An obvious problem with Osteenism is that it only makes sense in the developed, consumeristic West. It could not translate to 3rd world.

Contrast Osteen’s prosperity gospel with actual Christianity, which is coherent, when translated, in every culture.

We Are Ambassadors Not Diplomats

In light of all that we can view on television or read in the local paper, it is no surprise that we can become greatly disheartened. We can fall headlong into constant thoughts of impending destruction, and even our popular culture is filled with end of the world storms, diseases, and zombies.

As children of Christ, we cannot be swayed by “wars and rumors of wars.” (Matt. 24:6) Jesus tells us that this is our reality and that we should not be caught off guard. Later in the same piece of scripture, he tells us that “all these are but the beginning of the birth pains.” (Matt. 24:8)

So how do we deal with all that we see?
How do we cope when there is so much pain and suffering?
How do we catch our breath after we get bad news from our doctors?
How can we send our kids out into the world each day?
How can we ride that plane to a distant land to serve, even if it means possible death?
How can we help?
How can we ………..?

The answer is we must be a church with calloused knees and hands.
We step into the fray to help in whatever way we can. We get messy. We get worn out loving our neighbors. We sacrifice of our selves. Our hands get worn.
We also cry out to Jesus in prayer. We know HE is the answer the world desperately needs. His grace is alone is the cure to all our worries. Our knees get worn
Without Jesus, all the work done in the world is just that… work.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul addresses the very same issues we are dealing with today, proving that today isn’t much different than 2000 years ago.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:20–21

Because of his love for us, he took on all of our sin, and because of this love we are made righteous. Jesus uses us to shine the light of his truth to the world. The truth of his love and our mission, then marks how we go into the world.

“We are not sent to preach sociology but salvation; not economics but evangelism; not reform but redemption; not culture but conversion; not progress but pardon; not a new social order but a new birth; not revolution but regeneration; not renovation but revival; not resuscitation but resurrection; not a new organization but a new creation; not democracy but the gospel; not civilization but Christ; we are ambassadors, not diplomats.” – Hugh Thompson Kerr

So….. don’t be afraid. Don’t be filled with anxiety.
Know that the king who loves you more than you can imagine is right by your side.

A cheap Christianity that offends nobody, requires no sacrifice, and costs nothing—is worth nothing.

JC Ryle

A thousand times over, the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession formed, the inscription cut on the tombstone, and committal read. But somehow the corpse never stays put.

Bernard Ramm

Romans 12:1-2

The gospel is like a caged lion: you don’t have to defend it—just let it out of the cage.

Charles Spurgeon

Don’t Waste Your Summer

It’s the time of year when we are all going crazy with each sun ray that falls on our face. The joy of being outside, birds chirping, kids laughing, grass being green, and amazing cloud formations floating overhead.

It’s also the time of graduations and students moving into new phases of life, or pressing pause on education for a much needed summer break. Don’t Waste It

Don’t waste a single day with so many people around every part of our lives, who desperately need hope. They need the hope of the creator who makes every ray of sunshine we are basking in. Who set’s our lives in motion for a purpose…. to make much of HIM.

From John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Life”
”I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider this story from the February 1998 Reader’s Digest: A couple ‘took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball and collect shells… .’ Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: ‘Look, Lord. See my shells.’ That is a tragedy.

”God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives.”

So, take time to carve out space to rest. To enjoy all the creator has made for us to pleasure in. To share with the ones we love and to bring into this pleasure all those who need hope.

But don’t worship the creation… Worship the Creator. He is the one who sent Jesus to rescue us from the ordinary, and call us to come and die for a life of extraordinary.

Happy Birthday Savannah

Today you turn 6. It’s hard to believe. Maybe it’s that I don’t want to accept it. My little girl is a year older and a year closer to taking off on her own.

You are an amazing little girl, with a strength and love of life that not only brings me joy, but terror as well:)

6thbirthday1

You just finished Kindergarten. What a milestone. Not only did you end the year reading at a level hard to fathom, but you also ended with the year with crazy thick callouses due to your voracious appetite for monkey bars!!

