Thursday, January 28, 2010


For the 13th birthday of his son CJ Mahaney asked some friends to write letters that would guide and encourage him as he approached manhood. Below is one of the letters. It is valuable to hear from older people who have given time to wisdom. Pray for me as I talk with guys daily about being men after the heart of God. Each Friday I am leading a study at the local college for a group of guys that could beat me in basketball. We get into Romans for an hour before my parking expires and I leave them looking shocked. God tells us incredible things and matches them with a promise. Pray that God will use our very lives to call faithful men.

Dear Chad,
I am honored that your Dad invited me to write you on the occasion of your 13th birthday.
I just had my 56th birthday before Christmas, but one thing I’ve learned in all those extra
years of living is that there’s not that much difference between being 13 and being 56. Of
course lots of particular details do change as we first grow up and then grow old (good
looks and athleticism are sure to go!). But the most basic and important things remain
exactly the same. What is always true becomes deeper, and richer, and more necessary,
and more joyous as your life continues to unfold.
There are many things I could mention to you, Chad, but let me say only two. They are
so important to remember, and so easy to forget.
First, don’t ever forget: God is merciful to you.
Mercy is who he is. “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow
to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6).
Mercy is what he does. “If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare
his own Son, but delivered him over for us all, how will he not also with him freely give
us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32).
Mercy is what you need. “Lord, hear my voice…If you, Lord, should mark
iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be
feared” (Psalm 130:3-4).
God’s mercy is not a theory, a bunch of words, or stories from a long time ago. It
is the reality upon which your life depends. Mercy is a reality that anchors you into the
life and death of Jesus Christ. He has come for us. He has come for you. You need help
from outside yourself. Ask for help.
A small child who is well-loved knows this intuitively: “I trust in my parents’
love. I ask for help when I need something. I delight that they take care of me!” That
experience gives a picture of your whole life, even as you grow more and more
independent of your earthly parents. You’ll need help from outside yourself for your
entire life – from God himself (and, in a secondary way, from wise people who can be his
instruments of good, including your parents). But often in growing up, young adults and
full adults forget this. They don’t want it to be so. In blind pride they think that they can
take care of themselves. It’s a tendency in all of us, our most grievous tendency, and a
lie. We need God’s many mercies. We always need our greater Father to take care of us.
Because he is merciful, you look outside of yourself. Be willing to need help and
to ask for help.
Don’t ever forget, Chad.
God himself will never forget to be merciful. He cannot forget and deny himself.
Second, don’t ever forget: your whole life will be a work-in-progress.
This is so freeing. Your successes and graces (and may God give you many ways
to shine, Chad) will never mean you’ve arrived. These are good gifts of mercy, to be
received gratefully. Don’t take good things for granted, or view them as a basis for
identity or self-congratulation. At the same time, your sins, failure and sufferings (and
such things will happen, and may be painfully discouraging) never mean that there is no
hope. These are the weaknesses that make you realize your actual need for the wise
mercies of Jesus. Your life will shine as you realize that God has given you this life as a
lifelong holy experiment in becoming what a human being is meant to become. “He who
began a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”
(Philippians 1:6). That will be so for your entire life.
Here’s something else about this that is very important. The particular struggles
you’ll face are going to change throughout your life. You’ve already seen this. What you
face is different, being 13, from when you were 8 or 4. You’ll face still different
challenges at 16, or 26, or 56, from what you face right now. That’s exactly where God
There will most likely be times – perhaps seasons of your life – when you
struggle with where to find your identity, or with feeling anxious, or with pride in your
gifts and achievements, or with holding resentment towards someone, or with wayward
sexual impulses, or with loneliness, or with grief at losing someone you love, or with
comparing yourself to others, or with feeling hurt when someone you trust betrays you.
You get the idea! There’s always something going on, because our Father is always
working on something in us. Everything you will ever face is important to God.
Everything can become an occasion for you to know him better, and to grow up as a man.
Don’t ever think that some part of life is outside his concern. Don’t ever think that
because you’ve grown in one area, there won’t be some new areas that your Father sets
about working on. He makes human beings (in his image). He saves human beings
(from all our sins and sufferings). He works in human beings (to teach us to love Him
and others). Jesus entered every part of human life. He will meet you in every part of
your life, for your whole life.
Don’t ever forget, Chad.
God himself will never forget to continue the good work he has begun in you.
Remember these things, Chad. Live them your whole life long. You will grow as a man
who is becoming what a human being is meant to be, a man after God’s own heart. May
our Lord’s face shine upon you. May you know that he is with you.
Your friend,
David Powlison

