Archives For Past Sins

This was a great read. I read this in preparation for some per-marital counseling I am doing and I was trying to find a book that would help them look at marriage through a God-honoring lens. Little did I know that this book would help me in my own marriage to understand what a covenant is and what it means to place marriage in the context of servant-hood. This is a go-to book for those who are recently married, those who have been marriage for thirty years, those whose marriages are on the verge of divorce, those who are about to get married and those who are divorced and maybe want to get back together. Read this book! Some pros and cons…


  • Extremely biblical! Keller weaves passages of Scripture throughout the entirety of the book and uses God’s story from Genesis to Revelation to paint a picture of what marriage should be.
  • Confronts false assumptions about marriages. Have you ever encountered someone whose view of marriage was so false you just knew that it was destined for divorce? Keller confronts these false assumptions.
  • Talks openly about the “S” word. That’s right…SEX. Nobody is looking… you can go ahead and say it… SEX! He talks about the joy of sex within a covenant relationship but also talks about the pain of sex outside the covenant relationship.
  • Not statistical. I get anxiety attacks when people break out droves of statistics about this marriage and that marriage. Keller does not do that….his goal is theological not theoretical.


  • Keller is on a different level of thinking than most of us (or maybe it’s just me :)) and his book can be difficult to weave through if no theological background is present. I think this would be helpful more to the Christian than the non-Christian but both could still benefit.
  • I wish there were study guides and group discussion guides for this book (that will probably come or may already be out). This is excellent small group material but it is not available yet.

Some amazing quotes…

  • Despite the claim of the young man in the Gallup survey, “a substantial body of evidence indicates that those who live together before marriage are more likely to break up after marriage.”(p. 15)
  • Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become “whole” and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person. (p. 29-30)
  • Modern people make the painfulness of marriage even greater than it has to be, because they crush it under the weight of their almost cosmically impossible expectations. (p. 33)
  • If our views of marriage are too romantic and idealistic, we underestimate the influence of sin on human life. If they are too pessimistic and cynical, we misunderstand marriage’s divine origin. If we somehow manage, as our modern culture has, to do both at once, we are doubly burdened by a distorted vision. (p. 36)
  • The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. (p. 40)
  • If we look to our spouses to fill up our tanks in a way that only God can do, we are demanding an impossibility. (p. 44)
  • Only if you have learned to serve others by the power of the Holy Spirit will you have the power to face the challenges of marriage. (p. 43).
  • When you first fall in love, you think you love the person, but you don’t really. You can’t know who the person is right away. That takes years. You actually love your idea of the person—and that is always, at first, one-dimensional and somewhat mistaken. (p. 86)
  • To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us. (p. 87)
  • We think of a prospective spouse as primarily a lover (or a provider), and if he or she can be a friend on top of that, well isn’t that nice! We should be going at it the other way around. Screen first for friendship. Look for someone who understands you better than you do yourself, who makes you a better person just by being around them. And then explore whether that friendship could become a romance and a marriage. (p. 117-18)
  • When you get married, your spouse is a big truck driving right through your heart. Marriage brings out the worst in you. It doesn’t create your weaknesses (though you may blame your spouse for your blow-ups)—it reveals them. This is not a bad thing, though. How can you change into your “glory-self” if you assume that you’re already pretty close to perfect as it is? (p. 131)
  • Truth without love ruins the oneness, and love without truth gives the illusion of unity but actually stops the journey and the growth. The solution is grace. The experience of Jesus’s grace makes it possible to practice the two most important skills in marriage: forgiveness and repentance. Only if we are very good at forgiving and very good at repenting can truth and love be kept together. (p. 155)
  • Even the best marriage cannot by itself fill the void in our souls left by God. Without a deeply fulfilling love relationship with Christ now, and hope in a perfect love relationship with him in the future, married Christians will put too much pressure on their marriage to fulfill them, and that will always create pathology in their lives. But singles, too, must see the penultimate status of marriage. If single Christians don’t develop a deeply fulfilling love relationship with Jesus, they will put too much pressure on their dream of marriage, and that will create pathology in their lives as well. However, if singles learn to rest in and rejoice in their marriage to Christ, that means they will be able to handle single life without a devastating sense of being unfulfilled and unformed. And they might as well tackle this spiritual project right away. Why? Because the same idolatry of marriage that is distorting their single lives will eventually distort their married lives if they find a partner. So there’s no reason to wait. Demote marriage and family in your heart, put God first, and begin to enjoy the goodness of single life. (p. 190)
  • How different seeking marriage would be if, as we argued earlier in this book, we were to view marriage as a vehicle for spouses helping each other become their glorious future-selves through sacrificial service and spiritual friendship. What happens if we see the mission of marriage to teach us about our sins in unique and profound ways and to grow us out of them through providing someone who speaks the truth in love to us? How different it would be if we were to fall in love especially with the glorious thing God is doing in our spouse’s life? Ironically, this view of marriage eventually does provide unbelievable personal fulfillment, but not in the sacrifice-free and superficial way that contemporary people want it to come. Instead, it gives the unique, breathtaking fulfillment of visible character growth (Ephesians 5:25–27) into love, peace, joy, and hope (Colossians 1; Galatians 5, 1 Corinthians 13). (p. 195)
  • Biblical Christianity may be the most body-positive religion in the world. It teaches that God made matter and physical bodies and saw that it was all good (Genesis 1:31). It says that in Jesus Christ God himself actually took on a human body (which he still has in glorified form), and that someday he is going to give us all perfect, resurrected bodies. It says that God created sexuality and gave a woman and man to each other in the beginning. The Bible contains great love poetry that celebrates sexual passion and pleasure. If anyone says that sex is bad or dirty in itself, we have the entire Bible to contradict him. (p. 213)
  • Indeed, sex is perhaps the most powerful God-created way to help you give your entire self to another human being. Sex is God’s appointed way for two people to reciprocally say to one another, “I belong completely, permanently, and exclusively to you.” You must not use sex to say anything less. (p. 215-16)
  • In short, the greatest sexual pleasure should be the pleasure of seeing your spouse getting pleasure. When you get to the place where giving arousal is the most arousing thing, you are practicing this principle. (p. 225)

