As a minister of discipleship within a local church, I can relate many stories of people finding a Bible Study within our church, plugging in, and beginning to grow deep roots in God's word and in their relationship with Christ.

For others, finding the right Bible study can be a challenge.  Here are some things to keep in mind about that.

Ask yourself: Whose job is it to see that I grow spiritually?

Here are the most common answers to such a question.

1. It is my pastor's job

Yes and no on this one.  Your pastor is entrusted with shepherding and  spiritual caring for the "flock" that God has placed under his stewardship.  However, if all you do is come to church, sing some songs, and listen to a sermon once a week, you might or might not actually ever begin to grow spiritually.  Most every pastor (and virtually every pastor worth listening to) would agree that if you really want to start growing spiritually, you'll need to be involving yourself with other believers in Bible study and prayer.  Do you know what statistics are showing to be the number one proven way for churchgoers to begin growing spiritually is? It is simply this: Prayerfully study the Bible when you are not at church!  Your pastor can't force you to do that, but he can certainly influence and encourage you to do so.

2. It is my church's job (or my discipleship pastor's job)

Yes and no on this one. Your church (and your discipleship pastor if you have one) are like your pastor in that they are entrusted with overseeing and facilitating the spiritual development of those God has placed under their stewardship.  However, as much as they labor to assist in people's spiritual growth and make it easy for them, sometimes it doesn't seem to happen.  I occasionally receive complaints from people that they are not growing spiritually...some of whom are deeply involved in a Bible study.  I is a head scratcher.  But even though your church and your ministers strive hard to help you grow spiritually, the job is partly your responsibility as well.  Do you show up to church ready to listen and learn?  Do you attend a Bible study at your church expecting to hear God speak to you through the scripture?  Or are you waiting for just the right Bible study to come along with just the right people with just the right teacher?  You might be waiting a long time. 

3. It is MY job

This might be getting close to the right answer.  It's almost there.  As we said before, you should absolutely take responsibilty for your own spiritual growth.  Don't let obstacles deter you from it.  Your pastor will try to influence and the church should provide avenues for spiritual growth, but nothing is stopping you from picking the Bible up or praying.  Every day, spend time in prayer and Bible study.  Don't let your spiritual growth rise or fall on a Bible study teacher or whether you can manage to squeeze in time for a small group during the week on top of serving and worshipping.  Take ownership of your spiritual development.  Make it your priority.  Rearrange your schedule and priorities if you must.  See if you can let God have your heart every single moment of every single day whether you are at church or not, whether you are reading the Bible or doing anything under the sun!  And yet, the responsibility doesn't rest on you alone...


4. It is God's job

Here's a very important truth.  God desires that you grow spiritually.  And He is orchestrating it behind the scenes in countless ways - through the experiences He allows you, through the relationships you have, through the sermons you hear, prayers you pray, conversations you have, etc.  Even when you think you are not growing spiritually, God might strongly disagree.  Watch and pray for eyes to see how He is growing you and stretching your faith even in ways you might not see at first glance.  Write them down if you need to.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians:
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.  (Philippians 2:12-13)
Notice that there are two things at "work".  We are continuing to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  The idea is that we strive to live in obedience to God and live for Him.  But the second "work" is God's work.  And it is a different tense.  This is a completed work that is already finished.  Someone once said, "We are in the process of becoming who God already sees us as."  Christ saved us.  We are in the process of living like it and in the process of being saved. (The big word for the process is sanctification...we are in the process of being sanctified or made holy or set apart.)  We do our everything to grow spiritually, knowing that it is ultimately God alone who brings it about in our lives, in His own ways and in His own timing and He who started the work in us will be faithful to complete it...and this is so certain that He already HAS completed it! 

Whose job is spiritual growth anyway?  YES...your pastor and your church play a part. are accountable for your own spiritual growth.  YES and most emphatically...God grants it, He does it, He gets the job done in His people's lives.     

