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Monday, April 27, 2009

Weekly Recycling Day (Re-visiting a post from August 6, 2008 because my heart so easily forgets)

From Aug 6 2008-- "Loving Others with the Scandalous Love of Christ"

I’ve been reading Romans 12. Today I listened to another awesome sermon by Pastor John Piper on the first verse in Romans 12.

I love the way that Pastor Piper pointed out the connection between Romans 1-11 and Romans 11-16. The first part of Romans is foundational meaty Christian doctrine and the second part is worship- my heart’s response to God’s truth, by the Holy Spirit, that manifests in my actions. I am amazed when I read in Romans 12 about the counter-intuitive and counter-cultural ways that God calls me to present my body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him, as my spiritual worship. These ways do not make sense to me. If I were left to my own to determine what would be "holy and acceptable" as sacrificial acts of worship to Almighty God, I would likely think of grand, lofty, prestigious, notable things- the type of things that would look impressive on a sort of “heavenly resume”. This thinking is worldly! Sadly, I do not even need to look to the world to find this kind of thinking- it is the default mode of my own heart, it is my own flesh. God doesn’t need my grand lofty deeds, and they certainly will not earn what God gives me freely by grace! Indeed, my effort to earn from God is like spitting at the very grace for which He alone paid every bit of the costly price. God cares more about our hearts than the magnitude of our accomplishments in our sacrificial acts of worship. Here are some Scriptures that illustrate this:

Psalm 50:8- 15 “Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. ‘If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High,and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me."

Psalm 51:15 “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Hosea 6:6 “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

Not only does God care about our hearts in worship, the heart He desires from us is radically different than what the world values or what comes naturally to me. Perhaps that is why verse 1 is followed by verse 2, which tells us not to be conformed to this world. In other words, I am not to be conformed to the egotistical worldly “resume” thinking that comes so naturally to me. As Romans 12 illustrates, the heart to which God calls me involves:

1) Not thinking of myself more highly than I ought (If I have a gifting, big deal! Any gift I have is given by the grace of God to be used humbly for the benefit of the body).

2) Having genuine sincere love (rather than lip-service or contrived actions…meaning the all my service needs to come from a SINCERE heart of love!)

3) Rejecting evil and clinging to good (rather than compromising in these, even when not compromising comes at a cost)

4) Loving my brother with affection (sincere affection)

5) Outdoing others in showing honor to them (rather than seeking honor for myself)

6) Serving God with zeal and fervor (not with dullness and out of mere duty)

7) Rejoicing in hope (my joy is not supposed to be circumstantial!), being patient in tribulation (So hard! This is especially true in my heart that wants instant gratification), and praying constantly (instead of worrying or wallowing as my heart so quickly does)

8) Contributing to the needs of believers and show hospitality (at a sacrifice to myself and my comfort)

9) Blessing those who persecute me (not even just tolerating, actively blessing!)

10) Rejoicing with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (even when the joy or sorrow is not mine and even when I may be experiencing my own joy and sorrow at opposite ends of someone else’s sorrow and joy. This is inconvenient.)

11) Hanging out with/loving/investing in people the world calls “nobodies” (i.e. those of us who may not be cool or popular or rich or beautiful or charismatic or easy to love. We are to love lavishly without expectation of gain to ourselves.)

12) Recognizing my dependence on God for wisdom (acknowledging that my “worldly wisdom” may have the appearance of the real thing, but in reality is no wisdom at all)

13) Seeking to be honorable even when others are not honorable toward me

14) Seeking to live peaceably (rather than fighting for my rights… going to lengths to seek reconciliation when possible)

15) Leaving justice to God when I am acted upon unjustly (so hard for a lawyer!:)

16) Lavishly loving those who hurt me and giving grace and mercy to them as God has done for me (stop focusing on my hurt and instead actively seek out ways to love and bless those who hurt me)

Because these things are not natural to me, the only way I can serve in worship sincerely from this kind of heart is by the power of the Holy Spirit! Fortunately, our Loving Father loves to answer the prayers of His children when they ask for help from the Holy Spirit!

Luke 11: 11-13 “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

The Holy Spirit empowers us and transforms us so that we can increasingly submit our bodies as a living sacrifice in these radical ways with sincerity from a transformed heart. I pray for this! I pray that the Spirit would give me discernment to know what Scripture means by "holy and acceptable to God" by knowing the difference between worldly/ fleshly thinking and Biblical thinking. I pray that the Spirit would give me sincere love for God and for those around me- especially for those for whom I find it difficult to love. I thank God for His grace, without which I would be overwhelmed with despair in all of this!

Romans 12: 1-21 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Damn Right, Hope Won!

