the miraculous sermons in my front yard

A couple of weeks back I was cleaning out flower beds. That, in itself, is a minor miracle, considering it was mid-march in Minnesota.

As I raked out a few leaves and pulled off dead stuff, I had no expectation of seeing growth–none whatsoever. So imagine my surprise when I saw this.


Amazing right? I had been lulled to sleep by winter, but these little shoots jolted me awake to the reality that God had done it again. He made life come out of the ground. Spring does not usually catch me by surprise, (at least not since I’ve lived in MN and so desperately longed for it) but this year, it did.

Now comes one of the sermons my front yard provided.Image

Can you see it? It looks kind of watery, but it wasn’t. It was pure ice. There were green shoots growing straight through a block of ice attached to the ground.

Just look at it! Leftover death in the form of the long brown leafy things and present death in the form of the ice. And the small green shoot is the miracle of new birth in Christ amidst it all screaming at me to take notice. That shoot is saying, “LOOK at me! This is what happened to you when God quickened life into your dead and sinful heart!” And that is a true testimony. Out of past death and present darkness my new heart was born through Christ.

And here’s sermon number two, just a foot and half away from sermon number one.


Yep, that’s a thistle. Oooo, I hate them. I pulled this one out with my bare hand. Because sometimes I need to know what sin feels like to my skin. I can mask what it feels like in my heart, but when it makes my hand bleed, there’s no denying it. And the thistle did its God given job of yelling, “Sin isn’t a soft pet that you keep and coddle. It’s prickly and voracious. It is a living, spreading death.”

Our God, El Roi, The God Who Sees, sees us in every little thing we do, and His creation testifies to greater things than mere shoots and thistles. Do I have eyes to see what the Father has revealed in His spoken world? Lord, give me eyes to see and ears to hear!

“’Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil.6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’”   Mark 4:3-9

sin produces death through what is good

Paul says a lot of wonderful and nuanced things in Romans 7.

For instance, he says, “if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.”  So the law is not sin-producing, but rather, sin-alerting.  And sin, being very sneaky and conniving, seizes “an opportunity through the commandment” to produce all kinds of sin in me.

Then the clarification, “Did that which is good, then, bring death to me?  By no means!  It was sin, producing death in me through what is good..” (7:13a)

I am in complete awe of that verse and how jam-packed it is with meaning that effects me everyday.

The law was good.  It is good.  It is holy and just and loving.  Yet, sin can take a good thing and turn it into an opportunity for sin to abound.  Not just for us to be sin-aware, but for sin to increase!  To be “sinful beyond measure.” (7:14b)

I can think of multiple ways this happens even with the good gifts God gives me on this side of the cross.  The law was given before the cross, and yes, sin seized the chance for sin to abound through the giving of the law.  But after Christ’s death and ressurection, it would seem to me that the gifts from God relating to His body and Christian life would be immune to such sin entanglement.  But I find it isn’t so.

Some of the best gifts given after Christ’s atoning sacrifice, like the fellowship of the body, spiritual gifts of discernment or teaching or service, and many more are all still vunerable to sin’s perversion.  Sin can take the good gift and produce death through what is good.

Now, for those of us in Christ, His righteousness covers us and ultimately death is not produced in us.  He also gives His Spirit to guide and help us in our weaknesses.  We have tools with which to fight the enticements of sin.  And I am so thankful for that.

Left to my sinful flesh, I begin to idolize the gift of fellowship over the Person without whom no fellowship could ever exist.  I start to value spiritual gifts over the subject of which the gifts should be about.  And what’s worse, an attitude of entitlement about the gifts creeps in.

So, I say with Paul, “Wretched [wo]man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (7:24)

And then Paul answers, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  It’s Jesus who delivers us from this body of death.  And there is no condemnation for me.  I wage war on the sinful members of my body and in my inner being I rejoice in God’s loving commandments and His good gifts.  So God is God, good gifts are not.  But good gifts are free to be embraced as good when God is my Treasure and Sweet Reward.

Has sin ever taken a good thing in order to try and produce death through it in your life?

the rich young man and the widow's mite

I listened to Pastor John’s message to the graduating seniors at Bethlehem, given a couple weeks ago. 

It was the title that caught me (simply, Remember the Rich Young Man) and I am glad I went ahead and listened to it.  I think it would be a good sermon to give to young marrieds, or mid-lifers.  Call it a course correction sermon, rather than a launching pad one.

If you want a vision cast for your life that values what’s valuable: CHRIST; and is able to let go of what’s not: money, listen to this message.  

