Sunday, September 12, 2010

Desiring Heaven

All men want to go to heaven,
whatever their own version of it is.
They just want to choose their
own way, by their own means,
in accordance with their own desires.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Contextualization

Much has been said, as of late, regarding the subject of contextualization.  The problem with much of the discussion is that almost everyone has their version or defintion of what the term means.  David Sills, in his new book "Reaching and Teaching" has devoted an entire chapter to this topic; and, in my opinion, is the most balanced and fair treatment of the topic.  Although his book and his discussion are concerning foreign missions, much of it is transferable to church life here in the states.  The chapter entitled "Critical Contextualization" is relevant for any discussion on contextualization regardless of the culture. 

In this chapter, on page 199, he makes statement that not only sums up the entire chapter; but sums up what the entire discussion on contextualization should be centered upon.  It is this, "The goal of contexualization is to be culturally relevant and faithful to God's word."  He also gives many good examples of contextualiztion and shows how we all do it. 

A very good read, and I think that those interested in church planting should also read this book.  As I mentioned earlier, even though this book addresses foreign missions, much of what is said is transferable to church planting and evangelism here in the states.  I could not help but see the similarities, and there is much in this book that is both challenging and affirming.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Colossians 1:3-5a The Place of Our Hope

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus
and the love which you have for all the saints because of the hope
laid up for you in heaven...
Colossians 1:3-5a

In the final post in this series we will look at the place of our hope, or where or hope is placed.

First lets talk about what hope is. The Greek word for hope means something different from our English word. When we use the word hope we mean a strong desire or a fervent wish for something, and we are not sure if we will get what we want; maybe we will, maybe we won’t. However, the word, the concept of hope in the Greek, conveys something different from our view of hope. The word for hope in the Greek is elpis and it means a sure and confident expectation, a joyful knowing anticipation of something yet future.  A vividly beautiful picture, a marvelous picture of hope is painted for us in Psalm 130:5-6, "I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning; indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning." Here we see the watchman as he waits for the dawn with a confident knowing expectation that the dawn will come, no matter how dark or long the night. But, his hope in the Lord is greater and firmer than his knowledge that the dawn will come.  This is a firm ground of expectation. This is hope.

Now lets see why we have hope, this confident expectation, for there must be a reason for hope, there must be a basis for hope, there must be a ground for our hope to rest upon. For us as Christians that ground is Jesus Christ.  He is our firm ground of expectation. As the God-man He lived a sinless life in our stead. As the Psalmist says we are born in sin, and therefore we are incapable of not sinning, so Jesus lived a sinless life for us. He suffered a vicarious and substitutionary death on the cross by taking on the death that was rightfully ours, and it was at the cross that the great exchange took place. Paul explains this in II Corinthian 5:21 in that Christ became sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. He was then buried and descended into Hell and was there for three days until God raised Him up victorious over Satan and the grave with the keys of death and Hell in His hand. Then Christ ascended into heaven to the right hand of the Father where He ever lives to make intercession to God on our behalf. All of this has been done by Christ for us, and it is this, this finished and complete work of Christ that has made our salvation not just possible, but for those whom God has called and drawn to Himself, it has made salvation certain and heaven our eternal destination. This is why Peter could say in I Peter 1:4, that our inheritance reserved in heaven for us.  This is the ground of our hope and this present reality of our future place and position has as its unshakeable foundation that which Jesus Christ has accomplished on our behalf. This is why we sing “Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name. On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.” Only in Christ is there a hope, a sure and confident expectation for the future and our future is eternity. Through Christ, God has given us a future to hope for, a future to desire, and a future to look forward to with joyful anticipation.

The words laid up in verse five are one word in the Greek and mean to be stored up, to await, to reserve. So we see that this hope is not for here and now, but for heaven. So we are to have a joyful knowing anticipation of heaven. This is what Paul was talking about in I Corinthians 15:19 when he said “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” Friends, we should be looking forward to heaven just as the watchman looks forward to the dawn. Heaven should be a present daily reality for us, just as the coming dawn was an anticipated reality for the watchman in Psalm 130.

