Thursday, December 15, 2011

We may not like them but we're glad they're there!

I am reading Jerry Bridges "Respectable Sins."  I think this book deserves consideration from everyone in the church.  This book has really caused me to ponder sin within my own life.  It is easy to spot in others, that's for sure, but we don't easily see sin hidden in our midst.  Jesus told us to be aware of the log hanging out of our own eye before dealing with the speck in another's.  That is a scary word for me.  I realize that I have the tendency to minimize my own sin, and though it is glaring at me like a huge log hanging out of the front of my face, I can be completely oblivious to it while looking at others failures.  We tend to look at the sins of others through a telescope.  It makes even the smallest sin look huge.  Then we turn the telescope around and look at the vague image of sin at the other end and feel really good about ourselves.

It is easy for us as Christians to hide our little sins behind the massive sins of others.  Our gossip is tolerable when held next to the other guys adultery.  Our worry and anxiety is harmless next to the homosexual sin in our community.  I don't have to address the ungodliness in my own life as long as I decry the sin in your life loudly enough.  But this is not the gospel.  The gospel is for sinners.

Luke 18:10-14  "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  (11)  The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  (12)  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.'  (13)  But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'  (14)  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

So there is hope for the adulterer and the homosexual.  Equally there is hope for the gossip and godless.  That hope is that "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."  We all come to Christ the same way, "nothing in my hands I bring, only to thy cross I cling."  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord.

If you had been born blind and could ask God to see something...what would you ask him to be able to gaze upon? 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Apostles, Believers, and Sinners

John the Baptist declared his view of himself as compared to Christ with the famous words "He must increase, but I must decrease."  He saw a need to esteem himself with less honor and Christ with increasing honor.  I think this is the natural flow in the Christian life.  Not just as we compare ourselves with Christ but as we consider ourselves at all.  The more mature you grow with Christ the more aware you become of the deceitfulness of sin and you realize how truly dark the darkness was that Christ shone in upon.  You begin to recognize the dryness of the bones that Jesus breathed life into.  This is humbling,,,and it is healthy.... and it is good.

Consider the Apostle Paul.  We would all esteem him very highly, I assume.  See how he esteemed himself as he matured in the faith.  Below are three verses, all written by Paul,with the approximate date they were written:

1Co 15:9  For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (53-55a.d.)
Eph 3:8  To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, (62a.d.)
1Ti 1:15  The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (64-65a.d.)

Paul considered himself least of the Apostles, then least of all believers, then as foremost of sinners.

I encourage you to esteem yourself as God does.  Not to make you feel guilty and sad but that you would really appreciate the goodness of Jesus.

How Much Do You Love Her? Him?

While providing premarital counseling to a couple before marrying them we look at the Biblical expectations  in a marriage.  I love the day when we come to the question that I pose to the prospective groom, "If given the opportunity to save the life of your bride, even though you know it will cost you your own life, would you do it?"  My question follows the Biblical instructions for "husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave his life..."  I have asked this question dozens of times to dozens of grooms and I have never had anyone even hesitate a little bit before answering in the absolute affirmative.  "Of course I would die for her!"  I will then ask them, "Are you sure she is a person worthy of the ultimate sacrifice of your very life?"  "Yes, I would lay down my life for this woman" he will respond.  I then charge him to remember that when he is arguing over some lesser sacrifice that marriage to this woman is going to require of him.  I charge him to consider that saying you would die for someone and even giving your life up for them (I assume) is easier than living day after day and year after year like you believe that to be true.

That can be true of our walk with Jesus Christ as well.  As I mentioned in yesterdays blog I was looking Sunday at Stephen and his brutal death by stoning in Acts chapter 7.  We have a few short verses that bring his life into view and hold his death in perspective.  He is described as a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit.  He was a man full of grace and power.  The church had entrusted him with the distribution of resources among the widows and he did this while teaching in the Greek speaking synagogue(s) and performing miraculous signs and wonders.  He was a man of wisdom, courage, endurance.  I am convinced that Stephen was able to follow the Lord into death because he had followed him in life.