Thank you, Jesus, for silencing Satan my accuser with your cross! Thank you that you enable those who worship you as Lord to wear white, not because of our goodness, but because of yours! Protect us from the lies and accusations of the enemy that discourage and derail us. Help us to be sober-minded and watchful because our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour us just as you warned us! Forgive me for listening to these lies and allowing them to overtake me into despair. Help us (me) to seek out, listen to, and believe your Pure, Perfect, and Beautiful Word instead! Forgive me for giving the enemy any opportunity to do this by any anger or bitterness in my heart. Thank you that you truly do remove it when I go to you! Thank you for opening my eyes with conviction and thank you for forgiving me. Thank you that you make me clean—you wipe my slate clean and give me freedom and joy. Thank you that you are changing me. Thank you, Jesus, that you are All Powerful, Mighty, and Strong. You are victorious. You are my Rescuer and Redeemer. I am safe with you. I am weak on my own, but you are strong and you make me strong. All glory belongs to you!!! Amen

Zechariah 3

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.
6 And the angel of the Lord solemnly assured Joshua, 7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.

8 Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. 9 For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. 10 In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.”

Revelation 5

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

9 And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scrolland to open its seals,for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for Godfrom every tribe and language and people and nation,10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,and they shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Because my heart is so forgetful, I am going to start recycling some of my old posts once a week to remind me of what God has taught me. This one is from August 1, 2008:


Do you ever find yourself on the receiving end of conflicting advice, even from Christians? With all the voices vying for our attention, how do we know what is from God? In considering this question prayerfully through the Scriptures, I was led to the following points:

1) Consult and obey the Word.

2) Seek God’s power through prayer.

3) Recognize that there are two kinds of “wisdom”- one is worldly and one is godly. 4) Recognize the deceitfulness of our hearts and sin and humbly seek counsel.

5) Distinguish godly verses worldly wisdom by its fruit.

6) Christ is our perfect example in wise living.

1) Consult and obey the Word. God’s Word is the standard by which everything must be tested. God’s Word is able to make us wise:

2 Timothy 3:14-17 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Psalm 119:9-11 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

2) Seek God’s power through prayer. As I am in God’s Word, I pray:

Psalm 119:34-37 “Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.”

The Psalmist’s example tells me to seek God with my whole heart, to pray to Him for understanding of His Word, and to ask Him to keep me from wandering away from it. The Psalmist also asks God to incline his heart toward God’s testimonies (God’s Word) and away from selfish gain.

3) Recognize that there are two kinds of “wisdom”- one is worldly and one is godly. In Psalm 119:34-37, God’s “testimonies” is related to giving life, and is contrasted against “selfish gain” and “worthless things”. Romans 12 further carries this contrast between God’s will, which is good and acceptable and perfect, and the pattern of the world:

Romans 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Clearly, there are competing interests here. On the one hand, we have the interests of selfish gain, worthless things, and the world. On the other hand, we have the interests of life in God’s ways and God’s will, which is good and acceptable and perfect. James 3 explicitly tells us that there are two types of “wisdom”, one that is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic, and another that is from above:

James 3:13-18 “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

4) Recognize the deceitfulness of our hearts and sin and humbly seek counsel
Scripture tells us that worldly “wisdom”, which is really no wisdom at all, can appear to be like the real thing so we must guard ourselves.

Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ."

How do I examine my motives when determining whether my desires are coming from godly wisdom or of worldly “wisdom”? In examining our own motives, we must keep in mind that our hearts are deceitful:

Jeremiah 17: 9-10 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? "I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds."

To discern my motives, I must go to the Lord because my heart is deceitful and He is the only one who understands it. With the Psalmist, I must ask God to show me my heart and any wickedness there, and then to route (or re-route) me in the way everlasting:

Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

In addition to going to God in prayer, because of the deceitfulness of our hearts, God directs us to seek and heed the exhortation of godly counselors around us- our brothers and sisters who are walking in godly wisdom. This requires honesty, openness, and humility.

Hebrews 13:12-13 “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Proverbs 11:14 “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

Proverbs 15:22 “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”

It is important also to remember we must test the wisdom of our counselors against the Word, recognizing that not all counsel is godly counsel even if it is coming from our brothers and sisters in Christ (see Job’s friends for example). For this reason it is helpful to seek counsel from multiple godly counselors.