Another reason for our hope is that this is the plan of God for us, and we know from Job 42:2 that no purpose of God can be thwarted. In thinking about our hope, our confidence in what God has done for us I am reminded of a couple of verses in the Old Testament. First, Isaiah 25:1 “O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; for You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.” and Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” All that Christ has done for us has been in the mind of God from eternity past. From all eternity this was His plan to do this for us in Christ, not because we deserved it or could somehow earn it, but because of His great love for us; and because of the abundance of His lovingkindness He has done this so that we could spend the rest of eternity as His people and He as our God. We know from Philippians 1:6 that what God has started in us He will complete. So we can rest assured that God will completely perform His purpose and fully carry out His plan. In Psalm 138:8 God tells us that He will accomplish what concerns us. What concerns us is our salvation and our redemption, not just of our soul, but of our entire person, both the inner and the outer man. Let’s look at I Thessalonians 5:23-24.  "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame a the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass." This is what John was referring to in I John 3:2-3"Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, that we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself just as He is pure." What makes this possible, rather, what makes this certain? It is the finished and complete work of Christ. This is our joy; this is our delight, to look forward with confidence to the completion of our salvation as we stand before the Lord holy, blameless, and complete in the completeness of Christ.

Finally, our hope is laid up for us in heaven because Jesus is there. Let’s look at John 14:1-6. Here we have one of the great promises in Scripture. Christ is preparing a place for us and where is this place? It is in heaven, in His Father’s house. Not only is He preparing a place for us, but He is promising to come again and take us to Himself so that we can be with Him in heaven. Next He says something heart catching.  He says that we know the way, the way to heaven, and that He is that way, the only way. Do you want to go to heaven? Well then, are you following Christ? He alone is the way; He alone is that narrow way with the narrow gate that leads to heaven. No other way will take you there. There are several verses in Hebrews that also speak to this. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that we have a high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. Hebrew 6:19-20 tells us that this hope we have is an anchor of the soul, and it is sure and steadfast. What does an anchor do? It holds the ship and does not let it drift. It was used in times of a storm to keep the ship from being blown off course or to keep it from crashing on the rocks. That is the picture of what our hope, this sure and confident expectation, does for us in the times of storm in our life. It anchors us, keeps our life and faith from being blown off course. When our life is the darkest, when we have the times that we are tired and disgusted of dealing with the sin that so easily entangles us, we can joyfully and confidently anticipate our arrival in heaven, we can look forward to the freedom from the travails of this world and the struggles with our own flesh. We know that this is coming just as sure as the dawn.

We also see that our hope is one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us. What does this tell us? First that Jesus has passed through the heavens and behind the veil as our forerunner. A forerunner is one who goes before, to make the path, to blaze the trail so that others can follow. In the OT tabernacle the Holy of Holies, which was where the presence of God hovered over the mercyseat, was partitioned by a veil and only the High Priest could enter once a year on the day of atonement. When Christ was crucified the veil in the temple was rent from top to bottom signifying that the way to the presence of God was now open, and here in Hebrews we see that it is Jesus, the God-man who has entered the true heavenly tabernacle before us, so that we might be able to come into heaven itself to be in the presence of God.

Hebrews 8:12 tells us that we have such a high priest who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. The fact that Jesus has taken His seat signifies that His work is completed, and the fact that He is seated at God’s right hand show us that His work has found favor with God and has pleased God. So we see that His work of accomplishing our salvation was finished, and the purpose and pleasure of God was completed when Christ passed through the heavens and went within the veil into the very presence of God Himself. There is nothing left for Jesus to do to ascertain our salvation.

Hebrews 9:24 tells us that Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us. It is for us, those who believe in His name, that He has done all of this. Christ has not done this for those who spurn Him, for those who have Him in low regard, but He has done this for those of us who love Him and cherish Him, for those who are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Hebrews 12:22-23 tells us that we have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven. Now we also see from this last verse that we are enrolled in heaven. This word enroll means to record, to register, as on a roll or census. So we see our name is registered as one who belongs in heaven, and no one whose name is not registered can enter into heaven. It is like going to an invitation only event and having your name checked at the door to see if it is on the guest register. Only those who have trusted Christ as the only way to heaven have their name on that roll.

