Empty and Wide Open

Death and resurrection aren’t just events, they are a process. Jesus didn’t die so that you could live, he died so that you could die. To your sin, to death, to temptation, to worldly passions and desires. Jesus lives so that you can live.

Jesus went into the grave so that you would stop fearing the grave to live a life of hope. He rose so that you can rise. He died under sin so you could die to sin. He died under the curse to free you from the curse.

This is a process called sanctification. You are embroiled in something. Covetousness, lies, debauchery, drunkenness. You murder in your hearts. Back bite, gossip, slander and lust. You justify your sin and condemn others while your spiritual life is choked with self-reliance, envy and shame. Don’t fear that death. Put it to death. Continue reading

The Christian Life

The Christian life is a life lived by the grace of God, under Christ’s law, in God’s world, in the presence of God himself. We love because God first loved us (1st John 4:19). The Triune God instigated a relationship with us. He created us, redeemed us, sustains us and gives us hope for a future life with him without sin, pain or death (Romans 8:30). This is the work of the Father, Son and Spirit who are a community of love creating a community of love, on earth, to share in their eternal glory.

This self-revealing, instigating love of God shapes our lives. It shapes ethics, behavior, schedules, faith, science, study, vocation, the arts; our very understanding of the world and our place in it.

Our first Trimester will be focus on this amazing reality. You Are God’s children (John 1:12-13) and heirs of the promises of God (Eph. 2:12) who are called to devote yourselves to the glory of God in all you do (Matthew 22:36-40).

The Westminster shorter Catechism begins with this question;

Question. 1. What is the chief end of man?
Answer. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Living by the grace of God

Conversion (Titus 3:5)

Living under Christ’s law.

The Law of Christ (John 13:34) 

Repentance (Luke 13:3, 5:32)

Forgiveness (Luke 17:3, Col. 3:13)

The fruits of the spirit (Gal 5:25)

Living in God’s world.

Walking by the spirit (Gal 15:16-17)

Bible reading (1st Tim. 3:15, Rom. 15:4)

Living in the presence of God Himself.

Worship (Heb. 13:15)

Christian Fellowship (Rom. 12:5, Acts 2:42)

Prayer (Luke 11:1)

Jesus Doesn’t Meet Needs, He Exceeds Them

The woman taken in adultery

The woman taken in adultery

A Series on Love, Part 5

What overcomes you and prevents you from loving other people like you are supposed to? How could you be more like Jesus in expressing love? Consider John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Jesus overcame His enemies with Love. God so loved the world He gave and His giving overwhelmed the need of fallen man. It united all believers from every tribe into one Body. Our sin was not too much for Him. Jesus overcame evil with love. He cast out the darkness with His perfect light. This is our story. This is our hope. This is the reality in which we repent, marry, raise children, go to the bank, commune in worship, gather in each other’s homes and greet our neighbors over the fence. This is what we are to imitate. Jesus commands us to love like He has loved.

1st Corinthians 13:7 “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Love overcomes. We are going to consider a few specific examples, over the next couple of posts, of Jesus’ love overcoming.

People brought Jesus their needs and Jesus responded by giving them what they needed and then some. Think of the paralytic who Jesus healed on the Sabbath. The guy just wanted to walk, but Jesus also forgave his sin. He gave the paralytic a better life and eternal life. More poignantly, Jesus saw people in need that hadn’t come to Him and He gave them what they needed and then some. Continue reading

Look Up and Look Out

Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pan...

Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pantocrator; Istanbul, Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus’ love is selfless and sacrificial

Now you may be wondering why I use both selfless and sacrificial. We often use these words interchangeably as if they mean the same thing, or nearly the same thing. But selfless acts are not necessarily sacrificial and sacrificial acts are not necessarily selfless. To be selfless is to have no concern for self. Now, focusing on others is great, but it can easily be done out of manipulation. For example, a lot of times I do things that are selfless so that the selfish thing I am about to do goes over a little easier. It’s a “look your shoes untied” strategy that can be very effective. People distracted by your kindness are less likely to notice the extreme selfishness you display.

Now, technically, doing something nice or beneficial for others is selfless. But if it doesn’t cost you anything than it’s not the kind of selflessness that Jesus displayed. Another problem with selflessness is a weird kind of “martyrdom” that people needlessly submit themselves to. This is the person who can’t say no and lets you walk all over them. Others can’t so no until they they blow up or they never stop talking about how selfless they are. Its manipulation. Again, not the kind of selflessness Jesus demonstrated. Continue reading

The Aim of our Charge

Matthew 22:37 “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

This is where the Christian Faith begins. This is the paradigm of your relationship with God. It requires that you do not have closed off spiritual, emotional and private relationships but relationships that begin in your heart and end at the four corners of the world. It begins privately and intimately but extends through your hands to your neighbor, town, county, state, country and world.

This is God’s program to perfect creation. It’s the overpowering force. It’s you responding in the only appropriate way imaginable to His instigating love; with total abandon, complete surrender, utter adoration and all engrossing subordination.

Heart, soul and mind don’t consist of compartmentalized aspects of life, but here signify the total self; the whole man.

This command becomes the engine, the roadmap, the structure on which your life’s work is built. It becomes the modas operandi. The beginning, the end and the content of life. This is the sum total of who you are and what you do.

This command, applied to your life, becomes the antithesis, cultural mandate and great commission in action. This is the chief command from which all obedience is derived. It’s the fountain head of culture, ethics, science, theology, art, family, community and meaning that pleases God.

This requires proximity and consists of productivity and praise.

