Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Cross: Something Done By Us, and Something Done For Us

This is a summary from our Bible study @ Rebirth: East St. Louis this past Thursday. With Good Friday coming up, we talked about the death of Jesus. Here is the original post. 

Following Tuesday's study on the weight of sin, and with Good Friday approaching, yesterday in Bible study we looked at the death of Jesus. Just thinking about it now, I am so thankful for the good news of the Cross and for the incredible opportunity to share and talk about this with our guys. Jesus dying for our sins is something most people (and our guys) have heard or are somewhat familiar with, but it is something that often gets glossed over. What does it actually mean that Jesus died for us? Yesterday was an incredible time to reflect on why Jesus had to die, and what this means for us.
You could spend a lifetime pouring over the significance of the Cross and still not exhaust its depth. Yesterday we talked about two realities of Jesus dying on the Cross. First, relating back to the weight of sin, I wanted our guys to see that the Cross was something done BY us, and secondly, that the Cross was something done FOR us. 
The main text we looked at was Isaiah 53:3-10. This is some pretty heavy stuff, but I wanted our guys to reflect on why Jesus died. It wasn't for his sins, but it was for our sins. We've spent a good deal of time talking about how Adam's rebellion effected our relationship with God, with each other, and with Creation. Yet, we are not innocent spectators in the Fall. We are active participants, who just like Adam, rebel against God, don't trust his authority, and disobey his word. This is something we do on an everyday basis, and because of that, we deserve the just wage of sin, which is death. And this is exactly the death that Jesus died for us. 
"But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins" Isaiah 53:5
Jesus took upon himself the punishment that we rightly deserved. I think this is important for our guys to see, because if we don't see the Cross as something done BY us, we can't rightly understand the Cross as something done FOR us. If we don't understand the weight of our sin, and the punishment that it deserves, Christ's death won't have much significance. It will merely be a metaphor of love, or a good example, but it will not be a saving work. At the cross, Jesus took the punishment for our rebellion. 
Furthermore, the Cross is something done FOR us. Because Jesus died, we are free from the condemnation of our sin. We are no longer on death row, hopelessly imprisoned, sentenced to eternal death. But now, we are completely set free from the condemnation of sin, and are free in Christ. This is amazing! Also, we are now made right again with God. The three relationships we've talking about (us and God, each other, us and creation) can now be restored. 
"He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed." 53:5
This is what Christ's death accomplished FOR us. I'm praying that for some of our guys, this is their beginning in recognizing and owning up to the reality of their own rebellion. More so, I'm praying that this would lead to repentance, and turning to trust in  Jesus' work on the Cross as the only way in which we can be saved. Next week, we'll be talking about the resurrection. Keep praying!

Friday, March 30, 2012

"But I have prayed for you"

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32 ESV


ESV study bible commentary says the word "your" in blue, clearly is singular in its use. I believe Jesus prays for his people corporately, which is cool. But here, Christ is praying for Peter personally.

When I am hurting in temptation, I want people to know and pray for me personally. I want them to feel my burden. It is one of those unique things about Christian fellowship that I am thankful for. Well, Christ is in on that. He is leading the charge. And for those who are in Him, He has already determined the outcome, that He will keep us close.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Satanic Ideology of Photoshop

A great article from the Gospel Coalition:

A cover photo for Intelligent Life magazine caused a small stir recently because it dared the unthinkable: show a celebrity's actual face. Cate Blanchett, 42, appears on the cover in little makeup, her smile lines and wrinkles un-retouched. She looks less like an Hollywood star and more like a dignified human being, like someone you might see drinking tea at a neighborhood Starbucks.
Compared to this photo, other images of Blanchett look plastic. The April cover ofHarper's Bazaar also features her, but it shows her with perfectly smooth porcelain skin and smoky eyes. Her neck looks carved out of stone, her appearance as timeless as Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings, an unnatural immortality brought about through the magic of Photoshop.
She isn't the first to go enhancement-free in a photo. I remember Jamie Lee Curtis doing something similar a few years back with a bit more fanfare, featuring a photo spread that showed every step of enhancement along the way in a normal shoot. The makers of Dove beauty products have been pushing the "Campaign for Real Beauty," a series of promotions celebrating beauty that doesn't fit the stereotypical mold for cover models. But these efforts, like the Intelligent Life cover, are significant only for their rarity. Photoshop is the norm, whether you're shooting family photos, senior portraits, or billboards.
It's become so normal that we hardly even notice it anymore, and that's what makes it all the more insidious. Behind the wrinkle-removing, curve-enhancing, waist slimming work is a satanic ideology of youth and beauty.

