About Me

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I am a 25-year old sinner saved by grace. I have been richly blessed with a wonderful wife. I work to find Christian homes for children in foster care. I photograph weddings and portraits with my wife. Most importantly, I love Christ because He has saved me, and I hope that by reading this blog, you will be pleased to say the same.

Monday, April 4, 2011

New Blog

Hello everyone!

Well I've moved my blog over to WordPress. You can access it at dustinsmetona.wordpress.com. All new posts will be over there. I will obviously leave this one up to function as an archive for all of my old posts.

As always, my prayer is that you will find "ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus!"

Grace to you from the Savior,
Dustin Smetona

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Superiority of Gospel Wealth

2 Corinthians 8:9
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich."

One of the great joys of trusting in Christ is an unwavering assurance of the blessed future which He has secured for us. Our assurance does not come because of anything we've done, but it's based all on His work and our trust in that work. Therefore, we can be sure that what He has accomplished and purposes to accomplish will be done.

This news is wonderful, not only because of what will come, but also because of the practical effects it has on us right now. It provides for Christians a richness which the world cannot attain. These riches are much more effective in alleviating physical and emotional suffering than material wealth ever could. Allow me to give a few examples:
  1. Gospel wealth fixes relationships.
    Perhaps the greatest example to illustrate is the father who tries to buy his daughter's love even though he's never around. That situation has been showcased over and over again in cinema. The father never has any time for his daughter but will buy her whatever she wants to try and make her happy. The girl wants her dad, not his money.

    In this example, the Gospel would fix both people and allow their relationship to be mended. The daughter would no longer have an absolute need for her father's affection because she would be satisfied by God's fatherly care. The father wouldn't have to prove his worth by making money, so he could work less hours thereby having more time to spend with his family. If they were both satisfied by Christ, they would be free to love each other.

  2. Gospel wealth secures joy.
    Joy, in our culture, is found only in the temporary and aesthetic. People work for happy hour and hook-ups. They pick jobs that will make them money so that they can have status and feel like an elite. If they can't achieve the things they have established are of ultimate value, then they have no joy. The Gospel changes all of that. If Christ has you, He will never lose you (Jn. 10:28). If you have Christ, you will never lose Him. Even if you lose all earthy wealth and relationships, you will still have Christ and the knowledge of all He's done out of love for you. Your joy is secure.

  3. Gospel wealth heals the world.
    When you are rich with the Gospel, knowing that Christ has provided all, you are free to give your resources and time. When you are confident that "God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19), you will not hoard your resources. You're free to give to those who can't give back to you. We need an army of people with that freedom in order to conquer the world's social ills.

I pray that you find all of your satisfaction in the knowledge of Christ's love for you. A love that's not mere sentiment, but proved itself through decisive, self-sacrificing action. No treasure can so comprehensively care for you as Jesus Christ can. As Tim Keller says, "Every other treasure demands that you die in order to have it. Jesus Christ is the only treasure that died in order to have you."

Be richly blessed as Jesus more and more becomes your treasure and your very great reward!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Your Talents - God's Plan

Exodus 25:10-11
10"They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 11You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it."

Most Christians identify ministry with a church (pastors and ministry directors) and/or organizations that address social ills (i.e. World Vision, Compassion International, etc.). However, the majority of Christians don't fill positions at churches or nonprofits. Many of them are jewelers, entrepreneurs, carpenters, musicians, landscapers, and bankers. How do their jobs serve the glory of God? And I'm not just talking about sharing the Gospel with co-workers, I'm talking about the work itself.

This passage from Exodus about the construction of the ark is a perfect example. Allow your imagination to conjure up the image of a Middle-Eastern man, I'll call him Michael. He is the most skilled goldsmith in Israel at the time Moses is leading the people. Once Moses gets the specs for the ark, he summons Michael to build it according to the description God has given. Michael pours all of his skill and effort into the ark because He understands that God's presence will sit on the mercy seat which He is fashioning.

Do you think Michael realized that God had been preparing him for this task well before he was ever aware? God had orchestrated all of Michael's tasks as a goldsmith to build up his skill so that he could build this ark which would symbolize God's holy presence among the people of Israel and would serve as preparation for humanity's Savior. Michael's ability to work with gold was an important element in God's plan to save the world.


Question: do you feel like your skills and talents are worthless for ministry? Remember that God's plan is to use your talents for His glory. Be looking and searching for ways to bring God glory and to bless others. More importantly, know that you "are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).

May God open many doors for you to use your talents to draw people to the Savior and to bring Him glory!


Monday, February 28, 2011

God - Gracious in the Old Testament?

2 Chronicles 30:18-20
"18For a majority of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, 'May the good LORD pardon everyone 19who sets his heart to seek God, the LORD, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.' 20And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people."

One of the popular criticisms that folks today make of the Old Testament is that it depicts a cruel God who rules with an iron fist. This is, of course, contrasted with the New Testament "fluffy lamb" - namely Jesus - who loves everyone. There are even "Christians" who have sought to throw the OT out and hang on to just the NT documents (consider the "German Christians" who went apostate in Germany during Hitler's rise to power).