I've lost some weight recently.  And it has caused me to want to ask the question: What does your before and after picture look like?

No, I am not talking about an actual photo or your physical appearance.  What I am really asking is this:

What has changed about you since the day Jesus Christ came into your life?

Don't rush to keep reading.  Look back at the question. 

Make a list.  Here's how:

Make two columns on a sheet of paper.  Label the left column "BC" and label the right column "AC".  ("Before Christ" and "After Christ", silly!)

In the left colum, answer the question: Who were you long before you knew Jesus Christ or invited Him into your life?  Write down a description or some descriptive words that come to mind.  If some characteristics were more dominant than others, bold them or underline them.

Now, when you embraced Jesus as your Lord and Savior, what changed?  In the left column, cross off the things that no longer described you.  If something didn't go away, but has diminished considerably, draw an arrow next to it pointing either up or down (up could mean that you've given that area to God; down could simply mean that it has decreased).

Now, what are you like today?  Write down some things that describe you in the right column.

When you complete that little exercise, what did you find?  For some, it is a drastic difference to see the two columns.  It is a humbling and liberating exercise to see it on paper.  You feel stirred to worship and thank God for the work He has done.  I hope that is you. 

But not everyone has that story.  Many confessing Christians today would go through that exercise and struggle.  They might not be able to recall who they were before Christ.  They might feel strange that the column on the left was not riddled with "bad stuff."  They might feel guilt that the right side and left side are actually fairly similar.
Many confessing Christians today would have
trouble describing how Christ has changed them.

What does that mean?

There are a ton of potential reasons.   It may be a mixture of several reasons or be entirely too complicated to put into words.  But let me encourage you...

  1. Sometimes God changes us gradually and not all at once.  Be patient as He continues to work in your life.  Trust His hand even when you cannot see it or feel it.
  2. Don't get discouraged if you don't have a terrible pre-Christian past.  Thank God for it!  Not all Christians went from "terrible person" to "perfect person" by the world's standards; but spiritually speaking, any person who gives their life to Christ goes from "dead" to "alive", from "wicked and condemned" to "forgiven"...even those that were "good people."
  3. Finally, some may need to sober up to the reality that part of the reason that your "chart" might not look right might be the result of a lack of discipleship.  Your spiritual growth stopped the day it was supposed to start.  There are tons of people who make decisions to trust Christ who fail to mature or grow in their relationship with God.  Sometimes this is the fault of a minstry, sometimes it is the fault of the individual, and sometimes there is no real blame upon anyone.  Whatever the case, there is ALWAYS today and tomorrow.  Ask yourself: What am I doing to grow in my walk with Christ?  Have I cheated myself out of a deeper relationship with God?  How can I give more of me to Jesus? Commit to giving Him even more influence, even more control, even more of you.   Give God fertile soil to work with in your life so that you can be firmly rooted and ready to grow.

You make your choices and your choices make you.  Why miss out on what God desires for you?  Make sure that Jesus Christ is driving behind the wheel of your life...your drive will be difficult but beautiful.  It will be a rush of joy not to mention an unfathomably awesome final destination!  The best is always yet to come for the Christian.

The Main to Keep Christ Central and Foremost.  All else is folly.

Al Mohler on Reading
5/04/2012 | Author: RCW
Since I never quite finished up a series of posts that I had been doing on reading some time ago, I figured today's post could loop back around to add some more thoughts to the subject.  And this time, you don't have to take my word for it alone.  Just watch this video.

At one point, Dr. Mohler says we won't start growing until we start reading.  I don't think he meant that there were no ways to grow spiritually without reading.  (i.e. I doubt if Dr. Mohler is going to tell a blind person who can't read Braille that they are just sore out of luck and can't hope to grow spiritually since they can't read.)

What do you think?  Did you agree/disagree with anything?

