10,000 Reasons

This ongoing list is intended to chronicle the many different ways that I see God’s grace, faithfulness, and rich blessings. It began as a practice following the form of One Thousand Gifts, but I felt convicted to go beyond. The song “10,000 Reasons” reminded me clearly that even such a number is not enough ways or times to give thanks to God.

957) Encouraging emails
956) The many moods of toddlers
955) Cinnamon tea
954) Willing, helping hands
953) Recorder concerts
952) Gathering together with friends
951) Birthday celebrations
950) Kids who want my time
949) A hug from my sister
948) Catching my dog sneaking upstairs
947) Thunder rolling
946) Waking up to the furnace off and the window open

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What is the Point of Purity? No Foothold

Let me start off by saying this: I could have just as easily made cats a positive piece in this illustration. I had to choose. So I apologize, cat lovers, but cats fit the impure portion of this illustration rather well. Don’t take it personally – the cats don’t.

Last summer I purchased a new bed. More accurately, I purchased a new used bed. And that new used bed did not completely fit up my old, narrow stairway. After not much debate, I made the decision to relocate my bedroom to a room on the main floor. I was generally happy with this change save for one detail: our two cats liked my new bed as well. In particular, they liked being underneath it. I did not like that they liked that.
In fact, it became one of their favorite places to go. If my bedroom door was mostly shut, but not latched, they would pull the door open in order to go in my room and under my bed. Given the size and placement of my bed, I had no way to shoo them out. Also, I could not always tell if they were in my room or not. Thus, the quandary: if I closed my bedroom door, would I be keeping them out or keeping them in?
Finally I resolved to solve this problem and purchased three under-bed storage containers. Only after doing so did I realize that I was still stuck. Because of the six-to-eight inch gap between the mattress and the footboard, the cats would still be able to get under my bed if they were in my room.
On the day that I was attempting to solve this problem, I decided to tackle the project all the way. I moved the mattress and the box spring in order to vacuum underneath my bed. When I moved the box spring, I noticed some extra weight and a bump. The extra weight and bump in my box spring was, in fact, one of the cats. Whether the lining at the bottom of the box spring was torn at the time of purchase or not I do not exactly recall. But it is now. And that was all the room that the cats needed to find, for them, a very comfortable and safe place to be.
You may be reading this and wondering how this is even remotely connected to purity. If the dots are not quite connecting yet, allow me to explain. In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul exhorts the readers – and us today – on how to live out our faith. Speaking in particular on anger, verses 26 and 27 read as follows:
In your anger do not sin.” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
(Side note: either this iPad is smarter than I realize, or God is giving me confirmation. After looking up those verses in different versions on the web, I went to open the YouVersion application of the Bible. Those verses popped up as the verse of the day.)
If you climb at all, you understand the properties of a foothold. It is something that is used to position and propel yourself further toward your goal. Therefore, if we give the devil a foothold, we are giving him something that he will use to position and propel himself closer to his goal. What is his goal? To steal, kill, and destroy. Destroy what?
Not what, but who.
And that who is you.
You see, when it comes to purity, we may allow ourselves to believe something is “not that bad.” Or that engaging in an impure act “isn’t hurting anyone.” Those are not your words, those are the words of your enemy. Even if you do not believe in Christ and you claim the devil as your ally, he is your enemy. He plots your destruction. The problem with any act of impurity, with providing a foothold, is that it cannot be undone. You cannot unsee. You cannot unsay. You cannot undo.
