Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Day My Dad Almost Shot the Neighbor Kid

My dad and me

My father was the biggest man I’ve ever known, even though he was relatively small of stature. He did a man’s work on his family farm from the time he was twelve. He was a gifted athlete, hunted all his life, and boxed Golden Gloves as a young man. He was a man’s man.

I’ll never forget the day I thought he might kill the neighbor kid.

My parents had invested a small fortune in a Brown Swiss heifer, a lovely animal with large brown eyes and a beige and tan coat. They were hoping she might improve the milk production of the small dairy herd on our Western Colorado farm.

Not long after we bought her, Dad found her dead in the pasture, a bullet-hole in her head. It was obvious to him that one of our neighbors’ adult sons had shot her.

Unlike most of the “salt of the earth” neighbors in our farming community, the Corcoran clan (not their real name) were sour, unpleasant people, touchy and arrogant. Their two sons, Ray and Johnny, were in their early 20's. They were bullies, and as a little boy, both of them scared me. They had a reputation for physical violence and careless use of firearms. Dad had good reason, but no evidence, to suspect Johnny the younger of the two.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Prayer Retreats 101 (Continued)

If you love and admire somebody, you want to spend time with him or her. Because we love and admire Christ, we take seriously the challenge of going on a prayer retreat.

Last time I tried a Q & A approach to explaining prayer retreats. Today I have two more questions…

Q: What do you do on a prayer retreat?
The idea is to pray, of course. But it helps to have an outline of your time. Here's mine.
  • Plan. I determine ahead of time why I’m going away. What’s my purpose for this retreat? It could be: to pray for my family; to seek God’s wisdom for a particular decision; to ask Him for guidance for the next season of my life.And of course I have to find a place (see below) and schedule time in my calendar to make it work.
  • Unpack. When I finally arrive at my retreat center, I’m usually stressed and my mind is racing. I try to “unpack” mentally and emotionally. I make a list, randomly writing down anything that is rattling around in my head—personal problems, questions, fears, pressing assignments, upcoming decisions, family issues, everything. I spend anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour with this.
  • Remember. I look back on how God has been working in my life. Making a list of His recent blessings might take only 20 or 30 minutes, but it puts me in a humble, grateful frame of mind.
  • Read. I try to soak my mind in God’s word. I might read for an hour or even longer. I usually go for an entire New Testament epistle, a big chunk of the Psalms, or multiple chapters of Isaiah.
  • Connect. My hope is to move into the presence of God. I confess my sins. I worship, perhaps with a CD of praise music. I also want to express to the Lord my submission to whatever He might have planned for my retreat (and for my life). Sometimes taking a walk helps me relax into His presence. All told this might be an hour or more.
  • Listen. I might not get to this step until my second day. I take the list of “stuff” I unpacked, and begin to hold it before the Lord. “Listening” is about quieting my heart and waiting for His guidance. Maybe I’ll see a problem from a different angle or have new insight about a solution. Often I’ll think of Bible verses I read earlier, or passages I’ve studied or memorized, and see how they speak to my issues. Occasionally a sudden, pointed thought will emerge, almost as if the Lord is whispering it to me. I write all this down. This phase may last several hours.
  • Wrap up. I finish the retreat with thanksgiving for what God has been showing me. I summarize what the Lord seems to have been saying, and develop a “to do” list to help me apply my retreat for the weeks and months ahead.
 Q: Where do you go for a prayer retreat? If you’ll commit to going on a prayer retreat, you’ll find a place. Here are some suggestions:
  • Motel-6 or similar inexpensive lodging. I’ve taken plenty of retreats at cheapo motels.
  • Christian camps and retreat centers. They’ll often rent you an inexpensive room, and sometimes you can arrange meals.
  • Campgrounds. Yes, you could take an RV or actually tent-camp.
  • Arrange with out-of-town friends to stay at their place.
  • All day at a public park is also do-able. Not as good as an overnight, but a shorter retreat is better than no retreat.
  • I still insist it’s better to go away than go the “stay-cation” route. But in a pinch, you could hold up in your own house.
For more help, consider ordering the workbook “How toExperience an Effective Prayer Retreat," by Paul Becker. You might also check out the suggestions at Prayer Today Online.

