Living in a Van Down By the River

I come from the Adam Sandler and Chris Farley Saturday Night Live generation. One of Chris Farley’s most famous SNL characters was Matt Foley. Foley is a motivation speaker, 35 years old, divorced, and lives in a van down by the river.

In the classic SNL sketch, Farley’s character was brought in to speak to the kids of very concerned parents. Matt used his life as an example of what not to do, or the end result will be— living in a van down by the river.

The Big Question

“What is God’s will for your life?” If I had a nickel for every time I heard that question, I might think God’s will was to be obscenely rich. “What is God’s will for my life?” is a face melting, anxiety-inducing question for me. My answer often has been, “I don’t know! Will someone please tell me?!”

I can remember being a High School Senior and having no earthly idea about what college to go to, and the idea of ‘God’s will for my life’ was nothing but one big question mark. I spent all my prayer time focusing on asking God to spill it.

In agony, I buried my face in the grass, tears, and sweat pouring down my face while praying, “Just tell me what to do! What is your will?!” But I should have been resting in Christ kneeling in the garden, praying, sweating like blood over what was the Father’s will for his life (Luke 22:39-44).

Haunted By My Idol

My experience as a Christian did not revolve around Christ. It revolved around asking, “What is God’s will for my life?” Hunting the answer to this question was my god, and I paid homage to it every day. In tithes, offerings, prayer, devotion, worship, and singing all umpteen verses of, “Just as I Am” and “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.”

I was determined to pin God down and force him to tell me his will, every detail of it, to make sure I didn’t mess up all his plans for my life. I had no interest in what God had done for me in the past. I only wanted to know what I was supposed to do for God in the future.

I was haunted by the thought that if I did not figure out God’s will for my life, I was sure to be living in a van down by the river of a wasted life. Missed opportunities. Missed blessings. Missed callings. Missed purpose. Missed prosperity. All of my potential gone—all because I missed out on God’s will for my life.

The idea that I have this kind of control on God’s will for my life is downright terrorizing. If there was anyone who would mess up God’s will for my life, it was going to be me.

We Have A Problem

Modern American Christianity has placed ‘Matt Foley’ into Pulpits, Seminaries, Sunday School Curriculum, and Conferences everywhere.

It should concern us that the pattern of modern, popular Christian messaging appears to be: “You have a problem. You don’t know God’s will for your life. You need to pursue finding out what this is and if you support my ministry, buy my books, tithe to my church, I will guide you into discovering your best potential you. All for the glory of the Kingdom of course.”

God’s will for my life is not something to be pursued as a potential possibility. God’s will for my life is someone who has pursued me, and he is a present reality.

Any Preacher who leads you to anxiety by ending with, “What is God’s will for your life?” is not giving you the final word of the gospel. He should be helping you cast all your burdens on Christ because his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

The Answer to the Question

God’s will for your life was to crush Jesus on the cross for you (Isaiah 53:10Luke 22:42). The will of God is that everyone who looks to Christ for salvation will be saved (John 6:38-40). God’s will is that you freely love your neighbor; that you rejoice and give thanks in all circumstances: the good, the bad, and the ugly (Mark 12:30-311 Thessalonians 5:15-181 Peter 2:15-16). God’s will for your life is that you would be in Christ (1 Timothy 2:4).

This does not look like imaginary hills to conquer or valiant voyages to embark on. God’s will for your life is only made clear by looking at the hill called Calvary through the lens of the cross of Christ.

God’s will for your life is simple: receive the finished work of Jesus Christ—for you—and then pour out his one-way love to your neighbor. Are you a husband, a wife, a son or daughter, a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker? Whatever you are, you are free to serve others as Christ serves you (Galatians 5:13-14).

Do Not Fear, Only Believe

Do you fail at all of these roles just like me every day? Do not fear. Rest in the good news that your good works were already planned out by God and not you (Ephesians 2:10). When you fail, even your failure will not separate you from God’s love (Romans 8:31-39). God’s grace and forgiveness have already swallowed up all of your failings, all of your sin, on the cross of Jesus Christ (Romans 5). You are free to rest in Christ; you are free to love your neighbor. Do not fear; there is no condemnation for anyone in Christ (Romans 8:1).

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)


This post was first published at Christ Hold Fast:

From Sodom to Jesus

22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” 26 And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” 33 And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.

(Genesis 18:22-33).


  • But there was that one time when God would spare the wicked for the sake of ONE righteous man…Jesus Christ.
  • This is good news to all of us who are wicked…(that’s all of us).

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
    and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

(Romans 4:5-8).