Yes, our hope is in heaven because Jesus is there. Is this your hope my friends, is this your joyful anticipation that is as sure as the dawn coming. Are you looking forward with a confident expectation to being with Jesus? Do you have hope today of seeing Jesus face to face because you know your name is on heaven’s roll? You see heaven is ours, but it is not for those who have not trusted in Christ. For them this world is all that they have. That is why they are so attached to the things of this world, and that is why they act the way they do. This is the reason behind their greed, selfishness, jealousy, the storing up of treasures for themselves upon earth. This is why Christ tells us not to be like them, but to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven. This is why we are not to set our mind on the things of earth, but on the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. These are the ones who are separated from Christ, without God, who have no hope. Heaven is ours, it is where our hope is to be, and it is what God has given us through Christ. Oh friends, take your eyes off of the world and look to heaven, where Jesus awaits. Let the reality of heaven, the eternal blessing of being in the presence of God, be your joyful anticipation.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Colossians 1:3-5a The Direction of Our Love II

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
praying always for you, since we heard of you faith in Christ Jesus
and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope
laid up for you in heaven...
Colossians 1:3-5a

This is a continuation of the previous post.

Why is this love directed toward the saints?
Most of us who have been Christians for any length of time are familiar with the two greatest commandments in all of Scripture. The greatest is to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your mind, and the second is like it, it is to love your neighbor as yourself. We all know that when Jesus came He fulfilled all of the law, so He fulfilled these two commandments. But what He also did was to raise the bar.  Look at John 13:34-35. Here Jesus gives a new command, and this command is to love (agapao) one another, which would be fellow believers (the saints), not as ourselves, but as He has loved us. This is what John is referring to in I John 4:7 when he says “Beloved let us love one another, for love is from God.” So we are to have the same love toward all the saints that Christ Jesus has for us. This is why Paul is commending the Colossian saints, for following the command of Christ to love one another as He has loved us. According to John 13:35 this love for all the saints will prove to all men that we are His disciples, His followers. If you think about what we have seen about agape, you can understand how this would be a witness to all men that we are His disciples, His followers, because only Christ or someone who has Christ living within can love like this.

We also see that this is a particular love.  It is Christ’s love, and His love for his own, His saints, being lived out through His saints for one another. This is a powerful witness to all men, both saved and unsaved, of the reality of the power and love of Christ. And when we follow His command to love one another we prove our love for Him as He said in John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments,” and we see the saints at Colossae doing just that. Isn’t it wonderful that the love of Christ has already been poured out within our hearts so that His command to love one another as He has loved us is not burdensome, but a joy. Christ Jesus wants us to love one another as He loved us. He wants us, His own, to continually share and experience His love for us with and through each other. Oh, what a glorious thing this ought to be in the church, to never be without the love of Christ. What a wonderful provision He has given us to never be without His love. This is the reason behind the gifts and the gifted given to the church in Ephesians chapter 4, to attain to the stature of the fullness of Christ, and in doing so the church will build itself up in love, agape, Christ’s love.


How is this love manifested?
When something is manifested it means that it is revealed. As believers we reveal the love of Christ in how we live it out, and from the context here in Colossians it is lived out in relation to other believers. Let’s look at some practical examples from the Scriptures.

We are to be angry and yet, not sin.
We are to let no unwholesome word proceed from our mouth, but only that which edifies.
We are to let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander be put away from us.
We are to be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other.
We are to bear one another’s burdens.
We are to bear one another’s weaknesses.
We are to be on the alert and pray for one another with all prayer and petition.
We are not to be arrogant toward one another.
We are not to be partial.
We are to treat each other the way we would want to be treated.
We are to please others instead of ourselves.
We are to defer to others by considering one another as more important than ourselves.
We are to do no wrong to one another.
We are to accept one another.
We are to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.
We are not to be provoked.
We are not to act unbecomingly toward one another.
We are to speak the truth to one another in love
We are to be patient with one another.
We are not to gossip about one another.
We are to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.
We are to provide for one another’s needs.
We are to reconcile with one another.
We are to gently restore those who sin.
We are to be subject to one another.
Our love is to cover a multitude of sins against us and still keep on loving.
No matter how much and how well we love we are to excel still more.