The idea of going away for an overnight may seem daunting. But if you had the chance to spend a day or two with Christ, just the two of you, why wouldn’t you make the effort?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Prayer Retreats 101

First night of my retreat
This week I went away for my annual January prayer retreat. For two days I spent time in prayer, reading, and reflection.

I’ve been taking prayer retreats two or three times a year for the last 20 years or so. Why? The short answer (and I’m not trying to be cute) is that I admire Christ. Actually I can’t imagine not taking prayer retreats. Being alone with Him for extended periods helps me know Him better. It also keeps me sane and (I think) makes me a better Christian.

But I’m writing this because I want to convince you to take prayer retreats. Let me try some Q & A.

What is a prayer retreat?

My friend Paul Becker, President of Dynamic Church Planting International, has a great definition: A time you set aside to go away to be with God.
  •  “A time you set aside” means you have to plan for a prayer retreat or it won’t happen.
  • “to go away.” Okay, you could stay home and set aside time for a prayer retreat. To me, though, it’s a little like a “stay-cation.” You can do vacation from home if you have to, but it’s definitely plan B.
  • “to be with God.” That’s the main purpose. Without a prayer retreat, how much actual time do you spend with the Lord each day, just you and Him? Maybe an hour a day? A lot less?

So what kind of time are we talking about for a prayer retreat?

I’ve had helpful prayer retreats that were only a few hours in length. But for me, getting away for at least an overnight is best. A couple nights is even better.

But why take a prayer retreat?
  • To spend time with Jesus, just you and Him.
  • To refresh your soul and clear your head,
  • To intercede for specific people. My January retreat is mainly for my family.
  • To seek God’s will on specific issues and questions.
 Next time I’ll try to ask, What do you do on a prayer retreat? And where do you go?

One last thing for now: Jesus took prayer retreats. great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray (Luke 5:15, 16, ESV).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Admirable Anger?

The Bible says, “Be angry and do not sin…” (Ephesians 4:26). So apparently it’s possible to be one and not do the other.

But how many people do you know who pull that off—being angry without crossing the line? Honestly, I know only one.
I admire Jesus' anger.

What makes you angry? Most of us get mad when our plans are thwarted, when people stand in our way, disappoint or betray us. Our anger is often (usually?) self-protective and self-centered.

But why did Jesus get angry?

  • He got angry when His disciples kept little children from His blessing. His disciples thought they were guarding His time. But Jesus was “indignant” – much displeased (Mark 11:14).
  • He was angry at the tomb of Lazarus—“deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled” (John 11:33). The Greek words mean He was agitated and upset.
  • When our Lord overturned the tables of the money-changers and drove out the vendors, He was angry (See Mark 11).
Jesus was angry when people He loved were kept from Him. And He was angry at how sin scars and separates, and leads--inevitably--to death.

But Jesus did not get angry when His plans were opposed, when His disciples failed, or even when He was betrayed, falsely accused, and sentenced to die.

There’s a proper role for anger, and the only place I know to learn it is from Jesus.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Jesus and the Planet Me

Last Sunday night during our church's praise and prayer meeting, Brad, one of our elders, shared a devotional about Jesus, the friend of sinners, and about what a friend the Lord has been to him.

He talked about poor choices he had made in the past, and how coming to know Jesus has changed everything for him and given him a wonderful life he could never have imagined before meeting Christ.

His short talk brought tears to my eyes. Christ is so good to us, and anyone who knows Him could say what Brad said: where would I be without the friendship of Christ?

When he mentioned poor choices in the past, it made me think of Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 1:30: And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

Wisdom doesn’t mean how much you know but how much skill you have to live life. Before Christ my “wisdom” was all about minimizing pain and maximizing pleasure. My choices, and yours, all revolved around the Planet Me. No wonder we were messed up.

Jesus became to us wisdom from God. Not just that He gave us wisdom, but that He became wisdom. He became the way to live life. Wisdom starts with knowing who truly deserves to be at the center. No longer enslaved to the Planet Me, the Son in our solar system is Christ.

Wisdom is Christ, and it means a cosmic shift of lordship. True wisdom has Jesus at the center and source and destination for everything. My choices need to start there—with admiring Christ.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Praying in the Dark

One of the things I admire most about Jesus is His prayer life. His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane has long been a comfort to me.

"Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will" (Mark 14:36).