Have you ever heard of the Puritans?  Most of us hear them slandered at some point early in our gradeschool studies of American History.  If you are a Christian, you need to know that the Puritans in actuality have a lot to teach us...even if we've sometimes gasped at the strictness of their piety.

A couple of great resources you might want to check out are:

The Valley of Vision - This resource is basically a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions.  Arthur Bennet put them together after combing through the writings and journals of people like John Bunyan, Thomas Watson, Richard Baxter, Isaac Watts, Charles Spurgeon, and others.

A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life by J.I. Packer.

Also noteworthy:
   Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were by Leland Ryken.
   The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics. This title says it all.

I'll give you an example of a Puritan prayer from Valley of Vision entitled "Spiritual Growth"


In the way of thy appointment I am waiting for thee,
My desire is to thy name,
My mind to remembrance of thee.

I am a sinner, but not insensible of my state.
My iniquities are great and numberless,
but thou art adequate to my relief,
for thou art rich in mercy;
the blood of thy Son can cleanse from all sin;
the agency of thy Spirit can subdue
my most powerful lusts.

Give me a tender, wakeful conscience
that can smite and torment me when I sin.
May I be consistent in conversation and conduct,
the same alone as in company,
in prosperity and adversity,
accepting all thy commandments as right,
and hating every false way.

May I never be satisfied with my present spiritual progress,
but to faith add virtue, knowledge, temperance,
godliness, brotherly kindness, charity.

May I never neglect
what is necessary to constitute Christian character,
and needful to complete it.

May I cultivate the expedient,
develop the lovely, adorn the gospel,
recommend the religion of Jesus,
accomodate myself to thy providence.

Keep me from sinking or sinning in the evil day;
Help me to carry into ordinary life
portions of divine truth
and use them on suitable occasions, so that
its doctrines may inform,
its warnings caution,
its rules guide,
its promises comfort me.

The language and word choices may not be all that current for our context today; but surely the heart of the prayer is as relevant and appropriate for our context today as ever.

A Word About Commentaries
4/20/2012 | Author: RCW

People trying to grow in their Christian faith are sometimes astonished to find out about books they never knew existed.  Commentaries.  Some are even surprised to find out about study Bibles.

So here's a little bit of info on both.

For new believers or even non-believers, a great study Bible is the Quest Study Bible.  I believe it uses the NIV 1984 translation and is a great recommendation even if it is expensive.  [Speaking of translations, that is another blog entry altogether...much too lengthy for this post.]

Back to the subject, a great study Bible is often the first discovery to delight that of the Christian trying to grow and understand the Bible.

Some of the best study Bibles include the ESV Study Bible, the HCSB Study Bible, the Reformation Study Bible, the John MacArthur Study Bible, the NIV Starting Point Study Bible, the Quest Study Bible, and especially unique is the Life Application Study Bible.

But it may surprise some people to learn that there are some even more technical books available that pastors will consult.  Granted, these resources are just one of the many tools in the toolbelt of a skilled Bible teacher, but virtually any pastor worth listening to will have consulted a commentary or three before or after studying a particular passage of scripture. 

Now before you rush out to google "commentaries" (that might not be the most helpful thing to do) you ought to know a few things.

  1. First, be aware that there are different types of commentaries.  The basic types are: devotional commentaries, homiletical commentaries, and critical commentaries.  I favor the critical ones, but sometimes more practical pastors of the less geeky bent will favor a homiletical commentary of some type.  (Homiletics is the fancy word for preaching and preparing sermons.)  Even more practical and therefore perhaps more "average-Joe-friendly" are the devotional commentaries which in some ways are only one step away from a study Bible.  P.S. - "Critical" commentaries aren't necessarily commentaries that are "critical" of the Bible.  It simply means that they are more technical and apply rigorous study, reason, and explanation in their treatment of a text.  They can sometimes be heavily footnoted and can leave Greek & Hebrew words completely un-transliterated for the English reader.   Looking for an example of each? 

