Category Archives: Christian Life

Articles and resources to help you grow in maturity and your ability to apply God’s truth to every area of your life.

Race and Dignity

One of the most foundational pillars of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and teaching was the rightful importance he placed on the inherent dignity of every human person. As I preached in my sermon yesterday, when we fight the wrong war of being on the “right” side, we caricaturize our enemies and lose the dignity and nuance of a real person made in the image of God.

Instead, the war we are called to wage as Christians is one against our indwelling sin, and the death that must happen is the death of hostility (Ephesians 2). This is part of our identity in Christ, and what all Christians have in common with one another. It is the truth that unites us, even as we make every effort to work out the truths of our salvation in developed solidarity. In practice, this looks like each of us doing the loving, good action in word and deed, even when others may misunderstand us, disapprove of us, or even “cancel” us. Presently, the wars that voices in the world call us to engage in are largely wars of self-protection; they will not lead to the ends that Dr. King emboldened us toward. Dr. King lived a life of sacrificial love at tremendous personal cost, even unto death. This is the life our Savior has called us to live, as the author and forerunner of our faith in his own death and in enduring opposition from sinners (Hebrews 12:2-3). Dr. King faced opposition in the context of 1960s segregation. The flavors of injustice are different now, but still must be faced with prudence, so that we engage in the Christian conquest of peace rather than the worldly wars of division.   

As I have watched both Christians and my non-Christian neighbors struggle with questions surrounding racial justice, I have become increasingly less concerned with their ability to think about race than I am concerned about their overall ability to think about everything that is foundational to thinking about race. How does a Christian, or any human, think carefully and helpfully about race and racial justice if one doesn’t understand well the nature of the human person; the nature of moral reasoning; the intricate nature of social and political policymaking; the opportunities and liabilities of human emotions like fear, anger, and empathy; how trying to help people usually hurts them; what means can be employed with justice if we are combating a particular injustice, and so on? My greater concern is that Christians have not employed themselves in the great virtues necessary for a great democracy.

I don’t pretend to know all of the proper answers about racial justice in America. On one level, there may not be any answers. On another, there may be dozens of acceptable answers, depending on the particular question. We could pursue many possible futures and many possible solutions. I am concerned about racial justice, but because I am concerned about racial justice, I am more concerned about the faculties and virtues and wisdom we must possess in order to avoid doing more harm than good. The greatest tragedy a family might suffer is for a mother to give birth with great excitement, effort, and agony, only for the baby to emerge stillborn and the mother to perish. Our great goal in pursuing racial justice is to ensure a flourishing birth, but when it comes to racial justice, the child is most certainly breached. It will take more than outrage, and more than denial to bring forth a new birth of freedom and equality in the company of reconciliation, forgiveness, and solidarity.

It is reasonably likely that we will never achieve the beautiful society of prosperity, justice, and solidarity of which we dream. If what we imagine is a utopia, it will most certainly fail. But that does not mean we cannot achieve a society that is significantly more just than the one we have, and even given the realities of the human condition, I believe that more is possible. Yet to reach this goal, I believe that the Christian church, and much of the American public, will need to be elevated not just in their racial consciousness, but in their spirituality and humanity.

Consider this particular passage given to a group of Christians in a very unjust Greco-Roman society that appear to have significant division between the rich and poor in the church:

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

(James 1:19-27, NIV)

I want to encourage you to read this passage over the course of a few days. It’s all in there. This is a powerful summary of the kind of spiritual and moral elevation that can happen through the gospel of Christ and that is necessary for godliness both individually and socially. The political conservative, libertarian, and progressive will each favor some portion of it. Everybody will find a line that they might pick out to apply to the present conflict, but very few people would be willing to say all of it. Yet the written word of God holds all of these as both true and critically relevant:

  • You should be quick to listen to other people and slow to speak. Listen to people and empathize with their stories. If necessary, lament with their sorrows. This is a fundamentally human way of loving each other and a necessity for unity, reconciliation, and solidarity.
  • You should be slow to become angry and should recognize that anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Do you see anger around you? Do you see its willingness to flare quickly and recklessly? Anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires—and God desires justice, including racial justice. Anger has some possible benefits, but it has almost no constructive ones. If your goal is righteousness, including racial justice and reconciliation, anger will not and cannot produce it. If you are a believer, you must accept that and learn to discern what to do with anger when you rightly feel it as a signal of injustice, or when you recognize it as a signal of self-righteousness.
  • You need an absolute moral makeover in Christ. You cannot go along with the flow, because evil and moral filth are “so prevalent.” To reject this is arrogance of the worst sort. What we require is the humility to accept the word that was planted in us, the word that can cleanse us from moral filth and from going along with worldliness, but can also save us.
  • It’s no use to talk and not obey the word. We are responsible to obey all of the word of God that we know, and if we say we believe something and then do not act in accordance with that belief, we are succumbing to a certain kind of spiritual illness. We are like a person so forgetful that we can look at the mirror one moment and forget what we look like the next. To know the word of God and disobey it is like having no idea who you are after you just confessed it.
  • The righteous law of God brings freedom. That is, if you want freedom, pursue righteousness in accord with the righteous law of God. This is a freedom from the sin within ourselves and from the sin of sinners who are also changed by that law. Although the primary context here is freedom from the wretchedness of sin and internal spiritual weakness, the idea that the law brings freedom is also applied socially in the Old Testament—righteousness brings liberty.
  • Keeping a tight rein on your tongue is fundamental to truthful religious faith. The failure to control your tongue shows that your claim to be spiritual is self-deception, and your spirituality is worthless. This should be a chilling reminder to everyone in this season.
  • Pure and acceptable faith in God must include “to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
    • First, this means that true faith has an irreducible social component. That component specifically includes the physical needs of a society’s poorest members, especially those blamelessly suffering poverty due to misfortune. Those who former religions would have said are suffering because of providence, Christians are to support disproportionately, rejecting the idea that the effects of the curse are the positive providence of God that we can use to judge the people who are suffering. Getting this right is fundamental to true theology, and actually helping those people with their physical needs is an essential part of it.
    • Second, you cannot separate a rejection of worldliness from engagement in social justice. There is an inextricable link between the social responsibilities that come from loving solidarity and our personal moral responsibilities to pursue godliness and reject worldliness. Any self-identified Christian who seeks to use their acts of social service as a way of excusing their sin and worldliness is deceived and lying about their faith. Conversely, anyone who makes great effort towards the disciplines and virtues of personal holiness, but has no recognition of their responsibility to love others in social solidarity—even the widows and orphans that come across their path—is also deceiving themselves, and their faith is worthless.

This is one of the reasons why I love Christian faith. God is no respecter of persons, nor of political movements. He does not favor the rich over the poor, nor the poor over the rich. He will defend the wife against the brutal husband, and he will, with equal seriousness, call out the disgusting behavior of the quarrelsome wife. He will demand that a slave owner treat his slave as a brother, and he will tell a slave not to steal from his master. He will put the weight of justice on the governor, and he will demand that every citizen be easy to govern. He disproportionately supports the poor and disenfranchised, not because they are better, but because they are unheard and need special attention. Yet he does not give them license to act unjustly towards their oppressors. He acts to ensure that they receive justice and that the people of God can live in peaceful harmony.

Our shared humanity and shared salvation in Christ relate us to each other with great equity and equality, regardless of our background, race, cultural identity, gender, or mixture of identifying characteristics. Spiritual equality before God is the basis for our equality before the law. But this same dignity is also the dignity that establishes God’s high expectations of his image bearers. There are no excuses for our behavior; there is only grace and the invitation to a new way. 

Romans 5 — 8 Devotional Plan

In this unique season, many of our usual rhythms, structures, and comforts have been suddenly stripped away. Because of this, it is an opportune time to turn (or return) our hearts and minds to the discipline of devotion to the Lord. If you’ve never had consistent devotional times before, or haven’t had them recently, you might feel intimidated. You’re not alone! We’re all reading together, and we’ve put together some resources for you.

What to read: Romans 5-8

In the weeks leading up to Easter, we’ll be studying Romans 8 on Sundays. During the week, we will read passages that lead up to and tie into Romans 8.

  • Week of March 29: Read through Romans 5
  • Week of April 5: Read through Romans 7
  • Week of April 12 [Easter]: Read through Romans 8

You’re not reading alone.

Devotional Drills videos

In these videos, Pastor Nic will break down the passage and train us how to engage with the Scriptures that we are reading. Subscribe to the High Point Church YouTube channel to get notifications of when these videos are posted throughout the week.

