Derecho

I used to live in the house across the street from the church where I now minister. When I look out the windows in the back of the church, I can still see our old home and the huge trees towering above it in the backyard. During stormy nights I would lay awake in bed, anxious that these trees would topple onto the roof and crush our family.

In June of 2012 we experienced a kind of storm that I had never heard of before: a derecho. A derecho is a massive thunderstorm system with damaging straight line winds, which in this case reached up to 85 mph. After the storm passed our backyard looked like a jungle. There were tree branches everywhere. Our trampoline was crushed under a massive branch that had fallen at least 30 feet. It was nearly impossible to walk from the back door to the fence at the end of our property. Fortunately, the trees themselves were all still standing. But there sure was a lot of cleanup to do.

DerechoThough parts of these massive trees came crashing to the ground, the trees themselves remained deeply and firmly rooted in the soil. For me, this became a picture of the strength we receive when we remain rooted in Christ. Little did we know at the time, but a terrible and deadly storm was looming on the horizon of our family’s life, and we would need those deep roots in Christ to keep us strong and steadfast.

It is vital for believers to be, as Paul said in Colossians 2:7, “rooted and built up in Christ.” This means that we need to have a nourishing, life-giving relationship with Christ, while also being deeply connected to others within our churches. Your root system is your personal relationship with God and your relationships with others. It is crucial for you to invest in these relationships so that your roots will be deep in Christ. When the trials and tragedies of life come, it will be too late to give attention to the relationships that are meant to sustain and nourish you.

One of the most important ways that you can deepen your relationship with God is through prayer. Jesus taught us to pray relationally, addressing God not by his proper name, but with the word Father. Prayer is relational, not transactional. It is not an opportunity to present your grocery list to the heavenly farmer; it is your opportunity to have a heart-level conversation with your heavenly Father. Being rooted in Christ means having a deep and vibrant relationship with God through prayer. Do not wait for life’s derechos to pray. Begin today.

Money is useful, if you have it. You’ve probably noticed how quickly it disappears, though. Riches don’t last because the more money you have, the more expensive life seems to get. But what if there was a wealth that never ran out? What if there were riches that only increased the more you used them? This is the kind of money that truly matters.

Paul never set out to make people financially rich. Instead, he worked hard every day to help his churches become rich with understanding. Paul had discovered the wealth of knowledge in Christ, who he calls the “mystery of God.” He knew that nobody could steal this money, and that the more he gave it away, the more he received in return.

MoneyDo you treasure wisdom?

Is knowledge as valuable to you as money?

Or are you broke when it comes to the riches of understanding?

Too many Christians are settling for an elementary level understanding of God. Whether it’s because we’re distracted, lazy, or simply don’t know how to think well, we are impoverished in wisdom and knowledge. We don’t have the capital to purchase discernment on the difficult issues of life and faith. We stagger through life, wrought with inconsistency, burdened with foolishness, yet all the while the full riches of complete understanding are available to us.

God never asks his children to check their brains at the door. Jesus has not come so that we will close our minds, but so that they will be opened wide to the wonders of wisdom and understanding. In Christ, Paul says, are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. There is no excuse for a Christian to be ignorant, foolish, or stupid.

It’s time for you to get to work making money, and I’m not talking about fat stacks. It’s time for you to engage your mind in the person of Christ. It’s time for you to make massive withdrawals from the Bank of the Church, which is rich beyond measure with the wisdom of books and the beauty of art. It’s time for you to discover the treasures of Christ, to unleash the power of your mind, and to bring your wisdom and discernment to bear in a world rife with idiocy. We cannot afford to raise another impoverished Christian. Instead, be rich. And in your wealth, make the world rich.

intentional spiritual development

Spiritual growth doesn’t happen by accident. Nobody becomes more like Jesus by going through the motions of life, paying lip service to obedience, or ignoring the Scriptures and prayer. There is an intentionality demanded by spiritual development without which it is impossible to please the Lord, much less become like him. To use church language: salvation requires no effort on your part, but sanctification demands it.

