We want to be perfect. We want perfection's work complete within our souls. We also fight against it and it's processes more frequently than we realize. Sanctification is a process we fight for and against concurrently... Two natures... Two states of being coexisting, overlapping, tearing us in two.

In prayer this morning, I impatiently asked God to heal my heart, to make it more fully desire his ways and not the broken lies it has grown comfortable believing. I said I knew one day my heart would be fully redeemed, in the resurrection, but until then I wanted to be totally free from sin's work in my life. He in return asked me if I was sure I wanted that... If I was ready for that... If I knew what I was really asking. Because with a perfected heart I would think and act much differently... Such a jostling act would destroy my life as I know it, shift many of my aims and plans, affect my relationships, reprioritize my life and dreams, and possibly even lead me to the fray of human society as a sort of crucified outcast who doesn't fit in and constantly challenges and threatens the status quo, not just with his words but by his very existence. To be perfected in the middle of a broken world leads to great discomfort. Pain. Sorrow. Death... Its the role of the one eyed man in the land of the blind... He may be king, but he is also a freak and an outsider. Such premature perfection would be to see God as He is before we are truly ready for it (in the same way as God protected Moses from seeing him by hiding Moses in the clef of a rock)... It would be instant transformative change based on full revelation of God and his truth... Every part of our lives that is built on anything but truth and love would die, for no man can see God and live; that is, continue to live the life he is accustomed to living. To be set free and to be transformed to a new life is to judge the old life... To truly live is to die. Such a transformation is promised in the resurrection when we shall be like him for we will see him as he is. Until that day, as sanctification's processes grow in our lives we must patiently and progressively count the costs, move forward in faith-full responses to Christ's loving call, and submit to his gracious process in our lives.

Is that why the language in Scripture is built around choice... Two roads, two gates, two foundations... Two trees? Is that why God allows sanctification's work take so much time? Like resurrection, it meets us in our dead state and ushers us towards life, bringing the created order around us along for the ride... transforming people and things around us in the process? Would the shock of instantaneous sanctification be too much for us (tearing us in two as it were)? Would it be too much for those around us? Would the transformation from death to life seem more like dying or living to us? Would ripping us out of our current state and into our new glorious state be so rapid that it would leave everyone and everything in our lives completely behind... So far behind that they could no longer really come along for the ride? Isn't God's lifelong gradual process of sanctification more loving, more in line with his plan, more in tune with the inauguration of his kingdom? Does it not seem more wise, (to those of us impatient ones)... more gracious and loving? Doesn't it seem more fitting of God to help us change at our own rate, dying one small death at a time... adjusting to the hot waters of his holiness... Being cleansed gradually from one impurity, then another? Don't God's processes of trial and temptation which remove impurities and cleanse us from false ideologies and idolatries, seem overbearing as they are when we are in the midst of them? Isn't it loving and caring that our God does not cleanse us from all of our impurities at once... That he does not place more on us than we can bear? Isn't it also amazing that He stands ready to supply us with access to his limitless storehouses of resurrection power when we do desire help overcoming a certain struggle or sin or area of disbelief, and our hearts stand truly ready for the change? How often do we deceive ourselves that we are ready for this or that area of our lives to be fully redeemed, when part of our heart is not truly ready at all? Do we not believe that God knows what timing is best for us? Do we not trust that he sees more than our momentary need, but is also working things out for our ultimate good... For the good of those around us and for his matchless glory? What patience leads him to be so intricately involved in this arduous process of our sanctification?

Sanctification is a gradual resurrection.

My prayer for sanctification will no longer resemble a complaint about repeated struggles with sin, frustration about my imperfect state, doubt towards an all knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful God, and his pacing processes. Instead I will pray, "Father, I want to be free from this, but more than that I want to want to be free from this... help my heart to grow fully ready to change in a timing that best honors you and your plan for my life and best leads those around me." I will trust him in the tension between the two worlds of death and life. I will trust his Spirit to carry me safely across the divide. As I pass over Jordan, I will not fear the water, but I will stand in awe of him and cling to his promises and character. I will cling to the hope of the Promised Land... Of the life abundant... Of union with God.
Father, for too long I've loved theology without loving You. I've compiled it... used it as a notch on my belt... A trophy on my case... A way I earn my identity through my own knowledge... Instead of learning you...knowing you, not simply knowing about you. It's no wonder that my heart can be so far away from you in beautiful moments like today...