I have been a fan of Yellowcard since they released their epic album “Ocean Avenue” in 2003. I have loved just about every song they have come out with. Their new album “Southern Air” looks to be a great album and I absolutely love the song “Here I am Alive.” In the video it portrays a couple of junior-high kids who have dreams but come across some bullies who say, “You are never getting out of this town.”

I thought about my own dreams and where I am now. The song seems to speak some truth to life about how there are ups and downs but we are still alive. He poses a question, “If I could write myself when I was young.” I have written on this before but if you could write a letter to your younger self what would you say?

What would you say to your dreams?

What would you say to your struggles?

What would you say to your family and friends?

What things would do differently?

This kind of thing allows us to think about what we use to hold important but no longer do but also things we gave up on and said that we could never do. Things people told us we would never accomplish.


Here we are…


Maybe we need to dream again.

What should you dream about?

What could you do?

Watch the video below. I hope you enjoy it.

I am three days into reading the bible through in 90 days and I have to admit one thing: Nobody’s Perfect. Adam and Eve disappointed me by doing the only thing they were not supposed to do. Abraham disappointed me by lying about his wife…twice. Sarah disappointed me by laughing at God doubting his ability to deliver her a son. Rebekah and Jacob disappointed me by deliberately deceiving Isaac to steal Esau’s blessing. Esau disappointed me by giving up his birthright. Jacob disappointed me by neglecting Leah (albeit he married her under horrible circumstances) and focusing on Rachel. Speaking of Rachel, she disappointed me by lying about the household gods she stole (deception is a major motif in Abraham’s lineage). Jacob’s sons disappointed me by selling their brother Joseph to the Ishmaelites but who could blame them since Joseph bragged about his superior status in a dream he had. Judah disappointed me by sleeping with a prostitute who actually was not a prostitute but only his daughter-in-law (indicates Judah desired prostitutes on a regular basis).


Nobody’s perfect…

At all…


Joseph will restore his relationship with his brothers. Jacob will be blessed. Isaac’s heritage will live on and Abraham will once again be the father of many nations. We will all remember Adam because he was the first but also a predecessor for the Second Adam (Christ). Nobody’s perfect. You want to pick and prod at the bible because of its flawless characters then you will have more than you can handle. Scripture is full of them.

So is the church.

You want to point out the church’s hypocrisy…it’s apparent inconsistencies…it’s faulure to act…it’s unresponsive nature to critical issues while focusing on minor issues. You’re right. But nobody’s perfect.


