Monday, October 29, 2012

The Self-Sufficiency of God

"Were all human beings suddenly to become blind, still the sun would shine by day and the stars by night, for these owe nothing to the millions who benefit from their light. So, were every man on earth to become an atheist, it could not affect God in any way. He is what He is in himself without regard to any other. To believe in Him adds nothing to His perfections; to doubt Him takes nothing away."

A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Poverty and The Gospel: Part 3-Life as Intended

So far we've established that Jesus came to restore life. His mission was bigger than just forgiving sins. It was bigger than acts of love or giving hand outs to the homeless. The good news Jesus brought was a pronouncement that through him, God was reclaiming creation. God was reclaiming creation by the ministry of his Son. The reason we need this is because under our own self-autonomy, EVERYTHING is out of line. EVERYTHING is distorted. Jesus came to restore life. Now, we are asking the question, how is life distorted? What was life supposed to look like? What went so wrong that God had to send his own son to restore life? What does true life consist of? To see this, we need to go back to Creation, since everything after the Fall, humanity, or life, has been distorted.

"So God created man in his image. 
In the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them."
Genesis 1:27

The simplest answer to these questions about life are that humans were created to be God's image bearers. Life as God intended it to be consists primarily of bearing God's image. This is what makes us unique. This is what we were created for. This is what true life is. To give a simple definition, I'm going to say that life as God intended it to be, or true life, is living in a full expression of our image bearing.  But what does it mean to bear God's image?

I propose that in the Creation account, we find 4 relationships which humans, as God's image bearers, were created for. Together, these four relationships make up a full expression of image bearing, or according to our definition above, true life. Let's look at these relationships. (I am going to unpack each one in the days to come, this is more of a fly by)

First and foremost, the primary relationship which humans were created for was our vertical relationship with our Creator. I say this is the primary relationship because without the proper vertical relationship with our Creator, all of the other relationships with be out of whack. Our other relationships are completely contingent on our relationship to God. If we wrongly relate to our Creator, we can't possible properly relate to his creation. To have true life, to live in a full expression of our humanity, we must have an unbroken relationship with our Creator. 

The following three relationships are what I call "horizontal" relationships. They are the result of our primary relationship and have to do with God's creation. One of these relationships is our relationship with our self. As image bearers, we were meant to have a self-image based on our  vertical relationship with God. More on this relationship in the days to come. Next, in the creation account we see that as humans, we were meant to live in relationship to others. Humans were not created on an island. God never intended us to live in isolation. Therefore, part of what it means to live in a full expression of our humanity is to live in community. Lastly, as God's image bearers, we were given a particular relationship to the rest of creation. There is way to much to say here in this quick fly by, but the Genesis account is clear that humans were meant to live life with a harmonious relationship with creation. This consists of having dominion over God's creation. We'll talk more about that later. 

From this post (I know it was brief and I didn't say a whole lot), all I'm trying to establish is that to live in a full expression of what it means to be human, to have life as it was intended, we must have all 4 of these relationships. They must be unbroken and exist in harmony. Further, for them to do this, they must exist under a unhindered vertical relationship with our Creator. Once our vertical relationship is out of line, all of the other relationships follow suit.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Poverty and The Gospel: Part 2-Gospel of the Kingdom

Before we start digging into how the gospel relates to poverty, I want to start with a bigger question, "What did Jesus come to do?" What were the intentions of his ministry? Most of this will be based off of a post I wrote a little over a week ago, The Intention of Jesus, which lays this out a little more thoroughly. I'm going to try and be brief.

The reason many of us don't see poverty as a gospel issue is because our view of the gospel is too small. Either we (reformed folks) limit the gospel to justification by faith (which don't get me wrong, is absolutely central to the gospel. Yet, the gospel is bigger and effects more than just our individual standing with God) or, we forget this central tenant of the gospel (justification) and move on to the social issues that Jesus cared about. Last post we saw that both extremes are misconceptions.

To look at what Jesus came to do, I want to let him answer the question himself.

"Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'" Mark 1:14-15

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Luke 4:18-19

I'm going to try and be brief here. A couple big picture takeaways.

First, Jesus came proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom. In other words, the good news is that God's kingdom is at hand. God is reclaiming his rule and reign. He gives the call to repent and believe, because in reclaiming God's Kingdom, he is calling us to turn from our own little kingdom of self-autonomy. Jesus came inviting us to be a part of God's rule and reign, wherein we live under the love and righteousness of our Creator.