If I leave my bedroom door open and unattended, I cannot vouch for my room being cat-free. The only way that I can maintain a cat-free room (short of transfer of ownership, which is in the works) is my constant vigilance. The same is true of your purity.
Suppose that you, as a man, find yourself looking longingly, lustfully, at a woman who is not your wife. You may believe that it has hurt no one. But how do you intend to erase that image? This is not Men In Black, that image is there. And whether you are married or not, the enemy will use that foothold to work upon that selfish desire that has been sparked. The desire is to know, or to have, contact with that woman. Or a woman like her. Or a woman who looks like her. Somehow, you will seek to satisfy that thirst that was initiated. What you will be doing is drinking a drink that will not satisfy.
Or suppose that you, as a woman, initiate a conversation with a man who is not your husband. Though the surface appears innocent, the underlying motive of your heart is to know him and allow him to meet your emotional needs even though he is committed to another woman. But your goal, because he met your need once, becomes that he will meet your needs more often. Because again, just as with the man, a thirst was initiated. A foothold was given. And the enemy is one step closer to his goal of destruction.
The only way that I could establish a cat-free room was to do a clean sweep. And even then I had to prod and poke the cat to leave. There was no initiative on the cat’s side of the deal to leave the space it had found. I had to uproot the area and maintain constant vigilance afterwards. I am now at almost a month cat-free.
The same is true of purity. If you are not in a relationship, your confession needs to be before The Lord and to others who will help you in your walk. Do a clean sweep. There is a group of men at a local church who regularly meet to discuss this very issue. They are frank and forthright because they know they have to be. Any act of covering up is simply allowing the foothold.
If you are in a relationship, you should be striving to create a space where the honesty of your struggles and successes is welcomed. I assure you that you cannot keep it hidden. If it does not come out directly, it will certainly come out indirectly. You cannot hide a cat in a box spring forever. Maybe it shows up in your irritation that then becomes anger. Maybe it shows up in your failure to communicate with your mate. Maybe it shows up in you not wanting to spend intimate time with your mate. It will show up. I promise you.
The verse from Psalm 51 reminds us that this walk is a process: “Create in me a pure heart, O God.” Anything that is created takes time. It will take crafting. But everything that God created he also declared to be “good.” This would be the same.
I would safely wager that the enemy has established a path for your destruction as it relates to purity. I would safely wager that there is a foothold within your life where the enemy has begun his entrance. And he is in no mood to leave. So what do you do? You knock him down. And when he begins his climb again (he will), you knock him down again.
Speak truth over your life. Remind yourself that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Remind yourself that you are in Christ Jesus. Confess to one another. Confess to God. Ask for and receive the power of the Holy Spirit to guide you. Ask for and receive forgiveness. Ask for and receive grace.
And give grace.
And give forgiveness.
One of the things that we, or at least I, have a tendency to do is find fault in those who do what we once did. How quickly we forget. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. Whether you can see it or not, those you encounter and must give grace to are made in the image of God – just like you. They need grace – just like you. They need forgiveness – just like you. They need help – just like you.
So once you make a clean sweep, guard the door of your heart. Be vigilant. Ask for help. The last thing that you want to do is accept defeat when it seems that the enemy has nearly succeeded. The enemy doesn’t stand a chance. You are always, always, a mere five letters, two syllables, one name away from victory:
JESUS.
There’s just something about that name. The enemy may have a foothold. He may have climbed close to victory. But Jesus is King of the Mountain. I am just as certain of that as I am that cats do not belong in box springs. Be vigilant, brothers and sisters.

