Friday, August 31, 2012

Jesus is the Yes to God's Promises

Last week while we were on vacation I was flipping channels, and caught the telecast of a famous TV preacher. He has the largest audience in America, and is well-known for encouraging people to “live their best life now.”

He is handsome, smooth, and sincere in his delivery. Here’s what I heard him say: “All the promises God has spoken over you will come true. You will achieve financial success, you will overcome that addiction, you will meet the right people, you will recover from that illness.” (That’s not an exact quote, but pretty close).

Giving people hope and encouraging them from God’s promises is a good thing. But the Bible speaks of those promises differently than the TV preacher did. For example, hear what Peter says in his second letter: His [Jesus’] divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 2 Peter 1:3-4, my emphasis.

Notice that God’s promises are granted through the knowledge of Jesus. God’s promises are not handed out like party favors, but are for those who have come to know the glory and excellence of Jesus. Not only that, but God’s promises are given that we might become like the Lord: so that through them you might become partakes of the divine nature. They are not primarily to make us healthy, wealthy, and successful.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What Would You Throw into the Vocano?

I once saw a documentary about volcanoes. The only thing I remember is the picture of a very wealthy man throwing his super-expensive wristwatch into KÄ«lauea, the active volcano on the big island of Hawaii. 

The voice-over said the man was trying to appease the gods. A quick Internet search tells me that expensive watches can sell for many thousands of dollars. That’s a lot of money to convert to molten lava.

Now I’m a Timex kind of guy, so I don’t imagine I’d do a lot of appeasing by throwing my $37 digital into the flames. I don't have any hope that my cheapo Indiglo would appease even a couple low-level transgressions. And nobody has a watch expensive enough to take care of the true weight of my sins.

Anyhow, I was reading the New Testament story about Mary, Lazarus’ sister, who anointed Jesus with costly nard ointment (see John 12:1-8). Judas, who resented this “waste” of resources, appraised the value of the perfume at 300 denarii--about a year’s wages (v. 5).

So I was thinking--what’s the difference between a man who throws a $20,000 wristwatch into the volcano to try atoning for his sins, and a woman who pours out a year’s wages worth of ointment to anoint the Savior? Both seemed to be extravagant or wasteful, depending upon your point of view. Both did so for spiritual reasons.

But there is a very big difference. The volcano sacrifice was an attempt to appease an angry god. The perfume sacrifice was an attempt to worship a suffering Savior. The wristwatch was meant to pay for sins. The ointment was meant to say thanks for sins' payment. The man in Hawaii threw his watch into the flames out of desperate fear. The woman in Bethany poured her perfume onto the Savior out of extravagant love.

Nothing we sacrifice is enough to atone for our sins; we have broken the Law of the God and offended His holy character. The only atonement that would work is if He hurled Himself into the volcano. And that’s what He did. The volcano’s name is Golgotha.

The value of Jesus’ sacrifice is infinitely precious. So much so that by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 11:14). We can never repay Him. But we can spill out the best we have, for the rest of our lives, to tell Him how much we love Him.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

Do Your Doubts Make You a Loser?

What do you know about the Apostle Thomas? Doubting Thomas, right? He’s the guy who refused to accept the word of the other apostles when they told him they had seen the risen Lord.

It’s obvious that Thomas was a glass-half-empty kind of guy. But I think he’s gotten a bad rap, labeled a loser among the apostles. Biggest loser: Judas Iscariot, of course. But Thomas would probably get the silver loser medal, at least according to popular perception.

But I’ve come to believe that being a pessimist, a doubter, is not Thomas’ whole story, not even the most important part of it. I think that what defines Thomas, far more than his “glass half empty” personality, is his deep love for Jesus.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Falling Asleep in Jesus - from our Pyro friends

I have so far not posted from other blogs, but this is too good to pass up. The PyroManiacs have a weekly Spurgeon excerpt, and this one is great. And visit PyroManiacs by clicking here

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 46, sermon number 2,659, "Fallen Asleep."
“For a Christian to die, is, according to Scripture, an act of the most natural kind, for it is but to fall asleep.”

The more you think this matter over, the more clearly will it appear to you that there cannot be any pain in death; all pain must be connected with life, it is the living who suffer. In death, we forget all pain. That gentle touch, that divine love-pat that, shall end all pain and sorrow, is, the thing which men usually call death, but which the apostle rightly calls sleep. There is nothing to be dreaded in it; it may be altogether unattended with pain; I believe that, full often, it is so. To fall asleep is a very natural act, and so it is for us to die. A little child has been playing in the field gathering buttercups and daisies all day long; but, at last, tired right out, he drops asleep upon his mother’s lap; what could he do better? So, though we may be unwilling to die, the time will come when we shall have finished our life,—work or play, whichever you may please to call it,—and we shall fall asleep upon the bosom of our God; what better thing could we do? There is a dear old friend of mine, now in heaven; and, when he came to this house, one Sabbath-day, I said to him, “Our old friend So-and-so has gone home.”

