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Tuesday
Apr152014

We Would Like To See Jesus

This event took place on the Tuesday of Passion Week. It reveals the heart of the gospel, the heart of God in His Son as He looked toward Friday and the inevitability of the cross.

 John 12:20-28

John tells us this story that none of the other gospel writers record. It is the story of some Greeks who had converted to Judaism and had come to Jerusalem to worship during the Feast.  I imagine a group of young successful businessmen who heard about this powerful teacher who was also doing many miraculous healings. Being curious and probably feeling they should be acknowledged, they asked to "see Jesus". I'm sure they thought meeting Him might enhance their careers. His response is so "Jesus-like". Most men today would be flattered to hear that someone had asked to meet them, welcoming the chance to make a connection or network with a potential follower (read "supporter"). But not our Lord. He doesn't really even answer Andrew and Philip who had come to Him on behalf of the men.  Instead, He begins to talk about the upcoming crucifixion. But not very specifically, rather just about the principle of life coming from death.

"Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."

Not what you would expect from an influential, highly visible leader seeking to build his following. But that was not His goal.  He wasn't ever interested in just gathering a crowd. He had come for those who had ears to hear, hearts to receive...yes and eyes to see. But the time of speaking to the masses was now over. Now the only "seeing of Jesus" would be what they would see on the following Friday as He was paraded before them half dead from being beaten, nearly naked, humiliated and bleeding with thorns pushed into His head and scalp, staggering under the weight of a cross that He was about to be nailed to...a cross that would provide salvation for all who would truly "see". He was answering them, but not how they expected. He was saying, "You will see me, but not how you anticipated. On that day, I hope you will see me!"

Men come to Jesus today, to "see Him" for all different reasons. Only God knows the real motives of men's hearts. Ultimately it doesn't matter why we've come to Him, it only matters that we've come. But what follows is of great importance. Having come, will we see Him? Will we understand His heart, His ways, His purposes that are eternal, or will our eyes and hearts be closed to Him, offended by the cross and its shame? 

We are in need today of a redefining of what life is. Our society has believed a great lie, that this life is found in the abundance of possessions, experiences, and successes that bring us self-fulfillment. But it is not. Jesus said that the way to finding fulfillment in this life was the same as for Him. A man seeking what is best only for himself does not find true life. It is found in giving up all for the sake of another. True life comes through a death, death to the lie of self-promotion, gratification and ultimately self-preservation.  In God, it is only through death that we find life. Pray that we may have eyes to “see” this truth in Him.

Lord Jesus, you were not interested in fame or power, only in obedience to your Father's will. May it be so with me Lord. I embrace again today your cross as it confronts my self-life. Give me grace to stay there, in that place of submission to you and your will for my life. Amen

Wednesday
Jan292014

"But If Not..."

Other than "It is finished", these may be the three most important words in all of Scripture. "But if not...."

There is a false gospel that is being propagated throughout the world. It could only have been concocted in the United States. It is known as "the prosperity gospel", or "the health and wealth gospel". It is false, not because I don't agree with it or like it (I don't), but because it contradicts the whole of the Biblical revelation on the nature of God, the ways of God, an understanding of the eternal purposes of God in His Son, and the providential dealings of God with His people. It contradicts the whole of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, and it does so in a way that is not without great consequence to the lives of those who have been duped by it.

The reason it is so dangerous is because it preys on the base, natural longings of people, and if believed leads them down a path of potential disillusionment and shipwreck to their faith, if they in fact have a genuine faith in the Lord Jesus.

Its many adherents have nuanced it in various ways, but its tenants are basically that God wants you happy...all the time. Anything that interferes with that happiness is not from God. Because God wants you happy, He will insure you always have money (especially if you tithe to the guy on TV telling you this), and He will never allow you to "experience more than you can handle" (which includes sickness, tragedy, persecution, any kind of sufferings, and flat tires). That stuff is always from the devil. 

The Book of Daniel records the lives of four young men uprooted from their homes and exiled to serve the purposes of a pagan king. I wonder how most kids in our youth groups would handle that. It is a powerful and incredibly important book for our day for many reasons, but maybe none greater than the wisdom and grace these young men exhibited as they were forced to live immersed in a pagan culture that contradicted everything they had been taught to believe and love.

