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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Wednesday, September 07, 2005


If we have received His blessing and the power of His sacrifice in salvation, how much more powerful is the post-reconciliation Salvation Power?

If we as enemies of God received mercy and grace, how much more will we as children of God receive? Our hope does not disappoint, but by its nature hope cannot be certainty (who hopes for what he sees?)! Hope is the pivotal key point: if it is taken, faith is gone. If it stands, the faith that results, though it be as small as a mustard seed, can defeat the darkest powers. In hope we must take our stand.

If the Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead is living in you, what can He not accomplish? The incredible reconciliation power of God is imbued with fire in your spirit, giving life in death, light in darkness. Darkness can extinguish the light, but it cannot stand before it. Hope is the light; the resultant faith casts out the darkness. Let your hope be lost, and God becomes the nightmare of the dark; the world is lost to you.

Christ is the light of the world -- let votaries of the church be kindled by His light -- and as we with unveiled faces behold His glory -- we will be Transformed into His Image, the Reconciliation Power flowing through us as the darkness recedes, and the light is passed on.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Pride pervades everything I do, even writing this, because I am a snake and a worm and a wisp. "Knowledge puffs up." And so it does, as I grasp to ponder the majesty of the triune G0d, eternally one and eternally three, eternally soveriegn and eternally good, unsearchable and unfathomable, yet revealed and knowable. Each day my knowledge about this great, majestic, just and loving Lord is expanded and each day I have to smother the sparks and flashes of pride before they send my soul into eternal damnation fire. I must pray each day and moment for God to humble me, a terrifying and necessary prayer, because I would rather be broken than destroyed.

I pray that my glory would be in Christ crucified, that my boast would be that I know the true and living Lord of Heaven, that I would regard others more than myself and Christ more than all.

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Servant Leader

The moment I open my mouth and say, “I am a servant leader”, I fool myself - for by saying that, I prove that I am not. The man that I am apart from my God, is utterly worthless, and my striving after Christ, to be a servant leader, to be a leader that is like Him is in no way of myself nor of my own power, for apart from His gracious call, all my efforts would but crumble to the ground. He is the one who calls, therefore in all things, I will not boast in myself, but in Him. Though I fear man, He has taught me to fear Him and Him alone. I strive to stand on His Word, His truth, not on the opinions of men for men can only kill my body, but God is the Lord of both my body and my spirit. And so, by His grace, I have left my life in America to go and fulfill His command to preach the Gospel to all peoples, for though men call me a fool, and think I am ruining my future, I will do His bidding, whatever that may be. Although I hate suffering, He has taught me to consider suffering as pure joy, for through suffering, when I am stripped of all comfort I seek Him, and I see Him as more beautiful than before. And so as those I lead fall away I am compelled to entreat them to repent, disregarding myself and what they might think, so that their soul might be saved; as those I lead are persecuted for their faith, I am compelled to walk beside them, so that I might protect them from the blows and bear the grunt of the persecution for them. I associate myself with the persecuted church in neighboring countries, to minister to them and to serve as an example to those who follow me, that bride of Christ might persevere in the faith - though I suffer, though I die - for I am compelled by a love that is not my own. Even though I am proud, He has taught me that I am but a worm and so in all I accomplish in my life and in my ministry, though people try to praise me, I can do nothing but direct their attention to God, for He has done it. Though I love to be served, He has taught me to serve others in love, and so, disregarding the worldly comforts of the American dream and all that this world loves to receive in service to self, I deny myself and serve the people that God has brought under my leadership they too might see the beauty of God and worship and serve Him alone. I fear man, I hate suffering, I am prideful, and I love to be served. I am not a servant leader; He is a servant leader in me.

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