We all fall short and we all fail at glorifying God which, last time I checked, is a daily reminder of our need to repent and ask and seek forgiveness.

Anything to add?

Thought provoking video to start your weekend off right.  What are your thoughts from this?

“Messy Spirituality is the scandalous assertion that following Christ is anything but tidy and neat, balanced and orderly.  Far from it.  Spirituality is complex, complicated, and perplexing-the disorderly, sloppy, chaotic look of authentic faith in the real world.  Spirituality is anything but a straight line; it is a mixed-up, topsy-turvy, helter-skelter godliness that turns our lives into an upside-down toboggan ride full of unexpected turns, surprise bumps, and bone-shattering crashes.  In other words, messy spirituality is the delirious consequence of a life ruined by a Jesus who will love us right into his arms.”

Mike Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality, p. 27.

Messy Spirituality Quote

A break from the series…I decided to write a poem.

The Mask

Sitting in the lobby I am moved by your existence.

How could you love me, a sinner, broken in your presence?

I am not the man I should be for I am filled with mediocrity.

I am weak, timid, inconsistent and filled with so much hypocrisy.

Scripture tells me that a man came to die, giving me his grace.

But all I can do right now is turn and hide, covering my ugly face.

The solution is so easy, but to me it comes with a hefty price.

A debt I cannot pay, for I am not willing to sacrifice.

But you, O God, are all that I could possibly need.

So right now, to your divine decrees, I hesitantly now heed.

For I lift up to you a monumental task,

that you take away my sin, and take off my foolish mask.

We have looked at the biblical witness to forgiveness and we have looked at the early church father’s practice of forgiveness.  We discussed the pressing need for us to let God do what he said he would and that is to forgive us and to not lay hold of things against us.  We also discussed in our last post a requirement for us to receive forgiveness: we must forgive others.  Letting go is not so easy especially when the hurt someone inflicted on us is to painful for words and brings tears to our eyes just to mention it.  Today I will mention some potential roadblocks to forgiveness.  I anticipate some of these will only apply to God or to other people but the list is definitely not all-inclusive.


Paul was very wise when he said these words: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:31-32).  The number one roadblock to forgiveness is that we are angry at what has happened.  This can be directed at people but underneath there is an element directed towards God.  “How could you let this happen?”  Paul’s words is to get rid of it all!  The solution: forgiveness.  Let it go.

Lack of Teaching

Hosea was write thousands of years ago in that God’s people continually are destroyed for a lack of knowledge or understanding (Hos. 4:6).  Sometimes we hold on to bitterness and anger because we do not know how to constructively let it go.  Sometimes we neglect Scripture, we neglect prayer and seeking God’s counsel and sometimes we shut ourselves in and do not include the wisdom of other people.  Sometimes people say, “I wish we would had a lesson on that from the pulpit” and my response is: “We already have.  You just weren’t listening!”


Fear grips many of our situations and paralyzes movement towards redemption and reconciliation.  During the Civil Rights era I imagine fear caused people to stay away from African-Americans because: “What if my family disowns me?”  “What will others think of me?”  Maybe if we accept God’s forgiveness that means there will be repercussions or reverberations from friends and family.  Maybe if we finally forgive that person and let it go then we might not have anything to hold on to…they actually might change their lives if we forgive them.  Then they won’t get the punishment we think they deserve or the imaginary punishment we created in our brains.  Fear ensnares us.


When all else blame sin right?  Seriously though have you ever thought why people do not accept the grace given to them by God through Jesus Christ?  I mean, it is a free gift!  It is because people either enjoy the sinful ways or they are in denial.  Take your pick.  A governmental study from S.A.M.S.H.A (click here) stated that: “Nearly 7 million Americans age 18 to 25 were classified as needing treatment in the past year for alcohol or illicit drug use, according to a new SAMHSA report. But 93 percent of these young adults did not receive the help they needed at a specialty treatment facility.” Why is that?  It is because so many people think they are in control or that they are fine.  That is denial!

So what other potential roadblocks do you see?  I have mentioned four big ones!!!

