Salvation Through Suffering

As we’ve all come to know, to be human is to suffer. Everywhere we look – from sick relatives to the flooding from Hurricane Harvey – affliction is not lacking. Where can there be hope in a world like that?

Hope comes from a Savior who suffers and who can sympathize. Hope comes in Jesus restoring all things through His broken body and spilled blood. Salvation comes from suffering.

Below is my sermon from Psalm 22 on the salvation that comes from the suffering of Jesus. Just click the picture below to watch:






11 Father’s Day Gift Ideas

With Father’s Day now 9 days away, you need to pull the trigger on your gift ideas in the next few days if you want Amazon Prime to ship your stuff on time.

I’ll be the first to admit that every gift list has a bias to the writer – and in this case that means this list will hit a sweet spot for the guys who love Jesus and love the outdoors. However, I’m convinced this list can have something for every guy out there.

Here’s 11 great gifts to give your dad next Sunday.

1) New City Catechism Devotional by Colin Hansen and Tim Keller

This is a theologically rich and remarkably versatile devotional written in a catechism format. Originally I had purchased this book to aid in writing family devotions for our student ministry – and this book is perfect for that. It features 52 questions and answer (one for every week of the year) followed by corresponding Scripture, a beautifully crafted prayer and commentary by guys like Tim Keller, John Piper, RC Sproul, Jonathan Edwards and many others. Great gift for a guy to grow in theological depth in his study time but also effective for family devotions.

new city

2) Power tools

Guys like to tinker with just about anything, but you need toys to tinker with. This may require talking to your guy’s friends to double check what tools he doesn’t have but a great place to start is with something like a cordless drill or chainsaw.

3) Ozark Trail Vacuum Insulated Tumbler

With Yeti’s tumbler running around $30, it makes sense to get your man a cup that works just as well for around 1/3 of the price ($8.74).

4) Family Life of a Christian Leader by Ajith Fernando

Written by a man serving Youth For Christ in Sri Lanka, this book is aimed at men serving within their church. This book is deeply practical and Scripturally faithful at every turn. This book is not just for the pastor – it is for any man who wants to shepherd the church and shepherd his family well.

family life

5) Grilling Tools Set

Nothing says dominion like slapping a hunk of meat on a grill and cooking it. So give your man the tools to exercise dominion with ease. You can find a solid set for $25-$35 at any big box store.

6) A knife

Plain and simple: guys like weapons. The great part about a good knife is that it is not only a weapon but it is a functional tool in everyday life – from cutting open boxes to being a very manly letter opener. Almost any knife will work, but an amazing knife is CRKT’s Snap Lock Folding Knife. Super sharp factory edge and the knife has a locking feature that can be opened and closed one-handed. A great grab for $39 on Amazon.


7) Sheepskin Bible

This is the most expensive item on the list – a solid one will go for around $150 – but it is easily the most priceless item on the list. This is the perfect gift for the student of the Word who would treasure a quality Bible.

8) Buy a night out for your guy

Is he a fan of NASCAR or baseball? Grab him some tickets for him and his buddies to have a night out. Even if it is your local minor league baseball team, just having a night with the boys is the true draw of this gift.

9) Toddy Cold Brew System

Is your man a coffee aficionado? This is an awesome gift. You can make cold brew coffee from home with just a pound of your favorite coffee and some water. One batch from my Toddy makes me about 14-18 cups of cold brew depending on how strong I make it. If you add up the $4 your man spends at Starbucks every time he grabs a cold brew, the $35 price tag on the Toddy system makes it a no brainer.

10) membership

Now I do not own a single pair of socks to my name, but I’ve had some friends vouch for this site. Great looking and very comfortable, you can have your man looking fashionable for around $12 a month.

11) OxyLED Camping Latern

This is a neat gift for your outdoorsman. It is a light you can hang from just about anywhere – from a camp site lantern hook to the top of your tent – this small but mighty light can serve a ton of purposes. Even has a remote for one click illumination to check out what went bump in the night on your camping trip. It is a fun, $19 gadget for the outdoorsman that has just about everything.

What did I miss? What are some other must-haves to get the dads out there? Leave your ideas in the comment box below.




Finding Balance in The Busy


“We are so busy with a million pursuits that we don’t even notice the most important things slipping away.” ~ Kevin DeYoung

This past week I had the opportunity to share with a group of student pastors on “Balancing Ministry and Life.” In talking through finding balance in our busy lives, all of the student pastors there (including myself) were convicted on how busyness was swallowing our lives.


