Thursday, February 25, 2010

Always On Mission

And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
Luke 5:10-11

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rebuilding Haiti

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'
Acts 20:35
The following is from a brother I went to college with. We were in the same Bible study my senior year. I'm so thankful for him. Please consider giving.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Proverbs 19:11 and The Gospel

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
Proverbs 19:11
Meditations on how this verse relates to the gospel and how it highlights some of the infinite difference between God and humans:

God is slow to anger by nature (Exodus 34:6). This quality is intrinsic to who He is. It's part of His essence.

Humans, on the other hand, are not slow to anger by nature. Among other bad things, there lurks murder in each of our sinful hearts (Mark 7:21) and this often causes us to get angry at other people (Matthew 5:21-22) even though most of us usually never act out (at least not fully) on that anger. So how can we become more slow to anger? Solomon says that good sense makes one slow to anger. The phrase "good sense" can also be translated as "understanding." Understanding makes one slow to anger. How does this relate to the gospel?

One way to explain the gospel is to say that as a result of our sinful nature that causes us to become angry at other people (even in passive ways) and break many of the other laws that God created us to live by, God is intensely angry at us. And rightfully so. But Jesus Christ came into the world so that He would absorb God's righteous anger toward us (=propitiation). And, as a result, God is no longer angry with us (Romans 8:1, Psalm 56:9b)! Even though we still sin and He has every reason to be! If we really understand this gospel, then we will know that no matter what anyone does to us--no matter how outrageous it may be--God has more of a right to be angry at us for the ways we've sinned against him than we have a right to be angry at another person. Because there is no way anyone could sin against us more than we have sinned against God. We should be so amazed by the fact that God is not angry at us that it makes it really, really hard for us to become angry at others.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32

[Bear] 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
Colossians 3:13
Understanding the gospel makes one slow to anger.

The good news of the gospel can also be expressed by saying that God overlooks our offenses--all of them, past, present, and future. But He doesn't just sweep them under the rug of the universe. Otherwise He would not be just. He overlooks the offenses of humans because He punished every offense committed by those who trust in Him when He poured out His wrath on Jesus at the cross 2,000 years ago (Romans 3:21-26). For David and Moses and the men and women of old who trusted in God, all of their offenses towards God before the cross were fully punished at the cross. And ever since, for every man and woman who trusts in God, our offenses towards God after the cross were fully punished at the cross. The cross is the defining moment of all of history. God also currently overlooks the offenses of those who don't trust in Him because the day is coming when He will fully punish them in perfect justice (Romans 2:5, Revelation 21:8).

Because of this gospel, God calls us to be people who overlook offenses because we trust that He--and He alone--is the one to deal properly with every offense committed, towards Him and towards us. He either did so 2,000 years ago at Calvary when He poured out His wrath on Jesus or He will do so at the return of Jesus when He fully repays those who have not put their faith in Him.
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.
Romans 12:19-21
Radical calling prompted by a radical gospel.
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
Proverbs 19:11

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Growing In The Gospel: What It Isn't And What It Is

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 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. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 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!’ 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.
Luke 18:9-14
If you’re like me, then when you read verse 9 you think to yourself, “Treating others with contempt? That sounds so harsh. I don’t treat people with contempt.” But that’s because we always want to make the evil that we commit seem less serious than it really is.

But you know what? If it’s easier for you to point out the sins of other people than it is to point out the sin in your own heart, like it naturally is for me, then you’re treating others with contempt. If it’s easier for you to get frustrated over the sin that you see others commit than your own sins that you commit, then you’re treating others with contempt.

How many of you, when you get into a conflict with someone, the first place you point the finger is at yourself? No, usually the first place we point the finger is at other people. That’s because we’re usually convinced that they are the ones who need to repent and not us. When we do this, we treat them with contempt.

But that’s clearly not how Jesus wants us to treat people. He wants us to treat others with love. Perhaps we could do that by being the first to repent of our own sin when we get into a conflict with someone instead of first telling them what they did wrong. Or even if we think we are innocent, we could serve them by refusing to become defensive and instead being quick to listen and slow to speak.

