Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Let the Process Begin...



Man Up Anthem
by Lecrae, KB, Trip Lee, Tedashii, Sho Baraka, Pro, Andy Mineo


All:
MAN UP!

Lecrae:
Momma want some Obama in me
The hood want PAC hip-hop wanna see the common in me
And since it's a senseless contradiction
I end up a misfit trying to fit in
This is when I stand up
And see the hands that are standard
Holy is The lamb huh(holy is the lamb)
Now we holding you to man up
Cause we were made in his image start looking at what you came from

KB:
Right after Adam every atom in our anatomy's Adamic adamant after what Adonai is against
Let me take you back to the tree in Eden
If you read it, you'll see that Eve was deceived
But Adam is the one who let her eat it
Instead of leading, No we ain't leading - we bump that
Basically li'l boys with muscles and a mustache
To femininity...we need a remedy
The God-Man: 100% masculinity

Trip Lee:
We the last.....

Where the men at, seems like they all lost
None of them are on the scene, seems like they died off
They extinct but my dream is to rise up
We chasing the prize of the King the divine boss
But we fell away, now we ungodly
We lose and we really got the blues like Na'vi
I want to celebrate the dudes that's beside me
Fellas let's elevate, we through with the lobby

Tedashii:
Go ahead say boy get your shine on
And if a sucker try to block you get your 9 homes
That's what I heard you gotta do to be a man now
Stand up for yourself so I took it in my hands now
And that's the problem man we busy trying to solve it
All the while we walking dead, man somebody bring the coffin
Voice drop peach fuzz now you think that your a man cause you feeling yourself
You need to man up!


Sho Baraka:
There's many things
Man is chasin' after
They got some questions
We got some answers

Sex and models and tipping bottles
Pack a pile of excuses right next to your bottle caps
A roll of decks filled with names that you aim to please
Next to the stack of money building up a heart of greed
Ice on his neck, givin' jokers the cold shoulder
You drunk off pride plus you loving the hangover
You gotta whole lotta stuff that won't amount to gain
Life will never make sense(cents) because you never made change

PRo:
We got it twisted, sick like a fever
Lil man live to stack dough, Keebler
Man up!
Get up out of that treehouse
Leave the cookies alone it's time to eat meat now
Trying to show you a new way to live now
No charge, you can call it a freestyle
Without Christ you wont know what a man is
You a boy in a man's body like Tom Hanks in Big

Andy Mineo:
Being a man got nothing to do with age
You can be a boy til the day you lay in your grave
None of us behave in the image of who we're made
Cause we fallen the ways it's better known as depraved
Running from responsibility really we crave
The easy way out of places that call us to pull our weight
Man they blowing through everyday decisions are made
Responding to the call God's giving em from the...

All:
Man Up!
Andy:
Let the process begin, separate the boys from the men
All:
Man Up!
Andy:
It don't matter how you started, partner, it's about how you end
All:
Man Up!
Andy:
Jesus is the model follow us we gon follow him
All:
Man Up!
Andy:
We the- we the last of a dying breed
It's time that we

All:
MAN UP!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ordered by Infinite Love and Mercy

Only goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life...
Psalm 23:6

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lessons from Hebrew

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1
This verse says more than you might realize at first. In fact, there are things that are impossible for you to see in this verse when you read it in English. So here are three lessons from Hebrew to show you the depth of theology that is contained in just this one verse.

1) God

The Hebrew word that we translate into English as "God" in the Old Testament is "elohim." It's not technically a proper name. Even more peculiar is the fact that it's in plural form. Literally, it means "gods" in the most generic way. In other parts of the Old Testament, the same word is used for the false gods that are worshipped by the Gentiles and often by even Israel itself.

Why is this significant? From the very first verse of the Bible, we see this mystery of plurality referred to as singular. The singular God of heaven and earth is referred to in the Hebrew text as a God of plurality. From the very first verse of the Bible, we are being pointed to the doctrine of the Trinity, the truth that God exists as three in one: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

2) Created

The Hebrew word that we translate into English as "created" in this verse is "bara." And it's only used in association with God. A different Hebrew word is used when we see the word "created" translated into English in association with man. That word is "asah."

Why is this significant? From the very first verse of the Bible, a very important foundation is being laid. Even though God will go on to create man who himself will have the ability to create as one who bears the image of God, the sense in which God creates is fundamentally different from the sense in which man creates. God creates out of nothing (hence, the popular Latin phrase "ex nihilo"). But not man. Man can only create using the materials that God created out of nothing.

3) The heavens and the earth

This one to me is most fascinating. The Hebrew word that we translate into English as "heavens" in this verse is "shamayim." Similar to "elohim," it's in plural form ("im" ending). But, more specifically, the "ayim" ending in Hebrew always refers to the number two. So, most literally, the word "shamayim" means "two heavens."

Why is this significant? The traditional evangelical view is that there are three heavens. The clearest evidence for this in the Bible is when Paul describes his experience of being caught up to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2). The traditional evangelical view holds that the first heaven is the air we breathe (the earth's atmosphere); the second heaven is the realm of the sun, moon, and stars (outer space); and the third heaven is the realm where God dwells.

So how do we reconcile the traditional evangelical understanding of three heavens with the Hebrew text, which clearly communicates that there are two heavens?

From the human perspective there are three heavens. But from God's perspective there are two heavens, the natural and the spiritual. In other words, God sees the first two heavens (both in the natural realm) as the same.

Three lessons from Hebrew to show you the depth of theology in just this one verse, the first verse in the Bible. Imagine the depths we have to descend into in the entirety of the Old Testament.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lessons from Church History: Part 3

What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
"See, this is new"?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
Ecclesiastes 1:8-9
With this third and final lesson from church history, I begin with the same big idea I've highlighted at the beginning of the last two posts: the reason it's so important to study and know church history today is because there is nothing that the church in the 21st century is currently dealing with that the church hasn't dealt with at some point in the past (in one form or another).

The first monastic movement in the church arose towards the end of the 3rd century and the beginning of the 4th century. Located in Egypt, it wasn't long before it began to spread rapidly not only in the East but also in the West. The monastic movement was especially prominent during the Middle Ages (5th century to 15th century).

What's so interesting to note is that almost every order of monasticism began with a radical commitment to self-denial (asceticism) but all of them eventually led to self-indulgence, which only shows that the flesh is of no avail when it comes to spiritual transformation (Colossians 2:23). Sadly, this has been evidenced in the modern day Catholic Church, where an initial vow of celibacy (commitment to self-denial) has eventually led many priests into gross sexual immorality (self-indulgence).

Is asceticism bad? Is the monastic movement intrinsically unbiblical? Not necessarily. Jesus calls all Christians to a life of deliberate self-denial (Luke 9:23-24, Matthew 6:16-18, Matthew 9:14-15). But the problem is when this asceticism becomes an external law that we impose on ourselves and others (Colossians 2:20-23, 1 Timothy 4:1-5) rather than the result of the internal transforming power of the gospel (Romans 6:17) that sets us free from bondage to the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life (Luke 8:14).

The latter will lead us to lives of joyful self-denial and self-sacrifice (Matthew 6:19-21, 13:44; Hebrews 10:32-34, 13:13-14).

But history (and the Bible) has shown us that the former will almost always lead to licentiousness (Colossians 2:23).