Assault on Contentment

When Satan came to Eve in the garden, his assault (amongst other things) was an attack on her contentment. "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1) To paraphrase: "Has God held out on you? Has he given you less than you need, less than you deserve?" The temptations of Jesus in Luke 4 are likewise assaults upon contentment. For Jesus to turn stones to bread would have been to deny the sufficiency of God's provision. To worship Satan in exchange for the kingdoms of the earth would have been to deny the sufficiency of Jesus' inheritance to come. In these cases, Satan's message was the same: God is holding out on you. You're lacking what you really need. You don't have what will really make you happy.
It's an appeal to inner narcissism---one that worked with Eve. Once convinced the fruit would make her wise and "like God," she ate. Similar appeals to our narcissism work just as well.
Which is why the covers of newsstand magazines are covered with plasticine starlets and starving models. These are the icons of a youth-worshiping consumeristic religion, and like the icons of Eastern Orthodoxy, they are windows into a version of heaven. They promise a world where aging---and thus death itself---is suspended, where the secret knowledge of success, beauty, happiness, love, and sex is revealed.


Of course, we can read over-the-top hyperbole on the covers of Vogue or Cosmo and reason that they're absurd. We can look at images like Blanchett's on Harper's Bazaar and know, rationally, that this isn't the real world. But it isn't reason that these magazines are after. As James K. A. Smith argues in Desiring the Kingdom, we aren't fundamentally rational creatures; we're desiring creatures, and though the promises of Hollywood and consumerism may be irrational, their picture of the ideal human life has captured our hearts. As Smith says:
It's not so much that we're intellectually convinced and then muster the willpower to pursue what we ought; rather, at a precognitive level, we are attracted to a vision of the good life that has been painted for us in stories and myths, images and icons. It is not primarily our minds that are captivated by rather our imaginations that are captured, and when the imagination is hooked, we're hooked.
That's why, in spite of the nakedly obvious lies that fill magazine covers, they continue to sell. Consumers aren't rationally convinced that they'll learn to flatten their bellies in four weeks, preserve their youth, and discover a satisfying sex life. But they are compelled by this hope for the good life and an image that seems to hold it forth at the low, low price of $5.99.
To the flesh-and-blood human being, whose body ages and whose face wrinkles, these ageless icons whisper, "You're not good enough. You too fat, too old, too thin, too flat, to curved, too poor, too pale, too tan. Your Maker has held out on you. You're a fading, dying thing that doesn't measure up . . . but you won't surely die. Follow me, and you can be young, beautiful, and successful forever."
They hold forth an impossible standard of beauty, and consumers religiously pursue that standard---this dress, that makeup, this Botox, that surgical enhancement, this lipo, that diet, this tuck, that lift---on and on it goes like a sacred pilgrimage where ageless beauty can be yours for a pound of flesh. It rebuts the Creator who made us fearfully and wonderfully, numbering our hairs and our days, and called grey hair our glory because it signifies a life wisely lived (Proverbs 16:31).
It's sad to me that in recent discussion about plastic surgery among some believers, there has been little attention to what creational theology has to say about it. We worry about lawfulness---is it forbidden?---but ignore what it says about who we are, who God is, and how he's made us.
There are, of course, good medical reasons for many of these surgeries. There is a place for healthy diet and exercise (and many Christians should consider these more seriously as they prepare their body a tool for service and mission)---but, of course, this is the exception and not the rule. The rule---the force that drives the market for diets and cosmetic surgery---is not health and healing but enhancing and improving.
I think about this every day as I watch my daughters grow up. My Dorothy, who is four with flax-colored ringlets envied by everyone who sees them, already laments that she doesn't have straight hair like Cinderella or brown hair like Belle. My wife and I feel like soldiers at these little ones' gates, attempting to safeguard them from an onslaught of discontentment-breeding lies. How can we affirm that their Maker knew just what he was doing when he knitted them together, while a whole world tells them he got it wrong? We can bar the door and wall them in . . . but they'll have to go to a grocery store eventually. Every trip through the checkout will be another salvo.

Bigger Hope and a Better Promise

Our only hope for them---and for ourselves---is to catch a vision and hunger for something greater, for our imaginations to be captured by a bigger hope and a better promise. Rather than hoping for agelessness and resisting the marks of time on our faces and bodies, we can hope for resurrection and trust in one who raises the dead. Rather than conforming to the fickle standards of beauty, we can worship the God who knew us before we were born, made us fearfully and wonderfully, and called us "good." Then, when we see the Photoshopped and retouched icons around us, we can respond with a resounding, "Get thee behind me."
Tim DeLisle, editor of Intelligent Life, commented on the un-edited photo of Cate Blanchett, saying:
When other magazines photograph actresses, they routinely end up running heavily Photoshopped images, with every last wrinkle expunged. Their skin is rendered so improbably smooth that, with the biggest stars, you wonder why the photographer didn't just do a shoot with their waxwork.
Rather than celebrate these creations as they are, as their Maker made them, we want to transform them into something else. Something made flawless with human hands or something ageless and unaffected by the Fall. Something that, this side of Eden and apart from the Resurrection, will never be.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Contrast of Truths

"We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;
as unknown, and yet well known;
as dying, and behold, we live;
as punished, and yet not killed;
as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;
as poor, yet making many rich;
as having nothing, yet possessing everything."

