Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas, where have you gone?

Where has it gone
The feeling inside I used to have
Every Christmas so fond
Seems just like a normal day
Nothing's changed, nothings new

Presents await but there's nothing to anticipate
Not like before, when it felt new
Now it's like nothing, feelings are weak

Have I lost you?
Why doesn't it feel like Christmas
Open my eyes, my thoughts
Finding clarity in a haze

Christmas is not a feeling, a soft warm phrase
For this day, the Christ has come
How could I forget and replace?
You are the One that brings all things
Good and holy, righteous and true
So remind me this season
Not to look for a feeling inside
But to look to You my one and only
Savior, God, and King

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Monday, December 12, 2005

"High-tech US embassy set to open"

We so easily fool ourselves into thinking we have accomplished something great, when in reality, we have done little or nothing at all.

This from an article in the Phnom Penh Post:

"The new US embassy on Street 96 near Wat Phnom. Former US Ambassador Charles A Ray claims credit for the survival of [a] tree, which architects wanted removed."

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Mysterious Food and the Harvest

We move now from the Samaritan woman – who has gone back into town telling people about Jesus – to a private conversation between Jesus and His disciples. The disciples had gone into town in order to buy food and now are asking Jesus to eat – they had seen that Jesus was tired, and they are concerned for His well-being. But

(v32) He said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about."

So Jesus introduces this Mysterious Food – and let’s look at two aspects of this food

I. The Source of this Foood
II. The Superiority of this Food

I. The Source of this Food

We see in verse 33 the disciples are a bit confused about this statement that Jesus makes – for as you remember, Samaritans and Jews didn’t get along well, and they were thinking – no one here would have given Him anything to eat, would they? They saw that Jesus no longer needed their food, but they couldn’t figure out why.

The disciples, as is normal for all of us, were thinking first about the physical, temporal things – but Jesus was speaking of this mysterious food that they have yet to learn about.

Where does this food come from? Where does it not come from?

(v32) He said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about."

This food does not come from the world – the world doesn’t even know about it– nor can the world provide it.

(v34) Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work."

Jesus’ food has its source, not in the things of this earth, but rather in doing the will and accomplishing the work of the One who sent Him – it is a food that comes from God – the source of all good things.

Jesus has been sent, though the Son of God, He has been sent, humbling Himself, becoming a servant, doing the will and accomplishing the work of God the Father, the One who sent Him.

So what was the will of God? What was this work of God that Jesus was accomplishing?

John 6:38-39
"For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.

The will of God was that Jesus save those whom God had given to Jesus – and the work of God, the work that God had already done was appoint those who were given to Jesus – appointing them unto salvation (1 Thess. 5:9) – and Jesus was accomplishing that work – finishing that work by saving those given to Him by God through His life and death and resurrection.

This is the food of Jesus – The life-blood, the thing that kept Jesus going, the reason Jesus woke up every morning – The food of Jesus: to do the will and accomplish the work of God – for in doing this, He is revitalized by God.

Men live to eat and drink – read and study, to work or play – some even live to pray and minister – but not Jesus.

And this moves us into our next thought.

II. The Superiority of this Food

If someone really smart or someone skilled in something says, “I do it this way” normally we try to do as they do, because it’s a better way – they know more than we do, so we follow.

And so I present to you this morning – Jesus Christ, the Man-God, all-knowing, all-powerful saying, “MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE”

We work and grow tired – we labor and want a vacation – but Jesus, who at the beginning of this story was wearied by His journey, stopping by a well to rest – He works, ministering to the Samaritan woman and now refuses the nourishment that His disciples offer Him, because He is refreshed and renewed.

This food that Jesus has is better than ours – for we eat and then grow hungry, and if we don’t eat we become weary, we live limited, and wanting – but this food overcomes all this – this food is better than any other food –

"Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary."
(Isaiah 40:30-31)

This food is superior simply in the fact that it is from God – it is food for those who God has sent, and in doing the will and work of God – in expending their lives for God, this work becomes true food, true strength and true renewal of body and spirit. You will know if you are doing the work of God if you are fed by it – “when toiling in the fields of heaven one needs no other refreshment.”


"Do you not say, `There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.
(John 4:35)

As I was studying this past week and I came to this point in the text – Jesus flips right from talking about food to talking about the harvest – and I kept asking myself, “Why does Jesus talk about these things together, without really any transition? He talking, and He goes food food food, harvest!”