         I've given you the basic types, but know that there are also other kinds of commentaries
         such as the Bible Backgrounds commentaries done by IVP and Zondervan.  (Both of
         which relied on one of my favorite professors during my time at Wheaton...John Walton.) 
         I expect that many different types of commentaries will continue to come into existence.


     2.  Next, it's vital to know that not all commentaries are created equal.  In fact, I'd go so far 
          as to ask your pastor or education pastor at your local church what kind of commentaries
          are worth consulting and which ones aren't.  Sometimes people write commentaries
          who are actually coming to the text with a foundational worldview that is entirely different
          than what one might consider Christian.  You could very easily find commentaries on the
          Bible written by those that seek to undermine the Bible's authority or credibility in their
          research.  There are great resources and reviews to consult as well such as those by DA
          Carson (NT) and Tremper Longman III (OT).  This relatively new website seems fairly
          interesting too.


      3. Third, it is generally best to consult commentaries only AFTER studying the passage
             a great deal for yourself. I can't stress this enough.  Use the commentaries to check your
          work, not to do all your work.


      4. Fourth, resist the urge to buy a set...especially if you are not training for the ministry. 
          If you teach a Sunday school class, chances are there's probably no need to invest
          that much money into a complete critical commentary series.  Besides, it is much wiser
          to buy individual commentaries on each book than purchasing an entire set.  If you are a
          layman, a quality one-volume Bible commentary should suffice, but if you simply must
          have a complete set, perhaps the Tyndale Series is best.

      5. Finally, remember that you might be able to acquire 2 or 3 commentary sets just by
          purchasing Bible software.  They may not be that great, but they might be all you need.


I could certainly write a lot more on this subject.  And I may.  For now, this ought to be enough to chew on and read without getting bored.  :)


[The current topic relates back to a previous post I made a long time ago.]

What would it take to make your spiritual life your number one priority?

For many of us, the question is almost offensive. I've even heard it asked, "How would your life look differently if you really began to obey God's word and live it out as though it were true?"

The question may be offensive, but it is one we must daily ask ourselves if we want to take Jesus' words seriously.  For real...what's your #1?  Do you seek Christ, knowing Him, honoring Him, knowing His will and doing it above everything else?  Do it and you'll find that everything else suddenly comes into focus, priorities find their proper place, and things are rightly aligned.  Jesus spoke of this when he said:
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Mt. 6:33
"The most important [commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’" Mk 12:29-30 
Spiritual self-examination is so very Biblical. When was the last time you did a spiritual pulse-check?  Don't wait 'til your life is already wrecked to give God first place.  A great starting point is Psalm 119.

Get alone somehow with God today and pray this prayer: 

"Search me, Oh God and know my heart. Test me and know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me and lead me into the way everlasting..."  (Ps. 119)

What's Your Plan for Making Disciples?
3/27/2012 | Author: RCW
So, Jesus told his disciples and -- by extension -- us in Matthew 28:19-20: 

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." 

The main instruction that Jesus gave His followers was to make disciples.  (Go is actually a participle and could even be translated "as you go" or "while going" or "when you go.")

So, here is my primary question.  If you consider yourself a follower of Christ, how are you involving yourself in making disciples?  Is that a job reserved for pastors?  Is that a job reserved for the spiritually elite?  By no means!  Making disciples ought to be the business of every true follower of Christ.