(2 Corinthians 6:8b-10 ESV)


I am no theologian, so I could be totally misreading this passage. Either way, this passage screams gospel to my heart. I feel on a daily basis the first portion of each of these lines as my reality. My sin proves them true. Satan deceives me to believe so. And the world around us proclaims them loudly. It can really bring me down.

But these are only earthly realities at best. They are redeemed and conquered by a far greater eternal reality: the cross. Christ's substitutionary death for each one of us covers every sin, every persecution, every attack, and every feeling of inadequacy.

Life is hard, no question. And, the calling to follow Christ ensures suffering and pain. Paul got that. What allowed him to hold such a perspective of victory amidst trials of defeat? He looked backward in faith, and forward in hope.

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Romans 8:18)

Let's pray together our every thought, word and action may be shaped by these awesome truths.

The Sheer Excitement of Knowing God

Brought to my attention by Danny Hindman:

Here is Jim Elliot's final diary entry. Talk about a guy who had tasted the sweetness of knowing God. I long for this kind of affection for Christ and am convicted at my own lack of passion.

It is exalting, delicious, to stand embraced by the shadows of a friendly tree, with the wind tugging at your coattails, and the heavens hailing your heart, to gaze and glory and give oneself again to God -- what more could a man ask?  Oh the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on earth!  I care not if I never raise my voice again for him, if only I may love him, please him...if only I may see him, touch his garments, and smile into his eyes -- ah then, not stars...shall matter, only himself. 
O Jesus, Master and Center and End of all, how long before that glory is yours which has so long awaited you?  Now there is no thought of you among men; then there shall be thought for nothing else.  Now other men are praised; then none shall care for any other's merits.  Hasten, hasten, Glory of Heaven, take your crown, subdue your kingdom, enthrall your creatures. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

New Ethnics in Christ Sermon

Ok, I know this is a 55 minute sermon that I doubt most people will take the time to listen to, but this was preached at the Church I go to (The Journey) this past summer. The person preaching is Leonce Crump, a former NFL player who is currently a pastor in Atlanta. This is one of the better sermons I've ever heard. If you have time, please listen.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Everything in Common

Here's a quick update on the latest Bible study we've had with the ministry I work with, Rebirth: East St. Louis. Pretty sweet to be discussing the story line of Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration with a bunch of 13-18 year olds. I'm amazed at God's story of redemption, and even how he brings people together who seemingly have nothing in common. 

Yet, in the story of God's grace, we have everything in common. We are all beautifully and uniquely made in the Creator's image, created to intimately know God, and be shamelessly united to each other. We have all rebelled, and as a result, we all experience deep pain, brokenness and struggle. Our relationship to God is severed, and our relationships with one another are broken. Yet, we are left with echoes of Eden in our hearts. We all still long for what life was supposed to be like, what it was like in the Garden of Eden. We long for to be reconciled to God and to each other. This reconciliation that we all to some degree or another desire and long for, is found in God's Son Jesus, who came to die, so that WHOEVER believes may inherit true life. And for all of us who trust in Jesus, we will one day be united to him, back in perfect harmony. We will experience the intimate fellowship with one another that we long for. There will no longer be death, or tears, or crying, or pain, or struggle. Everything will be made new, and together, as one people, we will worship God. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The New Ethnics in Christ

"In this new life, it doesn't matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us." Colossians 3:11

Such a powerful verse. The gospel completely shatters ethnic superiority, racism, classism, socio-economic elitism. It shatters geographical boundaries separating the rich and poor, the haves and the have-nots. I long to see this verse realized in the Church of Jesus Christ. It is unfortunate that in most churches, as Dr. Martin Luther King once said,  Sunday morning is the most segregated day of the week. In the evangelical church, we love treating the gospel as a personal devotional to make ourselves feel comfort and security. Yet, we fail to let the gospel penetrate deep enough into our souls, to realize the social implications; to realize that Christ is reconciling ALL things that were broken in the fall. Ethnic superiority, racism, classism, socio-economic elitism etc, are all a result of the fall. The gospel transforms society. Christians are part of a new ethnicity, one in which we are all one in Christ, where no person is above or below the other. Here is a quote on this verse (Colossians 3:11) from Leonce Crump in a sermon he preached at The Journey this past summer. I love this vision. 