As I drove home from this gathering of youth pastors, I started to see that busyness isn’t just a ministry problem but this is a people problem. We all are busy: pastors, small business owners, stay at home moms and 9 to 5ers.


How do we find margin and pause in our lives? My hope is that these nine bits of advice can help you strike a balance between being good at what you do and being an active part of your family as well:

1) Establish a sabbath and protect it at all cost.

God rested [Genesis 2:2-3]. The disciples rested [Luke 23:56]. God commanded rest [Exodus 20:8] We have to be faithful in weekly pursuing that rest. Have a day dedicated for rest and solid, uninterrupted time with your family.

2) Schedule weekly date nights

Just as much a we are dedicated to be a consistent presence at our job, our church or even our gym – our spouse deserves to have that same level of consistency. Date your spouse regularly and show them your love by giving them dedicated time every single week. Even if it isn’t an expensive date out on the town, the best investment we can give our spouse is our time and attention.

3) Embrace the fluidity of your crazy schedule

There is a season for everything [Ecclesiastes 3], so be ready now for the busy seasons and seasons of refreshing. Know that no two weeks look alike and try your best to balance one off the other. Try to follow a busy season at work with dedicated time with family or vice versa.

4) Have a set schedule for the pillars of your job

In this season of student ministry my most visible and crucial weekly responsibilities are preaching Sunday night and writing curriculum for our Sunday morning student groups. Knowing these are non-negotiables for my role, I schedule time for sermon prep and curriculum writing every week and I don’t let anything crowd in on that. Whatever your core responsibilities are, make sure you securely schedule them so you don’t let a busy week choke away time for them, and thus eating into your time to rest.

5) Set aside time every day for dealing with email/messaging.

Technology has made us all instantly accessible at all times. Every time we have an email hit our inbox or our phone vibrates we feel an unspoken pressure to respond instantly. This practice can lead to a woefully unproductive day when you stop what you’re doing 25 – 50 times a day to respond to something. Set time aside everyday to respond to messages but then don’t come back to it the rest of the day. This way, you’re more productive with the day in front of you.

6) When you get home get the cell phone out of your pocket.

You only get a little time with your family – don’t make them compete with your phone. Be comfortable with leaving your phone on the kitchen counter or your nightstand for an hour or two without the need to check it. Otherwise you don’t own a phone, your phone owns you.

7) Where you are, be all there

Work hard so you can play hard with your family. Don’t give every bit of energy to your job so that you come home exhausted with nothing to give your family when you walk in the door. Make wise and productive choices at work so you have enough left in the tank for your family when you spend time with them.

8) Be content to leave your checklist unchecked

There is always a call to make, meeting to go to, person to visit or project to do. Each one of us will have to leave really good things for the next day. The only way you can give your best to great things is to say no to some really good things.

9) Have a brother who can put you in your place

Being the sinful people that we are we’ll do almost anything when we think that we can get away with something [Isaiah 47:10]. The same goes for our busyness. We’ll run ourselves ragged because we think (incorrectly) that we are only hurting ourselves. Have someone who knows you well be able to have a voice in your life to tell you to slow down when you’re going too hard.

***For a great book about this topic check out Kevin DeYoung’s book Crazy Busy ***

Walking In the Resurrection

I had the opportunity to fill in for our pastor last Sunday and gladly preached the week after Easter. We took time to look at Luke 24 and how the Resurrection impacts the believer more than just one weekend a year.


If you have some time I pray God’s Word would build you up as you see Christ power over sin and death. You can view the sermon by clicking the picture below:


Adopted Blood Brothers


***This piece was originally published on Desiring God. You can read the original here.***

So there we were — six of us seated around the table and enjoying each other’s company. Our distinct looking group began to elicit stares. Our group didn’t look like it should go together. At our table were a Lebanese/Brazilian pastor, a bearded student pastor born without arms, a black writer, a white church planter, a middle-aged prison ministry pastor with a massive beard, and a half white/half Argentinian church planter.

Judging our appearances alone, we didn’t seem like a likely group of friends. Factor in our different stages of life and cultural backgrounds, it would appear that there was little common ground among our group. We were six guys with different upbringings and different skin pigments. Regardless of our external and cultural difference, we are blood brothers.

