Sovereignty of God

6 Reflections from Reading the Minor Prophets

Note: I've changed the publication schedule for Instead of new posts every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, you can expect new content Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. 

Yesterday I finished reading through the minor prophets again. It has been incredible. I say that without sarcasm or bluster or fakeness. I honestly have never enjoyed them so much or benefited from them so richly as this time through. Every single book, from Hosea to Malachi, has taught me something new or filled me with hope or quietly brought me to tears.

Here are 6 reflections I made from reading the minor prophets.

1. God's justice demands the punishment of sin (Zeph. 3:5). It is spelled out as clear as day - God hates sin. And His justice requires that He deal with it. No matter who is doing the sinning (whether it's pagan nations and their violence or His own people and their impure sacrifices), God cares about righteousness.

2. Restoration is the hope of God's people (Zeph. 3:15). One day God is going to make all things new. He will bring permanent peace and lasting joy and wipe away every tear and fear for good. Sin and injustice will be eradicated. He'll restore our sin-sick world and sin-stained hearts. That is the ultimate source of our daily hope.

3. Christians sin and need repentance (Amos 7:2). In the minor prophets, you hear about God's people doing horrible things. They were apathetic in the face of suffering and injustice. They were proponents of debtor's slavery. They worshiped idols. Their religious leaders were corrupt, selfish, and manipulative. They distrusted and disbelieved God's promises. And they desperately needed to repent - which is why the prophets came along.

4. God's mercy goes on and on (Micah 7:19). Yet God would have been totally just in wiping them out without sending any prophets. He didn't need to show mercy. He didn't need to show grace. Yet He did - and He does.

5. God is totally sovereign (Mal. 1:14). Over His people, over the nations, over history, over evil, over war, over everything, God is sovereign. He is ruler and controller.

6. God protects His people (Zech. 9:15). That doesn't mean He never punishes them, but it does mean that as their Shepherd, He lovingly protects them. He is faithful, even when His people aren't. His covenant love is unbreakable.

My 3 Biggest Fears as a Teenager

I'm on The Gospel Coalition today writing about a vulnerable and interesting subject - fear.

"The teen years can be scary. Adolescents stand on the cusp of adulthood and face a flood of newness—new feelings, new experiences, new relationships, new responsibilities, new decisions, a whole new stage of life. It’s overwhelming, like we’re standing at the edge of a cliff, told to jump but unfamiliar with what’s below.

And we’re afraid.

As a teen just now crossing into the threshold of adulthood, I’m all too familiar with the fears of adolescence. All that instability, confusion, and decision-making can be stressful and even painful. I’ve laid awake at night because of a melting pot of fears bubbling in my mind, poisoning my peace. 

Above all, there were three fears that have screamed the loudest and lasted the longest: fear of the future, fear of failure, and fear of both intimacy and loneliness."

What It's Like to Be 18 And a Writer

This not a braggy post. It's just sort of matter-of-fact.

I am 18, and I am doing the one thing in the world I want to do more than anything else - I am a writer. People pay me money to do that (some days I don't know why, but it's true).

I'm trying desperately hard not to take it for granted. I know that I landed this job through the luckiest set of circumstances in the world (if I believed in luck, that is). I met a pretty famous writer who decided to mentor me, invited me to take over his website, and then secured a book deal for me.

When I signed the contract with Crossway, I remember asking Mom, "How many 18-year-olds can say they just landed their dream job?"

Writing a book is a consuming passion for me. I work on it almost every day, think about it all the time. This dream job doesn't have set hours, nor does it have an office or a cubicle and I don't wear hot-shot business suits. As many days as not, I write in my pajamas, with no makeup, my hair in a ponytail, lying flat on my stomach on the floor in front of my laptop.

It's a good life.

I read lots of books, more now than ever. I check out piles of books from the library and download dozens onto my Kindle. I read books to help me in my book, but I also read books that are totally unrelated. I read mostly great books (though I can't help that a few not-so-great ones occasionally trickle into the flow).

I run a few times a week, sometimes to think and sometimes to clear my mind. When you spend a lot of hours lying on the floor in front of a computer, you need to get up and move around.

I'm not sure if I believe in writer's block, but I believe that some days it's harder to write and harder to think and words just don't come as easily. Other days I can write for hour upon happy hour with no thought to time or word count or whether this book will be the worst book ever written. Other days I can't.