The one to whom I spoke was an old man himself, one of our most gracious elders, and he looked at me in a most significant way, and his eyes twinkled as he said, “He could not do better, dear Pastor; he could not do better; and you and I will do the same thing one of these days. We also shall go home!” Our aged friend, as I told you, has himself gone home since that time, and now I may say of him, “He could not have done better.” Why! that is where good children always go at night,—home. If they ran away, where would they go? When our night comes, beloved children of God, you and I also must go home; do we feel at all afraid of such a prospect? If so, surely our love to our Heavenly Father, and to our Elder Brother, and to our home above, must be growing somewhat cold.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Dreaming Dreams for Your Life

Did you ever wonder if Jesus, when He was a young man, had personal dreams about His future? As a teenager, did Christ recognize the potential within Himself to be and to do virtually anything He wanted?

For example, do you suppose Jesus ever dreamed of having a wife and children? What if He had imagined building His step-father’s carpentry shop into a wealthy business? Did He consider what it would be like to become a political Messiah? By mobilizing a nation chafing under Roman occupation, He could have ruled Palestine by the time He was 40.

And why shouldn’t Jesus have had these dreams? He had every right to “be the best He could be,” right?

That’s what you and I are always told: Set your sights as high as you can. Aim for the stars. What you can believe you can achieve. Right?

Of course our Savior didn’t pursue His own dreams, did He? He explained it this way: For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me (John 6:38). Jesus submitted His life and plans to His Heavenly Father. Christ, the only perfect Man, had unlimited potential to achieve any personal goal He might ever have envisioned. But He chose to say, even in His last hours…not what I will, but what you will (Mark 14:36).

So what about your dreams? Wanting to make your mark in the world by setting goals and pursuing them—that’s a good thing. Christ’s followers ought to try harder and achieve higher than anyone. But to the glory of God. And that’s the hard part, I guess—figuring out how to aim high and try hard, but also how to submit to God and adapt to the inevitable changes and detours He brings into our lives.    

When you reach a certain age, you look back on your life with a bit more perspective and wisdom than when you were younger. Often the dreams you dreamed, the plans you planned and the goals you set didn’t materialize as you had hoped. So how do you make sense of that?

In the end, I think the only question will be, were our ambitions and dreams only attempts to place ourselves in the spotlight, or were they our best and most faithful efforts to throw the spotlight on Jesus?

Pioneer missionary C.T Studd put it famously: Only one life, 'twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last.

Friday, August 10, 2012

What If I'm Not Predestined?

What if I’m not predestined to go to heaven?

The Bible teaches predestination. Christians differ in their understanding of what it means, but no one who takes the Bible seriously can deny that the Scriptures teach it.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:3-6, 11, my highlights).

This truth is meant to bring great glory to Christ. It is intended to humble us and bring us to our knees in gratitude. God’s grace has come to us based entirely on His own will and plan, and not because of anything we could or would ever do.

But sometimes the truth of God’s electing purposes may cause believers to question their own salvation. A sensitive conscience may ask, What if I’m not one of the “chosen ones?” I believe in Jesus, I love Him and want to follow Him. But what if He doesn’t love or receive me?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Man of Prayer

One of the things I admire most about our Savior is His prayer life. Rather than fitting prayer into His busy schedule, He always made prayer His priority.
  • He prayed at the start of His public ministry, even as He was being baptized. Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened (Luke 3:21).
  • He prayed early in the morning, at the start of the day. And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed (Mark 1:35).
  •  He went away from the crowds to pray. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray (Mark 6:46). But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray (Luke 5:16).
  • Sometimes He prayed all night. In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God (Luke 6:12).
  •  He prayed before big decisions –like choosing the Twelve (Luke 6:12).

Saturday, August 4, 2012

When Christ Healed My Son

When our boys were small, we used to camp in the redwoods nearly every summer.  We got into camping through a program that recruited pastors to serve for a week at time as summer chaplains in the state parks. In exchange for leading a Sunday worship service, you had the use of the chaplain campsite, including a large tent and all the gear.

The summer that Andy was seven and Zach was four, we camped at Big Basin Redwoods near Santa Cruz. We arrived at our campground on Tuesday, and on Saturday I made the rounds through the other campsites, inviting people to the worship service the next morning at the campfire center. Most people were cordial, but I had one strange, slightly unnerving, encounter.