“It brings tears to my eyes.”


photo of men having conversation

Apparently there are no pictures of two people just talking in a restaurant; every pic is either a business meeting or a date! 

He came in to church yesterday wearing a fedora. He actually looked pretty good in it, like he was about to go out swing dancing or something. I’d never seen him before, but he looked young – I’d guess older teens. I learned later he was 21.

I converted from Roman Catholicism, but my Lutheran church is too liberal,” he told me as he entered. “I did some research and saw that you were more conservative. So I thought I’d give you a try.”

Today we sat together over supper at a restaurant and chatted.

I was Roman. Traditional Roman,” he told me over chili-glazed brussel sprouts. “We rejected Vatican II. And I was really into it. I was at seminary to become a priest. But as I read more and more, I realized I couldn’t do it all. There was always this uncertainty. But I had some friends who had left the Roman church to become Eastern Orthodox. So I left seminary and tried that for a while. It was basically the same thing. And then I was Baptist, but they just kept pushing rules, too. And then I discovered Lutheranism.” (more…)

Review: The Pastor’s Justification


The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry
by Jared C. Wilson

Faithful pastors point to Christ. They share Law and Gospel. They pour out forgiveness. They long to connect their people to Jesus, so they grow in him. The pressures, though, are severe. Pastors “should” do so, so many things. Their sinful sheep pull and push. And believe it or not, pastors have sinful natures, too. They are very familiar with their own sins. They need the forgiveness they pronounce… but so often, no one offers it.

This book gives what so many faithful pastors need. It points to Christ. It shares Law and Gospel. It announces forgiveness.

Wilson has written exactly what I needed to hear. He announces Law. He shatters many of my personal idols, and I know not mine alone. He talks about people-pleasing and martyr complexes – two things of which I am supremely guilty. And he doesn’t give excuses. He doesn’t pull punches. He announces the Law: I have sinned by my fault, by my own most grievous fault. “The primary problem in ministry, brother pastor, is not them. It’s you.”

But then he doesn’t give me a ten-step program to get out of the pit I’ve dug for myself.

No, he points to Jesus. He reminds me that Jesus didn’t just come for my flock… but for me, too.

Pastors, will we seek justification in our reputations? In our church’s numbers and figures? In our retweets and links? In our podcast downloads? In a book deal or speaking engagement? In our own sense of a job well done? This is sand.

Or will we look up and out, away from ourselves, away from the fickle fellowship, away from Satan’s accusations and insinuations, up to the right hand of the Father, where our righteousness sits, firmly fixed eternal? There is your justification, pastor, perfect and big, bigger than you and better than you but bled and bought for you and birthed in you, yours irrevocably, sealed and guaranteed through both your successes and failures, through the pats on your back or the knives in your back. There is your justification, there in Christ, and because in him there is no shadow of turning, you are utterly, totally, undeniably justified.

Brother, you are free.

The book breaks down into two parts. Part One, the Pastor’s Heart, takes the reader on a guided tour of I Peter 5. Wilson gives Law and Gospel to knock down idols, heal with real forgiveness, and then motivate with Christ. Part Two, the Pastor’s Glory, walks through the solas of the Reformation and shows how they apply very specifically to ministry.

I personally found Part One to be far more useful, but that could be because I read Part One along with several brother pastors, and the bulk of Part Two I read after my move to a new congregation, so I didn’t get to have the conversation.

Either way, I found that as I read Part One, I nodded along so often. It’s as if Wilson is an old friend who knows me so very, very well. He knows where my weaknesses are. And it reminds me that I face no temptation that is not common – and no temptation that Jesus didn’t face and defeat for me.

I highly, highly recommend this book for both pastors and any other leaders in ministry. Church councils would benefit if they’re involved in the ministries of their congregations, as would leaders of Bible studies. It may not apply as much, but I think they would still benefit. The book doesn’t just diagnose a problem; it gives the remedy: Jesus, not as example, but as Savior.

I was blessed by this book, and I think your pastor would be, too.

A Sea Brighter than the Sky


The waters were restless this morning. Breakers roared in, and I felt their spray even fifteen feet above as I ran along the cliffs over the Lake. Out on the horizon and over the Lake, dark blue clouds blotted out the sky. And yet, here and there, you could see the sun poking through.

And the Lake responded.

If I looked up to the sky, I saw a dark, foreboding scene. But as I looked down, I observed a bright, shining lake that left me dazzled. The sight took my breath away: the waters reflected an unseen sun under a dark sky.

Christian, this is you.

You have been called to be light. You have been called to reflect your Savior, the one who redeemed you, the one who bought you out of darkness at the price of his own life. The skies are dark here. Oh, they are so, so dark. I know. Trust me. They overwhelm so easily, and we give in to despair.

Look up. Do you see? The Son has not abandoned you. Look down. Do you see the proclamation in Word? He knew the deeps you keep secret from the world around you. He knew the secrets you have not told, for fear that those around you would reject you. And do you see? He has loved you anyway. He has purchased and won you, not with silver or gold, but with his holy, precious blood and his innocent suffering and death.

Oh, even under the dark sky, Christian, reflect him. Be brighter than those around you. Surprise and delight. Don’t fade into the darkness. This is not who your Savior made you to be.

But you cannot do it, dear one. It is impossible for you – unless.

Unless you are reflecting him. Unless you see the Son and focus on him and his love for you. Unless you grow to gasp at his goodness and revel in his brightness. Unless you grow in the grace and knowledge of our lord Jesus Christ.

You have been called to be a sea brighter than the sky, but never brighter than the sun. Oh, that can never be. But Christian: reflect that light you have been shown. Shine bright.

For the Joy Set Before

I think it was Mike Warnke who said it: “Do you have to get cleaned up to take a bath?”

I’ve known her for perhaps my entire ministry. I’ve seen her rise and fall so many times; into drugs, into alcohol, into all manner of sin and losing control of herself. And I have always held my hands out to her.

And now she’s asked me to come to her house. With tears in her eyes, she tells me, “I’m ready to start over. I just… I just needed to get some things under control.”

Oh, my shattered sister… oh, my broken daughter… don’t you know? You will never, ever get anything under control. Not really. You can fake it, but you will never, ever get yourself put together. Not enough. If you wait until you are better, you will never, ever come. You will never clean yourself up enough for God.

She tells me, “I just feel such guilt… but I’m doing better now, you know? Why can’t I get rid of my guilt?”

Oh, my filthy loved one… oh, my stained heart… don’t you know? You can’t wash those stains away. You will never, ever be good enough to whitewash what you have been, what you have done. You will never clean yourself up enough for God.

She thinks she’s doing better, but there’s still this haunting specter. She can’t place it.

I can. (more…)

What do you expect from a king?

John 18:33-37 33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”


But I’m a good person!

John 5:19-30 19 Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 25 I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.


You’re Already Amazing

You’re Already Amazing
by Holley Gerth

You don’t have to do more, be more, have more. You’re a daughter of God, a holy princess, a woman created with strengths you’ve yet to fully grasp and a story that’s still being written by the divine Author himself. … [in Christ] you’re not only amazing. You’re enough. You’re beautiful. You’re wanted. You’re chosen. You’re called.

You’re Already Amazing presents an amazing truth: in Christ, you are enough. In Christ, you are everything you need to be and more… because Jesus is enough and everything you need to be. You have his record. So stop trying to be someone you’re not… because Jesus has made you exactly who he wants you to be. (more…)