Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I Counsel You to Buy From Me

"For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see."
Revelation 3:17-18

Sometimes I wonder if these words are true of us; especially those of us in the Western Church. In these verses, Jesus is rebuking the Church at Laodicea. He is speaking to those who think they have it all together; to those who claim to have the answers; to those who boast of their programs; to those who outwardly appear to be doing well; to those who glory in their own morality; to those who exalt in their parties' political correctness; to those who, because of their wealth, fail to recognize their desperate need. These words rebuke our tendency to hide behind our own wealth or sufficiency, thus avoiding Jesus as our only Savior. 

And what are we to do? Jesus counsels us to, "buy from me", in order that we may attain true wealth, that our shame may be covered, and that we may truly see. The answer is to recognize our own poverty, and repent of our own self-sufficiency, and to receive Christ. The Christian life isn't one of accumulating wealth based on how good or sufficient we are; it is recognizing our own deficiencies and poverty, repenting of them, and in turn receiving the richness of Christ, who is able to cover our shame, grant us forgiveness, and open our eyes to behold His true beauty. 

So, this morning, I am reminded, that I am poor and I need everything. Yet, I run to Christ, where I am able to buy freely from him. I run to Christ where I am able to trade my ashes for beauty, my sin for his righteousness, my crumbs for his feast, my death for his life. This is true wealth. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

And They Ate and Were Satisfied

"In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat.  And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?"  And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd.  And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full."
Mark 8:1-8

A couple quick thoughts on this passage:

As I read, I was struck by the crowd. Keep in mind these are real people. Four thousand people are following Jesus for three whole days. I'm sure they had jobs, things to do at home, and friends to see. Think of what it would be like to leave everything behind for three days to follow someone around on foot. Not to mention, they hadn't yet eaten during these three days. I'm sure they were tired. Yet, they were willing to follow Jesus. 

These 4,000 people weren't following Jesus out of comfort and convenience. Quite the contrary, they were following Jesus out of faith. When they were following him, they had no guarantee that he would provide a huge meal for them, thus satisfying their hunger. Yet, they followed anyways; because they had faith that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. And if Jesus is who he says he is, he's worth following. If he is the one who can bring salvation, he's worth being hungry for three days, getting blisters on your feet from walking miles, being away from the comfort of your home. 

I love verse 8, "And they ate and were satisfied". Wow! These people did not know Jesus would satisfy them: but, their faith was rewarded. I'm amazed at the provision Jesus makes for his followers. Following him wasn't easy, as these 4,000 knew. They were almost at the point of fainting! Yet, because they had faith, Jesus satisfied them, and on top of that, provided in abundance. What does this mean for us?

Doesn't Jesus call us to follow him in faith? Doesn't he say that being a true disciple of his will take you out of comfort and convenience? Doesn't he say it will be hard? Doesn't he say that he will take you places you may not want to go? Yes and Amen. And so we are called to follow Jesus as the 4,000 did. 

Further, we have the promise that Jesus will satisfy us and provide for us. Jesus called himself the 'Bread of Life', who will bring true satisfaction. He called himself 'The Life', who comes to bring true abundant life. Jesus gives assurance that he will never leave nor forsake us. Where these 4,000 didn't even have the full revelation of these promises, they still had faith. Now, we, who have God's word, and have read and heard of all that he has done, have the promise. We have the promise of the word. We know that 
he lived, died and resurrected for our salvation. We have the promise that when we follow him, though it may be hard, and may leave us to the point of fainting, Jesus will provide and satisfy us in a supernatural way. He has compassion on us and cares for us. He offers us true life in Himself, and invites us to partake in this true life by following him in faith, and trusting in him for everything. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Resurrection: Vindication of the Son

Another excerpt from Michael Green's, Evangelism in the Early Church:


"When he (Jesus) died in agony, shame, and apparent failure on the cross, his disciples must have thought they had been mistaken, and that he was a fraud. The resurrection came to them as God's vindication of the claims Jesus had made. They saw the he was the 'designated Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead'. And they proceeded to announce these joyful tidings with tireless zeal and boundless enthusiasm. It spread like wildfire precisely because the first hearers well understood that this was the Messianic salvation which was at issue. It was not merely a matter of the atoning death of a great man: since the days of the Maccabees they had understood that the death of a hero for his people might have expiatory significance. Nor was resurrection, by itself, the fundamental thing. John the Baptist was rumored to have risen from the dead; Jesus himself had on occasion, it appears, raised folk from the dead without anyone supposing that there was anything Messianic about them. But when Jesus, Jesus who had claimed to bring in the eschatological salvation, rose from the tomb, that was a different matter. It was, as they put it, seen to be 'according with the Scriptures'. It was the vindication of the Suffering Servant, the ascension in glory of the Son of Man, the fulfillment of the prophecy to David through Nathan long ago that 'He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish his kingdom forever. I will be his father and he shall be my son.' And that was something to shout about. That was good news."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jesus is the Content of the Gospel