But I think there is a very good reason, and sheds even more light onto this lesson that Jesus was teaching to His disciples. So let’s look into this:

Jesus had just finished speaking with the Samaritan woman when the disciples came up – then she goes into town and starts telling people about Jesus – and while the woman is doing this, Jesus is speaking to His disciples – but what of the people that the woman has been talking to – what are they doing? They are on their way to see Jesus – and they come up to Him later on in this chapter, in verse 40 – so picture this in your mind: as Jesus is explaining to His disciples that, rather than their food being the most important thing, there is something superior to the food they are offering, then Jesus says – “You say there is about four months until harvest, but I say – Take a look right now! The fields are ready for harvest right now!” The disciples might have wondered what Jesus meant, because there truly were still four months until harvest, although the farmer’s fields had been planted, they were still green and not ready to be harvested. But in a few moments, if the disciples had not understood what Jesus said they would have – for right when Jesus finishes speaking the group of Samaritans that had been told of Jesus by the woman arrive to speak with Jesus, they were the field that was ready for harvesting – this was the work that Jesus came to do, to save men, this is the food that He was talking about – Jesus was here to do the will and accomplish the work of God and here were some of those appointed unto salvation by God, ready to be harvested, ready to be saved.

Now let’s look at three things in regard to this heavenly harvest

I. The Reward of the harvest

II. The Rejoicing in the harvest

III. The Reminder during the harvest

I. The Reward of the Harvest

Jesus was gladly willing to forfeit earthly food in order to work in this harvest – because in working this harvest there was greater reward!

Jesus was already received wages, benefits from working in the field of Samaria – He was receiving joy, that would last forever, and was gathering fruit for life eternal, meaning that people were being saved.

This is the lesson – it is better to give than to receive – because God is a rewarder of those who serve Him, of those who earnestly seek Him

And Jesus was receiving this reward but He is not the only one rejoicing over the harvest.

II. The Rejoicing in the Harvest

There are two parties involved - the ones who sowed the seed and the ones who reaped the fruit.

Jesus didn’t have to explain who the messiah was to the Samaritan woman, she knew about Him already.

And so Jesus says: "in this case the saying is true, `One sows and another reaps.'
(John 4:37)

The harvest that was taking place in Samaria was taking place based on the prior work of God’s servants. Others had sown seed and had not seen the results, but now the result of that sowing was coming in, through Jesus and both Jesus and those who had sown the seeds can rejoice together – for all their labor has resulted in salvation.

III. The Reminder During the Harvest

Then Jesus directs His attention to His disciples and in this I believe Jesus is referring to ministry that He had sent the disciples to do, either baptizing, or possibly when He had sent them to go into different cities and preach the good news:

(v38) Jesus says that He sent His disciples to reap that for which they had not labored – others have labored and you [the disciples] have entered their labor – “Their labor”, the word labor here tells of a toil to the point of exhaustion, long pains, troubles.

The disciples were probably elated that their going out had resulted in so much fruit, as are everyone when they lead a soul to the Lord, but Jesus here is reminding them, that they are reaping from a field in which they have not toiled long in, that they have not troubled and pained long years in that field. It is a call to humility, lest we boast and think our ways are higher than others, as Paul re-states:

"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth."
(1 Corinthians 3:6-7)
In the harvest, be reminded – you were sent, and praise God for the growth.

And then The Living Example of the Harvest

(v39-42) From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me all the things that I have done." So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world."
(John 4:39-42)

What a joyful thing to see such a harvest – and in such an unlikely field, beginning with such an unlikely sinner.

I want to close with this last thought.

As I was reading this passage, I was thinking about my own ministry. I am living in Cambodia – and how different this nation is than the nation of Israel during the time of Jesus.

Jesus tells His disciples: "I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor."
(John 4:38)

Israel had thousands of years of priming for the Gospel, the whole nation was waiting for the Messiah. So much labor had gone into that country, the seed had been laid, and now was the time for its reaping – and what a harvest there was! The first proclamation of the Gospel after Jesus ascending into heaven resulted in about 3,000 souls coming to Christ!

But what of here in Cambodia? A lot of times I feel like I am working with no result. I can count on one hand the people who have come to Christ, in whose lives I have been an influence. I labor, plant seeds, but rarely see any come into fruition.

But as we think of this whole passage:
The food of Jesus, coming from God, that is better than the food of this world

And then of the harvest – the great reward from it and the rejoicing of both the sower and reaper together, the reminder of humility – the encouragement for me, the message I want to give you is this:

"My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.”
(John 4:34)

The food is not in the result – for we are not sent out for results. In looking to result we will fall from exhaustion. Rather the food is in doing the will and accomplishing the work of the One who sent us.

Do not make your food the results of your labor – rather let it be in obeying your Lord and Master – it is in this that we are fed, that we find our encouragement, that we are serving God – and that He has sent us out to do His will and accomplish His work.

So go, and let us be refreshed in the labors our Master has called us to do.

"For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God--his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. "For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your gentleness made me great. You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip; "The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation, the God who gave me vengeance and brought down peoples under me, who brought me out from my enemies; "For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to your name. Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever."

