Hold Hands

A couple Sundays ago I had to cancel the meeting of The Little White Church. Winter will have his reckoning. Technology may well do us all in, but she allowed me to preach a sermon on the Facebook Live for all my snowed in beloved and bedraggled saints. They need Good News, see. We all need some Good News proclaimed. We need to hear the words of Jesus jumping off the page in the voice of flesh and blood.

We need to see forgiveness dancing before us all the way Home.

So, I preached a sermon to empty pews in the 107 year old former Baptist Church building. Rachel and an apple phone bore witness.

My new wife Rachel braved the Blizzard by my side.

Perhaps God gives us snow days as Sabbath. Bonus Sabbaths. I think Rachel would have enjoyed a bonus Sabbath. A Holy Snow Day: but Rachel smiles at my stubborn streak. She walks with me. I have spent years alone. I don’t know that being alone is so bad. Sometimes being alone is God’s kindness to us. But I’ve spent harrowing winters alone, and I thank the Crucified Carpenter King that He hoisted the sun to shine forth on this arctic prairie once more.

Life, death, widowerhood, Resurrection, are all swirling in my life.

Wrestling, if you like.

If two broken people want to break bread together they must learn to put down their burdens, every occasionally, and hold hands.

Come, let us parlay.

Open wide the blinds and see the glory of the Winter Sun shining forth on these frozen hills and hollows.

The past is sacred, the past anchors, the past is foundational.

The past haunts.

Remember beloved, it’s hard to hold the hands of Love when you’re straining to juggle heavy burdens.

There’s so much life blooming

If only we’d have eyes to see.

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Jesus & His People


First Christian Church

First Baptist Church


Glenwood IA, USA



Welcome In The Name Of The Father, The Son, And The Holy Spirit. Amen.


Hebrews 10:19-25

“Jesus And His People.”

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.


Outlines & Outliers

  1. Jesus
  2. His People



Father & King,


We adore you, we muster praises in the midst of tears, we squeeze out doxology between guttural sobs, we sing songs soaring to the heavens when our hearts are glad and our lives are well and orderly, in every circumstance: you are everything. “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me: it is high; I cannot attain it.” [1]


The house of God is the Church, the house of God is our home, the house of God is the root of human flourishing.


22        I was brutish and ignorant;

I was like a beast toward you.

23  Nevertheless, I am continually with you;

you hold my right hand.

24  You guide me with your counsel,

and afterward you will receive me to glory.

25  Whom have I in heaven but you?

And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

26  My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever[2]


Oh God, make this desire true in our lives. May we desire nothing aside from you. Amen




  1. Jesus



If you had to put into words what Jesus means to you, you might find it difficult. Or, you might not find it hard at all. If you do not believe what the Bible and the Church say about Him then you might simply reply, “He means nothing to me”. And so your answer would be readily available. But if you love Him, and realize what He has done for you, it might be one of those cases where you say,
“Where to begin?” His incarnation, His teaching, His atoning death on the cross, His resurrection from the dead, His continuing work as your high priest, advocate, and His future return, the awesome fact that Hebrews 10 says Christ’s flesh is the path to the Holy Place, and or that this reference to water is probably talking about Baptism which will really blow your mind…where to begin?

Let’s begin here with all that is packed in this encouraging passage.

  1. The Holy Places. The author of Hebrews has been hitting this nail repeatedly, have you noticed? I think it is a deeper point than the already deep point about the exclusive nature of the earthly temple, which is the exclusive nature of the heavenly temple.


3 Glimpses Of The Holy Place. 3 snapshots.


{Holy, Holy, Holy}

Isaiah 6

6 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

     “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;

     the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” [3]


  • Leprous Uzziah is proof we don’t deserve to be in God’s holy presence, his story shows us how prideful we dustings are, how even if God ordains that we be born a king, our sin will always want more.
  • Heaven is the one place that is not in rebellion against God. It is telling that in Heaven, as it is not yet on Earth, the only opinion God’s creatures have on their lips are praises to God, “Holy, Holy, Holy”, is called out and the only reply that can be given is the Amen of , “Holy, Holy, Holy”. In the presence of God we will be consumed with the truth that He is everything, the only one who matters. While we sojourn under the sun we are distracted and troubled by a great many things which veil us from the great truth the Angels and the great cloud of witnesses are consumed with: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts!”
  • The Holy Place: this is it. This is what you should picture in your head.