There's nothing new under the sun. So let's learn from church history and deny ourselves not as a means to spiritual transformation but because the power of the gospel has set us free from bondage to the world. Following Jesus in the life of self-denial is when, having had our eyes opened (2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 1:18) to the fact that here we have no lasting city, we joyfully seek the city that is to come (Hebrews 13:13-14).

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lessons from Church History: Part 2

What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
"See, this is new"?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
Ecclesiastes 1:8-9
Why is the study of church history so vital for the health of the church today? Because there is nothing that the church in the 21st century is currently dealing with that the church hasn't dealt with at some point in the past (in one form or another). There is nothing new under the sun.

In 431, the council of Ephesus was convened. Nestorius, the bishop of Constantinople, had been strongly advocating for the teaching that Christ has two persons. He did so to correct the false teachings of those who were seeking to essentially deify and glorify Mary because she was "the Mother of God" (Theotokos). Nestorius sought to correct this false teaching by claiming that Mary was the mother of Jesus, but not the mother of the Son of God. But, in so strongly opposing one false teaching (the deification of Mary), he himself fell into another false teaching by implying that Jesus has two persons. The council of Ephesus brought clarity to the issue by denying that Jesus has two natures and subsequently condemning Nestorius as a false teacher.

In 451, the council of Chalcedon confirmed what had been agreed upon at the council of Ephesus, namely, that Jesus has two distinct natures (human and divine) that are united in His one person, which is what we have come to know today as the hypostatic union.

The history of the church in general, not just the specific example of Nestorius, has confirmed that false teaching is the result not just of denying a particular biblical truth but of overemphasizing one biblical truth to the exclusion of another, which is why we must demonstrate great care in embracing a balanced view of the multifaceted teachings of Scripture.

I've been teaching through Paul's letter to the Romans and we've spent the past couple of months in chapters 9 and 10, where Paul is explaining why so many ethnic Israelites haven't come to faith in Christ . In chapter 9, Paul's argument emphasizes the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation. In other words, the reason so many Israelites don't trust Jesus is because God has chosen some for salvation but not all. In chapter 10, Paul's argument emphasizes human responsibility in salvation. In other words, the reason so many Israelites don't trust Jesus is because the majority of them are self-righteous and hard-hearted, refusing to believe that Jesus is the Messiah even though many Gentiles are putting their faith in Jesus.

Historically, this tension between the absolute sovereignty of God and human responsibility in salvation has resulted in two factions: Calvinism (which emphasizes God's sovereignty, named after John Calvin) and Arminianism (which emphasizes human responsibility, named after Jacobus Arminius).

An overemphasis on God's sovereignty (I'm not saying this is necessarily true of Calvin or of all who embrace Calvinism) often concludes that since God has only chosen some people to be saved and not all, then when the Bible says that God is "not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9) or that God "desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4) or that God "so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16), the "all" must be referring only to those God has chosen and not all human beings.


An overemphasis on human responsibility (I'm not saying this is necessarily true of Arminius or of all who embrace Arminianism) often concludes that since all human beings have the choice to either trust Jesus or reject Jesus, then when the Bible talks about names being "written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain" (Revelation 13:8) or being "chosen in [Christ] before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4) or "those whom [God] foreknew [and] predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 8:29), it must mean that before He created the world, God was able to "look down the corridors of time," see those who would trust Jesus, and it is those people He predestined, writing their names down in the Lamb's book of life.

Overemphasis on any particular biblical truth to the exclusion of another is usually the result of trying to force everything the Bible teaches to conform to our reason. We reason like this, "Since God chooses only some people to be saved, He can't possibly want all people to be saved. Since all human beings are responsible for whether they trust Jesus or not, God can't possibly be the one who ultimately determines that choice. Since Mary is a human being, she can't possibly be the mother of God."

But it really is true that God chooses only some people to be saved and at the same time He wants all people to be saved. It really is true that human beings are responsible for whether they trust Jesus or not and at the same time God has already unalterably determined who will trust Jesus and who will reject Him. It really is true that Mary is the mother of God and at the same time is only a human being. It really is true that Jesus, being fully God and fully man, has two separate, distinct natures and at the same time He is only one person.

Why? Because the Bible says so.

Whether we can make complete sense of it or not is irrelevant. And, if we're not careful, our insatiable desire to make complete sense of it all will inevitably lead us to embrace false teaching or, worse, to become false teachers.

There's nothing new under the sun. So let's learn from church history and embrace all that the Bible teaches without trying to force it to conform to our reason, instead asking God to transform us by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lessons from Church History: Part 1

What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
"See, this is new"?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
Ecclesiastes 1:8-9
If we really believe what the Preacher--under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit--tells us in these verses, then one of the reasons why the study of church history is so important for the health of the church today is because there is nothing that the church in the 21st century is currently dealing with that the church hasn't dealt with at some point in the past (in one form or another). And if we are ignorant (whether purposely or not) of how the church has historically responded to and treated disease when it has begun to infect the the body of Christ, then we (especially church leaders) are like doctors who are ignorant of already existing treatments that have been proven effective because we are ignorantly in search of treatments of our own. But there is nothing new under the sun. So church history couldn't be more relevant for the health of the church today.

While reading for my church history class this week, this quote stopped me dead in my tracks:
Arius was not straightforward in his controversial methods and cleverly tried to cloud the issues. He was deposed in 321, but being an able and charming man he was befriended by eminent ecclesiastics like Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, Eusebius of Nicomedia, and Eusebius of Caesarea, the historian.
--A.M. Renwick, The Story of the Church, p.54
Arius was a church leader between the 3rd and 4th century who taught that Jesus Christ was not co-eternal with the Father but instead was the first being created by the Father. Arius was vehemently opposed by those who recognized the threat his teachings posed to the gospel, most notably Athanasius of Alexandria. Arius was eventually denounced as a false teacher.

What struck me from what I read is how Arius, the man we have come to know as a false teacher, is described. He "was not straightforward in his controversial methods" and he "cleverly tried to cloud the issues."

Earlier this year, Rob Bell released a book entitled Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Before the book was even released, it was swirling in controversy because of the trailer that was released as a preview to the book:


Then, after the release of the book, the controversy continued to stir, with Bell quite literally being put in the hot seat:


Now, I'm not going to lie. I haven't read a single page of Love Wins. And I don't have plans to read it anytime soon (though I'm not opposed to reading it). So I don't have any grounds for criticizing what Bell has written in that book. That's not my point here. Others have already done so thoroughly (e.g. Kevin DeYoung). But, in light of the concerns that others have raised about Bell's teaching, I can't help but recognize how the description of Arius could very easily be used to describe Bell.

Arius is described as "not straightforward in his controversial methods." In the video trailer for his book (first video above), Bell's method for communicating the ideas in his book is no doubt intentional because of how effective it is in creating interest. But, at the same time, this method of asking questions that might or might not be rhetorical (one can only find out by reading the book) is not straightforward, which was undoubtedly one of the contributing factors (if not the contributing factor) to the controversy that arose around the book before it was even released.

Arius is also described as a man who "cleverly tried to cloud the issues." In the MSNBC interview with Bell after the release of his book (second video above), the interviewer has to ask Bell the same question multiple times (the first question is admittedly unfair). The question is simple and straightforward: "Is a person's response to Christ in this life relevant to his or her eternal destiny?"And yet it seems like each time Rob Bell responds he "cleverly clouds the issue" in order to avoid answering the question conclusively one way or another, which is why the same question is asked multiple times.