Second, as seen in Luke 4, under God's rule and reign (The Kingdom of God), all things are being set right. Look at all the comparatives he gives in Luke 4. The poor are receiving good news, the captive is set free, the blind see. At the heart of God's rule and reign is the restoration of humanity. Under his rule and reign, all things are being made right again. This is because under our own rule and reign (self-autonomy), we are really ruled and reigned by sin. Under the curse of sin, everything is distorted. And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. Therefore, if under our own self-autonomy, everything is jacked up, I propose that under God's rule and reign, EVERYTHING is being made right. In other words, Jesus came to restore life.

To get a glimpse of what God intends life to be like, we need to look at Scripture. The place we will look at primarily will be the Creation account, because this was the only time when life was unhindered by the Fall. Genesis 1 and 2 are the only times in human history where humanity itself wasn't distorted by our own self-autonomy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Poverty and The Gospel: Part 1-Misconceptions

The other day I posted a simple statement, "Poverty is the lack of what it means to be truly human." 

In the coming days, I want to unpack this statement a little bit and look at how the gospel really gets at the heart of what poverty really is. To start, I think it is important that we ask ourselves, what is poverty? First and foremost, we must ask ourselves this question because it is evident throughout Scripture that this is something God is passionate about. In the Old Testament, God continually calls his people, Israel, to extend his rule and reign by being compassionate to the hurting, by welcoming the sojourner, defending the fatherless, and carrying for the widowed, orphaned, and poor. In the New Testament, not much changes. God's people (The Church, or the New Israel), are called to the same mission of social justice. In addition, in Jesus' ministry, it is glaringly apparent that he has a unique passion for the poor. We will certainly unpack this more in the coming posts, but just by doing a fly by glance at the whole Bible, it is safe to say that God's heart is for the poor.

Further, it is important we ask the question of, "what is poverty", because the way in which you define poverty greatly effects how you will determine its solution. Whatever we deem the problem to be determines what we deem the solution to be. For example, if poverty is simply the lack of financial resources, then the solution is to provide financial resources. I bring this up because we all bring preconceived notions of what poverty is. We all come to the table with past experiences that have shaped our worldview, and that consequently have a deep effect on how we define something like poverty. That being said, if we want to get at the heart of what poverty is and how the gospel relates, it is imperative that we approach the topic with humility, being willing to recognize our own misconceptions and the ways in which our limited worldview distorts God's biblical truth. 

I'll give a couple examples from within Christian circles. On one end, there are those who tend to focus on the simply spiritual  aspect of the gospel. The good news of Jesus primarily becomes a pronouncement of forgiveness of sins and justification by faith for the individual. In essence, this is the error and misconception that many conservative evangelicals bring to the table. The gospel is about individual forgiveness, and helping the poor is merely an extra curricular mandate for some. On the other other end of the spectrum are those who make the focus of the gospel God's restoration of social justice. God is about the poor, so the primary goal of the gospel becomes ministries of mercy. These individuals and churches tend to be passionate about actually caring for the poor in the forms of homeless shelters, soup kitchens, providing resources for the under privileged, and extending love to the socially marginalized (homosexuals, single moms, immigrants, etc) at the expense of God's message of repentance from and forgiveness of sins. 

I hope that as we unpack what is at the heart of the gospel that we will see that in themselves, both extremes are wrong. In this case, the gospel isn't an either/or, but is a both/and. One of my main goals in the coming days is to show that poverty is a gospel issue, and poverty alleviation is at the very heart of the gospel. As some see it (conservative evangelical Christians), it is not just an extra curricular biblical mandate. It is not something some people are called to be passionate about and others not so much. On the other end (liberal mainline churches), poverty is much deeper than just a social justice issue. The gospel is so much bigger and more beautiful than simply alleviating the material and physical elements of poverty in this life. In fact, you can't actually help those who are physically poor without the dynamic power of the gospel that is the message of salvation for all who believe. The poverty issue lies within the very fiber of the gospel. 

To see this, I want to redefine poverty within the context of the biblical narrative. I want us to retrace what poverty is according to God's story. But first, my next post will look at what Jesus actually came to do. What were the intentions of Jesus? 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

From This Valley

A song by the Civil Wars, From This Valley: Great band (hope to see them live sometime) and great lyrics.