Brothers Bought at a Price

We are not brothers in the biological sense, but we are brothers because of the remarkable work of Christ. We were ransomed by the same Savior, adopted into the same family, and given the same charge to go and spread the gospel. Our brotherhood has nothing to do with the family we were born into, but the family that Christ brought us into. Within that blood-bought family there is an instant depth and weight within the relationship that would otherwise be absent. It is the gospel family bond that brought us six acquaintances together.

Had I let external appearances keep me from spending time with these men, I would have missed a beautiful opportunity to be encouraged in ways I never knew. God’s grace was dripping in our conversation that night and drawing us together. It is the gospel of grace that saves the Jew and Greek, uniting us in the work of Christ (Galatians 3:28).

One of the final pictures we see from the book of Revelation is a countless number of people, from every language and corner of the world, worshiping before Christ (Revelation 7:9–10). Christ does what no man or movement can: He brings all manner of race and age underneath the same term — adopted. He chose men and women from every tribe, tongue, and nationality. Therefore, Christians should never let ethnicity, age, or socioeconomic background determine our meaningful relationships.

Sameness for Its Own Sake Is Sin

Examining the relationships in our lives can be a difficult step to take. Many of us have a circle of friends that look like we do, talk like we do, and dress like we do. That sort of uniformity can be the product of a number of factors like where we live and work. Who we engage and befriend is often a product of our circumstances. That is not a sign of harboring sin or being hateful.

However, the fractures in Christocentric love will arise if we exclude people solely on the basis of their skin tone, nationality, or even their age. The darkness of the human heart shows itself in the cultural favoritism of ethnocentrism or the selective hatred that racism brings. There is no place for either ethnocentrism or racism in the heart of the believer. The call for the believer to love your neighbor does not come with any sort of ethnic qualifiers.

In fact, Jesus paints the picture of “love your neighbor” in Luke 10:30–37 as he tells the parable of the good Samaritan. This traveling Samaritan is someone who stops to help a man who was nearly beaten to death. While Scripture is silent on what ethnicity this victim is, the assumption is he is not a Samaritan. This parable, which is painting the picture of perfect neighbor love, is of a Samaritan man who sacrifices a lot for another man who does not have much in common with him.

Ethnocentrism Crushed by the Gospel

To view the Good Samaritan through the lens of the Great Commission should produce in us a call to love without a preferential profile:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20)

God has laid the call on all of us to “go” and in doing that we are going to every tribe and nation. The God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-focused believer is one who is happy to have his church look like that of Christ’s church in Revelation 7. That will only happen if we are willing to sacrifice our ethnic ease for the sake of God’s gospel.

The same reality we preach to ourselves, that we are remarkably made in the image of God, to fend off our feelings of unworthiness must be the same reality we preach to ourselves about everyone else. The people in my family are made in the image of God. The people in my church are made in the image of God. The people on the other side of town or the other side of the world are made in the image of God. The burden of Genesis 1:27 is that we treat all of mankind in a way that lends itself to how God’s image-bearers ought to be treated.

We go to them. We spend time with them. We tell them of a remarkable gospel. We disciple them. Whoever “them” is may not wholly look and talk like “I” do. That is okay. We should pursue those who do not think like we do or who carry the same skin tone we do. When our relationships and discipleship opportunities start to look like God’s kingdom and not our own, that is when we may experience encouragement like we’ve never experienced it before.

The Curious & Cautionary Case Of Mark Driscoll


***If you haven’t heard Mark Driscoll’s interview with Brian Houston, it will provide a glimpse into Driscoll’s heart nearly a year after he stepped away from Mars Hill Church. You can see that lengthy interview here.***

Flash back to 2011. In evangelical Christian circles, there were few pastors in America who held a more successful resume than Mark Driscoll. He was lead pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, a booming church of around 14,000 in a city famous for having more dogs than Christians. He was a prolific author featured on New York Times best seller list. He was a gifted preacher who was consistently featured on podcasts and in national conferences and seminaries. He founded the para-church organization The Resurgence as well as helping to co-found the Acts 29 Church Planting Network and The Gospel Coalition. The roster of evangelical pastors in his corner was stunning: Francis Chan, John Piper, Matt Chandler, Darrin Patrick. He was the face of the post-Emergent movement and was now the poster child for Reformed Theology. He was a legitimate Reformed rock star.

