Tag Archive: Jesus


Tree of LifeWhat does man gain by all the toil
    at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
    but the earth remains forever.
Ecclesiastes 1:3-4

I have experienced death many times throughout my life. I have lost friends and family, youthful and elderly. A wise friend recently told me that it doesn’t matter how long someone lives, losing them hurts. Death is the ultimate sign that we live in a broken world. We try to find meaning in it, but the truth is that death wasn’t meant to be.

The Way Things Once Were

 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature... The tree of life was in the midst of the garden…
Genesis 2:7&9

Once upon a time man did not experience the sting of death. We walked with God and experienced a complete and perfect relationship with him. We had access to the Tree of Life which was all we needed to sustain us. “According to Augustine, Adam in his original state of creation was free, but he was nevertheless still dependent upon divine grace. Augustine saw human beings as utterly dependent upon God’s unmerited favor at every stage of their life and being. Though Adam was created immortal, he was not impervious to death, but he had the capacity for bodily immortality.”(Reasons to Believe). Then with a few twisted words our lives headed down a different path. A path away from God.

The Way Things Are Now

By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.
Genesis 3:19

We made a choice. The choice to take control of our own destiny and to live by our own rules. The problem is that it cuts us off from God. It cut us off from that one reason we were created. Sin enters the story. The path with God leads to life and the path apart from God leads to death. Sickness, suffering, greed entered our hearts calling to us and drawing us away from the love of the Lord.

My grandmother passed away after a 6 year fight with cancer. She was loving, she was caring, she was patient with me. Many of my values that I stand on and make decisions on today are because of her influence on my life. That relationship has been broken. Many try to hang on to it and find ways to maintain it. Relationship is what God designed us for and death painfully severs it. That is why death stings so much when a young child dies and when your grandma dies. She taught me a lot and in one sense lived a good life, yet when she died my heart knew that things were not the way it was meant to be.

The toil of my hands is meaningless if the Lord is not in the work, “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” Many men and women have toiled away and done good works, yet Jesus said “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). Without God our work is the same as Adam’s.

Photo 2014-05-31, 9 56 57 AM (1)Preparing The Way

John the Baptist said he was the one preparing the way of the Lord, for the one who would make things right again. He called to those who had wandered off the path and prepared hearts to receive the saviour of all mankind, the one who could fix the brokenness of all creation. It is through Jesus Christ that the sting of death and the victory of sin is crushed. No one else has the ability to take on death and win.

In the movie Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade Kazim, the guardian of the Grail, asks Indy “My soul is prepared. How’s yours?” Kazim asks this as they both face certain death. His motives and intentions where perhaps not exactly correct at the moment he asks the question, however it is one we all must face for all of us face death. We must ask which path will we walk, will we walk with God down the path he has designed us for?

Paul calls Christ the new Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). On the Cross he completed the work and restored what the first Adam lost. “Jesus stretches one hand toward the Garden of Eden, the other toward the eternal Garden. The immortality the first Adam could no longer reach, the Second Adam touched in his place.” (Equip.org). Christ was obedient when Adam was not. “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” (Romans 5:12-14 ESV). Christ restores what Adam lost.

The Way Things Will Be

Doom and gloom is not the way it ends for hope is rising. Like the morning sun appearing on the horizon slowly ascending into the sky, offering life to a new day. Christ’s death and resurrection offer new life and a restored hope. A second chance to walk with the Lord in the cool of the day. Paul tells us “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).  Our hope comes from God and keeping today in perspective with eternity and Christ’s work.

In the song When I Leave the Room by Natalie Grant she sings “You want me to fight but I tell you I’m ready.” When the Lord calls me home I long to be in that place where I know my soul is prepared to walk through the door into eternity. Through Christ death has lost its sting. My relationship to God that was once broken has been restored. We were not designed to be a part from our creator, our heavenly Father. He loved us so much that when the relationship was broken he entered the world and became like us. Christ calls to us “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35). Like the Father in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15) he welcomes us with open arms. Death no longer is the victor for those who chose to walk the path with Jesus.

 
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:54-58

We mourn at the relationship lost, yet have a hope since Christ conquered death and will restore all creation.

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A good friend reminded me this weekend that if we focus on what we don’t want we will always end up there. If I focus on not being like my dad I will end up being like him or if I focus on the ditch while driving I will end up in the ditch. People do not set goals to not do or be something, they set goals in the direction they want to go.

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“…every organization eventually becomes a direct reflection of its leadership, whether for good or for bad.”
Larry Osborne, Sticky Church, Pg. 123

Knowing what we don’t want is great however one must focus on what is to be achieved. What is the purpose of Christianity and why do we believe what we do?

winter fieldFarming is a major analogy in the bible. Seeding, growing, and harvesting. The harvest is what farming is all about. In the Church harvesting is seen as people responding to the Gospel and believing in the work Christ has done for us. In farming the harvest is what brings the food to the table. The harvest for the Church is what brings people to the great feast in heaven.

