Where Does Real Courage Come From?

Friday, August 20, 2010


It’s hard to look into the mirror. I mean really look.

It’s why preachers avoid using mirrors in the pulpit. Mirrors that make us see ourselves as God sees us. It’s why they don’t say “sinner” or quote passages like, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins...” (Eph 2:1)

That’s the problem with the modern church, a Christian leader wrote recently. It’s “growth without depth…a superficiality of discipleship everywhere.” 1

Because we don’t want to look! Plus the poor preacher is constantly under the gun just to get people to come to church – let alone stay. Especially with stiff competition. There are all kinds of churches out there committed to making us feel good, do good, think good, be good. Simple rule: No mirrors.

People want superficial. Give it to them. Disciple them later, when they’re not looking. When they least expect it. For now, just get them in the door.

Spectacular church growth…without depth.

Here’s what I think. I think we need mirrors.

I know. It’s hard to look in the mirror. Really hard. To see me as God sees me. Not the image I put on for others. But me, alone, by myself, the way I am.

I remember being eight. It was my first big trip out with my mom. Every year she had to go to Chicago for medical tests. One year she took my brother, the next my sister, then it was my turn. And I mean Chicago!

My aunt Jo and uncle Lee lived in an apartment way up high in a big skyscraper overlooking the city. It was spectacular at night – all the lights, the hustle and bustle, as far as the eye could see. For me, at eight, breathtaking.

And my own room. With big windows to see out. But that night, in the middle of the night, something happened. A bad dream. Those kind I got when I was sick and everything was whacky out of proportion. Big things little. Little things big. And I shot out of the bed and ran to the window and looked out. Then down. Way down. I felt this hand behind me – pushing me.

For a split second I could see it, feel it. My insides flipping, my head spinning. As if I was falling. Like the window had broken open and out I went. We were so high up. And all I could do was open my mouth and scream as loud as I could. With everything inside me.

Fear, outright fear.

Rushing through every part of my body. Coursing through my veins. Not some monster from the outside – but a monster inside. Roaring so loud I actually felt it was going to happen. I was going to hit the ground. I was going to die. And I didn’t want to die. All I knew to do was scream. And cry. And wail.

What kind of world is this?

There are monsters in it. It’s dark and scary and completely unsafe. Even at eight, I knew fear real and big inside me. And specific, a fear of death. Afraid to die. Scared to fall and fall and fall and then die. When the only thing I knew to do is scream. Scream until someone comes and makes it safe.

Will someone come? Can anyone hear?

It didn’t take me long to find out that there was more than fear in me. There was sin and selfishness, rebellion and pride, lust and longing for things to satisfy me, and all kinds of ugly if I didn’t get it. It’s about me. Me. ME.

Mirrors. The real me.

Finding our real identity. Going back – way back – to when the first couple entered this world. Not the world of Eden for which we were intended. But I mean the world after Eden. This broken, fallen, demon-filled world where death and the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2) reign outside.

Reign inside.

And then trace the story. Read through the opening six chapters of Genesis. What mess. What horror! A world engulfed in sin, evil, murders, lusts, and open rebellion to God. A people already so irreconcilably wicked that God unleashed His wrath on them. World-wide and cataclysmic judgment.

Mirrors into who we are without Him. Best not to look. Best to play pretend.

Best to run to our dressing rooms. Put on our disguises. Tons of make-up and make-over until we can stand in the mirror presentable. Palatable.

Best to get preachers who tell us we look good. God thinks we look good. Never talking the language of sin and fear and monsters with power2scare.


Fake mirrors that don’t tell the truth. That make us feel safe, fake safe.

Lest we see ourselves the way we really are. The way God sees us. And then do the only thing we know how to do. Must do. Can’t stop from doing. Scream. Scream until someone comes and makes it safe. Until we honestly, sincerely turn to Him with nothing in ourselves to help ourselves.

And growth with depth begins.