"We long to become a new race all together; a beautiful tapestry of God's creation, called and chosen by Him for something bigger than ourselves. As such, we are deeply committed to being intentionally trans-cultural"

A Smart, Creative, Biblical Way to Equip the Poor in West Africa

From Justin Taylor's blog. Read the post HERE. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When Helping Hurts

Just finished reading When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert. This is outstanding book and is a true gift to the Church. Corbett and Fikkert do a tremendous job of laying out a gospel-centered approach to understanding poverty and how to help. A warning, this book is challenging, and if taken to heart, will likely be paradigm shifting. It has caused me to repent for the way in which I have understood and approached poverty. Yet, it has left me in awe as I consider the cosmic implications of the gospel. I truly believe this is a book that all Christians should read. It will greatly benefit reformed folk who have a passion for personally applying the doctrines of grace on an individual level, but a passion to see the gospel transform all of life seems to be lacking. It is equally as beneficial to those who are passionate for social justice, but find themselves without a worldview to properly address these issues. Here is the review.

Corbett, Steve, and Brian Fikkert. When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor-- and Yourself (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009).           
          “Have you ever done anything to hurt the poor?” This is a question most evangelical Christians would answer with a no. Yet, it is a question raised by John Perkins in his Foreword to the book When Helping Hurts: How To Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting The Poor And Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. With issues of social justice gaining popularity as well as an exponential increase in spending towards short-term missions, When Helping Hurts is a much-needed biblical response on how to understand and help alleviate poverty. If the authors’ goal is to reform our understanding of poverty alleviation by bringing our worldview under the reign of Christ, thus transforming how we understand poverty itself, then this book is a complete success. In this book, the authors set out to both challenge our typical understanding of poverty, and to affirm a biblical approach towards alleviating poverty. Those of us living in affluence are not likely to believe that our simple efforts to love our impoverished neighbors could in fact be causing more harm than good; yet, this is the exact challenge that Corbett and Fikkert offer. However, what makes this book such a success is not the authors’ ability to critically question the false paradigms which have been ingrained in our ministries, but it is the way in which they are able to practically address these problems, starting with Scripture, and ending in application to our lives. Further, the authors’ humility shines throughout the book, demonstrating the very principles they are conveying.
            There is much to be celebrated in When Helping Hurts.  Perhaps the greatest strength of this book is its foundation in the grand narrative of Scripture. From the beginning, Corbett and Fikkert set out to refresh their readers understanding of what poverty is by understanding the gospel story.
            Typically, evangelical Christians assume poverty is a simple problem; thus requiring a simple solution. Poverty is materialistic in nature and can be solved by a redistribution of material wealth. While, a lack of material resources is certainly a large component of poverty, understanding poverty in the context of Scripture’s account of Creation-Fall-Redemption allows us to see the true scope and nature of poverty. To this end, When Helping Hurts rightly uses Creation as the starting point for understanding the nature of poverty. Man was created to be in perfect relation, with God, with himself, with his neighbors, and with creation. God created humans uniquely in his image in order that we may reflect his glory. In the Garden of Eden, these four relationships (God, self, others, creation) existed in harmony. There was no poverty. Then, as the story goes, Adam and Eve rebelled against God by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thus shattering the harmonious relationships that existed. All four of these relational facets were deeply affected by the fall. Therefore, rightly understood, poverty is the brokenness that exists between man and God, man and himself, man and others, and man and creation. When Helping Hurts does a fantastic job of establishing the source of poverty as the fall, and its scope as cosmic. As Corbett and Fikkert write, “poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meaning” (62).
            This is helpful for several reasons. First, this shatters the common perception that poverty is simply materialistic. As Corbett and Fikkert point out, poverty is primarily relational deficit. Far more often than not, those impoverished describe poverty in terms of social and emotional brokenness rather than a lack of ‘things’. Words such as ‘powerlessness’, ‘shame’ and ‘depression’ are reoccurring descriptors. If we think poverty is solely materialistic, our solutions will address only materialistic issues. This is exactly why most people tend to view poor people as objects. The ensuing goal of poverty alleviation then becomes assimilation to North-American middle class affluence. In this stereo-typical view, poverty alleviation tends to address the effects of poverty rather than the cause. As the title of the book suggests, this results in both the poor and ourselves being hurt. This inevitably doesn’t work because it fails to recognize the nature and scope of poverty in light of the fall. Confronting our misunderstandings of what poverty is also causes us to rethink poverty alleviation in terms of God’s story of redemption. Corbett and Fikkert write, “poverty is rooted in broken relationships, so the solution to poverty is rooted in the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection to put all things into right relationship again” (77).  This is the power of the gospel; Jesus is reconciling all things to himself (Colossians 1:20). This means everything that was lost in the fall  is being restored through Christ. This includes individuals as well as systems. Evangelical Christians have a tendency to understand the gospel solely in terms of the personal forgiveness of sins. We tend to think that the only relationship of the four that really matters is the vertical one that exists between God and us. Once again, When Helping Hurts does a tremendous job of challenging this view of Scripture. While the personal forgiveness of sins is a primary aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is not the whole story. In the gospel, all four relationships are redeemed. The gospel gives man a new relationship with creation, with each other, and with himself. Not only are we forgiven, but the gospel also transforms work, politics, housing, education, etc. This is especially important because so much of poverty is rooted in broken relationships with creation, others, and self. Yet, overtime, we have somehow forgot the cosmic implications of the gospel. The major strength of this book is the way in which Corbett and Fikkert are able to realign our view of poverty with the beautiful story of God’s kingdom.
