Friday, June 29, 2012

Thoughts from "Preaching the Gospel" by Matt Chandler

I recently listened to a sermon by Matt Chandler from an Acts 29 conference about preaching the Gospel.  Listen to download the message for free HERE.

Matt Chandler is a passionate preacher with a tight grasp on the Gospel of God in Jesus Christ.  This sermon was to other pastors teaching them primarly how to teach the Gospel from the Old Testament.

He pointed out that a common testimony of people at his church is that they were brought up in the church and never heard the Gospel until they came to his church and then believed and were adopted into the Kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  He questioned whether or not this allegation were true in some regard.  After all, it is possible to hear the Gospel and not hear it.

He had them bring notebooks and pamphlets, if they still had them, from youth retreats and vacation Bible schools of their past to examine their claims.  In an alarming number of cases, the retreats' topic was often focused on "true love waits," "the danger of drugs and alcohol," and the like.  Some of these people had been in church their whole life and were never taught the Gospel of God, but had been pressed hard to live out the implications of the Gospel.  They had been taught the Christian and not the Christ.

We cannot live out that which we does not give us life.

Chandler is quickly becoming one of my more favorite pastors.  I have a penchant for anyone who uses the word (correctly mind you) "imputed" in a sermon without blushing.

There are certainly imperatives for Christians who follow Jesus, but they are preceded by indicatives of what has already been done for them.  Christians are not defined by what we now do, but by what has already been DONE for us.  As a result of this, we now are inspired to work, to honor this great God and Savior, to change, to grow, to stretch, and to live in Christ and count death as gain.  We are free to live and worship Jesus now in bondage to Him alone.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Proverbs 19:14

House and wealth are inherited from fathers,
but a prudent wife is from the LORD.

In my life I have been blessed to experience both of these.

My father is a hard worker and a wise investor and I owe all of my financial stability to his prosperity and generosity.  I would not have been able to afford school, a wedding, a car, or a home without his financial contributions to my life.  

I have a prudent wife.  She loves Jesus and is a great housekeeper, mom, and wife.  She loves me.  She loves my kids.  I could not be happier with the woman that God convinced I was worth marrying.

There is only so much a man can give and do for another man. 

Some things must come from God: salvation, blessing, favor, providence, provision, children, and a wife. 

Men can work toward these goals and do all they can to "rig" it so that things work out for blessing for their children and their children's children, but some things cannot be purchased.  Men can only accomplish so much.  This "only so much" means a great deal to the recipients thereof, but it is still only rightly qualified as "only so much,"  We need a heavenly Father to do the "much more."  I pray that I'm able to provide as well for my children as I have been provided by my earthly dad.  I pray my Heavenly Father adopts my children into His family by granting them grace to have faith in Christ.

I am thankful to my Heavenly Father for giving my earthly father success so that my needs have been addressed everyday of my life.  I am thankful to my Heavenly Father for everything intangible for which one could never work or earn: my heart of flesh carved from stone, my love of Jesus inspired by the Spirit, my beautiful wife created for my help by God, my lovely children formed by His hands, etc...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book Review: "Strong: As a Man Is, So is His Strength" by Matthew Pennock

I read this book sometime ago over lunches at work.  It was a free download which was available HERE.

This is a Biblical study of manhood.  It is quite expansive, yet concise and poignant.  Straight, no chaser but more manly and less whiney than this song by the same title.

Cowardice is a sin unique to men in many ways.  Women can be cowards and scared, but men are called to be brave and to fight battles and to protect the weaker.  That is a very profound insight.

The book tackles being a man of God, a warrior, a husband, a father, and our responsibility in those dimensions to honor God and the very specific roles in which He has placed men.  Together with women we make up the very image of God.  Male and female He created us.  Men have a very specific calling in fleshing out in part the unseen Father in Heaven.

I enjoy studies in Biblical manhood that encourage me to go down with the boat if necessary.  It is a high calling and studies like this stir my heart to courage and confidence in fulfilling that for which God created me as a man.

It is worth your time.  It is a quick read and it is very insightful with many Biblical references noted within the chapters to support and anchor the appeal being made for men to rise up and become the men we were created and called to be in Christ Jesus, our LORD!

Some good quotes from the book below:

"...trends in the media clearly reveal a prevailing attitude in our day that sees men as little more than passive and irresponsible boys with no self-control."