Where is the harvest?

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37, 38). This idea of harvest has been miss placed and misinterpreted in the Church today. Where was Jesus when he harvested? Where were the disciples? The Bible tells us clearly where the field is that needs to be harvested. We have many promises that working the field will bring a plentiful harvest. “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense” (Proverbs 12:11).

Where should we be if we are looking to be a worker in the plentiful harvest?

In the church?

Not all, but a majority of Christians today do not look at the harvest. Is the harvest meant to be an altar call at the end of a church service or some event that you brought a friend to? Today we, pulling the log out of my own eye, tend to be dependent on these alter calls and crusades to reach out dumping the harvest on our pastors and those brave enough to say that evangelism is one of their gifts, but is this what Jesus was meaning?

Seeker sensitive churches come at the expense of discipleship and in an effort to make the Gospel understandable we lose theological understanding. Instead of being driven by our understanding of who God is we become driven to just increase our numbers or serve physical worldly needs.

These are good things, but we have become reliant on the “church” to do all the harvesting instead of the way God has chosen to use us all and send us out into the field. “The  Lord  had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). God calls us into the field, so where is the field?

The Field!

The synagogue is not typically the scene of the harvest. We are called to action, to serve those around us, and as we go to make disciples. Interestingly Matthew 9:37-38 is sandwiched between Jesus being out in public and him sending his disciples out into the area villages. When he is talking about the harvest he is not in a church but in the world. He is where the sick are and he is among them seeking them out (Romans 3.11) and being the great healer. You look at the story of Zacchaeus and see a similar thing. “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.  A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy…  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1, 2, 10). Christ was there to seek and to save. He does not sit on the sidelines waiting for people to seek him out for he knows that they cannot. And if we call ourselves Christ’s disciples then we must follow him into the field.

We must be willing and able to share the Gospel with the people we meet Monday to Saturday, with the people we spend 40 hours a week with, the parents who we see every practice, the kids we play with at recess. The key is to be open about what you believe. Acknowledge the tragedies of this life, big and small, it all starts with the brokenness we all share.

Where are you?

The church is a great place to grow and can serve as a place to harvest, however the bible clearly calls us to get out into the world around us. We must leave our homes and seek out the sick. “Then Jesus came to them and said,  “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18, 19). While we are going are we harvesting?

So Abram went, as the  Lord  had told him; and Lot went with him… Genesis 12:4

It has been a while since my last post but I have not forgotten about it. Life has been far more busy lately and to be honest I have felt little desire to write. Sad day, thankful that desire is starting to return.

Working in the social service field is rewarding, you see lives changed because someone reached out. It is easy to become comfortable in thinking that one is on the right track because we are helping people. Feeding the poor, helping the widows, befriending the friendless. WWJD right?

It is easy to mix ones views of social justice with ones views of soteriology. Social justice is important however it is not what saves. As disciples we are called to follow and imitate Christ which is where social justice comes in, however, the work of Christ that saves us involves him dying for our sins and that is not something we can replicate but only lead people to. The delicate balance is that we are called to do both together. We cannot forget those who are suffering even if they do not accept the work Jesus did for all, just as we cannot forget that we are called to preach the Gospel.

Psalm 95

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.

For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.

Today, if only you would hear his voice,
“Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’”

Erwin McManus is a name I recognize as an influential speaker in the Evangelical church, however until this last week I have not really read or heard any of his work. It started with the sermon he gave at Centre Street Church (watch here) and then I watched his documentary Crave Calgary. After listening and watching I was left with a few questions and a little disappointed. I don’t want to assume that what I heard and saw was intentionally selling the Gospel short nor do I believe that McManus intended for it to be sold short. Too often today we take sound bits of people out of context and say they believe something that they don’t actually believe. I would love to sit down with a venti 1/2 sweet stirred white mocha, ask him to clear up some points and thank him for others.

Where is scripture? At some point you must cross over into Christian language. Scripture is the Word of God and as a believer or someone looking into why not go to the source instead of someone else’s paraphrase of scripture.  Present a scripture without the reference you would be amazed at how people agree with it even if they are resistant or hostile to anything God related.