From This Valley

Oh, the desert dreams of a river
That will run down to the sea
Like my heart longs for an ocean
To wash down over me.

Oh won't you take me from this valley
To that mountain high above
Oh I will pray, pray, pray 'til I see your smiling face.
I will pray (pray, pray) to the one I love.

Oh, the outcast dreams of acceptance
Just to find pure love's embrace.
Like an orphan longs for its mother.
Oh may you hold me in your grace.

Oh won't you take me from this valley
To that mountain high above
Oh I will pray, pray, pray 'til I see your smiling face.
I will pray (pray, pray) to the one I love.

Oh the caged bird dreams of a strong wind
That will float beneath her wings
Like a voice longs for a melody.
Oh, Jesus carry me!

Oh won't you take me from this valley
To that mountain high above
Oh I will pray, pray, pray 'til I see your smiling face.
I will pray (pray, pray) to the one I love.

Oh i will pray, pray, pray 'til I see your smiling face.
I will pray (pray, pray) to the one I love.

Counterfeit Gods

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Essence of Poverty

"Poverty is the lack of what it means to be truly human."

So what does it mean to be truly human? Humans were created to be God's image bearers. Therefore, poverty is the distortion of this image bearing. More to come on this in the coming days.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

New Humanity in the Gospel

I still think this is one of the best sermons I've ever heard.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Free to Serve

"Live as people who are free, 
not using your freedom as a cover up for evil,
but living as servants of God."
1 Peter 2:16

What we decide to do with our freedom shows where our hearts desires truly lie. The Christian is one who has been freed from bondage. We are no longer enslaved to anyone or anything. We are free. Yet, in our freedom, we willfully submit ourselves to our loving Lord and Savior. In a culture that prides itself on freedom and personal choice, this very idea of submitting yourself as a servant to someone else probably seems disgusting. It seems ludicrous to use your freedom to make yourself a slave. But, I think this is the true measure of love and trust. Once we have tasted of the immeasurable love that our Master has for us, it is easy to turn to him and trust him. It is a joy to run to our Redeemer, the one who has freed us, and willingly lay our lives down at his feet. Ultimately, we can look to Jesus as the prime example of this, who, though he is God, came to earth and confined himself to a human body, and willingly died the death we deserved, in order that we could be freed from our bondage. Now we are free to serve. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Once You Know That God Loves You

"If I speak in the tongues of mean and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritating or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends..."
1 Corinthians 13:1-8

"Once you know that God loves you as you are, you are free to make the choice that love makes: not to rejoice at wrongdoing but to rejoice with the truth that God has grace for other sinners. You are also ready to do what love does: you are ready to forgive, ready to serve, and ready to pour our the treasure of your heart for Jesus."

Phil Ryken, President of Wheaton College, commenting on 1 Corinthians 13.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Set aside a day for rest?

I benefited from reading some of Ray Ortlund's thoughts on setting aside a day for worship, rest and time with family every week. Personally, rest is not something I do well (that sounds funny for some reason, ha). Often I think resting is just the absence of doing anything, but actually, I think it requires a lot of intentionality. It requires planning, and it requires trust that it will be okay even if I forego doing some of the things I think are absolutely necessary to get done. Obviously, some emergent things can't be neglected at times, but you get my drift.

Anyway, this practical implement of worship and rest into one's week has been very hard for me to adapt of the past few years. But I have realized, when the Lord has given me the grace to prioritize it, it has been quite a blessing to me. I hope we all pray for the discipline, faith and wisdom to set aside more time for the Lord during our week. I think Ray does a nice job summarizing the purpose of a "Sabbath rest" during the week. 


Is the Sabbath still relevant?