(2 Samuel 22:30-51)

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Monday, November 28, 2005


This time of year,
Songs play in enemy's places,
Of a night divine, of Immanuel,
Of God with us.

Of the Father's love, and the Son's submission
In taking a dust-jacket of skin
And thus to subtract by addition.

Born of a woman, conceived by the Spirit,
Fourteen generations times three
Then He came,
All bloody and weak, and wholly divine.

I pray that
This ineffable love will amaze
Me this season.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Justice is not Alone

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD.”
(Psa 27:1-6)

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Had to

John 4:3-4

(3) He left Judea and went away again into Galilee.
(4) And He had to pass through Samaria.

As Jesus says later in John: Joh 10:16

"I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd."

Do not come to the false conclusion that you need not do anything – for the call to repent goes out to all men – God gave each of us a moral facility with which we discern right from wrong. We know that we are sinners, that we have committed wrongs. And if we know that we are sinners, then we need a savior – The Savior is presented to you this morning – do not harden your heart. He will receive you, if you repent and believe. He turns away no man who comes in response to His call. The door of mercy is wide open to all who believe. Do not harden your hearts, for there is no other who can save you from the wrath to come. Do not harden your hearts.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Woman at the Well

John 4:1-4

(1) Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John
(2) (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were),
(3) He left Judea and went away again into Galilee.
(4) And He had to pass through Samaria.

Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, `Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."
(Joh 4:10)

Later on in the passage, the disciples urge Jesus to eat some food, but Jesus replies: "I have food to eat that you do not know about."
(Joh 4:32)

And so He says

“Give Me a drink, BUT "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, `Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."
(Joh 4:10)

Jesus is opening the woman’s eyes to her need – she think she has what is needed to receive water – but in fact she does not, only Christ posses the ability to give the true water.

As it is say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," But you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, You must buy from Christ, gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
(Rev 3:17-18)

Open your eyes to the reality – you are helpless. As the woman, unable to give Jesus a true drink to refresh the spirit – she must first ask of Him – she had to receive before she herself could give.

The first lesson in the school of God – “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). This is what Christ is teaching this woman. And she begins to see her need – before of which she did not see – though she has not yet fully understood.

The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw."
(Joh 4:15)

Jesus then moves her even farther to see her real need – not physical, but a spiritual need, to be convicted of her sin – knowing her, knowing her heart He asks – “Go and get your husband, and then come back here”

The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true."
(Joh 4:17-18)

And she begins to see – perceiving Jesus as something more than just a normal man for He knew her.

"Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."
(Joh 4:20)

But this is not what is of first importance – As Martha, keeping herself busy preparing dinner for Jesus – angry that Mary is not helping, but is sitting at the feet of the Savior, listening to His every word – “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
(Luk 10:41-42)

Worship takes place in the heart of those who have been redeemed. Those who are not redeemed cannot worship – Israel could only groan, sigh, cry when they were in Egypt – but when God saved them, and parted the red sea, and when they had reached the other side, and pharaoh and his armies had been drowned

Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying, "I will sing to the LORD, (Exo 15:1)

There are three musts in the book of John

You MUST be born-again

The Son of Man MUST be lifted up

God MUST be worshiped in spirit and in truth

Only those who have been regenerated, re-born and justified by the atonement of Christ can worship God in spirit and in truth.

One must first know God, must first be saved before that person can worship.

"I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us."
(Joh 4:25)

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Friday, October 14, 2005

B+ Santification

So, since I started school I've really had one consistent prayer request: humility. Because learning so much so fast tends to make me think that I pretty stinking cool. So, I've been praying for humility, a dangerous and scary and difficult request to make because often God answers it. And often, in the midst of it, it sucks.

And God has started answering it, in a surprising and perfect-as-God-only-can-do sort of way. He's hitting me where I'm most proud and destroying what I value too much. Because I hold so tightly to and value so highly, not riches or power so much as intelligence, being smart. But it has been written, "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom." And God is working there, because knowing him differs much from "being smart" as I so often think about it.

It hit me Wednesday night while I lay in bed. I might not get "A" grades in all my classes. I might not be as good as I've always thought I would be if I tried as hard as I absolutely could. My best might be "B+" and, honestly, that breaks my heart, my black and fleshly heart, belonging to my old self, the one who values in such a sinful way those "A" marks, not as my best unto the Lord, but as affirmation that I am, in fact, pretty freaking awesome.

So I pray that God will continue his work to make me like Jesus, that I will work unto him, not seeking to honor myself, that my "B+" best will honor him as a holy offering of worship.

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The True Ladder

John 1:50-51
Jesus answered him,
"Because I said to you, 'I saw you
under the fig tree,' do you believe?