Intentional-Spiritual-Development-WebIn Colossians 1:10-11, Paul lists four characteristics of spiritual maturity that bring pleasure to the Lord: faithfulness, wisdom, perseverance, and gratitude. Book upon book has been written about each of these characteristics, and I have nothing new to say about them here. But we must admit that, when it comes to spiritual maturity, none of us are savants. Nobody is born with a genius-level gifting in godly character. This is because we are actively oppressed by dark spiritual forces that seek to suppress and undermine our spiritual development.

So we have to fight – or to use a more biblical term, walk. Spiritual maturity is a journey. Becoming like Christ means going from where you are to where he is. This is why we walk. We must make conscious decisions to leave certain places behind, specific ways of thinking and behaving that do not please Jesus. We must walk from faithlessness to faithfulness. We must travel the road from foolishness to wisdom.

This is not a journey that you are able to walk on your own. Thankfully, it is a path well worn by the Holy Spirit. He is the guide on the journey toward Christlikeness. And not only is he with you, but so are countless other saints. Some are by your side, some far ahead, while others are lagging behind. Another name for this company of sojourners is the Church. In church, we walk together, guided by the Holy Spirit, on the path toward Christlikeness. Let us, therefore, learn from those ahead, encourage those behind, and spur on those at our side. Together, we will reach the destination.

My wife and I had an encouraging conversation last night. We spent some time talking about the kind of parents, spouses, and Christ-followers we sense God calling us to be. We encouraged each other to keep surrendering to God, to let him lead more fully in our relationship, family, work, and church. We prayed together, inviting the Spirit to fill us with his graciousness and self-discipline, confessing the areas where we fall short, and committing ourselves to walking closely with the Lord.


If you read and obey the Scriptures, you will become a “Paradise of delight” to God.
Part of this life-giving conversation was inspired by something that I read recently. This year I am primarily reading the church fathers, those ancient Christian writers who have so wonderfully set the table for the generations that have followed. For too long I have neglected these important voices, impoverishing my soul by their absence. Seeking to right that wrong, I am working my way through a volume of selected ancient writings called Early Church Fathers, edited by Cyril Richardson. While much of it feels distant, like a storm on the eastern horizon long since past, there are occasional thunderbolts that strike the ground upon which I stand. The Letter to Diognetus is one such blast.

I shared from this short work this past Sunday as I called the people of Hope Church to worship, and have included a quote in a post I wrote Saturday night. My intention is to write at least two more posts to draw attention to this powerful, though anonymous, letter. There is such depth here, but perhaps nothing in the letter compares to this short excerpt I read to my wife last night.

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Have you ever read through the Old Testament laws in places like Leviticus and Deuteronomy and thought, “Do I really have to do all this? What happens if I break one of these commands? Or, more likely, what happens when I break nearly all of them?” There are over 600 Old Testament laws, many of which seem outdated, even silly, to modern people. For example, Leviticus 19:19 says plainly, “Do not wear clothing woven of two different kinds of material.” Does this mean that it’s a sin to wear a cotton/poly blend tee? Or, perhaps more disturbing to people like me who love shrimp, Leviticus 11:12 says, “Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be regarded as unclean by you.” What role do these Old Testament laws play in our Christian faith today?

One common way of answering this question is to divide the Old Testament laws into categories. There are moral laws, ritual laws, or civil laws. When we break it up this way, it’s easy to deduce that only the moral laws are still binding. But what would Moses think of this categorization? Is it faithful to the original text to place these commands into distinct categories? I don’t believe that it is.


When God has set a law in place, only God can revise or revoke it.
The better way to answer the question of the relevance of Old Testament laws is by applying this principle: Revisions to the binding nature of Old Testament laws must be made through revelation. Revelation guides revision. When God has set a law in place, only God can revise or revoke it. Just as the original law was issued through an act of divine revelation, so the repeal of that law must be a similar act of divine revelation. In other words, it’s not up to us to decide what does and does not still apply; it’s up to God.

So, then, what has God said about Old Testament laws? Quite a lot, actually.

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