"It is hardly fitting to call a woman a coward, is it not? Any nation that would ever send its women or children to battle instead of its men would be derided by others as a nation of cowards."

"It is never to the shame of women to expect their men to stand up, take initiative, lead, provide, and fight for justice, peace, righteousness, and fidelity. However, for those men who sit idly by and let their women do all the dirty and bloody work of providing and protecting them, it is to their shame. We can praise women who take initiative and stand up for great causes to get things done when the men fail to do so themselves. For those women it is to their honor, but to those men who refuse—woe to them!"

"God appointed the distinct gift of strength to the man, the gift of beauty and gracefulness to the woman, and innocence and meekness to children. Thus we talk of strong and courageous men, lovely and graceful women, and innocent children. Unless your thing is the Warrior Princess or if you live in an eccentric city full of effeminate men you don’t normally talk of “strong women of valor” or “graceful men of beauty.” Of course you can give an infant to a man to nurse and a M107 .50-caliber sniper rifle to a woman to take out an insurgent but it would not be according to the best wisdom would it? The fit is much more appropriate the other way around and not only that, things work out better for both"

"A man is commanded to work. Strength doesn’t come for free but requires hard work and lots of training! Mark this carefully: being slothful and passive is sin. When we are slothful or passive we are harming ourselves and others by making ourselves weak."

"We have dropped the ball as dads and have deferred way too much responsibility to the local church, and it has only been to our shame."

"Work in itself is part of divine providence, and was never an evil thing, but always a good thing. Under the curse of the fall work became harder, but it did not become evil."

"Stand firm upon your convictions and accept that people will hate you for what you believe."

"Through faith we can rest on Christ’s perfection: “Come to me all those laboring and being burdened, and I will give you rest.” Let us never forget that, as men endowed with such a high calling, we live, love, lead, work, fight, and suffer in his strength, not ours."

Those are just a smattering of quotes from a really encouraging, convicting, informing and challenging book on being a man made in the image of Holy God demonstrated in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

 "A true man of God is no longer under the discipline or fear of his parents. He is under the fear and discipline of his God."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Thoughts from Church: Mark 6:30-56

Today Pastor Joel Vint preached on this passage.

He discussed the feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus walking on water.

Pastor Joel made the point very clearly that you can shape up and clean up your life and still hate God.  I don't think most people know that.  I think most people assume that being shaped and cleaned up is evidence that you know God.  Most people, I believe, fail to observe that will power, human pride, the fear of man, and the desire not to fail can accomplish amazing feats of strength, determination, endurance, change, and prosperity in one's life.  Jesus does not necessarily need to be part of any person's conscience equation in accomplishing a life of being cleaned up, responsible, and successful.

Pastor Joel pointed us to the following passage:

Numbers 11:23

23 And the Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord's hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.”

What a beautiful articulation by God of His power and faithfulness. God can do whatever He wants.  He can make 5 loaves and 2 fish last for a feast of thousands.  He can walk on the water He created in a body He created and sustains.  If the LORD has promised it, it will happen.  In the words of Paul from 1 Tim 1:12, "I know whom I have believed."

At the end of the passage, many are brought to Jesus and as many as sought Him out and touched Him were healed.  I wonder how many ended their interaction with Jesus at that point.  Ambition, self-interest, and will power helped them trek across the wilderness to find Jesus.  I wonder for how many of them, ambition, self-interest, and will power remained the primary source of trust and reliance for those healed. 

The disciples themselves are reported to have had hardened hearts after the walking on water incident.  However, Jesus has chosen them and was commited to seeing them through.  He was patient and compassionate with them as they fumbled through life on this earth with Jesus at their side.  Let not your understanding or commitment to Jesus be your strength and boast as you fumble through this life, but boast in His understanding and commitment to you.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Listen HERE.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Purchase it HERE.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Thoughts from "The Gospel for those broken by the church"

Listen to the message HERE.

I recently listened to this message by Dr. Rod Rosenbladt.  He is one of the contributors to the weekly podcast, The White Horse Inn.

Pastor Rod primarily speaks to two different groups of people in this message: the sad and the mad.

The sad are those who chronically despair that they are not saved because their lives fall so desperately short of being their best now. 

The mad are those who routinely are provoked to anger by the mention of the church as a result often of a negative experience at or in one.