So what is stopping you?  There are plenty of possible inhibitors.  Here are some biggies:
  • Popular Inhibitor #1 - Maybe you have no concept of what "making disciples" looks like in a 21st century context.  That's okay.  If you are wondering whether Jesus wants you to wear sandals and a toga, speak in thees and thous and ask 12 random people to follow you around day and night, you've got the wrong mental picture.  The next time you are at church, ask your discipleship pastor how you personally can get involved making disciples.  You might teach a class, you might mentor a young believer, you might serve within the church, or facilitate some curriculum with a small group.  Making disciples means creating more followers of Jesus and helping His existing followers follow Him more closely.  Believe it or not -- anybody who is following Jesus can do those things. 
  • Popular Inhibitor #2 - Do you trust in church programs to make disciples?  Making disciples is surely the job of the local church.  If churches aren't focused on making disciples, they probably shouldn't exist.  But who is the local church but YOU?  The church is primarily people and not a building or institution.  One close friend of mine came to a realization in his late twenties that devastated him.  He came to me one day and said, "I can't believe that I wasted all these years expecting my local church to take primary responsibility for making disciples when all along it is my responsibility!"  It took this friend of mine stumbling onto this great book to learn that he could make disciples in his own time in his own way.  Today, he would tell you that the rewards just keep on multiplying as people he has discipled are now discipling others.       
  • Popular Inhibitor #3 - You might be thinking, "It might feel awkward.  How do I get started and just start making disciples?  I can't just stroll up to someone and say, 'Sit down while I teach you to follow Jesus.'  Worse still: 'Will you be my disciple?'"  You are right...either of those approaches would make for a pretty awkward start.  The place to start is to begin praying, listening, and watching.  Ask God to point you to the people he wants you to influence.  Pay attention to those in your life who need a better grasp of how to follow Christ.  Look for opportunities to communicate your faith and even teach it to others.  Do that long enough, and you won't be asking for more opportunities, you'll be having to ask God to help you choose which options to take to make disciples most effectively. 
May God bless you in your efforts and grow you as you aid others in following Christ more closely.  Email me if you need help!  More on this to come...


Is it Your Serve?
3/15/2012 | Author: RCW
One of the things that gets talked about the least when it comes to discipleship is the importance of service.

It's surely a very important thing to begin your walk with Christ by reading the Bible and spending time in prayer and devotion with God, etc. Yet, sometimes putting your faith into action becomes an enormous catalyst for spiritual growth.

I once heard someone say, "I'm so tired of coming to church and having responsibilities...I just want to go back to when I could show up, sit, get fed, and leave."  I've been there too.  But honestly?  Would that not be a step backward?  Sure, there are times when God may be calling us to rest and retreat from the work (Jesus went to the mountainside alone to pray with good regularity throughout his ministry).  But God also demands that we not simply acquire knowledge about Him and never put it into practice.  What God reveals to you He intends for you to share with others.

I've been around a lot of Christian academic types.  I love them.  I resonate with them.  But it broke my heart that time and again the seminary students who knew the most were quite often the students who served the least.  (Many of them wouldn't even attend church!)  God didn't mean for you to soak up truths like a sponge.  Once you start growing, you had better start serving.  And for some people, they would say that they really didn't start growing until they started serving.

Get your hands dirty doing work for God.  Feed the hungry.  Donate your time and energy.  Set up some chairs or tables at church.  Visit a shut-in.  Offer to fold or stuff some newsletters.  Scrub a toilet for Jesus.  Coach an Upward team.  Teach 3 year olds in the nursery.  The next time a minister asks you to help with something, do something crazy and just say yes.  Better yet, go ask your church leaders where you can help and maybe even use your spiritual gifts.  American churches are generally plagued by a lack of volunteers.  Why?  It's because everyone wants to receive from church, but nobody wants to give.  Our consumer-driven culture has caused our churches to be full of consumer-minded Christians.  Don't be part of the problem.  Be a part of the solution.  Get in the game...for God's sake!