How do you pray when what you’re facing seems too hard to bear? When a terrible trial overburdens you? When you’re facing heartache or disappointment? When the night is so dark you think morning will never come?

Christ felt all these things when He knelt in the Garden, His closest friends asleep and His immediate future unimaginably sorrowful. How He prayed shows us how we should pray.

  1. Pray like a little child, coming to his father. “Abba, Father.” Abba is a little child’s word for his daddy. All of us in Christ can come to the Father this way (cf. Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6).
  2. Pray in faith. “All things are possible for you.” Jesus knew, and so should we, that nothing can stand in the way of our Father’s limitless power (cf. Mt. 19:26).
  3. Pray with boldness. “Remove this cup from me.” We’re invited to come to the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16), to ask boldly for what we want. (God is too wise and too good to say “yes” to everything we ask. He said no to His own Son.)
  4. Pray in submission. “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” ...we do not stop after bringing God our request. Instead...we balance our aspirations and our desires with submission to God's assignment. We leave the outcome to God.  (Robert Bugh, When the Bottom Drops Out, p. 41. Thanks to my friend Bob, for recommending this book.)
No wonder Jesus’ disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Weekly Puritan

Okay, my plan is to have a Puritan quote every week. So this is two weeks in a row. John Owen again. And remember my tip about reading Owen out loud.

So, in reading and studying the Bible, we ought to make every effort to search for the revelations of the glory of Christ in it as did the prophets of old. The glory of Christ is the ‘pearl of great price’ which we should make every effort to find (Matt. 13:45-46). And the Scripture is the ocean into which we dive to discover this pearl, or the mine in which we dig for its precious treasures (Prov. 2:1-5). Every sacred truth that reveals something of the glory of Christ to our souls, is a pearl or precious stone which enriches us. But when the believer discovers this pearl of great price itself, then his soul cleaves to it with joy. The Glory of Christ, p. 33.

Why do you read the Bible? Inspiration? Help to make it through the day? Principles for success? The Bible helps us with many things, but it is not primarily a book of inspirational quotes, a counseling text, or a self-help manual.

Jesus said “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me…” (John 5:39, ESV). Not just the New Testament, but all the Old Testament, too. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27, ESV).

Let’s read the Bible, looking for Jesus. He’s all over the place, and always worthy of our admiration, praise, and worship.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Words, Even Big Ones, Matter

Dionne and I participated in a conference a while back, with Christian leaders from around the country. During a break I got acquainted with one of the participants, a denominational leader. His name tag said he had a PhD.

Since we were both preachers, our conversation turned toward public speaking, about which the good doctor said the following, “In my sermons I use a lot of self-defecating humor.”

Yes, he really said that. I had about a dozen funny rejoinders floating in my head, but instead I just nodded.

The point is, I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean to use that word. He was thinking of another word that sounds like it. Probably “self-deprecating.”

Words matter. And one of the ways we admire Christ is to learn some of the big ones that describe His matchless character and works.

Like “propitiation,” a term used to refer to Christ’s death in Romans 3:25, Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2 and 4:10. In Romans 3:25 Paul says that the Father put forth the Son “as a propitiation by his blood…”

Theologian Wayne Grudem describes propitiation:
“a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath to the end and in so doing changes God’s wrath toward us into favor.” Paul tells us that “This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25-26). God had not simply forgiven sin and forgotten about the punishment in generations past. He had forgiven sins and stored up his righteous anger against those sins. But at the cross the fury of all that stored-up wrath again sin was unleashed against God’s own Son.” Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 575.

Jesus “propitiated” God’s wrath—turned it away from His children, bore it Himself. And changed the Father’s wrath toward us into favor. Wow.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What If Jesus Were Praying for You?

When you pray for the ones you love, you pray for the best thing you can imagine for them, right? You don’t ask God to give them what is mediocre, passable, fair-to-middlin’, semi-satisfying. You pray for the best, the highest, the most wonderful.

Suppose Jesus were praying for you. (Hint: if you’re following Him, He is. Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).

Jesus would not ask the Father for what is mediocre, passable, fair-to-middlin’, semi-satisfying, for the ones He loves. He’d pray for the best, the highest, the most wonderful.

So what would He ask for? If you could peek at His prayer list, what would you find?

The Lord has already shown us His prayer list, hasn’t he?  Here’s what He asked from His Father for you and me:
Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. John 17:24 (ESV)

Jesus could have asked for all kinds of things for you and me: more victory over sin, or greater faithfulness, or more effective evangelism, or extra courage in standing for the truth.