5) Distinguish godly versus worldly wisdom by its fruit.
While Scripture contains all the wisdom I need for life, Scripture does not give me direct answers for each specific decision I face. It does not explicitly tell me what job to accept, whom to marry, or where to live. In making these decisions, we are called to discernment based on Scriptural truths. We are called to take Scriptural principles and discern our methods and applications from them within the context of seeking God’s face through spiritual disciplines such as prayer and fasting (which is a topic I hope to address in another post). So, how do we discern what is worldly “wisdom” and what is Godly wisdom in our decision making? Going back to James 3 is useful in determining this:

James 3:13-18 “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

From these two types of “wisdom” we see a difference in fruit or the results that follow. Worldly “wisdom” is accompanied by things like “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition”. Godly wisdom is “peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere”. Worldly “wisdom” yields “disorder and every vile practice”. Godly wisdom yields “good fruits” and “a harvest of righteousness”. Here are more Scriptures that further point us to what are the fruit of righteousness or fruit of the Spirit verses what are the fruit of wickedness and folly:

Galatians 5:16-26 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another."

Ephesians 5:1-21 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,and Christ will shine on you.’ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Phil 1:9-11 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Col 1:3-14 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. From these Scriptures we see that some of the fruit of wickedness and folly include: rivalry, conceit, sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, provoking one another, impurity, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talk, crude joking, and debauchery. In contrast to this bad fruit, we see the following as examples of the fruit of righteousness: love, humility, obedience, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, filling with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ, and enduring."

The one fruit that is mentioned repeatedly and seems to sum up the rest is love:

1 Corinthians 13:13 “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Colossians 3:12-14 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Galatians 5:5-7 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

6) Christ is our perfect example in wise living Godly wisdom is modeled perfectly for us in Christ!

Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ."

The life of Jesus is our perfect example of good fruit that proceeds from godly wisdom. The gospels are a great place to study the example of Christ. Here is another snapshot of Christ-like wisdom:

Phil 2:1-8 “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in man form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

This kind of wisdom is counterintuitive to me, as it is not the kind of wisdom I see modeled in the world!

To summarize our journey through Scripture, how can I discern which promptings are from God? Firstly, the Word of God is our gauge by which we test everything. We pray to God to illuminate Scripture for us and to enable us to glean wisdom and obedience from it. We recognize that there are competing “wisdoms” out there, and that one is godly wisdom that aligns with Scripture, is rooted in godly motives and yields good fruit, and the other is worldly or fleshly wisdom that contradicts Scripture has bad motives and results in bad fruit. We recognize the deceitfulness of our hearts and sin, and we ask God to search our hearts and reveal them to us, while we are humble and open before our brothers and sisters, seeking godly counsel that we test against the Word. Finally, we look to Jesus as our perfect model of how to live in godly wisdom.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Christian Life

I read John Wesley’s sermon on the New Birth today. Here is an excerpt (*I want to be clear that I absolutely do believe life begins prior to physical birth--but that is not the point here. The point is that there is a type of knowledge, understanding, and sensory interaction that happens for a child only after physical birth-- and this is where Wesley is making the analogy to spiritual new birth.):

“Before a child is born into the world he has eyes, but sees not; he has ears, but does not hear. He has a very imperfect use of any other sense. He has no knowledge of any of the things of the world, or any natural understanding. To that manner of existence which he then has, we do not even give the name of life. It is then only when a man is born, that we say he begins to live. For as soon as he is born, be begins to see the light, and the various objects with which he is encompassed. His ears are then opened, and he hears the sounds which successively strike upon them. At the same time, all the other organs of sense begin to be exercised upon their proper objects. He likewise breathes, and lives in a manner wholly different from what he did before. How exactly doth the parallel hold in all these instances! While a man is in a mere natural state, before he is born of God, he has, in a spiritual sense, eyes and sees not; a thick impenetrable veil lies upon them; he has ears, but hears not; he is utterly deaf to what he is most of all concerned to hear. His other spiritual senses are all locked up: He is in the same condition as if he had them not. Hence he has no knowledge of God; no intercourse with him; he is not at all acquainted with him. He has no true knowledge of the things of God, either of spiritual or eternal things; therefore, though he is a living man, he is a dead Christian. But as soon as he is born of God, there is a total change in all these particulars. The "eyes of his understanding are opened;" (such is the language of the great Apostle;) and, He who of old "commanded light to shine out of darkness shining on his heart, he sees the light of the glory of God," his glorious love, "in the face of Jesus Christ." His ears being opened, he is now capable of hearing the inward voice of God, saying, "Be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee;" "go and sin no more." This is the purport of what God speaks to his heart; although perhaps not in these very words. He is now ready to hear whatsoever "He that teacheth man knowledge" is pleased, from time to time, to reveal to him. He "feels in his heart," to use the language of our Church, "the mighty working of the Spirit of God;" not in a gross, carnal sense as the men of the world stupidly and wilfully misunderstand the expression; though they have been told again and again, we mean thereby neither more nor less than this: He feels, is inwardly sensible of, the graces which the Spirit of god works in his heart. He feels, he is conscious of, a "peace which passeth all understanding." He many times feels such a joy in God as is "unspeakable, and full of glory." He feels "the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto him;" and all his spiritual senses are then exercised to discern spiritual good and evil. By the use of these, he is daily increasing in the knowledge of God, of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent and to all the things pertaining to his inward kingdom. And now he may be properly said to live: God having quickened him by his Spirit, he is alive to God through Jesus Christ. He lives a life which the world knoweth not of, a "life which is hid with Christ in God." God is continually breathing, as it were, upon the soul; and his soul is breathing unto God. Grace is descending into his heart; and prayer and praise ascending to heaven: And by this intercourse between God and man, this fellowship with the Father and the Son, as by a kind of spiritual respiration, the life of God in the soul is sustained; and the child of God grows up, till he comes to the "full measure of the stature of Christ."

