Thursday, March 31, 2011

Heaven and Hell

 A helpful article from The Gospel Coalition blog, written by Christopher Morgan. I appreciate this article because I think Morgan does justice to what the essence of heaven and hell are. The essence of heaven is the recreation, or restoration. God's people, along with creation, are restored to their glorious, natural state, for which we were meant to live. We are restored to worship God as we were created to. We are no longer inhibited by sin. We are restored to our full humanity. Hell is eternally being on the outside of this restoration. 
Editor’s note: It has become increasingly common to describe hell as the experience being on the outside. This is indeed an important way Scriptures testifies to this awful judgment. However, Christopher Morgan explains several others ways the Bible describes hell and why we must account for all of them in our teaching.
The biblical story begins with God’s creation of the heavens and the earth, and it ends with God’s creation of a new heavens and a new earth. The story begins with the goodness of creation, and it ends with the goodness of the new creation. The story begins with God dwelling with his people in a garden-temple, and it ends with God dwelling with his covenant people in heaven, a new earth-city-garden-temple (Gen 1-2; Rev 21-22).

Once and for all, God’s victory is consummated. God’s judgment is final, sin has been vanquished, justice prevails, holiness predominates, God’s glory is unobstructed, and the kingdom is realized. God’s eternal plan of cosmic reconciliation in Christ is actualized, and Christ is “all in all.”
But the story does not end quite as we might expect. God casts the devil and his demons into the lake of fire. But instead of being consumed, they are “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev 20:10). So Satan and the demons are not restored, but go to hell.
Then we find that God judges everyone—those whom the world deems important, those whom the world never notices, and everyone in between. “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15). So not only does God send the ruthless Roman emperors to hell (which we might expect), but he consigns to hell all who are not a part of the people of Jesus (cf. Dan 12:1; Rev 13:8; 21:27).
We then learn that the new heavens and new earth arrive, God dwells with his covenant people (note the covenant formulas of 21:3, 7), brings comfort to his people (no more pain, death, etc. in 21:4), makes all things new (21:5), and proclaims, “It is done!” (21:6). But a striking contrast is added in Revelation 21:8—that those who are not the people of God have a portion—but not in the inheritance, but in the lake of fire!
Heaven is then depicted as a perfect temple, glorious, multinational, and holy (21:9-27). The people of God will bear God’s image rightly—serving him, reigning with him, encountering him directly, and worshiping him (22:1-5).
What a scene! God is receiving the worship he is due, and humans are blessed beyond description, finally living out the full realities of being created in his image. Yet Revelation 22:15 adds that sinners still exist—outside of heaven, outside the kingdom, outside the temple. It is important not to miss that they exist on the outside, after being cast into the lake of fire (20:14-14; 21:8).
Here is one picture of hell that is horrifying—hell is being on the outside. This is a frequent biblical portrait of hell.
In Matthew, Jesus sometimes likens hell to not entering the kingdom (5:20), being excluded from his presence (7:21-23), thrown into outer darkness (8:12; 25:30), shut outside (25:10-12), and banished from the kingdom (“depart from me” in 25:41). In Luke, the Pharisees are often left outside. Particularly noteworthy for hell is Luke 16:19-31, where the rich man experiences an eschatological reversal and ends up on the outside of heaven. Paul likewise teaches that the wicked will be shut out from (or by) the presence of Christ (2 Thess 1:9-10). Peter and Jude portray hell as a place of utter darkness reserved for the wicked forever (2 Pet 2:17; Jude 13). John’s Gospel also likens hell to being “cut off” from Christ (15:1).
Hell as being on the outside is an aspect of a frequent theme related to hell—banishment or exclusion. Being on the outside shows the horror of hell by highlighting what a person misses. Through this picture, the Scriptures are demonstrating that Christ eternally excludes the unrighteous from the kingdom. The wicked never experience unhindered fellowship with God. They are forever banished from the majestic covenantal presence of God (not from his omnipresence). They completely miss out on the reason for their existence—to glorify and know their Creator.
Being on the outside is an important picture of hell. But like so many other truths of the Bible, it does not tell the whole story or give the full portrait.
In fact, even in the very same passages that speak of hell as being outside, other truths about hell emerge. The corresponding passages in Matthew describe the “fire of hell” (5:22), hell as a just punishment for sin (which is deemed as serious and not trivial), worse than earthly suffering (5:29-30), a place people are “thrown” by God (5:29), a place of destruction (7:13), the end of a broad road (7:13), a place where people are “cut down and thrown into the fire” (7:19), a genuine danger for people who think they are in the covenant (7:21-23; 8:12; 22:13), like a house that comes crashing down (7:24-27), a place of suffering, depicted as “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12; cf. 13:42; 50; 22:13; 24:51, 25:30). Hell is punishment for disobedience to the master (three times in 24—25), as being “cut into pieces” (24:51), where people are placed “with the hypocrites” (24:51), “accursed” (25:41), a place of “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (25:41; cf. 18:8 “eternal fire”), and eternal punishment for those who do not display their love for Christ in their love for others (25:46). And that is just a portion of Jesus’ teaching on hell from the Gospel of Matthew!
Thus, while hell as being on the outside is a biblical teaching, it does not exhaust the biblical doctrine of hell. No one picture can. Hell is a frequent theme in the New Testament, addressed in some way by every New Testament author, and woven into whole fabric of Christian theology. As such, it has been portrayed in numerous ways, each telling something important about its reality and nature: punishment, judgment, death, destruction, fire, pain, darkness, and yes, banishment—being on the outside.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Completely Defeated