I spend about 90% of my time editing. Re-reading, re-writing, re-wording, fixing, changing, searching the thesaurus, hacking through dense writing, trimming flabby writing, deleting great chunks of text and scratching my head to replace it. That isn't always fun.

But the worst part of being a writer is receiving critique. And I receive a lot of it. It's teaching me to have tough skin and better drafts. It's always painful but it's also one of the best parts of being a writer.

I think I had this vision of me alone all the time, holed up with my laptop, writing in solitude until I emerged one day with a masterpiece in my hand. Ha. Again I say, ha. It takes a village to raise a child and a village to write a book. I need people to read my words and hate them and teach me how to make them better.

That's how a good book is written.

Being 18 and a full-time writer is pretty weird. Most of my friends are in school or working part-time and trying to figure out what to do with their lives. That was me literally four months ago. Now I'm here. God moves in mysterious ways.

Being 18 and having your dream job is also pretty weird, pretty amazingly wondrously fantastic - but also a little weird. When people ask me what I want to do in the future I get to say, "I'm doing it."

I am so blessed, it's hard to describe. I am so grateful to the Giver of dream jobs and opportunities. I'm so excited that in this dream job I get to study God's Word to be better at it, to write about His glory and wisdom and powerful, life-changing truth.

This moment in my life, being 18 and a writer, is indescribably good and I am grateful for it.

Jerry Bridges (1929-2016)

Theologian and writer Jerry Bridges died last night. That's really sad for us but really happy for him.

I didn't know Jerry Bridges personally, but, like so many others, I read his books and was blessed and edified and grown by him.

This morning when I checked Twitter, he was trending - along with Downton Abbey and Kim Kardashian. What does that say about our culture?

I thank God for Jerry Bridges' life and his work for the kingdom of God. Several people are offering tributes and obituaries. Here are a few of my favorites:

Jerry Bridges (1929-2016) - Justin Taylor writes this obituary. "Jerry Bridges entered into the joy of his Master this Sunday evening, March 6, 2016. He was 86 years old. He suffered cardiac arrest on Saturday morning en route to the emergency room at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs. A medical team performed CPR for 20 minutes, but his brain function was very compromised, with the result that he was placed on life support. Life support was removed after family was able to say their final earthly goodbyes."

My Too-Weak Tribute to Jerry Bridges - Tim Challies writes this tribute. "He was a man who was known for his holiness, for his godliness, for his desire to teach others what the Lord had taught him. He was a gift to the church. I pray that I may someday be found as faithful, as godly, as Jerry Bridges."

Pursuing Holiness: An Interview with Jerry Bridges - This is an old interview from 2014 but it is still wise and informative and appropriate to read now.

Photo courtesy of The Gospel Coalition

Snow is Best for You

As I write, the sky is grey. It's light, though, and only minus five degrees Celsius.

We are waiting for the snow to start.

There are red warning banners on the weather websites and all the schools have been closed in caution. Yet now it's so calm. So perfectly peaceful and clear.

Snow is an extraordinary phenomenon. It's a remarkably showy sign that points back to the One who sends the snow.

I live in Canada, so the snow messes up our plans a lot. People complain about every winter like clockwork. Snow also stresses people out and clogs their hearts with worry.

I get it. I really do. I've been upset by the snow, worried by the snow, disappointed by the snow, frustrated by the snow, even angry at the snow.

But God gives us this snow. He gives us ice pellets and hail, powder white flakes and blizzards. He ordains and decrees what is necessary and good and right for us. He is sovereign. He is loving. He knows best.

And best is snow. Snow is best.

It's a freeing thought when you reflect on it. What is best is that your plans get messed up. You need this snow - because God has decided you need it.

But don't shuffle your feet in the negative muck of it (God did this so I just have to get used to it, I guess). Snow is wonderful! It is brilliant and beautiful if you allow yourself to enjoy it. And you should - because ... God gave it.

Now we're back at the beginning again. We start and end with God. Fitting, I would say.

So as I look out my window, at the still light and bare and unbroken sky, I am happy. Happy that God is giving us snow. Happier that He is in control and that He loves me.

Aren't you?