C.) Jesus is the burning coal who atones for your sins. Jesus is the burning coal who makes you clean. Jesus is the burning coal who calls and equips you for service.


{Unapproachable Light}

2nd Timothy 6:12-16


12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom[4] no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. [5]


  • Notice how perfectly 1st Timothy 6 goes with verse 23?


Hebrews 10:23


23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.


Remember who you are, and remember your destiny. Remember who He is, and where you are going.


  • It’s as if the whole Bible has a single, ultimate, Author. Hold fast the good confession, fight the good fight, take hold of the eternal life to which you’ve been called, because it’s all about God, and He is glorious, dwelling in the holy of holies, in unapproachable light. Christians get to go there because of the blood of Jesus.


{The Point Of Christianity Is To Be With Christ}


John 14:1-3


14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.[6]

  • Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for you. Where? Heaven. Sure, but that’s the holy of holies, the holy place, the presence of the perfect, Triune God, maker and sustainer of Heaven and earth is there. The beauty of knowing Jesus is you get to go there with confidence, not haughty pride, not entitlement, not without reverence, but confidence in the promises of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the light that chases away the shadow of fear and death. The specter of separation from God melts away in the Love of Christ. We take away a bit from each snap shot: from Isaiah 6, 2nd Timothy 6, and John 14 and we come away with a place where God is worshiped in spirit and in truth: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts, a place where He dwells in unapproachable light yet one day we will approach without being burned in the radiance of His Holiness, and yes, a family home which the Lord Jesus Himself prepares for us.


  • Eternal Security is rooted in the love of God.

And the love of God has everything to do with your place in the company of God’s people, the Church.

C.) Some would use fear tactics to make you go to Church.

D.) Some would use fear of ignorance to make you go to Church.

E.) I prefer to show you the glory of God in the pages of His Book, I prefer to show you the Love of God to educate you on why the Church is the only place for the Christian to be a Christian.[7]


Hebrews 10:23-25


23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.


F.) The Blood of Christ, not our works, gives us confident access to God, and the path through the curtain is Jesus’s own flesh (Makes you see the communion bread differently, doesn’t it?), because of Jesus, you can draw near because He has made you clean, body and soul, so it is assurance of God’s love that makes us, compels us, exhorts us to hold fast the good confession, and your confession of Christ is not a good confession if you forsake His bride the Church. I think too many are into the fruit inspection business and far too many have usurped God’s place by proclaiming whom they think is in and whom they think is out: only God accurately searches the heart. And, we must give due to the very real phenomenon of “Church Hurt”, and have compassion on those who the Church has through many years and denominations, harmed. It is understandable why a victim of pastoral abuse, for instance, would be reticent to once again unit themselves to the life of a Church. Others may live in an area where there aren’t Churches with whom they can join themselves in good conscience. Some have reasons for not being part of the covenant life of God’s people. While those reason do not negate God’s will, we should let compassion guide our gentle exhortations to those the Church has hurt as we urge them to come home. Others my simply be disobeying God. While you cannot determine salvation by Church attendance, you can diagnose a malfunction, or sickness, in a Christian’s confession of faith if they refuse to be part of the covenant life of God’s people.[8] The Churchless Christian may have some kind of confession, but it’s not the good confession made weekly in the presence of many witnesses, the Churchless Christian may have warm things to say of Jesus, but they are not living a life of obedience to the Word of God. Something has gone awry.