I'm not questioning whether Rob Bell means well or not. I'm sure he does (and I'm not being sarcastic). But that's not the point. I'm sure Arius had all the best intentions (again, I'm not being sarcastic). He's described as an "able and charming man." And Rob Bell seems to be a very able and charming man as well. But there's a reason why the Bible warns that not many should become teachers. In doing so, we subject ourselves to a judgment of greater strictness before God (James 3:1) and at the same time greater scrutiny before others. It's not possible for a teacher to be completely separated from his teaching. So when we oppose the erroneous teaching of a particular individual, there's unfortunately no way to altogether avoid opposing the individual as well.

But we must "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). This isn't about Rob Bell just like it was never about Arius. This is about Jesus Christ. His gospel is at stake, just like it was in the 3rd and 4th century when Arius was gaining popularity even as controversy surrounded him.

Is Rob Bell a false teacher? Some evangelicals would say "yes"and some would say "no." However we answer that question today, what we must keep in mind is that there was a time when the jury was still out on Arius. There was a time when his teachings were widely circulated and embraced as the spiritual diet of multitudes of believing Christians. And if he had never been denounced as a false teacher, those teachings would still be widely circulated and embraced as the spiritual diet of multitudes of evangelical Christians today over 1500 years later. Who knows what state the church of Jesus Christ would be in today if Arius had never been denounced as a false teacher?

There's nothing new under the sun. So, for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of the church 1500 years from now if Jesus would tarry, let's learn from church history and, like Athanasius, "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Gospel According to Steve Jobs

Below is an excerpt from a phenomenal article written by Andy Crouch shortly after the death of Steve Jobs:
Steve Jobs was extraordinary in countless ways—as a designer, an innovator, a (demanding and occasionally ruthless) leader. But his most singular quality was his ability to articulate a perfectly secular form of hope. Nothing exemplifies that ability more than Apple's early logo, which slapped a rainbow on the very archetype of human fallenness and failure—the bitten fruit—and turned it into a sign of promise and progress.

...

The biblical story of the Fall pronounced a curse upon human work—"cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life." All technology implicitly promises to reverse the curse, easing the burden of creaturely existence. And technology is most celebrated when it is most invisible—when the machinery is completely hidden, combining godlike effortlessness with blissful ignorance about the mechanisms that deliver our disburdened lives. No company combined simplicity and hiddenness better than Apple under Mr. Jobs's leadership.

...

For people of a secular age, Steve Jobs's gospel may seem like all the good news we need. But people of another age would have considered it a set of beautifully polished empty promises, notwithstanding all its magical results. Indeed, they would have been suspicious of it precisely because of its magical results.

And that may be true of a future age as well. Our grandchildren may discover that technological progress, for all its gifts, is the exception rather than the rule. It works wonders within its own walled garden, but it falters when confronted with the worst of the world and the worst in ourselves. Indeed, it may be that rather than concealing difficulty and relieving burdens, the only way forward in the most tenacious human troubles is to embrace difficulty and take up burdens—in Dr. King's words, to embrace a "dangerous unselfishness."
Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Where Is Your Sting, Death?

O Death, where is your victory?
O Death, where is your sting?
The sting of Death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:55-57


And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Colossians 2:13-15
Read the manuscript here.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

We Are Over-Cautious

Why do we not confess, that everything is so governed and ordered by the providence of God, that nothing happens apart from His will or command? We are over-cautious; for we are afraid lest we be compelled to confess that God is the author of evil also.
--Ulrich Zwingli as quoted by Steven Lawson in Pillars of Grace, p.437
Let's not undermine the absolute sovereignty of God by denying His control over sin and evil because of the limitations of our fallen human minds and our desire to get God "off the hook." It really is possible for God to ordain and plan every sin and calamity and yet to be a God who never commits or participates in sin. Why? Because the Bible says so (Ephesians 1:11, Genesis 50:20, Proverbs 21:1, Jeremiah 10:23, Acts 2:23, Acts 4:27-28, Matthew 26:24, Romans 9:17-23, Job 2:9-10, Isaiah 45:7, Amos 3:6, Lamentations 3:38, Psalm 105:23-25, James 1:13, 1 John 1:5, Deuteronomy 29:29).

God is sovereign over all things, including sin and evil. Human beings are responsible for the sins they commit.

The Bible never tries to reconcile these two truths. So there's no need for us to try to, which is what many people attempt to do when they remove the second clause from the first sentence.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Nothing In My Hand I Bring...

Yesterday, as part of a ministry assignment I was participating in with some classmates from seminary, I attended a different local church here in Nairobi for Sunday morning corporate worship.

The lead pastor was concluding what appeared to be an exhortation to prayer as I walked in and took my seat before any of my other classmates had arrived, about quarter to nine. No sooner had I sat down than the pastor stepped down from the pulpit (which had no Bible in it) and began to passionately exhort the congregation:
Think of some good work that you've done and then take that to the Lord in prayer and demand that you deserve a blessing. You deserve a better position. You deserve a better job. You deserve a better home. You deserve a better spouse...
As I sat there and listened to this pastor's rant, I felt myself becoming choked up. This was clearly prosperity theology. But that's not what broke my heart the most. What moved me in that moment was the fact that I couldn't think of any good work I had done that I could possibly bring before the Lord. All I could think about was the loveless, sarcastic comment that I had made about a fellow brother in Christ the night before. All I could think about was how often my speech is careless and corrupting rather than that which gives grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29).

If I were to take anything before the Lord in that moment, it wouldn't be a good work. All I could possibly bring in that moment was a sinful deed, a deed which grieves the Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30).

I don't deserve a blessing. I don't deserve a better position. I don't deserve a better job. I don't deserve a better home. I don't deserve a spouse. I deserve the righteous condemnation of God because of the works I've done.

So what the pastor was saying to us was not good news. I'm not sure why the entire congregation was cheering when in my heart I was grieving. Perhaps if we had good works of our own to bring before God, we might deserve a blessing. But I didn't. And I know for a fact that no one else in that room did (Romans 3:10-18).

And yet, ironically, it was in that very same moment that the Holy Spirit quietly applied the true good news to my heart, lifting my burden and filling me with peace and joy:
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32
As God in Christ forgave you.

God forgave me. He took my sinful deeds from my hand and gave them to Jesus. At the cross, He punished Jesus mercilessly so that He could forgive me tenderheartedly. Having taken my sinful deeds from my hands and borne them in His body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24), Jesus has left me with nothing in my hands. There's nothing left to condemn me.

So nothing in my hand I bring. Simply to thy cross I cling. Before the Lord in prayer, this is my only plea.

That's the good news that this particular pastor (and, even sadder, this cheering congregation) seemed to know absolutely nothing about.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Progress Is Possible



Thank you Jesus. Amen.

Plant? Or Revitalize?

...there are a number of strategic benefits to revitalizing a dead church. First, revitalizing provides a kingdom two-for-one. Like church plants, revitalization efforts establish a new gospel presence in a town, but they also remove a bad witness. People in Sterling, Virginia, no longer see our church like a billboard that reads, "Jesus and his people are irrelevant. Keep driving." Instead they increasingly see a lighthouse on the hill. They increasingly see a vibrant and dynamic witness for the Truth. Yes, it's harder to mosey into town on your horse to set up a new general store while playing sheriff, but doing so benefits everyone, both the kingdom and the onlooking world.