How to Have Intimacy With God

Jon Bloom writes this truly wonderful piece:

Intimacy with God is available to you. It is as accessible to you as God’s promises. And God’s invitation to you to enjoy intimate fellowship with him is that thing that is putting your faith to the test more than anything else (James 1:2–4).

The Heart of Intimacy

Intimacy is what we call the experience of really knowing and being known by another person. We frequently use spatial language when describing this experience. An intimate friend is someone we feel very close to; they know us at a deep level. If something happens that damages the intimacy with our friend, they feel distant from us. Or a person who doesn’t know us intimately knows us at a superficial level.

But of course intimacy is not spatial but relational. We all know what it’s like to be sitting right next to a person with whom we feel distant and we can feel close to a person who is four thousand miles away.

What makes us feel intimate with another person? While there are many ingredients to intimacy and each intimate relationship we have has a different recipe, common to all of them is trust. We cannot be intimate with a person we don’t trust.

Trust is at the heart of intimacy. The more we trust someone, the closer we let them get to us. The degree to which trust is compromised in a relationship is the degree to which intimacy evaporates.

The Heart of Intimacy with God

This is as true in our relationship with God as it is in our relationships with other human beings. Our experience of God’s nearness or distance is not a description of his actual proximity to us but of our experience of intimacy with him. Scripture shows us that God is intimate with those who trust him. The more we trust God, the more intimately we come to know him. A felt distance from God is often due to a disruption in trust, such as a sin or disappointment.

This reality is vitally important to understand. As Christians, we want to experience intimacy with God. With the psalmist we say, “for me it is good to be near God” (Psalm 73:28). And we want to heed James’s exhortation and realize its promise: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8). But we can seek that nearness in ways that don’t produce it.

Intimacy Is More Than Knowledge

One common mistake is thinking that nearness to God can be achieved through knowledge accumulation. Now, of course to intimately know God we must know crucial things about God. Jesus said, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32) and he pointed out that many worship what they do not know (John 4:22).

But never in the history of the Christian church has so much theological knowledge been available to so many people as it is today. The American church enjoys perhaps the greatest amount of this abundance. We are awash in Bible translations, good books, insightful articles, recorded sermons, interviews, movies, documentaries, music, and more. And much of it very good. It is right for us to be very thankful.

But America is not abounding in Enochs (or finding them frequently disappearing), saints who walk with God in a profoundly intimate way (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5). Why? Because knowledge is not synonymous with trust. That’s why Jesus said to the religious leaders of his day, some who possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture:

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39–40)

Biblical knowledge is far better than gold when it fuels our trust in God, because it fuels our intimacy with God (Psalm 19:10). But when biblical knowledge replaces our trust in God, it only fuels our pride (1 Corinthians 8:1).

Mrs. Spurgeon After Her Husband's Death

Susannah Spurgeon, wife of the famed preacher Charles Spurgeon, wrote these words about life with and after him:

"I have traveled far now on life’s journey; and, having climbed one of the few remaining hills between earth and Heaven, I stand awhile on this vantage-ground, and look back across the country through which the Lord has led me.

A well-defined pathway is visible, but it appears devious and wandering; sometimes skirting a mountain-top, whence one could catch glimpses of “the land that is very far off”; and, further on, descending into a valley shadowed by clouds and darkness. At one time, it runs along amidst steep places, and overhanging rocks; at another time, it winds across an open plain, brilliant with the sunshine of goodness and mercy, and fanned by breezes which are wafted from the fields of Heaven.

There are flowers of joy and love growing all along the way, even in the dark places; and “trees which the Lord has planted,” give shade and shelter from too great heat.

I can see two pilgrims treading this highway of life together, hand in hand—heart linked to heart. True, they have had rivers to ford, and mountains to cross, and fierce enemies to fight, and many dangers to go through; but their Guide was watchful, their Deliverer unfailing, and of them it might truly be said, “In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years.”

Mostly, they went on their way singing; and for one of them, at least, there was no joy greater than to tell others of the grace and glory of the blessed King to whose land He was hastening. And when he thus spoke, the power of the Lord was seen, and the angels rejoiced over repenting sinners.