"having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in the cross"
Colossians 2:13-15

         In writing about the record of debt that stood against us, and the powers and authorities that we battle against, Paul is acknowledging their reality. Paul is acknowledging the existence of sin and evil in the world, and their power. His encouragement isn't that they don't exist, but rather that they have been dealt with. They have been COMPLETELY defeated. The record of debt stood against us in that it brought condemnation. It is the record of debt that calls us 'sinner', 'law breaker', 'criminal'. The record of debt that rightly says we deserve death. This debt was true. Also, the rulers and authorities of evil are real. They once had dominion over our lives. We once belonged to them. We were once their slaves. 
        But thanks be to God, that through the cross, there is no more condemnation. Christ took the record of debt that stood against us and nailed it to the cross. The righteous punishment that we deserved for our law breaking, for our sin, for our wickedness, Jesus took. He absorbed the legal debt that stood against us. Jesus took the punishment of condemnation so that we could be free from its grip. More so, through the cross, the power of sin has been completely defeated as well. The word that Paul uses for 'disarm' renders a meaning of 'completely stripping something' or a 'complete disarm'. In other words, every power that sin had over us in our former life, has now been COMPLETELY STRIPPED. In his death and and resurrection, Christ's victory was so decisive, so complete, that Sin, that once powerfully ruled us and had tyrannical dominion over our lives, is now put to open shame, stripped naked of its power, and displayed publicly as defeated. This victory was decisive. It was complete. 
        Also, when we ponder the way in which God accomplished this victory (the cross), we can see how great His love is for us. The Son, though being infinitely powerful, became man, subjected himself to life on earth, and emptied himself of power, being hung on a cross. He became powerless, in order that through faith in him, he could empty sin over its power in our lives. On the cross, Christ became a curse, taking the punishment of a condemned criminal. He did this, so that we, being condemned criminals, could be free. Lastly, Christ died the most shameful death, being put on public display on the cross, in order to defeat the power of sin in our lives, and put sin to open shame by publicly displaying it as defeated. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Is It Time to Write the Eulogy for Seminary Education?