1  John Stott, The Radical Disciple, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2010. p. 38

Friday, August 13, 2010



Last Friday night, our daughter Krissy married. The service was held on a beach in the Florida Keys where her husband, Doug, proposed months ago. Right behind them, as they exchanged their vows before the Lord, the sun set.

And for the next twenty minutes, the sky exploded into colors. Brilliant, dazzling, playing off the clouds, then gently fading, giving way to night.

What incredible delight to see the joy in Krissy’s eyes. To welcome Doug into our family. To thank the Lord for such abounding blessing.

Up the coast, just outside Charleston, SC, the other bookend.

The day before Krissy’s marriage, Connie Lyle went to be with Jesus.

We’ve known Gordon and Connie for thirty plus years. Pastors, counselors, friends, elders, and prayer warriors unafraid to ask hard questions. They’ve been a lifeline for us on so many occasions. And every summer we’d meet in Maine for a meal and then time for prayer. We simply adore them.

Connie, a gentle, gracious, lovely lady who cared deeply for others.

In joy, one marriage begun. With sorrow and tears, another ended.

But that’s the story. We say it in our vows: “until death do us part.” In every generation, in every culture, the fine print is always the same. We can’t have each other forever. There is a limit, a time set when we will, we must, separate.

That’s the way it is. It’s something we all live with, right?

Well here it is. Do you want to know the whole story? Not just the one that we experience here and now. But the bigger one?

The story He tells.

Then let’s go back to the beginning.

That’s where discipleship starts. The Lord wants us to know Him. Who He is. How He created. What He intended. He wants us to know what happened and because of what happened, what He did. What He planned.

For this is true, always true: He loves us. He wants us to know.

In God’s original creation, life, His life, was the governing principle. Not death. Imagine a world without the constant forces of opposition, decay, always eroding, destroying, and making what’s new old. Broken. Withering. Until finally death comes. That’s life as we experience it.

But it’s not God’s life. Life that’s real life that He calls – eternal.

It’s why He put the tree of life in the garden of Eden.

Early on in discipleship, our growing up in Christ, we must come to Genesis 3. The Lord shows us in Scripture how evil came into the world; how the serpent deceived Eve; how Adam was tempted, and in being tempted, chose.

The other tree.

This was the day the world changed. When sin entered into the world and entered into us. The day when death took its throne and began to reign.

And on that day, the man and woman were driven out of the garden, away from God, away from the tree of eternal life. It was like there was a door and they were now on the outside. No longer in the Kingdom of God.

But in the Kingdom of Death. Where the devil presides. Where darkness fills the heart. And immoralities, impurities, passions, evil desires and greed now course through our minds and souls. It’s the way we are. It’s not the way we were intended. But we know it. We know it because we experience it.

It’s the fine print for all of us. We love. We live. We make our money. We build our empires. We look for all the applause in life we can get.

“Until death do us part.”

And the door shut. Then bolted. Leaving us outside life. God’s life.

If you don’t know this, you’ll blame God for all your sorrows and tragedies. But come hear His story. Let Him tell you who He is, really is. And who you are, as He planned you to be.

Let Him tell you that although you stand outside the door in this world where death reigns, He has a plan.

He has a way home.

A way that our friend Connie knew. And her husband Gordon knows today. It’s the only thing that brings Gordon comfort.

For he knows this, really knows this. The door into the Kingdom of God, an entrance bought by the precious blood of our Savior, opened. And Connie slipped in. To be with Jesus. In life, real life. Eternal life.

And one day that door will open for him. He too will cross the threshold. And there, in the presence of the Lord, there will be no more fine print.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Thad and Erilynne are enjoying some rest in Maine this August. They love going back to Maine to a friend's house every year and it has become somewhat of a 2nd hometown for them. Enjoy Thad as he talks about Epaphras, who was discipled by the Apostle Paul in Ephesus. After that time of being in the Word and under the discipleship of Paul's ministry, Epaphras' heart filled with a passion for his hometown of Colossae and the desire to lift up the Gospel to them.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

When We Don't Understand

What a week. Like a rollercoaster with great highs and really sad lows.