This view, which lacks cohesion between both testaments, cannot be held onto when one actually reads the Bible. This passage is a perfect example.

Here in 2 Chronicles 30 King Hezekiah has taken over the monarchy of the southern kingdom, Judah. At this point in Israel's history, the nation has been split in two - Israel up north and Judah down south. In a daring move, Hezekiah invites not only people from his kingdom to participate in the reinstating of the Passover, but also the people of the northern kingdom! Many of them, unfortunately, "scorned and mocked" Hezekiah's invitation (v. 10b). Still it was not a total loss, some did respond and made the trek to Jerusalem in order to commit their hearts back to the LORD.

Those who did make the journey must have realized their desperate need to be restored to their true God. The northern kingdom had been exceedingly unfaithful to Him and had been experiencing severe oppression by the nation of Assyria. Those who made it to Jerusalem had escaped this oppression. In their faithlessness, they had not been keeping up with ceremonial law and were thus considered unclean which would deem them unfit to participate in the Passover observance and celebration.

God's Grace Apart from Works
The beautiful part of this passage comes right after Hezekiah's prayer where the chronicler writes, "And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people." The king knew these Israelites were unfit to be restored to God because of their failure to observe the law. He also knew that their only hope of restoration would be through God's cleansing, not their own works. In order to show His lovingkindness, God grants Hezekiah's request. The LORD effectively teaches Israel (and us) that the heart is of supreme importance to God. He knows that if the heart is changed, the actions will follow.

Preparing the Way for the True Cleanser
Not only does this passage show us God's character (he delights to pardon), but it prepares the way for the One who would once and for all accomplish mankind's cleansing. Jesus' coming and His substitution for sinners would show us decisively that God "desires mercy and not sacrifice" (see Hos. 6:6 and Mt. 9:13). He knows our inability to uphold the standards which He laid out in the law. And so, He has made the sacrifice in order that we may obtain His mercy. He has provided the law-abider to stand in place of the law-breakers. This is the grace we must put all of our trust in if we wish to be changed in the heart and be restored to our Maker.


If you're a skeptic who thinks God is some bully in the sky, won't you reconsider? The just judgment which He has rendered against humans, He has bore in Himself so that we can be saved.

If you know Christ already, I pray that you would sink deeper into His love by seeing more and more, all the He has done for you! He has proved over and over His love for you. Taste it once again and continue to be changed!

May the Lord grant to all of you a greater understanding of His pardoning grace!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Christian Liberation of Women

In my last post I sought to articulate how modern, American culture attempts to liberate women through the promotion of corporate success, physical beauty, and sexual promiscuity. While that movement has accomplished plenty of good things (i.e. women's suffrage, women in the business world, women's rights, etc.), it has also caused a form of oppression to arise against women with more traditional values.

I think it's important to note that this kind of cultural/societal oppression goes back and forth. Women have been oppressed into the "traditional" mold and the "modern" mold. Sins have been committed on each side. Whenever either side gains momentum, they look down on those who disagree with them. My answer to this problem is not to take sides. I see that each side has their strengths and their weaknesses. The deep-seeded problem, however, is that both mentalities have the same fatal flaw. The flaw in both is that they are seeking self-satisfaction in their own accomplishments. They are enslaved to searching for significance in themselves. Their liberation can only come when they find significance outside of their achievements.

In view of all that, the question I am seeking to answer is this: How does the announcement of what Christ has done (the Gospel) liberate women from their cultural bondage?

I'd like to answer in three parts:

1. Christ Liberates Women from Self-Pity
Self-pity is really an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. Its onset comes about as a result of an inability to reach perceived goals. I've identified that the woman with modern values is looking for corporate success, physical beauty, and sexual promiscuity. In her mind, she has created a level that she must reach in each of those categories to feel satisfied. The traditional woman does the same thing but with well-behaved children, a beautiful home with which to entertain guests, and a loving husband. We all do the same thing, just plug in your own particular ideals. We may think "If I can just get a job that I enjoy going to everyday, then I'll be happy!" or "If I can just lose 20 more pounds, then I'll finally like my body!" You get the picture.

Those of us who've done this for long enough realize that it's a battle which cannot be won. Once we get that job we love going to, eventually we have days or weeks where we wish we could stay home or find another one. When we lose 20 pounds we still feel fat. We've tried every parenting trick in the book and still our kids seem overly defiant. It's at that point when self-pity sinks in. We just don't feel successful, beautiful, or talented even though we've done all we can. The problem is that we are looking for an abiding sense of satisfaction internally and peripherally.

The Gospel-saturated Christian is saved from this self-depleting mentality. We don't have to seek satisfaction in personal achievements. Why would we when we know that "
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32). God gave up His greatest treasure, His only Son, so that He could have us. Through Jesus, God has given us eternal life, abundant life, freedom, work, family, inheritance, spiritual gifts, the fruit of the Spirit, righteousness, holiness, and a host of other blessings. If we hold on tight to this truth, there is never a need to feel inadequate since He has made us adequate! All our necessary achievements have been met by Christ. Whenever your head drops because you fail to achieve your self-made goals, think about all that Jesus has secured for you and He will become the "lifter of your head" (Ps. 3:3).

