Monday, December 29, 2014


What does it mean to "be converted," in the Christian sense?  Here is a definition that I read yesterday  that I think says it well.   Conversion is not an act of moral self-improvement but rather,

"A complete reversal in one's way of life, a fundamental break with sin because it is sin.  Conversion, however, can only be conversion when it bears a primarily religious character; that is, when we have learned to know sin - as God views it - in the light of his holy law, as it dishonors him and makes him angry."[1] 

We often think of conversion as moving from a point where we don’t have faith to a place where we very definitely have faith in Christ as Savior and Lord.  It is easy to think of Christ as a Savior, as our Savior, and therefore saving us from our sins.  This definition of conversion puts meat on the bones of what our sin is and how offensive it is to God. 

The author of the definition, Herman Bavinck, then adds this:

"True conversion, accordingly, encompasses the whole person, including one's intellect, heart, will, soul and body.  It makes one break with sin across the board and devote one's entire person and life to God's way and God's service."[2]

Those words teach of how radically different our life is to be as one of Christ's own.  Every part, "intellect, heart, will, soul and body" devoted to "God's way and God's service."  Conversion means being attached more to God than to the things that separate us from Him. 

Bavinck's words also remind me that conversion is both something that has happened in my life as a one-time event, and that it is also something that happens as an ongoing activity.  As Christians, we are converted and we are also being converted.   Our bond is with Christ, and as a result our intellect, heart, soul, will and body need to be continually shaped to be more and more in His image.   

As one year draws to an end and a new one sits on the close horizon I am thankful to remember that God has saved me, and to also know that each day He is continuing to work on me.

Converted, and yet being converted, to the glory of God.  Amen.

[1] Bavinck, Herman, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 4, 152.
[2] Ibid.

Saturday, December 27, 2014


Last Monday I woke up and checked my phone to see what the weather app had to say about the current conditions.  41 degrees!  I was excited!  That was certainly not what I had expected.  The previous night we had been out for the Christmas sing-a-long at one of the other local churches and Robin and I had discussed how in the winter a particular temperature always feels colder at night than that very same temperature does in the morning.

Forty-one degrees…a bit of springtime on the second day of winter.  I dressed for the low 40's and went outside…and I was cold!  I don’t know where my weather app gets its information from.  Usually it seems very accurate but on Monday the actual temperature was much colder than 41.  During the time I was out at looked at the ground in various places and there wasn't a single spot where there was water that hadn’t frozen.  Thirty-one seemed more likely than 41 and I changed my clothes accordingly when I got back inside.

My weather app is usually trustworthy, but it failed me on that particular day.  Something else that is trustworthy, and which never fails us, is God's Word in the Bible. 

In 1561 Guido de Bres wrote a statement of faith that said this about God's Word:
"We confess that this Word of God was not sent nor delivered “by human will,”
but that “men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God,”
as Peter says. (2 Peter 1:21)
Afterward our God—with special care for us and our salvation—
commanded his servants, the prophets and apostles,
to commit this revealed Word to writing.
God, with his own finger, wrote the two tables of the law.
Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures."

De Bres goes on to write a number of other things about the Bible but the statement above gets at the heart of what makes it a trustworthy book, which is that it was provided to us by God.  God, through the Holy Spirit, inspired the people who placed the words on paper, so that words written to us are God's words

As a new year begins I want to encourage you to read God's Word on a regular basis, at least a few verses every day.  God's love for His people is so great that He sent a Savior, Jesus, and the Bible is given that we might know of His love and our salvation without any doubts.  And unlike my weather app, God's Word never fails to give us the truth.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


"Men's lives lead to certain ends."  So says Ebenezer Scrooge while looking at his tombstone in the company of the Ghost of Christmas Future.

We were watching A Christmas Carol tonight and that line just jumped out at me.  To that point the movie had presented a pretty secular version of Christmas, and I hadn’t expected it do any differently.  That line jumped out at me, and when Scrooge said it the ghost nodded his head in the affirmative.  And then Scrooge asked, "But if the lives change then the ends change?"

Whoa!  Now that really got my attention!  As a pastor I find myself saying something similar to Scrooge's words from the pulpit each week.  Lives, of men and women do lead to certain ends, and absent Christ, those ends aren’t good.  But if the lives change, through the saving work of Christ, then the ends change, and that is a change that is for the very best. 

In Luke 1:32-33 the angel Gabriel speaks to Mary, telling her about the destiny of  the son she will bear, saying,

"He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."

In just a few days it will be Christmas, the day Christians celebrate as the birthday of Jesus.  Jesus is the one Gabriel speaks of, and while we remember his birth we also need to remember where Gabriel points our vision.

Mary's son, Jesus, came and led a life of particular purpose and that led to a certain end.  He gave His life to save sinners.  He gave His life to save all who would call in faith on His Name. And because He did that two things follow. 

The first is that all that Gabriel foretold about Him is fulfilled.  He is the Son of the Most High and He has a kingdom that will have no end. 

And the second is that because of the purpose for which He lived His life, the end for my life, the end for your life, can be changed.  When we come to faith in Him we are joined to Him and are His forever. 

When we come to Him and this life ends, as one day it most certainly will, we will be in the fullness of His kingdom, enjoying His presence, eternally. 

As this Christmas comes may it be your joy to celebrate the birth of Jesus as Savior, as the one who has saved you.  May you know in the purpose of His life the certain promise of future glory in His eternal presence.  Amen

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 5, 2014


Birthdays have been on my mind lately.  Looking back, we made a trip back to Milwaukee at the end of November to join my mother, family and friends in the celebration of her 80th birthday.   And looking forward, our youngest child will be eight at the end of the month.  In a fashion similar to my mom, our daughter is busily making plans for a celebration.  And being a pastor, and this being the month of December, Christmas is on my mind, the day that Christians celebrate as the birthday of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

Birthdays have been on my mind, and none with more importance than the birthday of Jesus.  

Our first Christmas card came in the mail today, and inside it was this verse, John 1:3.

“All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.”  

John packs an awful lot into that single verse.  He tells us that in the entire world, in the entire universe, and for all of the universe’s history, there isn’t anything that came into existence apart from Jesus.  Everything that is, and everything that ever was, is and was because of Jesus.  

My daughter, my mom, the people of the church I serve, the countryside where we live, the stars I see in the night sky.  All things, in all times.  Because of Jesus.  Absolutely no exceptions.

And at Christmas we remember that Jesus, who brings all things into existence, entered our very world in a body, a body that was fully human in every way.  We could say that every person is unique, but Jesus, as a living, breathing human, was unique in a way that was distinct from every other person.  For is it was only Jesus who came into the world to be the Redeemer of the world.  It was only Jesus who could take the sin that separated individual people from God, and through His death restore sinners to wholeness with God.  

The life of Jesus is the only life that truly makes a difference in the world.  Great people come and go.  They do great things, sometimes things that are still felt for centuries after they lived.  But only one person lived on earth in such a way as to make an eternal difference.    

Unlike my mother, or my daughter, who have certificates stating the precise day of their birth, we don’t know the actual day or year of Jesus birth.  So we pick the 25th of December, and on that day we remember and celebrate, with joy and thanksgiving, the one birthday in all of human history that truly has significance.  

May it be your joy to know Jesus as your Savior and celebrate His birth this year.