• QUOTE FOR TODAY

    "God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation…Therefore let us bring our affections into line with His, and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose."
    -- John Piper

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  • James 2:14-17

    What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

    In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

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The Cross – Where I Was Restored

Five days ago, palm branches and tunics lined the road passes the Mount of Olives.  Shouts of “Hosanna in the Highest” filled the air as my Savior enteredJerusalemto begin the process that would make my restoration possible.

Tonight the Passover Supper will end in a bitter (yet expected) betrayal, and the moss covered floor in Garden of Gethsemane will soak up the first drops of The Redeemer’s blood as he prayed for me.

And tomorrow….tomorrow brings the mocking and the crown of thorns, tomorrow brings the flogging and the suffering, tomorrow brings the cross….The blood stained timbers that will ultimately take His life but give me life…eternal LIFE.  Jesus paid it all and washed me white as snow.

Thank you Jesus.

Focus on Worship – Salvation

I read a quote from John Piper yesterday:

God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation…Therefore let us bring our affections into line with His, and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose

Piper’s words got me thinking about our worship and whether we have the passion of God’s heart when we worship.  God’s passion is for people.  He desires that all people would know Him and worship Him.  I think we need to be careful that we don’t develop a disconnect between our worship, and God’s desire that we bring people to him.   Pastor Steve frequently points out that “worship is not the warm-up,” but that’s not what I’m talking about.  I think the Piper quote points out the fact that worship of God and Salvation by God are effectively inseparable.
To illustrate this further, Read through the lyrics from “Break the Silence”

Christ, our Lord
All praise is yours

We will face this world
And break the silence
We will sing your song
Where injustice lies

Crying oh-o-oh
Heaven pour out your glory
Crying oh-o-oh
Heaven pour out your glory

We will carry your dreams
To heal the earth
Take the kingdom of God
To the broken and hurt

To the far ends of earth we go
Your love story must be told
We will not live in comfort anymore

I was really amazed at the way Piper’s words echo the sentiment of the lyrics from Break the Silence.   In our worship Sunday (and every day) what we sing and play isn’t just about that one song or that worship set.   It’s about celebrating Salvation…it’s about coming into God’s presence because he desires our worship…but it’s also about showing those who are apart from God what walking with our Creator is all about. 

The Reality of the Cross

We’ve all seen the images of the cross.  You know the ones I’m talking about: If you think about it for a minute you can picture the silhouette of the cross against a blazing sunset.  Maybe you’ve seen the three crosses atop a distant mountain with an inspirational verse adorning the clouds.  We’ve all seen the miniature cross hanging from a rear view mirror or on a bumper sticker.  I for one am rather tired of it. I suppose these images can serve as a reminder for someone somehow, but am finding those images wholly ineffective as I consider what Christ did.

The cross is an instrument of torture.  Those two beams combined in that exact shape become a tool of punishment and ultimately an apparatus which is used to bring about death.  Crucifixion is an ugly, horrible, humiliating way to die, and I don’t believe it serves much purpose to keep showing these rosy pictures of an empty cross casting a shadow over a grassy plain somewhere.

C. Truman Davis wrote an essay describing the crucifixion in some detail.  You can read an adaptation here , but let me quote a small portion for you:

As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by His arms, the pectoral muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, He is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen. Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from His lacerated back as He moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins. A deep crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. The compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues – the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain. Jesus gasps, “I thirst.”

This follows the mocking, the flogging, and the painful walk to Golgotha.  When He arrives at the place of the crucifixion, Jesus has to deal with the nails and then the eventual raising of the cross.

I’m just not sure how we justify some of the images that we see on a daily basis when we have any understanding of what the cross really represents.  Don’t get me wrong…we need to see the cross, but we need to see it for what it represents.  It’s really quite ugly.  It has my sin all over it. It has the sin of the world all over it. It has Christ’s blood all over it.  If you can’t look at it and see that, I’m not sure what good it is doing you.