Pastor Rod stresses the point that Christ crucified is enough to save our dark souls.  But do you we live and believe that?  Do we really believe that His work alone is enough for us?

Pastor Rod asked a very profound and piercing question: 

We all know that the Gospel can save sinners, but do we believe it can save Christians who regularly fail?

It is a tragedy that this question is to poignant.  But I have to admit:  It is legit to inquire. 

Do we believe and trust that God will really see us as He sees Jesus?  Even if we don't try as hard as we should?  Even if we fall further than we admit?  Even if we never reach our actualization? 

It is a piercing question that forces the issue back to our real, ultimate source of trust.  Is it in the finished work of Jesus?  To the exclusion of everything else?  Even our ability to earn it or pay it back after the fact?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dating, Marriage, Partnership, and the Egg on your face

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”

Do yo hear that my children?  Do not marry someone who worships anyone other than Jesus.  Marriage is the biggest and most profound commitment a person makes next to their devotion to their god.  If you worship Jesus and marry someone who does not, you are creating unnecessary controversy and dissonance in your life. 

Additionally, Paul explain in Eph. 5 that marriage is like Christ and the church.  Marriage is a metaphor for Gospel.  The Gospel is Good News.  It probably goes without saying, but just in case you missed it:

Marrying someone who hates Jesus is BAD news.

We are the temple of the living God.  He lives in us now by His Spirit.  Do not allow those who hate Jesus to enter His temple.  All who worship anything other than Jesus demonstrate they hate Him (who He is, what He did, and who He will ever be).  They despire His atoning death and glorious victory over death.  Even some who say the word Jesus with charm deny Him by their very lives.  They claim to know God, but live in a way that is contrary to this reality.

The answer to Paul's question is obvious.  The only relationship darkness and light have is one of opposites.  When it is light there is no darkness.  When it's dark, it's because there is no light.  Black is not white and white is not black.  The only relationship they have is their being defined by the absence of the other.  Do not yoke your heart to someone who is defined by their absence of what you hold most glorious.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Good Grief" Charlie Brown

2 Corinthians 7:9-10

9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

When God shows you who you are in light of His holy standards it should produce in you grief.  When man puts on you unbearable weight and standards, it also produces grief.   The former is godly and the latter is worldly .  The first leads to salvation without regret, the second produces death. 

Paul was thrilled to hear that his admonitions and declaration of God's goodness in Christ produced repentance and fruit that bore witness to the reality of God's Spirit living inside the the hearts and souls of his hearers.  Paul also knew very well that men place heavy burdens on each other by guilt and shame that produce a despair with no respite.  It leads to death.

May you always be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and God's Word as it reveals and rebukes you as you read.  May you also be protected daily from the abuse and imposition of men and women in your life persuading you to feel guilty for falling short of their standards.  Additionally, may you also be protected from placing those standards and burdens on others and producing in them worldly grief that leads to death.  The Devil would love nothing more than to occupy you and your loved one's days in worldly, deadly grief.

Let the only grief we know be that of the Holy Spirit wooing and correcting us to Christ's image since in that grief there is hope as the One who rebukes can also provide the respite in rebirthing you to repentance.  The world inspires grief it cannot answer or atone.  It seeks only to completely break you down without offering a solution as powerful as the accusation.

The violence of the Gospel message produces the most vivid and imposing despair imaginable in revealing our hearts before a Holy God. 

The tenderness of the Gospel message produces the most tangible and compassionate respite from this same despair in offering a solution up to the magnitude of the accusation. 

"Twas grace that taught your heart to fear and grace your fears relieved."

"Jesus paid it all!"

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thoughts from Church: Mark 6:1-29

Today Pastor Jeff taught from Mark 6:1-29.

I want my children to grow up to be like Jesus and John the Baptist. Perhaps more than anything because I admire these so highly.

The confidence and panache exhibited in their bold loyalty to the Truth of God is inspiring. I love hearing someone preach something definitively true in a manner which is as true and definitive as the truth of which they speak. There is something about it that rouses me from within. It makes me want to rise up and meet the challenge and defend that truth and do radical things like live and die for it, reorient my current life around it, and preach it to others.

I pray that God provides me the opportunity and platform from which to use my passion to preach for His glory.

I pray my children would be so inspired and thankful in the and to the work of Christ that they might stand in any context in front of any person and speak rightly the oracles of God in Christ Jesus.