Devotional podcasts

We will be discussing the passages we are reading together on the Engage & Equip podcast.

Further resources

How to have a devotional time

Reading the Bible

If you have any questions, contact Jill at

Fighting for Devotional Time: Practical Tips

Listen to discussion on the Fighting for Devotional Time series on the Engage & Equip podcast, episode #173.

Now that we’ve covered the three biggest introduction topics—developing the discipline of devotion, focusing your mind, and approaching the Scriptures with open honesty—you may wonder, “Yes, but there have to be some basic helpful techniques you can give us.” There are. Here are a few:

  1. Get a very readable translation of the Bible. I’m not against the King James Version, but it is written in 1611 English. Most people just don’t understand that version of English. The English Language has many incredible translations, Including the NIV, ESV, NET, HCSB, NASB, NLT, and so on. 
  2. Don’t read the Bible straight through. For most people, it is best to start with one of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. If you wish to start at the beginning, Genesis is a fairly interesting book, and so is at least the first 20 chapters of Exodus. If you get into the law starting in Genesis chapter 20 and then get bored and distracted, then flip forward to the New Testament and read something else. Some of the fairly understandable books of the New Testament are Philippians, 1 Corinthians, 1 John, Galatians, and so on. Also, the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel and Kings in the Old Testament are narrative books with lots of action. Young men especially tend to enjoy these books. If you’re looking for comfort and emotion, many people like the poetry of the Psalms; you don’t have to read those in order, they are all individual songs. If you have any trouble, ask somebody. Almost anyone who has been reading the Bible for a while can help you out with where to read.
  3. Read the Bible in “sections.” Many modern Bibles will have little subheadings in the text. These tend to mark out biblical sections pretty well. Generally speaking, you want to read a complete story, or a complete argument. It’s the best way to make sure you aren’t taking something out of context. Some of these can be fairly long, while others can be very short. However, biblical authors try to make sections of the text complete in themselves. Try to read a complete “section.” You’ll have a better chance of interpreting it well, and taking away the right truths. 
  4. Don’t get upset if you don’t understand 100%. You will almost never understand 100% of any text of the Bible. If you understand 5%, but you really do understand that part, then you have gotten something from God’s word and you should cherish it. Next time you’ll understand 15%, and so on. If you think you have completely misunderstood a section, again, ask for help. But just remember, we read the Bible for incremental change, not perfect understanding. I have read many passages in my life where I didn’t understand many good and important things in the passage, but I did understand one real thing from the passage. To the extent which I believed and applied that one thing, God used it in my life. 
  5. Almost every detail matters. So, don’t just read for something that sounds spiritual. Virtually every detail is important as part of the story or part of the argument. The more little things you assume don’t matter, the less likely you will understand what’s really going on. It’s often the detail you overlooked that will open up the meaning of the passage. Go back and reread.
  6. Before you read, pray and ask God to open up some truth to you. God will respond, and it will open your heart. It’s important to know and believe that God is active in your devotions, not just you.
  7. I find it helpful to write down the main thing I’m taking away from what I read. Especially the first couple of years I had personal devotions, I practiced this for about 25% of my devotional time. In those days I set aside about an hour. I read the Bible for about 25 minutes. I wrote in my journal for about 10 minutes. I meditated about what I read for about five minutes before I wrote and after I wrote, rereading what I had written. And then I prayed for whatever time I had left.
  8. Have someone with whom you regularly share what you are learning. Preferably somebody further along in the faith, and in studying the Bible. 
  9. Check out a Bible study class, or a book. I don’t encourage people to do this right away. Don’t read about reading the Bible before you read the Bible. Read the Bible for a little while first. Then go and learn from someone, or read something. You’ll learn a lot more if you have some prior experience. 

Obey whatever you learn. God has no incentive to teach you what you are unwilling to do. Knowledge of God is in some sense an end in itself if it grows our devotion or helps us in our understanding. But, studying Scripture should lead us to things in our life that we will have to change or adjust or think of in completely different ways. If you want God to show you more, act on what he has shown you already. This way you will show God that you are truly interested in him; additionally, it’s amazing how much you will learn about God in the act of obeying itself. Reading the Bible is not the only time we learn about God and ourselves. Ultimately, we are called to live lives of active love.