The rest of the sermon is available here:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

God’s Unfathomable Love in Psalm 139 (This Psalm is Balm!)

Okay, I know I am posting a lot lately. I have been very contemplative lately with so much on my heart.

I just got back from a women’s Bible study where we are going through the book of Psalms. My friend, Joanne, is leading the group. Joanne has such a heart that is vulnerable, humble, real and gracious and that desires to know and be known in true Biblical community that honors and reflects the gospel of God. She always challenges me in ways that cause me to grow where the rubber meets the road in my life. The Psalm we studied today was just like a much needed balm to me soothing the raw wounds of life. I have pasted it below. Read it.

Joanne had researched some commentaries and pointed out that this Psalm is broken into five major sections: Verses 1-6 are about being seen by God; Verses 7-12 are about being pursued by God; Verses 13-16 are about being fashioned by God; Verses 17-18 are about David’s love for God’s thoughts; Verses 19-22 are about hating God’s enemies; and Verses 22-24 are an invitation to intimate relationship.

We read the whole Psalm together and began discussing the first section. We talked about our reactions to being seen by God. The NASB translates the ESV phrase “search out” in verse 3 as “scrutinize”. Many of us were uncomfortable with the word scrutinize because it often has a critical and negative connotation in our culture. This led us to consider: what is God’s heart in this kind of knowledge of us?

Yes, He looks us on us just as we are. Nothing about us is hidden to Him. He knows us every detail of our past, present, and future. Not only does He see our actions, but He sees our hearts. He knows our deepest thoughts and motives. He knows our conscious thoughts and our subconscious thoughts, and He knows what we are going to think and say before we do. His knowledge of us is unfathomable to us—it is too wonderful for us. This knowledge is humbling to me, because I know that God knows the ugliest parts of my heart that I try to hide from others and even from myself.

Yet, He looks on me with pure, unadulterated, unconditional love. Because of Jesus, there is no condemnation for me! Jesus absorbed the Father’s wrath for my sin, and now there is only love left for me. As the rest of Psalm 139 tells me—He pursues me! He wants me! He protects me! Because I have been bought with the blood of Jesus and He is Lord of my life, the Father looks at me with love and acceptance--not because of my own righteousness, but because of Jesus’ righteousness.

Are you feeling alone? Are you feeling discouraged by your circumstances? Are you feeling ugly in your soul? I am struggling with all of these things. Yet, as the women in our group discussed today, Psalm 139 truly makes me feel loved, humbled, blessed, safe, at peace, and in wonder at the greatness of our God.

Thank you, Lord!

Psalm 139

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying downand are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,and lay your hand upon me.6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;it is high; I cannot attain it.

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morningand dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,10 even there your hand shall lead me,and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,and the light about me be night,”12 even the darkness is not dark to you;the night is bright as the day,for darkness is as light with you.

13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret,intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me,when as yet there was none of them.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.I awake, and I am still with you.

19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me!20 They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain! 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 22 I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,and lead me in the way everlasting!

Fighting for Joy

I am struggling to have joy, and instead I have been feeling depressed, anxious, despairing, and even bitter at times. I keep looking at my circumstances—sins with which I am still struggling and dishonoring the Holy God I love, unfulfilled (and even godly) longings that have not come to fruition, relationships that are still strained, people with whom I am frustrated, and the ways in which I am frustrating people I love, etc. Last night, the Lord lovingly led me to this passage in Philippians.

Philippians 4:4-9 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

The Lord commands my joy in Him. What a loving command! Yet, it is something I cannot do apart from Him! I cannot conjure up joy.