            Further, When Helping Hurts clearly demonstrates this from Scripture. The book argues that poverty alleviation is rooted in the Church’s mission, which is rooted in Christ’s mission. The authors’ describe Christ’s mission as preaching the kingdom in both word and deed (38). Further, Christ’s words and deeds in Scripture go beyond justifying sinners. Jesus healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and cared for the poor. In essence, Jesus mission was to return us to a true expression of humanity in its fullest sense. Going further back, Corbett and Fikkert show this in the Old Testament. Israel’s God ordained mission was to be the agent of blessing to the rest of humanity. The Law was given to Israel in order that they may more fully display and express humanity as it was meant to be. This included alleviating poverty. For example, the Sabbath year was intended to cancel debts and allow the poor to glean from the fields (38). The year of Jubilee focused on social justice; ensuring that slaves would be set free, land would be redistributed, and the poor would be helped (39). Through Israel, God desired that, “There should be no poor among you” (Deuteronomy 15:4). Israel dismally failed to achieve this task. Yet, where Israel failed, Jesus succeeded. Jesus came establishing God’s kingdom where all four relationships (God, self, others, creation) would be restored. Further, seeing God’s mission traced through the entire Bible allows us to see God’s heart in alleviating poverty. Alleviating poverty is not simply handing out materials to people, it is bringing all things under Christ’s reign, where all four relationships are made new. Since the nature and scope of poverty are rooted in the fall, the nature and scope of the solution must be rooted in Christ’s cosmic redemption of all things.
            Having established the nature and scope of poverty and its solution, When Helping Hurts transitions from theory to practical application and methodology. This is extremely helpful, as up to this point, readers may be experiencing an over-whelming sense of inadequacy and guilt. In deconstructing our false paradigms, readers are left realizing the many ways in which their misconceptions of poverty have inevitably led to hurting the poor rather than helping. This begs the question, “Where do we go from here?”
            On a personal note, this is exactly how I felt. This book left me not only rethinking my mental models, but more importantly, repenting of the ways in which I’ve misunderstood and mistreated those who are impoverished. It left me overwhelmed at the extent of poverty, but even more amazed at how depth of the gospel. It also forced me to address my own superiority complex. As stated earlier, affluent evangelicals typically minister to the poor by thinking that they are superior. However, as seen in the Creation-Fall-Redemption paradigm this is not true. An invaluable contribution of When Helping Hurts is the premise that “until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do far more harm than good” (64). We are all broken from the fall and therefore are all impoverished to some degree.
             In terms of methodology, this should result in coming alongside the poor rather than living in the distance. It should result in a mutual recognition that both the materially poor and the materially rich are impoverished, but that Jesus is fixing both parties. Although the materially impoverished usually exhibit a great deal of brokenness in all four relationships, Corbett and Fikkert rightly assess that poverty alleviation shouldn’t begin with needs assessment, but but by recognizing all the positive ways in which the poor exhibit human flourishing. Since we are all humans, we all bear God’s image and inherently bear good gifts from the Creator. Starting here functionally gives the poor the image bearing dignity that they rightly possess. Embracing our own poverty allows us to humbly see the good gifts that the impoverished already possess. It also allows us to recognize the things the poor do far better than most of us; things such as community.
            This idea has had a tremendous impact on my life. In my ministry to those impoverished, my instinct is to think that I have all the answers and materials to give. Yet, I fail to recognize the way I am in need and can learn from the people I work with. I am not working for the poor, but am working with them. In fact, last week, I had an experience that demonstrated this exact principle. On my way home from work, driving through the inner-city of East St. Louis, I saw some guys playing pick-up basketball and decided to stop and join their game. After playing for an hour or so, one of the young men, recognizing that I was profusely sweating, graciously invited me into his home for a drink. Part of me wanted to skip out on this, since I knew I had a busy night ahead of me. Part of me wanted to turn down the offer because I knew that his family was probably struggling to make ends meet. Part of me thought, “I don’t really want to take some of their grape Sunkist to drink for myself.” However, applying what Corbett and Fikkert write, by God’s grace I was able to recognize that, just because Rashon (young man) and his family were poor, didn’t mean that they had nothing to offer me. I was indeed thirsty and in need of a drink. For me to accept that drink was in a sense to accept my mutual brokenness and need. It was to recognize the image bearing qualities of Rashon and his family and allow them to offer to me the gifts that God has gifted them with. It was recnognizing their dignity. At that moment, my superiority complex was crushed.
            Along these lines, When Helping Hurts presents several models of poverty alleviation that rightly reflect the biblical narrative. One in particular is the Asset Based Community  Development (ABCD). This method starts first with the assets that the community has to offer, and builds on those by coming along side the impoverished and developing these beautiful image bearing qualities that the poor already have to offer. This involves always seeking the highest level of participation possible from those whom you are serving.
            To conclude, When Helping Hurts is a significant work contributing to the field of poverty alleviation. The authors’ successfully challenge Western Christians’ traditional paradigms involving poverty; these include thinking of poverty in simple, materialistic terms, as well as models of poverty alleviation stemming from a super-man complex, rather than from an understanding of God’s cosmic mission to reconcile all things to himself. Poverty alleviation begins by recognizing our own brokenness and need of a Savior. It is at this point that we are able to humbly come alongside our brothers and sisters in love, not superiority. It is here that we are able to empathize with the multi-faceted nature of poverty. Lastly, it is here, in our own brokenness, where are able to apply and participate in the beautiful remedy for poverty; the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