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”  Exodus 20:8
Let’s not dictate Sabbath observance today.  The point of the Sabbath is a dress rehearsal for a future eternity of glad rest in God.  So, for now, every one of us can work out the details personally.  But in our frantic modern world, the Sabbath offers wisdom that has lasted since the beginning (Genesis 2:2-3).  It is not written on our calendars as much as we are built into its calendar.  It seems to be part of the God-created rhythm for weekly human flourishing.
If we did set apart one day each week for rejuvenation in God, we would immediately add to every year over seven weeks of vacation.  And not for doing nothing but for worship, for friends, for mercy, for an afternoon nap, for reading and thinking, for lingering around the dinner table and sharing good jokes and tender words and personal prayers.
How else can we find quietness of heart in today’s world?  If anyone has a more biblical (and more immediately beneficial) place to begin, I’m open.  But raising hermeneutical objections to the Sabbath principle doesn’t in itself actually help any of us.
I wonder if the very concept of “the weekend” is biblical.  It seems to me that “the weekend” turns Sunday into a second Saturday.  Home Depot may gain, but we lose.  It turns Sunday into a day to catch up on what we didn’t do Saturday or a day to ramp up for what’s ahead on Monday.  It hollows out our whole week, because it marginalizes God and church and sermons and all the other vital things that happen in our lives only when we make the vital things also the central things.  If we accept the concept of “the weekend,” we risk “fitting God in” rather than centering our every week around him.  We risk living soul-exhausted lives, and wondering why God isn’t more real to us, why we’re grumpy.
If we want to find our way back into quietness of heart and reality with God, the first step might be simple.  Bold, but simple.

Friday, October 12, 2012

What Do You Treasure?

""The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. 
When a man found it, he hid it again,
and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." 

The notion of hidden treasure may seem a bit antiquated for modern times. I mean, we aren't the pirates of the Caribbean, and none of us are Jack Sparrow. Yet, I don't think the hot pursuit of hidden treasure is that far from our hearts. Think about it. We are all after something. Whatever it is that we value most, we will chase after. Whether it be the pursuit of money, a career, a football scholarship, recognition, respect, or simply academic success. Whatever is precious to us, we will be willing to sacrifice and chase after. 

This raises the question: What do you treasure? In other words, what do you value most, or what is most precious to you? In this passage, the thing that was most valuable to the man was the hidden treasure. He chased after it with all that he had, even selling everything that he owned just to get this treasure. This brings us back to the question, what do you treasure?

In life, just as with the man in this short parable, we can tell what our treasure is by what we are willing to give up to get it. When something is supremely valuable to us, we are willing to sacrifice for it, we are willing to spend time and energy to get it. This treasure will captivate us and we will be drawn to it in such a way that we are willing to follow it with everything we have. 

So why would Jesus tell this short parable to a large crown in Matthew 13? How is the Kingdom of God like this hidden treasure? I think what Jesus is telling us is that being in a relationship with Him is a lot like finding that treasure. Knowing God is more valuable, more precious and more captivating than anything else in this world. So much so, that if we come into this relationship, we will be so drawn to Jesus, so captivated by His glory and beauty, that all the  treasures in this world, the treasure we so often chase, will soon loose their appeal. Jesus is the supremely valuable treasure that we are all looking for. 
Lastly, if we look at God's actions, what does this say about what or who he treasures? Based on the criteria of what you are willing to sacrifice for, you treasure, it is evident that God treasures us. We know this  because he was willing to give everything for us. And this is the good news; God so loves and treasures each one of us, that he sacrificed his only son, that we could discover him as the true treasure. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Live Forever

Admittedly, I am not the most aesthetically astute person out there. Nonetheless, I wanted to share this song on here because I believe it exudes beauty and captures the true essence of life, and, to go one step further, life in Christ. In particular, my favorite verse is the second one, which goes"

Some people say faith is a childish game
Play on, children, like it's Christmas day

Sing me a song, sing me a melody
Sing out loud, you're a symphony

I don't think these lyrics are especially profound or extraordinarily magnificent. Rather, they are pretty plain and simple in nature. But, it is the simplicity of these lyrics, along with the music wherein its beauty lies. So, how do these words capture what life in Christ is like.

I love the imagery of the children playing on Christmas day. I picture the pure joy a child has in waking up that morning; the excitement they have in running down the stairs. The exceeding elation they experience in opening up the presents given to them. There is a sense of newness. With the dawning of that new day, there is a new sense of life.

Moving onto the next couple lines, I think they also capture this sense of life. The whole 2 lines, "sing me a song, sing me a melody, sing out loud, you're a symphony' communicate to me that life is meant to be more than a methodical drum beat. Life is not meant to be lived alone, quiet, and without joy. It is meant to be lived out loud, with others, experiencing and enjoying all the intricacies that exist in creation.