Fighting for Devotional Time: Open Honesty

Listen to discussion on the Fighting for Devotional Time series on the Engage & Equip podcast, episode #173.

So far, I have written about two ways to fight for devotional time: developing a discipline of devotion and focusing your mind. These practices both require that we intentionally stop, or at least put aside for the moment, many urgent tasks and diversions in order to make them happen.

The first positive practice of actually doing devotions is to read God’s word with open honesty. You must treat the Scriptures like someone you’re just getting to know. It would be wrong to try to make this new acquaintance just like yourself. You must get to know them for who they are before you know how they might relate to you.

Similarly, we have to come to the Scriptures humbly. They are God’s word, not ours. And we should not expect to know what God wishes to tell us before we read them. One of the great themes of the Scriptures is that we make God in our image, and we don’t listen to what he says. As we begin to read the Bible, we must be as vigilant against this human failing as possible.

Although this may seem like a simple point, it is perhaps the most transformative along with being the most important. The most likely way to get nothing from reading the Bible is to read it self-righteously. For example, it is usually best to assume that you are most like the worst human character in the story. Otherwise, we imagine ourselves as agreeing with God, looking over his shoulder at the idiotic, piddly humans who are much worse than the two of us (us and God).

This is not the intention of the writers. For example, well after the apostles had become heroes of the early church, they caused themselves to be portrayed as foolish followers of Jesus who didn’t understand his teachings and never seemed to have faith or understanding in the moment. Portraying themselves honestly in this way was intentional, as we then identify with them as dense, foolish, faithless and weak. It may feel uncomfortable, but by identifying with the person who is failing in the story, we put ourselves in the position to learn the lesson either they did learn, or that they should have learned. It makes us a true pupil—a real “disciple,” which means a “learner.”

Although this is not a very technical idea, it is the most important attitude when coming to read the Bible. If you have this attitude correct, over time, you will read the Bible for great benefit. If you get this one thing wrong, no matter what technical concepts you understand about interpretation, in the end, you will learn nothing.

So read with humility. For the God of Scripture loves to give grace to the humble. He loves to teach the inquisitive and make the simple wise. The right attitude will make all the difference. Learn to read the Scriptures with both humility and faith.

Fighting for Devotional Time: Focusing Your Mind

Listen to discussion on the Fighting for Devotional Time series on the Engage & Equip podcast, episode #173.

Yesterday, I posted about the first hardest part about fighting for devotional time: the discipline of simply doing a devotional rather than not doing it. 

The second hardest part of doing devotions is concentration and thought. Most people do not have a mind trained for thinking and concentration. Our minds function similarly to our bodies in that when we are out of shape, it’s harder to perform anything strenuous. Additionally and unhelpfully, our lives and homes tend to be filled with all kinds of convenient distractions. 

Therefore, to have a profitable devotional time, the next step after simply having one is to achieve something like concentration—focus. This can be aided with controlling your environment and the use of mild stimulants, like coffee or tea. Stay away from things like cocaine.

In order for many people to achieve concentration and focus, they need to repeatedly go to a quiet environment in which they have removed obvious distractions. Often, this has to be done fairly early in the day before distractions multiply. Early is often the best time to concentrate because you have the most mental energy you will have all day. Putting this together with a concentration aiding beverage can help you focus. Journaling can also aid with focus. Although journaling has some liabilities, it has two benefits. First, manual writing tends to keep you focused on creating the content you are writing. Second, writing things down allows you to go back and look at what you have written days, weeks, months or even years later. I recently went through a ten year prayer journal I used from 2010 through 2019. It not only was encouraging to see what God had done in those ten years, but it allowed me to carry forward things God had been shaping over that decade into the next. It gave continuity to my pursuit of God, the change he was praying into my life, and a sense that he has been working in me.  

Aside from these aids, there is no substitute for the work of concentration. Some people can concentrate nearly effortlessly for an hour to 90 minutes. This is often the case if you have a job that requires long periods of concentration that keeps your mind in this kind of shape. For some of us, concentrating for ten minutes may feel like active work. The most important thing is to start with where you are and to do what you can do. Push yourself without injuring yourself. Just like if you started running after months of sedentary living, you shouldn’t try to run two miles your first time. You’ll probably both fail and hurt yourself.