Also, church revitalization encourages the saints in the dead congregation. Dead churches are often populated by faithful believers who are deeply committed to their congregation. They have hung in through lean times. They have shown up Sunday after Sunday even though little was happening. These dear sheep are loved by the Savior, but they usually do not have a pastor who can care for them. When we were considering our options in Sterling, it seemed wrong to begin a new church in Guilford's backyard while the people there struggled.

When a church is revitalized, these saints are encouraged and shepherded in a new way. One of my chief joys as a pastor has been to hear some of the older women in our congregation recount stories of praying faithfully for this church for years. Now they are delighted by what God has done. Their faith is refreshed, and they are encouraged anew as they serve the growing body.

Finally, church revitalization enables us to harness resources for the gospel. Oftentimes dead churches are sitting on a treasure trove of resources (land, money, equipment) that can be leveraged for the spread of the gospel (Luke 16:9). Guilford Fellowship had a building. It had land worth millions of dollars. And it had over one hundred thousand dollars in the bank. All of those resources were just sitting around, doing almost nothing for the kingdom. Simply as a matter of good stewardship, evangelical churches interested in planting should consider revitalizing as well. Our work at Guilford has allowed us to leverage those resources to revitalize one church, plant another, evangelize our community, and support missions. If we had planted a new church instead, we would be broke, and Guilford's money would probably still be sitting in the bank.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Holiness and the Gospel

19 minutes. Very helpful. Looking forward to the next.



I didn't plan this, but it just so happens that much of what is expressed in this discussion as a desire to place more emphasis on the imperatives of Scripture is a response to the whole thrust of the book and author in the last post: a desire to place more emphasis on the indicatives of Scripture (see here).

I love both. We need both. Depends on who you are. Perhaps what season of life the Lord has you in. It could be that in one season of life you need to place more emphasis on the imperatives of Scripture (without forgetting the indicatives!) because you are more inclined to laziness. And in another season of life you need to place more emphasis on the indicatives of Scripture (without forgetting the imperatives!) because you are more inclined to legalism and works-righteousness.

Or perhaps it depends on the day.

What is the Holy Spirit leading you to emphasize today? It may not be the same thing He was leading you to emphasize yesterday. It may not be the same thing He will lead you to emphasize tomorrow.

He may lead you to emphasize indicative today:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.
Romans 8:1-3
But then He may lead you to emphasize imperative tomorrow:
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Romans 8:13
The only way that I've found to hold these truths in tension is to consistently and regularly be reading through all of Scripture and to submit to all that it teaches, trusting that the Holy Spirit knows exactly what truths I need to be reminded of at any given moment, even when today's truth may feel like it contradicts yesterday's truth. It's not possible to respond to the truth of all of Scripture in any one moment. Even during His life, the teachings of Jesus were almost never balanced in any one moment. And if you're not consistently and regularly reading through all of Scripture, you'll just avoid the tension altogether by gravitating toward the truths that are most comfortable for you.

There's a good reason why the Bible doesn't say the same thing on every page. The Holy Spirit knows the depth of your need and the complexities of your heart in a way that you'll never be able to. He knows what you needed yesterday. He knows what you need today. And He knows what you'll need tomorrow. You don't need to figure out how it all fits together. Just trust Him moment by moment. After all, it's what the fishermen had to do when Jesus told them to leave their day jobs and follow Him (Mark 1:17).

That's why we need the Holy Spirit and that's why the Father has given Him to dwell in us.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

God Gives New Beginnings

What does God have for us after we've squandered His grace in the past?

The answer from Psalm 85: more grace.

God Gives New Beginnings from Covenant Life Church on Vimeo.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Center of Sound Christian Teaching

In the third and fourth centuries, Africa became a fertile field for the progress of the church. The North African coast of the Mediterranean Sea witnessed significant advances in the development of Christian doctrine. Many of the greatest theologians of the early church lived and ministered in cities along this coast. It was there that the first center for Christian learning was established in Alexandria, Egypt.

...

Among the highly esteemed theologians who comprised the body of teachers known as the African Fathers were Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-ca. 215), Tertullian of Carthage (ca. 160/170-ca. 215/220), Cyprian of Carthage (ca. 200-258), and Athanasius of Alexandria (ca. 298-373). In later years, even the greatest of all theologians of the early church, Augustine of Hippo, would arise from African soil.

Concerning the contribution of the African Fathers to the larger body of Christ, Thomas C. Oden comments:
These African exegetes powerfully affected the dogmatic formulations of the orthodoxy of the East and the West. Dogmatic definitions [worked] off of textual interpretations hammered out chiefly in Africa, the Maghreb and the Nile Valley. [Later] definitions of Christology and the Trinity were profoundly shaped by definitions and concepts that were defined decades earlier in Africa by Tertullian, Cyprian, Athanasius, Augustine and Cyril.... The major battles with heresy were fought in Africa before they were received ecumenically. Gnosticism, Arianism, Montanism, Marcionism, and Manichaeism were all thoroughly argued as problems of biblical interpretation in Africa before these arguments reached clear definitions in the Rhone and Rhine and Orontes Valleys.
This is to say, the African church became, for a time, the center of sound Christian teaching for the body of Christ.

--Steven Lawson, Pillars of Grace, p.110-111
For the sake of Your fame among the nations and for the sake of Your Son and His bride, do it again, Father. Do it again. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian

And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."
Revelation 5:9-10

Monday, September 12, 2011

In Proportion Then As We Value the Gospel...


"In proportion then as we value the gospel, let us zealously hold to the languages. For it was not without purpose that God caused his Scriptures to be set down in these two languages alone – the Old Testament in Hebrew, the New in Greek. Now if God did not despise them but chose them above all others for his Word, then we too ought to honor them above all others. . . . Let us be sure of this: we will not long preserve the gospel without the languages. The languages are the sheath in which this sword of the Spirit is contained; they are the casket in which this jewel is enshrined; they are the vessel in which this wine is held."
--Martin Luther, 1524
A timely word as I take my first Hebrew quiz tomorrow morning and a great perspective-setter as I begin my study of biblical Hebrew.

Lord, please remind me again and again. For Jesus' sake, Amen.

HT: Christ Is Deeper Still

Thursday, September 08, 2011

What Jesus Calls Us To Do

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
Luke 19:10

As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.
John 20:21


Father, please make this my all-absorbing passion as well. For Jesus' sake, Amen.

HT: Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology

Monday, September 05, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

I'm Talkin' Bout Obedience!


Move
by Flame


Intro –

Ah how you doing sir, how you doing ma’am,
Just want to talk to you for a minute, can I do that?
Ah excuse me sir, excuse me ma’am.
Hello, How you durn, how your durn (2x)
Hello, How your peoples them durn,
Hello. Yeah, Yeah,
Let’s Go!
Now To left wit it, now to the right wit it (4x),
Let’s Go!

Chorus -

When the Lord tell me move I move
Anything He want me to yeah I do
But if it ain't of the Lord then I won't budge
It's cause I’m Spirit lead So I still show your love
When He tell me I – move, move, move, move, move, move, move (talking about obedience 6x)
When He tell me I – move, move, move, move, move, move, move, move, move

Verse 1 -

Man, I hate my disobedience
Always second guessing GOD
When he tell me share my Faith
Now I got question now

Then I end up reasoning myself
Out of sayin something,
Now the opportunity is gone
Cause I ran from it.

Now I am praying for his Grace
That everytime I would speak
In the schools, in the mall,
On the job, on the streets.

This is how it got to be
I am talking about obedience,
Fearing GOD, Not Man
That is the ingredients.