At the end of this sermon I felt great fear.  Fear that money could be holding my affection in ways I’m not aware of, or in ways that I think I’m “over.”  I should be afraid to be rich.  Not that being rich is wrong.  But I think the quickness with which I understand wealth as reward rather than as a minefield of ego-puffing danger is revealing of my heart.

I’m thankful to have some great examples around me of what it’s like to have wealth without having a grasp on it.  One example is Pastor John, who takes no royalties or money from Desiring God ministry.  Another is a good friend and elder who owns successful businesses, but only takes a certain amount in income and gives the rest away.  

He also gives away his time in serving at the church; he works four days a week at “work” and devotes his other time to ministry.  Finally, my parents are a good example as they share all they have with others and are quick to give to let possessions pass through their hands.  

But the examples to the contrary are more numerous than can be counted.

 It is our whole culture.  Wealth is status; nice things are addicting, and Christians compete on these levels more than we could possibly recognize.  So, I’m thankful for Pastor John’s message.  I might just go get some sh-lack, a dollar bill and a piece of wood.  (That will make sense if you listen to it).

Here’s sermon jam with a related message:

And, finally, I got a “widow’s mite” sent to me in the mail.  It came to me with my homeschool curriculum.  It is to be a reminder of the sacrifice that a mother gives (meaning all she has, just like the poor widow) to instruct and love her children in the ways of the Lord.

I want to love and instruct my children in a way that makes Christ appear as valuable as He is.  And I am willing to give it all to that end.  I want to live all of life that way.  

Oh that I could bring glory to God in some small but significant way, I would have more than the richest man in the world and my widow’s mite would be multiplied a million times over.

the most important holy-day of the year

My pastor said last Sunday that Easter is the most important holiday of the year.  

More important than Christmas.  Because Christmas exists to make Easter possible.  

We should get this Christians.  This should be obvious to us.  But the culture tells us something different, so if we aren’t being really intentional, then we are taken along on auto-pilot, having Christmas be the big one and Easter a kind of nice spring-y  time of song-singing at church and fancy dresses for the girls.

I remember quite vividly the first time the reality of what Easter should be hit me.  

I was 15 and in Mexico City, Mexico.  The youth group went to Mexico City each year to help out the two missionary couples from our denomination who served and lived there.  We mostly worked with their youth and did whatever was most helpful for them.  We shared the Gospel, invited the neighborhood to church, ran a camp for the youth, did VBS, etc.  

The first year we went was over spring break and over Easter.  I remember reading my Bible in the morning and reading in the Gospels of all that transpired from the time in the Garden up to His resurrection.  It just dawned on me that I had walked through Easter many times never realizing the fullness of what it represented.  

I also began to feel an angst over the fact that Christmas was made so much of and Easter was not.

And, at 15, began to wonder, how do we fix this??!  This is a great tragedy!  I’d say I was partly right.  The culture has hi-jacked our holidays in ways that are not helpful.  But that’s not the main problem.  

The main problem exists in my own heart.  No one can keep me from making much of the glory Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter.  And, in making much of Easter, Christmas doesn’t get smaller, it gets bigger.  In the kingdom of God Christmas and Easter don’t compete, they compliment.

I don’t have to make Christmas small to make Easter big.  

Instead the more I love God and Christ and His death and resurrection the more Easter gets big and so does Christmas.  It’s the same principle that C.S. Lewis speaks of when he says that the more we love our first and best love, namely God, the better and more we will love our second love, our spouse and children, etc.  Love for the best thing increases, not diminishes, our love for second things.  

So it is with Easter and Christmas.

What ways have you all employed to make much of this most-important holy-day called Easter?  Do you have any traditions that help to focus your and your family’s hearts on God-Man who was made a curse for us?  

Let’s look at Jesus, the One who must be lifted up like the serpent, and love Him together!

when cold feels hot

Have you ever had really cold hands?  

Maybe you just came in from outside and you were touching snow with your bare hands.  Then you go to wash them and the water feels so tingly hot.  But then you wash up your arm a little ways and you notice that the water is really very cold.  

It just feels hot on your cold hands.

This happens to me everyday.  I have perpetually cold hands, so I’m always testing the water up on my arm to find out what the temperature really is.  Because I can’t trust my hands.  My hand perception isn’t trustworthy.

This got me thinking.

I wonder what other perceptions I have that I shouldn’t be trusting.  What head perceptions do I need to check on my arm to make sure I know what’s real?  Of course, I wouldn’t really check my arm, instead I’d run it by Mr. TommyD or a good friend.