For too long as a pastor, I've taught text and context while the subtext of my heart was proving myself to you, to others and even myself. Like a mother bird I have often chewed up and spit out your glorious Word to feed those you've placed under my care, while taking none for myself. Pride leads to malnourishment. When theology becomes a list of ethereal principles and truths, the heart gets lost. Sermons dry up. Communities veer off course. Life loses its meaning. Ministry becomes a dead-dry duty.

I repent. I am ashamed at how frequently I have cannibalized your truth in the form of tweets and blogs in order to gather oohs and aahs from spectators. I am so sorry for seeking to honor myself in your name. I am sorry for using you.

I pray that we as disciples would begin seeking your heart. That we would begin seeing you and knowing you through truth, and not for our own sake, but simply for the sake of knowing you, God. That our hearts would change in this process of seeing you as you are. That as we make disciples we would be pointing them to you, not to disconnected truths about you. Help us to become a people, not marked by pride in how much we know, but marked by humility because of who we know... By who's name we have been called... Called by sheer grace.


 Ok, so I'm not a professional economist and this entry has a lot less to do with the specifics of the issue at hand, and a lot more to do with the general philosophy behind our sense of angst. But if I have something to contribute, these are my thoughts...

It seems like the main philosophical difference behind this polarizing issue is the question of whether healthcare is a basic human right or a privilege for anyone who is in need. The Hippocratic Oath, those in the medical field take, leans heavily toward the former of the two, which is why many of the down and out I come in contact with here in Downtown San Diego can still walk into a hospital and get basic care, regardless of their financial portfolio. The poor of other countries are not so fortunate, and in some cases are denied healthcare no matter the need.

It seems to me that this Hippocratic ideal is line with Christian thought, from what I read in Christian history in cities like Antioch, where Christians climbed the inner city walls that divided the people groups, and took care of the poor in each of the cities subsections. There are countless examples like this, emanating from the movement of the Holy Spirit upon the hard hearts of humanity and the Christ-centered theology that leads us to care and love and show mercy to those who don't deserve it, much in the same way that God had mercy upon us in Christ.

People affected by this same theology moved to the Americas in search of God (freedom of religion), glory and gold. The classic examples of the strife and difficult circumstances they faced shows up in the juxtaposition two of the earliest settlements: Jamestown & Plymouth. Plymouth faced many of the same difficult situations as Jamestown, but formed a more socialistic model to ride out the hard winters, taking care of one another's sick and hungry, and finally finding God's providence in a saving relationship with native Americans. Jamestown was not so fortunate, plagued with bitter conditions and men with poor character who cared more for the glory and gold than anything else. When it became apparent that neither glory nor gold were to be had, many of the men became listless, refusing to do work necessary to eat and provide for themselves. All hope seemed lost. Enter the ideal known as the Protestant Work Ethic, instated by John Smith as he proclaimed to this ragtag group of misfits, "If you don't work, you don't eat (paraphrased)." This ideal whipped the settlers into shape and saved what was on course to be a total disaster.

So we have two seemingly competing ideals, both emanating from Christian thought:

a) Everyone deserves basic human dignity and care
b) Only those who earn their way deserve dignity and care

As I see it, these two thoughts have evolved into our basic camps today (at the risk of oversimplifying): Liberal / Conservative, Democrat / Republican, Socialist / Capitalist. Are they really that opposed and incompatible? Is it a false dichotomy that seems to exist between them or are they in fact polar opposites? Is one more right than the other? How does the gospel speak into this?

In my way of thinking, both thoughts are heavily influenced by Christ and the gospel. Since both find their origin in him, aren't they also compatible? Aren't they meant to be integrated? Don't they function best together and not when they are posed against each other? Is Christ divided? Is our only option choosing a side and fighting with our brothers across the aisle?

This causes me to think outside our current political box... It makes me wonder what our political landscape would look like if more politicians and economists and dreamers began imagining an integrated platform, combining the best of both ideals and refusing to polarize them further for the sake of caricaturization, and personal gain. I do not claim to have an answer or some final say on the matter, I just want to get people's creative juices flowing and hear what we could imagine together if we stopped listening to our own chosen streams of thought... If we stopped worshiping at the monolithic altars of our chosen newsgroups... What would the feast of God's children look like if we truly sat down together and shared, refusing to eat only from one food-group, envisioning instead the beauty of culinary variety and the necessity of diverse sources of nutrition and sustenance. 