(51) And he said to him,
"Truly, truly, I say to you, you will
see heaven opened, and
the angels of God ascending and
descending on the Son of Man."

Nathanael is obviously greatly impressed by what Jesus has done – impressed by theproclamation of the omniscience of Jesus – but Jesus points out that this is nothing compared to what will occur. And we see Jesus refer back to the dream that Jacob had as the reality of that dream – Jesus is the ladder – the connection between men and God – and that this would occur and Nathanael would see it.

How easily our emotions are stirred at the miraculous! At the extraordinary!

We look in the Old Testament – The parting of the Red Sea, manna from heaven, battles won by the lifting of hands, the sun standing still, a boy killing a giant, a strong man killing 1000 soldiers with a jaw bone, an axe head floating on water, a prophet riding a chariot of fire to heaven and on and on – we are captivated! Even Jesus, the Apostles – the miracles they performed! And we look around now – and we say, there is nothing really extraordinary going on like it was back then.

But we forget, these extraordinary things that we long for – these miracles that we feel would be so great – if only we could just see something miraculous, then I would really feel better about all of this – we forget – these extraordinary gifts – they are common!

It is a great privilege to see or even to perform a miracle, to behold extraordinary things – healings, demons being cast out, dead men rising again – a great privilege – but this privilege is common. Common in the sense that the privilege to see, the privilege to perform extraordinary deeds is not only given to God’s people – not only to those who have saving faith – not only to the children of God – We forget, even Judas cast out devils, the betrayer of the Son of God, even he healed people – King Saul, rejected by God, even he prophesied – Balaam was a wicked man, and yet he performed extraordinary feats and witnessed extraordinary things!

Do not seek after these common things – but seek after that which is uncommon, that which is rare, – as a treasure hidden in a field – a treasure that when found because joy over it you go and sell all you have in order to buy that field and posses the treasure

Your highest happiness does not lie in how many miraculous things you see in your lifetime or whether or not you even perform an extraordinary act – rather your highest happiness lies in holiness – for it is through holiness that you are united to God, the fountain of all good.

And what of this holiness – from where does it come? Where is this rare jewel? This jewel that Judas knew nothing of – for this jewel is only for the children of God – it is given only by the Father to His children – not to outsiders.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, you will
see heaven opened, and
the angels of God ascending and
descending on the Son of Man."

It is Christ – to see Him, to know Him and to behold the ladder – the true ladder from you to God – The Lamb of God – the one sacrifice for sin - He is the greatest thing, the most precious jewel, the pearl without price! The grace of knowing Christ – it is greater than the parting of the Red Sea! Greater than men rising from the dead! There is no greater thing than this – turn your eyes to Him – Behold Him, and wonder, follow after Him, for He is calling – Come and you will see.

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Monday, October 10, 2005

Losing the Messiah

"A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.He who has ears, let him hear."
When your good news arrives, do you keep track of it? Sometimes, as the weeds grow up around you, your house becomes a total mess. "I just know I had some good news around here somewhere ... now, where was it ..."

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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Finding the Messiah

(John 1:40) One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.

(41) He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ).

For the soul that comes to know Christ – that is the greatest one event in the history of that soul – to come to know Christ is the greatest single event in the life of any soul. On that day – all the past changes – for a new light is shed and the soul sees God at work, working, ever working to bring that soul to salvation. And though before that soul lived in sin, now that sin has been blotted out to be seen no more – for they are as far as the east is from the west. How great is that day, when your sins are forgiven – when you find that the raging storm of God’s wrath has been calmed, and blue skies are over you! On the day that a soul comes to Christ, what sort of change there is on that day – no longer dead, but alive – liberty, rather than slavery – heaven rather than hell – it is such a change that words are unable to express it – as trying to explain to a blind man, so it is with those of us who now know Christ – for what can we say? What can we say to the joys that we have experienced? To the happiness that comes from our Savior – from the cleanliness – the purity? Who is there that understands these things, outside those who have experienced it for themselves? Perhaps before you heard Christ exalted, and lifted up and hear men speak of how excellent He is – saying that He is all they want, all they need, more than all things – while you did not yet know Him. And you longed to have that which they had – you longed to have the thing you lacked but you did not know Him personally. Maybe you were waiting to talk with a pastor, maybe you were reading the Bible alone in your room, maybe you were on your knees crying out to God that He would reveal His Son to you – or maybe you were just going about the normal routine of your day when all of a sudden, the Man who had before been only a name was revealed to you by God as a living reality – so that you can say,

Job 42:5

“I had heard about you with my own ears, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.”

And what happened after that? After He was revealed to you – what happened?

In Acts, when Peter and John went up to the temple to pray, a lame man was begging and asked them for money, Peter said,

Act 3:6-8

(6) Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

(7) And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.