But, at last, they came to a place on the road where two ways met; and here, amidst the terrors of a storm such as they had never before encountered, they parted company—the one being caught up to the invisible glory—the other, battered and bruised by the awful tempest, henceforth toiling along the road—alone.

But the “goodness and mercy” which, for so many years, had followed the two travelers, did not leave the solitary one; rather did the tenderness of the Lord “lead on softly,” and choose green pastures for the tired feet, and still waters for the solace and refreshment of His trembling child. He gave, moreover, into her hands a solemn charge—to help fellow-pilgrims along the road, filling her life with blessed interest, and healing her own deep sorrow by giving her power to relieve and comfort others."

What God Thinks About You

John Rinehart writes:

"We all want to know who we are. We seek and search and try to 'find ourselves.' Many of us have taken personality tests and other assessments. We learn that we are a lion, a beaver, an ENFP, an activator, a competitor, a high I, high D.

But as helpful as those tests can be, have you ever stopped to ask, 'What does God think about me? Who does he say that I am?'

In all my years as a Christian, I had never asked the question quite this way until recently. And what I found is that God has a lot to say about what he thinks about us — a whole Bible full. But if we could summarize it in a short space, here’s how it might sound.

You Are Valuable

I am the Creator and you are my creation. I breathed into your nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). I created you in my own image (Genesis 1:27). My eyes saw your unformed substance (Psalm 139:16). I knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). I know the number of hairs on your head, and before a word is on your tongue I know it (Matthew 10:30; Psalm 139:4). You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

You are more valuable than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31). I have given you dominion over all sheep and oxen and all beasts of the field and birds of the heavens and fish of the sea (Psalm 8:6–8; Genesis 1:26, 28). I have crowned you with glory and honor as the pinnacle and final act of the six days of creation (Psalm 8:5; Genesis 1:26).

However, from the very beginning, you exchanged the truth about me for a lie. You worshiped and served created things rather than me, the Creator (Romans 1:25). You have sinned and fallen short of my glory (Romans 3:23). Just as I said to Adam and Eve, the penalty for your sin is death (Romans 6:23; Genesis 2:17). And in your sin, you were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1). You were children of wrath, living as enemies to me (Ephesians 2:3; Romans 5:10). You turned aside from me. You became corrupt. There is none who does good, not even one (Psalm 14:2–3). What you deserve is my righteous judgment (Psalm 7:11–12).

And yet, in my great love, I gave my unique Son, that all those who believe in him will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). While you were still sinners, Christ died for you. While you were still hostile toward me, you were reconciled to me by the death of my Son (Romans 5:8, 10). Sin doesn’t have the last word. Grace does (Romans 5:20).

Now everyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved (Romans 10:13). You who have believed are born again (1 Peter 1:3). I have adopted you (Ephesians 1:5). You are children of God, heirs of God (1 John 3:2; Romans 8:16–17). You are no longer orphans. You belong to me (John 14:18; 1 Corinthians 6:19). And I love you as a perfect Father (1 John 3:1; Luke 15:20–24)."

What To Do When You're Overwhelmed

All of us have come to that point. That stretch of space between busy and dead - it's called being overwhelmed.

The daunting looms ahead. You don't know how to handle it. You feel inescapably inferior.

So what do you do? You cry. You freak out. You throw a pity party. You climb into a dark hole. You vent to someone.

But none of it is an actual balm to your heavy heart. Nothing takes away that feeling of being out of control.

That's when, at that dark moment when you're overwhelmed, reflect on the singular light of gratitude. Thank God that you have been reminded of His greatness. When we are weak, He is strong.

Thank God that you being overwhelmed reminds you that while you are dependent, He is sovereign.

You need Him. Every hour you need Him.

But sometimes you forget. And you feel like you're on top of the world, in control of your life, that your busyness is validating your self-importance. You have it all together.

And then, just like that, you don't.

Being overwhelmed reminds us that we are sinful, cracked vessels who worry and lie and trust ourselves. Being overwhelmed reminds us that God is in control, our Rock and Fortress, the author of our stories.

When you're overwhelmed, you might need to repent. If you're worried, you definitely do.

When you're overwhelmed, trust God with your life. He really does hold the whole world in His hands.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and Ben Klemm.

What Is Jesus Doing Right Now?

Some people think that Jesus does nothing.