10,000 Reasons

This ongoing list is intended to chronicle the many different ways that I see God’s grace, faithfulness, and rich blessings. It began as a practice following the form of One Thousand Gifts, but I felt convicted to go beyond. The song “10,000 Reasons” reminded me clearly that even such a number is not enough ways or times to give thanks to God.

945) Confirmation of direction
944) Cookies
943) A ride
942) Worms
941) Being served with smiles
940) My car is better (surgery went well)
939) A timely phone call
938) Being handed the reins
937) Cold water
936) The neighbor who stopped to greet me
935) Getting my hands dirty
934) A restful day

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What is the Point of Purity? Control

There is an auto commercial that uses this tag line: “Control is the ultimate expression of power.” In the attempt to appeal to our hunger for power, the advertisement does reveal truth. I just don’t think that they intended the truth that they revealed.
We don’t need to think very hard about that line to see how it plays out. The advertisement was referring to a quality of the automobile, pointing out its exceptional handling. True, a car that handles well on the road will give you more power within traffic. The baseball pitcher who can control the location of his pitches will exert more power over the opponent. The woman who controls land by purchasing real estate is equipped with more power, both financially and in decision-making for that property. The person who controls their tongue will ultimately experience more power in the dialogue. Control is an expression of power.
But control by whom? Who is in control? Well, we could refer to one of the fruits of the Spirit, self-control, and declare that we are, in fact, in control. But are we? Is it our decision-making that is at work, or is there another power in control? Let’s take a look.
We often define control and power as equivalent to success. Think of the game of Monopoly. You want to control the most valuable places on the board, therefore giving you power over your opponents as well as success in the game. A fun game to play, but a dangerous lesson to learn. Unfortunately, Monopoly lessons play out all around us. We want the best home in the best location. We went the best clothes and the best price. We want the best job and the best title and the best income. We want our children to do their best. We want to attend the best church. All of these things create the illusion that, somehow, we are in control. I have fallen victim to this fallacy time and time again. We believe that “blessings” (translated as “success”) are a good and worthy reflection of God’s delight in our lives.
So why didn’t Jesus have the best home in the best location?
Why didn’t Jesus wear the best clothes?
Why didn’t Jesus get to be king on earth?
Why did Jesus’s church seem to be nonexistent?
Wasn’t God pleased with him? Indeed, God was and is. If God’s expression of love and blessing for his only son allowed for his only son to die a brutal, humiliating death, how did we become so different?
Jesus exercised control as an ultimate expression of power. He allowed for the will of his Heavenly Father to be accomplished by choosing only what God had in mind. The original sin of Adam and Eve boils down to this: they believed the lie that they needed more than what God had provided. God gave them dominion over the land, over every living creature, except for one tree.
Except.
How often has that word come up for you in your life?
“I would be great except…”
“I would be happy except…”
“I have everything I need except…”
Try changing your spelling.
Try “accept.”
I know not everyone realizes that those are two different things, but trust me that they are.
Jesus chose to accept the will of his Father. He chose to accept the task that he received. Jesus chose to accept death in order to give you life. Jesus exercised control. I find this truth most clearly stated in John 10:17,18
The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
And lest you think that Jesus had no choice in fulfilling the work of the Father, consider the words of Jesus just before he was arrested:
Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” John 17:24
Jesus wanted to do the will of his Father as the only act of love befitting of the gift he had been given – that of the Father’s love for all eternity. Jesus exhibited the ultimate expression of power by completely surrendering control of his flesh. To have power, he gave up control. His self-control was our penultimate example of Spirit-control.
You are free, but you have to fight to live that way. In 1863, slaves were given their legal freedom in the United States. But how long did it take before they could live as if they were truly free? If you broaden it out, you know that Jim Crow laws created a form of enslavement for African-Americans for nearly one hundred years after slavery was ended! The Civil Rights movement created more freedom equalities, but you could very rightly argue that we still fall short of freedom for all.
You were once a slave as well, a slave to the law. Your freedom has already been accomplished in the finished work of Jesus Christ. In the book of Ephesians, Paul writes of the “eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ephesians 2:11b) The eternal purpose has already been accomplished? Yes! You are free!
But we don’t live that way. We are still working out our freedom. Part of that exercise is to maintain your purity. In order to maintain the rightful status of “set apart” as a child of God, you must choose only those things which God desires for you. You must accept. As Christ stated, our expression of power is not in how much we can pick up or shoulder, but in what we choose to lay down.
What have you taken upon yourself? What have you taken within yourself? Is it pure, or is it the fruit which God has told you that you do not need and should not eat?
To realize that your ability to accomplish anything has nothing to do with you should be a very liberating experience. You are free to choose, but your strength, your power, comes from The Lord. The burden is not upon your shoulders. In that way, living a life controlled by the Spirit, you will reveal the ultimate expression of power.
Lay down your desires.
Accept God’s desires.
Experience purity.
Experience freedom.
In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Ephesians 2:12

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10,000 Reasons

This ongoing list is intended to chronicle the many different ways that I see God’s grace, faithfulness, and rich blessings. It began as a practice following the form of One Thousand Gifts, but I felt convicted to go beyond. The song “10,000 Reasons” reminded me clearly that even such a number is not enough ways or times to give thanks to God.

933) Reconnecting
932) My son’s excitement about a concert
931) A don’t-need-a-sweatshirt day
930) Soy cheeseburgers
929) Plan G-O-D
928) The server at Angelo & Riccardo’s
927) The owner of Angelo & Riccardo’s
926) The relentless work of Jim
925) A new maze at camp
924) Wind in the treetops
923) A sparrow that followed me
922) Spider webs
921) Beautifully blue lake water
920) Holy naps
919) A 3-foot long blue racer
918) Seeing the new life of spring
917) Stacking wood
916) Feeling freedom
915) Making mistakes
914) Singing “10,00 Reasons” in worship
913) The white flag of surrender
912) Playing football
911) Pit bull puppies
910) Sunshine and a brilliant moon in the same sky

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What is the Point of Purity? Victory!