Part of my discontentment with this whole thing comes from two passages.  In Matthew 14 and again in Luke 16, Jesus tells us that we have to take up our cross and follow him.  May I openly say that I have no desire to go through what Davis quoted above?  But Jesus said it so it must have some application for me.  Only recently have I gained some perspective.  This perspective comes from one verse in Matthew. Read verse 32 of chapter 27:

As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.

My take here (and maybe I am wrong) is that Jesus didn’t have the strength to carry his own cross.  He started out with it over is shoulder, but was unable to go on.  His earlier references telling his followers that they had to carry their cross seemed to conflict with the fact that Simon carried Jesus’ cross for him.  Did Jesus contradict himself? I don’t think so.  I think he was pointing out that in our own strength we cannot carry our cross. 

The imagery amazes me. Well before his death on the cross, Jesus is telling his followers that they need to take up their cross and follow him. They didn’t know that he would be hanging from a cross in just a few weeks. Everyone knew about the cross. I am certain that they all witnessed a crucifixion, and knew of its horror. Yet with that knowledge and understanding Jesus points out that if they want to follow him, they have to carry their cross. And I have to carry mine….knowing full well that I can’t go more than a few steps without him taking it from me. I still have to bear it, but I need to do that in His strength and not my own. This surrender can only come when I have been drained of all my strength and self reliance and I give it up to him. Oh, there’s another reality. That’s the reality of the empty tomb. For my money if you want to remember what Jesus did for you, go find a small rock in your garden somewhere. Tie a string around it and hang it from your rear view mirror right next to the cross. Yes, He died for you, but three days later that stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty.

5000, The Roman’s Road, and other Ramblings

An interesting thing happended here today.  This little blog received its 5000th hit.   I know it’s not that big by world wide web standards, but it still amazes me.  What’s notable, is that more than half of the hits were to the Roman’s Road Page I set up when I started this blog.  Given the popularity of that page, this seems like a good time to discuss the Roman’s Road a bit. 

There is a concern I have when we consider the Roman’s Road that although the series of verses  is an excellent tool by which to explain God’s plan of salvation, maybe it’s just not that easy.  Maybe after reading through the road map, we can too easily jump on board without counting the true cost of following Jesus.  I would add Luke 9:57-62 to the road map….sort of a side trip if you will.

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”   

He said to another man, “Follow me.”
      But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”    Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”  Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

I guess I’m feeling that if we leave the Roman’s Road to stand on it’s own, becoming a Christian is more about checking off something on a “to-do” list and less about letting God show you his “to-do” list for your life.  

So, if you came here looking for the Roman’s Road verses via some internet search, please go read through that page.  Just take a few minutes to read the end of Luke 9 as well.   

If you’ve ever stopped by here and read a post, or a page, or clicked on a link, thanks for being one of the 5000 over the last couple of years.  I’m glad we could venture down this road together. 

Oh, and I want to take this time to ask you to consider sponsoring a child through Amazima.  Remember that $300 sends a child to school with a uniform and supplies for a year.  That $300 also includes two meals a day.  Most importantly, your gift allows another child to hear about Jesus.  Seems like $300 well spent, to me.  Please click on the badge in the upper left corner to learn all about Amazima Ministries International.

Looking forward to reaching 10,000 hits with all of you along the way. 

Necessary Evidence

I am going through the Radical Series a second time.  This time, my Bible is handy and I pause the audio so I can spend time with the passages, and let them sink in.  As I process this stuff, I thought writing it down would be good.  Here are some quotes from David Platt as well as a few of my thoughts:

 Caring for the poor is not an optional extra in salvation.  Caring for the poor is necessary evidence of salvation.

 Dr. Platt refers to Luke 19:8-10…The story of Zacchaeus.  

 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

 Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house…’”

It’s not like Zacchaeus is a seasoned follower of Jesus.  We know that from the earlier part of the passage.  Zacchaeus is a tax collector who was despised by most people.  Yet, after a brief encounter with Jesus the immediate response to his salvation is to give half of his possessions to the poor. 