Life does exist after 30

January 18, 2011 — 7 Comments

I have delayed writing this post much like I delay going to the dentist, doctor or even a car repair shop.  It is the self-discovery that I dread and the inevitable bad news that comes from a doctor’s office or a repair shop that I loathe.  Nevertheless I drudge on through because it is only through self-discovery where we truly find the living God who dwells in our past, present and future.  Last Friday I turned 30 and it was a wonderful experience that capped off a week of a softball party and a surprise birthday party.  I feel both loved and supported by so many individuals and I truly am a man most blessed by God.  I would like to share some lessons I have learned in my life in the first 30 years that will help you live your teens and twenties to its fullest potential.  I will try to avoid trite sayings that preachers use but I find that those sayings are regretabbly unavoidable…

  1. It’s not all about you. If there is one word that could characterize my first 30 years it would be the word, “narcissism.”  I know we all are a little selfish at times but it seems that I struggled with this more than most people.  In my teenage years  if there was a worldly pleasure easily accessible to me than I took advantage (without disclosing much just let me say, for the record, that I have not always been a moral person).  If I had to walk over someone to benefit my cause then I did it.  If someone neglected me, punished me or ridiculed me then they were ignored, ostracized or even punished for lambasting my integrity.  As I recall some dark periods of my past I can’t help but to think much of my pain was avoidable if I just realize that it was not about me.
  2. Life is a roller-coaster. Different seasons call for different experiences and the ever-changing ebb and flow of life brings about conflicting narratives that tug on a person’s soul.  Early in our marriage (December 29, 2003) Heather had a miscarriage and we were devastated at our loss.  Amelia (our second-born) was born with a whole in her lung, Kaleb had RSV as a child and recently my youngest broke his leg.  Mix that with financial troubles (some self-inflicted…see point #1) and economic hardships and life can be very hectic.  God created us to weather serious storms in our lives and it seems that while a current struggle may be significant we should always look at the trial with a lens of perspective.  Some people flip-out over the small things but lately I have learned to not worry as much and it has made me a better husband, father, son, friend and minister.
  3. Not much is happenstance. I look back at my life and believe in the providence of God.  I place my finger on significant events in my life and ask the million-dollar question, “Why did __________ happen like that?”  A friend of mine overdosed years after I moved and I ask, “Why was that not me?”  After dropping off a high-school girlfriend my car spun out of control in the rain in the direction of a 20 foot drop-off.  “Why did my car stop right before the edge?”  A girl in college just recently got out of a relationship and I did too and I asked her out.  “Why did Heather  say yes?”  Not much is happenstance…not much is chance…we are merely paint on the canvas of the divine painter.
  4. “God is not made by human hands…” Paul said that in Acts 17:24 to the men of Athens and I believe it strongly to this day.  I have shifted in theology since I first arrived at Freed-Hardeman in 1999.  I used to think I had everything figured out and that I could put God in this neatly packaged box and if someone needed me to explain who God is/was then I would open this box and show them who God was.  That worked until I realized that God was doing some amazing things that confronted (opposed) my preconceived notion of how God operated.  Scripture used to be information for me to dissect, translate and pattern for people to understand.  Now I still believe in good exegesis I think we can almost treat Scripture as an idol instead of its intended purpose as transformation (Psalm 1; Rom. 12:1-2).  God is not solely bound to leafs of paper but is living, active and powerful.  Scripture, at best, is an attempt by God to describe an infinite concept using finite terms.  That is why no perfect description of heaven exists…it cannot be contained by human vernacular but God paints the best picture he believes we can understand.
  5. Life is never over. Abraham got his call to ministry when he was 75 years old!  We never should get to the point where we think God is through with me I shall now die.  As a minister I see at Main Street God using people who are infants and who are 90 years old!!!  God uses us for his purposes in every season of our life no matter what age we are.  Sarah laughed because she thought she was too old, Jeremiah was afraid because he thought he was too young and God essentially told both of them that nothing is impossible with God.

So here I am, 30 years old and ready to do whatever God wants me to do wherever he sends me.  I am not wise, but I am wiser than I once was.  I am not experienced but I am a little more experienced than I once was.  Regardless…I am content.

I came across this verse today in my reading and thought that it was not happenstance.  A lot happened to Joseph that could have caused him to be bitter and angry but because of God’s providence Joseph did some amazing things.

“Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt…” (Gen 41:46a).