And I think that is what true life is supposed to be like. It isn't meant to be lived in fear, but in freedom. It isn't meant to be dull, it is meant to be new, fresh, exciting, and full of joy. This is what Jesus came to give us. This song, and most specifically this 2nd verse, leaves me with the feeling that life is supposed to be vibrant. The gospel is the good news that Jesus has come to restore us to true life and to make our lives vidid and vibrant once again. Jesus brings us out of darkness and into the light. He turns our black and white pictures into a colorful masterpiece. He turns our lives from a banal drum beat into a symphony.

Some people say believing, following, and giving your life to a guy who died over 2,000 years ago is foolish. But, having experienced this joy, having been brought from darkness into the glorious vibrancy of life in Christ, I cannot help but play on like it's Christmas day.

Listen to the song. Think about life. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What Rules Your Heart?

"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts..."
Colossians 3:15

I don't know about you, but everyday there is contention as to what I let rule my heart. I often let stress, anxiety about school and work, insecurities, and false hope rule my heart. This verse was a great reminder to me this past Sunday at church that as an adopted son of God, I can now receive and live under this peace. Regardless of circumstance, whether rich or poor, busy or at ease, up or down, I can rest assured in God's boundless love and gracious care as my Heavenly Father. So today, whatever you or I have going on, let's recognize our need for this peace that we so desperately long for, and turn to our loving Father who delights to restore his children by giving them the peace only Christ can give. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

The King is Here

"And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 

'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, 
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering sight to the blind, 
to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.'

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'" Luke 4:16-21

I seriously can't help but sit here and grin as I read this passage. I'll refrain from using the word I want to use to describe Jesus' demeanor in this passage, sparing you all of its inappropriate nature, but let's just say Jesus is straight fearless and indomitable. Just imagine him walking into the synagogue. Nobody really knows who he is. Back then it was often the custom to afford any visitors in a synagogue the opportunity to speak or read to the congregation. So Jesus, being the unknown, casually struts to the front. He is given a passage from Isaiah 61 wherein the prophet Isaiah is addressing the deepest questions and needs of our human history. 

Isaiah prophesied years ago to God's people that one day, a King would come and fulfill this passage. Ever since, people have been left asking, "Is it really possible for someone to come and make things right? Is there such a person who can establish justice, peace, and righteousness once and for all? Is it possible for the weary soul to be set free from the burden of captivity? When will this constant brokenness end?"

Jesus, in know uncertain terms, answers these questions with a resounding yes! He essentially answers, "I am Him. I am that King, and I am here right now! I am the One who comes to restore life and reclaim what has been broken. I have that kind of authority and power. Now, turn from being the king of your own little kingdom, and turn to me and my Kingdom, where I rule and reign with love and righteousness."

This is such an incredible announcement. I wonder what it would have been like sitting there and seeing Jesus roll up and hearing him speak these words. Either his words have no meaning and he is completely delusional and belongs in a mental hospitable. Or, he is who he says he is and his words have infinite weight that demand a response. Our response is either to fall at his feet in repentant joy that the King is here, or we continue on our way, choosing to live in self-autonomy. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Intention of Jesus

A rough draft of a paper I wrote answering the question, "What was the intention of Jesus?"

What did Jesus intend to accomplish in his first-century earthly ministry?