But when it came time to ask for the best, the highest, the most wonderful thing for you and me, Jesus said, Father, let them be with Me, to see My glory!

The idea of admiring Christ is not just some sappy, sentimental, super-spiritual idea for the mystical among us. It’s actually the greatest thing that can happen to anyone.

Admire Him! Make it your life’s ambition. Work at it, pray for it, study to achieve it—to know Him in His glory. And watch how love and service and evangelism and church planting and compassion and justice all flow out of what Jesus says is best and highest and most wonderful.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Storm at Sea

Ever been awake in the wee hours, knotted up with worry, knocked around by the unknowns of the economy or your health or family troubles? Sometimes it feels like no one knows or cares

Jesus’ disciples knew the feeling. They were buffeted by a terrible storm, in a little boat on a dark sea with no one to help them. It was after an exhausting but fulfilling day of ministry. Jesus multiplied loaves and fishes, fed five thousand, and stretched the faith of the Twelve. But then He dismissed the crowd, sent His disciples off across the sea, and went up on the mountain to be with His Father.

Did His disciples wonder why He left them? Were they experiencing confusion? Disappointment? Whatever they felt, their voyage certainly didn’t seem like a victory cruise. The wind was against them and it was tough going.

But even while He was praying, even in the darkness before dawn, even at a distance to make human sight impossible, Jesus was watching and saw their trouble. Here’s how Mark recorded it: And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. Mark 6:48, ESV

And He came to them, walking on the sea. This is a Savior to admire! It’s not easy to hang on in the darkness while the wind lashes and the sea roils. But you’re not alone and He has not lost track of you.

He is praying, but He is also watching. He sees us in the storm. He knows every heartache and every trouble.

And He will come to us, Master of it all, walking on the sea. And nothing can stand in His way.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Five Reasons Why We Should Pray, "Lead Me Not Into Temptation"

Ever wondered why Jesus taught us to pray “Lead me not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13)? After all, God doesn’t tempt anyone to sin (James 1:13), so why should we ask Him not to?

1. Because Jesus told us to. That ought to be enough.

2. Because temptation is the gateway to sin. Except for Christ, every other person on the planet succumbs to temptation a certain percentage of the time.

3. Because it’s humbling. Temptation isn’t a game, it’s a problem. And praying about it acknowledges we need help.

4. Because if you’re praying about temptation, you’re less likely to be giving in to it.

5. Because it connects us to our wonderful Lord. “Because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18, ESV). 

I admire, and love, Christ because He can and will help us with our sin battle. It’s a blessing to come to Him for forgiveness when we’ve blown it and given in to temptation, but even better to seek His help beforehand so we won’t.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Super Bowl and the One True King

I watched the very first Super Bowl on a small black & white TV in my parents’ living room back in 1967. Bart Starr and the Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35 to 10.

At the time it seemed like a very big deal. “World Championship,” they called it, because the two football leagues (which merged a few years later) were playing to determine a winner.

That was 45 Super Bowls ago. Next month we’ll crown Super Bowl Champion #46. Whoopee.
This world is fickle about picking winners. Every year a new football champion. Every four (or eight) years, another President. The “Arab Spring” reveals how even absolute rulers get replaced rather easily.
I admire Christ the King of all Kings. The humble Carpenter, the wise Teacher, the kind Healer, the Friend of Sinners—He is the One, the Lord of all the universe. He’ll never be displaced. His is the seat of highest power and honor and authority. “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet,” the Father says to Him in Hebrews 1:13.

He rules over our entire galaxy of 200-400 billion stars. He controls all things—the wind and the tides, the tiniest single-cell organisms, the rise and fall of nations, angels and demons, light and darkness, the moment of my conception and the day of my death.

Tired of football? Politics? Stupid award shows on TV? Oh, how grateful we must be for our Jesus, the actual Number One, the True Winner, the Real Champion, the Best, Highest, Brightest, Greatest, Holiest, Most Powerful, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End!

Handel had it right:
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tim Tebow and Adorning the Doctrine

Some of you are probably sick of Tim Tebow, especially if you’re not into football or not a Denver Bronco fan.