This is the essence of love, God’s own love, Christ’s own love, that has been given to us.  This is the love in which we are rooted and by which we are grounded.

You know, we hear so often today that we are to love ourselves or that we must learn to love ourselves. This is the mantra behind all the self-help books and seminars, many of the twelve step programs, and unfortunately is what is being taught in so many churches. This is the eternal lie. Self love is the polar opposite of agape.  Love of self is what Satan has always possessed.  It is what Satan was really telling Eve to do in the garden. It is what Satan was tempting Christ to do in the wilderness. Isn’t it interesting that there is no place in Scripture that says God loves Himself. What Scripture says is that God loves us, that God loves His Son, that God so loved us that He gave His Son, His only Son whom He loved, for us, that we might have eternal life with Him and enjoy His presence forever. In addition, we are not commanded in Scripture to love ourselves, but to love God, to love our neighbor as we love ourselves and to love one another as He has loved us. In fact, there is no place in the Scriptures where self love is commended.

In I Corinthians 13:5 it says that love does not seek its own.  In other words it is not self seeking, self focused.  The focus of our love is to be on God and therefore on His saints, our brother and sisters in Christ. My friends don’t fall prey to the siren song of self love, but follow the command of Christ, the example of Christ, to love one another as He has loved us. Greater love has no man than this than that He would lay down His life for His friends. My friends, my fellow saints, let us love like this today.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Colossians 1:3-5a The Direction of Our Love I


We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus
and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the
hope laid up for you in heaven...
Colossians 1:3-5a

As we saw in the previous post this section of Scripture talks about the object of the Colossians faith—Christ Jesus, the direction of their love—toward all the saints, and the place of their hope—which is in heaven.  We see the purpose for Paul writing this epistle in 4:12 and 2:1-3, and it is so that the Colossians would stand fully assured in their faith. When working with someone to build up their confidence, their assurance, you start with commending them on what they are already doing well or right. We see Paul doing just that in these verses as he commends the Colossians on the exercise of their faith, love, and hope. In the last post we looked at the object of their faith, Christ Jesus, so today I want to talk about the direction of their love, which is toward all the saints; and as it was for the church at Colossae, it should be for the church today.

So as we consider the direction of their love and therefore the direction of our love in the church today we want to look at 4 things:

1. What is this love they have?
2. Where does this love originate?
3. Why is this love directed towards the saints?
4. How is this love manifested?

What is this love they have?
Well, the Greek word for love used here is agape. It is one of the four words the Greeks used for love. These four words for love are storge, eros, phileo, and agape. Storge means natural affection, like you would have for a pet, or the natural affection a parent has for their child. It is not used in the NT, except twice in its negative sense in Romans 1:31 and II Timothy 3:3 to describe how far man falls without God. Eros, is a passionate, sensual, physical love. It is a love based on infatuation and sensual attraction. It is often used to describe romantic love. This is the kind of love we see portrayed in movies, television programs, romance novels, and sung about in our music. Interestingly, it is never used in the Scriptures. Then there is phileo, brotherly love. Phileo is a warm and tender affection. It can be deep and intense. It is used to describe the love for those near and dear to one’s heart. It is a love that cherishes. It is a love that is reciprocal in nature and a love that is shared. It is used throughout the NT. Finally, there is agape, the predominant word used for love in the NT. Agape is a love of the will and the mind. It is a love of choice and commitment. It is not devoid of emotion, but overrules and overrides emotion. It acts in spite of how one feels. It is a selfless love, an unselfish love, a sacrificial love. It is not motivated by the self, but by others. It loves even if the person who is the object of the love is undeserving, unworthy, and unloving in return. It puts what is best for the other person first and foremost. It is a love that compels one to action. In the NT it is used to describe the love of God, the love of Christ, and how we are to love. This type of love was thought unattainable by the Greeks and is only used in secular Greek writings two or three times. So what we see in the Scriptures in not “being in love” but the act of loving.