From Michael Green's, Evangelism in the Early Church:

"The Christians 'proclaimed the good news' of 'the gospel' or of 'the faith'. More specifically, they proclaimed the good news about 'the kingdom', as Jesus had done. But this could very easily be misunderstood in the Roman Empire, as it was, for instance, at Thessalonica; so it is not surprising to find them more frequently preaching simply the person and achievement  of Jesus as the good news. And yet it is surprising; it is fantastic! The one who came preaching the good news has become the content of the good news! What clearer evidence could there be that the earliest Christians regarded Jesus with the highest  possible respect, as embodying in his person and achievement the kingly rule of God himself? It was Origen who said Jesus was the autobasileia, the kingdom in person; but the idea was there in the apostolic proclamation of Jesus. So we find them spreading the good news that Jesus is the Messiah, or that through him the ancient promises have been fulfilled. We find them proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus, of the Lordship of Jesus, of the cross of Jesus, of the resurrection of Jesus, or simply of Jesus himself. Nothing more was needed. For however expressed, whether as the Messiah of the Old Testament expectation, as the Lord over demonic powers or whatever other category of interpretation was employed, the early preachers of the good news had one subject and one only, Jesus. This was their supreme concern."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Poor, No Longer Among Us

An interesting book review by Collin Hansen found on the Gospel Coalition website.

You can read it here: The Poor, No Longer Among Us

Luke 9: 23-24

"If anyone would come after me, 
let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 
For whoever would save his life will lose it, 
but whoever loses his life for my sake wills save it."
Luke 9:23-24

I remember reading this passage on a late night in the summer of 2004. It was the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school, and it was around this time that God began to overwhelmingly grip my heart with the gospel. God used this passage in a special way to bring me to faith and to convince me of what it meant to be a Christian. 

Reflecting on this passage now, I am once again reminded of God's radical call on his disciples. There is no such thing as a nominal Christian. There is no such thing as domesticated disciple. Following Jesus may not cost you your physical life, but it will cost you everything. Growing as a disciple of Jesus means increasingly denying yourself, and increasingly finding your life in him. It is not a half-hearted thing. It's not a both/and. It is either/or. Either you are following Jesus and are living as one of his disciples, or you are not. To most ears, the call to deny yourself, lose your life, and die is a ridiculous call. It is unreasonable. But in the words of my favorite professor, "Reasonableness is one of the greatest enemies of Christian discipleship." 

When you let go of yourself and cling solely to Jesus, then there is true life. When you are denying your cross and following Jesus wherever he leads you, then there is true joy. I praise God for gripping my heart in the summer of 2004. It hasn't been easy, but by losing my life, God has saved me and given me true life. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Blessings For Obedience

"If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and non shall make you afraid."
Leviticus 26: 3-6

Wow! The author of Leviticus paints this amazing picture of human flourishing under the reign of God. God says that he will give rain to the Israelites, the land will be blessed, it will produce abundantly, the Israelites will be satisfied completely, they will dwell securely, there will be peace, and there will be no more fear. What a glorious promise! This passage is a description of total human flourishing. 

However, there is one hitch. All these promises are contingent upon the Israelites obedience. If Israel keeps and obeys God's commandments, the outcome will be this immense blessing from God resulting in total flourishing. So, the question is, what happened? Did Israel obey?

Well, the short answer is no. Much of the Old Testament captures Israel's repeated failures to follow God and to obey his commands. Israel, like a stubborn child, refused to live as God's chosen people. Yet, God remains faithful. Despite Israel's numerous failures, God keeps making these promises to restore that which is broken. God keeps talking about this desire to bless his people and return them to this state of flourishing described in Leviticus 26. So, how does God accomplish this?