By 2012, as this burgeoning evangelical empire rapidly grew, so also was a growing concern over Driscoll’s leadership practices and accusations of plagiarism. Then came accounts of him being a pastoral bully against Mars Hill staff and church members. He had bought his way on to the New York Times best seller list. While this empire grew, cracks of ego and arrogance had started to form in Driscoll’s heart. By 2014, Driscoll was removed from Acts 29 and stepped down as pastor of Mars Hill. Driscoll’s attempts to reconcile and repent were too late in view of the damage done. Overnight he went from rock star to the most polarizing figure in evangelical Christianity.

The tale of Mark Driscoll is a sad one, but is is not unique. From Ashley Madison revelations to affairs to deep hidden sin – pastors across the US are falling at alarming rates. If Driscoll, one of the most influential pastors of the last 25 years, can wander – we all can. So what can we learn from the fallout?

Every pastor needs bold love

If you were to take a stroll through the Twitter profiles of the best and brightest in Reformed Theology you’d see a whole lot of boldness: bold beards, bold book quotes and (for some) bold choices in beer. Driscoll’s boldness make him celebrated and hated. He was fearless to feed the sheep and shoot the wolves. Yet while boldness abounded – by Driscoll’s own admission – empathy was lacking. His bold stances began to hurt those closest to him. At times, the pulpit shifted from feeding the sheep to hunting heretics.

There lies the extreme difficulty for the pastor. We are to lead in such a way that brings the body of Christ together underneath His headship while not damaging the brotherhood of the church.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped,when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. ~ Ephesians 4:15-16

We have the call to speak truth in love that the saints may be equipped and we have the call in Ephesians 5 to expose those who hinder the gospel. We are called to be both boldly truthful and deeply loving in beautiful harmony. Truth without love makes you a Pharisee. Love without truth makes you a hippie. Love with bold truth makes the pastor a useful tool in the hands of a Faithful Father, both to feed sheep and shoot wolves.

Every pastor needs accountability

Driscoll’s inner circle consisted of pastors from other churches in other states and lifetime term elders appointed by Driscoll. He had unchecked power to the degree that it was difficult to remove him from leadership at Mars Hill and even when he was removed, his presence and Mars Hill were so intertwined that the church folded once he stepped away. An entourage of “yes-men” allowed his pride to ruin his ministry.

For many pastors, accountability is lacking due to fear not pride. They lack those around themselves who they can confess sin and struggles to. They fear word will spread and that their jobs could be on the line simply because they are transparent. A church culture that lacks an element of confession is one that will turn toxic. A leader that does not have anywhere to turn with their burdens will be one to eventually cave under the weight of their own sin.

For all of us in ministry, there must come checks and balances in our lives and ministries. Having brothers to go to for confession and encouragement is vital in the life of every single believer. Beyond that, the pastor needs co-laborers to save him from his own flesh at times and to ask hard but simple questions:

When was the last time you took a Sabbath?

When was the last time you took your wife on a date?

Why aren’t you taking any of your vacation?

Are you in the Word just to know the Father more?

For many a type-A pastor, his worst enemy is himself. As Paul says in Romans 7, “what a wretched man that I am.” We all need loving brothers to remind that it is Jesus who saves us from this body of death and that it is Jesus’ kingdom we are building and not our own.

Every pastor needs community

Toward the end of Driscoll’s time at Mars Hill, he was mostly isolated from the people he was called to shepherd. Much of it was by his own doing and fractures were created in church relationships. The picture of the unified body of Christ had become skewed.

To go back to Ephesians 4, the whole church is gathered under the headship of Christ – from youth praise band drummer to lead pastor. A loving, relational, Trintarian God created us in His image to relate with Him. Yet, as Adam related to God, He saw it was good for man to have a helper to be in relationship with. We were made by a God in community and saved by the Son who came to sympathize with us. The Father bridged the horrific gap in our holiness by sending His Son to fulfill the Law we couldn’t. The gospel is God’s pursuit of His glory in relationship with man. The reality of gospel truth one that is seen in community. May we all as the bride of Christ seek to laugh together, cry together, pursue Him together, be on mission together.

May every single shepherd know that you are not alone. Your co-laborers in the gospel are facing the same struggle you are. The same temptations. The same frustrations. The same pressures. Yet, we get to preach the same gospel. Stand in the same gospel. Rest in the same gospel. That’s our hope – that we preach the same gospel to ourselves that we preach to our sheep every Sunday.

Put down your kingdom and your glory. Take up His gospel, stand on it and rest in it.

Feed His sheep. Shoot the wolves. Follow the Shepherd.

Abortion Is The Anti-Gospel

This is an article originally written by me for Desiring God. You can view it here.


