The Cross in the Crosshairs of My Heart

“I tend to focus my thoughts on my Christianity – how I’m doing, what I’m learning, how my prayer time was today, how I avoided that pesky sin or fell into it again. I think about what I’m supposed to accomplish for Christ, and I interact with others on that same works-oriented ground. But this day isn’t about me at all. It’s about Him: His sinless life, death, resurrection, ascension and reign and the sure promise of His return. It’s the gravity of His life that should attract me toward Him.”

~ Elyse Fitzpatrick, Comforts from the Cross

The Chief End of Man & God

I am inclining my ear listening for the collective “OUCH”!   But sometimes the truth hurts. Such is the case with this observation and assertion by Paul Copan, from his book, Is God a Moral Monster?, when applied to the typical American Evangelical:

The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647) begins with this question: ‘What is the chief end of man?’ The famous response is: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’

For many in the West (including professing Christians), the chief goal of many individuals is to ‘further my interests and to enjoy myself forever.’  Or if God exists, then the Catechism’s answer is subconsciously revised to this: ‘The chief end of God is to make me as comfortable and pain-free as possible’…

God’s ultimate role isn’t to advance my own interests and freedom… Rather, God seeks the interpersonal intimacy with us in the context of covenant making. .. God is the all-good Creator and Life-giver. He desires that his creatures live life as it should be.

My thanks to Tom Wood and the folks at for this quote.

Indelible Grace: Roots & Wings

On the evening of June 30, 2010 I was in the Ryman Auditorium with a large group of great friends, rocking the rafters singing praises to our God.  This video introduces the DVD that recollects that evening and celebrates the influence of the movement launched by Kevin Twit and Indelible Grace – a movement that reintroduced old hymns to a new generation, often putting substantive the old words with fresh new tunes.

The documentary DVD Roots & Wings is available at the Indelible Grace Music Store.

The Determining Factor

In his magnificent and practical work, Spiritual Depression, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones provides this wonderful description of the dynamics of genuine Christianity:

“The determining factor in our relationship with God is not our past or present, but Christ’s past and present.”

‘How then does it work?’ It works like this. God accepts this righteousness of Christ, this perfect righteousness face to face with the Law, which He honored in every respect. He has kept it and given obedience to it [through his perfect life], and he has borne its penalty [through his death]. The Law is fully satisfied. God’s way of salvation, says Paul, is that. He gives to us the righteousness of Christ. If we have seen our need and go to God and confess it, God will give us his own Son’s righteousness. He imputes Christ’s righteousness to us, who believe in Him, and regards us as righteous, and declares and pronounces us to be righteous in Him. That is the way of salvation, the Christian way of salvation…

To make it quite practical let me say that there is a very simple way of testing yourself to know whether you believe that… [After] I have explained the way of justification…to them, then I say: ‘Well, then, you are now ready to say that you are a Christian?’ And they hesitate. And I know they have not understood. Then I say: ‘What is the matter, why are you hesitating?’ And they say: ‘I do not feel that I am good enough.’ At once I know that in a sense I have been wasting my breath. They are still thinking in terms of themselves; their idea still is that they have to make themselves good enough to be a Christian, good enough to be accepted with Christ. They have to do it! ‘I am not good enough.’ It sounds very modest, but it is the lie of the devil, it is a denial of the faith… The essence of the Christian faith is to say that He is good enough and that I am in Him!
As long as you go on thinking about yourself and saying: ‘Ah, yes, I would like to, but I am not good enough; I am a sinner, a great sinner,’ you are denying God and you will never be happy. You will continue to be cast down and disquieted. You will think you are better at times and then again you will find that you are not as good as you thought you were… How can I put this plainly? It does not matter if you have almost entered into the depths of hell, if you are guilty of murder as well as every other vile sin, it does not matter from the standpoint of being justified before God. You are no more hopeless than the most respectable…person in the world. Do you believe that?” 

Countering Moralism

Probably the most difficult obstacle for ministry I face is moralism.  Despite the obvious declining standard in our culture, licentiousness is not the biggest hurdle. Nor is Biblical and theological illiteracy.  Moralism, which substitutes our becoming good in exchange for God’s grace and glory as the essence and goal of Christianity, is a plague that permeates our area, and even our church.  It is an empty promise; an appealing dead end. Yet, because it is so prevalent, and because it is often the message from pulpits of churches deemed successful, not to mention radio airwaves, it passes as being genuine Christianity.

Richard Lovelace offers this explanation worth considering about the importance of countering this counterfeit Christianity with the power of the genuine and pure gospel:

“Moralism, whether it take the form of denunciation or pep talks, can ultimately only create awareness of sin and guilt or manufactured virtues built on will power.  A ministry which leads to genuine sanctification and growth, on the other hand, avoids moralism, first by making clear the deep  rootage of sin-problems in the flesh so that the congregation is not battling these in the dark, and then by showing that every victory over the flesh is won by faith in Christ, laying hold of union with Him in death and resurrection and relying on His Spirit for the power over sin.  Presented in this context, even the demand for sanctification becomes part of the Good News… Ministries which attack only the surface of sin and fail to ground spiritual growth in the believer’s union with Christ produce either self-righteousness or despair, and both of these conditions are inimical to spiritual life.”