If doing what I just said feels really hard for you, or if it’s easier for you to see the sin in others than it is for you to see the sin in your own heart, or if you struggle with judging others in your heart, then you might be growing in outward obedience, but you’re not growing in the gospel. And God isn’t interested in that kind of growth. The only way to begin to love others authentically instead of treating them with contempt is to grow in the gospel.
An excerpt from the message I preached last night at the large group meeting for the InterVarsity chapter at San Jose State Universtiy. You can read the entire message here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Proclaiming His Excellencies

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Adam and Eve

Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Ephesians 5:33
God made Adam first and put him in the Garden with a job to do, a mission to fulfill. In the heart of every fallen man is the self-doubt that wonders, “Am I man enough to climb this mountain God has called me to? Can I fulfill my destiny?” A wise wife will understand that question at the center of her husband’s heart. And she will spend her life answering it, communicating to him in various ways, “Honey, I believe in your call. I know you can do this, by God’s power. Go for it.” In this way, she will breathe life into her man.

God made Eve from Adam, for Adam, to help him follow the call. In the heart of every fallen woman is the self-doubt that wonders, “Do I please you? Am I what you wanted?” A wise husband will understand that question at the center of his wife’s heart. And he will spend his life answering it, communicating to her in various ways, “Darling, you are the one I need. I cherish you. Let me hold you close.” In this way, he will breathe life into his wife.
HT: Christ Is Deeper Still

Good stuff.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Far Away

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.
Psalm 62:5-8

...I don't know what to do,
I ain't lookin for answers.
I just need You to hold my hand through this cancer.
Tell me You never left,
Even in the midst of death,
Breathe on me! I'll do anything to feel Your breath!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Hard And Happy Life Of Following Jesus

After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, "Follow me." And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."
Luke 5:27-32
Some of us might look at verses 27 and 28 and, after seeing Levi leave everything, convince ourselves that just because Levi left everything, that doesn’t mean that I have to do the same. "He’s one of those hardcore Christians. And Jesus doesn’t expect all of us to be like that. Can’t I just be a normal Christian?"

There’s only problem with that kind of thinking. The fishermen back in the first scene do the exact same thing. So up to this point, the only Christians following Jesus are "hardcore Christians." I would submit to you that what you see Levi do and what you see the fishermen do isn’t hardcore Christianity. It’s normal Christianity. Why? Because the life of following Jesus is a hard life. It’s a hard life because He calls you to leave everything.
That's an excerpt from the message I preached last night at Lifeline, the large group meeting of the InterVarsity chapter at San Jose State University. You can read the entire message here.

Then this morning I saw this over at Christ Is Deeper Still:
My dad used to say to me, when I was a kid, “Listen, son. Half-hearted Christians are the most miserable people of all. They know enough to feel guilty, but they haven’t gone far enough with Christ to be happy. Be wholehearted for him!”

I used to roll my eyes when you said that. I don’t any more.
Thanks for the reminder, Father.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Continual Cure For The Crookedness In My Heart

A man of crooked heart does not discover good...
Proverbs 17:20

Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good...
Proverbs 16:20
There is hope for the man with a crooked heart. And there is hope for the remaining crookedness in my heart to be cured. How? Continual meditation on the Word. Why? Because the Word is the razor-sharp scalpel that Jesus, our good Doctor, uses to cut away (read: painful!) the crookedness from our hearts as He brings conviction and repentance so that we will discover more and more good.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Hebrews 4:12

Monday, February 08, 2010

Making The Nations Glad...

...makes me glad. So cool.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy...
Psalm 67:4

HT: Noel Piper

Last Super Bowl

I had planned to watch the Super Bowl yesterday but only ended up watching about five minutes of it because the Lord had other plans for me. So I can't say I know entirely what Ray is talking about (though it's not hard to figure out). And I'm not resolving to never watch the Super Bowl again (not yet, at least). But I love the conviction expressed in this resolution and I want my life more and more to be marked by this kind of single-mindedness for the glory of Christ.
The Super Bowl is not just another NFL game. It has become an intensified concentration of vulgarity and ego, with enough athletics in the game and cleverness in the commercials to trick me into watching. It’s simply not what I’m living for.

