Tempted to Sleep

And when he rose from prayer, he came to his disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Luke 22:45-46

I was in the Prayer Room at the Desiring God National Conference here in Minnesota when I read this tonight, and it made an impression on me. Jesus is in Gethsemane, and after separating himself and praying so earnestly that sweat falls like great drops of blood to the ground, he returns to his disciples to find them asleep. At first I thought Jesus said to them “Get up and pray this: pray that you won’t be tempted.” I thought the word that introduced the content of what the disciples were to pray. That’s one way to use the word that, right? As in, “Did I tell you that I read Luke 22 earlier?” But this isn’t the kind of that Jesus is using. He is using the word that which introduces not content but purpose. “Rise and pray in order that you may not enter temptation.”

I think about the times in my life when I have been most tempted, and they have been when I have been asleep. Not physically, but spiritually. It seems to be a one-way-or-the-other kind of deal: Either I enter into prayer, into a life characterized by wakefulness, watchfulness, and prayer, or I enter into temptation, into a life characterized by soft decisions and desires which grow stronger and stronger until they blot out the thought of prayer or fellowship or worship or confession or study or repentance or joy.

I have been so convicted lately, and this reading has been one more confirmation, that the call of the day is prayer. Watchful prayer which engages the mind and soul to do business with God, to cry out over the lost, to repent of sin, to understand the Word, to make peace with the body, to send and go and be light in every corner of the globe. It’s a call on my life, and it’s a call on your life:”Rise, pray in order that you may not enter into temptation.”



New job, new digs, new neighborhood- I feel like a brand new man. And I feel so convicted about that.

I just got an internship I had been pushing for, and with it the opportunity to move seven miles north of Downtown Minneapolis, where I’ve been for the last three years. It’s no secret that I’ve always disliked the city, so living on the edge is much nicer. My house is much bigger and better than anything I’ve had in the last few years, so I feel like I’m living in a palace. And to top it off, I get to spend much more of my time in ministry at a church I enjoy- put it all together and I feel like a whole new me.

And that’s the problem, isn’t it? It’s not wrong to enjoy any of those things, and it’s not wrong to want make the push to do things differently in new circumstances, but this feels like an identity shift- I can feel myself looking to this happy conflation to make me a newer, better person. It won’t.

There are any number of reasons why it won’t, but one of them is simply that I can’t get any newer than I am now, excepting the new body I get when Jesus comes back. I’m new- I’m absolutely new, and it’s because Jesus made me new, not because I got a chance to distance myself from the mistakes I made yesterday.

I don’t think this is abstract, and I don’t think it’s semantics. See, when I feel new because I’m operating in a new capacity at work, or because I bought a new pair of sweet sunglasses, I act differently- don’t you? But that difference in the way I act is shaped by the thing which made me feel that way, and it only lasts as long as the thing which made me that way is new. As soon as the shades get scratched, I’m no longer promenading around with my chin held high and my chest puffed out (this is just an example- I’m not the promenading type; more of an ambler). But when Christ makes me new, he makes me like him, and my new way of life lasts as long as he does. And the way I think about that matters. “Put on the new self,” Paul says, “created after the image of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

So if you see me sashaying around like I own the place, feel free to remind me who made me new- who really made me new.


Felix Culpa

Today marks the end of National Poetry month, and what a better way to celebrate than with a poem from America’s greatest president ever- Teddy Roosevelt. Not only was he a boxer and a naturalist, he was also a fair hand with words. This poem of his was untitled, so I have titled it myself.

Because I craved a gift too great,
For any prayer of mine to bring,
Today with empty hands I go;
Yet must my heart rejoice to know
I did not ask a lesser thing.

Because the goal I sought for lay,
In cloud hid heights, today my soul,
Goes unaccompanied of its own;
Yet this shall comfort me alone,
I did not seek a nearer goal

O gift ungained, O goal unwon!
Still I am glad remembering this,
For all I go unsatisfied,
I have kept the faith with joy denied.
Nor cheated life with cheaper bliss.