This paper holds that the intention of Jesus’ first century earthly ministry was nothing less than to restore life. Admittedly, a two-word answer for such an open ended and weighty question may seem a bit simplistic and incomplete. Throughout all four Gospels, Jesus makes numerous claims as to his intentions; and many of them are quite different. How can we boil the intentions of Jesus down to just two words? However, as this paper will show, when all of what Jesus did and said in his first century earthly ministry is taken and understood collectively, it rightly fits under the over arching intention to restore life.  This can be seen in the grand narrative of Scripture, as well as in Jesus’ own words and actions.
                  Before we examine Jesus’ words and actions, it is first fitting to define our terms. In saying that Jesus intended to “restore”, I am proposing that Jesus came to reclaim or bring back a certain something to an originally intended condition. In other words, Jesus’ aim is to bring things back to the way they are supposed to be. He is reclaiming what has been lost. In this instance, the certain something is “life”.  Therefore, Jesus came to reclaim or bring back life to its intended, God given condition and purpose.
                  To further understand Jesus intentions to “restore life”, we must go back and ask ourselves what were God’s original intention s for life, and what happened? The creation account in Genesis captures several significant features that help us to understand what true “life” is. Primarily, humans were created to be God’s image bearers (Genesis 1:27). This tells us several things. First, it lays out the Creator-creature distinction. Humans are not God. Rather, for our benefit, we (as God’s creatures) were created to live under God’s righteous and loving reign. As God’s image bearers, “life” consists of several roles and relationships; the most central being our vertical relationship with our God. Humans were created to know and be known by their Heavenly Creator. We were made to be worshippers of the one True and Living God. In addition, under God’s reign “life” is meant to consist of thriving and unbroken relationships with others. Our last role is one of steward. As God’s image bearers, “life” consists of having dominion over and stewarding God’s glorious creation (Genesis 2:15). Therefore, “life” as God originally intended it to be consists of three relationships. First and most importantly, we were meant to live under God’s righteous and loving reign wherein we know God and are known by him in an unhindered fashion. Further, this vertical relationship was meant to define our horizontal relationships with God’s creation, both among other image bearers (humans) and also among His creation.  To describe the condition wherein these three image-bearing relationships are harmoniously thriving under God’s reign, the Old Testament used the word ‘shalom’. Human beings were meant to live in ‘shalom’ where there is a deep contentment, peace, and wholeness.
                  Yet, as the story goes, this “life” which was the intended condition for God’s creation was lost when Adam and Eve fell. The result was utter brokenness existing in all three of our image bearing relationships. Rather than living under God’s righteous rule and reign, humans choose to live under their own self-autonomy. Because of this, all facets of life are broken; nothing exists as it’s meant to. Strife dominates our relationships with others, false gods control the affections of our hearts, sickness and death rule our physical bodies, and stewarding creation is strenuous. In essence, as we rebel against God’s eternal, righteous, loving rule and reign over our hearts, shalom is lost; all of life is broken.
                   It is into this context that Jesus must be introduced. Throughout the ages, there was an expectation among God’s people that one day He would send someone to restore this righteous and loving reign among his people, thus restoring life. Jesus was this Messiah. Although God’s ethnic people (the Jews) often had a misunderstanding of what God’s Messiah would actually accomplish, it is clear as we look at the grand narrative of the Old Testament that Jesus in fact is the Messiah who would “restore life”.
                  Viewing Jesus through this lens, it is possible to make sense of his actions as well as the numerous claims he makes regarding his intentions. For example, Jesus’ central message in his earthly ministry was the good news that the Kingdom of God was at hand (Mark 1:15). In essence, Jesus was declaring that He came to reclaim God’s rule and reign over His creation.  In doing so, Jesus invites human beings to come under his loving authority, in order that their image bearing may be restored to the fullness for which it was created.  Jesus’ came to earth preaching repentance, since in order to enter God’s Kingdom, we must first relinquish our self-autonomy. Along with Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God, Jesus demonstrated his authority both in his teachings and actions. His teachings were in direct contrast to our misconceptions of what “life” is supposed to be and were often aimed at rewiring the ways in which the Fall had distorted our worldviews. His actions often consisted of physical healings and casting out demons, which not only demonstrated his authority over the physical laws and evil powers, but also goes to show the breadth and depth of restoration Jesus aimed at accomplishing. Jesus’ intentions weren’t solely aimed at forgiving sins, or merely teaching people some good life lessons. Rather, Jesus’ intentions were to holistically restore all of life. His intentions were to reverse all the facets of the Fall and to bring the loving rule of God into all areas of life. Jesus came to bring back a total sense of image bearing shalom.
                  This brings us to the pinnacle of Jesus’ ministry. We have seen that Jesus’ came to reclaim God’s rule and reign in the hearts of men to once again bring them into a right relationship with Him. He came proclaiming this good news of the Kingdom, teaching, and healing every disease and affliction (Matthew 4:23). His ministry was holistic, and intended to reverse the multi faceted effects of the Fall. But, how did Jesus do this? The pinnacle of Jesus’ earthly ministry was indeed his death and resurrection, by which he accomplished His intentions to restore life. Jesus knew his entire life was ultimately leading up to the time when we would die as a ransom (Matthew 20:28) and then rise (Mark 8:31). In order to restore life, Jesus had to die a substitutionary death in our place wherein he would absorb the full weight of the Fall. He took upon himself the separation and brokenness that existed between us and our Creator. Further, Jesus resurrected from the grave, thus conquering the power of Sin. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we are effectively able to have new life. His death and resurrection are the ultimate remedy to the multi faceted curse of the Fall. In his earthly ministry, Jesus’ intentions were to come that we may have life (John 10:10). He came to reclaim what was lost  (Luke 19:10) and restore what was broken. In his life, Jesus proclaimed this good news of God’s Kingdom and demonstrated it in word and deed. However, the ultimate way Jesus accomplished his intention to restore life, was through his substitutionary death and life giving resurrection. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ministry in Chicago's West Side

Saw this on JT's blog. Great video of Brian Dye, who lives and ministers in the West Garfield neighborhood on Chicago's west side. Love what this guy is doing.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pictures of Grace

A testimony from Tullian Tchividjian's church, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.