God’s Roth IRA

January 13, 2011 — 2 Comments

This quarter I am actually participating in a class instead of teaching one and I find myself with a group of men ranging from 30-70s.  We are studying the book of 1 Peter and we came across a verse that struck a nerve with me.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  (1 Peter 4:8)

The context for this verse is that the audience Peter addresses is encountering or will encounter immense persecution.  Peter, above all, wants them to learn how to “be church” together and a way they can do this is to love each other deeply as the new NIV says.  What concerns me is the phrase “love covers a multitude of sins.”[1] The last verse in the book of James is strikingly similar:

“…remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20)

Without getting into the Greek and becoming too technical I just want to pose a theory to you that may or may not be right.  I think what Peter and James probably mean by this statement is that by loving and restoring people God forgives their sin either because of their repentance (James) or their response to love (Peter).  However, a different theory I want to pose to you is on the part of the person loving and restoring.  When a person seeks out and loves then God seems to cover their sins as well.  It is like a ROTH IRA.  A ROTH IRA is a tax-deferred savings plan that is an excellent option when one wants to retire at the age of 65.  In a different way God’s ROTH IRA is moments like James 5:20 and 1 Peter 4:8 where he looks at all of the people we have restored and loved and then looks at our sin and says, “I have forgiven you because of all of the love you have done.”  God is the only one who covers sin and the work that Christians do by serving and loving is only done through the death of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.  I understand that.  But there is something incredibly redemptive about serving people and helping to save people.  I am not saying we should sin all the time and one act of kindness is going to cover all of our sin (see Rom. 6:1) rather I am saying that when we are doing discipleship correctly then our lives will not be lived with moments of love and service rather our lives will be lives of love and service.

What do you think?

[1] Simon Kistemaker (James, Epistles of John, Peter and Jude, p. 167) believes that James and Peter both are alluding to Proverbs 10:12 which says “love covers over all wrongs.”  It is a possibility worthy of merit but perhaps this is a response to the firsthand testimony of Jesus who exemplified love in its fullest sense on the cross both covering our sins and saving us from death.


My wife made fun of me when we first watched the Transformers movie that came out in 2007.  Why?  In the scene where all of the autobots came from space and then met, I started getting chills.  She did not notice it at the time but I knew what was about to happen…In came this massive semi-truck and then transformed and then said these words, “I am Optimus Prime!”  I pumped my fist and said, “Yes!”  My wife looked at me and said (and I quote), “You’re an idiot!”  Who cares what she thinks because back in the day when Transformers first came out it was the cool thing to do to have them.  And everybody who was anybody had, as their action figure hero, Optimus Prime who was the champion of bravery and the victor of defense against evil. 

I know…I am a dork.  But why don’t you let some of your weird action figures come out of the closet and then we can see who is a dork.

I laughed at that and think to myself how silly I was to be like that in the past.  I look at history as sort of an accomplished fact, something I have pressed on from.  On a serious note many of us look at our past and see just how messed-up and jaded it really is.  Many of us have recovered from alcohol, drugs, promiscuous sex, violence, etc. and we look back and think, “I sure am glad I have moved on from that crap!”  So we fold our pasts into a neat little box and then we put that box into a container that is specially designed for that box.  Then we put a lock on the container with a special password (which we forget) to access the container which holds the box that holds our deepest, darkest, most painful secrets. 

Philippians 3:4-6

Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless. 

Does that sound like hiding things in a box?  Does that sound like looking at your past and forgetting about it (especially confusing considering Phil. 3:12-14)?  What if, during the assembly this Sunday, a person walked up to you and you introduced yourself and he said, “Hi, I am John Doe.  I was an alcoholic and used to have sex as much as I wanted with whoever but now I am in Christ and life is amazing!”? 

You probably would look at him, turn around and say, “FREAK!!!”  But what is wrong with that?  In a tabooistic setting (like formal, congregational worship) it is not looked at as acceptable to do such things?  Why?  Because (catch my irony here) we have it all figured out and good Christians are supposed to be strong, holy and spotless.  Paul is encouraging his joyful brethren (who brought him joy) with stories of his tainted past and to be spotless means to embrace your past as part of the redeeming story of Christ in your life! 

This brings a whole new meaning to pressing on.  So there is you.  What do you have locked in a secret compartment waiting to get out?  How can we, as a body of Christ take the message of reconciliation to you to allow Christ in to your life so you can press on. 

Want more?  Come here at the Main Street Church in Springfield, TN. 

I know…shameless, irresponsible plug.  What can I say?