Thank You, Dr. Heimlich

Almost eight years ago, the beginning of the summer of 2005. I had just gotten my lifeguarding certification that spring, with the attendant oxygen administration and first aid/CPR certifications. I remember being in line for food at a huge picnic, when not ten feet away from me a woman started screaming. “Help! My baby’s choking!” My first instinct was to go over to her and tell her that I could help, when all of the sudden I froze. Agonizing seconds ticked by. That baby is choking! I said to myself. But I don’t remember what to do! Eventually someone else stepped in to help, and the baby was fine. But I was shaken up. My heart was pounding, adrenaline was coursing through my veins, and I felt like a failure.

Last night at work I was standing in at the front desk when a coworker came out of the break room and ran toward me in a panic, making the universal sign for choking. I positioned myself behind her and began performing abdominal thrusts until the food was dislodged. After she recovered, I realized that my heart rate hadn’t even gone up. In fact, I hadn’t even stopped to think about what to do; I just did it.

It’s amazing the difference between those two events. Years of training and countless calls on the ambulance have drilled certain skill-sets into my head. I think there’s a lesson there. If I had to go back and talk to 15-year old Dan Stanley, I would tell him that though the stakes were high that day, he should be comforted by the fact that it takes time to develop automatic responses. I would encourage him to keep on training, because someday the training would pay off.

I think the Christian faith is like that. We who trust in Christ are, right now, becoming what we will someday be (1 John 3:2-3). We are weak yet, but God is working in us that which is pleasing to him, namely, our growth in all things into Christ, who is our Head (Ephesians 4:15). We aren’t perfect in holiness yet. But we are being perfected. And the more that we follow the Spirit in denying the flesh, the more accustomed we will be to following the Spirit and denying the flesh.

So today’s little acts of holiness amid a sea of failure do count. It’s not in vain to deny the flesh this afternoon, even if you do give in tonight. You’re growing up. And that should be encouraging.

Duly Noted: Dr. Rusten


So, I love books. I hope that’s clear by now. But much of what I read is the sort of stuff you might like to take notes while reading- theology, philosophy, Little Golden Books, and so on. Unfortunately, I’m not great at marking up books (or at least I wasn’t a year ago). So when I see someone smart, I usually ask them how they take notes, and then try out their system to see if it works for me. Ultimately, I should end up with a great system of taking notes, and in the meantime, I’ll share some note-taking systems I’ve learned with you.

Dr. Mike Rusten (Professor at Bethlehem College and Seminary with an awesome website) has a simple system for reading books he’ll most likely read again. In the margin, he’ll make a single vertical line next to text he would read a second time through, and a double vertical line next to text he’d like to take and use in something of his own.

Rusten1 Rusten2

I’ve found this to be great with books I’ll probably read or at least glance over again, but which aren’t terribly hard to read. Making lines in the margin is also better than underlining because 1) if you’re like me, you almost always end up crossing things out when you underline, and 2) it saves ink for large passages which you wish to mark.
Also, while using Dr. Rusten’s system, I found it helpful to use an “M” in the margin when I saw something I would like to meditate on in the future, as is pictured above.

So there you go. I’ll post more systems in the future, but go try out Dr. Rusten’s system. I hope you will enjoy it.



Worth Reading: Spiritual Disciplines


I start reading books all the time. Unfortunately, I finish very few. That’s probably why I’ve got this euphoric feeling right now- I just finished Don Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (You can buy it here). Admittedly, I had to read Whitney for school, but that doesn’t diminish my victory one bit.

Spiritual Disciplines is a fantastic book- I highly recommend it to any Christian serious about growing in godliness. Whitney gives an insightful and pastoral overview of ten key disciplines in the Christian life, chock-full of profound quotes and challenging questions. This book is definitely going onto the bookshelf above my desk (a high honor), to be consulted frequently. It’s 249 pages of conviction and good advice- worth reading!