Chapter 3 is mostly known as a child's Sunday school story, ironically, since it has some of the greatest wisdom in all the Bible. We know it well. Three young Jews are thrown into a furnace because they refused to bow their knee to a demonized pagan king's golden image that was either of himself or one of his demon gods. Up to this point, they had mostly gone along with the demands placed upon them, including having their names changed (an attempt to change their identity), and to being schooled in Babylonian education (an attempt to change their thinking and their language). But where they, along with Daniel had drawn the line was in refusing to allow themselves to eat the food of the king and thus defile themselves (an attempt to undermine their faith and to change their affections).

Now three of them again have drawn a line in refusing to worship a false god and break the first commandment of the Law of Moses. And so they said "No, we will not bow down." 

The result was the point of the story. The pagan king became so enraged that he ordered them immediately thrown into a furnace heated seven times its normal temperature. And as they feel its intense heat he mockingly asks them, "Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?" 

I don't think it's overstating it to say that in their answer is the very heart of the gospel. It is the revelation of the wisdom of God that is now to be made known to principalities and powers by the church. Their answer may have been what strengthened the Lord Jesus in the garden the night before He was crucified. They began by saying, "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace and out of your hand." Now listen and notice carefully those of you who are reading this. They believed God was able. They believed God was good. They believed God was for them. They believed they were pleasing to God at that time in their lives (their conscience was clear). They believed God could keep them from entering that furnace if He wished. So far, so good. We can all relate so far. But then, they uttered the three words that set them apart from so many believers today. Three words that speak of a wisdom that the world can never understand. The three words they uttered were some of the greatest words of faith in all of Scripture. "But, if not..." But if not, we will trust Him anyway. But if not, we will submit to His will. But if not, we still won't question His love and faithfulness. But if not, we still won't bow our knee to an idol. Amazingly, God let them be thrown into the furnace. Where does that fit in the pop theology of today? The words must have been echoing throughout eternity. "But if not..."

How many people do we know who feel God has abandoned them, wasn't there for them in their time of need, allowed something to happen that "a good God wouldn't have allowed"? How many question God because they see failures in leaders, parents, or teachers who confess faith in the Lord Jesus? How many instead of wealth and happiness have discovered that following the Lord Jesus costs us everything ultimately, including our right to make sense of it all at times. How many have believed something other than the true gospel that teaches that the goal isn't happiness in this life, but living this life "to the praise of His glorious grace". 

Yes, joy is promised, because Jesus has paid the price for my sin and has overcome the powers of darkness in this world. But I still live in this fallen world. And while I do, I trust that He is working all things for my ultimate good and His ultimate glory. In the meantime, we as were Daniel and his three friends, are called to invest ourselves into our cities and pray for their welfare. But also like them, we must not ever bow down.

 

Wednesday
Oct232013

A Last Days Song

Every once in a while a song comes along that touches you deeply. This is one of those songs for me. It is a combination of the lyrics, the spirit of the song, and its intention.

The lyrics are from the Books of Hebrews and Revelation, lyrics that speak of the powerful redemption and the One who purchased us with His own blood. It is a song that is the cry of the end times church, adoringly worshipping the Lamb, and longingly awaiting His return. 

Thanks to the folks at Trinity Grace Church in New York City. They are writing some great music and are definitely on to something important.

Enjoy the lyrics and the song as they sing it. (Link is here: We Come to Jesus)

 

We Come To Jesus

 

We have not come to the mountain of dreadful awe, to tremble in darkness

But to the mountain called Zion, the house of God, the city of Jesus

We’ve come to thousands and thousand of angels in, joyful assembly

And to the church of the firstborn, whose names are all, written in heaven

 

And how they sing, with their conscience clean

And with hands held high to praise the One who died, to raise this broken life

For we have come, to heaven’s King

To Him whose blood, speaks a better word, than ancient offerings

 

Some words were spoken behind me, the voice was like, the roar of the water

It was the voice I had followed for all my life, I turned to see my Lord

He stood before me in glory, His robes were white, His eyes were like fire

His face shone out like the sun shines in all its might, and He spoke with power

 

I am He, who is alive

And behold I died

To save the ones I love, to raise them up to life

 

Now you are mine, and I am yours

Night has passed, let us go to greet, the bride eternal born

 

Come stand with me at last

 

Alive forevermore

 

We come to Jesus, we come to Jesus

We come to Jesus, we come to Jesus

We Come to Jesus -- Trinity Grace Church

Tuesday
Oct012013

An Elder's Lament For the American Church

Dear brother elders:

I may not be available to attend Tuesday’s elder dinner. Rick is calling for a fast and I agree a fast is needed at this time in the life of CCC, but also the Church at large – the Church in ruin. Perhaps these are two different fasts.