HIGHS: A clergyman sent out an email blast, “REJOICE WITH ME!” His son driving on a highway fell asleep. Woke up to the rumble strips, over-corrected, and the car flipped and flipped. No seat belt. The boy was—wow!--unharmed.

LOWS: An hour later I was video conferencing with another clergyman. He had the “REJOICE WITH ME!” email in his hand. “What a story!” he exclaimed. “It’s miraculous!” And he meant it. Really meant it. But it was only a few years ago when it was his son. Hit by a drunk driver. And his son, who loved Jesus, was killed. Two young Christian men. One still here. One home.

  • A few nights ago we sat with friends who are family to us. His dad has taken a sudden turn for the worse. Cancer. He doesn’t have much time.

  • Yesterday we learned that a most faithful Christian couple lost their 30 year old daughter. A year married. The news is sketchy. It seems she had the stomach flu the day before. Now she’s with the Lord.

  • This Friday, we are so blessed. Our daughter Krissy marries.

We all have opinions about life. Why things happen. We make judgments based on the facts we know. Even when we don’t have all the facts.

But it’s hard. Life is hard, and complicated.

An old preacher once said that the day:

“…our Lord came out of the glory…was the climatic, crucial event in the history of the world. Christians look back at history, but they also look at the present, and the look to the future, and they see everything in the light of Christ…He determines and controls the whole of life.” 1

He changes the question. When we’re hurting with profound loss, we ask: “Why has this happened?” But when we turn to Jesus Christ the question shifts: “Why are You here? Why have You come?”

In every sense, He is the answer to every loss we’ve ever known, every valley we’ve ever walked, and every burden we’ve ever carried.

He is all that because He is the Savior.

He came because it’s all true. Life is hard, complicated. Full of sin and evil, injustice and hate, accidents, disasters, war, famines, earthquakes, sickness, fear, selfishness and jealousy and heartache. Up one moment, down the next.

We know this by experience.

But we know it by the Bible.

Back at the beginning. We’ve got to go back to the beginning and lay right foundations. The Lord did not create evil in the world. He Himself is perfect. He is called the “Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.” (Jas 1:17) There is no darkness in Him. He is pure and holy. And He created all that is, seen and unseen, out of His perfection and His glory.

As big as this topic is, the Bible puts it simply. Clearly. So we can’t miss it.

If we don’t understand Genesis 3, we won’t understand our need for a Savior. We won’t understand why the world is the way it is. Or why we see everything collapsing all around us. Or why bad things happen to us.

The serpent appeared.

The prophets later give us a glimpse. An anointed cherub, a glorious angel, was filled with pride, corruption, self-ambition and sinned against God. 2

This is the one who appeared in the garden, dressed as a serpent.

He deceived the woman. He tempted the man and it worked. The Bible puts it like this: “Through one man (Adam), sin entered into the world, and death through sin.” (Rom 5:12) And it’s true. It’s all true.

Do you know Genesis 3? In the history of Bible teaching it is called the “fall of man.” And it is much more. All of creation was affected, “subjected to futility” and sold into “slavery to corruption.” (Rom 8:20-21) We know it personally. We know the nature of sin in our lives. The hardship we’ve had to go through.

But here’s the story. The whole story. The greatest story ever known.

The Lord did not abandon us. He came. “He came out of the glory.”

He came to deal with the problem of sin and death. On the cross. To restore all things. To wipe every tear from our eyes. To show us vision of the “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Pet 3:13)

This is what discipleship does. It’s all part of laying the right foundation. We go back to the beginning. We hear the whole story.

And we begin “to see everything in the light of Christ.”

1 Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Living Water: Studies in John 4, Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 2009. P. 678.

2 see Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:11-19

John 15:1-11, the Vine and the branches. "Is He everything to you?