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

(Romans 5:6-11).


In the name of Jesus Christ, may God keep you and bless you.  Grace and peace to you.

This Is Heavy

No Longer I

I think I may have said this before but just in case I didn’t, I am an 80’s kid.  I am very nostalgic about the 80’s so I try to use a lot of euphemisms and expressions from the time period as much as possible.  Words like righteous, radical, gnarly, bad (in a good way) often come to mind.  I am also a strong connoisseur or should I say “heavy” connoisseur of movies.  When I think about my childhood and movie trilogies from the 80’s the top three that come to mind in no particular order are


This trilogy had me all like


Since I am all about your joy and God is too, here for your viewing pleasure is probably the greatest and most stressful, exciting, amazing, stupendous, glorious, dog fight assault space battle in all of moviedom.  There is…

View original post 1,891 more words

Escape From The Château d’Me

At this point in my life God’s grace has me hysterical. I laugh at times when I shouldn’t, see sunshine in rainstorms. I hear the Hallelujah Chorus instead of Hank singing “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”  This is how my feels are right now.


I am Edmond Dantes—running like a madman, laughing over the fact that I am free from the prison that I once was in. Unlike Edmond, the prison that I ran from was forged and locked by my own hands. If you asked me to trace the steps of how I got here on the beach, sprinting and laughing with my arms in the air, I honestly am not sure how to respond (it probably would be best to watch the movie “The Count of Monte Cristo” for the Edmond reference if you have yet to see it).  All I know is that I am here and I know that it was Jesus who brought me here. Probably the best way to tell my story is to rewind to the beginning and fast forward in true flash back fashion.

I do not remember a time in my life that Jesus was not in it. By outward, public appearances my family nucleus was perfect. My mother was the youth director at our church before I was born. I can remember seeing my Father early in the morning reading his Bible in his chair. I didn’t know it at the time, but witnessing my Father’s morning Bible reading had a huge impact on my life. I grew up in a house of love. It was not perfect, by any means, but a house of love and grace. There were strict rules, but I always knew that no matter what happened, I was loved.

Fast Forward—April 27, 1989. I was 7 years old and in the shower when these thoughts hit my heart: “It’s true Zack, it’s true. You belong to Jesus. You are His. Now go tell your mom.” It wasn’t necessarily in those specific terms, and not in an audible voice, but I can remember being pummeled by those thoughts. I knew that salvation came from Jesus. I knew that moment is when I believed what Jesus did 2000 years ago for a sinner like me, was true.

Fast Forward—September 12, 2001. I was in college and conflicted about whether or not I should sign up to go fight global terrorism.

Fast Forward—April, 2003. America had invaded Iraq and I heard someone say: “We need more people to enlist.” I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and got in the best shape of my life. I was injected with confidence and felt like I owned every room I entered. I learned very quickly that girls were no longer pranking other girls by leaving fake love notes on my desk, quite the opposite. It was easy. I was away from home, doing things that I knew were against how I was raised. I had no time for God. I was too busy having fun in my deliberate sin and open rebellion.

Fast forward—2007 Iraq. Bombs were going off all around, also several bombs that did not go off that should have when my Humvee ran over them. God showed me explicitly that he was protecting me on several occasions. I saw death staring me in the face, and I felt God’s sovereign hand covering me. Why God? I had done nothing to deserve His protection. I thought that I was in a spiritual desert far from God. But here, in the physical desert, God showed me that he had been right next to me the entire time.

Fast Forward—2008. In an empty barracks room I watched the Passion of Christ and collapsed In a puddle: tears, snot, choking on spit.

Fast Forward—2013. I was married and had a little son. I remember wondering one day in the guest room of our new house: “Why do I love Jesus? Well, because He has given me this wonderful life. He has given me salvation, a beautiful wife who loves me, a son who I would walk through fire for, our house that we live in, a good job, good health, love. Jesus has given me so much.”  Then, another thought hit me: “Why do you love your wife? Well, because she is my wife. I love her because of who she is, not because of what she has given to me…” Again, I collapse In a puddle: tears, snot, choking on spit. “Jesus I love you because you are Jesus, because you loved me first, not because you give me stuff.”

Fast Forward—2014. I was in seminary. I got on Twitter and accidently bumped into folks who were sharing messages by Steve Brown, Tullian Tchividjian, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Paul David Tripp, the Zahls and other like-minded individuals. I thought to myself:  “Woah, haha! I can’t believe they just said that… but it sounds good!”  Something sucked me in like a bug to a front porch bug zapper. I became obsessed as I discovered podcasts, blogs, folks on Twitter that were a part of what felt like an underground revival on the internet.