The answer is Jesus. Where Israel failed to obey God, Jesus obeyed perfectly. In Leviticus 26, we see the obvious blessings for obedience. The truth is, we all radically fail to obey God's commands. Left to ourselves, we don't deserve any of God's blessings. The good news is that Jesus came to fulfill the commandments of God perfectly, so that by his life, death and resurrection, the blessings in Leviticus 26 may be secured for us. 

Talk about a good deal! This literally is too good to be true, yet it is true. Jesus took upon himself the punishment for our disobedience, and in return, we get the blessing of his obedience. This can't be attained through any of our own goodness, but it is attained through repentance and faith. The ultimate blessing for which we were created to be in relationship with God. Only then will we be satisfied, secure, and at peace. In Romans, Paul describes how Jesus Christ's perfect obedience justifies us before God. 

"For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners,
so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous."
Romans 5:19

Monday, February 20, 2012

Death is the Gate of Life


A quote from C.H. Spurgeon that was brought to my attention by future Covenant Seminary attendee, Danny Hindman:

On this Easter morning, pay a visit to His grave...because it is a quiet spot...
 
Let me lead by the hand of meditation, my brother:  let me take thee by the arm of thy fancy, and let me again say to thee, "Come, see the place where the Lord lay." 
 
Oh! I have longed for rest, for I have heard this world's rumors in my ears so long that I have begged for "a lodge in some vast wilderness, some boundless contiguity of shade," where I might hide myself forever.  I am sick of this tiring and trying life; my frame is weary, my soul is made to repose herself awhile.  I would I could lay myself down a little by the edge of some pebbly brook, with no companion save the fair flowers or the nodding willows.  I would I could recline in the stillness, where the air brings balm to the tormented brain, where there is no murmur save the hum of the summer bee, no whisper, save that of the zephyrs, and no song except the caroling of the Lark.  I wish I could be at ease for a moment.  I have become a man of the world; my brain is racked, my soul is tired.  Oh! Wouldst thou be quiet, Christian?  Merchant, wouldst thou rest from thou toils? Wouldst thou be calm for once?  Then come hither.  [Christ's tomb] is a pleasant garden, far from the hum of Jerusalem;  the noise and din of business will not reach thee there: "Come and see the place where the Lord lay."  It is a sweet resting spot, a withdrawing room for thy soul; where thou mayest brush from thy garments the dust of earth and muse awhile in peace...
 
Jesus rose, and as the Lord our savior rose, so must all his followers rise.  Die I must--the body must be a carnival of worms; it must be eaten by those tiny cannibals, peradventure it shall be scattered from one portion of the earth to another...[but] like the bones lying in the valley of vision, though separated from one another, the moment God shall speak, the bone will creep to its bone; then the flesh will come upon it; the four winds of heaven shall blow, and the breath shall return.  So let me die, let beasts devour me, let fire turn this body into gas and vapor, all its particles shall yet again be restored...Christs same body rose; so shall mine.  O, my soul, dost thou now dread to die?  Thou wilt lose thy partner body a little while, but thou will be married again in heaven...
 
The grave--what is it?  It is the bath in which the Christian puts his clothes of the body to have them washed and cleansed.  Death--what is it?  It is the waiting-room where we robe ourselves for immortality...Death is the gate of life. 
 
Come, view the place then, with all hallowed meditation, where the Lord lay. 

Gospel Clarity For Missional Calling

Great article that really struck a chord with me. If we belong to the Kingdom of God, we are essentially called into missional, cross-cultural living. The reasons are this: God's kingdom expanding mission is proactive, and we are all therefore called to be missional. Also, God's mission of the kingdom requires reaching across barriers. We aren't called to sit and wait. We are called to bridge the gap, to cross barriers, and to bring the good news to those outside the Kingdom. Therefore, all ministry is in a sense missional, and cross-cultural.

Read the article here. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What I'm Listening To....

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which is lost."  Luke 19:10



Verse 1: "This is dedicated to the hustler who's sick of hustlin"
Verse 2: "This is for that chick in the strip club tired of strippin"


This is who Jesus came for. This is who He died for. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Transformed Character

From Justin Martyr's 1st Apology:

"We who formerly delighted in fornication now embrace chastity alone; we who formerly used magic arts dedicate ourselves to the good and unbegotten God; we who valued above all things the acquisition of wealth and possessions now bring all we have into a common stock and share it out to all according to their need; we who hated and destroyed one another and on account of their different manner of life would not liver with men of another tribe, now, since the coming of Christ, live happily with them, and pray for our enemies and endeavor to persuade those who hate us unjustly to live conformably to the good precepts of Christ, so that they may become partakers with us of the same joyful hope of a reward from God the ruler of all."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

LINSANITY!!!