That was my last Super Bowl.

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.
Ephesians 5:15-17
Thanks for your example Ray.

HT: Christ Is Deeper Still

Friday, February 05, 2010

Let's Flaunt Our Gear... adorning the cross rather than avoiding it. I'm a happy pilgrim in conflict until Christ comes or calls me home...

Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring...To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:4, 11-12

Thursday, February 04, 2010

A Word In Due Season For Me

...a word in season, how good it is!
Proverbs 15:23
On Monday, I read this quote:
"The concept of getting clarity of God's Will is highly overrated. Rather than clarity, we should focus on Faith."
-Bob Blincoe
I've been reflecting on it ever since. It drove me back to Hebrews 11 where I've gone repeatedly over the past year, and there I see plenty of evidence for the validity of Blincoe's statement. This created in me an eager anticipation to hear what Blincoe would say in his message at the Desiring God Conference for Pastors this week.

Yesterday, I listened to Blincoe's message and it was one of the most challenging messages I've ever heard. And I'm not using a superlative there for effect. One of the things he said was this (quoting Dawson Trotman):
"If you cannot see very far ahead, then go ahead as far as you can see. That's the life of faith."
In light of the effect that the quote I read on Monday had on me, I don't think it's very hard to see why this quote would have a similar effect on me. Just like the former, this quote has echoes of Hebrews 11 all over it as well (e.g. Hebrews 11:8). Exactly what I needed to hear. A word in season. How good it is (even when it's really, really hard)! Thank you Lord.

After listening to the message once, I plan to watch it. Watch with me:

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

On Finding Hidden Treasure

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.
Matthew 13:44
This verse gives one of the best pictures of how I personally came to meet and be transformed by Jesus Christ. There are three words/phrases in particular from this verse that jump out to me because of how they relate to my life: hidden, treasure/joy, sells all.


I grew up in a family that went to church every Sunday. But even though I spent my entire childhood going to church and hearing sermons from the Bible that spoke about the kingdom of God and Jesus Christ, who is the King of that kingdom, the kingdom of heaven remained hidden to me for 19 years of my life. I couldn’t see it. I saw religion. But I didn’t see the kingdom of heaven. I didn’t know it then, but the two are not the same thing.

My family went to church every Sunday but it felt like we pretty much ignored God every other day of the week. Or at least I did. The best picture I can give of the place God had in my life was that God was the foundation underneath everything. Yes I believe that God exists. Yes I believe that He created the world. But He wasn’t a significant part of my day-to-day life. The reason I saw God this way is because the truth of the kingdom of heaven was hidden from me. I was like the man in this parable before he made the greatest discovery of his life.

But even during those years growing up, I remember clearly that there were times when I would think to myself, “There has to be more to Christianity than just showing up at church on Sundays.” There has to be more to the kingdom of heaven than just this. God was hidden to me, but even then He was preparing me for what I would find.


I was born to a family of two immigrants from Kenya who worked really hard to give my siblings and me the best life possible. And so one of the most important things I learned from them was the value of hard work if I wanted to be successful. And so from as early on as I can remember, I worked really hard. I got really good grades in school because I wanted to be successful. I got really good grades so that I could get into a good college, so that I could get a really good job, so that I could make lots of money and be successful. And so even though I didn’t know it then, I had made money and success my treasure. I know that money and success were my treasure because everything in my life revolved around doing whatever it takes to get that money and success: all the studying I did, all the late nights, and even at times cheating on a test so that I could get a better grade.

And I think one of the reasons that the kingdom of heaven remained hidden to me while I was growing up is because I knew in my heart that God didn’t want me to make success my treasure. And so I avoided him and I ignored him because I thought that if I listened to God, he would take away my joy because he would take away my treasure. But what I didn’t realize was that God’s goal wasn’t to take away my joy. God’s goal was to increase my joy. God’s goal wasn’t to take away my treasure and leave me with nothing. God’s goal was to give me an even greater treasure than money and success. And what I came to learn was that God doesn’t just have treasure to give me. God Himself is the treasure that gives me joy and satisfaction above all things.