Sure, He did something. But that was long ago when He walked on our earth. Now He is far away from us, ascended into Heaven, isolated on a throne among clouds in the sky.

They think that He's not really doing anything today. He's just sort of waiting around to return to earth.

But nothing could be further from the truth. So what is Jesus doing right now? Steve Lawson:

Christ is risen, ascended, enthroned, crowned, reigning, interceding, receiving, saving, hearing, answering, building, and preparing.

Jesus, our Sovereign King and Creating Savior, is actively working and operating in our world.

He is saving people.

He is receiving people into His kingdom.

He is answering prayer.

He is building His church.

He is reigning over every aspect of our lives and the world around us.

He is interceding for His people's prayers.

He is constantly receiving honor and glory and praise.

And He is preparing a place for His people.

Jesus is busy. Jesus is alive and working actively daily.

Don't think that when Jesus left us, He stopped being involved with us. The empty tomb was not the end. It was only the beginning.

With full hearts of gratitude, let us reflect on the work of Christ in our lives - and the world - today. 

10 Reasons Racism is Offensive to God

Though it's been almost a month since Charleston, the issues that undercut the racist shooting are still very prevalent. I found Kevin DeYoung's article, "10 Reasons Racism is Offensive to God" incredibly helpful in processing so vile and hateful a sin. Here is an excerpt.

Kevin DeYoung:

How could one not be moved by the events in Charleston last week? Indeed “moved” is hardly a sufficient verb. We need words like heartbroken, appalled, grieved, outraged, and disgusted. Nine brothers and sisters murdered, and after being so kind to the killer that he almost didn’t go through with his wicked machinations. How can this happen? In America? In 2015? In a church? And inspired by the kind of racist beliefs we’d like to think don’t exist anymore? 
But they do exist, even if (thankfully) not like the used to. 
Charleston is a beautiful city and there have been beautiful gospel scenes broadcast from that city in these last days. But obviously all is not beautiful in South Carolina, just like all is not beautiful in Michigan, and all is not beautiful in the human heart. 
I’ve grown up my whole life hearing that racism was wrong, that “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior” (to use one of the first definitions that popped up on my phone) is sinful. I’ve heard it from my parents, from my public school, from my church, from my college, and from my seminary. The vast majority of Americans know that racism is wrong. It’s one of the few things almost everyone agrees on. And yet, I wonder if we (I?) have spent much time considering why it’s wrong. We can easily make our “I hate racism” opinions known (and loudly), but perhaps we are just looking for moral high ground, or for pats on the back, or to win friends and influence people, or to prove we’re not like those people, or maybe we are just saying what we’ve always heard everyone say. As Christians we must think and feel deeply not just the what of the Bible but the why. If racism is so bad, why is it so bad? 
Here are ten biblical reasons why racism is a sin and offensive to God. 
1. We are all made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Most Christians know this and believe it, but the implications are more staggering than we might realize. The sign pictured above is not just mean, it is dehumanizing. It tried to rob Irish and Blacks of their exalted status as divine image bearers. It tried to make them no different than animals. But of course, as a white man I am no more like God in my being, no more capable of worship, no more made with a divine purpose, no more possessing of worth and deserving of dignity than any other human of any other gender, color, or ethnicity. We are more alike than we are different. 
2. We are all sinners corrupted by the fall (Rom. 3:10-20; 5:12-21). Everyone made in the image of God has also had that image tainted and marred by original sin. Our anthropology is as identical as our ontology. Same image, same problem. We are more alike than we are different. 
3. We are all, if believers in Jesus, one in Christ (Gal. 3:28). We see from the rest of the New Testament that justification by faith does not eradicate our gender, our vocation, or our ethnicity, but it does relativize all these things. Our first and most important identity is not male or female, American or Russian, black or white, Spanish speaker or French speaker, rich or poor, influential or obscure, but Christian. We are more alike than we are different.

Read the rest here ->

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and Aaron.

What To Do About Bruce Jenner

With the Vanity Fair cover making a media splash and Bruce Jenner's gender reassignment surgery front page news, it's likely that you or I or another Christian is going to be asked to comment on it. So what do we say? What emotions do we express? Sadness, anger, happiness?

Alex Duke has a wise response.


By now, you’ve probably seen the Vanity Fair cover where Bruce Jenner introduces the world to his new persona: Caitlyn.