“You are going to have a healthy baby boy.”

Those are the words every expectant couple wants to hear. But what happens when a couple gets the most stomach-churning news imaginable — news that there’s a medical issue with the tiny little baby growing in his mother’s womb? Parents start to ask questions. Will my baby be okay? What will our little boy’s life be like? How will this boy’s health affect our lives? Will it all be worth the struggle?

A set of parents I know had the same questions race through their minds. They brought a tiny little boy into the world — born without arms. In the face of all those fears, these parents were told the little boy would be helpless and entirely dependent on their care for the duration of his life. The news was grim as doctors painted a picture of toil and frustration in the life of this boy.

Fear and worry flooded their hearts, but for all the bad news, these parents were resting on good news. God loved this little boy. God fearfully and wonderfully made this little boy. God had a plan for this little boy. They shoved fear and doubt to the side and embraced the little boy God had given them.

Parenthood as the Gospel

The realities of the gospel are intoxicating in the book of Romans. In Romans 5:6, Paul writes, “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Christ died for us when we were spiritually helpless. He takes those who are helpless and broken and redeems us. And not only does he rescue the spiritually helpless, but the physically helpless as well.

While the gospel reveals a Savior who lays down his life for those who ran from him, abortion reveals humans extinguishing a life we were meant to love and protect. As you scan the pages of Scripture, it is clear that abortion is the anti-gospel.

Abortion says,

  • Unborn babies have value only as expendable commodities.
  • Each baby is only a clump of tissue, devoid of any purpose or life.
  • There’s not a place for you in my plan right now.
  • Disability limits a chance at any manner of a quality of life.

But the gospel says,

  • We have tremendous value as God’s image-bearers (Genesis 1:27).
  • Each one of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
  • We have lovingly “received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15).
  • God’s glory and grace shine even, and especially, in those with physical limitations or weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Abortion is an assault on the image, character, grace, gospel, and glory of God. For the Christian to see it as anything less than that is to reject a biblical view of God’s gospel and God’s glory. John 9:1–3 shows us how God himself, in the person of Christ, viewed human life as he walked among us, as one of us.

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

While the disciples saw the man’s blindness as a direct result of sin, Jesus saw him as a vessel of God’s grace and glory. Every life is uniquely formed by God to be powerfully rescued and redeemed in Christ for the glory of the Father. Every child in the womb is a masterpiece shaped by the master craftsman.

All Human Life with a Gospel Lens

That baby boy born with no arms is me. Thirty-one years later, God has crushed the professional opinions of skeptical doctors. I’ve been in student ministry for nearly a decade, I have a remarkable wife of nine years, and we have a beautiful three-year-old boy, with a little girl on the way.

I thank God I had parents who willingly and joyfully embraced me with all the challenges that came with having a baby with a disability. They could have chosen to give me up for adoption, or put me in state care, or they could have chosen to abort me. For my parents, abortion would have never been an option. The realities of me being made in the image of God and being wonderfully made in the womb by the Father were forefront in their minds.

Human life is the physical handiwork of God — created in God’s image for God’s glory. Every man or woman that is formed in the hands of the faithful Father has value, purpose, and grace. Never determine the value, quality, or sanctity of a life on the basis of socio-economic background, family structure, ethnicity, or any sort of disability. View human life through the lens of the gospel — that the work of God might be displayed in every single life.

5 Reasons Why Student Ministry Is The World’s Most Rewarding Job

A couple of weeks ago Forbes Magazine polled workers from over 400 different careers and asked these workers if they felt that their work provided meaning in their lives and if they felt their job changed the world. The survey data was collected and used to created a metric for the world’s most meaningful jobs. The results that followed produced a 3-way tie for most meaningful job: orthopedic surgeon, police chief and youth minister.

As a guy who has been in youth ministry for 9 years, initially I was surprised to see a ranking THAT high. Yet, I as I reflected on the last 9 years, I started to think about the reasons that make youth ministry so remarkable. Here’s my 5 reasons why youth ministry is truly the world’s most meaningful job.

1) The fun factor

Chubby bunny. Dodgeball. Lock-ins. Knowing you don’t have to stop going to camp. Youth ministry offers up multiple opportunities every year for even the most grizzled youth ministry veteran to be a big kid. While youth ministry isn’t all fun and games, it is truly a blessing to be able to laugh and have fun at your job day after day.