Similarly, if you have not been spending time concentrating, push yourself about 30% longer than comes natural. For some people that will be ten minutes. For others it will be 25. Just make sure you stretch yourself. Over time, you’ll be able to build yourself up to concentrating longer just as you would increase weights in the weight room if you were getting in shape.

Again, doing devotions brings natural benefits along with the spiritual benefits. By pursuing a sharp mind for God you will end up with a sharper, more disciplined mind for everything. Your devotions won’t just develop you spiritually; they will sharpen you mentally. You will literally become smarter over time—a clearer thinker. I have discipled many people who have said that their faith made them much smarter than they were before. That is not because faith in itself makes us more intelligent—some ways that people believe can decrease their curiosity and make them functionally less intelligent over time. 

But there is an educational and intellectual development to knowing God. As we exercise our mental abilities in pursuing him, he matures and shapes our minds for his service. And as you see the good results of this pursuit, you may find within yourself the growing conviction to minimize and remove the things in your life which distract you and dilute your concentration. 

If we listen to Jesus’ call to love God with all our minds, and if we grow in our powers of concentration as we pursue deeper devotion to him, then he grows and sharpens our minds as we give our minds to him.

Fighting for Devotional Time: The Discipline of Devotion

Listen to discussion on the Fighting for Devotional Time series on the Engage & Equip podcast, episode #173.

Last Sunday, March 15, we talked about what to take back from COVID-19. The primary thing we can take back for good from the destruction of this pandemic, other than an increased discipline of love for our neighbor, is an increased discipline of devotion to God. To this end, this post is the first of a four-part series on fighting for devotional time.

The most important part of doing a devotional is the act of doing it rather than not doing it. This is the main obstacle to start and remains the main obstacle as you proceed. Once you start reading God’s word, you will find benefit in it, and you will know God and his wisdom better. The challenge we face in disciplining ourselves to do this good in devotion to God is three-fold. 

First, we have to escape the obstacle of the urgent. There is always something screaming for our attention: kids, work, cleaning, entertainment, and so on. Most growth and self-care requires putting off the urgent for the needful. The urgent thing will not thank you for doing this. It will complain. To persevere, you must know you are doing the right thing for yourself, and for all the urgent things in your life that will get a better version of you after you do what is needful. This is true of sleep, eating well, and exercise, too, but doing what is spiritually needful is the most important of all. 

The second obstacle is that the Flesh, often embodied in our habits and nervous system,  wants to be pleased by doing something that brings pleasure with no effort and, especially, with no concentration. Mental concentration on something that will cause growth is really hard for most people. It’s like going running. Your body and mind are actually working against you. It’s easier to sleep longer, watch something, play a game, or look at memes. We are pre-programed by the Flesh to save energy and to do what’s easy. You have to choose to overcome this, and then to take time and concentrate on God and his word. 

Third, an obstacle we may not be aware of (nor want to admit to ourselves) is our uneasiness with coming to God himself in any real way. We talk about wanting to know and seek God, but deep down we know he is truly terrifying to the sober soul. We know that our life deserves to be evaluated as a “big damnable disappointment,” and no one else knows that better than God. We certainly don’t want to be around the One that knows our failure and wickedness best, nor do we want to go through the consistent experience of acknowledging that truth as we come to him. Coming to God can feel like a death—because it is. That is exactly why you need it. The death is the death of our lying, self-deceiving pretensions. When we come to God, we know somehow that this is Someone to whom we cannot really lie. Even the lies we tell ourselves don’t work for very long if we take up the practice of being honest with God. 

These three obstacles are each areas in which we have to first show devotion to God and his goods in order to start a discipline of devotion. 

First, we have to value God more than the urgent and the approval we get for tending to urgent things. We have to seek his love and approval rather than the approval of people and things that want something from us NOW!!! 

Second, we have to value God and be devoted to him over the ease of amusement. The word “amusement” literally means “not to think.” A first step of devotion is to decide God is worth thinking about enough to escape the amusement of immediate entertainments. 

Third, in coming to God in devotion, we have to be more devoted to his truth than to maintaining our lies. We have to be more interested in the growing pains that his truth will bring than in our stagnant comfort. We have to be more interested in the nakedness of honesty, than in the makeshift garment of our self-deception and self-justification. We have to be more interested in knowing the living God, than in having a false version of ourselves with which we can distract the world around us. 

Devotions have to start with devotion.