If you follow sports at all, you're probably already familiar with New York Knick phenom Jeremy Lin. He's been dominating the sports headlines ever since he exploded on the scene. An unexpected superstar, Lin had 0 scholarship offers coming out of high school, and was not drafted after playing his college ball at Harvard. In the last several weeks, Lin has gone from a nobody to the most popular name in the NBA. The associated press calls Lin "The most surprising story in the NBA." "Linsanity" has hit the sports world by storm. He just set the record for most points scored by a player in their first 5 games as a starter. Last week he scored 38 points, outscoring future hall of famer Kobe Bryant and leading the New York Knicks to victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. 


Yet, among all his impressive accomplishments, Lin possesses a keen sense of humility. The thing I admire most about Lin is how grounded he is. He is rooted in the gospel. Fame, success and fortune doesn't change that. Check out a few quotes from Linsanity:


Just because I had a couple of good games, it can’t change who I am. My identity is in Christ, not in basketball. I love playing basketball and it’s my job but at the same time I still recognize that I’m a sinner, and that’s not going to change regardless of how well I play on the court. -Jeremy Lin
Lin credits his success to being able to play without pressure. 
"I've surrendered that to God. I'm not in a battle with what everybody thinks anymore." Jeremy Lin


That is the kind of freedom the gospel brings. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Feasting on the Steadfast Love of Jesus

A great prayer this morning from Scotty Smith's blog.


Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trustPs. 143:8
Dear Lord Jesus, I totally get why breakfast is the most important meal of the day. What we consume (or don’t consume) early greatly determines our energy level, rhythms and focus for the rest of the day. I always pay dearly for too little sleep followed by too much sugar and caffeine, and others are affected as well. The same is true spiritually. When I don’t begin my day feasting on the grace and truth of the gospel, not only do I rob myself, I rob others.
So out of equal measures of delight and desperation, I make the psalmist’s cry my own: “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love” (Ps. 143:8). That’s what I need more than anything else. Your love is my present banquet and my eternal feast.
Jesus, only your love is better than life (Psalm 63). It doesn’t just give me life; it won’t just make this day more bearable and enjoyable; it is better than life. Only your love addresses my deepest needs. Foolishly, I often settle for the caffeine of being appreciated and admired, but you know the worst about me and you love me the most. You don’t love me because of anything I do, but because of everything you’ve done for me. How humbling… how freeing.
Only your love satisfies my most intense longings. The junk food of accomplishment, success and impact offer a brief relief, but they always leave me grabbing for more, only moments later. There’s a hole in my heart that is shaped like you, Jesus, and only you can really fill that place, that cavern, that vacuum.
Only your love is unwavering, Jesus, for all other loves are filled with conditions and contingencies. You’ve met every condition for me. Because you were nailed to the cross, there are no longer any strings attached to your love. The price of your love was the currency of your life, which you gladly paid that your affection might come to us freely and fully. Buckle our knees and thrill our hearts with this good news…
Only your love is unfailing, Jesus, for all other loves are fickle and finite. Only your love can expose and replace my idols; no other love is as beautiful. Only your love can break my self-indulgent chains and set me free to love well; no other love is as powerful.
Only your love can break the lingering power of shame and the ever-present seductions of temptation; no other love is as daily. Only your love can heal the greatest heart-wounds I carry; no other love is as kind and healing. Only your love can move me from navel-gazing to kingdom living; no other love is as transforming.  Jesus, there are so many more “only’s” about your love; and we will never fully scale the height, depth, width and breadth of you love—even in eternity. It will be measureless and ours forever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
So this morning and every morning—afternoons and evenings too, Jesus, continue to bring the word of your unfailing love to our hearts. By the power of the Holy Spirit, preach the gospel of your unfailing love to our whole being. So very Amen we pray, in your merciful and mighty name.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Righteousness According to a 4th Century Monk

A sweet quote from a 4th century Monk by the name of Macarius. This quotation is from his Spiritual Homilies no. 20. 

"If anyone takes his stand upon a righteousness and redemption of his own, not looking for the righteousness of God who is the Lord, as the apostle says, 'who is made unto us righteousness and redemption', he labors in vain and to no purpose. For all the dreams of a righteousness of his own is at the last day manifested as nothings but filthy rags, as the prophet Isaiah says, 'All our righteousness is as filthy rags.' Let us then beg and implore God to 'clothe us with the garments of salvation', Jesus Christ our Lord, the unspeakable light. Souls that have once worn it shall never put it off again, but in the resurrection also their bodies shall be glorified by the glory of that light, with which faithful and noble souls are even now clad, as the apostle says, 'He that raised Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit which dwells within you.'"