John the Baptist lost his head for speaking the truth and refusing to recant or repent of that to which he had devoted his life. Because he was so devoted to God, he called each and every man to repent of everything else.

When you throw your lot in with God, all other lots must be cast away. John knew this and recognized this and taught it as explictly as it was. No watering it down or pandering. Just pure Law & Gospel. A message strong enough to offend and potent enough to regenerate the heart of the dead ears on the receiving end.

The only way we see and know the regenerating power of the Gospel is if we preach it and actively cast away ourselves and our persuasiveness. The Gospel will call men and women out of darkness all by itself. The Gospel will provoke the wicked to harden themselves even more all by itself. The Gospel creates the wheat and the weeds.

Jesus is the hinge of history and the human heart. Either direction it swings, it depends on Jesus.

Monday, June 18, 2012

In Christ Alone

Listen to a great version HERE.

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;

Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Do you understand?

Proverbs 18:2

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing his opinion.

Blogging is the epitome of this proverbial warning. I know that I cannot help infusing my opinion from time to time into what I am reading and reporting on this blog. Once could even suggest that the mere mentioning of some verses at the exclusion of others demonstrates an opinion for and about both those used and those not commented upon.

A fool ONLY expresses his opinion. The only role others' opinions play in the life of the fool is that of kindling for the fool to use to fan the flame of their own retorts.

The fool does not want to learn or understand. The fool does not want perspective or dialogue or insight into anything they do not understand. The fool likes being ignorant and hating that which they do not know. The fool is willfully ignorant.

Paul expands on this in Romans 1:18-20, 28

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.....28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thoughts from Church: Mark 4:35-5:43

Today Pastor Troy taught on Mark 4:35-5:43..

The first section recalled the time when Jesus and the disciples were on a boat and a storm (squall) broke out. Jesus was asleep and that disciples were freaking out! Jesus told the storm to be quiet and the disciples freaked out again when the storm obeyed Him.

Mark then tells us about a time Jesus had an encounter with a man possessed by a demon. Jesus confronts the demons possessing the man and casts them into a herd of pigs. In 5:19 Jesus tells the former demoniac to tell everyone how much the Lord had done for him. In vs. 20 the man tells everyone how much Jesus had done for him. It was apparently not a mystery or confusing in any way to suggest that whatever Jesus was doing was also the work of the Lord.

The next two stories involve Jesus agreeing to heal Jairus' daughter who was very ill. On the way, a woman who had been ill for a long time gave Jesus reason to pause.

Poor Jairus. He came to Jesus in a frenzy to request his help as time was running out on his daughter's life. He must have been relieved when Jesus agreed to come with him, but all the more frustrated when Jesus stopped on the way to chat with a woman who bumped into Him.

In order for the trial of this woman to end, Jairus' trial must be extended. Perhaps that occurs even in our own lives from time to time.

Jesus stopped and asked, "Who touched me?" which is an odd thing to ask when the crowd was squeezing in on Him at that moment. "Who wasn't touching him?" would have been a better question to raise. But just like our churches and Christian music channels, many are bumping into Jesus because they are around Him in some capacity. They are not trying to touch Him per se, but are caught up in the frenzy around Him. This woman was different. She set out on a mission to touch Jesus intentionally. She had faith that being near Him would produce wonders that contemporary science, medicine, and efforts could not yield. She touched Jesus on purpose. It was not an accidental brush in a crowd. It was the climax of a plan birthed out of faith.

From the moment He asked the question, "Who touched me?" her heart must have begun to race. While the crowd at that moment was puzzled by the question and sarcastically responded in their minds, "What is this guy doing? Two dozen people have touched Him in the past 2 minutes and He wants to know who touched Him?" This woman, however, was cut to the quick. While many had touched Jesus that day, she knew she had touched Him because she had set her heart on it. He knew that someone had touched Him in a way all together different than the shoulders and elbows of the strangers surrounding Him. To this woman, he said, "Daughter, your faith has made you well."

Jesus, as He is pronouncing this blessing over the woman, is told that Jairus' daughter has now died. Did Jairus rage internally at Jesus' delay? Did his heart break at the news of his daughter's death? Was he surprised when Jesus still wanted to continue on and visit her?  She was dead after all.  What use was trying to "heal" her now?