A very thoughtful article from Don Sweeting, the president from Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando.
Frederick Schmidt wrote a recent article wondering about the future of seminary education, entitled, Is It Time to Write the Eulogy?: The Future of Seminary Education.  The article begins by saying, “our seminaries are dying and the Master of Divinity degree has been discredited.”  Schmidt writes about a shrinking pool of prospective students, and notes that a large number of “mainline seminaries” are selling their buildings, property, cutting faculty and eliminating programs.
And there, my friends, is the give-away.  Schmidt, who writes a column for what the Patheos website still refers to as “mainline Protestants,” is describing a mainline that is no longer the main line.  It is fast declining, and so are its seminaries.
According to Rodney Stark, one of America’s preeminent scholars of religion, it is time to redefine our terms.  Stark is quite forthright in saying that the true mainline Protestants in America are now evangelicals.   And the old mainline is, in his words, the “sideline.”  
In other words, it may be time to consider writing a eulogy for mainline seminary education, but it is not for evangelical seminary education.   Among ATS schools, evangelical schools are proliferating and their numbers remain strong.  
Stark and others note the “evangelicalization of Protestantism.”  The churches that are growing, he says, have evangelical clergy. Not only that, but he ties the decline in numbers in the old mainline churches with what is happening theologically in the seminaries.   As denominations get liberal, says Stark, they shrink.   Liberal clergy lose their faith. They no longer believe in the Bible as God’s Word.   Or they disbelieve in the divinity of Jesus Christ.  Or they decide that they are no longer in the business of saving souls.  Instead, their preoccupation becomes left wing radical politics.   Stark lays the blame for this decline of the old mainline at the doorstep of the liberal seminaries. (See 
All of this interests me because I am now the president of a reformed, evangelical seminary (RTS Orlando ).  And from what I see, business is ramping up and seminary education (at the right schools) is more important than ever.  By the way, by “right schools,” I mean seminaries that hold on to basic Christian orthodoxy.  That is, they believe in the truthfulness and supreme authority of the Bible.  They believe in the gospel of Jesus with a passion, and find an urgency to share it because people’s souls hang in the balance.
Once a seminary abandons its belief in the supreme authority of the Bible, they set their theological soul adrift.   Eventually they let go of orthodoxy and redefine the gospel.  Something else besides the real incarnation, atoning cross and bodily resurrection of Jesus becomes the center.
Here’s why this seminary eulogy does not apply to a seminary like RTS.   And here’s why seminary education at the right schools is more important than ever:
1          The gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes:  first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last.” (Romans 1.16,17)   This gospel was and is the best news on earth.  
2          The knowledge of God is the most important knowledge in the world.   It was A. W. Tozer who wrote in the chapter, “Why We Must Think Rightly About God,” from his book Knowledge of the Holy:  “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its ideas of God.” Hence the need to give people a true knowledge of God.
3          Seminaries rooted in the Word train men and women in Biblical wisdom like no other institution.  That is what makes us unique.  This wisdom is exceedingly important for the church, and for civilization.  The core belief driving this is that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2.3). 
4          Related to this, seminaries train students to study the Word and know the Word in the original languages.   They train students in Christian spiritual formation.   Along with this, they train in subjects related to living a God-glorifying life—subjects like biblical and systematic theology, Christian ethics, church history, practical theology, preaching, teaching, worship, prayer, Christian leadership, missions, evangelism, pastoring, apologetics, etc..
5          Preparation for faithful, competent and creative Christian ministry is more important than ever.   We live in a complex, fast changing world.  The spiritual battles are hotter, and the stakes seem higher than ever.   So when it comes to training for ministry leadership and soul care, we must encourage the very best training possible.   We demand it of our doctors and our engineers.  Can we demand less of our pastors and spiritual leaders?   That’s why good, quality seminary training is so critical.  And that is why quick fix training, through  easy degree diploma mills, undermines the ministry of the church.  To be a spiritual force in the twenty-first century, our leaders need the best and most thorough training possible.
6          Seminaries play a strategic role in the life of the church and nation.   We desperately need strong and healthy churches.   Healthy churches bring Christ’s redemptive hope to our communities.  As our communities are transformed, so goes our nation.   Churches generally do not rise above the spiritual level of their pastors.   And the seminary is the critical institution for training pastors.   Pastors are either made or marred in the seminary. 
Sharing this news story about “the dying seminaries” with a businessman friend over lunch today, he said “Don, quite frankly, some seminaries deserve to die.”   He explained, if they have abandoned the Biblical gospel and the Holy Scriptures, they have lost their reason for existing.   But if they hang on to that Word which abides forever, they are desperately important.
I couldn’t agree more.

Privileges in Christ

From the Valley of Vision prayer book:

"How great are my privileges in Christ Jesus!
Without him I stand far off, a stranger, an outcast;
in him I draw near and touch his kingly sceptre.
Without him I dare not lift up my guilty eyes;
in him I gaze upon my Father-God and friend.
Without him I hide my lips in trembling shame;
in him I open my mouth in petition and praise.
Without him all is wrath and consuming fire;
in him all is love, and the repose of my soul. 
Without him is gaping hell below me, and eternal anguish;
in him its gates are barred to me be his precious blood.
Without him darkness spreads its horrors in front;
in him an eternity of glory is my boundless horizon.
Without him all within me is terror and dismay;
in him every accusation is charmed into joy and peace.
Without him all things external call for my condemnation;
in him they minister to my comfort
and are to be enjoyed with thanksgiving.
Praise be to thee for grace,
and for the unspeakable gift of Jesus."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Quiet Heart

Trail of thoughts from Martyn Lloyd-Jones' book Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled.