Sells All

My sophomore year in college I began going to a Bible study with some other students who lived in my dorm and it was there in those Bible studies that it was like a veil was lifted from my eyes as we studied the life and teachings of Jesus. Even though I had heard the stories before, it was during that year that I saw the kingdom of heaven for the first time. I saw that Jesus Christ was God and that He was the King of this kingdom and He began to change the way I thought about school, about money, about my life, about everything.

But He wasn’t just calling me to change my thinking. He was calling me to leave behind my former treasures so that He could become my treasure. He was calling me to sell everything in order to have Him. I know that it may seem crazy to think that Jesus would call us to give up everything in order to follow him. But not if the things you are giving up are less valuable than the things you are getting in exchange. None of us would insist on keeping our really nice Honda Civic if we knew we could have a much nicer Mercedes instead. For me, the reason why selling everything has been worth it to follow Jesus is because the joy that I have in treasuring Him is so much greater than any joy I’ve ever experienced. That’s what it means to treasure something. You would trade everything to have it. And Jesus is better than a Mercedes.

So money and success are no longer what my life revolves around. My life doesn’t revolve around doing whatever it takes to get them. But instead Jesus Christ is my treasure. My life revolves around knowing Him, loving Him, enjoying Him, and trying to make Him known to as many people as possible.

Thank You, Father, for bringing me to Stanford University, of all the places in the world, as the field where I would “stumble” upon hidden treasure, when I had gone there looking for something else altogether. Jesus, You’re everything, my Treasure of infinite worth.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Becoming More Gospel Saturated, Part 3

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us was the will of the LORD to crush him;
Isaiah 53:5-6,10

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:24-25
Finally, a healthy church member takes seriously the responsibility of guarding the gospel from corruption and abandonment. The New Testament seems to place this responsibility ultimately on the congregation rather than on the pastors alone. When the churches at Galatia were unsettled by false teachers who were trying to add circumcision to the demands of the gospel, the apostle Paul wrote not to the pastors and elders but to the churches themselves. He addressed the membership and called them to guard the gospel he had preached to them. His instruction is strong:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be eternally accursed. (Gal. 1:8-9)

The Galatians, indeed all Christian church members, are to be careful concerning what they entertain in gospel preaching. The apostle John warns his readers that "if anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked work" (2 John 10-11). Peter reminds his readers that those who follow the "shameful ways" of false teachers cause "the way of truth to be blasphemed" (2 Pet. 2:2). So it's understandable, then, that Jude exhorts his audience to "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). The healthy church and church member fight for and protect the apostolic gospel delivered and preserved in the pages of Scripture. When we don't accept that responsibility and are not vigilant in understanding and applying the gospel, we leave it to be corrupted, abused, and abandoned by unscrupulous teachers and the forces of the evil one.

--Thabiti Anyabwile, What Is A Healthy Church Member?, p.45-46
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it--the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Romans 3:21-26

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God...
1 Peter 3:18
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your glorious gospel. We plead with You to make us more saturated with it because we know that in all of our willing and running, You are the main doer. May guarding the gospel be a natural overflow of our being gospel saturated. May we know the gospel so well, may we be so conversant with it, that like a well-trained dog we might sniff out the slightest compromise or departure from it. But we don't want to just be barking dogs. And so my hope is that this gospel saturation would be so pervasive that it not only causes us to guard the gospel, but it is reflected in the very way we guard the gospel: as those who love You and love others humbly and genuinely, even in their ignorance or error. We don't want to just be barking dogs. But at the same time we don't want to be dogs who because of the fear of man and the desire to avoid conflict only whimper and stick their tails between their legs when they sense the gospel may be under compromise. Only by being saturated with Your gospel can we be something else. So make us more gospel saturated I pray. In Jesus' name, Amen.