What perceptions that I have about people are wrong?  about sin?  Maybe I think someone doesn’t like me.  I think they’re cold towards me, but really they’re warm.  Or maybe I have become so accustomed to certain sins that I don’t even feel them as cold.  

This is just one of many reasons I’m really happy to be married.  I’ve got someone there to check my perception v. reality meter.  Of course, God’s Word and the Holy Spirit are the ultimate reality check-ers.  Because they show us True Reality.  And that’s why it’s incredibly dangerous for me (or anyone) to get away from Scripture.  It is the one constant in culture of change.  

It cuts through perception to reveal timeless and timely Reality.  Without it I go adrift in my own perception.  

The Word gives me Christ.  

And Christ is Real.

have you heard the good news?

If you have spent any time at this blog, I hope you’ve noticed something.  I hope you’ve noticed an inescapable theme woven through and shaping all my thinking and writing.  The theme is the Gospel.

I have opinions about many things, and I can say with certainty that many of them are flawed.  Sometimes our opinions are a reflection of ourselves, they’re subjective and based on subjective life circumstances.  But there are times when our “opinions” are really beliefs, beliefs based on a reality.  

I think that what I believe about God and His Son, Jesus, and the Bible is one of the latter things.  It is a belief based on a fact, a reality, a truth.  

If I said I believe Lincoln was the President during the Civil War and gave the Gettysburg address and was assassinated while watching the opera, that belief would be true.  It is based on actual events that happened.  

I believe the Bible to have the same sort of historical factual information, and much much more.

Here are the nuts and bolts of what I believe:

God made the earth and Adam and Eve.  They lived in harmony with God, until they sinned.  After they sinned they were separated from God and they and the earth became cursed as a result of their evil.  

The sin problem plagued every human from then on.  It has been life’s biggest, most serious problem.  Their sin, and ours, is against a holy and perfect God who cannot tolerate it and must send sinners to eternal punishment.

For hundreds of years, God’s people, Israel, tried to make peace with God by sacrificing animals to atone for their sin.  God was gracious in forbearing with these less than perfect sacrifices.  

Prophets like Isaiah foretold the coming of a man, called the Messiah, who would save the people from their sins.  And that this Savior would save more than just Israel, but would be for all peoples.  He would be the perfect sacrifice needed to bring peace with God and overcome sin and death.  He would, in fact, be God incarnate.

This God-man, the Messiah, named Jesus, was born of a virgin Mary, he was begotten of God the Father, and He lived a perfect life.  He loved everyone perfectly and was good and just and all the things we might try to be, but fail.  

Eventually He was hanged on a cross.  This was the will of His Father.  It was part of a plan that the Father had to bring reconciliation between Himself and sinful people.  The same sinful people that crucified Christ, would now have the opportunity for peace with God through the very death they enacted.  Jesus was crushed for our iniquity.  

And after He was murdered on our behalf, He rose from the dead after three days, thereby defeating death forever.  

When He rose from the dead, He was seen by many witnesses and even ate a meal with His disciples.  Then God took Him up to heaven.  

This all happened over 2000 years ago.  You can read about it in the Bible.  The Bible is God’s Word.  This means that what is written in the Bible is not simply an historical account (although it is that too), but God’s very words to us, that He inspired mere humans to write.  Everything in it is True and for the benefit of sinful people to come to God and know God and glorify God.  

For me, this is good news.  

This is life-changing news.  It is Life for my dead heart. It is Light for my dark mind.  It is Bread for my hungry soul.  It is the Way, when all ways were shut.  It is the Good Shepherd, when all had gone astray.  It is the Truth, when lies were closing in.  

Does this sound like good news to you?  

Do you sense God’s Holy Spirit beckoning you to taste and see that the Lord is good?  Do you long to cast your burden of sin onto Jesus, gaining for yourself freedom from sin and joy in loving God in this life and forever in heaven?  Do you want to give thanks to God for this gift?  Do you desire to see His name made great, because you now see that He is Great?

I hope you do.  I hope you want to run and find the nearest Bible to learn more about this thing called Christianity.  I hope you decide to find a church that believes the Bible and is depending on Christ for their salvation through faith alone (trusting and believing God), by grace alone (not depending on good works). 

If you want to hear the good news again, in someone else’s words.  Here it is:

Please contact me or a Christian in your life, if you have turned from your sin and are now resting in Christ’s Righteousness.