2. Christ Liberates Women from Self-Worth
When you read this title you may ask the question, "What's wrong with self-worth? Isn't that a good thing?" Let me define what I mean by "self-worth" before I talk about why women need liberation from it. When I say "self-worth" I mean that she finds her value in herself, namely her accomplishments. If she sets standards for herself and achieves them, then she feels like she's worth something.

Let's look at the modern woman and the traditional woman again. The modern woman tells herself, "Once I make CEO, then I'll know I'm talented and hard-working!" Our traditional woman tells herself, "If I can just marry a handsome, hard-working man then I'll know I'm loved!" Once again, each woman has identified a temporary object that is supposed to give them lasting satisfaction. They are asking those objects to bear a burden which they can't possibly bear! Pause for a moment and plug your own object into that phrase. What are you waiting for or hoping for that you think will FINALLY make you happy?

Got it in your head? Now, allow me to burst your bubble: it won't make you happy.

Do you know why this kind of discontentment exists? So that you will long for the LORD! God makes temporary things unsatisfying so that you will say that "as a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God" (Ps. 42:1). St. Augustine puts it wonderfully when he writes, "You have created us for Yourself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in You."

Am I saying that women shouldn't desire to be CEOs or to have good husbands? Nope. I'm saying that they need to find their satisfaction in the good news that Jesus has redeemed them by sheer grace. Jesus' love and affection is the only thing that can give them the satisfaction which they long for. If they try to make a job or a man do that for them, they'll be faced with disappointment after disappointment. And why would she do that when Christ is standing there saying, "I have loved you with an unbound love. Is that not enough?" If she comes to a place where Christ is enough, then she will be free from the need to find her worth in herself. She feels worthy because Christ loves her, not because of her accomplishments.

3. Christ Liberates Women from Selfishness
The reason that human societies decay is due mainly to selfishness. We humans (especially Americans) look at our resources, abilities, and talents as ways in which to advance ourselves. Let us consider, for the third and final time, our modern woman and our traditional woman. The modern woman looks at her promiscuous sexuality as a means for her to ultimately please herself, not to please another. And the traditional woman looks at having well-behaved children as a sense of status and accomplishment. Neither of these women are using their respective talents purely for the sake of others or to glorify God.

The reality is that the sin committed by each and every woman (man as well) has racked up a debt with God that they can never hope to repay. Each one has slighted God and hurt other people through their self-glorifying deeds. And Christ, in His mercy, has come, at infinite cost to Himself, and paid their debt. How can a woman moved by that kind of love try to boast about her own accomplishments? A woman who is profoundly struck by that good news rejoices with the psalmist declaring that "My soul makes its boast in the LORD" (Ps. 34:2). She who knows all that Christ has done for her is free from selfishness. She knows that she is nothing, but she also says in her heart that "Christ has regarded my helpless estate and hath shed His own blood for my soul" (from the hymn It is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford).


Jesus Christ's love is not some abstraction. It is made known in tangible action. He has accomplished so much for you, not because you are deserving, but because you are needy. You cannot add to it; "It is finished!" You need nothing else to be satisfied. Forget about sexual conquest, a respectable family, a high-paying job, and your looks. They will never make you truly joyful. Rejoice in the King who became poor, so that His peasants could become His royal court.

I pray with Paul in Ephesians 3:19 that you "know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge." When you do, you will be free from every cultural bond.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Modern Oppression of Women

One of the most common critiques of Biblical Christianity is the complaint that the Bible champions the oppression of women. On the surface, this seems to be an easy complaint to make when you read a passage like 1 Timothy 2:11-12 where Paul instructs Timothy to have women "learn quietly with all submissiveness" and that he doesn't "permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man." When most modern, secular women read this they point the finger and say "Oh what an awful primitive idea! This is why I'll never believe in the God of the Bible. He's clearly patriarchal and has no concept of women's rights. This is oppressive to women and has kept us from our potential for ages!"

Now, I could go and explain why these verses don't carry the tone that you are imposing upon them, but let me present a different problem. When you look at that passage and claim that it is oppressive to women, you are implying that the culture and the beliefs that you subscribe to do not oppress women. Sure, there are still obstacles to overcome, like the fact that men generally make more money than women and still hold jobs higher up the ladder. But we have made leaps and bounds in the last few hundred years.

You may think that the three pinnacles of womanhood are a high-paying job, physical attraction, and sexual freedom. In light of that, let me explain three things our culture holds to that collectively oppress and marginalize women today.

1. Homemakers as Inferiors
The modern practice of devaluing the woman who wants to be monogamous, raise kids, and take care of her home is incredibly oppressive to a large portion of American women. There are plenty of women who have no ambition to work themselves up the corporate ladder, but want to raise a family, hold down the household, and love their husband. That ambition is no less respectable than a woman who wants to be successful in business. The minute that you feel superior to a homemaker, you have begun to passively oppress them.