But I am driven to ask, just how do we effectively evangelize in the postmodern post-Christian world we live in? How do we find and establish faithfulness within the increasingly dysfunctional church of the West? How do we, as elders, call believers to faithfulness in a culture and church that is moving away from historical Christianity -- the faith pronounced in Scripture?

Do we fast for our State Legislature? In the recent debates as it passed transgender use bathroom for our school children, Assembly Speaker John Pérez was told he would raise the ire of Christians throughout the state. He responded, “Christians – California? We’ve marginalized them.” Had I been a party to this conversation I could not have disagreed with him. Where was the united voice of the Church in opposition to this and many other recent offensive and immoral legislative actions?

Nationally, the future of America looks bleak. We’re battling the desecration of the very meaning of marriage – and possibly losing the fight. What kind of a world are we leaving our children and grandchildren? Romans 1 explicitly warns us of the implications of people living against God’s nature.

We’re familiar with the account of opposition to Paul’s preaching with the account of rioting by the silversmiths following a sermon Paul gave against polytheism in the Great Theater. Today, we hear politicians bragging that the church is no longer feared because it is marginalized.

I recognize as we argue for a narrow path of discipleship that it requires a redoubled loyalty to the truths of the gospel, even as we are seeing much of the church laid waste and walls fallen and in disrepair. Do we despair in these times? No. I don’t believe we should. As I see much of the church in ruin it has not led me to despair (brokenness, yes, despair, no), and it certainly has not led me to curse God for failing to provide me with a triumphant and splendid church in which to live and serve.

In fact, I believe our vocation as elders is to dwell within the ruins of the church at large resulting from an increasingly inarticulate theological tradition, a capitulating and culturally captive church, and a disintegrating spiritual discipline. How can we do otherwise? Scripture says we are to endure everything for the sake of the elect (2 Tim. 2:9–10).

There is no victory in detachment or separation, whether in the form of critical judgment, hesitant loyalty, individualistic faith, theological abstraction, or self-protective spiritual illusions. Yes, we must war against the many paths that lead us away from that which the Lord has given us. But I reject those who call for moving away from the church at large and in to isolationism. We are a small part of the greater church and can have no influence over something we refuse to be a part of.

The image of ruins is found throughout scripture, and it is applied to the city of Jerusalem, ruined by foreign invaders but also by infidelity and injustice. The more we grasped the gravity and consequence of the gospel promise, the more we should recoil at the failures of the church. Today the church is in a state of ruin, immersed and buried deeply in the world – invisible, if you will – even as it is called out to be the light of God in a dark world.

Fast? Yes. For CCC? Yes. For the church of the West? Yes. I believe it is just such a church in ruin in a darkened world that revival is meant for.

Occupying ‘til He comes,

 Frank

Tuesday
Sep032013

NCC Q35 - Where Does Our Faith Originate?

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9

This week's catechism lesson is very interesting...and very important. Where does our faith come from? Is there some measure of faith in fallen man; is it only dormant and dulled by sin? Or is fallen man unable to believe at all apart from God's grace? 

Our lesson this week teaches us that as it is in all the Christian's life experience, even our faith is a gift from God. Apart from God's gracious gift to us, fallen man is unable to come to faith in God on his own.

Paul's words written to the Ephesian church leave no doubt that the faith we exercise to believe is a gift from God...it is not of our own doing. Just before he penned these words, he made a very powerful and and important statement. He said that we were "dead" in our trespasses and our sins as we walked following the course of this world and the prince of the power of the air.  But what does that word "dead" mean? Were we as unbelieving, fallen men, dead only in an objective, legal way due to sin? Or was the death caused by sin so complete that fallen man's condition is hopeless unless God intervenes? What was the full effect and impact of that death that came to man through sin? That is our question in this week's lesson.

Paul's clear and strong statement answers that question. Apart from the grace of God, fallen man is unable to come to faith in God by himself. Just as Lazarus could not quicken his putrifying and by then stinking corpse in that tomb, neither could I quicken my heart and mind to life. I came to faith because God gave me the grace to believe.

Paul tells us in Romans that faith comes from hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17), and then Peter says that we have been born again through the living and abiding word of God (1 Peter 1:23). 

Faith is a gift from God, through the living and active Word of God speaking to our dead, cold hearts just as Jesus spoke to Lazarus' dead, cold body and gave it new life. It is not of our doing...it is all of God...He speaks and we can then respond. 

Or as only the beloved apostle could say, "We love Him, because He first loved us."