"The greatest need of men and women in this world is the need of what is called a quiet heart."

"The claim of the gospel is not only that it can give us a quiet heart, but also that nothing else can do it."

"If we are depending for happiness and joy and a quiet heart, in a final sense, upon any individual human being, upon our family, our home, our profession, our money, our health and strength, we are doomed to experience disappointment."

"Do you want a quiet heart? Here is the way to have one - to believe that God has come to us in the person of his Son. We are not left on the human level; We are not left to grope vainly in the dark. God has done something, and this is what he has done: he has 'sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law' (Galatians 4: 4-5), that he might give us a quiet heart."


Self Righteousness = Self absorption + Self congratulating

Self-righteousness is the combination of thinking of yourself too much and thinking too highly of yourself. It is putting your thoughts on your self perceived 'goodness' and how you think this 'goodness' merits you something. Self-righteousness is anti Gospel. Self-righteousness is anti Jesus.

"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

Philippians 2:3-8

Saturday, March 26, 2011

5 Ways to Make your Kids Hate Church

A post from the resurgence blog.

1. Make sure your faith is only something you live out in public.
2. Pray only in front of people
3. Focus on your morals
4. Give financially, as long as it doesn't impede your needs
5. Make church community a priority, as long as there is nothing else you rather do

This list highlights things we do that would make a child or teen see Christianity as a bunch of religious morals that a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites are telling them to follow. On the contrary, here is a list of 5 things we can do that would make kids not understand what the real Christian church is.

1. Make sure your faith stays a private matter
2. Have a non-existent prayer life (private and public)
3. Morals are only for Sunday's
4. Give financially, but be emotionally and spiritually detached from the actual church
5. Church community is just for an hour on sunday's

Be a Man

Martin Luther writing a letter of encouragement to his dear friend, Philip Melanchthon

"Now it is time to leave the rest to God, and he will accomplish it. Only be a man and hope in God."

Luther equates being a man with hoping in God. In contemporary culture, being a man is usually equated with pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and pressing on. It is bucking up, and pulling yourself together in your own strength. However, I think Luther touches on what being a real man is. Being a real man is being able to completely thrust yourself upon the true and living God, putting your full trust and hope in him. It is recognizing your own weakness, and in turn, turning to the strength of the Savior. Be a man, hope in God. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

All I Have is Christ

Great song. Even better Gospel!

The last verse is a great prayer for any Christian.

"Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone,
and live so all might see,
the strength to follow your commands,
could never come from me,
Oh Father, use my ransomed life,
In any way You choose,
And let my song forever be,
My only boast is You."

A Sure Oath He Will Not Revoke

 10 "For the sake of your servant David,
   do not reject your anointed one.

 11 The LORD swore an oath to David,
   a sure oath he will not revoke:
“One of your own descendants
   I will place on your throne. 
12 If your sons keep my covenant
   and the statutes I teach them,
then their sons will sit
   on your throne for ever and ever.”

 13 For the LORD has chosen Zion,
   he has desired it for his dwelling, saying, 
14 “This is my resting place for ever and ever;
   here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it. 
15 I will bless her with abundant provisions;
   her poor I will satisfy with food. 
16 I will clothe her priests with salvation,
   and her faithful people will ever sing for joy.

 17 “Here I will make a horn[b] grow for David
   and set up a lamp for my anointed one. 
18 I will clothe his enemies with shame, 
   but his head will be adorned with a radiant crown.”
Psalm 132:10-18

We see here God's commitment to His Covenant with David. This is a psalm that was probably sung during the Israelites exile in Babylonia, as they declared their faith that God would again fulfill his promises and raise up a new David. The psalmist appeals to God's own faithfulness, that God would not forget His promise to David, that his throne would be established forever. 

And this is the good news, God has been faithful to His covenant. He has raised up a new David. Jesus, while being the son of God, is also the son of David. He is the descendent of David of whom this promise speaks of. He is the true and better David. He is the true King who sits enthroned forever. 

But what is the result that the new David has come. What is the purpose of God fulfilling this promise to establish David's throne forever? What is the good news?