John Piper and Tim Keller: The Gospel and Race

I seriously can't wait for this! Two of my biggest heroes (Piper and Keller) talking about a subject very close to my heart. Also, Anthony Bradley (Covenant Theological Seminary grad and former professor) will be moderating. Tune in Wednesday, March 28th 6-8pm (central time).

Invitation to Piper and Keller on Race & the Christian from Desiring God on Vimeo.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Parent Me

A song by Json called 'Parent Me'. Worth listening to and reading the lyrics. A very powerful look at the relational brokenness that exists in all families. 

Look at my life
Look at my pain
Look at my tears
These tears I shed
I feel so alone, with nobody to talk to
Cuz of the days that I spend without you
It's like you're here, but you're gone (but you're gone)
You're here, but you're gone (but you're gone)
It's like you're here, but you're gone (but you're gone)
And you're gone, gone, gone, gone away
[Verse 1] 
I know you're working, I appreciate your grind
You give me everything I need, but I really want your time (I want your time)
I must confess, it's hard to express how I'm feeling
But I'm growing blocks of bitterness, quickly becoming buildings
Listen, you're never home
To the point to that I don't notice when you're gone
I'm getting older, but I'm growing all alone (I'm all alone)
How can you raise me, without even knowing me?
Everything I do, is just to get you to notice me (I miss you)
Realize, you're the great influence in my life
And you're absence just might be what's ruining my life (you're ruing my life)
I got questions, but we don't talk on the usual
My friends are having sex, and I'm wondering, should I do it too? (What should I do?)
Who should I go to, if you are never there? (Where?)
And if you never ask, will you ever be aware? (Be aware)
You say you care for me, you don't get it apparently!
I'm young and just a child, I need my parent to parent me!


[Verse 2]  
I know you're hustling (I know), I see you on your grind
You give me everything I need, but I really want your time (I want your time)
I stay in fresh J's, laced in new gear
But I would trade it all, if I'd only have you here
I smell the dough that you blowing, cuz it be so potent
Oh yeah, I notice, but you don't think I'ma wanna smoke it? (I wanna blow)
I see your love for the streets, and I want that love too
You taught me to be hard, but you rarely tell me, "I love you" (I love you)(Please love me)
Moms be mad, she always be talking bad about you
But honestly, Dad, I don't think I'll become a man without you
And she be gone, matter of fact she never home
She come into work, and I'm living like I'm already grown
I gotta place to stay, then get ta shop at the mall
But I'll honestly say, I don't have no guidance at all
You say you care for me, but don't know I can barely read
I'm young and just a child, I need my parents to parent me!


[Verse 3] 
I know you're in Church, I see your love for God (I do)
You give me everything I need, but I really need your time (I need your time)
Your godly life and love for people amazes me
But tell me should the Church take my mom and my dad away from me?
I say this simply, you know a lot spiritually
Involved in ministry, but often, you don't remember me (Remember me?)
You teach the Youth and show them how to model and live (Yep)
But at home you've never shown me what the Gospel is (Father I need you)
How can you share with those seem direly hopeless?
Inside I cry, cuz we've never cracked the Bible open
And I'm dealing with pressure, and don't know what to do
Know what it's like to be the only Christian in your school?
I bump that 1-1-6, they tell me to live unashamed (I'm ashamed)
But that's hard when those around you are on another thing
You study thoroughly, but don't get it apparently!
I'm a babe in the faith, I need my parents to parent me! 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Story of Hope

Beautiful story depicting the hope that is only found in the gospel.

小谷雅人 Masato Kotani - My Story of Hope from Japan on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

What is the Kingdom of God?