Everything we so desperately seek and long for, Christ offers to us in himself. Jesus is the end of the endless treadmill of trying to be good enough. Jesus is the end of having to constantly compare yourself to others to see if you stack up.  All the acceptance and worth we so desperately want, in Jesus, we already have. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Resolution to a Man-Centered Self-Perception

"If we do not see ourselves as Christ sees us-as self sufficient and broken as well as exceedingly loved and precious to God-we will be disciples who Jesus' core call. He calls us to repent in an ongoing way from our autonomy and to turn to ever-increasing dependence on him in the midst of his ongoing love in all areas of our lives. If we do not learn to see ourselves as Christ sees us, we will merely 'do' Christianity without radical, sustained inner change. That is exactly the plight of the orthodox Pharisees at the time of Jesus, who are so close to-and yet so far from God's purposes. 

If we do not see our true selves, we will be disciples who do not really need the Jesus of the Gospels. All we really need is a wise teacher of some aphorisms. If we do not see our true selves, we will not enter into the crisis of our God-perception to accept the necessity of the incarnation of the eternal Son of God for our rescue. We must ask ourselves: do we really sense the dire need for Jesus' rescue, or do we merely render lip-service to his call and work"

Bayer, Hans F. A Theology of Mark: The Dynamic Between Christology and Authentic Discipleship. (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Pub, 2012), 82-83.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why Keep it Hidden?

"Because of Jesus' sacrificial love, we are safe to begin a process of being completely truthful about ourselves. We are met by a capable physician who comes to us and says, 'I already know.' When Jesus asks the disciples questions, he is not seeking to gain information. Rather, by asking, he seeks to trigger a process of self-understanding. When Jesus asks, 'Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?' (Mark 8:18), he confronts them with themselves. He pursues the ultimate purpose of cleansing their hearts so that their inner eyes and ears would open and be amazed by two things: how sick they really are and how powerful and good Jesus really is. We are called to full honesty because the One who has power to heal us already knows our condition. We can rest assured that we will not surprise our Master with anything he will discover in our souls. So why keep it hidden? Why live with it anymore? Why continue a divided life between the outside (pretense) and inside (reality)? Why continue the hopeless battle when, in fact, the One who calls us has power to overturn our self-centeredness?"

Bayer, Hans F. A Theology of Mark: The Dynamic Between Christology and Authentic Discipleship. (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Pub, 2012), 71-72. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Beloved vs. Dear Friends

This is really random, but I came across this as I was going through 1 Peter 2:11-17 and thought I'd share. 

The NIV (New International Version) reads, 
"Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world..."

Compare that to that ESV (English Standard Version), which renders the text as,
"Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles..."

What I wanted to point out was the difference between the two translations of the word 'Agaphtoi÷' ('Dear friends' with NIV and 'Beloved' with ESV). There are two reasons why I like the ESV translation (Beloved) much more. First, it is a much more literal translation. We could go much deeper into this first reason, but I figured that I would spare you all from a sub par lesson in Greek. The main reason why I am appreciative of the ESV translation is in its meaning. 

In using the phrase "Beloved", or in other words, "one who is loved", a question that comes to my mind is, loved by who? Peter addressing his readers as "Beloved" points them back to the fact they are loved by God. He is connecting them back to their deep rooted identity found in their uniquely intimate relationship to God. The NIV translation, while having some merit, doesn't really communicate this at all. Rather, when I read the NIV, I get the impression that Peter is writing to a group of long lost friends that he really cares about. This is all fine and dandy. But, given the use of the Greek word 'Agaphtoi÷' throughout the New Testament, it is definitely referring to the readers as "those who are loved of God", or in other words "Beloved". 

If I had to choose between having my identity being someones friend, or beloved of God, I would choose the latter. Add in the lexical use of 'Agaphtoi÷' and it seems to me that the ESV got it right.