The video does not seem to offer answers to the misconceptions and ideas that go against scripture. I will give it the assumption that the documentary has been designed to open the discussion however the website questions don’t go much deeper. In the book’s introduction he says “Jesus once said the kingdom of God is within us. Yet most of us even bother to explore the possibility that this might be true. It seems that what he is implying that it is that we have a better chance finding God in the universe within us than the one that surrounds us.” He was referencing Luke 17.21 which feels horribly out of context and the reference is not given. Matthew Henry describes “that the kingdom of the Messiah was to be a spiritual kingdom,and not temporal and external”(1) . The Reformation Study Bible also points to this idea saying “the kingdom of God is within you. That is, the kingdom is present as an inner reality, something hidden in people’s hearts (cf. Rom. 14:17). Translating “in your midst” (text note) would point to the presence of the kingdom in the person of Jesus” (2). McManus’ line of thinking seems to open a door to thinking that I have the power with in me to overcome my issues. How would he defend from this?

~
11 While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; 13 and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When He saw them, He said to them, “ Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. 15 Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, 16 and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? 18 Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” 19 And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”
20 Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst [Or within you].”
~
The documentary is also very me-centered instead of Christ-centered. The views shown are grounded in what the culture is seeking around us and even though it points towards God it falls short in delivering the Gospel truth that it is more about God’s glory than us. It leaves the Gospel on the ground and runs the risk of being idolatry as “it is still idolatry to want God for his benefits but not for himself” (3). This seems to undermine who God is and merely looks toward what he can offer me. This is the negative side of the seeker sensitive movement. Again I would like to ask about when do you go deeper than what God can offer? Is that even a good place to start since that encourages the consumer mentality we already have?

With the concerns explained I would move on to something I truly appreciate and think too often we get caught up in. The video can be viewed for  free online with the option to buy physical copies of the documentary (the books and study must be purchased as well). Gospel for Asia does the same thing but with all their material including books. That is something that I have come to have great respect for. If you claim to have insight about God it is because he revealed it to you and is for everyone not just for you to make money off of. I think this falls into the category of failing to love your brother (1 John 4.20) or as Paul says “What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel…I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” (1 Corinthians 9.18 &23). Videos today tend to be primers or marketing tools for something else like a book or a study. However they also open doors to reach out to people who typically would not have the desire to engage in these types of conversations. I am thankful that there are people like McManus willing to push our typical ideas of church and culture to reach the lost with the Gospel.

Finally I would follow-up on the first question. He may not go as deep into the scripture as I feel is appropriate, but something that McManus does do is open dialogue about the idea that we need to learn to connect the language within the church with the language of the culture around us. He affirms the need for special language in his April 29, 2012 sermon at Centre Street Church but says we need to do a better job being able to bridge the language of everyday and with in the church. This is something so simple yet we fail so badly at it. Fields of science have their own terms, Religions have their own terms, kids have their own terms. When someone enters one of these new areas they need to learn all the special terms. Acronyms must be explained, concepts broken down into their simplest form. When we do this we become less accurate with their meaning however over time the knowledge to understand them more accurately grows. With that I would finish my white mocha, thank him for taking the time to have coffee with me, and go our separate ways.

In all reality if I had a chance to have this conversation I probably wouldn’t be able to ask any of these things and more likely would just sit and listen.

Footnotes

1) Henry, M. (1996, c1991). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume (Lk 17:20). Peabody: Hendrickson.

2) Whitlock, L. G., Sproul, R. C., Waltke, B. K., & Silva, M. (1995). Reformation study Bible, the : Bringing the light of the Reformation to Scripture : New King James Version. Includes index. (Lk 17:21). Nashville: T. Nelson.

3) Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel, page40

4) Picture of DA Carson quote from The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler

Matt Maher – Letting Go

I’m holding onto Your love
I’m letting go of myself
I’m holding onto Your love
I’m letting go of myself
I’ll say so long to everything else

I just wanna be in Your arms
I just wanna be in Your arms
Moving ever closer to Your heart
To Your heart

This week I spent some time in the Epistle of Galatians. The beauty of this letter is in how Paul explains the law in relation to Christ. The freedom found in Christ is captured in the idea of resting in the arms of God and moving closer to his heart. The fruit of the spirit cannot be produced through our own works but through the transforming work of the Spirit in our lives. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are produced by a sanctified heart, a heart close to God’s. Self-help will lead to despair and utter hopelessness, but when one lives and walks by the Spirit one cannot help but be these things.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5.22-26)

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

| William R. Featherston

Songs like this really make me evaluate my faith in Christ. Even in death will I turn to God? Will I be able to “stand firm” and be courageous? My Jesus, I Love Thee was written in the 1860’s by a 16-year-old who died around the age of 27. Another song Give Me Jesus says, “When I come to die, Give me Jesus”. Songs like these remind us that Christ is more than a quick fix for our worldly problems. They make us check ourselves and help to refocus us on the one that is in control of everything from the stars to the smallest atom. Even death cannot defeat God.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58:

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed —  in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Our own efforts will end in death, but death is not the end for those that believe, for Christ conquered the grave and “we will be changed”.

Even in death will you find hope and joy in the works of the Lord?

Where Were You?

