Dispassionate Preaching Is An Oxymoron

A good reminder from “the Doctor,” Martyn Lloyd Jones, as I prepare my heart and mind to herald God’s Word tomorrow morning:

Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire. A true understanding and experience of the Truth must lead to this. I say again that a man who can speak about these things dispassionately has no right whatsoever to be in a pulpit; and should never be allowed to enter one. – Martyn Lloyd Jones, Preachers and Preaching, 97.


Unbroken: A World War II Story About God’s Sovereign and Unrelenting Grace

Last night I finished reading Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand. I picked up the paperback edition several years ago on a whim, but only got around to reading it just now.

zamp 2

I wish I had read it earlier.

It is a deeply moving, extraordinary testament to God’s amazing grace in the life of Olympic runner and war-survivor Louie Zamperini.

Some would have you believe it is otherwise. Some would have you think it is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, another testimony in a long line of witnesses proclaiming the indomitable power of will and determination.

Don’t believe them.

It is instead evidence of the stubborn, insuperable, tenacious, and sovereign grace of God that sustains a man through horrific suffering and overcomes a man filled with anger, bitterness, and revenge.

On a May afternoon in 1943, while on a search and rescue mission, Louie’s plane, the Green Hornet, suddenly crashed into the Pacific. For 47 days in a life raft, he was attacked by sharks, strafed by enemy aircraft, and battered by storms. He drifted 2,000 miles west only to be captured by the Japanese Navy near the Marshall Islands. For the next two years, he endured physical and mental suffering at the hands of Japanese POW camps that were difficult to read about. I cannot even begin to comprehend the horror of experiencing it. He endured disease, starvation, and excessively brutal beatings from guards. On three occasions, Louie was injected and used as a guinea pig for medical experiments. One Japanese named Mutsuhiro Watanabe took particular joy in hurting him. He would hunt Louie down, accuse him of imaginary infractions, and wildly attack him. Louie would try and hide in groups of men but it did no good. Watanabe, also known as “The Bird” would find him and beat him. On another occasion the Bird had Zamperini, along with a few other men, stand before the group of POW’s and punch them in the face as hard as they could. There were two hundred and twenty punches. The beating went on for two hours. Louie’s face was so swollen that for several days he could barely open his mouth.

Needless to say, when rescued and back home, Zamperini suffered greatly from nightmares. Every night he would see the Bird in his dreams. He seethed with anger and longed for vengeance. He began drinking heavily to try to deal with all of it.

One night, because of the prompting of his wife, he attended a crusade led by evangelist Billy Graham. Angered by the message, he reached the aisle but then stopped. He suddenly remembered being on the raft again and a promise that he had uttered to God, “If you will save me, I will serve you forever.” With that, he turned toward Graham and received Jesus Christ as his Savior from sin.

By his own testimony, since that night he has not once had a nightmare about the Bird. He gave up drinking. Instead of seething with anger, he was filled with peace and compassion and incorrigible joy. In the Fall of 1950, he returned to Japan, not for zamperin 1vengeance, but to tell his Japanese captors about God’s forgiveness. At SugamoPrison he compassionately addressed 850 Japanese war criminals with the message of Jesus Christ. Laura Hillenbrand writes, “Louie was seized by childlike, giddy exuberance. Before he realized what he was doing, he was bounding down the aisle. In bewilderment, the men who had abused him watched him come to them, his hands extended, a radiant smile on his face” (Unbroken, 387).

Summing up the life of Louie post-conversion Hillenbrand writes, “He remained infectiously, incorrigibly cheerful. He once told a friend that the last time he could remember being angry was some forty years before. His conviction that everything happened for a reason, and would come to good, gave him a laughing equanimity even in hard times” (Broken, 392).

Did you catch that?

Why is Zamperini cheerful and free from anger?

What has become his conviction?

“…that everything happened for a reason, and would come to good…”

In an interview with pastor Greg Laurie he says, “If it hadn’t been for the war or Watanabe and the post-traumatic stress, that’s what drove me to Christ. I mean, when I got on my knees and accepted Christ, what a relief to know that I had passed from one life to another.”

Wow! Wow! Wow!

This is not a story about the triumph of the human will.

Thzamperiniis is a story of the triumph of God’s amazing grace that sustains us through our darkest days and overcomes our deepest sins. This is a story about God’s relentless, driving, grace. I think I feel a Charles Spurgeon quote coming on, ““I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”



The Day I Died

It was July 2nd, 1998.

I was sitting in my room reading Genesis 3 in the Bible. I realized then and there that just as Satan deceived Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, he had also deceived me, blinded me, to my sinfulness and need for a Savior. I didn’t stop and pray anything. Just all of a sudden everything “clicked.” All at once I believed, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was a sinner and that Jesus Christ alone was my Savior. Without warning, I died.

  • I died to the penalty of sin.
  • I died to the power of sin.
  • I died to death.
  • I died to the condemnation of the devil.
  • I died to my selfish kingdom building.