Your thoughts?

My name is @VinceLarson and I am a Twitter Junkie.

How would I define my favorite tweets? 
The ones I have sent to my phone... They always give me a good laugh or make me pause and worship. 

Here They Are:

One of my all-time favorite Preachers and Authors, delivered in 140-character intervals


Always makes me stop and think about the gospel in a new way...

Keeping you updated on Christian culture

One of my favorite writers and all around humans... You never know what he'll tweet next

From Gospel-Soaked Prayers, to thought provoking quotes, Scotty's Tweet always challenges & uplifts me.

This guy is often irreverant, but most of the time I laugh out loud

This UK Pastor brings the DEEP Gospel truths in everyday words... Author of Total Church, You Can Change, and many more...

Great quotes from one of my all-time favorite Christian authors

Great practical church-planting and theological nuggets

A true puritan... thought provoking and humbling truths issued here daily

Always a good laugh... always... one of my newest favorites

The Author of Gospel Centered Discipleship, Dodson speaks the truth and convicts my heart

Always an insightful gospel word or an encouraging thought... This is one of my favorite Human Beings, period.

Daily wisdom from one of my favorite devotionals

God on the Cross 

“There is nothing that teaches us as much about God as the cross of Jesus Christ.” -Mark Driscoll

Have you ever looked at the cross the lens of God’s Character? On the cross Christ Triumphantly shouts “It is finished!” How can we see God’s amazing attributes through this powerful moment in history?

God’s Powerful Plan. God is great and no detail escapes his thoughts. He planned this moment before the dawn of time. Think of all the prophecies Christ’s life alone could have fulfilled. Think about the many ways His plan could have been thwarted as it unfolded over thousands of years of volatile human history. Yet God’s plan was perfect and powerful! He is in control.

God’s Provision. God is good and knows exactly what we need. Our greatest need is reconciliation with Him... bridging the gap that our broken, selfish choices created. Without that reconciliation and the hope it brings, the everyday things our hearts long for would be worthless. In this moment on the cross, as Christ was ripped from his Father’s presence and took on all of the punishment that was ours, we were simultaneously offered everything that was his. Union. Love. Holiness. This act of reconciliation shows us how generous our God is!

God’s Pity. God is gracious and lovingly embraced us through the cross while we were busy placing the nails in his hands. He took our odor-ridden, dirt-clogged garments and laid them on his back, placing his pure and royal robes around our shoulders. Our old identity, along with our tattered good works and our broken past was nailed to the cross with him, and we became new creations in Christ! We didn’t deserve it, but he did it anyway! Now we are no longer defined by all that... He calls us worthy, because of what he has done in our place.

God’s Preeminence. God is glorious and the reality of who he is and how that was shown on the cross blinds us to the lesser things that would pull our eyes and hearts towards lesser affections. There is none like him! Who else could deal with the greatest problem creation has ever seen, and come out unscathed and victorious. Who else could touch sin and remain clean? Who else could bear the weight of the cross...the weight of all the compounded sin in our broken history? Who else could walk through death’s doorway only to come bursting back through it three days later? The reality of who He is captures our hearts as he takes his place upon that gloriously humble throne called the cross, and cries “It is finished!”

Prayer: Father, thank you that every moment of your story reveals more of your character to me. Thank you that you have loved me, an undeserving rebel, with an undying love. Thank you that you have provided everything I need for life and enjoyment. Thank you that you have freed me from the brokenness of my past and the identity I once sought apart from you. You are God alone and there is none like you!

Action Step: Consider these four truths about God as seen through the cross, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you apply them to your life throughout this day... Meditate on this:
God is Glorious. We don't need to fear others - But we walk in the Fear of God
God is Great. We don't need to be in control - But we walk in faith trusting His control and redemptive processes
God is Good. We don't need to look elsewhere for satisfaction - But we do look to him to provide for all our needs
God is Gracious. We don't need to prove ourselves - But we trust in His grace and allow our lives to reflect that grace

Out with the Old 

“…Jesus traveled up to Jerusalem. He found the Temple teeming with people selling cattle and sheep and doves. The loan sharks were also there in full strength. Jesus put together a whip out of strips of leather and chased them out of the Temple, stampeding the sheep and cattle, upending the tables of the loan sharks, spilling coins left and right. He told the dove merchants, “Get your things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall!” (John 2:13-17)

Reflection: There is this awkward moment in Scripture and we are not quite sure what to make of it. Jesus the – man of peace, love, patience and grace… the very embodiment of God Himself – goes crazy! This is the only incident of Christ using physical force in any of the gospel accounts. He beats these money changers right out of the temple courtyard. Why the Drama? Why the intensity?