2) Every day is a new day

Being a youth pastor is never, ever, ever boring. Every day brings something new to the way it will take shape. In almost a decade of youth ministry, I think I’ve done about anything as an offical duty of my job. From changing tires, to sermon prep, to taking kids to the hospital all the way to wrangling a black snake out of church with my bare feet. This job is never dull and rarely redundant. It is exciting to wake up each day to see what God will unfold.

3) I can always bring my family to work

Some jobs have “Bring Your Kid To Work Day.” As a youth pastor, I bring my kid to work on a lot of days. And not only does my wife come to work with me, but she gets to do my job alongside me. It is an awesome thing to watch my wife pouring herself into young women. Its a greater blessing to watch these young women love on my 3 year old like he was their own brother. I don’t have to worry about bringing my work home because my whole family gets to come to work with me and be a part of the vision of the ministry.

4) The beauty of discipleship

One of the most remarkable aspects of youth ministry is that much of the impact and true discipleship happens outside of the walls of church. There’s meeting a kid at 6 am for breakfast so we can talk through the depths of the book of James. It’s praying over a crying student who has just lost a family member. It is the tears of joy when a student leads one of their friends to Christ. Much of the fruit of student ministry comes in life moments and not pre-programmed church events during the week. The investment of time is heavy, but the fruit of that toil is so very sweet.

5) I am part of God’s plan

The most meaningful aspect of this job? God chose me. A man filled with weakness. A man scared of crowds. A man who has had a lifelong struggles with self-doubt. He chose me as a vessel of His grace, to carry His good news to a generation starved for hope and love. God called me to protect and encourage His bride, the Church. My Boss is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. My Boss fearfully and wonderfully made me. My Boss saved me. My Boss loves me like few words can describe.

Simply put – I love my job.

The ISIS Beheadings Are A Call To Prayer, Not War


In the past few days reports of ISIS beheading 21 Egyptians in Libya began to make its way through American news wires and social media outlets.  As I began to read the accounts of the horror and evil being played out half a world away, my stomach was sickened.  My heart broke.  I was filled with anger.  My flesh was raging.

Yet, that was precisely what was going on.  My reaction was all in the flesh.  This scene of persecution and depravity had unearthed a part of me that wanted to go to war.  Yet, a gentle stirring of the Spirit prompted a different reaction.  Go to prayer.

Bloody Ground Brings Bold Belief

Tertullian, an early Christian author from North African famously penned,

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Those words ring incredibly true of the early New Testament church.  As Stephen’s blood is spilled on the ground in Acts 6, that same ground would bear witness to the gospel taking root all around it.  The church that we see as aliens and strangers while dispersed by persecution is the same church that is refined by fire to the glory of God in 1 Peter 1.  Fast forward to the 21st century and we see the underground church oppressed by aggressive regimes in China and North Korea but the church is growing.

The beheadings of ISIS reveals the deep depravity of man, but we are also seeing the bold plan of God.  The gospel is reaching those who hate it.  Those in the deepest need of the hope of Christ are meeting His gospel face to face.  ISIS is seeing Romans 5 fleshed out that, “while we were sinners Christ died.”

Christ died for His bride, even when she hated Him and ran from Him.  There is no region that resists the gospel harder than North Africa and the Middle East but God is doing mighty things in these dark places.  The gospel is spreading, even as evil lashes out against it.

From Persecutor to Proselyte

We must again go back to the scene in Acts 6.  As the crowd begins to stone Stephen, they lay down their outer garments to keep them from being bloodied at the feet of a young man named Saul.  A young persecutor that God would soon use as a Christian missionary and author to much of the New Testament.  God takes Saul from blood thirsty to born again to being sent out.

So why not again?  Who are any of us to say that the exact same thing isn’t happening again?  As the martyrs are proclaiming the gospel with their dying breath, the seed of the gospel is carried into the darkest depths of ISIS.  Before we burn with hate against these persecutors we must remind ourselves that these men may one day be our brothers in Christ.

Pause to Pray

As you think on this horrific scene, my plea to you is to pray in two ways:

1) Pray for the persecuted church  – Specifically in Muslim states.  The gospel is there and being shared, but pray for fertile soil, strength for the church and boldness for believers to share Jesus.  The circumstances are tough, but the gospel is greater.

2) Pray for the persecutors of the church – Their own eyes and hands are often the last witness of God’s grace in the lives of these martyrs.  May Christ become their everything, even through these horrible times.

Church now is the time to pray, not to go to war.