God will bless us with abundant provisions
God will satisfy the poor with food
God will clothe her priests with salvation
And we will sing for joy. 

God also says that He will 'set up a lamp for his anointed one'. In other words, the anointed one is going to bring light into darkness. The anointed one will be radiant, shining forth God's righteous rule. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pleading the Work of Another

All thy lovingkindness is in thy Son,
I bring him to thee in the arms of faith,
I urge his saving name as the one who died for me.
I plead his blood to pay my debts of wrong.
Accept his worthiness for my unworthiness
his sinlessness for my transgressions,
his purity for my uncleanness,
his sincerity for my guile,
his truth for my deceits,
his meekness for my pride,
his constancy for my backslidings,
his love for my enmity,
his fullness for my emptiness,
his faithfulness for my treachery,
his obedience for my lawlessness,
his glory for my shame,
his devotedness for my waywardness,
his holy life for my unchaste ways, 
his righteousness for my dead works,
his death for my life

Valley of Vision

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What God Has Done For Us in Colossians

"May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might" Colossians 1:11

"who has qualified you to share in the inheritance" Colossians 1:12

"He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son" Colossians 1:13

"in whom we have redemption" Colossians 1:14

"But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death" Colossians 1:22

"in order to present you holy and blameless" Colossians 1:22

"the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints" Colossians 1:26

"God chose to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery" Colossians 1:27

"and you have been filled in him" Colossians 2:10

"in him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature" Colossians 2:11

"having been buried with him in baptism" Colossians 2:12

"you were raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God" Colossians 2:12

"And you who were dead in your trespasses....God made alive together with him" Colossians  2:13

"having forgiven us all our trespasses" Colossians 2:13

"By canceling the record of debt that stood against us" Colossians 2:13

"He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame" Colossians 2:13

He has strengthened us, qualified us, delivered us from darkness and transferred us to light, redeemed us,  reconciled us, he presents us holy and blameless, he has revealed the mystery of the gospel to us, he has chosen to make himself known to us, he has circumcised us with a true circumcision, we've been buried with him in baptism and raised with him in faith, he has made us alive, he has forgiven us our sins, he has cancelled our debt through the cross, and he has disarmed the rulers and authorities of this world.

All this good news in just two chapters of one book.

Does God Get Upset When We Disobey?

A great video from David Powlison per Justin Taylor's blog.

Dr. David Powlison - Does God get upset when we disobey? Part 2 from CCEF on Vimeo.

00:45 – Summary of what was said in part one.
02:08 – How is God different from earthly fathers?
05:15 – How can God be disappointed in us if He has complete foreknowledge?
07:46 – The importance of understanding our union with Christ.
09:45 – The comfort of forgiveness and redemption for those who are fearful.

Monday, March 14, 2011

If Not For the Lord...

"If is had not been the LORD who was on our side, 
let Israel now say,
If it had not been the LORD who was on our side
when people rose up against us,
then they would have swept us away,
the torrent would have gone over us;
then over us would have gone the raging waters.
Blessed be the LORD,
who has not given us as prey to their teeth!
We have escaped like a bird 
from the snare of fowlers;
the snare is broken and we have escaped!
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth"
Psalm 124

If it were not for the grace of God, we would be goners. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The New Regime

"Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.
 “The time has come,” he said. 
“The kingdom of God has come near. 
Repent and believe the good news!”
Mark 1:14-15
"Through Adam's rebellion, a rival regime establishes a beachhead in God's world. While God is the rightful King, the fallen sons of Adam (us) refuse to swear allegiance to his rule or follow his commands. Yet in his grace, God commits himself to reclaim lost allegiance and to deliver man from the awful regime of sin and death. "
Mike Williams, 'Far as the Curse is Found'

When Jesus came proclaiming the kingdom of God, he was proclaiming the good news of this new regime. In God's gracious initiative, the Son came to earth to redeem his creation that had been enslaved by the regime of sin. The Gospel is that the kingdom is here. God has come to restore his regime. He invites us to turn from our allegiance to sin, and turn to the One and True God, who has ushered in the new kingdom through Jesus. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Absent in body and in spirit?