The text gives us a clue: “The loan sharks were also there in full strength.” Wasn’t the temple supposed to be a place of prayer? A place where the nations could come to worship God? So how had men’s hearts twisted so much that they could take advantage of those seeking God? How had this beacon of light for the nations become a place that oppressed the weary pilgrims, the poor and the marginalized, making it difficult for many to be reconciled to God?

Jesus began his ministry by driving out these profiteers and oppressors, reminding them that access is open to everyone who longs for God. A few years later, Jesus returned to this city to finish the work. This time, the whip was not in his hand, but upon his back. This time he was driven from the temple courts and eventually led to a hilltop to be hanged by those whose religious system he’d challenged. But this time, he finally accomplished the work:

“But Jesus, with a loud cry, gave his last breath. At that moment the Temple curtain ripped right down the middle…”(Mark 15:37-38).

In that instant, this curtain – a symbol of the old ways and the twisted religion of men – was destroyed as a sign to those who had abused their power. This system had come to a decisive end. But this was also a symbol for something beautiful and comforting for each of us today. It reminds us that we no longer need a high priest to go into the Holiest Place behind the veil to atone for us (Ex. 26:31–33; Heb. 9:1–10), because we now have Jesus as our new, eternal High Priest. One who is perfect. One who died in our place. One who understands our every temptation and pain. Today we have direct access to God and true reconciliation because of the work Christ accomplished that day when He shouted those beautiful words “It is finished!”

Prayer: Thank you Father for your mission toward us… for your constant pursuit of rebels like me and your unending desire to win my heart! Even though my sin separated me from you, you made a way to reconcile me to your presence, and tore through every barrier that stood in the way. Thank you that I now have direct access to you through Jesus Christ, my new High Priest… One who has felt the sting of my pain and death… One who knows the sorrow I feel. Thank you Jesus that you courageously entered into my brokenness, invading my life with your healing love and undeserved favor! Let me live my life in light of that truth today.

Action Step: If part of Christ’s work on the earth and ultimately upon the cross was breaking down the walls that stood between us and God, and ushering us directly into God’s presence… How can we connect those around us to God? Who are some people in your life (family, job, school… etc.) who have still not experienced the reconciliation to God that Christ accomplished for them? Make a list with some of their names on it (at least 3), and pray that God would give you the courage, wisdom and direction to help connect them with God… Also, write down a few potential next steps to help you establish a stronger connection with them.

What Is Finished?

“Christian, the good you do won’t finally save you and the bad you do won’t finally condemn you.” – Martin Luther

Reflection:  “It is finished.” In Greek that’s only one word, “Tetelestai.” The most beautiful word ever spoken in history. It is traditionally referred to as “The Word of Triumph.” But what was the triumph? Why is it beautiful? Why is this one of the most echoed phrases in history?

Scripture says Jesus was the lamb of God, slain from the very creation of the world (Rev. 13:8). God planned every detail of this day before he breathed life into man. Before man’s failure, rebellion and rejection of our Creator, in the earliest days of our existence, God had already made a plan to provide a way back into saving relationship with Him. This moment… This horrifically beautiful moment of redemption was planned down to the finest detail. Descriptions were recorded hundreds of years before in the poems and prophetic writings of God’s people (Isa.53, Ps. 22). All of creation waited on the edge of its seat, breath-held for this day – for this pronouncement that the Missio Dei was accomplished! (Rom. 8:22).

However, Jesus’ atoning death in our place, would have meant nothing without his perfectly righteous life, lived in our place! His death did not just erase our past in order to give us a second chance. He did much more! How many of us would live perfect lives if given a fresh start? Would we be able to stop addictive habits on our own? Could we become perfectly selfless? Could we stop committing sin? Could we also perfectly execute what we needed to do in every situation and fulfill God’s perfect will for our lives? Would we be able to maintain perfectly clean hearts and pure thoughts? Impossible! Jesus not only got us off the hook for our past sins with his death, but his perfectly righteous record was transferred to us as well! His life, death and resurrection fulfilled over 360 Old Testament prophecies – those predictions spoke hope to people long before Christ came on the scene, pointing them toward this pivotal day. Christ’s spotless life, that completely fulfilled the will of God down to the smallest detail, culminated in this moment. Christ looked up to his Father and cried out in triumphant agony, “It is finished!”