When God Speaks…Things Happen

In 2 Corinthians 4.6 Paul reveals a correlation between the Gospel and Creation:

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

In other words, as Tim Chester helped me see:

At creation God spoke a word into darkness, and there was light. He spoke a word into chaos and there was beauty.  And now God speaks a word through the Gospel…

  • He speaks into the darkness of our hearts, and there is light.
  • He speaks into the chaos of our lives, and there is beauty.

Choosing the Better Thing

I really appreciate this thought by Skye Jethani, reflecting on Jesus’ Parable of the Two Sons, passed along to me recently by a good friend:

“What brought the father joy was not the older son’s service but simply his presence – having his son with him…….what mattered most to the father was neither the younger son’s disobedience nor the older son’s obedience, but having his sons with him.”

What Jethani expresses is something I am in constantant need of remembering. When I was younger (and knew a lot more than I do today) I needed to to learn that it is not my accomplishments or anything I could deliver to God or for God that the Father values most, but my delight in him.  Now that I am older, and take great joy in this reality, I need to constantly remember that this is what Jesus described in aother place, to Martha, as “choosing the BETTER thing.” (Luke 10.42)

Why We Need Jesus

According to Michael Horton: “Reason and morality cannot show us a good and gracious God. For that, we need the Incarnation.”


A passenger on a recent plane trip happily divulged his spiritual views. Raised in a conservative religious home, he proudly dismissed traditional Christianity, with its radical claims about Jesus of Nazareth, because it substitutes dogma for reason, he said. Fifteen minutes later, he became an apologist for a sacred cosmos, with tarot cards and astrology. But of course, he said, these were true just for him.

The encounter epitomized what we have all experienced in a culture that identifies reason with naturalism and faith with feeling. And it comes from a deeper problem: the attempt to “climb to heaven” on the rungs of reason, morality, and experience. The “search for the sacred” is what happens when our God-centered nature is taken captive by sin. Religion and spirituality are all about what we feel and think deep within our precious, delightful, individual souls. The true God calls us outdoors into a history that sweeps us into its wake. Yet we prefer to sit inside our own souls and minds, stewing in our own juices.

Biblical faith emphasizes that we cannot ascend to God on our own; rather, the God of the Bible descends down to us. Our inner self is not the playground of “spirit,” but the haunted plains on which we build our towers of Babel. In other words, our hearts are idol factories, in bondage to sin and spin. As Jeremiah declared, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (17.9, ESV, used throughout). We look for a god we can manage rather than the God who is actually there.

In Romans 1 and 2, Paul affirms this. He says that everyone knows God exists and is a sovereign, righteous, and all-knowing judge. Jew and Gentile alike know God’s moral will and so “are without excuse,” but “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (1.18-23). Quoting the psalmist, Paul presents the universal indictment: “… all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written, ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one’?” (Rom. 3:9-12).

Given all this, we need to receive an external word from outside our hearts and to our hearts—one that stops our spin and gives us new hearts even as it is spoken. That’s just where Paul turns next in Romans:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus …. (3:21-24)

In other words, our hearts create spiritualities, therapies, and programs that arise out of our natural knowledge of the law, which we distort. Outside our hearts, and at the core of special revelation, is the surprising God, known uniquely in his Son.

There are, however, strong forces that tempt us to grasp the divine on our own accord.

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The Secret Love Life of the Passionate Pastor

In this wonderfully encouraging and clarifying article Michael Milton describes the perils and joys of pastoral ministry.  Most succinctly Mike explores the three loves above all others that the true Christ-like pastor must have:

  • Love for God
  • Love for God’s Word
  • Love for God’s People

Amazingly, no mention is made about the 3 B’s most contemporary pastors are pressured by –  buildings, budgets, or butts in pews. These are constant pressures for pastors, whether these pressures come from others or the pressure is self imposed.  No doubt there is a place for these 3 B’s, but they cannot be the “first loves”, the  primary objects of our affection.

And while Mike’s piece is a wonderful reminder for we who labor as physicians of the soul, the benefit of these truths  are not limited to the “professionals”.  Mike describes what should be valued in your pastor, and characteristics that can be shared by others who long to be Christ-like servants.

To read Mike’s article, click: The Secret Love Life of the Passionate Pastor

Our Part in Practicing the Presence of God

Here is a thought worthy to ponder, and a discipline worthy to practice, excerpted from Dallas Willard‘s The Great Omission:

Our part in practicing the presence of God is to direct and redirect our minds constantly to him.  In the early times of our practicing, we may well be challenged by our burdensome habits of dwelling on things less than God. But these are habits – not the Law of Gravity – and can be broken…

Soon our minds will return to God as the needle of a compass constantly returns to the North. 

A Key to Vibrant Prayer

We are not desperate to pray because we are self-deceived. We are blind to our depravity. We don’t see ourselves as we really are. Do you want to learn to pray more? Learn of your sin. Ask God to show it to you, to give you a glimpse of your need. Ask him to show you what your sin cost him. Look at the cross again and again until you can say, “Lord, I’m so sinful, so weak, so deceived. Please, God, don’t let a day go by without reminding me of this. Make me dependent.”

Then, in faith, draw near knowing that you have needed cleansing but have been cleansed. Know that you have deserved wrath but have been fully loved. Sit down with your Beloved and hear him speak to you. Unburden your heart before him. Have fellowship with your heavenly husband. Be fully assured; he loves you when you pray, and he loves you when you don’t. You’re his bride when you hide from him, when you ignore him, when you think he doesn’t really care. Run, now, to the lover of your soul.

~ Elyse Fitzpatrick, Comforts from the Cross