  1. His People.

The Church Is The Gospel


If we believe that God loves the unlovable and forgives the unforgivable, and that we ought to do likewise, we’ll need a place and a people among whom we put the good news into practice! What better than the Church? If Christianity is belief put into practice rather than belief in theory, you’re going to need some difficult, opinionated sinners to surround yourself with.

Sinners who believe the same thing: that God shines the love of His Son into wicked hearts and that we’re just dust without Christ. Because the boastful pride of life has a way of slithering into our pride loving hearts and making us forget who and what we are: you’re going to need a bunch of redeemed sinners to remind you of the truth. That’s why we do Church. That’s why Hebrews 10 says not to forsake Church, so yes it is commanded, if you were wondering, here it is, and if you’re looking for a gotcha verse to end the low key burning debate you’ve been having with so and so this is the TKO, but we all know how seldom these debates are won by proof texts. Usually there is a heart issue keeping the Churchless Christian from Church, or Church trauma keeping the Churchless Christian from Church. The Church is where sacrificial love is practiced, and remembered, and applied, and proclaimed. The Church is the center: pointing to the true center.

The Church is the Gospel because if Jesus has sheep who are not yet of this fold, and if God is going to gather a people for Himself from all the tribes of the Earth, from the four corners of the globe, surely He can bring His people together in this little town in the corner of SW Iowa.


Hebrews exhorts us to do more with our faith, but from a place of total love.


Hebrews 10:25

25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.


We usually put a lot of focus on the not neglecting to meet together bit, or in other words, “Get to Church!”


But the rest of the verse is important.


  • Encourage one another, all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
  • What this means is that the Church, whether big, or small, exciting or ordinary, is on a divine timetable, and the clock is counting down, and beloved we have work to do, work that will only be accomplished God’s way: through His covenanted people, the Church.
  • And the Church, God’s covenant people bought with a price: the blood of the Son of God, has been God’s plan for a very long time. No, not 160 years, we’re so impressed with that number in our two Churches, but God’s plan stretches back much, much further.

Revelation 13 talks about the beast at the end of time who will make war on God’s people. It’s a strange and dark passage to find hope, but hope is there.


Revelation 13:8

and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.[9]


So, the Church is God’s people from long, long ago, whose names were written in the book of Life before the founding of Earth, and you’re bored with this?

See, the argument I always hear is that people wouldn’t be bored at Church if the Church knew what it was doing, but I think the Bible teaches that people wouldn’t be bored with Church if they understood what Church is.


Psalm 74.12 says,


12  Yet God my King is from of old,

working salvation in the midst of the earth. [10]


Praise God.


Jesus means you can be close to the divine. That is means relationship with the everlasting. That means nearness with the Holy. The Bible says to draw near to God, because you can!


Living a life marked by covenant community in the local Church isn’t accomplished by more guilt, it is accomplished by grasping what the Church is. The Church is the Gospel of Jesus Christ manifested in ordinary people that spreads uncontrollable until the whole world has seen the glory of God in jars of clay. Unworthy as we are, the cross means we belong. Unworthy as we are, Jesus means we belong in the covenant life of God’s people on earth. This is a get to thing rather than a begrudging have to thing. If you have never seen Church in this light then you have never grasped what Church really is. You may be too busy looking for flash and feels to see the beauty of God’s redemption moving in the lives of ordinary people, ordinary, everyday, Resurrection people. The Church is God’s everlasting death, and Resurrection people. The Church is the covenant people among whom you learn to live well, rejoice well, suffer well, and die well.


The Church is where you learn to receive and give grace rather than living with your head in the sand as you try your best to ignore the painful realities of life under the sun.



[1] Psalm 139:5-6 ESV


[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 73:22–26). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 6:1–7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 6:12–16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 6:16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 14:1–3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] Eugene Peterson, etc

[8] Assuming there is a Bible teaching Church they can covenant with.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 13:7–8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 74:12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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Writers, Social Media, And The Heart.