As George Muller, the great evangelist, pastor, and coordinator of Christian orphanages in England put it, “There was a day when I died, utterly died – died to Andrew Manwarren, his opinions, preferences, tastes, and will; died to the world, its approval or its censure; died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends – and since then I have only sought to show myself approved unto God.”

And in dying, I came alive.

  • Alive to God.
  • Alive to righteousness.
  • Alive to holiness.
  • Alive to Christ.
  • Alive to the Spirit.
  • Alive to freedom.
  • Alive to truth.

I can take no credit for this. A dead man can not make himself live. But God, who is Life, graciously gave me life, through His living Word. All praise and glory to Him for slaying me by His Word so that I might now praise Him.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. – Romans 6:11

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. – Philippians 1:21



For as long as I can remember, I have been a curious person.


My earliest memory is getting out of our car and walking over a huge berm that separated the gravel church parking lot (okay maybe it wasn’t huge but I was just a young boy so to me it was). My brothers were really annoyed with me because I kept asking my dad all sorts of questions about why or how and so on. I vividly remember one of them telling me to “shut up.” I don’t remember exactly how my father responded but essentially it was “leave him be, we learn by asking lots of questions.” This, of course, led me to ask even more questions both because I was curious and because I saw it annoyed my siblings!

I think curiosity is an important discipline that stops life from being boring or mundane. It fills life with wonder and excitement. Someone who is curious can never be apathetic and if you know me, I am anything but apathetic. Curiosity drives me. I want to know why and how and so what.

For that reason alone I really enjoyed The Curious Christian by Barnabas Piper. This book challenges you to be curious about everything and anything and make the most of your God-given life.  Throughout the book, he challenges us to beware of just knowledge for the sake of knowledge or facts for the sake of facts. Instead, we must lean into what we see, hear, read, and learn and turn it upside down and inside out and really consider “so what?” He writes, “It is a sad, even sinful, thing to waste knowledge of any kind, but it is infinitely more sad and sinful to collect knowledge of the living God and for it to have no impact on us.” (pg. 71-72). Or again, “My greatest risk in reading is that I will collect knowledge but do not act on it, that I will become a card catalog of knowledge instead of being intent on bringing my curiosity to bear in the world” (pg. 87). And again, “We have an almost immeasurable capacity to take right beliefs and turn them into no actions. we are superheroes at knowing exactly what to do and not doing it.” (pg. 132).

That’s challenging stuff. But what really intrigued me was a connection Piper draws between curiosity and discipleship that I have never considered before. He writes:

“Jesus calls his followers to be in the world as he was, but not of the world. We are to be of his kingdom, defined by it and living according to its standards.

We are called to go into all the world and make disciples.

We are called to be all things to all people.

We are called to be shrewd as serpents and harmless as doves.

We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves.

But how in the world can we do these things if we are not in the world? How can we know our neighbors unless we move into the neighborhood? Or connect with people or learn cultures or be shrewd or be all things without being close enough and invested enough to learn what those things are? We cannot without being curious. Curiosity is a primary tool for fulfilling the mission of Christ. Without it we are distant from and clueless about those who need Jesus most. – pg. 115

What a great thought!

I love it!

So often Christians resemble thick-walled castles with deep, crocodile-infested moats surrounding them. Curiosity gets us out of our cloistered lives. It lets the drawbridge down. It helps us connect with those God has placed in our lives. It turns us outward. It opens up lines of communication. It enables us to get to know our neighbors and love them with the love of Christ. It helps us be “in the world but not of it.” Like Barnabas writes, “Curiosity is a primary tool for fulling the mission of Christ.”

So Christian friend, let’s use this tool. Cultivate it. Sharpen it. Faithfully employ it to get to know your neighbors and love them. Let’s use it to multiply disciples of Jesus Christ all around the world!


Why Are You Fearful?

Here are ten reasons I came across in my Scripture reading today why you, my Christian friends, have no reason to fear:

  1. Jesus commands all things – “…Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm.” – Matthew 8:26
  2. We have received the Spirit of adoption – “All those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!'” – Romans 8:14-15
  3. Our suffering is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory – “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” – Romans 8:18
  4. God works all things together for our good, i.e. – our conformity to Christ – “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” – Romans 8:28-29
  5. God is for us – “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31
  6. God will give us all that is necessary for life and godliness – “He did not even spare HIs own Son but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything?”
  7. God has chosen us, justified us, and Christ Jesus intercedes for us – “Who can bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.”
  8. Nothing can separate us from God’s unconquerable, all-satisfying love – “No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us.” – Romans 8:37
  9. God is faithful – “But the Lord is faithful; He will strengthen and guard you from the evil one.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:3
  10. God is with us so God commands us – “Do not be afraid or discouraged” – Joshua 8:1 and Joshua 1:9.

“You are to regard only the LORD of Hosts as holy.

Only He should be feared;

only He should be held in awe.” 

Isaiah 8:13


New Year Resolutions

I know. I know. We are 11 days into 2018 and I am just now posting about new year resolutions? But, hey, better late than never, right? The truth is, my schedule has been so full that I didn’t have a chance to do much reflection until just about a week ago. Before I share them with you, let me ask you, have you made any yet? Or maybe I should ask, how many have you broken already?