Yes I know you can relate
Some of yall are shacking up
Time for you to move it out
Get your clothes pack it up

Yes I know you can relate
Why are you standing still
When the Lord has called you
To hit the foreign mission field

Yes I know its hard though
Plus I understand it
But JESUS says If You Love Me
Then You’ll Keep My Commandments

Yes I know it’s scary though
Plus I understand it
But JESUS says If You Love Me
Then You’ll Keep My Commandments

Chorus

Verse 2 -

Hey what you looking at
Get from in front of that screen
That is so obscene
JESUS died for that very thing

Hey time for you to move
You need to go reconcile
You been havin beef
With you fam for a while now

Go and confess your sins
Go to the LORD in prayer
Go go, go go, go
People everywhere

Should be steppin in the way
That’s is called obedience
In this case it is good
For you to be deviant

Deviate from the world
Run to CHRIST Likeness
Run I say Run
To the one who is Righteous,

Get accountability
Go and read your Bible too
Get into the WORD of GOD
And get the WORD of GOD in you

Hey here is an idea
Why don’t you go and forgive
Why don’t you go and repent
Turn from you sin and than live

Yes I know its hard though
Plus I understand it
but JESUS says If You Love Me
Then You’ll Keep My Commandments

Chorus

Verse 3 –

Do what you got to do
Go on ahead and get it on
Get a Church Membership
Stop Church Hoppin Homes

This ain’t legalism FAM
This is Christianity
Go ahead Obey The WORD
All else is Vanity

You in that relationship
Do you plan to marry her
Love her like CHRIST loves the Church
Till you bury her

You in that relationship
Do you plan to marry him
Submit to him like you are the church
Or just worry him.

If you not then back it up
Flee the temptation
You can spend your singleness
Witnessing to the nations

You, don’t you compromise
Stand firm with it though
Keep your eyes on the Christ
Even if you feeling low.

Yes I know its hard though
Plus I understand it
But JESUS says If You Love Me
Then You’ll Keep My Commandments

Yes I know it’s scary though
Plus I understand it
But JESUS says If You Love Me
Then You’ll Keep My Commandments

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Gospel Community

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his [Jesus'] heel.
Genesis 3:15 (emphasis added)
This verse predicts that one day there will be a group of people who—instead of living as self-seeking individuals whose self-centered desires will ultimately put them at enmity with each other [e.g. Cain and Abel, 2 Corinthians 5:15]—will live as a selfless community whose Christ-centered desires will put them at enmity with Satan instead of each other.

Its fulfillment? Gospel community. The church. The body of Jesus Christ made up of the ransomed from every tribe, language, people and nation (Revelation 5:9-10).
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. [In other words, watch out for and avoid people who destroy gospel community]. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites [their own selfish interests! Which are in direct contrast with gospel community], and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your [the church's] feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Romans 16:17-20 (emphasis added)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Just Your Average ... Not So Average Girl!

After calling the fellas to man up a couple of weeks ago, this is for you ladies. =)



Not So Average
by V. Rose


Who made up the rules of how you got to be
Picture-perfect everything, so magazine
I mean, I'm stuck in a world where I can't just be me

So what if my nail polish always chips
So what if I prefer to where my kicks
You know, models aren't really models when they're not modeling

Why don't you tell me something
Cuz what I'm really wondering
Is how long do you expect to be following
Trying to be a star like them
It's not the way you're gonna win, always trying to fit in

So I'm takin ay, ay, ay cuz no matter what you say, ay, ay
We goin do it God's way, ay, ay
Cuz I'm just your average, not-so-average
Ay, ay, ay, so tell em it's okay, ay, ay
You know what to say, ay, ay
I'm just your average, not-so-average girl

I'm just your average, no-so-average girl

So what if I don't got everything they have
I'm the prettiest, you can ask my dad (go ask him)
Cuz I'm not gonna spend my life chasing that

So what if I'm not a cheerleader and
So what if you don't even like my band (so what)
I'm gonna be happy with whose I am

So let me tell you something
You're more beautiful than them (than them)
Cuz who you have inside of you is part of Him
And trying to be a star like them
Is not the way you're going to win
Stop trying to fit in

Now we're takin ay, ay, ay, it doesn't matter what you say, ay, ay
We goin do it God's way, ay, ay
Cuz I'm just your average, not-so-average
Ay, ay, ay, so tell em it's okay, ay, ay
And we know what to say, ay, ay
I'm just your average, not-so-average girl

I'm just your average, not-so-average girl
The only way to shine like a star
Is to realize whose you are
You were created to go far
Baby, doesn't matter what you look like
If you have Jesus on the inside
Cuz everything that you need, in your life
Ay, ay, ay, ay
I think I'm going to have to cop this album!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Serpents, Stones, and the Son of God

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:7-11
Good fathers don’t give bad gifts to their children. They only give their children good gifts, the best of gifts. And Jesus reasons with us to make His point. He’s been reasoning with us throughout the Sermon on the Mount. He wants us to think about how foolish our unbelief in the Father is.

If God feeds the birds, and you are of more value to Him than birds, then how is it possible that He won’t feed you (Matthew 6:26)? Answer: it’s not possible.

If God clothes the grass with splendor, and you are of more value to Him than grass, then how is it possible that He won’t clothe you even more gloriously (Matthew 6:28-30)? Answer: it’s not possible.

If evil fathers (yes, that’s you) give good gifts to their children, then how is it possible that the perfect Heavenly Father will give bad gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11)? Answer: it’s not possible. The Heavenly Father only gives the best gifts to His children!

But Jesus isn’t done making His point.

If a father is asked by his son for a piece of bread and subsequently responds by giving him a stone (Matthew 7:9), he would be the worst possible father. Similarly, if a father is asked by his son for a piece of fish and subsequently responds by giving him a serpent (Matthew 7:10), he would be the worst possible father. Even those fathers who Jesus describes as evil fathers would be outraged at such a gesture demonstrated by any father (Matthew 7:11). Wouldn’t you?

But pause with me for a moment. Have you ever considered why Jesus specifically uses the images of bread, stone, fish, and serpent? Were these just random objects that He is using simply for the sake of illustration?

I don’t think so.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
Matthew 4:1-3
Now picture this scene. Jesus hasn’t eaten for at least forty days and forty nights. He’s hungry. If there’s anything that He would want His gracious Father to provide for Him, it’s a tasty meal of bread and fish. But what does He get instead? Remember, Jesus is in a dry wilderness. He’s almost certainly surrounded by what?


Serpents and stones.

Everywhere He looks.

When Jesus is teaching us about persistence in prayer, He doesn’t pull the images of bread, stone, fish, and serpent out of thin air. He’s drawing from His intense spiritual battle in the wilderness. He knows what it’s like to be tempted to doubt the goodness of the Father. He’s been there. If there ever was anyone in any situation who had a legitimate reason to doubt that the Father gives good gifts to His children, it was Jesus in the wilderness. When the Son of God was longing for bread and fish, it seemed as though the Father had given Him only serpents and stones.

His response? Faith.

The truth Jesus teaches us about the nature of the Father in the Sermon on the Mount is the same truth He was clinging to in the wilderness during His time of hunger and temptation: the Father only gives good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11).

Jesus not only teaches us but shows us by His example in the wilderness how to submit to the fatherhood of God.

So what’s the connection between the wilderness and this teaching on prayer? Well, Jesus was undoubtedly praying during His time of fasting in the wilderness. Fasting and prayer go hand in hand (Matthew 6:5-18).