"The kingdom is the renewal of the whole world through the entrance of supernatural forces. As things are brought back under Christ's rule and authority, they are restored to health, beauty, and freedom."
Tim Keller

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Great Interview with Colt McCoy

With all the attention surrounding Tim Tebow, his on the field heroics, as well as his outspoken Christian faith, its easy to forget about guys like Colt McCoy. This is a great interview with Colt. I can still remember where I was during the 2009 national championship when I heard Colt McCoy interviewed after being injured and not being able to play in the most important game of his life. Like he talks about in the interview, everyone wants to give glory to God or thank God after a win. What makes McCoy's testimony special is that he is willing to give God glory amidst loss.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

We Are Small...God is Big

I found this a very humbling early morning experience. Internally, I more often than not have a much inflated view of myself, where I am the center, and God is on the periphery. I am big, and He is small. I need to remind myself that quiet the contrary is true. He is big, and I am small. He must increase, I must decrease (John 3:30). Here is a humbling video from Justin Taylor's blog. You can see the full post here. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Temptation and Sin

HT: Dane Ortlund

.... Dane, this spoke big time to me. Thanks man. There seems no better truth than that last line ....

Lewis: Temptation and Sin

C. S. Lewis, letter to Mary Neylan, January 20, 1942:
I know all about the despair of overcoming chronic temptations.

It is not serious provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience etc doesn't get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes are airing in the cupboard.

The only fatal thing is to lose one's temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the very sign of His presence.
--The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 2 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 507; emphasis original

Praying to the Father

"And he said to them, 'When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be you name'"
Luke 11:2

Why does Jesus teach us to pray, starting with the word, 'Father'. I think it is easy to assume that the Lord's prayer is all about formula. If we say the right words then God will hear us. Yet, given the very first word of the Lord's prayer, I believe God is telling us that the basis of prayer is relationship, not formula. God doesn't hear us because our prayers are organized correctly, or because of how efficient they are, or because of how great our wording is. No, he hears us because he is our Father, who loves and delights in his sons and daughters. He loves when we come to him in humility, recognizing our need and helplessness as children. 

So, this morning, I am reminded to simply come to God as my Father. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Father Waits Me There

"Christians often complain that private prayer is not what it should be.  They feel weak and sinful, the heart is cold and dark; it is as if they have so little to pray, and in that little no faith or joy.  They are discouraged and kept from prayer that they cannot come to the father as they ought or as they wish.  Child of God!  Listen to your teacher .  He tells you that when you go to private prayer your first thought must be:  the Father is in secret, the Father waits me there. 
Just because your heart is cold and prayerless, get you into the presence of the loving Father.  As a Father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth you.  Do not be thinking of how little you have to bring to God, but of how much he wants to give you.  Just place yourself before, and look up into, His face; think of His love, His wonderful, tender, pitying love.  Just tell Him how sinful and cold and dark it all is:  it is the Father's loving heart that will give light and warmth to yours.  O do what Jesus says:  Just shut the door and pray to thy Father which is in secret.  Is it not wonderful to be able to go alone with God, the infinite God?  And then look up and say: My Father!"
Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, p.19

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Signs of Judgement Replaced By Signs of Hope

In the Exodus story, God uses several 'signs' to incur his judgement upon the Egyptians. We might know these as the 'plagues'. Later, in the New Testament, God's redemption is captured by many signs. In particular, the Gospel according to John contains striking parallels to the plagues. Whereas God bestowed signs upon Egypt in judgement, as a result of his wrath, Jesus performs signs among people in blessing, as a result of his grace. Signs of judgement are replaced by signs of hope. A short disclaimer, this does not mean God was different in the Old Testament compared to the New Testament, or that the OT is about judgement and the NT is about grace. Rather, the NT is the fulfillment of God's over-arching plan for salvation. The OT points to Jesus.

For example, the first sign God performed against Egypt was turning water into blood. This is a picture of devastation brought upon the Egyptians by their own disobedience. On the contrary, God's first sign in his incarnation was turning water into wine. Wine was (and still is) an essential element to a party. God turning water into wine is giving life to a party, it is blessing people. The other example thats been brought to my attention is the last sign among the Egyptians and Jesus' last sign. The last plague God brings upon the Egyptians is the death of the first born sons. In the book of John, we read that Jesus raised Lazarus from death to life (11:1-45). This is the ultimate portrayal of what God came to do. Where we have accrued God's judgement because of our disobedience, God restores us to life through the perfect life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Just like the last plague against Egypt, unless we are covered by the blood of the Lamb, we too must die. Yet, God's glorious plan from the beginning was to make a way for his people to be saved. He did it in the Exodus story with the people of Israel, and now the beauty is that he has made a final, superior, once and for all way for all people everywhere to know him and to be brought for life. The way is Jesus. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Your Immediate and Endless Happiness

A wonderful excerpt from Charles Spurgeon's All of Grace, the very title that inspired this blogs title. This was originally posted by Dane Ortlund: 
“Come now, and let us reason together.”

