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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