I think both of those truths encapsulate who you are at 6. You love to learn through books, and that will open up the world to you forever. There will be nothing you can’t grasp or accomplish if you keep this young passion for the written word.

If your 6 year old hands are any indication to your tenacity, then EVERYONE better get out of your way! You possess a toughness that is often masked by that bright, dimpled smile and that sweet way you cuddle your stuffed animals. Since you were barely walking, you would attack every activity and adventure with reckless abandon. There will never be an obstacle you won’t overcome or crash through:)

6th birthday 2

My prayer for you on your birthday, is that you will pursue Jesus with the same passion. The same drive that is in you to climb walls and dig into books, will bring you such joy when it drives you to Christ.

Take time to watch mommy. She is a woman who loves you with ever fiber, but she loves Jesus more. That’s the kind of woman you want to grow up to be.

Even though Eli sometimes irritate you, remember all the times he makes you giggle the loudest and all the times he looks out for you.

Don’t ever doubt your daddy’s love for you. There will be nothing in your life that will sway the unconditional love I have for you. I pray often that I’m a good father to you, helping you to become the woman God wants you to be.

Never forget that your father in heaven loves you even more than me. In God’s heart you find your esteem and all the joy you can imagine.

I love you my little princess. Happy 6th Birthday

Daddy

The Joy of Confidence

Today we will celebrate the life of my Grandma, Annabelle Berry. Last Wednesday night, she took her last breath on earth and her first breath in heaven.

On this earth, she was an amazing woman with a heart for hospitality that would put the best 5 star hotel to shame. Often my life, it came in the liquid sweetness found in a can of Pepsi. Joyofpepsi

It seemed that the flagship product of Pepsico could be found in her refrigerator regardless of season or time of day. As a kid, it was my reward for cutting her grass, or it helped wash down her famous sugar cookies. As a young adult, it was waiting for me after I’d moved something or shoveled some snow. As a man, her tupperware glasses that rivaled Si Robertson’s favorite hand ornament, would become filled with the sweet nectar for my kids.

kidswithgrandma

All of these memories pale in comparison to the most important thing about my Grandma.

She is a child of God.

This means that I don’t grieve her passing like someone without hope.

 “And you should not grieve as the heathen do who have no hope, because we have hope, based on the most assured promise, that as we have not lost our dear ones who have departed from this life but have merely sent them ahead of us, so we also shall depart and shall come to that life where, more than ever, their dearness to us will be proportional to the closeness we shared on earth and where we shall love them without fear of parting.”
 - St. Augustine

I will carry on the Berry name, not just because we are a long line of quick witted men and wives who put up with us. I will carry on the Berry name because it is a long line of faithful followers of Jesus.

He came to save lost sinners (Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15). He laid down his life, bearing our sin before the wrath of God, so that sinners like us might be set free and have the sweet assurance of relationship to him (Romans 5:9; Hebrews 2:14 – 18). The promise of God is that all the Father has given to Jesus come to him, and those who come to him he never drives away (John 6:37). To know him is to have eternal life (John 17:3). Our loved one’s reliance on Jesus Christ in the gospel is the certainty of their eternal home.

When this day is done, I will sip on a can of Pepsi. I will long for Amber to bake some of Grandma’s sugar cookies. I will think of the woman who helped me be the man I am today. I will pray with my kids. I will hold my wife. I will rest knowing that my family has been captured by Christ. My confidence is in one thing and one thing only…. The Gospel

 God’s holiness  
 Man’s sinfulness and deserving judgment  
 Christ’s perfect personhood and atoning work to save us  
 Our necessary response of repenting and believing in Christ  

What will you do at the end of this day?

I love you Grandma.
Raise a glass with the King and bask in the stories of his immeasurable grace and mercy. You are home where you belong.

The Milestone of a Haircut

I’ve been cutting my own hair for two years now. No more scheduling appointments. No more waiting in line for the barber who actually knows how to cut hair. No more walking into a salon and being asked if I’d like to try highlights to disguise my ever spreading “distinguished” locks of gray.

