Providence Church Blog A gospel-centered church in Austin, Tx


Author Archive

God on Boylston Street

At 2:43 PM last Monday, I took out my iPhone and made a 13 second video of the finish line. I was standing on the northeast corner of Exeter and Boylston in Boston. My wife had completed the marathon a few minutes before, so I was taking in the atmosphere around the finish line before I went to meet up with her. I was proud of her, amazed that anyone could run 26 miles. There was no hurry, because she would be tied up for the next hour … rehydrating, getting a massage, basking in the glory of finishing the world’s most prestigious marathon. So, I sauntered slowly eastward on Boylston Street. I paused at the finish line and watched more runners cross. They were exhausted, but jubilant … and I was happy for them.

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Newtown and Advent

On Monday morning, I left the house early. The last person I said goodbye to on my way out the door was Sophie, my 6-year-old. I had to get down on one knee to look her in the eye and take in her wide smile (which is missing a few teeth). She’s a cutie. So eager to love and hug. So excited to take on the day, whatever day it is. So little. So fragile. As I hugged her, I was overcome with the thought that only 3 days before, a man walked into an elementary school and murdered 20 Sophies. What did he see on their faces as he burst into their classroom? How many of them were smiling just seconds before … probably with the precious teeth-missing smile only true of a 6-year-old?

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First Day of High School

This morning I dropped off my daughter Lauren and her friend Emily at high school. High school. I have a daughter in high school. The drive over was fairly quiet. I asked Lauren and Emily how they were feeling about the day.

“Nervous,” they both answered.

I asked them what makes them most nervous … academics, social dynamics, schedule and busyness, the unknown?

“All of it,” they both answered.

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Why and How We Worship Together

Worship. If we’re honest with ourselves, we can easily have a reductionist view of that word. That is, for most American evangelical Christians, worship is primarily about music and preaching. Like it or not, all of us are in some way shaped by this cultural ethos in the American church. So, when we evaluate a worship service, we typically ask ourselves questions like, “Did I like the music and was I moved by it? Did I like the sermon, and was I personally challenged, motivated, convicted, and (as a plus) entertained by it?” In other words, knowingly or unknowingly, we tend to evaluate worship based on our private or personal experience of it. What did I get out of it? How did it make me feel? The problem with this is that a worship service of the church is not private worship. It is corporate worship. It is the gathering of God’s people. The focus of the worship service in the New Testament is not upon self-edification and self-gratification but upon worshipping God and building up the church (edifying others). Gathered worship on Sunday is not something for us to consume or observe or from which to seek a “feel good” experience. Rather it is something we enter into and in which we participate by faith.

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Reading the Bible Together

King David, in Psalm 19, says this about the word of God:

7 The instructions of the Lord are perfect,
 reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy,
 making wise the simple.
 8 The commandments of the Lord are right,
 bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.
 9 Reverence for the Lord is pure, 
lasting forever. The laws of the Lord are true;
 each one is fair.
 10 They are more desirable than gold,
 even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey,
 even honey dripping from the comb.
 11 They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them.

God’s word revives us, makes us wise, brings us joy, gives us insight, warns us, and leads us to great reward in obeying God. What a privilege that we have his perfect word so readily accessible to us in our Bibles! To own a personal copy of the Scriptures has not been the norm for most people in the history of the church. I need to regularly remind myself what a blessing it is to sit down with a cup of coffee, open my own copy of the Bible, and receive counsel and perspective from God’s very word.

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Community: Just a Matter of Personal Choice?

Community. As Christians, we all want it. Unfortunately, we often want it primarily for what we will get out of it, not for what we might have to put into it. Because of this, it is easy to have a consumeristic approach to community. We want to tailor-make our community in much the same way we would custom order an automobile (“I want the pearl white exterior, tan leather interior, and navigation system, but no sunroof.”) This approach makes sense to us, because we get to choose everything else in our lives (from the songs we download to the type of milk in our latte). So why shouldn’t we be able to choose our community in such a way that it maximizes our own growth and best fits our own preferences, schedule, and comfort?

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When Leaders Die

When I heard about the passing of Steve Jobs yesterday evening, for some reason it struck a chord of emotion in me in a way that isn’t typical when I learn of the death of someone famous. The emotion I felt when Bill Bright died was more intense (I wept), but there was something similar in my feelings last night. I’m trying to pinpoint what it is, and I think I’ve identified it. When someone dies who has helped shape a generation, there is both a sense of loss and a sense of wonder as to who will step up to fill their shoes. Who will be next in line to take great risks? Who will cast bold vision? Who will winsomely but doggedly change the way millions of people see the world? I guess what I’m saying is that I mourn the loss of leaders.

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Already But Not Yet

The land is a major theme in Deuteronomy. God had delivered Israel out of slavery. But he didn’t deliver them so they could just be wanderers and exiles. He was taking them to a place! He was taking them to the land of Canaan, which God had promised the fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) that he would give to their descendants. The land was to be a place of abundance, flowing with milk and honey, with lush hills and valleys, and lots of produce. The land was to be a place of blessing and a place of rest. The land was to be a home for a people who had never had one.

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Race of Repentance

There is often an aversion amongst evangelical Protestants to talking about faith and repentance together. The fear is that salvation will be linked to works. One of the great legacies of the Protestant Reformation is the recapturing of the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith. That is, we are made right with God through faith alone in Christ alone. Whenever “repentance” is mentioned, some feel like it could be easily and wrongly interpreted as “penance”…doing works to atone for sin and merit God’s forgiveness. For John Calvin, repentance meant something entirely different.

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Sabbath Rest for a Redeemed People

As 21st Century Americans we are extremely restless – meaning it is very difficult for us to rest. Silence and inactivity often make us uncomfortable, so we reach for our cell phones to catch up on a Twitter or Facebook feed. Most of us can remotely work from anywhere, which means that we work everywhere – including in our homes and during our “free” time.

We don’t rest well, because we don’t trust God. We don’t trust him to meet our needs. We don’t trust him to give us an identity. We don’t trust him to fulfill us. So we overwork to provide for ourselves and to prove ourselves. We frantically pursue entertainment, leisure, and information to somehow satisfy our soul. At best this is exhausting; at worst, enslaving.

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