Fast Forward—wait stop! Too far! Go back! Right there. I was struggling with my spiritual growth class in seminary and failing my spiritual growth goals all over the place. I went on an early morning run before work so I could talk to God—just the two of us. I didn’t even make it for two minutes before I passed a Starbucks. “Mmm coffee” was my only thought. Prayer completely went out the window and I was furious. “God! I hate myself! I can’t do this! I can’t even run five minutes without thinking about something stupid like coffee when I am supposed to be spending this time talking with You and working on my spiritual growth. I don’t want to sin anymore. Take sin out of me! I can’t do this. I just can’t. I’m sorry.”

“Then….Run!” was the response that hit my thoughts after the fit that I had just pitched. It finally hit me.  God is well pleased with me because he is well pleased with Christ. When I am focused on myself and constantly examining myself, of course it will be a demoralizing enterprise. But when I examine Christ and remember my identity in Him, there is perfection, rest, joy, grace, peace and love. My prison cell popped open like a Coke can left in a hot car in August. I ran out of it and yelled “cannonball!” off a cliff into the ocean of God’s grace. I ran all the way back to the office that morning laughing and crying. I imagined Jesus right next to me running and laughing with me. I imagined Jesus being so thrilled to see me and overjoyed that I was finally at rest in Him.

Fast Forward—Today. I do not have enough space or memory to write down all of the people who God has used to impact my life on social media and beyond. So many have helped me to see that I am not alone in discovering the beauty and good news of God’s grace for sinners. I cannot pinpoint or remember ever being burned or hurt by the church. Many have that testimony but I do not.  I grew up in a house of grace and love. Many grew up in a house of hate, of the Law, or anti-God. Many have that testimony but I do not. My testimony is that I was the Pharisee. I was the older brother before I was the prodigal. Even when I came back to my Father’s house it was I who still peddled and had hope in cheap Law. My testimony is that I thought I was the younger brother returned, while at the same time I was channeling the older brother and his tendencies. My testimony is that I used to thank God that I was not like those “dirty tax collectors.” I was the white washed tomb who thought everything looked good on the outside, but was blind to how bad my flesh heart was on the inside. I was unfaithful to the message of God’s grace and the good news of who Jesus is and what he has done.

Yet Jesus met me on my Damascus road. When I finally confessed while running on that Georgia blacktop that I was too weak to hold fast to Christ…that is when it finally hit me….Christ will always hold fast to me. I’ve been laughing ever since. I can’t stop talking about Jesus. I can’t stop reading and listening to what he has done for others. It is my drug. I geek out with joy when I hear about God’s grace in the lives of others. I am confident that those who have written before me, and those who will write after me, will be used by God to impact my life and put a song in my heart. I feel like I have to write, read, listen, talk about Jesus or I will die. I take heart that if and when that day comes, when I don’t feel like laughing, when my world has been shattered, that Jesus will still remain faithful to me. I am obsessed with the good news of God’s grace for sinners, and I want other fellow sinners to find out. It is just too good not to share and see others enjoy it as well.


If I Were The Devil


If I were the Devil, I would use every possible avenue of approach to distract Christians from the theme, Christ crucified for them, utilizing the following tactics and themes:


  1.  Social justice and love for man without any mention of God’s justice and love via the Cross of Christ. 
  2. Performance driven preaching without any mention of the performance of Christ for them.
  3. Magic tricks, signs and wonders without any mention of the sign of the resurrection of Christ for them.
  4. Moralistic, therapeutic deism. A religion that revolves around the morality of man, man betterfied, a god that might be there without any mention of the morality of Christ counted as their own to take before God; no mention of Christ crucified.
  5. Songs and hymns that sing only about what man promises to do for Christ and not what Christ has done for man.devil-3
  6. Preaching that promises any and all earthly pleasures and treasures, especially the ones that I tempted Christ with without any mention of Christ’s promises let alone the treasure of Christ Himself. 
  7. A focus to follow ones heart and dreams in order to discover their identity without any mention of the reality that their identity is in Christ who has followed them.
  8. To promote the anxiety of the need to share their story of how they got better because of Christ rather than the infatuation with telling Christ’s story, who when they were dead, made them alive.
  9. A Church that identifies a healthy growing church with how many warm bodies are in the pews on any given Sunday rather than a church that every Sunday observes the body and Blood of the Lord in his Supper.
  10. A Church that would rather have 1,000 members present that identify the church as the best fit for them rather than having 12 members who daily rest in the grace of a daily death and resurrection courtesy of Christ’s Cross and Blood. 
  11. A Church that revolves around the Christian rather than a Church that revolves around Christ.pachino-laugh
  12. A congregation who consider themselves blessed that they are not like the sinning riff raff outside instead of a congregation that says “have mercy on me a sinner.”
  13. A Church that prides itself as being a place of righteousness and godliness rather than a house of prayer, a sanctuary of sinners, a place where love abounds.
  14. A people who are ready to move beyond the gospel to more “important things of the faith.”
  15. A people who believe that their ticket to heaven is what they have done for Christ rather than what Christ has done for them.
  16. That the cross of Christ is the password to get into the club and is not needed or at most an assumed afterthought paving the way for more practical, day to day matters to discuss amongst the congregation and it’s services.pachino-3
  17. That God will never give believers more than they can handle instead of the truth that the Law is more than anyone can handle which in turn drives believers to the cross of Christ for their only hope.
  18. The idea that Christ came to make bad people good rather than dead people alive.
  19. That their relationship with God was dependent on them in any way rather than God reconciling his Children to himself.
  20. That God helps those who helps themselves.
  21. That it is not finished until man has done his part in cooperating with the blood of the Son of God.  That the death of God was insufficient to save all by itself and operates more like the igniting of an engine, totally dependent on man’s use of the throttle in order to keep the engine of potential reconciliation, justification, salvation, sanctification, glorification and eternal life running. pachino-5
  22. That they are not as bad as they think they are and that God does not love them as much as they need Him too.
  23. That failing to live a victorious Christian life, failing to follow all the rules will place them back under a curse.
  24. To never let up reminding them of who they are apart from Christ.
  25. That the whole point of Christianity is about man climbing up a ladder in order to get God, hiding the truth that it is about God coming down on to a cross in order to get man.
  26. The idea that they must come up with a fresh new word to share rather than standing on and delivering what God has already said.
  27. To show the culture that they have some relevancy and something to offer so long as what is offered is not Christ crucified for their sins.devil-4
  28. That repentance is not a gift of grace from God but rather a decision totally reliant upon the will of man.
  29. To believe and take the word of every popular self identified Christian speaker as truth for the simple fact that they are attractive, have a positive message, seem to know what they are doing, and have promised increase, favor, blessing, breakthrough, purpose if the listener just performs a certain list of steps.  Very similar to voodoo spells and or “spiritual growth charts.”
  30. To look for breakthrough, victory, temporary healing, favor to happen in their life while failing to observe that their actual breakthrough, victory, everlasting healing and favor was given to them 2,000 years ago when Christ died and rose for them.  
  31. A desire to hear God from any other means, especially via experiences and thoughts, rather than desiring to hear what God has already said in the Bible.
  32. To promote the practice of inserting personal opinions, thoughts or ideas into a Bible passage rather than pulling from a Bible passage what God has actually said in it.
  33. The skill of taking and making any passage in the Bible about the speaker or the listener as the hero of the story rather than showing how any and every passage of the Bible points to Christ as the greatest hero of all.
  34. That Christians ought to be obsessed with holiness and living right at the expense of being obsessed with Christ, whom they have been crucified with.pachino-4

The Fight


Maybe you are like me and you have gone through the exact same thing that I am about to explain.  I’m swimming in the ocean of God’s grace and the thought hits me; “well, what I am supposed to do about obedience now?”

Like a flood all of the memories of sermons, lectures, principle offices, family meetings, “come to Jesus” moments at Summer Camp and at Marine Boot Camp come rushing in like an under tow.  “You can do better!”  “What is your major malfunction?!”  “What would Jesus do?!” “Remember your promise, promise keeper!” “You bear the name of Christ, Christian!  It’s time to live like it!”  “How can you do this?”  “Not in my house!”  “I am very disappointed in you!”

What on earth do we who have been set free from the Law of sin and of death (Romans 8:2) do with obedience?  I HATE it when I do not obey the Law.  I HATE IT I HATE IT.  It’s like I am in a fight with myself or something.  Which is truer than you think.  The Old Adam verses the New Man in Christ.  It’s like when it hits you that you are not being obedient and you are all like

liar liar 1

You sin that same sin for the umptienth time in 1 week and your inside doing this

liar liar 7

Someone asks you how your spiritual growth is going and you are all like this

liar liar 6

You are failing at this obedience thing big time.  “You?  A Christian?”, you imagine coworkers, family members thinking.   The gospel set you free!  You have grace!  You are no longer bound to and under the Law!  You should be happy and doing better right?  You have joy in the Lord right?  What about your light?  Aren’t you gonna let it shine?  Can’t you finally take that bushel off now, you smoldering wick you?