Jesus found the dead girl and said to her, "Talitha Cumi," or "Little girl, get up." These are akin to the sentiments of "Honey, it's time to get up now," of a loving parent trying to slowly rouse their slumbering child. This is not a violent shaking and screaming, "Get up!!!!" This is tender, personal, intimate, and gentle.

The woman who touched Jesus' cloak had been fighting this illness for 12 years. The girl who died and was raised back to life was 12 years old. That means for the entirity of this little girl's life that woman had dealt with sickness. The joy of those 12 years for Jairus with is healthy daughter was mirrored by 12 years of frustrating, sickness, and isolation of the woman in agony.

If someone said your 6 year old daughter had only 6 years left to live, it would seem too little. If someone said your 6 year illness still had 6 years left to go, it would seem too much.

12 years is a short time to live. 12 years is a long time to be sick.

Because of Jesus a little girl celebrated her 13th year of life.
Because of Jesus an older woman put 12 years of sickness behidn her and began her first year of life as one healed.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Excusing our "wrongs" leads to hating our "rights"

Proverbs 17:15

He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous
are both alike an abomination to the LORD

Never justify the wicked. Only God can do that in Christ. Any human attempt to justify that which the wicked do and the person by whom that wickeness comes is an offense to the holiness of God.

Never condemn the righteous. There is now therefore no condemnation for those in Christ! Any human attempt to condemn the person for whom Christ has died and that done by the Spirit in and through them is an offense to the holiness of God.

The LORD hates the human ambition to call evil "good" and good "evil" and pronounces "Woe!" over them.

Isaiah 5:20

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and
light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The wise appease the angry King

Proverbs 16:14
A king's wrath is a messenger of death,
and a wise man will appease it.

Proverbs 20:2
The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion;
whoever provokes him to anger forfeits his life.

Proverbs 20:26

A wise king winnows the wicked
and drives the wheel over them.

It is utterly foolish to live life in a kingdom as though it has no King and yet the fool says in his heart, "There is no God!"

It is equally as foolish to live life in a kingdom as though its King's commands need not be carried out.

It is ridiculous to expect the King to bless your ignorance as wisdom, your rebellion as loyalty, or your provocation as appeasement.

Even the roar of a lion in captivity excites the heart of his onlookers. How much more so even the growl of a lion on the loose? C.S. Lewis said it rightly,

"Of course He's good. But He's not safe. He's not a tame lion!"

God cannot be domesticated. Do not make the error of assuming you've seen a lion because you've seen a cat.

May God grant you the wisdom and humility to see both yourself and your King as they really are and in so doing grant you also His grace in Christ to survive both realities.

"'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved."

May this, your undoing, be your boast. May your plea for mercy be your only badge of honor.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Thoughts from "The great God over small things" by Paige VV

I read my wife's blog today and thanked God with bubblings of joy in the deepest places of my soul. She is so awesome and puts into words so well what we all are often prone to think.

Please check out her blog HERE.

What we do matters, no matter how small because God is great and personal; a "King in the dirt" as my wife so beautifully states it.

John 11

Happy June 11! Enjoy John 11. :)

Listen HERE. Purchase HERE.

Friends I've lied more times than I've been caught
And too many times I take more than I give
When I want my way the way I want it I'm hopeless
Every day I have to die so I can live

Sometimes I get angry I just scream and yell
Think I'd rather just go to hell
When I finally shed my pride
Let the Holy Spirit reach me from the inside

I rise up like Lazarus in John 11
Throw out my grave clothes
Put on the armor of the Lord
Yeah, I rise up like Lazarus
Dry all the tears Mary cried
When I fall on my knees, I rise!

O sometimes I want to sing along
When the crow sings her nasty song
Like Mary and Martha, "Please don't let our brother die!"
How quickly I forget the story
The painful day for God's glory was revealed in Jesus Christ

So let the grace of God wash over me all my days
As long as skin and bone hold on to me.
Lord I know 'til the day you free me from my sin
Your love will take me in just as I am, not as I should be

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Ox

Proverbs 14:4

Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.

Life often comes down to goals and costs. We have to figure out what we want and then we have to figure out what it would cost to try to get it or accomplish it.

Everything costs something. Whether time, money, sleep, energy, reputation, pride, or your very life.