If you are a sports fan at all, there has probably been a time when you had to give up watching a “very important” game because some other event had taken precedence. I once had to move on Super Bowl Sunday. From what I heard, the game was awesome. I missed it. A friend of mine was married on the day Michigan played Notre Dame in football. I missed a classic. One time, when I was much younger, a Chicago Bears playoff game fell on the same day as a family Christmas party. So my uncle, a native Chicagoan, brought a TV set to the party, set up the antennae as best he could, and watched as the Bears played the Eagles in the “Fog Bowl.” He could hardly see what was happening.
It is much harder to do now, but have you ever tried to avoid hearing the result of a game? Maybe you really, really wanted to watch the game, but standing up in a wedding was more important. So you recorded the game and told everyone not to tell you the results of the game. Now, let’s say someone accidentally told you the result – would you still watch? (Spoiler alert: I’m going to tell you a result here in a minute.) If you are truly a fan of the team, you would likely still watch. You want to see how the result happened. Who performed at their best so that your team could win? What play is worth seeing again even though you already know the result?
Well, in the game of purity, the result has already been determined. YOU WIN! (I warned you.) Unfortunately, many do not live that way. We do not live as if we are able to achieve victory in purity. But saying that we cannot achieve victory in purity is akin to placing a period after Good Friday. Christ’s death was not the final sentence in his story, and it certainly is not the final line of your story.
No, Christ’s death was the price, the sacrifice, but his life is the gift and the promise! In a discussion on purity at a recent men’s breakfast, we were asked to do the following exercise:
Write down the ways in which you had been impure over the last year. Once everyone was done, everyone crumpled their paper into a ball. Then we closed our eyes. Once everyone closed their eyes, each person tossed their crumpled paper anywhere in the room. Then we found a crumpled paper and read the anonymous lists.
We all have a list. And if you are like me, you do not fully disclose to others. I assure you that my list, even with the promise of anonymity, was incomplete. Intentionally so. We do not like to expose our mess. But what if we remembered that our mess, our sin, our brokenness, stands under the promise of complete forgiveness? What if we remembered that Christ did not simply die as the punishment for our sins, but he rose again to give us new life?
We know the end result. We know the final score. But we live as if the balance of the game hangs on us. We operate in the purity battle as if the fight is too much for us. Good news: it is. You see, if I based my purity only on my own efforts, I would always fall short. I need more than an anonymous list on a sheet of paper to list all of my infractions. But thank The Lord for Christ!
For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me. Galatians 2:19, 20
Your list is not a blank sheet of paper. And the Law tells us the price of our list – death. But that is not a price you have to pay. It has been paid, in full, but our loving Savior. And we have had our lists, our brokenness, nailed to the cross. That’s amazing! But even more amazing is that Christ does not stay there; he conquered death!
If death cannot hold him, you see, there is nothing left. That was the victory the enemy thought he could claim, and it failed. Christ rose again so that we can experience new life! If I told you that your heart’s desire, your bestest and favoritest thing in the world was available to you now or at Christmas, how many of you would wait until Christmas? If you say that you would wait, we’re going to have a talk. Why not have it now?
“The life which I now live..”
Paul’s letter to the people in Galatia did not hold out a promise they could not receive, but there is a victory that you are to live in now.
The final result of the game has already been determined. Purity wins because Christ won. And continues to win. When you take control over your steps of purity, you are operating in the life that is available and promised in full. That is not to say that the enemy will not still attempt to take you out at the knees, or in the eyes, or in the heart. That will happen. Yet Paul poses this question:
But now that you know God – how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” Galatians 4:9
Paul is very clear. Christ is clear. The life of purity is meant to be a life of victory. The list that you wrote, the stumbles that you took, the painful mistakes – none of that change the end result of the game. You did not need to believe that the balance of this match hangs on your shoulders.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
Maybe the struggle seems so difficult because you are still yoked in slavery. That is a heavy yoke; one you ought not bear. You do not have to bear it. Why? Because you are on the team that has this motto:
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30
Jesus knows about the yoke. He knows about your list. But he also knows the victory. And that is a victory he invites you to share. It is yours – for your life now. You will find the game to be very different when you remember that YOU WIN because HE WON.
Go Team Purity!