And what did that lame man do?

(8) He leaped up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.

People around him who did not know him must have wondered, “what is this guy doing jumping up and down like that – what, is he crazy or something?”

Before you had heard His name spoken of, but now He is a living reality! If you had lost the use of your legs for such a long time – years, maybe your whole life – would you not be jumping up and down for joy that they were healed? Would you not jump up and praise God?

We are that lame man – we were lame before we knew Christ – Oh, how happy that day that I found Christ! How happy the day that Christ found me! When His hand reached down and took away my sickness of soul, reached down and gave me life! Do you leap with joy? Do you know of this joy? For certainly all those who have known Christ know of the joy that comes from knowing Him – Do you feel it, in the depths of your soul – do your eyes lighten up at the name of Jesus?

Did you do as Andrew did? Go and get the one closest to you – your friend, your brother, your relatives and tell them with joy in your heart, “I have found the Savior!”

When was the last time you proclaimed the name of Jesus to those around you who have no knowledge of Him? If a man has good news it is impossible for Him to keep it from those who he is closest with – do you have the good news? Do you? It is easy to tell if someone has good news – do your friends know you have the good news? Or do they see nothing? Have they heard of the good news from you? Or is what you have not good news?

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Friday, October 07, 2005

Out of the Crowd

The opening chapters of Galatians have a lot to say about an interesting contrast that is often overlooked. Though not as divisive, perhaps, as the conflict between God's grace and man's responsibility, the community/individuality dichotomy is an issue which could possibly have unplumbed depths ...

The first thing to notice is this: "sent not from men nor by man". This highlights initially, not only Paul's dependence on God for his message, but his independence from others. Again, in verse ten, he asks: "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? ... If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ."

In a phrase perhaps parallel to 1 John's "you have no need of a teacher," he claims, "I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it"; stating not only the independence of his calling but of his knowledge of God. Again, he says, "I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was".

His independence is even more marked as he discusses the beginning of his ministry: "As for those who seemed to be important -— whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance". After this, his conflict with Peter is merely the working-out of an existing policy: his calling is not based in others, his teaching is not based in others, so certainly he's not going to change it based on Peter's actions, whether he holds the authority of men or not. Even further, he felt it was worth the division involved in publicly rebuking Peter, the leader of the church universal, to assert the truth of what he had from God.

Take this in light of the parable of the lost sheep. Jesus will leave the 99 unguarded for the sake of only one. What could this express, if not the value of the individual to God?

As in many cases, finding the road to "take hold of the one without letting go of the other" is a daunting task. The truth is, the wisdom of the wise, the structure of the church, the reasonings of man, don't work. These truths are "spiritually discerned" (1 Cor 2:14), by a divine and supernatural enlightenment. And yet ... on the other side ... :)

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

"Behold, the Lamb of God"

Joh 1:29-37

(29) The next day he sawJesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

John says: Behold - which gives the sense of surprise, wonder, exclamation

"Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

There is no greater wonder than this, that God would send a Lamb as a sacrifice of atonement, at-one-ment - as a sacrifice that reconciles us to God, us who are wicked sinners, us who hate God, us who do not seek after the things of God, us who despise good and love evil, a sacrifice that reconciles us to God - the wonder of this - the mystery - even angels long to look into these things, but do not see, though they strain their necks trying to get a glimpse, they do not comprehend, they do not behold as we do - they long to look into this amazing wonder - God the Father sent His one and only Son to die for guilty men. How great and awesome this thing is - Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

May our mind be filled with awe and wonder at this - when we sing, "amazing love, how can it be?" wonder! When we wake up in the morning, wonder! When you survive another day of deadly traffic in Phnom Penh, wonder! Wonder and behold this great salvation that has been revealed to us - Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

When John said, Behold the Lamb of God - I think he also meant that his disciples should consider, think about, ponder, the Christ

The Christ being the focal point - learn of Him, study Him, - know all you can about Him - Greater than all subjects you study at school - the study of the crucified Christ - He surpasses all things.

Charles Spurgeon said, "He is most learned in the university of heaven who knows most of Christ. He who hath known most of Him still says that His love surpasseth knowledge."

Consider Him - Do you know that He is a man, that He can understand what you are going through, He understands your weakest point for He has been there and below- do you understand that He is the Son of God – that He is God, all sufficient, the source of all joy, all satisfaction - He posses all things and lacks nothing.

We believe things that we cannot comprehend - things we cannot understand - He is the bridge between us, who are men, to the Divine.