The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you.

Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul.

Why not?"
--Charles Spurgeon, All of Grace, p. 24

Have We Made The Church Too Safe?

An interesting video with Gabe Lyons. One of the reasons young people leave the church, according to Lyons is that it is too safe. There is a disconnect between the way people in the church are living their lives and the risks and lifestyle that the Bible calls them too. Those growing up in the church are protected from the world rather than being allowed to engage it. This is why a lot of younger people who are creative (artists, musicians, writers) and desire to engage the world end up leaving the church. This is a tragedy because God is the ultimate artist, with his creation being his masterpiece. He delights to have us engage the beauty of his creation in a way that glorifies him. Christians, of all people, should be the most involved with the arts. However, as Lyons points out, this isn't the case in most contemporary churches, and it is a reason why many young people leave the church.


"When we talk about faith and the idea of living on mission for Christ, and what he calls us to give up, and they don't see people in their churches taking the kind of risks that they actually see in the pages of Scripture, they say Christianity is too safe, it's overprotective for the things they want to engage"

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rescue From Danger

"Jesus sought me when a stranger
wandering from the fold of God,
He to rescue me from danger
interposed His precious blood"

These words are from the 2nd verse of the hymn, Come Thou Fount, and remind me of an illustration my professor used in class a few weeks back. We were talking about propitiation, in regards to Jesus being the propitiation for our sins. 

Imagine you are taking your 3 year old son for a walk. You take your eyes off of him for an instant, to find that he has left your side. You have no idea where he is. Frantically, you look in every direction. Then,  in the distance, you see him running further and further away. You begin pursuing after him, when you realize that he is headed straight for the expressway. No stoplights or crosswalks to the rescue, just the force of cars going 70 mph. As you sprint towards your son, he takes two steps onto the expressway. You can see a car that is about 50 yards away from your son and is on a direct collision course. Right before the car collides with your son, you jump in the street with just enough time to pick up your child and throw him off the road. But, the car was coming too fast. You weren't able to get out of the way. You absorb the full weight of the car coming at 70mph.

While this picture is far from perfect, I think it captures the idea that Jesus stepped in on our behalf in a propitiatory manner. When we wandered from God, Jesus sought us. When we stood under the weight of sin, Jesus willingly stepped in and took its full burden. At the cross, Jesus was crushed. It was gruesome; far worse than getting hit by a car at 70 mph. He absorbed the full force of God's wrath which we rightly deserved. He tasted the very worst sting of death, in order that we may live. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Only Difference

"The only difference between saints and sinners is that every saint has a past while every sinner has a future." -Oscar Wilde

While Oscar Wilde is by no means a theologian, I think this quote captures an essential truth of the gospel. The primary difference between someone who is a Christian (saint) and an unbeliever (sinner) is not behavior modifications or external self-improvement, though those will occur. The primary difference is one of position. Positionally, a saint is one who, despite the fact that they still sin, stands as justified before a holy and righteous God, solely on the basis of Christ's finished work, on whom the saint has fully trusted themselves' to. A sinner is one who, regardless of how well intentioned their life has been, is trusting in their own goodness in order to please God.

Friday, March 2, 2012

More, Not Less

Great reminder from Tullian Tchividjian's blog on the Gospel Coalition.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
However deep and wide you think the freedom offered to sinners in the gospel is–it’s more, not less. As my friend Dane Ortlund says, “It’s time to blow aside the hazy cloud of condemnation that hangs over us throughout the day with the strong wind of gospel grace.”
Robert Capon expounds on this:
Saint Paul has not said to you, “Think how it would be if there were no condemnation”; he has said, “There istherefore now none.” He has made an unconditional statement, not a conditional one–a flat assertion, not a parabolic one. He has not said, “God has done this and that and the other thing; and if by dint of imagination you can manage to pull it all together, you may be able to experience a little solace in the prison of your days.” No. He has simply said, “You are free. Your services are no longer required. The salt mine has been closed. You have fallen under the ultimate statute of limitation. You are out from under everything: Shame, Guilt, Blame. It all rolls off your back like rain off a tombstone.”
It is essential that you see this clearly. The Apostle is saying that you and I have been sprung. Right now; not next week or at the end of the world. And unconditionally, with no probation officer to report to. But that means that we have finally come face to face with the one question we have scrupulously ducked every time it got within a mile of us: You are free. What do you plan to do? One of the problems with any authentic pronouncement of the gospel is that it introduces us to freedom.
So, what are you going to do now that you don’t have to do anything? The secret of worship is that it’s only when you deeply grapple with the pride-smashing fact that you can’t do anything for Jesus, you begin wanting to do everything for Jesus. True discipleship happens when you come to terms with the fact that you are so unconditionally loved, forgiven, pardoned, and free that you say “yes” to whatever God wants.