"For though I am absent in body, 
yet I am with you in spirit, 
rejoicing to see your good order 
and the firmness of your faith in Christ."
Colossians 2:5

A quick observation about this passage. Throughout Paul's letter to the Colossians, he expresses his deep pastoral concern for them. Earlier in the chapter Paul mentions how he has gladly suffered for the sake of the Colossians and how he struggles for them. He even says he struggles and suffers for those whom he has never even met! He is deeply connected to these people. Looking at the verse at hand, we again see Paul's deep connectedness to his people. Even though he is not there physically, his heart and thoughts are with them. He is with them in spirit. 

I bring this up because we live in a culture where most people are often absent both physically and in spirit. In this digital era, our attention is more likely to be grasped by a screen than by people. Even when we are with people physically, we really aren't 'all there'. We might be with people, but our spirit is absent. We are with our cell phones, and laptops, and TV's. Our 'physical' presence is more likely to take the form of text messaging, or facebook than it is a deep spiritual connectedness. Even when Paul wasn't physically there, he was still deeply connected in spirit. In our culture, we lack to be present in both. We lack physical presence in each others lives. Parents get divorced. Kid's don't spend time with their families. People spend more time watching TV than connecting with people. Everything is privatized. And like I said, even when we are 'with people' half the time we are usually texting someone else who isn't even there. We are absent both physically and spiritually. We are all guilty of this. 

So how do we get back to this deep connectedness that Paul seemed to have? It all starts with the Gospel. The Gospel gives us a deep connectedness to God. In turn, we then will have a deeper connectedness to people, because we are united in Christ. The Gospel unites us as believers as we share in the same Spirit. Also, the Gospel gives us the only real motivation to reach out and connect and love people in a deep way, the way in which Paul did. The motivation is this. When we were disconnected, Christ reached out in the ultimate way to re-connect us to the Father. The Son reached out by coming to earth, taking on human flesh, living the perfect life, dying the death that we deserved for our disconnection, and then resurrected, so that our original connectedness that we had in the beginning (Adam and Eve) can be restored. When we were far off and disconnected, God died for us to connect us. To bring us back in. That is beautiful. That is why the Gospel transforms community in a radical way. That is why the Apostle Paul has such a deep connectedness to the Colossians. This verse is an encouragement for me to pursue real relationships. To be deeply connected to people, not facebook. Legitimate connection is found and motivated only in the Gospel. In the words of Jim Elliot, 
"Where ever you are, be all there"

Why Go Through the Drudgery of Memorizing Greek Paradigms

From Dane Ortlund's blog: Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology: Why Go Through the Drudgery of Memorizing Greek Paradigms: 
"Biblical exegesis should be the intellectual enzyme that transforms the stupor of our worldly and futile affections into a deep and glad and living hope. . . . [It is] the cognitive catalyst that triggers a combustion of divine joy in the human heart."
--John Piper, Biblical Exegesis: Discovering the Meaning of Scriptural Texts, 4-5.

A serious reminder to me while I am in the midst of learning Greek. Studying God's Word in the original language should be a joyful exercise that is transformative in nature. 

Till He Has Mercy On Us

"1To you I lift up my eyes,
   O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
2Behold, as the eyes of servants
   look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
   to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God,
   till he has mercy upon us.

 3 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us,
   for we have had more than enough of contempt.4Our soul has had more than enough
   of the scorn of those who are at ease,
   of the contempt of the proud."

Psalm 123

Receiving restoration or forgiveness requires two things. First, it requires that we acknowledge our need for mercy, our brokenness, our spiritual sickness. Second, it requires knowing who alone can grant this mercy, and turning to them. We do not receive mercy by trying hard to make up for  mistakes. Rather, it is simply coming to God, knowing that we have nothing to offer, that we are poor sinners who are in desperate need of God's restoration, and laying ourselves before him in repentant helplessness. Take an example from the faith of the Canaanite woman in the gospel according to Matthew, and the repentant tax collector in Luke 18. Notice both their recognition of their need for mercy/healing, and their recognition that God alone could provide this. Not their own effort, not their own goodness, not what they deserve. Only grace.

"And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon." 23But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying out after us." 24He answered,  "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."25But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." 26And he answered, "It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs." 27She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table." 28Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly." Matthew 15:22-28

"9He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' 13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other." Luke 18:9-14

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spiritual Strength

In Ephesians 3, Paul is praying for spiritual strength for the people in Ephesus.


In verse 20, he prays they might "know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."


I am convinced this is the purpose of biblical study. Not to simply know things, like the love of Christ, but to be filled with the love of Christ. His Word is real. Let us believe every day it has the power to transform our lives when we read it.