It’s the kind of image that takes your breath away, eliciting all sorts of panging emotions—aversion, compassion, and deep, deep sadness. It’s also the kind of image that will become a cultural lodestone for generations to come, like one of those classic Life magazine covers.

It’s an image that crystallizes a national metamorphosis as much as a personal one. It’s proof of micro-evolution—of a man, a magazine, a world shedding its skin. It’s also an image that resists complacency. Once you’ve seen this magazine cover, you are without excuse. You are forced to choose: Are you now looking at a man or a woman?

The future tense gave room for breath, room for thoughts and prayers and well-postulated arguments. But that time’s gone now, so somewhere—and likely sometime soon—you will be asked, “Did you see that Vanity Fair cover? What did you think?”

Christians are called to give a reason for the hope we have in the gospel. We are expected to do so with gentleness and respect, with a clear conscience, so that the ones who are speaking maliciously of our good behavior in Christ would one day be ashamed of their slander (1 Pet. 3:15–16).

Working backward through these verses, we find a useful template for thinking through our response to culturally celebrated icons that stand in proud opposition to the hope we have in our Lord Jesus and his finished work in our place.

Read the rest here.

When God Interrupts Your Plans

"Even the best-laid plans go awry" is a proverb that we use because our plans are frequently interrupted. Usually we react poorly to these interruptions.

But what if we viewed them as manifestations of God's grace? What if we saw them as opportunities for growth and sanctification?

What then?

Christina Fox:

"My life is filled with interruptions, inconveniences, frustrations, and unexpected events. Things break. Accidents happen. The phone rings just as I climb into bed. Traffic makes me late. Just when we don’t need another added expense, an appliance breaks. Unexpected illnesses change my carefully crafted plans. I could go on and on. You probably could too.

The problem is, I usually handle these interruptions to my life poorly. I react with frustration and anger. Like a young child, I want to stomp my feet and say, “It’s not fair!” I blame others for inconveniencing me. I’ll even throw my own pity-parties.

Though these interruptions are unexpected and catch me off guard, they do not catch God off guard. They are not random, meaningless events. In fact, these interruptions are divinely placed in my path for a reason. God uses these interruptions to change me to be more like Christ.

Slow traffic, a sick child, or a costly home repair may not seem like important tools in our sanctification, but they are. We often overlook these interruptions and inconveniences and instead expect God to work in our lives through huge life-changing circumstances. But the reality is, we won’t often have major events in our life that cause us to trust God and obey him in some deeply profound way. We won’t be called to build an ark or take an only child up Mt. Moriah. Rather, it’s in these small frustrations and interruptions, the little things in our life, where we are given opportunities to rely on God, to obey him, and bring him glory."

Five Truths to Give You Joy Today

Some days it's harder to have joy than other days. When you wake up and the trying and the tedious loom before you, it's easy to grow gloomy.

But joy is a command (Phil. 4:4), and that means it's worth fighting for. When you don't feel joy, preach the gospel to yourself. Immerse yourself in truth.

This is a post I wrote for me. Soul, here are five truths to give you joy today:

1. You are not in control, but God is. Our most perfect plans are likely to go awry. Unexpected disappointments will come up today. It is a truth I need hammered desperately into my thick, thick skull: I am not in control. 

But God is. And that's where the joy comes from. He is sovereign. He knows every itty-bitty detail of your day. He is at the beginning and the end. And He holds the whole world in His hands.

2. You will mess up, but God is faithful. We will sin a lot today. When we're already lacking joy, the temptations to other sin become fiercer. Anger, frustration, depression, lashing out, bitter words, gossip, self-pity, love-lessness, pride - the list tracks on and on.

But God is faithful. He will not sin, He will not go back on His promises. He is faithful. You will sin, but God is perfect. That is who I want to put my trust in.

3. You will doubt, but God is with you. You will want to believe that you're alone. You'll want to convince yourself that you're trekking through the mires of the miserable on a solo quest. Lacking joy will lead you into a spiral of self-pity.

But God is with you. In the doctor's office and at the break room, in class and your cubicle, at the breakfast table and the red light - He is there. Why do we doubt?

4. You will want to ignore it, but God is speaking to you. My dad has said before that if people were told that God was on the telephone with a special message for them, they would jump at the chance to talk to Him.