Do you recognize the call that Jesus has placed on your life?  Do you remember that to follow him is going to mean denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following him?  There are many many Christians losing their lives today for their faith in Jesus Christ.  They are living their lives in such a way as to warrant that death.  At least consider this reality today as you decide how you will live this day.  Redeem the time, the days are evil!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Joseph Salvation is Jesus Salvation

I taught last Sunday on Acts 7.  We read and discussed the declaration Stephen made before the high priest before he was brutally stoned to death for preaching and healing in Jesus name.  I was amazed to consider the address he gave.  In it he mentions Abraham, who walked faithfully with God thought he never had a place to worship.  He mentions Moses who was rejected and the law he wrote down was also rejected.  Before Moses though, Stephen mentions Joseph.  He doesn't give the whole account of Josephs life but he gives enough to communicate this thought:  Joseph was rejected by the Patriarchs.  The Fathers had sold him as a slave into Egypt.  Yet God used the rejected son to bring salvation upon the chosen people and the other nations.

I think it is meaningful to realize that Stephen is talking to the very same men who had falsely and murderously killed Jesus.  The Israelite leadership had rejected the one God sent to them.  And yet, salvation is still available for them through the very one they had up to this point rejected.  Salvation is still not out of reach for those who had plotted against Jesus.  If they would turn to him even now, they could be saved.

It was not to be though.  They ground their teethe together in a rage shoved their fingers in their ears and led Stephen out of the city.  There they brutalized him with stones.  He died gazing into heaven and was received by the Lord Jesus even as he prayed for the forgiveness of those in the act of stoning him.

I don't know who reads blogs like this one.  My hope is that someone might read this who has rejected Christ, even violently at times.  My hope is that you would unstop your ears, lay down your anger, bring your guilt and sin before the perfect savior and be washed clean. 

What is that to you?

After Jesus' crucifixion and Resurrection he appeared on many occasions to the apostles and others.  On one such occasion Peter was asking him about his plan for the apostle John.  We read the response in John 21:22  "Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!"" Not long ago I was listening to a sermon by Douglas Wilson in which he made the statement about the value of the "What is that to you?" doctrine.  It has sparked my thinking.  Where does "What is that to you?" rub up against "Am I my brothers keeper?"

Both seem to say the same thing.  Both statements teach me to mind my own business and follow Jesus myself...or do they?  One is a God ordained self control and the other is a self ordained shirking of responsibility.  We can walk with one another with a balance can't we?  I can respond to my brother in obedience to (Gal 6:1) "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted."  This does not mean I am the morality police and I should be watching for your sin so I can deal with it. I should not be trying to insert my preferences to the call God has placed on your life.  Can't we see (Rom 14:4)  "Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand."

This can be difficult.  I don't want to walk in an uncaring "Am I my brothers keeper?" way.  Yet God does call us to walk with others in a delicately balanced "What is that to you?" kind of way.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Radiant Glory!

It is on cold snowy Wyoming days that I really start to think about the warmth of the sun.  When you are standing out in the sun, feeling the warmth, seeing it's light, are you ever tempted to over analyze the moment?  I'm kind of a nerd, so I start to think about things like "Am I enjoying the warmth and light of the sun or am I enjoying the warmth and the light of the rays that have traveled in a little over 8 seconds from the sun to the earth?"  The obvious answer is... Yes.  The rays of the sun are the sun.  They are the only way that I can interact with the sun.  They perfectly represent the sun to me. The rays are the radiance of the sun.

This imagery really helps me understand what is being said about Jesus in Hebrews 1:3  "He is the radiance of the glory of God..."  Jesus is the only way for us to interact with God and he says so in John 14:6.  He is so connected to the Father that to know him is to know the father and to see him is to see the father.  To feel the warmth and see the light of Jesus is to feel the warmth and see the light of the Father.