This section in Philippians offers tools to help me:

1) Prayer. I am called to earnestly seek him, thank Him, and ask Him for help. When I do this, I am promised that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

2) Disciplining my thoughts. When my mind wants to dwell on my circumstances, my failures, and the failures of those around me, I must ask myself: Are the thoughts I am thinking TRUE? Are they HONORABLE? Are they JUST? Are they PURE? Are they LOVELY? Are they COMMENDABLE? Is there any EXCELLENCE in them? Are they WORTHY OF PRAISE? I am called to fill my mind with good things, and not to allow unworthy things to occupy my mind and time. The best way for me to do this is to be in God’s perfect Word. We are called to take what we learn and see in Scripture and live these things out. We simply cannot do that if we are not reading the Word regularly.

Philippians 3:12-21 is especially helpful to me when I consider the tools that are being offered to me by God through Paul. In the book of Philippians, Paul is awaiting his own torture and death because he has pursued the gospel he loves. In his trial and hardship, Paul talks about persevering. I can see that Paul has filled his mind with the hope of glory. His mind is on what is unseen—the promise of being with the Lord without separation of any kind! This enables Paul, whose life looks like a failure in worldly terms, to instead have supernatural, persevering, and scandalous joy that baffles those who don't know Jesus.

Philippians 3:7-21 “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. 17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you that you are the hope of glory! Thank you that the worth of knowing and following you far surpasses any suffering this life can bring. Forgive us for not turning to you in prayer and in your Word. Give us eyes to see the unseen. Give us hearts that persevere in our seeking of you. Give us the strength and the will to seek you in prayer and in your Word. I pray for myself and for others who are struggling to pray and struggling to pick up the Bible. I pray for myself and others who are struggling to look beyond circumstances to see the joy that is available to us in you. I ask for your forgiveness for my lack of joy in you, because it is rooted in my exalting my earthly circumstances over the surpassing worth of knowing you. Forgive me for not living out of faith. I do believe in the richness of my inheritance in you and every spiritual blessing available to me in the gospel of my Beloved Christ! Spirit, fill us with yourself. We thirst for you. We need you! In Jesus Name, Amen

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Fruitful Life

I read this excellent little book "Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health" by Donald Whitney a couple years ago. I'm revisiting these questions in my life right now, and I think I might ask some close friends to help me evaluating my life in these areas.

I want my life to be fruitful by God's standards, not by this world's! I want to bear fruit that will last like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control--rather than measuring my life by popularity, fame, adoration, power, knowledge, comfort, earthly pleasure, monetary gain, physical beauty, level of giftedness, or any other fleeting thing.

Here are the 10 questions discussed in further detail in the book:

1. Do you thirst for God?

2. Are you governed increasingly by God's Word?

3. Are you more loving?

4. Are you more sensitive to God's presence?

5. Do you have a growing concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of others?

6. Do you delight in the bride of Christ?

7. Are the spiritual disciplines increasingly important to you?

8. Do you still grieve over sin?

9. Are you a quicker forgiver?

10. Do you yearn for heaven and to be with Jesus?

You can buy the book here:

More Scripture

I felt compelled to edit my last post by adding a few more relevant Scripture passages to it as I was reflecting on the great gift of salvation. I know my heart has only scratched the surface of understanding the riches of this salvation and the countless spiritual blessings offered to us through Christ. I look forward with thanksgiving to the ways that the Holy Spirit will unveil these riches to us throughout our lifetimes as servants of Jesus, until we get to one day see it fully in glorious and unending joy!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Why I Need Jesus

Eight years ago, I invited my “least likely to become a Christian” friend to attend Good Friday service with me. This is a friend who is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. This is a friend who, for years, frequently mocked my faith as a na├»ve and false security in a mythological tale. This is a friend who once stole a Christian Fellowship sign in college and scratched out the name of “Jesus” so that the sign read “Elvis Lives”. However, only a few weeks prior to coming to Good Friday service with me, this friend sent me an e-mail that literally nearly caused me to fall off the chair in which I was sitting. The e-mail said that this friend wanted to try out church for the first time. The Good Friday service we attended together was powerful and heavy. The intimate sanctuary was dark with a few lit candles. Our then bearded and stout young pastor, Mark Driscoll, sat on a stool at the front of the room dressed casually in all black. He held a microphone in his hand and read the crucifixion account in a deep husky voice. His intense utterings were interrupted intermittently by musicians, who were also dressed in black and playing sorrowful tunes. The final words from Mark's mouth thundered,“It is Finished!” The room was doused in total darkness and silence as all of the candles were snuffed out and not a word was spoken by the somber crowd. The silence was broken by the sound of shuffling feet as people quietly made their way to the doors and into the crisp night air. Once my friend and I got a comfortable distance from the little church, I whispered over to him, “The story does not end there.”

If you have read the fuller story here,
you might know the story above was about the first day my husband (then “just friend”) Kristian went to church. Several weeks later, he fell in love with Jesus and has been ever since.