Know Him - and then wonder, be in awe at who He is

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

To behold is also a study look - a look that sees, that looks and does not sway - Looking to Christ - take your eyes of all else - and look only to Him - for you cannot look at two things at once! And then, in your looking - look long

See how He came and took your guilt - the heavy burden of your guilt that is so heavy your legs break when you attempt to carry it - He took it, carried it, weary to the point of death, was hung on a cross and died – yet just before He died, as He hung there on the cross, cries out, "It is finished"

Accomplishing that which you could not - carrying your burden as far as the east is from the west and dumping it, never to be seen or brought up again. Paying that which you could never pay – your debt towards God – He took it upon Himself.

Trust Him - for He has completed the work, completed completely - look and live - it is not do and live - for the doing is complete – Look and Live – Look and Live!

How are we to live? By looking - by trusting, believing, confiding, resting in Christ - that is how we are saved - looking in faith to the Lamb.

Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world

When John saw Jesus on that great day - John first looked himself, he beheld Jesus first and then he cried out, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

My brothers and sisters - we cannot preach what we first have not practiced. If I have never looked to Jesus, how can I call out to you to look to Him? I have beheld Him, and though my heart aches for the evil that is in me, beholding Him I am like a drowning man, looking to the one who reached His hand down and dragged me from the rushing flood - as one looking, as a thief, looking into the eyes of the One from whom I stole and who took the beating I justly disserved - as a murderer, looking in awe as the Judge interposes His own perfect life for mine - as an adulterer, condemned to die by the law, looking into the face of the One who said, "Let the man who is without sin, cast the first stone" And as all those who would have been my just executioners walk away, hear His voice say, "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more."

It is by Him, by looking at Him that I am being brought from death into life - from the depths of despair, to the heights of joy.

Oh, that each of you would believe our testimony and look to Him and live!

But I fear many of us fail to feel the urgency - we hear - and we wait - we feel but we push aside. We forget that death overcomes us soon – we do not hold tomorrow in our hands – we don’t even hold our next breath in our control. Isn’t it funny – we can command our hands to hold things, to move around. We can command our eyes to look at something, our legs to walk, run, skip – and so we feel like we are in control. But who controls how many beats his heart beats in a minute – who decides to breathe? Who decides to contract all the muscles in our hands in order that they might move? When these automatic functions of our body stop – we cease to be able to do what we want – don’t be fooled into thinking that you are in control, that you have time, that you need not attend to these matters of eternity until later.

Oh, how I struggle to take these things to heart! How far I am from knowing this Lamb – how far I am from understanding how great He is, and how far from putting Him first in my life – for I fail to see – I fail to see with eyes that are un-obscured this Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

How I long for the day that I will see Him face to face – to Behold Him as He is – for then I will be like Him – to see without obstacle – to see from eyes that know no sin – to think with a mind that is not tainted and defiled – to never struggle from the death grip of sin again!

So I follow – not in perfection, but I follow the One who is perfect – I follow, not without stumbling, but I follow the One who never stumbled – I follow Him, for He is my Savior – He is my sacrifice – my salvation – my Lord, my God.

May God grant us, eyes to see – ears to hear – that we might follow, with urgency – The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.


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A Small Pond

Every story we read, or movie we watch has a few, or usually just one, central character who is the de facto point of the story. I think this reflects our perception that we are primary in the universe, that our struggle is meaningful, etc. The truth is, that as you expand out into the history of mankind, you are a dustspeck, if visible at all. Not worth mentioning. The most important people you've met are no more than a footnote. The most important people alive are probably just a paragraph or two.

Even if you slice it different ways -- well, the important thing is to be good at this one thing, or even closer, "The important thing is to be humble". Etc. Do you really think you're the most humble person in a century? Or even one of the top contenders? Or even one of the most humble people at your church?

I've spent so much time slicing the world to make myself as close to the center as I can. It doesn't work. Christ is at the center.

And yet, ironically, it is in Christ that we can regain the meaning of our own individuality. If He knew us before the foundations of the earth, and if He considered the ultimate price not too much for redeeming us, what does it matter if, in the eyes of the world, in my own eyes, or even in actual fact, I am not a person with anything to distinguish myself. I am an individual in relation to the only One whose relationship matters. I don't need to be good at guitar, have a successful career, open the eyes of the blind or convert the heathen to be significant.

Which is a good thing! Because, really, I never will gain significance in those things.

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

"Hey, you can't do that!"

John 1:25

They [the Levites and the priests] asked him [John the Baptist], and said to him,
"Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor
the Prophet?"

If we look back into that time we might be able to understand what the Levites and priests were thinking – John was an intruder into the spiritual society of their day – John had gone to no prestigious religious school, he held no place of honor in the temple, he wasn’t even identified with any of the major religious groups, being the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Herodians. In their mind they were thinking, “Where is this guy coming from, why does he think he has the authority to go around telling people to repent and baptize – Who is this guy?” And since he just said he is not the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet, they by whose authority is he going around and baptizing people!