Where does this love originate?
As you can see the Greeks were right in thinking this type of love (agape) was unattainable, from a human perspective. The heights this love operates in are unassailable for us mere mortals. So where do we go to find this love, where are the headwaters of this love? Let's look at I John 4:7-8 and 16. As we see in these verses, God is love, and the word used for love here is agape. Note that it does not say that God has love, or that God is a loving being, but that God is love. By saying that God is love John is saying that love is intrinsic to who God is, it is part of His nature and is inseparable from who He is; and, therefore, inseparable from His actions. It is as much a part of Him as your eye color is of you. This love that is part and parcel of who God is, is agape. God is agape. This love of the will, of choice and commitment, this love that compels to action, this love that is selfless, unselfish, and sacrificial, this love that loves despite the unloveliness of the object loved, that loves despite its unworthiness, and that loves in spite of its hatefulness in return. This is a love that comes from a predetermined state of mind that exists because it is part of core of God's being, this is the love that God is. This is the love that is described in I Corinthians 13 as patient, kind, never jealous, never bragging, is never arrogant, never acts unbecomingly, is never self seeking, is not provoked, never takes into account a wrong suffered, it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and it never fails.

This is the love that we are to direct toward all the saints, so how do we get this love? Let’s look again at
I John 4:7. We are to love (agape) one another, for love (agape) is from God and everyone who loves (agape) is born of God and knows God. So we see that agape is from God and only those that are born of God (born again) and know God have this kind of love. So this love, this agape, is not something that an unregenerate person, an unsaved person, or someone whom the Bible calls the natural man possesses. This love (agape) is unique to the believer. Now let’s look at Romans 5:5. Here we see that the love of God (not just any love, but God’s love, agape) has been poured out within our heart through His Holy Spirit who was given to us. Poured out is in the perfect tense here, which means that it is a completed event with continuing results or effects. So we see that God has given us His love, His agape, in our heart through His Holy Spirit who indwells us; and we received this love, all of this love, the minute the Holy Spirit came and took up residence in our heart, and this love never goes away. Now look at Ephesians 3:17. This verse tells us that we are rooted and grounded in this love, this agape. What a beautiful picture these words paint of our secure position in and reservoir of, the love, the agape of God. We are fixed into and draw from the infinite love (agape) of God. This is where this love we are to have for all the saints originates and how we have come to possess it.

Next post we will look at why this love is directed at the saints, and how it is manifested.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Colossians 1:3-5a The Object of Our Faith

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus
and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope
laid up for you in heaven...
Colossians 1:3-5a

Here we see both Paul and Timothy giving thanks for the Colossians in their prayers for them. Thanksgiving is an exercise that is motivated by joy, it is an expression of joy and here it is expressed to the source of the joy, who is God Himself. What do we see about the Colossians that would be the occasion of joy and its corresponding thanksgiving by Paul and Timothy? From the text we see it is their faith, love, and hope, and according to Paul in I Corinthians 13 faith, hope, and love are the three eternal Divine qualities, three Divine distinctives, and we see that these three are present and active in the life of the church at Colossae. It is interesting to note that there is only one other church in the NT that we see mentioned as manifesting all three of these divine qualities and that is the church at Thessalonica.

While both churches are commended for manifesting these qualities, how they manifest them is different. In Thessalonica they are manifested in the activity of faith, the unction of love, and the steady enduring of hope
(I Thessalonians 1:3). Here in Colossae they are revealed through the object of their faith, Jesus Christ; the direction of their love, toward all the saints; and the place of their hope, which is in heaven. So over the next few posts we will look at these three Divine distinctives as they are lived out in the church at Colossae.

So now let’s look at the object of our faith—Jesus Christ.

Well, what is faith?

Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Martin Luther describes faith as a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.