Somewhere, out there, far beyond the prairie, beyond the mountains forever stretching their stony fingers toward the handy work of God, beyond beaches, even… lurks the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is an elusive and accidental creature animated by the sons of Adam the size of Texas, yet, undetectable by the cosmic satellites we’ve built to keep an eye on such things. But it’s there all the same, just under the surface of things. It is a vortex of all that is untethered, tethered to all that is untethered. The current pushes the patch here and there, like a plastic Wal-Mart bag carried by every wind.


Writers & Readers


Beloved writers, why does this remind me of how we all too often are on social media?

Beloved readers: when you read an article, regardless of the wordsmithing and passion, ask yourself whether the author is tethered to their local Church. Ask yourself whether this author has any sort of pastoral heart for you, or the people their articles so often throw under the bus.


Words matter. Words are powerful.


I am a Pastor because Jesus is the Word made flesh, and He reveals Himself, among other things, in a book. I’m a writer because He has ordered my heart and mind in such a fashion, and when I write, I do so with fear and trembling because I realize that I have great power in these small words. Even in the incredibly small gift God has granted me there is great power, and I wonder: Am I humble enough to use this power for good? Have I the discernment to use this small mustard seed the Crucified Carpenter King has given me to build up His kingdom rather than my own fiefdom of tyranny?

I have written some on suffering. I believe that the best writers have skin in the game, that vulnerability is often credibility. Yet, vulnerability should never be viewed as the currency by which we pay for platform. I suppose I should stop pussyfooting around and simply state that my pastoral heart is grieved by what I see as manufactured grief produced for the sake of procuring likes and shares. We need to tell truth to power and yet we need to tell truth to ourselves as well. I’m not saying your grief is manufactured, I’m saying if it is you need to check yourself.

And it seems, and feels, like we at times have turned our brothers and sisters into behemoths: monolithic, faceless monsters on whom we can pin our troubles through words and tears in order to win the laudatory label “Brave”. We write that the Church, or the Evangelicals, or whomever, did this, that, or the other thing in cold blood, seemingly forgetting that we are the Church, and collective repentance is all too often lacking in these blogs and twitter rendezvous.


The Rat Race Will Run You Down


The pressure to produce yet another successful blog or tweet has caused some to feign wounds. Yes, we are to be truth tellers, but we are also supposed to be forgivers of trespasses.

It’s become easy to see which way the wind is blowing and to shoot our wounded accordingly. No one has a bigger target on her back than the Church. Obviously she has her sins, if you want to know why, gaze into your local pond, or baring that, head for a mirror.

What’s missing in so many exchanges and articles on social media is a pastoral heart for the reader and those we write contra to. One need not be a Pastor to have the pastoral heart. But, do not write if you’ve forgotten how to love.

In Matthew 9 the Lord Jesus had people tugging at His clothes, hounding Him, following Him, and laughing at Him. The Scriptures tell us what was going on in His divine heart…

Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without * a shepherd.” ~ Matthew 9.36 (NASB)

When I write, and interact with my fellow image bearers on social media I try to be mindful that I am an under-shepherd beneath The Crucified Carpenter King. I try to remember that 1 Timothy 3:1-7 says I should be above reproach, self-controlled, respectable, gentle, not quarrelsome, and able to teach. It should be noted that if one is cold hearted toward his fellow man, he is not as able to teach. He will not be listened to by those with whom he disagrees, which is why so much of what we see online is nothing more than a tribal red meat potluck served up in comments, likes and RT’s.

The problem is much larger than believers forsaking the accountability and teaching of the local Church in favor of podcasts: it’s the untethered “thought leader” teaching online followers without a lifeline to the pastoral heart that must govern the shepherd.

The dumpster fire we so often are burned by on social media is the result of the untethered, tethering themselves to the untethered.

If you have to defend a writer with, “He’s really quite nice in person.” there’s a problem, and the problem isn’t how they are in person.

Before you write, and before you read, remember what the Apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy,

“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” ~ 1st Timothy 1.5 (NASB)




“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead…”

~ 2nd Timothy 2.8a (NASB)

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