Prayer: Thank you Father that you have made provision for our shortcomings. Thank you that you loved us enough to have a plan in place before you even created us. Thank you that no detail of that plan escaped your thoughts – You were in control at all times, redeeming even the most broken circumstances with this agonizing yet triumphant moment we are meditating upon today. Thank you also that because of these great truths, I know that no detail of my life escapes your grasp… that you hold my life in the palm of your hand… that even when circumstances seem out of control and fear and anxiety begin to grip my heart, I can place my trust in you, and your plan for my life.

Action Step: When we think of sin, we generally think of breaking God’s Law by doing wrong things. We seldom consider all the things God is calling us to do that we end up neglecting. What are some things God may be calling you to do today? Prayerfully list some things out, and make a plan to accomplish them. (*Also consider how this gospel truth of what Jesus accomplished in your place, frees you from the guilt of failing to accomplish his perfect will for your life in this moment, while simultaneously motivating you to fulfill his will for you in the upcoming moments of your day.)

The Longest Day

“Men are opposed to God in their sin, and God is opposed to them in his holiness.” 
-J. I. Packer

Today we enter the life of Jesus and find him at the end of the most horrendous day in history. Several long hours before, as this day was just beginning, we find him kneeling in a garden and beginning to be “gripped by a shuddering terror and anguish.” Sorrow. Horror. Dismay. This is not the Jesus we are used to reading about throughout the gospels, healing and wittingly challenging his adversaries. This is a Jesus who tells his disciples his “soul is sorrowful, even unto death!”

Hours before he cries out, “It is finished!” we find that he came close to death in that garden, weeping and sweating great drops of blood, as he pondered what was to come. Why? His own words answer this question. “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet, not what I will, but what you will.” What is this cup? Isaiah 51:7 paints a picture of God holding out this cup - this “cup of his wrath.” This cup contains the full and overwhelming fierceness of God’s wrath against all human sin and rebellion... It’s a cup we are all meant to drink from. The Old Testament vividly portrays this cup as filled with “fire and sulfur and a scorching wind” - a most terrifying picture. As C. J. Mahaney points out, “What Jesus recoils from here is not an anticipation of the physical pain associated with crucifixion. Rather it’s a pain infinitely greater-the agony of being abandoned by His Father.” As Jesus pleads with his Father repeatedly, his hope for solace is met with silence. His fate is sealed. As he chooses to follow his Father’s will in this final act of perfectly-righteous obedience, he will lift the cup to his lips and drink from the fires of hell itself. He will drink every drop from the furious wrath of God against sin - He will become sin (who never knew sin), trading places with us, as he is crushed by righteous wrath of the Father in our place.

Between this agonizing moment in the garden and his final words on the cross, lie an entire day filled with trials and false accusations, screaming and spitting, beating and bludgeoning, and the final few excruciating hours here on the cross as he hangs stretched out between heaven and earth. He pulls the symbolic cup to his lips and drinks the cup down to the last drop - not leaving a drop for you and I. With that, he breathes his last labored breaths, and mouths the words, “It is finished.”

Prayer: Father, thank you for not counting Your Son’s life too high a price to pay for our brokenness and self-centeredness. Thank you for not wavering in your perfection and holiness, yet still creating a way to deal with my rebellion. Help me to never walk too far away from this beautifully, heart-wrenching story and the pure gratitude and humility it invokes in my heart. Let me live all of today in light of this great truth of your great love for me.

Action Step: Take a few moments to list out some of the things you have done in your past... the horrible things... things done against you as well... things you have tried to forget and suppress... things you would never want anyone to know about. Take the time to really think here. Once you have this list, imagine Jesus Christ taking that list from your hand, carrying it, along with his cross to the top of a mountain, and as he is being nailed to the cross, the same nail that is driven through his flesh is driven through that list. Everything you have ever done that has brought you shame, fear and guilt was nailed to the cross with him. It holds no more power over you, your identity, or your future. It is finished. Take the time to thank him for his great love!