But, more specifically, Jesus seems to make it clear that when we pray, God often isn’t going to answer us immediately (Matthew 7:7-8). Our asking is often going to have to turn into seeking. And seeking is is often going to have to turn into knocking. Going from asking to seeking involves adding an obstacle of distance. Going from seeking to knocking involves adding an obstacle of a door which is closed. Over time, the obstacles to prayer become bigger, not smaller.  Persistence in prayer leads to the kind of weariness in your soul that a hungry man feels in his body after 40 days of fasting in the wilderness.

And I think the point is this. Often when we pray for something specific over a period of time, our temptation is to abandon praying because it feels like we’re moving farther from rather than closer to our prayer being answered positively. Our temptation is to abandon praying because it feels like God has given us serpents and stones rather than fish and bread.  Our temptation is to try to look for some way--any way--that we ourselves can turn stones into bread.

But in the midst of such temptations, the way we submit to the fatherhood of God like Jesus did is by continuing to ask, seek, and knock rather than to stop praying. And the reason we can continue to ask, seek, and knock with unflinching confidence when it feels like we’ve been given serpents and stones is because the story can’t end with serpents and stones. It’s impossible. The Father only gives good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11).

You don’t believe me? Look for yourself at the way the story ends when Jesus is in the wilderness:
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
Matthew 4:11
In other words, this story ends with fish and bread for the Son of God, not serpents and stones.

And if you don’t stop praying, your fish and bread will come in due time as well, from the Father.  The fact that it comes from the Father--and not somewhere else--makes all the difference.
It will come in the best time when it [comes] in God's time, neither too soon nor too late.
--Thomas Manton

Monday, August 15, 2011

Leave Your Comfort Zone

In classic buddy movies two people are thrown together, typically as police partners. At first their stark differences create conflict. But after going through a life-and-death experience together, they become deep, lifelong friends. The church is a community full of differences that humanly speaking ought to result in conflict. But we have a shared life-and-death experience. We're sharers in the death and resurrection of Jesus. His death is our death and his life is our life. Nothing expresses this more than baptism (Romans 6:2-3). Now this life-and-death experience binds us together in community: "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:27-28). And that means there can be no distinctions around the meal table.
--Tim Chester, A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table, p. 53

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Lord, Take Me Back To Calvary...

... where I behold Your love for me.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
Romans 8:35
As we wrapped up our study through Romans 8 last night, we began with these verses. After asking who shall separate us from the love of Christ, Paul gives us a list of things that we might possibly think could separate us from the love of Christ: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword. He's going to make clear in verse 37 that it's not possible for any of these things to separate believers from the love of Christ. In fact, there's nothing in all of creation (that's everything other than God) that will ever be able to separate believers from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39).

But look back at the list in the second half of verse 35: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword. Why does Paul even suggest the possibility that these things might separate us from the love of Christ?

I think the answer is that when people experience any of these things, it's going to feel like God doesn't love them. It's going to feel like they have been separated from the love of Christ. And to the outside world looking at them, they will use it as another reason to deny the existence of a loving God because, as the question has been asked again and again, "How could a loving God allow that to happen to them?"

Right now, there's a famine happening in East Africa. So these words of Paul couldn't be more relevant: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Famine?

We know the textbook answer: no. At some level, we all know the right answer in our minds. That's easy. But what about our hearts? How does a person experience the love of Christ in the midst of the hunger pangs of famine?

As believers in the 21st century, most of us will never experience the majority of the things Paul listed in verse 35 (all of which he personally experienced). But we all struggle from time to time—if not daily—experiencing in our hearts the love of God that we can quote Bible verses about from memory.

So the question is relevant for us all: how do we experience the love of Christ?

Answer: the same way the person in the midst of hunger pangs experiences the love of God, by beholding the cross where 2,000 years ago Jesus died to rescue sinners from Satan, sin, death, and God's wrath.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Romans 8:37
After a brief one verse detour in which he takes us back to the Old Testament to show us an example of faithful people of God being led like sheep to the slaughter (Psalm 44:22), Paul answers the question he had originally asked in verse 35. Shall tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or sword separate us from the love of Christ? Answer: no. Why? Because, in all these things that might make us feel like we are separated from the love of Christ, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Notice that last phrase: Him who loved us. Past tense.

The question Paul asked was if anything could separate us from the present tense love of Christ (Romans 8:35). But when he gives us the answer, he speaks of the past tense love of Christ. Why?
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20
The apostle Paul was gripped by the love of Christ. He says elsewhere that the love of Christ constrains him (2 Corinthians 5:14). But what you have to realize is that Paul's present experience of the love of Christ had little—and I might go so far as to say nothing—to do with his present circumstances. How could it when Paul was constantly in dire circumstances (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)?

So what did Paul's experience of the love of Christ have to do with?

He never got over the fact that Jesus was crucified in his place. He never got over the fact that, in his place, condemned Christ stood. He never got over the fact that Jesus bore the wrath of God that Paul the blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent deserved (1 Timothy 1:12-14).

I can picture Paul's heart exploding with wonder as he writes Galatians 2:20. He loved me! He gave Himself... for me!

What we see in Galatians 2:20 is that Paul's understanding and experience of the love of Christ for him which compels him to daily die to himself and live by faith in Christ is rooted in remembering and meditating on how Jesus loved him by dying for him on the cross. His present experience of Christ's love for him is based on the death of Christ for him in the past.

We see the same thing in 2 Corinthians 5:14 where he talks about being constrained by the present tense love of Christ. What does that whole verse say?
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died.
2 Corinthians 5:14
Paul's present experience of the love of Christ which constrains him is based on the death of Christ for him in the past.

And this is the same experience he's inviting his fellow believers into as he brings Romans 8 to an end.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ (present tense)? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (past tense).
Romans 8:35, 37 (emphasis added)
How does a person experience the love of Christ in the midst of the hunger pangs of famine? There's only one way. By knowing, remembering, and meditating on how Jesus loved him by dying for him on the cross. His present experience of the love of Christ is based on the death of Christ for him in the past.

Sadly, the love of Christ has become trivialized in our generation, especially in the Western world. Whether we admit it or not, in one way or another we've bought into the idea that Christ's love for us mainly has to do with our circumstances. That's why when we find ourselves in undesirable circumstances, we struggle to experience Christ's love for us.

But if Christ's love for us is demonstrated primarily through our circumstances, then how could He love anyone who is experiencing famine? If that's the case, then the atheists are right. We have no choice but to conclude that there is no one who is experiencing the famine in East Africa right now that Christ loves. And what we call the gospel (John 3:16) is left utterly unintelligible to anyone living in a developing country. We might as well close up shop. Let's eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.

Does this mean that we shouldn't bother feeding the hungry because Christ's love for them isn't based on their circumstances and what they need more than anything else is to know that Jesus died for their sins? As the apostle Paul would say, may it never be! If that's the impression you've gotten from what I've written, then you've completely misunderstood me. To walk away with that conclusion, as the apostle James so boldly puts it, would be to completely misunderstand the gospel (James 2:15-17).

The truth that our present experience of the love of Christ is based on our remembering and meditating on His death for us 2,000 years ago isn't meant to free us from feeling obligated to relieve the burdens of others. It's meant to do the opposite. It's meant to gives us such unshakable security in Christ's love for us that we are set free to be risk-takers who boldly lay down our lives to serve and meet the needs (temporal AND eternal!) of others for the glory of God, even when we are squandering ourselves—as Paul did—in the process. Because when we are certain—utterly certain—that absolutely nothing could ever separate us from the love of God in Christ, then nothing else matters. We no longer need to preserve our lives (Luke 17:32-33) by holding onto idols, which is what we all do by nature.