John was outside their box – he did not fit into their view of what was to happen in regards to the Messiah – and their view of what was to happen, was a view that greatly benefited them – they were hungry for power, for the praise of man – and cared little for the real things of God.

(26) John answered them saying, "I baptize in water,

John does not deny that he was baptizing, but he moves on quickly from the subject, he does not explain himself as they wished, but guides them to that which was of first importance:

but among you stands One whom you do not know.

(27) "It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie."

It seems at first that John doesn’t really answer their question – but what John does here should serve as an example to us: These guys were asking questions about baptism before they even knew who Christ was! Baptism is absolutely nothing without Christ – it would be an empty spiritual rite if it was not for Jesus Christ! So, John moves them past baptism to the real issue – Jesus Christ is here, and you don’t even know it!

We are always willing to argue about side issues, but we tend to ignore the weighty things – we talk about eschatology, which is a big word for the study of the end times – we study, and talk, we argue about eschatology but we fail to prepare ourselves for the return of Christ – we fail to feel the urgency – Jesus is coming! He is coming like a thief in the night – Are you ready for Him?

John is saying, “Hey, listen – you are questioning why I am baptizing these people – you are so concerned about your theological system – but I am telling you – The Messiah is here and you don’t even know Him – He is here! You should be asking me to tell you who He is – you should be spending your lives trying to find Him!”

When we focus on the shadows, on symbols before we know the real thing – when we can debate with someone about the sovereignty of God, but fail to see the value in trusting Him with our lives it is like we are talking about a spark plug when we don’t know what an engine is. Sure, you could debate about the spark plug, you could study what a spark plug is made of, you could analyze every detail, you might even think, “Wow, spark plugs are really cool!”, but you cannot really understand the real value of the spark plug until you have come to know what an engine is, when you plug the spark plug into the engine, and actually use it as it was designed to be used.

Sure we might make little toys with the spark plug, but the intention of the person who designed the spark plug was not that you would make little basketball-men with it – but rather that it would cause an engine to run.

We must constantly look into our hearts – and make sure that all those spark plugs in our head, all the knowledge that we have about the Bible, about the Word of God has been placed into our heart – do we know the Christ? Or is He standing right here, and you have no clue?

Do not be like the Levites and the priests that were sent by the Pharisees. They came, their hearts hardened, thinking only of temporal things, cleaning the outside of the cup – wishing everything to appear right, but ignoring the weightier things, the things in regards to salvation. They were looking for one to bring them power on earth, one that would lift them high and conquer all their enemies, without realizing that their greatest need was a savior, a sacrificial lamb – They needed a high priest that could offer a sacrifice that would cleanse them from their sin. They did not understand that they were doomed to hell – they knew nothing of true repentance – though they felt like authorities on the sacrament of baptism. They should have cried out, “What must I do to be saved!”, but instead they questioned a man, wondering who gave him the authority to baptize. They made no effort to seek out the one who would deliver them from the wrath to come, for their learned minds taught themselves that there was no wrath – They did not fear God because they were wise in their own eyes – They did not seek the Savior, because they did not think they needed to be saved.

Take heed to yourself – Beware, lest you do as they did!

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

What is truth?

What is something? If you don't know what something is, it's hard to know what to do with it. Take for instance, the uneducated tribesman who discovers a chest full of money. If he finds it, and doesn't know what it is, that will affect how he uses it. He's not going to use it correctly. I'm sure we can all conjure up an image of pillows stuffed with money, or maybe covering the floor with it for a nice carpet? All the while little realizing that the useless green paper he found could buy him a hundred clubs, or huts, or anything he wants.

If you don't know what truth is, it doesn't matter if you have it. If you don't know what it's for, you can spend years and years doing the wrong things with it. Such is the fate of those who, reaching the end of their life say, "Lord, Lord" and are rejected. "I never knew you," he says. True, they do great things. Great in the eyes of men. But, perhaps, they made a mistake?

What is truth? Is it a number? A course of study? A historical record? When Pilate asks, "What is Truth?", what is he really asking? Be careful, because you must first know what it is, and also what it's for. And be sure, because God is seeking worshippers in spirit and truth. You mustn't miss it.

"I am the way, the truth and the life." Here's what we're looking for! Christ, making a bold and confusing claim, identifies "the truth" with Himself. But what do we do with this? Go no further than "Abide in Me," friend, for "apart from Me you can do nothing".