This is heavy stuff.  It’s scary stuff.  The implication is that if I don’t give to the poor there is clear evidence that Jesus is not in me.

Referring to the illustration of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 (31-46), we get a better understanding of how serious the matter is. 

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

I know that my salvation is by God’s grace and mercy through faith in Jesus who took my sin on the cross.  Of this there is no doubt in my mind.  The Bible also says that the faith I have should be a faith that radically transforms my heart and radically transforms my desires.  That faith will drive me to an all consuming desire to reach the lost and take care of the poor.  If I don’t have that kind of desire, I have to ask myself if I have Jesus at all.   This isn’t about GUILT.  It’s about being motivated by the Gospel to care for the poor.  It’s about being motivated by Jesus’ all consuming love enough to live it and share it every minute of my life.  

Dr. Platt says this near the end of the message:

There is a clear disconnect between claiming to have Jesus in our hearts and indulging ourselves at the expense of the poor.  

If you haven’t started listening to the Radical series, I would really encourage you to take the time to work through it.  The truths you will find there are based in scripture…backed up by old and new testament passages.  These truths are not only relevant, they are necessary.

So, where is your faith anyway?

 

I got an email from a good friend whom I haven’t heard from in a while.  Through a series of emails I learned that his dad was diagnosed with cancer and passed away within a few months of his diagnosis.  But right there in the middle of the email was this phrase:

 

“…God is truly amazing.  My father accepted Jesus and was baptized just a week prior.  The Cancer was very advanced and he went down hill very fast.  He is in a much better place now.”

 

His email went on to talk about what’s really important in life.  This is a recurring theme of late.  It seems that God is trying to get my attention (yet again.)  So what is important?  In the midst of global conflict and war, what is important?  In the middle of a financial crisis, what do we cling to?  As we watch the mud-slinging by politicians who seemingly have hijacked the 2008 election process, where do we find our purpose?

 

God tells us in Psalm 46:1-5:

 

  1 God is our refuge and strength,
       an ever-present help in trouble.

 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
       and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

 3 though its waters roar and foam
       and the mountains quake with their surging.
       Selah

 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
       the holy place where the Most High dwells.

 5 God is within her, she will not fall;
       God will help her at break of day.

In a recent sermon I heard what I already knew.  The peace we can know comes from real faith.  Not faith in any government or in your bank account.  Not faith in a process or procedure or bailout, but faith in the Most High God!  We need to believe and know that the very maker of the Heavens and Earth—the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End is in control.  This doesn’t mean that God is going to fix everything by our standards, but it means you can have peace in all things.  The same peace reflected in my friend’s statement that his dad “is in a much better place.” 

 

Frequently this peace eludes us all.  So, if you are a believer in the salvation of Jesus Christ, then I encourage to move beyond just putting in your time.  Take your faith to a new level…take your relationship with Him to a new level.  If you haven’t given your life to him and are curious as to what that’s all about, you can go here to learn more. 

 

So where is your faith?

 

God…an ‘ever present help’… ‘your refuge’…’your strength’

 

or

 

Man… well, you know how that’s working out. 

A Biblical World View

About 4 years ago The Barna Group conducted a survey showing that only half of the nation’s evangelical pastors (51%) claimed they had a Biblical world view.  I find myself wondering if that number has gone down or up in the last four years.  Keep in mind that a similar study interviewing ‘born again’ adults showed that only 9% had a Biblical World View.  By the way, Barna defines a ‘Biblical World View’ this way:

1)     It’s a belief that absolute moral truths exist; and that such truth is defined by the Bible

2)     A belief that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life

3)     That God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and He stills rules it today

4)     That Salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned

5)     That Satan is real

6)     That a Christian has a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with other people

7)     The Bible is accurate in all of its teachings.

These don’t strike me as being all that difficult, so I have to ask: why do only 51% of CHURCH PASTORS claim to have a Biblical world view?  By the way, if you are reading this and claim Christ as your personal savior, do you subscribe to this world view?  Why or why not?  I would love to hear from you.