The Lord has Spied out the Land

Father

We are gathered in. The Lord himself has spied out the land, tasted of its plenty and declared the promises fulfilled. He has declared the year of the Lord. We huddle in the upper room of heaven gripped in fear. Fear that leads to wisdom that frees us from ourselves, fear that leads us here, to worship for it is the fear of awe.

We are gathered in and the scarlet cord hangs form our window. The house that belongs to the Lord shall stand, even as the wall of humanity falls in destruction. We shall be passed over as you march from the river to the sea and subdue it all. It is finished. Even now we feast at the banquet set amidst our enemies. Let our joy be an example, may your spirit be theirs; those at home now lost in their worldly pursuits, may they know this elation secured by Christ, that they too might stand with us and look upon you in Spirit and truth. We are gathered in. Hear us. Not because we are righteous, but because of your son, the Christ, the Emperor of the cosmos, who gave this right to us, to ask in his name…

Amen

5-1-2011

God Vowed to Walk There With Them

Zampieri - Adam et Ève (détail)

Zampieri – Adam et Ève (détail) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Adam stood outside the Garden, with God, in the valley of death; ashamed and defeated. God cursed the ground on Adam’s behalf, increased the pain of labor for Eve and spilled the blood of a substitute to make a covering for His wayward and fallen children. In the midst of the first evil, God promised a son to restore the lost and broken relationship that God had  enjoyed with man.

In the pain of that moment, betrayed, accused and hated by His own children whom He had given the world, God knew something profound. That all the sons of Adam and Eve would be unable to bear the burden, were too weak and broken to fight back against the dragon. God knew that the Son that was promised would be ravaged and that the battle would cost that Son his life. And God knew, God promised in that moment, at the very beginning, with the tears of betrayal fresh on His cheeks, that the Son whose blood would be spilled for mankind, would be His own Son; His only Son. Continue reading

The Dregs of Society Made Warrior-Servants

Father

For six days we have labored in the fields. Our flesh is heavy and our toil weighs upon us. The sullenness of our failed intentions, our sour words, our blind eyes and our grumblings threaten to choke our melodies and strangle our battle hymns. Our instruments are out of harmony. Our weapons have grown dull. Our armor is battered.

But lo, there is a fell voice, soft on the wind; calling us to a drink of water without end; a victory banquet set amidst our struggles, surrounded on every side by the enemy. Here, at the set time we ascend to your inner sanctum by the mighty power of your spirit. We are not trembling at the foot of your mountain, afraid of your voice, begging for an intermediary. Yet, we cannot boast of this. We are the dregs of society made warrior-servants. We are the pathetic fools given the wisdom of God spoken. We are lame beggars overseeing the household of the Lord of hosts. We are the priesthood of the plebs. Gird our loins, sharpen our swords, tune our instruments for we shall not tarry long, but only rest awhile to gather from you new strength to resume with fervor and obedience the work of your kingdom. Glorious father we beg of you, hear our prayers…

Amen

Sunday 6-14-09

A wider reach, a deeper authority, a greater giving.

English: The Gathering of the Manna, c. 1896-1...

English: The Gathering of the Manna, c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902), gouache on board, 11 7/16 x 9 5/16 in. (29.1 x 24 cm), at the Jewish Museum, New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joshua 5:10-12 “While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.”

God provided Manna for Israel in the desert and as soon as Israel crossed into the Promised Land, the Manna ceased and the produce of the Land fed the Children of the Lord. The link between the two; God’s provision of the Manna and God’s provision of the vineyards, wells and abundance of the conquered tribes was supposed to be obvious. God provided Israel with both. Israel was never meant to forget who provided the daily bread, whether it fell out of the sky or was planted, grown, sifted, mixed with yeast and baked.

The Triune God is a God of abundance, a God of Giving. Psalm 23:1 says “the Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” The second half of the verse is the natural outcome of the first half. Because God is our Shepherd, we shall not want.

The promise of God’s table is a promise of provision. Who among you is starving? Start with this basic necessity and move up and out and see all that God has given you.

Start at the bottom, not the top, and work through God’s abundant provision and grace visible in your life today.

Another thing is how boring, mundane and unremarkable daily bread seems when we buy it from Albertsons. We were born in a land of milk and honey and we forget all the labor others expend through God’s providence for our daily sustenance.

We would be impressed by the miracle of Manna, but there are fewer specific items to be thankful for when the bread falls out of the sky. Bread from the store requires a far greater reach. God provides your job to acquire money, the car, the store, the plastic bag, the twist tie, the rain, the farmer, the harvest, the baker and an infrastructure which allows for massive ovens and transportation.  So why are we less grateful when God displays a wider reach, a deeper authority, a greater giving?

This is the common grace which we all so abundantly enjoy just to get some bread, everyday.

Extravagant Love

The word Extravagant means to exceed the limits of reason or necessity.

That is the kind of love Jesus exhibits. Jesus didn’t need a throne; he had one already. Jesus didn’t need men. Who needs broken clay jars? Jesus has authority over everything; in Him everything that is, was made. God made man in His own image and Jesus is jealous enough for even the image of God, that He could not allow the dishonor of the fall to stand. He wanted God’s creation to fulfill its creation purpose; to live in harmony worshiping God.

So Jesus took on flesh; the infinite took on the limits of creation. The king became a carpenter’s son. He slept in open boats and ate meals. He argued with self-righteous hypocrites and endured the confused bombastic yapping of His apostles.

The Maker let His creation slap him, tear His beard out and nail iron into His flesh. Iron, which was made in and through Jesus, Jesus allowed to be driven through the flesh He didn’t need, to die a death we caused, to win us back to a Father we rejected.

This is a love that exceeds the limits of reason and necessity.