But God does speak to us - through His written Word. "But I want to hear the actual voice of God," some might say. My dad would respond: "Then read the Bible out loud." You will be tempted to ignore the Word today; don't. Our heart's deepest encouragement will come from those sacred words.

5. You will feel this will never end, but God is bringing a better day. Sadness, joylessness, loneliness - all of it feels like it will last forever. It clings to us like a sickening weight.

But God is bringing a better day. One day, you will be thrust into eternal joy where you will never, ever, ever have a bad day. Look for that day with monumental anticipation! Read Revelation 21 and 22. Listen to great hymns of the faith that look toward that day.

And trust that God will bring you through this day. Preach the gospel to yourself, and fight for joy.

Lessons from Half a Cucumber

A few weeks ago Pastor Bert Kuehner guest preached at my church, and there's something he said that's still rattling around in my head. It is this: a culture's vocabulary reflects its priorities.

I was considering this Monday night as I was slicing a cucumber. Travis (my brother) was sitting on the couch in the living room, and I walked right past him into the kitchen. I was hungry, and I found a saran-wrapped cucumber half in the fridge and began cutting it up.

I had filled a plate with slices and decided this was all I wanted, but I had a pathetic-looking chunk of cucumber left over. I definitely didn't want it, and it was at this moment that it occurred to me to offer some to Travis. Travis (who is a teenage boy and eats everything) especially loves cucumber, but never before this moment had I thought to offer to cut some up for him. Unsurprisingly, oblivious to my own selfishness, he gladly accepted the cucumber.

Perhaps the word that our culture has ingrained in us more than any other is Me. It has preached to us a gospel of selfishness, and it has leaked into the Christian's heart as well. It has leaked into my heart. We don't like to share. We don't like to sacrifice our own comforts, our own cucumber. We'll share our dregs, our unwanted leftovers, but not our first fruits.

From hamburger commercials to the types of movies we create, Me is our hero. Our god. We never want to put Me out. We are highly individualistic and starkly self-serving.

If you're like me, you've probably heard that before. You're probably familiar with the concept. Yes, our culture idolizes Me. Yes, selfishness is bad. Yes, I'm selfish. But sometimes it takes half a cucumber to remind us that we are not as good as we'd like to think. Right now, you and me - even if we're Christians - are sinful. Very. Still.

But we have hope that the Spirit will convict us of our sin, our practical selfishness. He is the one who teaches us through half a cucumber. We just have to decide whether or not we will heed Him. Furthermore, we have the encouragement that God works through our sin for His glory. My acknowledgement and repentance of my selfishness aided in my sanctification.

And we have the joy that one day we will no longer need half a cucumber to remind us of our sin - because our sin will be gone. For good.

The Conference I'm Going To Tonight

Thirty years ago, people had to relocate to attend a good conference. If the conference was in New York, you had to be in New York to see any of the sessions and glean anything from the messages.

Some people still relocate for conferences. In fact, my dad leaves Monday morning for sunshiny California to go to this conference.

But for the conference I'm going to tonight, I don't have to go anywhere. Designed for college students all over the world, CROSS is a simulcast, a live video streaming of an event. This event is one night and features five main speakers - Kevin DeYoung, John Piper, Thabiti Anyabwile, Mack Stiles, and David Platt - with music from Matt Boswell.

CROSS is a missions conference for young adults. It was first hosted in 2013 in Louisville. This simulcast will take place tonight and then in 2016, CROSS will host another big conference in Indianapolis. This year's theme is Undaunted: Overcoming Obstacles and Opposition to the Advance of the Gospel.

See what the website has to say about it:

Is Satan winning? Between the growing hostility to Christianity in America and the troubling reality of unbelief among thousands of unreached people groups abroad, it’s easy to feel as if the gospel is losing ground to the powers of sin and hell. And yet Jesus, in Matthew 28:18, said, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” For that reason, God’s people, despite discouraging circumstances and the very real prospect of suffering, have the greatest reason for confidence and even joy. We serve an omnipotent God whose gospel kingdom is indomitable. 

Join us for FREE at on February 27th for a special simulcast event as we consider why we are undaunted by the darkness—near and far—given the certain victory we have in King Jesus.