The author of this proverb is communicating what we know all too well: In life, there is a lot of crap we have to deal with. (or 'with which we have to deal' if you want to get grammatical)

If you make the goal of your life a clean manger, the fastest way to that end (and possibly wisest given the goal) is to get rid of your ox. However, you will not have an abundant harvest.

Oxen are great for doing physical labor. However, they require a lot of food and water to sustain them. Also, they need a place to stay. Additionally, they will crap all over said place. For all that oxen are good at, cleaning up after themselves they are not.

If you desire a large harvest and a life of producing fruit, you will have to resolve yourself to the fact that you will be shovelling a lot of crap behind the scenes. Sitting down to a meal provided by the sweat of your brow is a rewarding enticement, but much like sausage, it is better for most sitting at the table if they do not know how it was made.

Resolve yourself to the tasks at hand. That means doing them because you know they are required in order to get to the end at which you aim. It means not complaining, whining, getting grouchy, or growing in bitterness over the inconvenience of the peripheral tasks. If you want a harvest, you will have to shovel crap, get up early and lose sleep, fix stuff that breaks, endure the Sovereignty of God's will in the weather, and resolve yourself in knowing that the harvest is worth the effort.

You could shoot your ox, eat him, and choose a life of clean barns, mornings where you sleep in, a back not made sore by the labors of yesterday, hands and feet free from callouses, and no fruit, no harvest, no wife, no kids, etc... If you choose this life, please do the women in your life the courtesy of not dragging them into your fruitless life by asking them to marry you, let alone introduce children into this mess of laziness..

Children, Marriage, Ministry, Industry, and Legacy all require work that in part resembles most accurately the agricultural analogy of this proverb: shovelling crap. Kids cost money and rob you of sleep, a spouse demands your attention and calls you out of selfishness, ministry will wear you down, successful careers requires sacrifices, and all because living for tomorrow requires so much of you today.

Please listen my children: Choose a harvest. It is so hard and so worth it. It will stretch you and demand of you more than you ever would demand of yourself and in so doing, you will become more like Jesus than you ever were on your lonesome.

The fruit produced by your life will not save you or earn anything for you with regard to your legal standing before our Holy Judge. But it can speak loudly as evidence to the reality of the Gospel having taken residence inside you. Sheer will power alone can produce fruit and determination.  Many a man has ruined himself in prioritizing industry over everything else.

If you are found by Jesus, you will find everything in Him. Be careful how you spend yourself. If everything costs something is a universal truth on one end of the economics of life, the other end provides an equally compelling truth: You will spend yourself on something.

Isaiah 55:2-3

"Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant..."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thoughts from "What is the Gospel?

Q: Is it more important that Christians "preach" the Gospel or that they "be" the Gospel?


I listened to a sermon by Michael Horton the other day called, "What is the Gospel?"

You can listen to it HERE.

There is Gospel music, Gosple cruises, Gospel coffee shops, etc... But what is the Gospel?

Is it an adjective used to describe something or a noun that describes everything else?

In this message Michael Horton walks through the Scripture's reference points for the Gospel, the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

The Gospel is something. It is not something you are, become, or will be. That is a confusion of categories and while I realize it is potentially neat-nicky, it is a really important disctinction nonetheless.

You have read headlines on the front of your local paper. They announce something, report something, proclaim an event or ratify history. The Good News is a proclamation of what has happened, what Somebody else did. An event that took place which you heard about, but did not participate in directly.  It is not something you become. The worst news in the world for you is that I am or have to become the Gospel. I cannot save you and depending on who you are I likely would not attempt to save you at the risk of my own life. I can be a messenger. I cannot be the message.

The power of the Gospel is the preaching and proclaiming of it.

That is to take nothing away from our good deeds and loving our neighbors. We are commanded to do that as well by the Holy Bible. It is not a matter of preaching our faith vs. living out our faith . It is a matter of knowing the difference between the two.  You cannot live out a faith of which you know nothing.  You cannot claim to rightly know a faith that responds by doing nothing.
In the name of serving some will never preach or sit under preaching.

Those under preaching (done rightly from the Word by a faithful pastor) will hear the commands to serve and love and preach and teach. Those same people may be hypocrites who don't do what they hear preached, but they do not have the excuse of not having heard it from the Word of God.

Those who seek only to be the Gospel to their neighbors through good deeds rob the Gospel of its power by refusing to speak the announcement of it.