With this being Holy week, I thought I would mediate on why I needed Jesus to die for me on the cross. Whether we are new Christians, or we have been walking with the Lord for most of our lives, the truths below contain life for us! May we never forget that it was the wretchedness of our sin that sent Jesus to the cross! May these truths fill us with humility, wonder, and awe. May these truths produce in us confidence in and love and praise for the God who willingly, lovingly, and sacrifically, rescued us!

God is Perfect, Holy, Good, Righteous, Pure, and Just.

Psalm 36:5-6 “Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.6 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O Lord.”

Revelations 4:8 tells us ““Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,who was and is and is to come!”

Psalm 116:5 “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful.”

I am nowhere near perfect, holy, good, righteous, pure or just. I am selfish, greedy, impure, unloving, and faithless. Over and over again, I have chosen disobedience, rebellion, fear, and sin rather than trusting and obeying God. I have missed the mark. As Scripture puts it, I have exchanged the glory of God for cheap idols in my life (Psalm 106; Romans 1:23). I “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:24).

Indeed I am not alone, Romans 3:22 & 23 tells us about all humankind: “For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

My sin was a barrier to relationship with a Perfect God. Even in human institutes of justice, a good judge does not overlook crime. A perfectly just God would not allow wickedness to persist unpunished.

Habakkuk 1:13 tells us: "[God, your] eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You cannot look on wickedness with favor."

Psalm 5:5-7 “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. 5 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.6 You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.”

Psalm 7:11 “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.”

Isaiah 5: 15 Man is humbled, and each one is brought low, and the eyes of the haughty are brought low.16 But the Lord of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.”

My sin is a violation of God’s Holiness.

Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death.

Ephesians 2:1-3 says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

If the story ended there, my future would be very bleak. I praise God that the story continues….
Ephesians 2:4-10 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

I get to be with Him! My sin has been paid for and is no longer a barrier to relationship with Him! Nothing else matters.

Psalm 51:7 "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."
Jude 1:24 "Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen."

Revelation 21:2 "And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. "

Revelation 21:-27 "And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life."

How do we benefit from this great salvation from the righteous wrath of God against our sins? It is not by our own merit, it is only by faith—believing in, trusting in, and surrendering to Jesus!

John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil."

Acts 16:25-34 "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God."

Ephesians 2: 8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Do you know this great salvation? Do you have faith in the Living God? Do you know and love Jesus, who came to save us?

Do you believe and trust in Him such that you want your life to revolve around knowing Him and obeying Him? Do you love Him like this?:

Matthew 13:44-46 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it."

If you don’t know Him and love Him in this way, are you curious? I encourage you to seek Him out. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. He delights to answer this prayer! Open the Word, ask Him to speak to you in it and be willing to hear. If you know Christians who have extraordinary hope, joy and love, ask them about it. Ask questions.

This week is Holy Week. I pray that we will take time to reflect on the purpose of the Cross of Christ. Let us remember with thanksgiving and awe that our God loved us so much that He paid the ultimate price to restore us to Himself—so that we could enjoy relationship with our Glorious God forever!

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for your Holiness, Righteousness, and Perfection! You are Glorious! Thank you that you are the epitome of all that is good and right. Thank you for revealing our sin to us, and in turn revealing your goodness toward us. Thank you for your mercy and lovingkindness--that you would seek us out even though we wickedly rebelled against you. Thank you for pursuing us at great cost to yourself. Thank you that justice and mercy met perfectly at the cross. Help us to live in remembrance of this reality. I pray for any who are curious about you. Holy Spirit please open eyes to see your beauty and truth—that all would know the hope, joy, and tremendous love that there is in you, and that all would respond in blissful surrender. I pray that you would draw many, many more to yourself. May those of us who trust in you reflect the love you have shown us to those around us! If we are not doing this, open our eyes, convict us, and enable us to repent and change. We love you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen.

I leave you with the Table of Contents from John Piper's book, "50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die" (By the way, I bought this whole book on compact disc at Lifeway Christian Bookstore on Aurora for $5.98, and you can also get it on for $4.99)