But there’s more to the Tebow story than football. Today’s a big game, and if the Broncos are humiliated and Tebow plays terrible, we might miss what’s more important than football.

I read an amazing story by a cynical sports writer from ESPN about Tebow. I hope you’ll check it out yourself. Rick Reilly starts his article this way:

I've come to believe in Tim Tebow, but not for what he does on a football field, which is still three parts Dr. Jekyll and two parts Mr. Hyde.

No, I've come to believe in Tim Tebow for what he does off a football field, which is represent the best parts of us, the parts I want to be and so rarely am.

Who among us is this selfless?(Read the rest of the story here).

Made me think of Titus 2:10: “that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” We adorn the doctrine, and admire Christ, when we live out what we say we believe.

I think we need to pray for Tim Tebow—not for football success but for faithful, unsullied witness.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Puritans--Admiring Jesus

Nobody loved and admired Jesus Christ more than the Puritans. And among the Puritans no man had a greater love for Jesus, or a greater depth of insight into the Bible, than John Owen.

Owen lived in 17th century England, graduated Oxford at age 19, and became a Christian in his early 20’s. He went on to be a pastor, chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and a respected educator. He is known today for his books on theology and Christian living. He's still in print 320 years after his death.

Owen is hard to read, but he’s worth the effort. Here’s a quote about the glory of Christ from his book by the same name. See what you think. (Hint: it helps me to read him out loud.

So we may see how excellent, how beautiful, how glorious and desirable he [Christ] is as the presentation of God’s loving nature. He who does not behold the glory of Christ as the representation of God’s love is utterly ignorant of these heavenly mysteries. He does not know either God or Christ. He has neither the Father nor the Son. He does not know God, because he does not know the holy properties of his nature in the chief way designed by infinite wisdom for their revelation. He does not know Christ because he does not see the glory of God in him. So, whatever ideas men may have gleaned from nature or from the works of providence that there is love in God, yet apart from them no one can know for sure that “God is love.” Apart from Christ no man can come to a true understand of God’s love. (The Glory of Christ, p. 19)

How often have you heard somebody talk about how they “accepted God” into their life, with nary a mention of Jesus Christ. What do you think Owen would say to that?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Covered in Mud

I grew up on a farm in Western Colorado, and I followed my dad everywhere. One January morning I came with him to feed the cattle, penned up to keep them close to the barn in those cold winter months. I was five years old, dressed by my mother in a bright red snow suit.

Dad fired up our old Farmall tractor and hitched it to the flatbed. He drove it over to the haystack and tumbled bales down onto it for the cattle. I got to ride on the back for the short trip to the corral.

It had been a wet winter, and melting snow combined with the natural alimentary output of the cows produced a thick layer of brown ooze. As Dad slowly drove through the corral gate, the tractor lurched forward. I lost my footing and landed in the “mud.” I sank down to the middle of my chest, nearly buried in cow poop. It was one of the more disgusting episodes of my life, made worse by the fact that Dad apparently found it hilarious.

That rude experience, wherein my snowsuit turned from red to brown, makes me think of the Lord Jesus when He entered the human population.

One of the things I so admire about Jesus is that He always loves righteousness and always hates sin. “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness” (Hebrews 1:9a, ESV).

What must it have been like for Jesus to walk among His sinful creatures—all of them so flawed by Adam’s fall and by their own? He loved righteousness, and found none among the best of us. He hated wickedness and found it everywhere.

Did He feel like He was sinking in filth? Did He long to shed His human nature like clothes suddenly stained? Did He question the wisdom of the Incarnation? Did He ever dream of changing course and abandoning the redemptive plan because it was too caustic and too disgusting for His soul?

How He continued, persevered unto death in the face of revulsion for the wickedness He saw, I do not know.

I am so thankful to Him that He did. And that in loving righteousness He imputed His to me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Faithful Bridegroom

I admire, and depend upon, Christ’s faithfulness.

A while back I had lunch with a missionary friend of mine. We talked about people we’ve known who have wrecked their marriages by unfaithfulness.

Like the Christian leader who betrayed his wife and broke his marriage vows. Not once but with a couple different women. He and his wife went through some deep waters. They got counseling and stayed together. But his unfaithfulness took a terrible toll on their marriage.

I’ll never forget a comment his wife made: “I love him, but I don’t trust him.” I’m glad they stayed together, but I feel sad that the wife’s respect for her husband was so compromised.