Why Jesus + Nothing=Everything

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Personal Touch

"I need healing. Good physician, here is scope for thee, come and manifest thy power; I need faith; Thou hast given me it me, maintain, strengthen, increase it, Centre it upon the Savior's work, upon the majesty of the Father, upon the operations of the Spirit; Work it in me now that I may never doubt thee as the truthful, mighty, faithful God. Then I can bring my heart to thee full of love, gratitude, hope, joy."

-Valley of Vision

I absolutely love this little book :)

If Billy Graham Could Do It Over

An excerpt from John Stott's, 'Between Two Worlds'.

"Speaking to about 600 clergy in London in November 1979, Billy Graham said that, if he had his ministry all over again, he would make two changes. People looked startled. What could he possibly mean? First, he continued, he would study three times as much as he had done. He would take on fewer engagements. 'I've preached too much,' he said, 'and studied too little.' The second change was that he would give more time to prayer. Moreover, in making these emphases, he must have been deliberately echoing the apostolic resolve: 'we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.' (Acts 6:4) Because afterwards I commented appreciatively on what he had said, Dr. Graham wrote to me the following day and added: 'I remember that Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse (of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia) once said: "If I had only three years to serve the Lord, I would spend two of them studying and preparing."'

These are wise words, especially to young men going into the ministry. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Interceding King

"The LORD says to my Lord:
 "Sit at my right hand,until I make your enemies your footstool."
 2The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter.

    Rule in the midst of your enemies!3 Your people will offer themselves freely
   on the day of your power, in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
   the dew of your youth will be yours.
4 The LORD has sworn
   and will not change his mind, "You are a priest forever
   after the order of Melchizedek."
 5The Lord is at your right hand;
   he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.6He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs
   over the wide earth.He will drink from the brook by the way;
   therefore he will lift up his head. Psalm 110

A few things to notice about this Psalm written by David. This Psalm is used several times in the New Testament (Matthew 22, Hebrews 1, Hebrews 5, Hebrews 10) to identify Jesus as Israel's Messiah, the one who would rule on David's throne forever. Twice it is used (once by Jesus, and once in Hebrews) portraying Jesus as the one who is the King, who will sit at God's right hand. The other reference is used to portray Jesus as the priest (Hebrews 5). Given the way in which the New Testament interprets these passages, it is clear that an audience that was contextually Jewish, would have understood this Psalm as one about the Messiah. 

So, what kind of Messiah did the Old Testament foretell? 
  1. The Messiah was to be King (vs. 1-2). He was to take the throne of David for eternity. Not only was he to be Israel's king, but he was to be king over all of creation. Just as Israel was elected for the purpose of being God's vehicle of blessing to all the nations (Genesis 12), the Messiah would be king over all the nations. He comes bringing salvation to all the nations. He is the one true God, above the other gods of the nations. His reign is universal. Yet, with His reign comes judgement. As Messiah, he will execute justice.
  2. The Messiah was to be a priest (vs. 4). This is quite a marvelous statement. Not only is the Messiah to come as King, ruler of all the earth, bringing justice and establishing righteousness. He is also coming as Priest. But, what does a priest do? In a general sense, a priests role is to mediate between God and man. They are to intercede. In the Old Testament, the priests offered sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people. They entered the holy of holies in order to intercede for the people. So, from the Bible, we know that Jesus as the Messiah was King, but he was also Priest. And how did Jesus fulfill this role as Priest? 
God the Son, came to earth in the flesh, the person Jesus Christ, and did for sinful man what they could have never done themselves. Jesus made the ultimate intercession for His people at the cross. Jesus sits at the ultimate Holy of Holies, being exalted at God's right hand, making intercession for His people. His blood speaks a better word than any of the sacrifices the Old Testament (levitical) priests were able to make.To see the role Jesus played as Priest, I would high encourage you to read the letter to the Hebrews, (chapters 5-10 especially). I'll end with a passage from Hebrews. This stuff pretty much speaks for itself. But, this is truly amazing, that the Ruler of all, the true King, not only rules with perfect justice and righteousness, He descended from his throne in heaven, became man, lived among us, was willingly handed over into the hands of sinners, and allowed himself to be crucified in order to atone for the sins of the His people. We have a true Savior King. That is awesome!

"But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God."
Hebrews 9:11-14

"And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,13waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified."
Hebrews 10:11-14