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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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.

909) Hearing from a friend
908) Trust
907) Meeting new people
906) Encouraging words
905) Finding Edith
904) Desires to help
903) Rearranged schedules
902) Wireless keyboard
901) Spirit-led conversation
900) Brilliant moonlight on a clear night

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