1 To Absorb the Wrath of God

2 To Please His Heavenly Father

3 To Learn Obedience and Be Perfected

4 To Achieve His Own Resurrection from the Dead

5 To Show the Wealth of God’s Love and Grace for Sinners

6 To Show His Own Love for Us

7 To Cancel the Legal Demands of the Law Against Us

8 To Become a Ransom for Many

9 For the Forgiveness of Our Sins

10 To Provide the Basis for Our Justification

11 To Complete the Obedience That Becomes Our Righteousness

12 To Take Away Our Condemnation

13 To Abolish Circumcision and All Rituals as the Basis of Salvation

14 To Bring Us to Faith and Keep Us Faithful

15 To Make Us Holy, Blameless, and Perfect

16 To Give Us a Clear Conscience

17 To Obtain for Us All Things That Are Good for Us

18 To Heal Us from Moral and Physical Sickness

19 To Give Eternal Life to All Who Believe on Him

20 To Deliver Us from the Present Evil Age

21 To Reconcile Us to God

22 To Bring Us to God

23 So That We Might Belong to Him

24 To Give Us Confident Access to the Holiest Place

25 To Become for Us the Place Where We Meet God

26 To Bring the Old Testament Priesthood to an End and Become the Eternal High Priest

27 To Become a Sympathetic and Helpful Priest

28 To Free Us from the Futility of Our Ancestry

29 To Free Us from the Slavery of Sin

30 That We Might Die to Sin and Live to Righteousness

31 So That We Would Die to the Law and Bear Fruit for God

32 To Enable Us to Live for Christ and Not Ourselves

33 To Make His Cross the Ground of All Our Boasting

34 To Enable Us to Live by Faith in Him

35 To Give Marriage Its Deepest Meaning

36 To Create a People Passionate for Good Works

37 To Call Us to Follow His Example of Lowliness and Costly Love

38 To Create a Band of Crucified Followers

39 To Free Us from Bondage to the Fear of Death

40 So That We Would Be with Him Immediately After Death

41 To Secure Our Resurrection from the Dead

42 To Disarm the Rulers and Authorities

43 To Unleash the Power of God in the Gospel

44 To Destroy the Hostility Between Races

45 To Ransom People from Every Tribe and Language and People and Nation

46 To Gather All His Sheep from Around the World

47 To Rescue Us from Final Judgment

48 To Gain His Joy and Ours

49 So That He Would Be Crowned with Glory and Honor

50 To Show That the Worst Evil Is Meant by God for Good

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Gospel Life

I believe more in the gospel today than I did on Friday for at least two reasons.

The first is a conversation I had with a godly Christian single woman who shared with me a little about what God was doing in her life. She purchased a home along with a family from her church. I saw how this woman interacted so lovingly with the children in their household. It would be a daunting thing for many people to become intertwined with the lives of friends in such an everyday way. They do life together. They go to church together. They are in community group together. They have made a financial investment in their home together. They see each other at their best and worst. They work out conflict together. I imagine that this type of arrangement would have its share of complications, but rather than running away at the first sign of difficulty, they are doing the messy work of real relationship together. They are living as the family of God. It was a beautiful thing to see the gospel at work.

Another reason why I believe the gospel more today than I did on Friday was because I heard the testimony of a sweet friend who has gone through one of the greatest periods of trial in life in the last couple years. Her child was the victim of a violent crime. She endured the illness of her child, experienced the tarnishing of her reputation, suffered great financial troubles, and was abandoned by some of her closest friends in her greatest hour of need. She has felt intense loneliness, anxiety, fear, depression, and even despair. As she shared this weekend what God was doing in her life, she unwaveringly stated that she would not exchange any of the suffering she endured because of what God did through it—He gave her a greater glimpse of His beauty and the fullness of His sufficiency for her. It made me think—what a worthy God we serve!! He is worthy of losing it all! The joy of knowing the Living God is worth any heartache that this life can bring.

I have been listening to John Piper’s sermon series on the book of Romans from The sermon I listened to most recently was from this passage: Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” In the sermon, Piper points out that the gospel is not just the power to save non-Christians. It is the power to save believers!!

The gospel is my only hope.

The gospel is Jesus.

The gospel was not just something I needed to become a Christian. I will always need the gospel. Certainly, the gospel is that Jesus Christ came to save me, a sinner doomed to destruction by her own willful rebellion. Yes, the gospel is that Jesus took the death penalty for me, and His death bought my freedom. However, none of this would be good news, except that Jesus’ death enables me to have real and unfettered relationship with Him—Perfect God! Not only is it my only hope for salvation from hell, it is also my only hope for being reconciled to the Living God!

The gospel is the good news that I get to be with Him! The more I learn about Jesus, the more I want to know Him and be in relationship with Him—there is nothing else that brings me more joy and is worth losing everything.

Yet our kind and gracious God also wants Christians to live like we believe in the power of the gospel to forgive, forbear, redeem, transform, and unite us in Christ in all areas of our life. He delights in enabling us to reflect the beauty of His gospel in our lives. Accordingly, He is glorified in enabling us to demonstrate scandalous love to those who hurt us (like He did for us). He is glorified in enabling us to demonstrate humility and sacrifice (like He did for us). He is glorified in enabling us to have sincere and enduring love for others (like He has always had for us). He is glorified in enabling us to grow in righteousness (as He has always been righteous). He is glorified in enabling us to experience inexpressible joy in Him (as He has always experienced within the beautiful fellowship of the Trinity). Do we believe that He can and will do these things in our lives? Do we believe that the gospel works?