liar liar 2

Yet there I am, the sad sack of out of shape spiritual fat body.  Feeding on Christ and his bread?  More like feeding on a disobedience filled


New Years resolutions shot, spiritual growth chart goals gone and I’m right back in the confessional booth like Pre-Tower Experience Martin Luther.

liar liar 5

To really make matters worse, what if you are a preacher who has taught the gospel of God’s grace and unmerited favor all courtesy of Christ’s cross and blood and are now tasked with speaking about the Christian life and Christian obedience on Sunday and right now all you have planned to share on that is

liar liar 3

Well, you are not the only one. Even if you are not preaching on Sunday, maybe you have run into a friend who has asked you the same questions.  Well now that you are a Christian, saved and set free by grace what do you do about obedience?  Feel free to be a fly on the wall reading on the following modified conversation between ummm lets say Cack Zole and Brad Chird



I have had a few things gnaw on me, to try to tell me that things such as a theology of the cross, grace, Law and Gospel distinctives are ultimately too good to be true.  I have had the pull to question and ask “what about holiness?  what about godliness?”  Are these things not to be pursed for the sake of resting in Christ?”  I fully believe that by faith I have been given the righteousness of Christ.  I have faith that sanctification and any pursuit of anything holy or godly is all Christ doing his work in me.  So it feels very dangerous for me to move towards an emphasis of the intentional and conscious pursuit of holiness and godliness.  I do not trust myself in the pursuit of either and only trust in the hope that Christ is working both in me himself.  I often fall back on Galatians 2:20, that it is not me who is living and doing things that could be counted as “holy, godly, etc” but it is Christ who lives in me….

I find it so very hard and quite honest repulsive to go back to a mindset that produces in me a desire to show that I am approved, to display that I am regenerate, and to be as dismissive as I was when looking through the lens of glory rather than cross…

Is the command to a pursuit of godliness meant to crush to cause us to run to Christ or is it a command for us to try?…

I humbly ask counsel all of this, appreciating and valuing your thoughts and understandings on the matters such as these.  I often have come across moments where deep questions are presented to me in a spirit of “I-believe-that-I-am-right-but-I-am-going-to-ask-a-challenging-question-to-prove-that-you-are-wrong-so-that-I-can-feel-more-pride-in-my-original-stance-and-feel-victory-over-revealing-to-you-how-stupid-you-are.”  I cannot stress enough that this is not the case.  My questions have no motive of quarrel or argument but a genuine thirst for counsel and good news.

Because He Lives,
Cack Zole
Good morning Cack,
     You’re caught in tension we all feel in this life as those who are simultaneously saints and sinners, who feel the law at work in us and yet find comfort in the grace of God.
     The call to lead a holy life, to pursue godliness, is nothing more than the demands of the law. Yet these demands are good. The law is not bad. It is given by God to show us the life that he desires for us. Yet, as you well know, as you experience in your daily life, no matter how hard you try, you always fall short of the law’s demands. That’s why we say that the law always accuses. It always finds something in our thoughts, words, deeds, and desires that convicts us. The law will never give us rest. And the law will always kill.
     That’s why the Gospel defines our life. This Gospel not only forgives us, but also fills us with the Holy Spirit, who produces fruits in us of which we may not even be aware. The Gospel is that life of Gal 2:20. We have died (by the law) and it is not longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (by the Gospel). And since Christ lives in us, we are pleasing to God, even if we are not pleasing to ourselves. His righteousness, his life within us, and for us, is all that matters.
     The life of holiness is a gift. You are made holy, your life is made holy, exclusively in Christ. He is your sanctification, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians.
     The struggle between the Old Adam, who is always under the law, and the New Man, who is always free in the the Gospel, is a daily struggle. God is always putting us to death and raising us to life. Every day is Good Friday and Easter for us. It can feel almost schizophrenic at times, pulled this way and that. But above all this is Christ. His opinion of you is all that counts. And he says, “You are holy in me. You are righteous in me. Your are godly in me.”
     The theology of the glory will always take you back to yourself. The theology of the cross will always bring you to Christ. It is the way of life through death, resurrection through crucifixion.
I hope this helps. Blessings to you, brother!
Brad Chird

After hearing this Cack was like this

top gun

Man that is good news isn’t?  You are free!  And then leave it at that….Fight the good fight, telling fellow sinners the good news of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Let’s attack licentiousness and sin with more grace so that Fundy’s can always be like

what are you doing