Friday, February 10, 2012

Intimate Fellowship with Sinners

"He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich.  And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature.  So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.  And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”  So he hurried and came down andreceived him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”  And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  Luke 19:1-10


"This action of Jesus going to a sinner's home should cause us to think about the way Jesus relates to sinners. Jesus does not keep his distance from sinners, like the Pharisees and teachers of the law; nor does he preach condemning sermons at sinners, like the Pharisees and teachers of the law. If Jesus had conformed to their practice of devotion to God, moral purity, and separation, they would not have been outraged by his behavior. What is so shocking and unacceptable to them is that Jesus desire to have intimate fellowship with sinners. He visits with them. He sits down and eats with them. He invites them to the homes of his friends and disciples. He goes gladly into their homes; he even invites himself to be their guest, just as he does with Zacchaeus. He welcomes them joyfully, and in return, they welcome him joyfully."

Jerram Barrs, Learning Evangelism From Jesus. 89.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Imitating Jesus in the World

From Jerram Barr's book, Learning Evangelism From Jesus. 


"Instead of retreating, isolating ourselves, and condemning unbelievers and our culture. Jesus calls us to something very different. He desires that we give ourselves to the understanding of the culture around us; he urges us to stop condemning the world and unbelievers; his passion is for us to listen to his prayer for us, that we night be in the world as he was in the world; he is eager for us to imitate him and to give our lives gladly to love and to serve non-Christians. His desire is that we be like him, and that we commit ourselves to developing intimate relationships with non-Christians. He wants to teach our church members and our children to do the same-no matter what the belief system and the lifestyle of the people around us"

Definitely something I need to be reminded of. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Announcement Becomes Reality

"Eight hundred years before, God had invited his herald to bring good news to Jerusalem and to the cities of Judah. The long night of sin and warfare was to end. And the messengers voice on the mountain summed it up: 'Here is your God!' (Isaiah 40:9)

In Jesus that announcement to the cities becomes reality. In Jesus the covenant is renewed, the law and the prophets fulfilled, justice and righteousness are incarnated, salvation becomes more than promise, the perfect sacrifice for sin is offered. The kingdom of God comes in the person of the king, the jubilee year of God begins, the poor are lifted up, the cities hear the good news, and God inaugurates his time of urban restoration."

Urban Ministry: The Kingdom, the City & the People of God. Harvie Conn & Manuel Ortiz. Page 115. 

Every Longing of the Heart

From Jerram Barrs's The Heart of Evangelism:


"The Gospel fulfills every right longing of the human heart. It answers every honest question of the searching mind. It delights and surpasses every good impulse of the creative imagination. It meets and transcends the ache in every soul to come to know the living God. C.S. Lewis write concerning his own conversion that he was surprised by joy when the hopes and desires of his inner being were completely satisfied as he was humbled before God and as he put his trust in God's Son, Jesus Christ."


Thursday, February 2, 2012

What Kind Of Pastors Do Sinners Need?

Here is a blog post from Tullian Tchividjian's blog in which he quotes Sinclair Ferguson. This was brought to my attention by Danny Hindman.

What kind of pastor do sinners need?
 
Sinclair Ferguson answers this question from his Marrow Controversy Lectures:
But when your people come and have been broken by sin and have fallen into temptation and are ashamed to confess the awful mess they have made of their life, it is not a Calvinistic pastor who has been sanctified by vinegar that they need. It is a pastor that has been mastered by the unconditional, free grace of God. It is a pastor from whom ironclad orthodoxy has been torn away and the whole armor of a gracious God has been placed upon his soul–the armor of one who would not break the bruised reed or quench the dimly burning wick.
You see, my friends, as we think together in these days about a Godly pastor we have to ask, what is a Godly pastor? A Godly pastor is one who is like God, who has a heart of free grace running after sinners. The Godly pastor is the one who sees the prodigal and runs and falls on his neck and weeps and kisses him and says, “This my son was dead, he was lost and now he is alive and found.”
Pastors, when sinners are drowning, don’t tell them to paddle harder and kick faster. Throw them the life-line of amazing grace.