2. Physical Beauty as Paramount
Many women in our culture are indirectly and even directly oppressed by magazines, cosmetic companies, gyms, fad diets, and plastic surgeons. They continually promise that if you'll take their bait, you'll finally feel self-confident, important, and respectable. First off, how many of those products actually deliver what they promise? And secondly, even if you get washboard abs, implants, and a face-lift, how does that make you feel any better? Typically, people who buy into any of those things never feel satisfied. There is always someone prettier than you, younger than you, and more interesting than you. It'll never be enough. Someone is always breathing down your neck, telling you what to do to finally find self-satisfaction through physical appearance. They are stealing your money and your joy because of all the pressure our cultural norms put on you.

3. Sexuality as a Means of Self-Expression
I doubt anyone would disagree with me if I said that monogamy is going out of style. The traditional view favors monogamy instead of sexual prowess and sexual experience. Women (and men), in our culture, who haven't had sexual experiences with multiple partners are somewhat disdained, either as unattractive or boring and rigid. Cohabitation is on the rise making couples who don't live together before marriage an anomaly. How is this oppressive to women you ask? Well, what does sex represent? Engaging in sex with someone is the most intimate physical act that one can commit. When you expose yourself in that manner to somebody, you aren't simply "expressing yourself", you're giving that person a part of you. You're letting them see you at your most vulnerable moment. So our culture, by encouraging women to sexual promiscuity, isn't merely liberating them to sexual freedom. Instead, the culture is refusing them the ability to ever have a unique, intimate, love relationship.


My purpose in this so far has been to show you that our modern culture oppresses women. The way in which our culture claims to liberate women from primitive, traditional values is actually enslaving them. This happens because the natural tendency of humans is to oppress. When we think we've got the superior knowledge, we treat those who have a "primitive" or "unenlightened" view of things as less than us. So what's the answer? How shall we cease to oppress women?

I'm convinced that the answer is found in the Christian gospel. I'll explore that in the next blog post entitled The Christian Liberation of Women. Stay tuned.

Grace and peace,

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Suffering in God's Presence

At one point or another, in every person's life, suffering becomes intensely personal. If you're reading this, then you have probably experienced suffering or are currently suffering in some measure. You suffer regardless of your religious persuasion (or lack thereof), political alignment, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. You will suffer due to economic woes, death of loved ones, tragic accidents, relational breakdown, and the like. So what's my point: everyone suffers.

So if we all suffer, the question then arises: how should we navigate suffering? Obviously, I can't address all the many different ways we suffer. My observations have to be very general. Let me note though, that I am not referring to suffering that comes as a direct result of your own sin (i.e. if you commit a crime, then you go to jail). Sometimes we are given mercy from bad decisions we make in this life, but other times we aren't. In this post, I'm talking about suffering that does not come as a direct result of bad decisions you've made. I'd like to propose two things that we can cling to for dear life when in the midst of unprovoked anguish.

1. Suffer in the Light of the Cross
When you suffer, the natural struggle is to wonder why God is allowing such heinous things to happen to you. And there is nothing wrong with wondering that. What happens, though, is that there normally comes a point where you feel like you're being punished. So how do you know, when you're suffering, that God is not punishing you? The cross.

When you look to the cross, you understand that Jesus took every last ounce of the punishment you deserved. As the old hymn Before the Throne of God Above says:

For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me

I can confidently say, that when you suffer, God is not punishing you. He loves you. The cross is the proof. God no longer sees you as a rebel in defiance of His commands, but as a precious child. He is a good, a caring Father who gives you that which is for your good (see Lk. 11:11-13, Rom. 8:28).

2. Suffer in God's Presence
Another problem you may experience in suffering is loneliness. Sometimes, you can feel alienated from others who aren't suffering as you are. Then to compound the problem, people will quote cliché phrases in an attempt to comfort you. All you really need is them to weep with you and hurt with you, even if they can't comprehend your pain.

How, then, does God's presence alleviate this sense of loneliness?

Firstly, He doesn't expect you to "pick yourself up by your bootstraps" and "move on with life." He expects you to feel the pain. He's not sitting on His throne looking down at you, waiting for you to get over it. Is it any wonder that Paul refers to Him as the "God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction" (2 Cor. 1:3-4)? He wants to see you persevere through the trials, not circumvent them.

Secondly, He is able to sympathize with your suffering because He, Himself, suffered. When He looked ahead to His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ even asked the Father if it would be possible not to suffer (Mt. 26:39). He suffered just thinking about His coming suffering!

Lastly, He has put His Spirit in the church (1 Cor. 3:16). If you are surrounded by a loving church family, then you can experience God's presence in the community of believers around you. This is the most intensely practical and helpful way to find comfort in the midst of hardship. If you are disconnected from your church family, then get involved with people at church.


Let me finish by saying that this post is really for people who are not suffering. If you are suffering, you don't need information; you need a community of people around who will pray with you, cry with you, hug you, hold your hand, and to generally be present. Hopefully, these things will help, but they are more helpful to work as reinforcement for those not currently suffering.

May the Lord's steadfast love carry you through all of life's trials!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

One Deficient Wedding vs. One Delightful Wedding

I was listening to a sermon by Tim Keller the other day called "Lord of the Wine" which was about Jesus' first miracle: changing water into wine (You can listen to and download the sermon by clicking here). Normally, people like to use this passage as a justification for Christians to drink, which is wildly offensive to the text (not that I disagree with that assertion, but making that the aim really trivializes the meaning of such a rich passage). Anyway, Tim talks about Jesus' response to Mary and how it indicates that He is looking forward to His future wedding. Jesus is profoundly moved by reflecting on what is needed to purify His bride for that day. He understands that the wine of His blood must be spilled in order for His bride to enjoy wine at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Is. 25:6, Mt. 26:29).