It seems people have a love/hate relationship with them. I personally am a very goal oriented kind of person so I naturally gravitate toward them. I also think they are valuable because they keep us from drifting and just bumping along day to day but not really going anywhere or accomplishing anything. However, I also think a strong case can be made for them Biblically.

  • God calls to Israel, “Give careful thought to your ways” (Haggai 1:5).
  • Moses prays, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
  • And my all-time favorite (and which I preached on this past Sunday morning), “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me” (Colossians 1:28-29).

That last reference is dripping with resolve and determination. It has shaped my ministry and lifestyle more than any other verse in the Bible. I want to spend every last ounce of God-given energy I have not on making a new and improved version of myself but on being increasingly transformed into the person of Jesus Christ. I want to become increasingly Christ-like in my words, thoughts, actions, and attitudes. I want to talk like Christ, look like Christ, think like Christ, serve like Christ, love like Christ, etc. But that is not all. I want to help others do the same! I want to help others be fully developed followers of Jesus Christ. You see that in the verse when it repeatedly says, “everyone.” This is why the overall mission of my life is making more and better disciples of Jesus Christ. It is surrendering my entire being to God that I might intentionally develop others into spiritual maturity.

With all of that being said, here is what Colossians 1:28-29 looks like in my life this year:

  • Redeeming the Time
    • Wake up every morning at 5:30am so I can have a good 90 minutes of personal Bible study and prayer and also time to read some other good Christian books.
    • My Bible reading plan is Professor Grant Horner’s plan. I have used it before and really benefited from it.
    • I will memorize the entire book of Ephesians using the plan by Andy Davis.
    • This ties into Colossians 1:28-29 in a number of ways. For starters, how can I intentionally help others mature in Christ when I myself am not intentionally growing in Christ? Furthermore, it is God’s Word and prayer that is going to energize me to do this work.
  • Exercise
    • I will limit myself to 1500 calories a day
    • I will exercise 20 minutes a day
    • I will do all of this because my body is not my own and because I want to live on this earth as long as I can so I can have that much more time to encourage others. Also, proper food and exercise is a way God energizes us to do his work!
  • Writing
    • Publish at least one blog post every week.
    • It should be easy to see how this ties into Colossians 1:28-29 – I can proclaim Christ, teach about Christ, admonish others in Christ, etc. through blogging and hopefully help others in doing so.
  • Reading
    • It is my aim to read no less than one book a week. For the most part I already do this but I want to be more intentional about it. I plan on reading a smattering of good Christian and non-Christian books.
    • Again, doing so will help me understand God and others more. It iwll help me proclaim Christ with more wisdom. Also, reading energizes me. It provokes my thinking and challenges me in lots of ways.
  • Counseling
    • I want to complete my A.C.B.C. certification this year. I need to finish phase 2 exams and phase 3 supervision.
    • The connection this has with Colossians 1:28-29 is very obvious. The word for “admonishing” is the Biblical word for counseling. It means to “put into the mind” or “to lay to the heart.” It is implanting God’s truth into the heart of another so as to guide, correct, and instruct them toward Christlikeness.

There you have it! Now let me encourage you to do the same. Just like Colossians 1:28-29 has shaped the mission of my life I think it can and should shape yours. Obviously, it will look different in your life than in mine but if you are a Christian, your aim should always be spiritual maturity in Christ. How could it be any less? So have you made any resolutions for 2018 yet? Is spiritual maturity at the heart of them? If not, why not? How can you change them to reflect this mission? If you are not a Christian and have kept reading this far anyways then I would encourage you to recognize God’s desire for your life is that you be mature in Christ also! The first step toward that happening is you turn from your sin and trust in Jesus Christ who can give you life eternal and life abundant.





Raiding Satan’s Strongholds By The Instruction of God’s Word

One of the saddest features of Protestant Christendom today is the wide breakdown in teaching the Word. Instead of constructive indoctrination, in thousands of our denominational churches there is a meagre fifteen or twenty minute discourse on some moral or social or other topic of current interest. This is no petty criticism on our part, but a sincere complaint with a sob in it. The breakdown in sound teaching of the Bible leaves our people the easier prey of error, and in recent years hundreds of thousands have been beguiled away by specious counterfeits. The call to each of us is to so know our Bible that we can ‘instruct’ others. Despite rebuffs from ‘them that oppose,’ our words will be used of the Holy Spirit to ‘recover’ others from Satan’s snare…Those who best know their New Testament are least prone to these new heresies. All of us who know the truth of Salvation according to the New Testament should take pains to ‘instruct,’ as opportunity allows, those who are ensnared.

– Awake My Heart: Daily Devotional Meditations For The Year, J. Sidlow Baxter, pg. 330, commenting on 2 Timothy 2:22-26.

What a word! Are you sobbing over the theological and doctrinal famine sweeping through our churches? Do you know the Bible? Are you taking pains to teach others what it says? The means and only means of rescuing those ensnared and deceived by counterfeit doctrine is sound instruction of the Word (see 2 Timothy 2:22-26)!