Hear, See, and Do – #4

One of a possible 2 posts for this Christmas eve…

Hear: Rosie Thomas - A Very Rosie Christmas
evadethenoise.com (aka: my friends and me) wrote: “Rosie has a way of making everything she writes seem like it’s been around for years and this Christmas album is no different. Even at my first listen I assumed this was just one of those great traditonal Christmas records people have been listening to for years. I would venture to say that if you’re going to spend money on one new Christmas music this year, it should be this one.”

See: “Fifty People, One Question”

Fifty People, One Question: New Orleans from Benjamin Reece on Vimeo.

Do: Subscribe and Read the Gospel and Culture Project on a Regular Basis
Every now and then I come across something while browsing the abyss that is the internet that captures my attention for an extended period of time. I don’t have time to read everything that I come across in the hundreds of blogs I have in my Google Reader, but one that I “can’t put down” (for lack of a better phrase) is the Gospel and Culture Project.

Love Covers Me

Every so often I find myself overwhelmed by God’s grace in my life. Sometimes they are small things, but when I start thinking about my whole life and I look back and see how God has used so many people and so many situations to make me the man He wants me to be — I get overwhelmed emotionally. Today I came across some photos of my home church of which I’m not in or anything, yet as I looked at them I began to weep. There are photos of young people painting houses for “Neighborhood Impact Paint Day!” and other images of church BBQ’s and game days. And I was reminded of the place where God first showed me the Truth of the Gospel I couldn’t help — and still can’t — but be amazed and simply overwhelmed by His good grace.

I need to look back a lot. It’s not that I don’t see God doing amazing things in my life today, because He is and has, but I need to look back and remember how far God has brought me and cared for me so I don’t get prideful. It’s so simple for me to get caught in the trap of thinking that I did anything to deserve the life God has provided or that I should get any glory for His work. The truth is, apart from His grace — I’m just another lost sinner in need of a Savior. Apart from His plan, His sovereign will, His work, His love — I am nothing. Even coming to Salvation wasn’t something I did, it was a gift given to me by Him and I am eternally grateful. That’s all for today.


As Big As You, originally uploaded by shaycam.

I took this photo last night of a friends brand new baby. It is the hand of a one-day-old child holding his father’s index finger.

Sometimes the photos I take can say more than I can write. It’s not that I think I’m some kind of amazing photographer, but sometimes God allows me to see something that makes me speechless. This is one of those times…

Legalism Stole My Joy But Jesus Died To Get It Back

promises are structures already formed
Photo by Joshua Cook.

“Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” - Mark 7:8 Those are the words of Christ telling the Pharisees basically where they stand in their own hearts. These so called “religious leaders” couldn’t understand why the disciples of Christ wouldn’t wash their hands and follow the ceremonial cleansings before eating. The Pharisees believed that by doing these certain rituals it would make them righteous before God. Even though those rituals weren’t commanded by God, they held that these things must be done or one was considered “unclean”, or worse still, unrighteous. But that’s exactly where they got it all wrong — just like me.

Simply stated legalism could be defined as creating an external standard of righteousness to earn God’s favor. Legalism is what Christ pointed out in hearts of the Pharisees. They thought their own rituals, laws, or whatever would earn God’s favor even though God had never commanded those things in Scripture. Somewhere along the line they started adding to God’s Word with their own, which created all these nit picky (and sometimes absurd) practices which they held to. So it makes sense that they come to confront Christ and his own disciples concerning their traditions. They honestly believed that Christ’s disciples were in sin for not complying to their rules, but the reality was they had completely distorted God’s Word and were placing their law above God’s. It would be nice if I could just leave it there and say it was a problem exclusively for the Pharisees, but I can’t. The fact of the matter is this is exactly what I do and it’s been robbing me of my joy.

Legalism has been taking out notches out of my joy a little bit at a time. This is because, as my pastor clearly stated “legalist’s are more aware of their own sin then what Christ did on the cross.” For a while now I’ve felt that I can’t seem to get it right. No matter how hard I try I can’t seem to always be humble, always trust God, always speak kind words, always be at peace with people, etc., etc., etc. From there I was overwhelmed by the fact that no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t put myself on a daily Bible reading schedule, my prayer times only came before meals, I didn’t share my faith enough at work, etc., etc., etc.. All of these thoughts were stealing my joy because I lost sight of the cross and could only think about myself. Furthermore, I got caught in the trap that I could do enough to earn the Lord’s favor. My own standard of righteousness, like the Pharisees, had taken the place of God’s standard which (or who) is simply Christ. I’ve watched as this has made my heart grow cold as I try and DO everything in my power to please the Lord. I’ve been trying to DO so much to obtain God’s favor, but the truth is I can’t do anything — Christ already did it. That’s the basic premise of the Gospel message! Christ is the only one capable of obtaining favor before the Lord’s eyes because He lived a perfect, sinless life. And as God in the flesh, He then gives up His own life for me so I can reap the benefits and stand righteous before God. It would be impossible otherwise. I can’t stand before a holy God because my sin separates me from Him. But Christ can! Christ can stand for me and God will see His perfect life and not my sin-stained life.

I never expected that Mark 7 would be a life changing passage of Scripture, but it’s been the most freeing thing for my heart. This teaching has has made me more aware of my legalistic heart and in turn my joy has slowly been restored. I’m slowly realizing that I’ve been creating a standard of my own that looks and feels very spiritual, but in the end will cripple only me. My standard will only cause me to look inward and not upward, and that can only lead to a self-righteousness, joyless life. As my pastor also said, “there is nothing you can do to make God love you more or to make God love you less” — Christ finished it on the cross.

If you would like to hear the messages my pastor has been preaching, I have put together a zip file with all 4 sermons. The title of the series is “The Deadly Dangers of Legalism” and as I’ve tried to attest here, the Lord has used it mightily in my life. Click here to download the series.

Hear, See, and Do – #3

Hear: The Song “Only A Man” by Jonny Lang
You may or may not have heard of Jonny Lang, but this guy was a child prodigy, who released his first album at age 15. From what I have read and heard, Jonny became a Christian about six years ago and this song is a reflection of that experience. The lyrics are incredible and when my friend showed Bethany and I the song in the car I teared up a little bit. [click here to hear the song]

See: The 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
We already have our TiVo set, our American flags are out, and I started memorizing names and stats. Ok, the stats part is pushing it, but the TiVo and flags are for real. Bethany and I are probably more excited about the Olympics then you are. It’s true — we’re hardcore about it. In fact, we just finished watching the Japan vs. USA soccer match which started a day earlier than the opening ceremony. Yeah, that’s right — we watched all 90 minutes of it. Many of the games will be going on while we’re snoozing (because of the time change), but I was able to find this “How to watch the Olympics online” post from Wired.com which should help everyone out. I’ll be watching soccer, swimming, gymnastics, and I’m thinking about handball, just because I think it’s funny. “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!….”

Do: Buy and Read How To Read a Book
I’m about 100 pages into this book and I’m quickly realizing why the majority of my professors said that everyone should read this book. It seems silly to read a book on how to read a book, but the truth is I now think I’ve been missing out on how to get the most out of my reading — any kind of reading. It’s a great book and will help with your pleasure reading and your Bible reading as well. I know some of you reading this are heading to college soon, and I’m telling you this would be a huge asset to you.