This got me thinking, "How does my wedding measure up to the one which we will enjoy with Christ in His kingdom?" I came up with three deficiencies from my wedding, which will in no way be deficient in the feast we will enjoy with Christ (This warrants a qualification: I am in no way unhappy with my wedding. Kristin and I had a great wedding and are very satisfied with it!). So take a look at these three contrasts.

Contrasts of Our Wedding with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb:

1. No Wine
Kristin and I didn't have one drop of alcohol at our wedding. Right off the bat my conservative Christians readers are thinking "Yeah, smart move. Alcohol consumption is evil"; whereas my liberal readers are thinking "What a couple of judgmental, conservative freaks. Don't they know how to have any fun?" Well, you're both wrong. We didn't have any alcohol because we were paying primarily out of our own pockets and couldn't afford it. Our venue charged a huge extra fee to have alcohol and then forced you to hire a bartender. We decided that it would have to be left out.

So how is this contrasted with the feast we will enjoy with Christ? There will be plenty of wine at His party. Consider what Jesus says in Matthew 26:29: "I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom." Why is wine important? What does it signify? In the words of Tim Keller: festival joy. Wine is important because it, especially in ancient cultures, defines the life of a party. When the wine runs out, the party is over. This is why it is so critical that Jesus turns the water into wine in John 2. He saved that party, thereby showing that He would be the life of the party at the coming feast. The presence of wine at the feast can be boiled down to represent one thing: joy! Our senses will reach an ultimate ecstasy, never experienced here on earth. Wine is a shadow, a sign that points us to the joy in which we will partake. This is secured for us because Christ poured out the wine of His blood to cleanse us for that day.

2. No Food
The second struggle on our wedding day was lack of food. Now saying that we had "no food" is a dramatization. There was SOME food. However, the guy we hired to come and do tacos only sent one employee to cook and serve 150 guests. Needless to say, his services were unquestionably deficient.

Isaiah 25:6 reads, "On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined." This verse pictures a feast which will take place in the established kingdom of God. Here, there is no shortage of food. The marrow and fat off of meat represents the best parts of it, not the gristle. This abundance of food teaches, similarly to wine, that our senses will be absolutely satisfied. A note to remember: we will not go away to heaven to enjoy the kingdom of God, the kingdom will be creation restored. Our mortal bodies will be perfected and we will eat and drink just as Jesus did after the resurrection. We will eat, not out of gluttony, but to glorify God and celebrate all that He has done for us. It is the same with alcohol; we won't drink to be drunk, we will drink to glorify God and celebrate all that He has done for us.

3. No Time
My last point is that Kristin and I were only at our reception for about an hour and a half. For those of you who understand wedding time lines, that is ridiculously short! This is attributed to the fact that nobody was getting fed and our plan was to have our grand entrance once everyone had food. This of course didn't work out so great.

The beauty of our festival joy with Christ will be that it never ends! Just imagine having joy that is infinitely greater than anything you've ever experienced for an infinite amount of time. The point is, you can't even begin to imagine what that's like! There will be no constraints, nothing better to do, no other places to go or people to see. We will enjoy Christ forever.


How did Jesus secure all of this for us? Through sacrifice. In our world, people are only saved from poverty when someone with more wealth sacrifices it for their sakes. We are the spiritually impoverished, so Jesus, by giving up His riches, has secured an incredible inheritance which we shall enjoy for age after age after age to come. Oh what rich blessings has the Savior secured for weary, broken sinners!

I pray that your hope would be complete in knowing all that Christ has purchased for you with His precious life!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Forgetful God

One of God's most important qualities - especially for sinners like us - is His forgetfulness. Where would we be if God were not a forgetful God? But before I go further, let me explain a distinction between how God forgets and how we forget.

We use the word forget to refer to something we lose track of unintentionally. That is, when we forget something, we normally don't mean to! Some unfortunate things that we typically forget may include our spouse's birthday, our password, our keys, our coffee (terribly tragic), and so on. We don't desire to forget any of those things, but we do because of our lack of capacity to remember.

God, on the other hand, only forgets when He intends to. This is because His capacity to remember is infinite. He can't forget anything! That is, of course, unless He means to.

So if God can only forget on purpose, what does He forget? Consider the following three verses:

Isaiah 43:25
"I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins."

Jeremiah 31:34
"And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

Ezekiel 33:16
"None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live."

The only thing that God willfully forgets is sin. But how does He actually do that? If His capacity to remember is infinite and infallible, how can He make something disappear from it?

Understand that He doesn't just magically wish your sins away and they disappear. Instead, He "remembered" your sins on Christ, and as a result He "remembers" Christ's righteousness on you! Do you realize how costly that was to Him? Do you know how much it hurt God to forgive you? It was infinitely costly for God to forget your sins. You are indebted to Christ for what He has done on your behalf, but He doesn't require you to pay. That's the point of the Gospel: that Christ has done it all so that you can have it all even though you've done nothing. Only an experience of that kind of extravagant grace can propel humans to live the kind of life that God requires of us. It has to be a life of gratitude, not a life of duty.