The event begins at 7PM Eastern and will be over by midnight. Anyone can "attend" CROSS over simulcast. All you need to do is register (which is free and which you can do right up to the time the conference starts) and have a computer with a good Internet connection.

This is five hours of your time that couldn't be better spent. I've been looking forward to this simulcast for months and can't wait to see what the Lord will do through one night of college students watching their laptops with their Bibles open.

For more information, including a full schedule, speaker biographies, promo packs, and FAQ, visit the CROSS website.

An Open Letter to Those Who Have Doubted God's Sovereignty

Dear Doubters,

I've been there. Not in word, but in spirit. I always say and pray the right things, but sometimes inside my head I wonder, "How can this seemingly bad thing really be ordained by God?"

It's not a good place to be. It feels like you're standing on shifting sand. Doubting God is like doubting the very essence of reality. It's bigger than doubting yourself. And doubting that God is King and in control sets you up for a land mine of worry, fear, pain, confusion.

But I get it. Doubters, I get why you doubt God's sovereignty sometimes. That doesn't make it right, though. That just means I've sinned a mile in your shoes.

This world is a scary place, full of ISIS beheadings, destructive storms, murder and rape, misunderstanding and shame. But without God's sovereignty, we'll just be swept into the chaos. God's sovereignty is the rock. It is the thing that keeps us grounded in the madness. It holds us fast to faith amid the faithless, hope among the hopeless, and light in the dark.

Letting go of God's sovereignty is letting go of reason. Seeing life with Him at the helm is the only way we can make sense of this world. Hope would dissipate if we didn't see a why behind the what. If God's sovereignty was gone, there would be no reason left to exist. If the world was a snowball of man-made horror and sin and it was rolling down a hill getting bigger and bigger and God couldn't touch it, how would we have faith?

So, Doubters, based on personal experience, I want to tell you two things. The first is that doubting God's sovereignty is like a little child doubting that her father know what's best for her. Her doubting makes life worse for her, and it's not well-founded. Whether she thinks it or not, her father does know what's best for her. She can simply choose whether she doubts that truth or not. Life just becomes sadder and falser and more complicated when she doubts.

Secondly, doubt is not a stage you go through; it's sin. God is on the throne. His will is advancing. He is in control. And when we doubt that, we doubt the very character of God. We say, "We don't like Your will. We don't like what You've done and so we think that maybe You aren't sovereign. Maybe You're just omnibenevolent but weak-willed." And that, Doubters, is calling God a liar.

"Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases" (Ps. 115:3).

So when the storm hits the Weather Network and church is cancelled again, or when ISIS releases another video beheading faithful Christians, don't doubt. Don't give in to the temptation to let go of reason. Cling to the one constant - the sovereignty of God. Put your hope and faith in Him.

And when the doubts come again, repent and trust God more.

One of You

The Simultaneous Beauty and Horror

The cross was an image of utter horror and, at the same time, a moment of blinding beauty. We see its ugliness in the sinless Man brutally beaten and mercilessly, painfully murdered for sin not His own. But we call it beautiful because we know what was accomplished - we see the perfect Lamb on the tree, sacrificing Himself to secure the redemption of His people.

The cross was the most vivid example of unjust brutality in all of history. Yet at the same time, Jesus became our curse willingly. He did it so that we wouldn't be eternally damned. And then in a stunning victory, He conquered sin and death and rose undefeated. That makes the cross wondrous. There is a happy ending. It truly fills our hearts with a thousand songs because "by our Savior's crimson flow, holy wrath has been removed."

Now we can sing the glories of Calvary.

Lord, You’re calling me to come
And behold the wondrous cross
To explore the depths of grace
That came to me at such a cost
Where Your boundless love
Conquered my boundless sin
And Mercy’s arms were opened wide

My heart is filled with a thousand songs
Proclaiming the glories of Calvary
With every breath, Lord, how I long
To sing of Jesus who died for me
Lord, take me deeper
Into the glories of Calvary

Sinners find eternal joy
In the triumph of Your wounds
By our Savior’s crimson flow
Holy wrath has been removed
And Your saints below
Join with your saints above
Rejoicing in the Risen Lamb

For all eternity we will sing worthy
Our God has set us free
To sing the glories of Calvary