Augustine and Reading (Part 3 of 3)
3/09/2012 | Author: RCW
Last year, I was doing a series of entries on reading. Several entries were about Augustine and Reading. Here's another installment. Just read Augustine's Egyptian Gold Analogy. It can be found in both De Doctrina Christiana (In English that title means On Christian Doctrine or Teaching Christianity) as well as The Confessions. In it, Augustine shares an analogy that allows us to answer the question "Is there some sort of value for Christians to read pagan works or works that are written either by non-believers or from a non-Christian perspective. He writes:

If those, however, who are called philosophers happen to have said anything that is true, agreeable to our faith, the Platonists above all, not only should we not be afraid of them, but we should even claim back for our own use what they have said, as from its unjust possessors.  It is like the Egyptians, who not only had idols and heavy burdens, which the people of Israel abominated and fled from, but also vessels and ornaments of gold and silver, and fine raiment, which the people secretly appropriated for their own, and indeed better use as they went forth from Egypt; and this not on their own initiative, but on God’s instructions, with the Egyptians unwittingly lending them things they were not themselves making good use of.

In the same way, while the heathen certainly have counterfeit and superstitious fictions in all their teachings, and the heavy burdens of entirely unnecessary labor, which everyone of us must abominate and shun as we go forth from the company of the heathen under the leadership of Christ, their teachings also contain liberal disciplines which are more suited to the service of the truth, as well as a number of most useful ethical principles, and some true things are to be found among them about worshiping only the one God. All this is like their gold and silver, and not something they instituted themselves, but something which they mined, so to say, from the ore of divine providence, veins of which are everywhere to be found. As they for their part make perverse and unjust use of it in the service of demons, so Christians for theirs ought, when they separate themselves in spirit from their hapless company, to take these things away from them for proper use of preaching the gospel. Their fine raiment too, meaning, that is, what are indeed their human institutions, but still ones that are suitable for human society, which we cannot do without in this life, are things that it will be lawful to take over and convert to Christian use.

So what does it mean? Click this link for some great insights from Dr. Naugle of Dallas Baptist University distributed at his summer institute in Christian scholarship.

As a Christian, don't be afraid to read a different perspective.  Read Oscar Wilde or a Hindu text or The Celestine Prophecy.  You'll find falsehoods.  But you might find something useful and true as well.  Search for the truth as for gold and silver, harvest it wherever it may be found, sanctify it unto God, and put it in service to Christ--for it is there that it finds its true value.

Many people will go to a doctor and pay lots of money for the doctor to cure them.  This merely cures the body.  And yet, many people refuse to admit an ailment of the soul, would never pay money for a cure, and remain spiritually sick.

Jesus = THE Ultimate Soul Physician.

Pastors & Ministers & Churches = Physician's Assistants.
(Hint: How do you measure how good they are?  By how well they connect you to the doctor Himself...There are plenty of them who should be sued for malpractice too.)

As a minister myself, part of my job is helping people shed spiritual ailments.  I am not the doctor, but I know Him.  Have you been to the office lately to get a soul checkup?

Perhaps you are in the office all the time, but you've yet to take your prescriptions and yet to ever really meet the Doctor.  Sitting in a church doesn't heal you spiritually any more than entering a doctor's office and sitting in the waiting room makes you physically fact, you might just get sicker in the waiting room!  Make sure that you are connecting with Jesus personally and reading His words, taking His prescriptions, obeying His church and outside of it.  It is nearly impossible to meet the Doctor truly and remain the same when you leave.

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell." - Jesus (Mt. 10:28)

"Jesus said to them, 'It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but the sin-sick.'" - Jesus (Mk. 2:17)

Sometimes people are surprised to find out that we don't have the original manuscripts of the Greek New Testament.  Don't be alarmed.  The sheer amount of the manuscripts we do have exceeds all other ancient documents hundreds of times over.  We have over 5,000 manuscripts that attest to what the originals said, giving us overwhelming confidence that the Greek New Testament of today is accurate, trustworthy, and reliable.  It is the Greek New Testament that is then translated into English for various publishers of the Bible, etc. 