I just plug in the clippers, slap on the #2 guard, and go for it. #1 got me in trouble once:( but she forgave me. hair

The one thing I do miss about going to a barber is getting my neck shaved. cut

I remember sitting for years as a kid, waiting patiently for the walk-ins welcome line to dwindle. Waiting ever so impatiently to get my turn, while reading fishing magazines. I was quite oblivious to the conversations of sports, work, or projects. My own little world was a nice place to be. However, there was one part of the haircut routine that mesmerized me every time….. watching as men had a straight razor taken to their necks.

This part of the grooming of a man was both dangerous and compelling at the same time. I grew up watching my dad shave with safety razors, like most men today. Blades like the ones wielded by a barber are not safe. They appeared to be razor sharp and reminded my youth eyes like the drywall knives that were around the garage. Good for cutting wall board, insulation off of wiring, hoses for your fuel line, and the occasional piece of rope. But to cut tiny hairs for the back of one’s head…. that seemed barbaric and awesome!!

I always wondered what that would feel like, and longed for the day when I would almost have my neck sliced open by my friendly neighborhood barber.

Then one day it happened. My hair was sufficiently cut, and I was awaiting the standard brushing off of hair that was part of the ritual. But it didn’t happen.

The scissors were put away.
The thin, useless version of a x-ray shield covering my chest like a was ever so slightly pulled down.
The sound of a machine making magic behind me, as it warmed up the shaving cream.
The feeling of a warm pillow being spread across my neck and behind my ears.
The action of the razor being drawn back and forth across the strap to give in a fresh edge. The moment when that razor slid across my neck.
The creation of the smoothest space of skin since being a newborn.

In that moment……. I became a Man

This may all seem a bit silly, but just the other day, these thoughts flooded back to me. Eli is between haircuts and Amber noticed quite a patch of hair growing on his neck, just below the hairline. She was combing his hair for school, and asked me to get my beard trimmers to handle the situation.

I was giddy

My boy is growing more and more into a man. It seems like each day he exhibits more maturity, and his heart is filled with empathy for those around him. I’m not sure what God has in store for him, but I do believe it will involve helping others.

Eli’s neck hair milestone of manliness didn’t involve the slow anticipation that I encountered. However, I continue to be intentional in creating manly milestones in his life. I want him to understand that life isn’t about being a child . That there is a natural order to growth and growing. Too many boys are merely growing into larger boys who can shave. They may have jobs, wives, and kids, but they act like children.

One of my roles in Eli’s life is help him in his journey towards embracing the story of God and finding his role in it. Sometimes it looks like telling him to be the man of the house when I go out of town. Sometimes it’s letting him climb a ladder onto the roof with me. Sometimes it’s him seeing me love his mother with all my heart. Sometimes it’s getting him a swiss army knife. Sometimes it’s taking him along with me to visit someone in the hospital. Sometimes it’s a boys only road trip to the slopes. Sometimes it’s conversations about sin while driving home from school. Sometimes it’s firmly explaining to him why we don’t wrestle with girls like they are boys. Sometimes it’s correcting him in his behavior. Sometimes it’s praising him for his behavior.

Always….. it’s about showing him how much I love him and that it pales in comparison to how much Jesus loves him.

As a father, I have only a limited time of influence in Eli’s life. I must make the most of each moment. What else would I spend my life doing…… some selfish hobby?

Excuse me….. I need to go buy a razor and a shaving cream warmer:)

You’re Not That Cool

tetons

Over the last couple weeks, Amber has been diving into the home video footage archive of the last several years to create some pretty amazing projects. This all began last week when I offered the kids some end of the day, before bed time, movie watching, which resulted in an after diner decision to view home videos:)

Needless to say, taking some time to sit down and enjoy them has led to all kinds of emotions and thoughts.

AWE The looks on my face when I first held Eli & Savannah is filled with an awe and wonder that I want on my face more often. I don’t think in this day of instant access to EVERYTHING that I am in awe enough. Not just the kind of look when standing on top of a mountain or out across the ocean. I seek those all the time and cherish each and every moment that I feel really small and God feels so big.