The Greek word for faith (pistis) means a firm persuasion, a strong conviction, a belief in the truth.  It is not the outcome of imagination, but based on fact.  It is a strong and welcome conviction that leaves no room for doubt. It is to be fully and completely persuaded beyond a shadow of any doubt. Out of this is conviction is born trust and the concept of trusting is implicit in the understanding of what it means to have faith. In fact, trust is the dynamic component of faith. Faith then must have a foundation to rest on, an object in which to place its trust. So for the Christian the object of our faith and the place of our trust is Jesus Christ.

Before we get to the object of our faith, Christ Jesus, it is interesting to note what Paul did not include as the object of our faith. It is not having faith in our denominational affiliation, our family heritage, our church membership as that is having faith in the agency of man. It is not faith in our faith, faith in a prayer we prayed or a decision that we made, because this would be having faith in ourselves. It is not faith in walking the aisle, faith in our baptism or our tithing, faith in the good things we do, or faith in our obedience as that would be having faith in our works, which, again, is no more than having faith in ourselves.

Here in Colossians Paul gives us only one object for our faith to rest upon, one place for our trust, and that is Christ Jesus. Now we need to understand there is a dual component to having faith in Christ. It is having faith in the person of Christ, which is represented by His name and having faith in the work of Christ, which is what He did to accomplish our salvation, and therefore trusting only in all that Christ is and all that He has done in securing your salvation. Without faith in both the person and work of Christ you do not have a complete faith and a faith that is not complete is not a faith that saves. Adding to or taking away from this is taking your trust off of Christ and is not saving faith.  All cults and heresies will attack either the person of Christ, or the completed work of Christ.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Prayer Traps

I posted this on the pastor's update on our church webpage, and thought it would be a good follow up the post on Rightly Approaching Prayer.

In considering prayer, I believe there are two traps that are easy for all of us to fall into. They are the guilt trap, and the task trap; and the two go hand in hand.

It is way too easy to make prayer a task, an item on our to do list, something to get done. And when it becomes something to get done, it becomes something to get marked off and get out of the way. When we make prayer a task, then it becomes something that we must do for God. When this is our motive for prayer, our prayers become rote, mechanical, and we are robbed of the joy and enjoyment of prayer. When prayer becomes a task to be accomplished it is one step away from becoming a form of legalism in our life.

When anything becomes a legalism in our life, we have then set ourselves up for guilt. And what happens when we feel guilty about something? Don’t we usually avoid being around the person towards whom we feel guilty? When we start feeling guilty about not praying, instead of motivating us to pray, it almost inevitably demotivates us as we start avoiding coming into the Lord’s presence. The more avoidance the more the guilt; and the more the guilt the more the avoidance. It becomes a self-defeating cycle.

How do we avoid these two traps? We avoid them by having a right understanding of prayer, and why we should pray. In no particular order here are a few reasons we should pray, and this is by no means an exhaustive list.

1. It is one of the means God has ordained in the accomplishment of His will.
2. It is one of the ways we can participate in the accomplishment of His will.
3. It is one of the ways we draw near to Him.
4. It is one of the ways we fellowship with Him.
5. It is one of the ways we encourage and build others up.
6. It is one of our weapons in spiritual warfare.
7. It is one of the means to an abundant spiritual life.
8. It is the means through which we confess sin.
9. It is one of the means of building unity in the body.
10. It is how we talk to God.

Let’s avoid the task trap and the guilt trap, and simply look forward to being with the Lord in prayer, and remember He desires to be with us as well.

Rightly Approaching Prayer

Psalm 16:11b...In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand are pleasures forever.


In our thinking about and considering prayer,
it should not be a task to be accomplished,
something to get done and get out of the way;
but it should be a relationship to be enjoyed,
a communion to be anticipated, a joy and a delight
in drawing near to Him and coming before His throne.