So how, dear reader, in light of this Gospel, can you store up grudges and bitterness toward others? Instead, may you forgive as you have been forgiven, even though it is exceedingly painful to forgive. Teach others about the love God has shown you by remembering their sins no more.

May you know and then model the same kind of forgetfulness as our gracious God!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Grown-Up Christmas List (Part 3)

So we've reached the last installment of my 3-part series motivated by the Christmas song "My Grown-Up Christmas List." In the previous post, I listed out 4 things the lyricist asks Santa for which God has already promised to satisfy. In this post I intend to offer some encouragement for Christians to be agents of change practically in this world.

My basis for offering this encouragement is the Gospel. If I don't lay this foundation then my encouragements will come across as guilt trips and fail to miss the crucial point that we need a new heart which only the Gospel supplies. If you work to improve social ills without the Gospel, then you will inevitably do it for your own self-satisfaction or to feel like your life has meaning. Your satisfaction needs to be established already by the Gospel in order to treat social ills correctly and to guard you from burning out.

So then, how does the Gospel function as the motivation for improving social conditions? Let me present three ways:

1. The mission of Christ's first coming was to become poor so that the spiritually impoverished could become rich.

2. The mission of Christ's first coming was to become broken so that the spiritually sick could become whole.

3. The mission of Christ's first coming was to become fatherless so that spiritual orphans could become the children of God.

Think about how you have been affected in each of those three categories by the work of Christ. Now, I'm not going to spend time treating those. For the Christian, I think you can understand where I'm getting them from. (Perhaps in the future I'll do a more thorough job with those points.) So with those three things in view, let's turn them into Gospel-motivated, tangible action.

1. Impoverishing Ourselves for the Poor
Poverty is a major influence on a number of other social issues: racism, child neglect, drug addiction, and starvation to name a few. The more that people gather in urban areas, the less autonomous they become. That is, since people in urban or suburban areas cannot grow their own food, milk their own cows, and dig a well for their own water, they must have currency to exchange for life's essentials. When a person does not have the power to earn enough money (due to either their own poor choices or uncontrollable circumstances) then they cannot get what they need to sustain life.

Poverty is becoming an increasing problem because the world is becoming more and more urbanized. And it is, in turn, promoting many other social ills. So what should Christians do?

Well to start, they should go to where people are hurting. This was Jesus' method. He saw our poverty and came to us. Through sin, we were spiritually poor, having nothing with which we could bring to God to show our worth. So Christ, came to us that He might give us His righteousness and turn our spiritual poverty into unparalleled gain. Dear brothers and sisters, make it a mission to bring people out of poverty, just as Christ has done for you! Does this mean you have to go half way around the world? Nope. I guarantee there are poor people suffering in a city near you.

Second, they should give their resources so that the poor might become satisfied. Christ spared nothing for our sakes. He gave up His status, His comfort, His home, His company, and His love so that we might experience all of those things. Are you willing, with overflowing joy, to do the same for others so that they may know the Christ which you proclaim? And even if they don't come to know Him, will you do it anyway out of gratitude to Christ?

2. Becoming Sick to Make Others Well

I won't spend too much time here because this can become kind of abstract. But, here is my basic point: are you willing to give your comfort and even your health for the sake of others? Caring for people who are sick is a tremendous burden and puts you at risk of becoming sick yourself. But do you value your health and your comfort so much that you would hold onto it when you could give it for the sake of others?

Isaiah 53:5 tells of the day when our healing came through His stripes. Jesus was made sick and cursed so that our souls could be healed and we could be blessed. What a great Savior! Out of love for Christ, let us give up our comforts so that we may comfort others!

3. Fathering the Fatherless
For those of you who know my vocation, you will understand how dear orphan care is to me. Even though God's adoption of Israel isn't explicit in the Old Testament, they are referred to as His children many times. In the New Testament, one of the blessings associated with salvation is that of adoption. This elevates those whom God has redeemed from more than mere slaves or servants who owe Him a debt, but it assigns them the status of beloved children. At one time God was not our father. But He gave His only biological (begotten) Son, so that He could have myriads of adopted sons and daughters.

There are 147 million global orphans. There are 423,000 children in U.S. foster care who either need temporary care from loving foster parents or an adoptive family. Will you consider caring for orphans so that you may lavish them with the same love that God has lavished upon you? It is a parable to the world of what God has done to enlarge His family.


My prayer, brothers and sisters, is that you love Christ. I pray that you continue to see the many facets of His great love with which He has loved you. But my prayer doesn't end there. I pray that the appreciation you have for Christ overflows in good deeds to those who cannot pay you back. Is that not what Christ has done? He has paid a debt that we could never pay, so that we could have eternal life that we don't deserve.

So when next Christmas comes around, don't ask Santa to fix the world. Trust that God will one day redeem it completely, and do what you can, with the power and influence you have, to enact change now. The poor, the sick, and the fatherless are in despair all year round. Don't wait until next Christmas to be charitable, start now.