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What is the Point of Purity? Obedience

Last fall I found myself wrestling with some fairly significant life decisions. Well, I thought that I was wrestling with the decisions. I was only wrestling with myself. I shared my overflowing thoughts with my supervisor and, when she asked how she could pray for me, I fumbled out some answer about “clarity.” She heard all of my thoughts, all of my concerns, and responded with, “I am going to pray for your obedience.”
In other words, “Doug, you know what you are supposed to do. Do it!”
Obedience should not be hard, but we have a tendency to make it so. We make it difficult in our minds, but, when we bring it down to our heart, it is really quite simple. Proverbs cautions us again and again to not argue with fools. The only fool I was arguing with was myself.
This is not to suggest that obedience, and therefore purity, is easy. If it were so, we would not feel as if we are in the midst of a war. It is the very purity of our heart that the enemy seeks to destroy. The battle, the fight, is difficult. Brutal. You will incur wounds, blood loss, flesh wounds, and ultimately sacrifice your entire body to the fight. But the solution to your struggle is simple -obedience of the heart.
When my supervisor used the word “obedience” rather than my word of “clarity,” it changed my perspective. When Jesus stood on the water and told Peter to “Come,” there was no question as to what the directive was. The only question left to answer was Peter’s obedience.
We are called to be pure. Holy. Set apart. You have been adopted into God’s family, and that comes with a new standard. It’s not a standard that you can keep on your own, but by the help of the Spirit, you can.
Have you ever thought, “I sure wish I had been born with the obedience gene?” Or, “Why doesn’t God just make me obey him? That would be easier!” The main character in the book The Shack asked a question like that. The question, at its core, boils down to a question of free will. If God wants us to love him, why doesn’t he just make us?
Think about someone who loves you, or someone whom you love. Did you want the love to be an act of rote obedience, or would you prefer that it is a selfless act? Doesn’t love hold more value when one chooses to give it? If I do not have to love you, but I give my life in devotion to you, isn’t that the whole point of love?
Gideon, I believe, was found in obedience when an angel of The Lord approached him. Gideon was threshing wheat. It was a necessary task, and he was in obedience. When Gideon gave of himself, prepared a meal for the angel, he made a sacrifice. That model of obedience + sacrifice not only allowed Gideon to see that it was truly The Lord before him, but it also allowed him to understand God’s bigger purpose.
Jesus, throughout his life, offered himself in love and in obedience. To believe that Jesus was fully human is to believe that he was given the capacity of free will. Jesus had to wrestle with the same struggles of the heart that you and I do. But Jesus did not need clarity. He needed obedience. He made the sacrifice to give himself completely over the will of God out of love. He obeyed. And in giving himself to the will of his Father, he gave himself to you. It was obedience to his heart and the heart of God that allowed for his life to be pure.
How about you? Are you wrestling with a fool, and are you that fool? Yes, there are times when we need clarity. We seek out the will of God, the heart of God, and his desires for us in different situations. But when it comes to purity, you do not need clarity. You need obedience. Have you engaged in an activity that falls outside of the realm of obedience? Have you engaged in a relationship with a person that does not fall within the will of God?
You are surrounded by choices; I have no doubt about that. But what will you choose? Are you waiting for God to make you obey? Do you want him to step in and thump you over the head? Or, in your heart, do you know what it is that you are called to do? More importantly, do you know who it is that you are called to love?
God is a jealous God. He longs for your love to be placed in him. He desires that you would be set apart, made holy and special, unto him. But the choice is yours. Will you, out of love, obey those words of God to remain pure? Will you, through acts of obedience, give your love?
I am certain that your ability to remain pure in love for another person is directly impacted and connected by your ability to remain pure in love with God. You cannot separate them.
When I realized the wisdom of my supervisor, I changed how I viewed my actions. There was no question about whether or not I should step out of the boat. The only question left was whether or not I would. I did. I left a full-time position, leaving only a part-time position in chaplaincy as my income. And God used my sacrifice completely. And he revealed a bigger plan. Just as he did for Gideon, God gave me the clarity of my call to ministry. Now I know that anything other than that would only pollute the pure direction he has placed within me.
And the pattern must repeat.
Obey. Sacrifice. Revelation of purpose. Obey. Sacrifice.
As you consider purity, understand that purity is not a choice. But your obedience is. What will you choose?

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