If there's anything in your life that you're not willing to let go of, then it's probably because you've elevated it to the place of the love of God in Christ as the security which you can't live without, that which you can't bear to be separated from. But as John Piper has so concisely and poetically stated: "Romans 8 is about God in Christ giving massive security for merciful service through many sufferings." Whatever you're tempted to find your security in, you do realize that you're going to be separated from it eventually, right? Romans 8 offers you a more massive security, an eternal security.

So, one more time, how do we experience the love of Christ? The same way the person in the midst of hunger pangs experiences the love of Christ: by beholding the cross where 2,000 years ago Jesus died to rescue sinners from Satan, sin, death, and God's wrath. There's no other way. If I don't continually meditate on and marvel, as Paul did, at the wonder that 2,000 years ago God condemned my sin—past, present, and future—in the body of Christ (Romans 8:3) so that now there is no more condemnation for me (Romans 8:1) but only grace and mercy, I'll always struggle to experience Christ's present love for me.

Lord, take me back to Calvary,
Where I behold Your love for me.

Lord, take me back (past) to Calvary,
Where I behold Your love (present) for me.

Constrained by that love, as Paul was, may we no longer live for ourselves but as self-squandering risk-takers who boldly lay down our lives for others because of Him who for our sake died and was raised from the dead (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 4:5).
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

Friday, August 12, 2011

Romans 8 In Poetry

Over the past couple of months, few things have been as life-giving to my soul as studying, soaking in, and teaching through Romans 8. This chapter couldn't have come at a more timely period of my life.

We just finished tonight.

If you told me that you were going to take my Bible away from me and I could only keep one chapter, I'm pretty sure I know what my choice would be...

Here's a poetic summary:
v. 1–4

For those who in Jesus their refuge have found
There’s no condemnation. Their blessings abound.
For through what Christ Jesus has done within me
The Spirit from sin and from death set me free.

For that which the law, by our nature laid low,
Could never achieve and much less could bestow,
God wrought, when, in order to save us from sin,
He sent his own Son our salvation to win.

God did this in order that Law’s just demand
In us might be met, and we righteous might stand,
And show by our conduct from day unto day,
That, shunning the flesh, we his Spirit obey.

v. 5–8

For those who have chosen the flesh as their Guide,
In things of the flesh, not the Spirit, take pride.
But those who have chosen the Spirit as Guide
In things of the Spirit, not flesh, do take pride.

Now those who take pride in the flesh sure should know
That flesh and its fruit, death, together will go.
So, too, those who honor the Spirit will see
That life and deep peace their requital will be.

For fav’ring the flesh will mean hating the Lord,
Since keeping God’s statutes it cannot afford.
And it should be obvious to those in the flesh
That pleasing both God and one’s sin do not mesh.

v. 9–11

But not in the flesh, my dear brothers, are you.
The Spirit who’s in you proves this to be true.
If one lacks the Spirit, it sure would be wrong
To say that this man could to Jesus belong.

But if Christ is in you, then though, due to sin,
The body may die, yet the Spirit within
Is life and brings life, so that you before God
Stand sinless and pure through the ransom Christ brought.

And if you’re indwelt by the Spirit of God
Who raised Christ from death, then that Father who brought
To life the dead Jesus will also restore
Your bodies from death. They’ll be living once more.

v. 12–16

Therefore, my dear brothers, our duty is clear:
To live by the standard of flesh while you’re here
Will lead but to death. It’s your duty to give
The deathblow to sin’s shameful ways. Then you’ll live.

It is by the strength of the Spirit alone
That this is successful and this can be done.
For all God’s true children, with him as their Head,
Are by the blest Spirit of God being led.

You’re children indeed, for you’ve not received
The spirit of slavery when you believed.
No longer does sickening dread you oppress,
With joy you your God as your Father address.

The Spirit bears witness, and not from afar,
But from close within us, that children we are,
Confirming the voice of our own heart and mind,
And leaving uncertainty far, far behind.

v. 17, 18

And if we are children, then, too, we are heirs
Of God and with Christ, for the person who shares
With Christ in his sufferings must certainly know
That on him indeed God will glory bestow.

For this I consider; of this I am sure!
That sufferings and hardships which now we endure
Are nothing compared with the glory which then
Will shine from within us, ne’er leave us again.

v. 19–22

And this is established that Nature entire
For the revelation of saints does aspire,
For not by its own choice did Nature grow dim.
’tWas man who transgressed, and the Lord punished him

By rendering Nature unable to cope
With enemies many; yet not without hope
That Nature itself, though now bound to despair
One day will the freedom of God’s children share.

v. 23–25

Now all of creation, all Nature, ’tis known;
In anguish of childbirth does suffer and groan.
Not only is this true but we must confess:
We also do groan, who the Spirit possess.

Yes, we also groan, even though we are free,
Enriched by the Spirit, as firm guarantee
That also our bodies the Lord will display
As dear to himself on that glorious day.

In hope we were saved, for its object, though near
Is hidden from view and does not yet appear.
But when we no longer of it are deprived,
It stops to be object of hope; ’t has arrived!

But since for the present we hope for still more,
For fulness of bliss which for us is in store,
We long for these blessings, so rich and so great,
And therefore with patient endurance we wait.

v. 26, 27

The Spirit, too, knows that we sinners are weak,
And often unable to find what we seek,
Not knowing at certain times just how to pray:
The words will not come; we don’t know what to say.

The Spirit then helps us, for he knows our need.
With unspoken groanings he does intercede.
The Searcher of hearts knows the Spirit’s intent;
He’ll ever agree, and the Spirit’s plea grant.

v.28–30

Therefore we conclude that to those who love God
All things, in a sense not restricted but broad,
Co-operate fully, in line with God’s plan
Established and ordered before time began.

In line with this program or purpose of old
The lovers of God were effectively called.
For whom he foreknew he did also elect
The image of Jesus, his Son, to reflect.

In this way it was that God did foreordain
That Christ should become and forever remain
Close linked to his people, firstborn among all,
Yet humble, and willing them brothers to call.

Resulting is therefore salvation’s firm chain:
Those whom God foreknew he did, too, foreordain
And those foreordained he did afterward call,
And justify later and glorify all.

v. 31–34

How then shall we answer? How shall we reply?
If he who is for us is God from on high?
Who, now, of all creatures against us can be
When he who is for us is certainly he?

His love is so matchless, so tender his care
That even his own Son he never did spare.
For us, wretched sinners, he gave him to die.
How will he not with him our own needs supply?

Who dares to bring charges against God’s elect?
Whom God declares pure, and will ever protect?
Who’s really so bold that he dares to condemn
The children of God when he justifies them?

It’s Jesus who died, and what’s more, who was raised
From death to God’s right hand. Let heaven be praised!
Christ Jesus this place of trust occupies thus.
It’s he who is now interceding for us.

v. 35, 36

Who then can he be who will tear us apart
From Christ and his love, which was ours from the start?
Distress, persecution, pain due to the Word?
Or famine or nakedness, peril or sword?

It is as the Psalmist declared long ago:
“Each day we face death and are being brought low.
As sheep that are led to the slaughter are we,
For doing thy will and for honoring thee.”

v. 37–39

And yet it’s a fact that by these very things
Which might seem to harm us God victory brings
To us whom he loves, so that conquerors we,
No, rather far better than this, we should be.