For, after all, the chief end of man is to glorify God,
and to enjoy Him forever.  Our enjoying Him should
be part of our existence now, with the greater and fuller joy,
 the hope of the completeness of joy, a promise to be relished.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Forgiveness and Love

In Luke 7 (also in Matthew 26 and Mark 14) there is the story of the immoral woman who anointed Jesus with perfume, washed His feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair.  Now Jesus happend to be at the home of Simon the leper, who was also a Pharisee (key to understanding this story).  What was reported in Matthew and Mark's versions was the response of Jesus to those who were indignant about such expensive perfume being wasted on the feet of Jesus when the poor could have used the money.  In Luke, Jesus responds to the self-righteousness of Simon with the illustration of a parable.  Let's pick up the story in Luke 7:39-48:

Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself,
"If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person
this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner,"
And Jesus answered him, "Simon I have something to say to you."
And he replied, "Say it teacher."
"A moneylender had two debtors; 
one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. 
So which of them will love him more?"
Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more."
And He said to himk " You have judged correctly."
Turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman?
I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has
wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in,
has not ceased to kiss My feet.  You did not anoint My head with oil,
but she anointed My feet with perfume. For this reason
I say to you her sins, which are many, have been forgiven,
for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little."
Then He said to her, "You sins have been forgiven."

A interesting paradox, in that Simon, who was considered unclean because of his leprosy, was also self-righteous in his Phariseeism.  One who was considered unclean by society and was therefore an outcast,  did not consider himself morally unclean, a sinner in need of forgiveness and cleansing.  Thus his treatment of Jesus, the sin-forgiver, even though He had come into Simon's house in spite of his uncleanness. The immoral woman saw her sin and therefore her need for forgiveness, and notice her treament of the Savior.  Contrast the love they exhibited for Jesus, which was whole point of the parable Jesus gave here. 

Those who see their sin for what it is, those who understand the horribleness of their own moral filth and wickedness appreciate their salvation the most.  Those who don't see their sin for what it is tend to take salvation for granted...almost like it is owed to them, much like Simon.  The immoral woman understood the depth of her sin and understood the corresponding greatness of her salvation.  This was the basis of the depth of her love for her Savior, and why she was willing to humble herself and make a fool of herself in front of others in showing the depth of her love and gratitude.

It is the same for us.  When we understand our sin...our own sin...its despicableness, its stench, its foulness, its abomination to God; then we comprehend the greatness of His love for us in forgiving us and saving us, and our love for Him comes pouring out in return.  When we understand the depth of our sin, we understand the depth of His love and the magnitude of His forgiveness.  Thus the truth, he who has been forgiven much, loves much. 

Is your love for the Savior informed by the knowledge of your sin for which He died?  Do you see your sin for what it is before and just and holy God?  Or have you gotten comfortable with your sin, and therefore blind to it?

Pastors, do you preach about sin to your people?  Do you guide them to see the depth of their sin?  I know its not popular to preach about sin in this age when it is presumed the Church's job is to make people feel better about themselves.  But unless people see themselves as sinners they won't see themselves in need of a Savior.  And unless they see their sin for what it is, their love for the Savior will be cold and shallow.  So we need to preach on sin, not to beat people up, but so the sinner will see their need for salvation; and the saved will see the greatness of their salvation, and bring both to love the Savior all the more.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

O God, Our Help

Thank you, Lord, that you want us to be holy.  Thank You for being more desirous of our holiness than we are.  Thank You for imputing the righteousness of Your Son to us, and that we stand before You in His holiness.  You have desired truth in our innermost being and have put Your Holy Spirit within us, who is also the Spirit of truth. 

It is You that has done for us and to us what we were incapable of doing ourselves.  You made enemies Your friends.  You made haters of God, lovers of God.  You made the violent, peacful.  You have made the guilty, innocent.  You have made idolaters, true worshippers.  You made the selfish, givers.  You have made the arrogant, humble.  You have made the dead, alive.  You have given the hopeless, hope; and to the blind you have given sight.  You have set the captives free.  You have healed us from the pestilence of sin.  You have removed Your wrath from us.  To the mortal You will give immortality, and to the corruptible, incorruptibility.  You loved us when we were unlovable and despicable.  You made us sons of God when we were sons of hell.  All of this was done in and through Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Who else would do this, or could do this, O Lord, but You.  It is You that has made us, not we ourselves.  As we go forward help the words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart to be acceptable in Your sight, for whom have we in heaven, but You; and there is no one else to please, no one else worthy of our pleasing, but You and You alone.  Amen