutely essential in the life of those who claim to know, love, and follow God. Reading or meditating on the Bible once a week is insufficient; never reading it is unacceptable. God’s word helps us fight the sin within ourselves, so there will be consequences in the Christian life without study of God’s word.

Imagine this. You’re sitting at home not reading your Bible, watching TV for one of your 5 hours of the day, and you see a commercial for a new medicine that might help with a condition you have. Just when you are ready to pick up the phone and call your doctor to ask about it, you hear the list of side effects. Then you put the phone back down and change the channel.

The side effects of Biblical illiteracy in the Christian life are too significant to ignore. We cannot afford to not read the Bible; to know it inside and out and meditate on it throughout every day. Here are just a few major side effects of Biblical illiteracy.

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1. Not understanding who God really is.

Scripture is the God’s primary method of revealing himself to people. It is through Jesus that we experience a personal encounter with God, and it is through Scripture that we encounter Jesus. All of Scripture, even the most “boring” parts of the Old Testament reveal something about who God is to us. If we rarely read the Bible, we will have a very limited understanding of who God really is. And if we have a limited understanding of who God is, we will remain in spiritual immaturity. How can we possibly love, know, obey, and serve a God whom we do not know very well?

2. Not understanding who we really are.

Scripture also reveals to us information about who really are, both as humans and as God’s children. If we don’t read the Bible, we will never have an accurate understanding of the depth of our depravity apart from God. We will also never understand the depth of God’s love and the magnitude of what He did for us on the cross if we don’t understand how sinful we are. And if we don’t understand just how much God loved us by sending Jesus to die for us, we won’t understand our true value in the eyes of God. A failure to grasp our depravity apart from God and our value because of Jesus’ sacrifice will also leave us in spiritual immaturity. How can we possibly understand God’s love for us and the practical implications for Christian living that stem from that knowledge if we don’t read the Bible, which reminds us of these truths on every page?

3. Not understanding our role as Christ’s ambassadors.

Scripture not only speaks truth about who God is and who we are – it also speaks truth about God’s mission in this world, in which he has invited us to participate. Jesus mission was to seek and save the lost, to forgive sin, and to bring people back to God. Paul calls this “the ministry of reconciliation” in 2 Corinthians 5. He tells the church in Corinth that Jesus reconciled the world to himself through his death and resurrection, and then entrusted that same message of reconciliation to his followers. He says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” God is making his appeal to the world through you and me. We represent Him and His kingdom in this world, therefore we are His ambassadors, entrusted with the gospel message. People who fail to immerse themselves in Scripture rarely live on mission – actually being Christ’s ambassadors – actually sharing the good news with people.

But being an ambassador not only includes delivery of a message that has been entrusted to us, but also living a lifestyle that accords with that message. Part of being Christ’s representative means living like him, acting like him, talking like him, loving like him. If we don’t read Scripture and allow our hearts and minds to align with God’s, as revealed in the Bible, we will not be able to understand and therefore live out our role as Christ’s ambassadors in this world.

We Must Be People of the Word

Biblical illiteracy is a major problem in the American church. A failure to be people of the word has led to a failure of the church in being strong, mature ambassadors for Christ in our dying world. The side effects of this Biblical illiteracy are devastating to the spiritual health of churches and individual believers. We must commit ourselves to reading, applying, and meditating on the word of God day and night, so that we may be able to do and be all that God has commanded.

 

 

* Statistics came from Barna Group and Lifeway Research

5K’s and Running to Win

I hate running. I would only run for three reasons: a bear behind me, a Krispy Kreme doughnut ahead of me, or hearing that Anthony Rizzo was signing autographs just down the street. Then my beautiful bride-to-be asked me to run a 5k at Wrigley Field with her. Now there are four reasons.

As we arrived, the fairly small group of serious runners were limbering up and preparing for a 3.1 mile sprint while the amateur runners, like myself, were eating McDonald’s breakfast and trying to figure out how to pin their bibs to their shirts. As I munched away on my hash brown, I realized that I was one of the “here for fun” runners and not one of the “here to win” runners.

To say I ran the 5k would be a lie. I power walked most of it, taking scenery breaks here and there, often being passed by moms with strollers and old folks with walkers), and then naturally, I sprinted across the finish line as the crowd applauded and handed me water for the hard work that they thought I had done.

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Only a few days later I was reminded of Paul’s words to the church in Corinth about living the Christian life:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.  (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

Just like the 5k at Wrigley Field, there are two basic ways to approach the Christian life. Of course everyone warms up, trains, and prepares differently, and while both groups of people are still living the Christian life, there are two distinct “levels”of commitment to the race.

First, there are the “here for fun” Christians. These people are not running to win the race, they are just running to finish. Some people live their whole Christian lives power walking at best, often dragging their feet, just hoping to finish. They don’t push themselves, they don’t train hard, they don’t spend their free time thinking about the race. Days, weeks, maybe even months go by where little serious effort has gone into their spiritual health.

Then, there are the “here to win” type of Christians. Those who are running “that [they] may obtain [the prize]. They practice self-control, they live their lives with purpose, disciplining their bodies, minds, and hearts to live godly lives. They train themselves in prayer, Scripture, service, and other spiritual disciplines. They give all of their strength and energy to running the race well so that they might receive a greater prize.

In 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, Paul writes:

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

The foundation upon which all Christians build their lives is Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone. But each person must decide how to build their lives upon Him. Some build with sturdy materials that will stand the test of fire while others build with fragile materials that will get burned up on judgment day. The “here for fun” Christians, who spent their lives not training, not working, munching on hash browns instead; who built their lives with poor materials “will be saved, but only as through fire”, while the “here to win” Christians, who worked hard, disciplined themselves, and built their lives with strong materials “will receive a reward”.

Which group of runners are you in? Are you a part of the small group of serious runners – those who discipline themselves spiritually, train hard, study and obey Scripture, and live strong, gospel-centered, God-loving lives? Or are you a part of the massive group of amateur runners, just hoping to tough it out and scrape by on judgment day?

 

Get Tim Keller’s “Prayer” Book FREE!

I am hosting a FREE giveaway of Tim Keller’s new book called “Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy With God“. I recently completed reading through this book and was so impressed and my prayer life wa51+5EHbLWwL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_s so transformed that I decided to give a copy away for free!

All you have to do in order to be entered win is “Follow” my blog, either via WordPress or via email sign up (Look in the right hand column of this page to see how – it is very easy). Once you have completed this very simple process, you will automatically be entered to win. IF you share the  link to this page on Facebook, you will be entered to win AGAIN, doubling your chances of winning.

Good news, if you already follow my blog – you will also be entered to win, but if you share on social media, you too will be entered twice!

I will select and contact a random winner on Friday, March 4 at 11:00am, so make sure to enter and share before then! Thank you all, and good luck!