For this I know well, and on this I can count
That nothing at all can forever be found
That causes the Savior his own to forsake,
Twixt him and his dear ones division can make.

Not death and not life and not angels above
Can ever exclude us from God’s lasting love.
Nor present nor future can ever avail
To cause that great love for his dear ones to fail.

Not demons or powers, not depth and not height
Can weaken its glow or diminish its might
No creature can part us, whatever the sort,
From God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

--Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953-2001). Vol. 12-13: New Testament commentary : Exposition of Paul's Epistle to the Romans. New Testament Commentary (294–298). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Solitude and Fellowship

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
Mark 1:35

And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him...
Mark 3:13-14
Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when he called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot escape from yourself; God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone you are rejecting Christ's call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called. "The challenge of death comes to us all, and no one can die for another. Everyone must fight his own battle with death by himself, alone... I will not be with you then, nor you with me" (Luther).

But the reverse is also true: Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called, the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray. You are not alone, even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one member of the great congregation of Jesus Christ. If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ, and thus your solitude can only be hurtful to you. "If I die, then I am not alone in death; if I suffer they [the fellowship] suffer with me" (Luther).

We recognize, then, that only as we are within the fellowship can we be alone, and only he that is alone can live in the fellowship. Only in the fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in the fellowship. It is not as though the one preceded the other; both begin at the same time, namely, with the call of Jesus Christ.

Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.

Along with the day of the Christian family fellowship together there goes the lonely day of the individual. This is as it should be. The day together will be unfruitful without the day alone, both for the fellowship and for the individual.

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p.77-78
Over at The Gospel Coalition, an outstanding recent blog post about the theological significance of loneliness concisely and compellingly emphasizes the indispensable place of community:
The power of Christian community is this: when we invert our natural desire to be loved and choose to love and serve others, the love of God through us mitigates the loneliness in us.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Man Up!



The official manup anthem (playing in the background) is bangin'! You can peep it here.

And make sure to check out Lecrae's latest music video, which is part of the man up campaign:


Men... what will you do with this life? Man up!

And spread the word...

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Only In So Far As We Are There...

Consecutive reading of Biblical books forces everyone who wants to hear to put himself, or to allow himself to be found, where God has acted once and for all for the salvation of men. We become a part of what once took place for our salvation. Forgetting and losing ourselves, we, too, pass through the Red Sea, through the desert, across the Jordan into the promised land. With Israel we fall into doubt and unbelief and through punishment and repentance experience again God's help and faithfulness. All this is not mere reverie but holy, godly reality. We are torn out of our own existence and set down in the midst of the holy history of God on earth. There God dealt with us, and there He still deals with us, our needs and sins, in judgment and grace. It is not that God is the spectator and sharer of our present life, howsoever important that is; but rather we are the reverent listeners and participants in God's action in the sacred story, the history of Christ on earth. And only in so far as we are there, is God with us today also.

A complete reversal occurs. It is not in our life that God's help and presence must still be proved, but rather God's presence and help have been demonstrated for us in the life of Jesus Christ. It is in fact more important for us to know what God did to Israel, to His Son Jesus Christ, than to seek what God intends for us today. The fact that Jesus Christ died is more important than the fact that I shall die, and the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is the sole ground of my hope that I, too, shall be raised on the Last Day. Our salvation is "external to ourselves." I find no salvation in my life history, but only in the history of Jesus Christ. Only he who allows himself to be found in Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, his Cross, and his resurrection, is with God and God with him.

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p. 53-54

Monday, August 01, 2011

Redeemed.

I'd never known the meaning of that word until we went through this.
One sentence that sums up the story of infidelity, pain, and forgiveness as told by the wife of one of my best friends in this sermon:


Almost exactly four years ago, I had the privilege of standing with them as the best man in their wedding. So this story hits really close to home.

Reading this sermon wasn't the first time I learned about this. I heard the news firsthand several months ago almost immediately after the initial confession. But, for some reason, it wasn't until I read this sermon that the faithfulness of God and the glory of Christ in the gospel was impressed upon me in a fresh and powerful way.

During the reception after the wedding ceremony four years ago, I had the privilege of toasting the newlywed couple.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:15-16
Taking my cue from these verses, I began by talking about how during our junior year in college my friendship with the groom had initially sprung from interests that we shared in common. But, by the time we graduated, something mysterious had happened. Our conversations were no longer about those shared interests. Rather, with roots deeply planted in the gospel of grace, our conversations were about building one another up in love and spurring each other on in the pursuit of Christ. In other words, our friendship had grown up. Our friendship had matured.

I then expressed how my prayer for them was that their marriage would in a more significant way be one that--with each passing year--would grow and mature and deepen and ripen with roots deeply planted in the gospel of grace. We then lifted our glasses and toasted them:
May your marriage be one that is continually maturing...
Almost four years later, here are the words of the bride from the last paragraph of the sermon:
Though our marriage looked like the perfection of romance on the outside, it was dying inside. Once we acknowledged the sin that was in our marriage and moved forward by letting God refine us through fire we were given and now have a life together that is sanctified and truly one for the first time.
Their marriage is only now maturing the way I hoped and prayed it would. Never in a million years did I think God would answer my prayer this way.
"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
Ephesians 5:31-32
There's no marriage I know where the truth of the gospel--the relationship between a crucified Christ and a deeply flawed church--shines more brightly than this one.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Gospel and Disagreement

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12
These might not be the best examples but the reason I post them is because I was thinking about this idea earlier tonight when talking with a brother and welcoming any disagreement he might have about something I had just said.

Although I find the content of these conversations interesting, I found myself much more interested in the way the conversations unfolded than I was in the content of the conversations themselves.

When the gospel of grace brings us from our hiding place behind trees into true reconciliation with each other in Christ, that doesn't mean that we are going to agree about everything. Not even close. As long as we're waiting for Jesus to come back, we all see through a glass dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12). And when one dim perspective of Jesus meets with another dim perspective of Jesus, at some point disagreement is inevitable.

But the glory of the gospel is that it's not our agreement about everything that unites us. It's Jesus Christ alone, who He is and what He's done, that unites us. As long as we agree on that, there's a sense in which nothing else really matters. We can disagree about anything else.

The gospel frees us to disagree because we don't have to justify ourselves by being especially defensive or trying to prove that we're right. Jesus is our justification. He was always right in His living and speaking. We don't have to tiptoe on the thin ice of shared opinion because we're afraid of a disagreement that might damage our fellowship. We stand on a Rock. Christ is unbreakable. And the mystery of the gospel is that when we disagree it's an opportunity for our gospel fellowship to be dug down deeper and for Christ's glory to shine all the more brightly.

So don't be afraid to disagree. If you are, it's probably a sign that you're not believing the gospel and are still hiding behind trees.

Have you already forgotten? You've been clothed with Christ (Philippians 3:9). You're no longer naked. You can come out from hiding.

And, after all, what a boring world we would live in and where we would lose so many opportunities to learn and grow if disagreement never happened.





Thank you, Father, for these diligent and seasoned laborers who so faithfully guard and proclaim the gospel of grace not just in their pulpits and with their pens and with the content of conversations like these, but with the in-between moments of their lives and with the nature of conversations like these. Help us to imitate them and so live in light of the gospel more and more with each day that passes. For Jesus' sake, Amen.