Part of the reason why we don't have the original manuscripts?  Persecution.  During the Roman persecutions of Christians, Christians would frequently be killed for their faith in Christ.  There were several options for a person to prove they weren't a Christian and thereby escape martyrdom.  They would need to denounce Christ, but they could also win favor by turning over other Christians (particularly Christian leaders) or even manuscripts of the scriptures.  Many did so.  Here's just one ancient manuscript that tells us about it.    

All these things were fulfilled in us, when we saw with our own eyes the houses of prayer thrown down to the very foundations, and the Divine and Sacred Scriptures committed to the flames in the midst of the market-places, and the shepherds of the churches basely hidden here and there, and some of them captured ignominiously, and mocked by their enemies. (Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, Book 8, Chapter 2)

As a Christian, don't forget that people have died, risked their lives, and toiled relentlessly so that you could have the Bible...the book that you and I many times casually neglect.

"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."  ~Deut. 6:6-9 

The Wisdom & Discipline of Silence
2/09/2012 | Author: RCW
Sometimes in our attempts to conjure profundities, we just sound foolish. Sometimes silence speaks the most wisdom.  
So it has definitely been a while since my last post...(about 10 months to be exact!)  I really don't like making excuses and never have...It's a nasty habit to break if you start getting comfortable or used to doing it.

Nevertheless, I will say that for the past few months, things have been very trying within my household...My wife went into labor just hours after my last post in March of 2011.  We now have a beautiful baby girl and my life has certainly never been the same.  

I also navigated a transition in ministry (that's minister talk for "After 9 to 18 gut-wrenching months of soul-searching and intense prayer, I got a new assignment from God"), relocated my family about 1,000 miles away from where we were, began a new job (still working in the area of adult discipleship for a church), and celebrated my 30th birthday as well! 

But all of this change, pain, prayer, upheaval, and adjusting has been a tremendous positive.  And as a new dad, I am overwhelmed by the transformation that having a child makes.  The birth of my daughter has transformed who I am.  Here's why.  Let the one with ears to hear -- hear:

As a follower of Christ, we are called to daily deny our self, take up the instrument of our torturous death, and follow Him (Luke 9:23).  When a follower of Christ gets married, it is as though God reveals three things.

At first, God seems to make it easier to obey Him and die to self.  After all, a married person has a more routine daily need to deny themselves.  This is simply natural to any good marriage...You have to take into consideration the interests of another and compromise sometimes because it's not all about you anymore.  It's now about 2 people together laying aside their own agendas to be one.  It's such an immediate necessity, that it should be easier, right?  Wrong.

Soon enough, we realize that God (and our spouse!) is challenging us.  What was seemingly going to be easier turns out to be very difficult.  God has designed marriage as a process by which we are forced to lean more greatly upon His wisdom, relying less and less on our own ability.  In other words, God designed marriage to make you more like Him.  Our selfishness is quite often exposed and we can fail both God and our spouse rather frequently. 

Finally, unless we surrender our selfishness, our marriage is going to suffer.  In fact, our marriage could be a wreck until we sacrifice our selfishness.  Once wed to another, your spiritual life (or lack thereof) now effects someone else greatly every single day.

The day you become a father--which, by the way, is the day your honey finds out she is prego and not simply the day your child is born--everything changes again.  You are called to an even greater amount of surrender to God.  It is SO not about you any longer.  In fact, it couldn't be any less about you.  "Children change a marriage" to be sure...I read that book.  They also change a person.  For the Christ-follower, parenthood is just an even more serious call to die to self, take up the cross daily, and follow the Master.

God has given me a daughter and entrusted her care to my wife and me.  Thanks, Jesus, for making it both easier and harder to drop my selfishness, deny my self, and follow after you more closely.  After all, the stakes just keep getting higher. 

Keep me broken, Lord.   Amen.


P.S. Yes, I know I failed miserably to accomplish my goal of blogging more in 2011.  But in my defense, the lack of comments on the site doesn't exactly display a great amount of disappointment from anyone!  ;)  Lordwilling, there will be more writing forthcoming in 2012.