What I mean is that look of utter amazement that only accompanies a jolt to the soul. The kind of moment where you don’t know if laughter or tears is about to explode from your face. The kind of moment where you see in every closing tunnel vision and possess a focus that only allows silence to be the soundtrack. I know some would describe this as “having your breath taken away” but that is a description of being punched in the gut…… it’s not as powerful as what I’m trying to describe. This look of amazement in the face of a parent meeting their child is more akin to being present when God made Adam from dirt.

Speechless, Can’t look away, Can’t move, Heartbeat in the throat, Soul bubbling over, Amazed at God’s handiwork, Overwhelming love life never felt before

Laughter That awe and joy was also clearly evident in the amount of laughter that fills our home. The giggles of our children during those marathon tickle times. The screeches as I would chase them on my hands and knees. The countless hours of bouncing up and down. All the silly faces and feigned falls usually followed by a pouncing on daddy’s back. There are not many things this man loves more than hearing his children laugh.

Action There isn’t much sitting around in any of the videos. Eli and Savannah are conduits of constant motion, and they are all smiles while doing it. Whether it’s Savannah kicking like crazy when she couldn’t even crawl, or Eli shaking in his seat as he devours a bowl of cheese dip. Running through sprinklers, jumping into leaves, kicking balls, bouncing on the bed, …. you name it, they are doing it. And mommy and daddy are right there too

Love You will discover in the course of watching home videos the amount of love that exists. Tender moments of cheek to cheek cuddling. Full on attack kisses, dripping with infant slobber. Blown kisses that appear to be deflected back into the face of the giver from the obstructed hand. Tender good night smooches. Hugs so tight that oxygen is deprived. That amazing attack hug as you walk into the house from work. Trading smiles of pride and joy between mom and dad. Every single one a window into the building of a family and the nurturing of young souls.

You know what I found most profound…….. I didn’t care that the camera was rolling.

In today’s culture of the selfie, amassing a following, constantly living a social life with no one by your side, food you just took a picture of, and becoming depressed as you see the staged awesome that your friends are living…… we are more disconnected than any people in the history of the planet.

Despite what that deep sense of self importance that our culture has tried to instill in you, You’re Not That Cool

Just take a long hard look at your last dozen Throwback Thursday posts. The hair, clothes, events, and look you had back whenever is ridiculous by today’s standards. The famous people will grow old and become irrelevant, the latest trend will be replaced, the must have item will become obsolete, and within two generations you will be forgotten. You’re Not That Cool

Being in that moment.
In that time. Living it with my family.
Writing a story with our lives, that will live on forever, as part of God’s story. That is not a realm for the cool. It is the land of reality. And It’s So Much Better

Study and Prayer

The Word, the Gospel, Talking to our Dad

God’s word rocks my mind and melts my heart more each day, and I’m convinced daily that my voracious reading habit needs to be refined to a few choices outside of scripture.

In Matthew 6, as with the entire Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is continuing to preach that our hearts must be changed. We can’t let the wicked idea that rules and appearance clense us of our depraved birth. Only Christ can free us from the cycle of self rule and self agendas.

“The death of Christ is the wisdom of God by which the love of God saves sinners from the wrath of God, all the while upholding and demonstrating the righteousness of God in Christ.”
— John Piper (Desiring God)

All over this Gospel in a Single Sentence, is the simple basic truth of our faith…… God is at the controls of our salvation and sovereign over our entire lives.

This is made so clear in the model of how we are supposed to pray.

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Line by line, we are drawn into the correct way of thinking & feeling. God invokes awe at every thought. We long for his perfect kingdom to reign over the fractured world we live. He is the provider of everything we need…every gift, every talent, every skill.. he is the originator of it all. Our daily missing the mark is covered infinitely with Grace, which humbles us to show the same Grace to others. The Spirit living in the children of God is the only defense we have in the war against our temptations.

Such powerful truth to center on, and a reminder that we must draw near to God each day.

This prayer has been recited by billions for thousands of years, we pray it every week, but what remains the most clear truth after quite nights in study and prayer…… when we carve out time for God to speak above the noise, we are changed.

A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’.

C.S. Lewis

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