Monday, January 25, 2010

still in a fury

The week ahead will be flurry I can already tell. Tonight to plant my nose squarely in a few books I need to study I went to a coffee shop near my house. Little did I know that there would be a piano player that specialized in energetic soul music. He was also very effeminate. I only point this out to lead into the part of the story when he dedicated the song to me "You Are So Beautiful." This was only because I was jabbing him about playing a boy band song without back-up dancers. Needless to say, very little studying occurred and the night now wears again its familiar path on towards the morning.

Captivated by peace lately.

Pray for the ministry staff of the Oasis as we look towards a summit meeting where we standardize our intake, education, and encouragement of volunteers.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

responding to one

I have to apologize for how few and far between my writing has been. I will try to write more. The last few weeks have been enjoyable. I had the opportunity to speak to the faculty of a local alternative school and there is an exciting openness to having us be involved on there campus. Despite a coarse feeling in my throat (the feel of impending sickness!) I am feeling stronger phsyically and spiritually than I have in a long time. I am finding myself enjoying friendships in my life with the sort of deep-seated satisfaction that you would expect to have in old age. I am also realizing that the gospel is such a greater story than my own. But I am not lost in it; rather, it includes me. A writer once warned of responding to the "call of a lover less wild." O the tough and pleasant wonders of learning to respond only to one lover and thereby letting all others fade away.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

on the shelves

"If you cannot read all your books, at any rate peer into them...set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them be your acquantances." - Winston Churchill

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

how did you begin?

I met with a man for lunch who asked me to speak at his church. He had a thin white mustache and asked questions to make sure that I believed in Unconditional Election. He knew my grandfather, my dad's dad, who I never met because he had died before I was born. My grandfather was a man who straightened his hair because it was so outrageously curly and preached an unwavering gospel from the pulpit of a church that he built from rough-cut timber. As the conversation got to a meandering start I asked him how he got into "the ministry."
"Well, the first time I asked my wife on a date," came the unexpected start, "She had come into the bank where I was working and I thought she was so pretty that I got her name of the deposit slip and called her. She didn't sound interested in beer, but agreed on cup of coffee. So we went out. On that first date she told me I was going to hell. Ha! She was a real prune. But I guess I was too. So we got married. After noncommittally attending church for awhile I said a quiet prayer that the pastor recited every Sunday. I didn't expect anything to happen, but all of the sudden it did...I have been in full time ministry for over 40 years."

On the subject: my roommate is going on a blind date on Thursday to a restaurant. I think it is funny, but am very proud of him for making the call. I have prepared him with questions and I think he is ready! Ha! In all honesty I have been finding acres of joy in the deepening friendship between my roommates and I. Often in our lives we feel that we must compartmentalize laughing and praying--which is pure poppycock--our apartment has been full of both. The apartment has become a veritable green pasture, with the Puget Sound as my still waters and the Olympic Mountains a small reminder of Zion's grandeur. Zack, Nate, and I hunted our limit of clams last week and are having a informal clam bake tomorrow for dinner and all are welcome to join.

Friday we began to pass out the 200 Coffee Oasis hoodies that we received from Hos Bros. for Christmas. They have been very popular and now you can see kids walking all around the city sporting the same branded sweatshirt.