May your increasing gratitude toward Christ produce an increase of self-sacrifical deeds toward suffering people!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Grown-Up Christmas List (Part 2)

In my previous post, I brought to the table a Christmas song entitled "My Grown-Up Christmas List." The chorus of the song appeals to Santa for 4 essential things:

1. No more suffering
2. No more war
3. No more evil
4. Everlasting love

I made the point that this vision of society which the lyricist is asking Santa for has already been promised by one who is "much less fictional and way more powerful than Santa." I also brought up the point that people should be doing what they can, within their sphere of power and influence, to bring about the songwriter's requests without asking Santa.

This post is all about what God has in store regarding the end of suffering, war, evil, and His everlasting love. So allow me to take them point by point.

1. No More Suffering

Isaiah 51:10
"And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."

Notice particularly the last part of this verse that goes "sorrow and sighing shall flee away." The imagery tells of suffering not merely ceasing, but it's hurried departure away from God's redeemed, joy-filled people. This would have been an exceptionally enticing picture to Isaiah's audience who would be experiencing exile. Because of suffering, we are all experiencing exile in some way. Our bodies, minds, and emotions were not designed to suffer and be burdened. We were originally designed for the Garden of Eden which entailed no such suffering physically, relationally, or emotionally. But now, people suffer in these ways constantly. This is not as it should be. Isaiah's prophecy pictures a day when this degeneration of the created order will be restored.

So why ask Santa for that which God has promised for His redeemed? Instead, find endurance for your suffering in the hope of God's coming restoration. Find satisfaction in the the reality that Jesus became a "man of sorrows" so that you would have sorrow no more.

Matthew 5:3-4
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

2. No More War
Isaiah 2:4
"He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore."

When God's final rule extends to the whole earth, those who make war will turn their implements into tools for tilling the land. Instead of fighting, people will be farming. They will be engaging in an activity which makes use of our natural resources and promotes human thriving. This is juxtaposed to war which uses natural products to make weapons which crush human lives and deny humans the ability to flourish.

Why again, would you ask Santa to cease all war? Is he powerful enough to do that? Instead, find solace in the fact that Jesus made the greatest act of war against our true enemies at the cross. And, all praise to God, He defeated them for our sakes!

Colossians 2:15
"He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in [Christ]."

3. No More Evil
Jeremiah 3:17
"At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the LORD, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart."

In this passage evil is portrayed as a condition instead of a force. The actions which cause the suffering and war which plague the world come out of people whose hearts are diseased by evil. God promises, that in this day, people will no longer be bound to their evil hearts. This is because God will give them a new heart and will put His Spirit in them so that they will gladly walk in His ways (Ezk. 36:26-27). Then we will no longer hurt and oppress one another, but we will delight in the delight of others as we worship God together.

Can Santa give you a new heart so that you are no longer fundamentally evil? Christ, through His death and resurrection, has secured for you a new heart and sent His Spirit to you. God will finalize all of this in days to come.

4. Everlasting Love
Psalm 103:17
"But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him..."

The love that we exhibit toward one another is typically motivated by self-interest or obligation. This is distinct from God's love which proceeds from His character, not from an external pressure. God is love and God is eternal. Therefore, His saving, covenantal love is an everlasting love which has no condition. He loves you and saves you because He has loved you from eternity past. We do tend to think of His past love, but what about His future love? Since it is everlasting, that means His love will be showered on His children for eternity to come. What a great future God has in store for those who love Him!

Can Santa bless you with everlasting love and acceptance? Well, he doesn't ever really promise those things because they aren't within his power. He promises gifts which will satisfy you for an infinitesimally small amount of time. In fact, they normally just whet your insatiable appetite for more material goods. And they won't satisfy your need for absolute love and acceptance which can only be found in the eternal love of God. And that love comes because God doled out the penalty for your failures and sin on His Son, Jesus Christ. What an infinitely greater gift then the dissatisfying material goods that you received today!

Romans 8:38-39
"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

I hope and pray that your heart finds such comfort in what God intends to do with this broken world that we live in. His plan and purposes are for our good and are all towards restoration. God is not simply going to burn this world to the ground, He is going to restore it to its former splendor in which no terrible thing will ever happen again. In the next post, I want to explore the responsibility that we who have been redeemed have in the restoration that can begin now.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My Grown-Up Christmas List (Part 1)

There's a fairly popular Christmas song out there called "Grown-Up Christmas List." Perhaps you've heard it? It was written in 1990 by David Foster and Linda Thompson-Jenner, but didn't get much attention. Then in 1992, Amy Grant covered it, adding a verse. Her version received much more acclaim than Foster and Thompson-Jenner's. It has since been remade by a plethora of popular artists. The version I am most familiar with, and the one which I prefer, is Michael Bublé's from his 'Let it Snow' EP.

I enjoy the music itself as well as the sentiment expressed in the lyrics. The author is speaking in first-person to Santa, recalling the days of sitting on Santa's knee making requests. Now the author has come back, as an adult, to give Santa her new Christmas list. Instead of listing off the material items she wants, the author selflessly asks Santa for a total social and cultural restoration throughout the world. Here's how the chorus goes:

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
Every man would have a friend
That right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list

As I previously noted, the song does carry a great sentiment and I would hope that most people desire the above-mentioned things. The problem is that the author is asking Santa.