"Cease striving, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." (Ps 46:10)

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

"We should kill formal education"

When we say that formal education is failing and is damaging the church, are we forgetting something? The country of Cambodia has a 30% literacy rate – is that what we want to proliferate? Churches that are illiterate, unable to read, let alone able to study the Word of God? Since we seem to like to look to the secular world so much, though the world is the worst model (may we never pattern ourselves after the world!), I will bring this up: The Western world’s educational systems have transformed illiterate cultures to literate cultures – into cultures that are able to critically think and apply what they have learned into their workplaces. Why are we biting the hand that feeds? Have we forgotten how the western world has come to have societies that are educated? Formal training is the basis for all of the western progression – if there was no formal training, where would the western world be? The western world would be right where the third world is, illiterate, and unable to have produced the missions movements that it has, and rather would be struggling for life, for they would have no basis on which to stand.

The Word of God – study of the Word of God, in-depth study of the Word – this is what we can learn from the past. The men of God, the pillars in the church – all were in someway steeped in the Word, not just in the basics, but were plunged into the depths – and this is why they stood tall, because they were deep in God – they knew God deep and so through that knowledge they served God long and faithfully. What are we thinking?

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Plucking the Eyes

"If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell." (Matthew 5:29)

A cry of desperation reaches my ears – the sight of so many fallen, in tears. Too many of us, too many have not defeated the enemy – rather, we let our passions run our lives, or should I say we let our passions drive us deep into death’s grave. Why does the temptation to surrender to our loins so great – and why does it run the course of our whole earthly existence?

We have forgotten, we are blind to the truth, yet our eyes see all to clearly those things that are evil. Would we pluck out our eyes if it took this sin away? Would you take desperate action in order to remove lust from your flesh? We fall because we think we are strong – we fall because we think it does not matter.

Woe to us, woe to me for not plucking out my eyes, for not removing the opportunity for lust in my life. God! How long O Lord will it be, how long must I wage war! I am weary, I am covered in blood – O that I would be pure, O to never look at a woman and lust! Father, give me the strength to put my flesh to death, that I might truly live – the live of joy, the life of pure pleasure that you have for me – I am worthless without You, helpless without You. I am Your slave – You have commanded me, grant that I do what You have commanded.

"For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world." (1 John 2:16)

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Would Jesus Have an iPod?

I kind of don't think so. What does anyone else think?

(P.S. -- I'm pretty sure that if he did have an iPod, he wouldn't have a bunch of songs he didn't pay for on it... conviction is a painful thing...)

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Monday, September 12, 2005

In the Shadows of Giants

Greatness haunts me, the work of giants shames me, pride permeates my desires, because I want to be great. To be shelved and mentioned with genius and godliness, with profundity and power.

And I crucify my flesh. Because the fleshly desires of mice and men and snakes often little resemble plans divine. God created a worm not to roar, but to eat dust, and realize his place.

And so I want not to do, but to be. To be conformed to the image of Christ, to be a lover of God. Because that is kingdom greatness, not sinful to desire--holy humility under God's mighty hand. Acknowledging my place and desiring his glory; then receiving the crown to be cast at his foot of his throne.

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A Prayer for Abtin


You know the heart of my friend, how inpenetrably hard it seems, utterly opposed or at least apathetic to your truth. I know that only your Spirit can soften him and convict him of his sin, and how it would miraculously and overwhelmingly demonstrate your sovereign power and love and mercy if you would do so.

So I pray you would revitalize--in the truest and most literal sense of the word--bring to life his heart, Lord, as only you can.

And I thank you for the example it is, of the condition of my heart or any heart apart from your intervention. How lost I was, even at the age of three, and how lost I would be without your saving and gracious work in my heart. Let me live in this truth, knowing that only the righteousness of Christ may be my boast. Let me look to the Cross.

And save my friend.


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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Sorting Clothes

After volunteering at a rescue mission for an hour and half, being pretty pleased with myself, a friend and I asked an employee if they needed more help. It seemed to surprise and please him that we came from the seminary. They needed more seminarians, he said. Not many help out.

It convicted me, because I think all to often I hear Paul’s charge to Timothy, “Preach the Word,” or Jude’s urgent need to “contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints”—the most holy and primary of concerns. And as a young minister-in-training with scenes from films such as Saving Private Ryan or We Were Soldiers or The Great Raid flashing through my head, visions of heroic and faithful fortitude – preaching or penning against the principalities and powers of darkness, proclaiming the primacy and validity and necessity of the historic and eternal and revealed faith—these charges dimple my skin and enkindle my emotions and I want to fight on the front lines of this righteous war.

And I forget—no, ignore—the equally inspired charge of James, to care for orphans and widows, an act of pure and undefiled religion. To sort through clothes piled to the ceiling in a rescue mission, to move boxes and dump garbage, to clear out rooms so that victims can have a room to sleep in. Things so much less glorious and glamorous or exciting than gawking in the face of the enemy and spitting or writing truth in power onto his face. But these are, still, a part of the war, caring for the victims, being a nurse. Honoring and becoming and being like Christ.

Sorting clothes.

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