Here is the gospel in Ephesians 1:

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

In this passage of Scripture, I am struck by the good news that:

1) Our God can (and did) save, redeem, and mightily use a man like Paul who was murderous and hateful prior to meeting Christ. He does this same redeeming work in all of us Christians who, apart from Him, all deserve judgment and condemnation for our sin, but who are met with grace and peace instead.

2) Our God makes us faithful, which is something we could not do apart from Him.

3) Our God graciously enables us. In Christ, we have every spiritual blessing. We do not lack for anything we need.

4) Our God chose us to be His before the foundation of the world!

5) Our God chose us to be holy and blameless—we will never face judgment for our sins because Jesus did for us. We are being set free from our sin daily, and one day we will be completely free!

6) In love, He predestined us for adoption through Jesus. The God of the Universe loves us—His prodigal creation! He sacrificed His Only Begotten Perfect Son Jesus so that we who were not begotten could be His children too. He did this in love.

7) The Almighty God is glorified in extending grace! How fortunate for me, because I need His grace!

8) In Jesus, we have redemption through His blood. Jesus’ perfect and willing sacrifice on our behalf won us back from Hell. The costly price of the cross bought our ransom. Jesus' blood continues to redeem us until we are fully redeemed and with Him forever.

9) In Him, we have the forgiveness of our sins. He does not hold our sins against us. He does not unjustly overlook sin—but justice has already been paid for our sin by what Jesus endured. We are forgiven completely by trusting in Jesus!

10) He has lavished His grace upon us. He gives us the grace we desperately need in every moment of our lives to live as He calls us to live. We are not lacking.

11) He works all things according to the purpose of His will. He is in control. He is all wise and all insightful.

12) He is making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ. He is not leaving us in the dark. He is revealing Himself to us daily, and it causes us to praise Him!

13) He has a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth in Jesus. Our God is a God of reconciliation and redemption! By Him and for Him all things were created.

14) We have an inheritance in Christ. Even though we are His prodigal creation, He has given us an inheritance in Christ. Our inheritance is to be with Him, unhindered by any separation!

15) God enables us to live in faith and love. He is glorified in our faith and love.

16) We get to be to the praise of His glory! He is glorified in the redemptive work He does in us! He is glorified in our faith and love, and He enables it. We get to be redeemed and He is glorified. Others get to see how marvelous He is, and so that they can come to Him too. What a deal!

17) We were sealed with the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of our inheritance. Although we are not physically with God right now, His Spirit lives within Christians. His Spirit guides us in truth. His Spirit produces sincere and supernatural fruit in us, and without the Spirit’s power, we could not experience fruit. The Spirit is able to do what our flesh cannot, and for this we know that our inheritance is guaranteed!

18) We were called to hope! There is such hope in knowing that we have been redeemed, we am being redeemed right now, and we will experience full redemption one day so that we can experience unfettered relationship with the Living God.

19) The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us! What we cannot do in our flesh, the Spirit who raised Jesus is more than able!

20) Jesus is Lord! He reigns and rules completely.

21) The church is the Body of Christ—the fullness of Christ who fills all in all. Jesus paid the costly penalty to redeem the Church. The Church is called Jesus’ own Body. The Church is not a building, gathering, club, etc. The Church is the fellowship of those whom Christ has won to Himself. The Church is precious to our God, and ought to be precious to us as the very Body of our Dear Lord, the fullness of Him who fills all and all!

Wow, what a God!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

ThE Point of All This

Our pastor, Scott Golike, has been leading us in learning from Scripture what it means to be the family of God—the Body of Christ. Several weeks back, he taught through 1 Cor 12-14 and is now teaching through 1 Timothy. We are learning why doctrine and community matters.

1 Timothy 1:3-5 “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

I loved this quote from Scott regarding 1 Timothy 1:3-5:

“Love isn’t just hallmark cards and hearts and flowers-- that’s not what we are talking about here. Love is the hallmark of Christlikeness. And it is not just you or me—it’s us. The goal of putting a stop to this abhorrent teaching [myths and endless genealogies] is that we are seeking to become, together-- in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the character produced by the Spirit as He makes us loving--what Jesus is calling us to be as His people. That is, simply put the goal is that we would be that pure unwrinkled spotless Bride ready to walk the aisle.” (from today’s sermon: )

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Woman's Beauty

Audrey Hepburn’s Beauty Tips (from a poem by Sam Levinson)

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.

For poise, walk with the knowledge you'll never walk alone.

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; Never throw out anybody.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your arm.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

Proverbs 31:30 “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

1 Peter 3:1-6 “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”

1 Timothy 2:8-10 “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.”