Now, I know what you'll say: "Dustin, the author understands that Santa isn't real. She is just trying to express her desire for the world to be a better place in a poetic fashion."

To which I would reply: "Yes of course."

But two issues still remain for me:

1. Didn't someone much less fictional and way more powerful than Santa already promise those things?
2. How can you begin to bring about that kind of restoration with the power and influence you have?

Consider these two questions for a moment. I will be giving my thoughts on each in a couple of upcoming posts.

My encouragement for you, dear reader, is to help this song come to life by doing something selfless for someone who can't pay you back this holiday season.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Remarkable Trust of Mary

Luke 1:38:
"Mary said, 'Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.' And the angel departed from her."

Consider Mary's statement for a moment. Well actually, let's first consider what has led up to this statement by Mary.

The angel Gabriel, who is God's personal messenger, is sent to bring Mary some exciting and very troubling news. The exciting news is that Mary has been picked by God to give birth to the Savior of the world. The bad news is that she is going to get pregnant outside of wedlock. It would look like Mary had been promiscuous. This had a number of consequences:
-Her engagement is broken along with her fiance's heart
-Her whole family is disgraced
-Her family disowns her
-Her community hates her
-She is stoned (Dt. 22:23-24) resulting in her death and the baby's death
-If they somehow weren't stoned, then the child would be ridiculed his entire life for being born out of debauchery

So NOW consider Mary's response to Gabriel in light of these potential consequences of her miraculous pregnancy. Observe three things that Mary understands deeply:
1. God is sovereign and will work things out
2. God is powerful and can do whatever He decides He wishes to
3. God is good and whatever He decides to do is good

This story should bring you to have the same kind of trust as Mary. It's unlikely that your trials are as intense as hers, but you may be struggling and suffering. Know that God is sovereign, powerful, and good. The inevitable result will be the same trust and submission to Him as Mary.

May you know God richly and trust Him deeply!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

So What is Christianity Anyway?

To the Christian and Non-Christian alike: what do you think Christianity is?

Let me offer some possible answers that you may identify with:

1. Membership in the Republican party (and avid watcher of Fox News)
2. Unscientific and illogical
3. Gay-bashing
4. Pro-life
5. Church attendance
6. Racism
7. Creationism
8. Home-schooling
9. Fire and brimstone
10. Intolerance

If you identify any of those things as the essential nature of Christianity then there is only one word to describe your perspective: wrong.

I say this not in a critical or harsh way, but that you may know the truth of the matter. Allow me to describe, as briefly as possible, the essential nature of the Christian faith and hide this in your heart for future reference:

God is holy. Humans are evil. God judges evil harshly. Humans are in danger of God's coming judgment. Jesus comes to pay the humans' penalty. God pours out His eternal hatred of evil and His judgment against it on Jesus instead of humans. Those humans who don't repent and trust in Jesus perish according to their rejection of God's offer of pardon. They will die forever. Those humans who repent of their sin and put their complete trust in Christ are spared from God's wrath. These people are Christians. They treasure Jesus, worship God, walk according to the Spirit, and are sent out to share this good news with the rest of the world. They will live forever beholding the glory of their Lord with full delight in Him.

Let me now share ten contrasts to the above ten things that you should see in Christians as a result of God's mercy on them:

1. They honor and pray for every government official (1 Tim. 2:1-2; 1 Pet. 2:17)
2. They know the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge (Eph. 3:19)
3. They understand that they have offended God just like every other human and desire that all other sinners be saved and come to a saving knowledge of Christ (1 Tim. 2:3-4)
4. They contend for the lives of unborn children since no child is a mistake regardless of the circumstances of that child's conception (Ps. 22:10, 82:3)
5. They delight to be with other Christians encouraging one another (Heb. 10:24-25)
6. They see all humans as equally created in God's image and they know that in heaven there will be folks from every "tribe and language and people and nation" (Gen 1:27; Rev. 5:9)
7. They know that God has created everything which exists (Isa. 40:28; Jn. 1:3)
8. They realize that no matter which mode of schooling Christian parents choose for their children, they are charged with raising them up in the "discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4)
9. They understand the reality of hell and eternal punishment and so they proclaim the way of salvation through Christ so that people may know Christ and live forever to the praise of God's glorious grace (Mt. 25:41; Rom. 10:17)
10. They know that there is no other name by which people can be saved than the name of Christ (Acts 4:12)

To the Non-Christian:
Please hear me when I say that you must put your trust in Christ to be saved! This is not some religious invite to be a part of my club. This is what God demands from you: put your faith in His Son so that you may be spared from His righteous anger against you for your sins. He will lavish you with grace and He will become your supreme treasure in this life and the life to come!

To the Christian:
Ditch any measure of identity that you find in the first ten things I listed. They will not save you, nor do they please God. What pleases God is Christ, so be found in Him. Think about the Good News as often as you can, love God with all that you are, and give your life so that people may come to know the Savior.

"Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." Jude 1:24-25

With love and grace,