A few weeks ago I was really entertained to watch my four year old daughter examining a ray of light shining into our living room and illuminating a column of dust particles floating about in the air.  Try as she may, she was unable to catch one or at least to make visual confirmation of her success.  That reminded me of C.S. Lewis illustration of the dark shed with such a light coming through a crack in the wood.  He mentions that many people are content to to experience Jesus like we experience that ray of light.  We sit on the outside and are amused for a while at what it illuminates in the darkness but are never really able to lay hold of it or to understand it.  If, however, you will get in the light and turn to look at its source, the glory of the sun will be blinding.  Similarly, if we will get in Jesus personally and follow him back to the Father, you will be amazed at the brightness of His intense glory.

My hope and prayer for the reader of this blog is that you will not be content with running your hand through the beam of light, but that you would come into Jesus and look back to the Father through him today.  May God blind you with his glory, you won't need to see anything else again.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

God's Image.

Tonight I will be teaching on the creation of man.  I am again excited to consider what it means for us that Man is created in the image of God.  A lot of discussion is given to what that means, does it refer to our intellectual ability, moral purity, spiritual existence, or authority over creation? I am persuaded that it means we are like God in all the ways we are like him.  Insightful, I know.  What I mean is that Gen 5:3 says that Seth was in the image and likeness of Adam.  Seth wasn't identical to Adam but he was a lot like him.  Anytime Seth laughed at the same jokes or expressed the same interests, with the similarities in  the appearance in these ways he was like his Dad.

So here we are.  Marred by sin, though still image bearers.  In a lot of ways we don't represent God well, but in our holiness and righteousness, in our creativity and intelligence, in our spiritual pursuit we shine the light on the one who made us in his own image.  It is incredible to think when you are hiking in the woods or enjoying that view from the peak, when you gaze into the starry sky and see the Milky Way, or when you see the nature show on the depths of the ocean;  God made all of that and then when he wanted to make something a little more like himself he made Man.

This should not only affect the way you esteem yourself.  It should dramatically impact the way you view the other people in your life.  It should impact your politics toward the unborn, aged, poor, and disabled.  It should impact you to the core of who you are!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How is your walk?

Do you speak "christianese?"  If you don't, let me explain that the question "How's your walk?" is shorthand for me getting all up in your "bidness."  This is the shorthand way of asking about the day to day relationship with the Lord.  It really is an appropriate way of stating the question.  Our relationship with God is not stagnant; it is going somewhere.  The Bible uses this terminology a lot.  Look at the lengthy list below:

Walk in Light
1Jn 1:6  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 1Jn 1:7  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  
Eph 5:8  for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
Joh 12:35  So Jesus said to them, "The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.
Joh 8:12  Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Worthy Manner
1Th 2:12  we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
Col 1:10  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.
Eph 4:1  I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,

2Co 5:7  for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Rom 4:12  and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised
Eph 5:2  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Newness of Life
Rom 6:4  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

2Jn 1:6  And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.
Eph 2:10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Rom 13:13  Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.

With and Like Christ
1Jn 2:6  whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
Col 2:6  Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,
Zec 10:12  I will make them strong in the LORD, and they shall walk in his name," declares the LORD.
Mic 4:5  For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever.

Gal 5:16  But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Gal 5:25  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Rom 8:4  in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Php 3:17  Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. Php 3:18  For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.

Mic 6:8  He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Dan 4:37  Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

The walk with God is not a slow stroll either.  Sometimes that relationship is compared to a run:
Heb 12:1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
Php 2:16  holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
1Co 9:24  Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.
1Co 9:26  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.

So, after all that, how's your walk?  I suspect their is room for discouragement.  that is not my intent.  I hope you like me are challenged to walk all these ways but also be helped by this quote From John Piper from his book "Bloodlines" - "If you wait until your shortcomings are remedied, your dreams will die. All our advances are with a limp."

Limp, walk, run...lets get on with it.