That is not to say that some are not influenced by good deeds and loving acts of kindness into a place where they are more receptive to the Gospel. But the very scenario I just articulated -- that many were forming as a defense against this diatribe -- implies that good deeds and kindness have a role in the softening of the soil for the Gospel. Without the Gospel, the softened soil may have warmer feeling about Jesus than they had before or less hostility towards Christianity, but they will not have heard the Good News of the Kingdom of God!!

The heralds fall short of their calling. 
The herald is not announcing their own coming. The heralds are commanded to announce the deeds, the coming, and the glory of the One they have determined to follow and honor. The hope of the hearer is not that the herald arrived, but that the One of whom the herald spoke is to come.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Great Exchange

2 Corinthians 5:21

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Martin Luther called this "the great exchange."

God took a spotless Lamb and placed on him the stains of all mankind. God took a sinful and soiled people and placed on them the white robe of the Son of Man.

God justified the wicked. The phrase simul justus et peccator means “at the same time righteous and sinner." Luther used this expression to describe the current state of those found in Christ.

All my sin placed on Him. All His righteousness placed on me. The greatest of exchanges. Our worst for His best.

This is very Good News! It's the best news! But is it too good to be true news?

It is far better than one would expect and much grander than any could aspire. It is the answer to a question we did not ask and the cure for a disease we did not know we had. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it is the very Word and work of God and not the invention of any man.

Read Ligonier's article on this HERE.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Thoughts from "The Sermon on the Mount" & "The Beatitudes"

I recently began listening to a series by the White Horse Inn as they tackle the Sermont on the Mount.

The gentlemen discussed that the Sermon on the Mount is in many ways a retelling of the story of Moses.

Moses and the elders went up to Mt. Sinai to receive the Law from the LORD. The Law's basic framework stated "...if you do these things, you will live and be blessed. If you do not do these things, you will die and be cursed."

Moses was the covenant mediator between Yahweh and Israel.

Jesus is a better Mediator of a better covenant.

Jesus begins speaking the Good News of the Kingdom by speaking blessing upon His hearers. He is not simply flattering them with platitudes about "the silver lining" and "look on the bright side." He is not commanding people to be meek, to be thirsty, to be persecuted, to be poor in spirit. These are not new marching orders. These are blessings bestowed by God to the people of His choosing, upon whom He shows faithful love.

Most people read the beatitudes and have heard them preached as "be" attitudes. These are the things you should be. It is not inaccurate to say that these are desirable states of being and that our hearts should long to be meek, thirsty for righteous, poor in spirit, etc... However, if it is on us to become these things, then it is simply a new Law. Meet the new Law, same as the old Law.

In the Good News God provides that which he commands. The prayer of St. Augustine has been answered and the ability to perform and be that which God demands is fulfilled in Jesus.

This is the Good News of the Gospel.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Be Thou Near to Me

Listen HERE. Purchase HERE.

O, Lord I come with heart here open
For in my hour of darkness, I may be
Seeking the joy unspoken
O Lord, be thou near to me
And the holy voices sing hallelu
Ever will thy reign be
As I wander through this life,
O Lord, Be thou near to me

Though in this burden of my making,
Yet in the shadows still a light I see
Maker, whose love is not forsaken,
O Lord, be thou near to me
And the holy voices sing hallelu
Ever will thy reign be
As I wander through this life,
O Lord, Be thou near to me

Friday, June 1, 2012

Post Script

1 Corinthians 16:21-24

21 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. 22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Would you ever say anything like this out loud? Would you blog it? Would you include it in a status update?

People don't talk like this much anymore and those who do rarely follow up things like vs. 22 with things like vs. 23 and 24.

I suspect you do not judge Paul for writing this since it is in the Bible. I suspect you would, however, judge me if I were to say the very same thing.

Let's try:

I hope and pray that those who persecute the church may be persecuted and tortured forever by the hand of God. Make it so and make it soon Lord! I hope and pray that those who love Jesus and are being persecuted today would be given grace enough to endure and strength to preach the Gospel even as they are treated harshly. God bless the church and those called by the name of Jesus. Amen.

How'd that grab ya? Does it sound a bit much?

Sure that may be ok to think, but you still shouldn't say stuff like that. That sort of thing can be very offensive. You will never reach the lost with an attitude like that.

God used Paul and that attitude to reach the lost just fine as it turns out.
Perhaps it is your attitude with which God would find displeasure?