Jesus is faithful to His bride (cf. Eph. 5:25-27). He keeps His word and He keeps His people. He is faithful.

I am so grateful for His faithfulness to my family. My wife and I will celebrate 40 years together this year, to His glory. Though our earthly possessions are modest and our “investments” meager by American standards, our Savior has cared for us and provided for us in abundance. I wouldn’t trade with anybody.

Christ has saved our two sons, given them wonderful, godly wives, and blessed them with sweet little children. And I know the Faithful One to whom we belong will continue to care and provide for us all at every turn.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Friend of Sinners

Jesus Christ is a great friend. That means everything when you know how badly you need a friend.

But He was vilified for being a friend to the wrong people. Jesus reflected on this with some irony when He addressed the Pharisees:

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ (Luke 7:33, 34, ESV)

Guess who would think being a friend of sinners is a bad thing? People who don’t see themselves as sinners! But if you are a sinner, it’s great to have a Friend like Jesus!

Usually the lonely, needy people are the ones seeking friends, and the contented, satisfied people already have plenty. If you’ve ever been an outsider in a new community, one where relationships are established and stable, you know how hopeless that can feel.

Christ has no need for more friends. The fellowship of the Trinity was and is eternally satisfying. But still He came to establish friendship with those who were by nature His enemies (cf. Jas. 4:4).

There’s never been a Friend like Jesus, and how grateful I am that He drew me into His circle.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mission Accomplished

I admire the Lord Jesus for the final, decisive completion of His mission.
When I was a young Christian, I loved Jesus, but I thought of Him as a fragile, sensitive sort, constantly appealing to His wayward children to come home. I pictured Him as an anxious parent, nervously pacing the sidelines of history, waiting and hoping for the response of His creatures.
Or like that old Sunday School picture of Jesus, I thought of Him knocking at the door of our hearts, maintaining a lonely vigil as He listened for someone to invite Him in.
But I’ve come to know Him in Scripture as The Man, the Conquering King, the One who, as the hymn writer said, “rose victorious in the strife for those He came to save.”
Crown him the Lord of life,
who triumphed o'er the grave,
who rose victorious in the strife
for those he came to save.

And it makes me think of another song, Johnny Cash’s When the Man Comes Around.
“After making justification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).
He accomplished in His thirty-three years, or in those three days from Calvary to the empty tomb, the purchase of all God’s elect—those He came to save. He took their place, paid their penalty, and bore the fury of God's just wrath for them. Then He threw off the shroud of death, brushed aside the shrieks of hell's frustration, and rose again to take His place on the throne of heaven.
Mission accomplished. The Lord Jesus is King!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

His Courage

C. S. Lewis said (through the mouth of Screwtape), “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point” (Screwtape Letters, letter #29).

That makes Jesus the most courageous man who ever lived. His virtues were tested beyond our imagination. If a good man resists longer and his temptation is consequently more severe, Christ’s impeccable character meant His testing was off the charts.

And He walked into it all with His eyes open. He knew the terrible suffering and fearsome challenges He would face in the Incarnation, but He chose to go ahead. He knew that He would have to deal with the laying aside of His privileges (Phil. 2:6f), but He elected to go forward. The eternal God submitted Himself to time—to growth, aging, and even death. Jesus the Brave!

The Lord expected the ostracism, misunderstanding, and hatred of His own creatures, but He chose it nonetheless. He had enjoyed, from eternity, the intimate fellowship of the Trinity, and for eons had been surrounded by the praise of His angels. He left this to be cursed, rejected and spat upon by men He created. How courageous, my King.

Jesus is my hero.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Admiring Christ

By “admiring Christ,” I don’t mean, as some people apparently do, that He is admirable as a man of history or as a symbolic figure or as a misguided idealist. I don’t mean I admire Him as you do somebody you don’t agree with.

I mean that I look up to Jesus, love Him more than I love anyone else, believe in Him as God incarnate, trust Him as my Savior, and worship Him as my lord. Jesus is my hero. I admire Him as someone, the supreme Someone, to emulate as the only one who deserves my constant attention and praise.

He is the perfect one, perfect God and perfect man. He is eternal, holy, all-powerful, infinitely patient and kind, all-wise and all-knowing, and altogether lovely in His character.

Jesus is admirable from every angle and perspective.