A few weeks ago I posted a video by Matt Chandler called David, Goliath, & the gospel where he looks at how we view the champion and who fulfills that role. Just the other day I was listening to Matt Maher’s CD. The song You Were On The Cross reminded me of that post especially where he says “And where were You when all that I’ve hoped for, where were you when all that I’ve dreamed, came crashing down in shambles around me?” He goes on to answer that question that Christ was on the cross. The song paints a dramatic picture of what happens to us when we place ourselves in the champions position. For we cannot go where he was going and Romans 3.23 tells us why “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. In John 8 Jesus draws the line in the sand and identifies his divinity. He shows what is different between us and him.

via the Blog Doing Life Together

When our dreams come crashing down where do we turn? Do we turn to blame God for we thought we were on the right path or do we fall on God to carry us through? This depends on how we view our role and God’s role in fulfilling the good work of the Gospel. If we see ourselves as David the great champion our shortcomings will lead to our destruction, but if we see our champion as Christ, alone on that rugged wooden cross, he will bring us out of our brokenness and into the light of His glory.

Where were You when sin stole my innocence?
Where were You when I was ashamed?
Hiding in a life, I wish, I never made
 
You were on the cross, my God, my God, all along, all along
You were on the cross, You died for us, all along, all along
You were on the cross, victorious, all along, all along
 
You were there in all of my suffering
And You were there in doubt and in fear
I’m waiting on the dawn to reappear

Are you trying to be David or can you let Christ be your champion?

I have heard the phrase “live the Gospel” and “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessaryuse words“* a lot recently.  This idea has been around for some time however I personal have not run into it in a way that made me look at its meaning. I have listened to friends on both sides of the debate, listened to renowned speakers, read books and what it all comes down to is the question what is the Gospel? Your understanding of the Gospel will lead you down one of two paths, a Gospel of good ethics and practices or a Gospel that saves us all from judgment. Is the Gospel living in community? Christ is an example to how we should live. As the song by the Beatles states “All we need is love”. Or is it the saving work of Christ? Christ came to save souls for eternal gain above all else. What is the Gospel?

What Would Jesus Do

The Social Gospel is concerned with applying Christian Ethics to social problems. How did Christ live and who did he work with? The answers to these questions are applied to issues of the world such as poverty, equality, justice, human rights, etc. In essence it tries to correct the fallen state of this world through the actions of man. If we the church can live as Christ lived then we can correct these issues. Rick Warren once said “I’m looking for a second reformation. The first reformation of the church 500 years ago was about beliefs.  This one is going to be about behavior. The first one was about creeds. This one is going to be about deeds. It is not going to be about what does the church believe, but about what is the church doing.” (Read the full interview here).

This mentality has one very dangerous pitfall in the fact that it believes we can actually live as Christ lived. We can be in essence a type of Christ to those we are reaching out to. We are setting the other person up for failure. Why? It looks more to Christ’s humanity and negates his deity. This view says “I can be like Christ”.  The world will see  the person reaching out to them as a Christ figure who is doomed to fail for only God is good and all are sinful. If we teach people that we are to live as Christ lived and be Christ to the world we are shaping them for failure because they will always fall short. The effects of a social gospel are utter failure and  self-empowerment  and we will repeat the Tower of Babel. If Christ is merely an example we are then saying that we can be the Savior of the people we are reaching out to. It has been said that it takes 5 positives to counter 1 negative experience. Therefore, how can we expect to be positive examples of Christ’s work?

What Did Jesus Do

If preaching the Gospel is not by living it or being it then what is the Gospel? How do we preach it to all the world? Christ is the Gospel and the only one that can live it. He has proven that by his life, death, and resurrection. When Christ is the Gospel salvation is the focus. It is about reconnecting men to God. The Gospel is about truly dying to self to gain reconciliation with God. It acknowledges the fact that without Christ in the centre all things are meaningless. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Matthew 16.26). Social justice is not at the center of the Gospel. Christ saving the eternal souls of men is at the center.  Therefore, since humanity cannot save themselves the Gospel cannot be demonstrated through the actions of man.

Preach the Gospel Always

If we expect that we can live the Gospel we are setting ourselves up for failure. Preaching is defined as “to advocate or inculcate (religious or moral truth, right conduct, etc.) in speech or writing.” You may be emotionally moved by something like the movie The Passion of the Christ, but you will never find people who heard the Gospel message and turned to Him solely from watching the movie because it does not preach why He suffered. It shows actions, good and evil, it shows faithfulness, it shows injustice, but it does not show justification, atonement, or the separation between God and mankind. The Gospel cannot be understood without words. For God so loved the world…

Preach the Gospel, always use words!

* Often accredited to Saint Francis yet is not in any supporting sources. Googling it can lead to some interesting reading.

Suggested resources:

The White Horse Inn – This tends to be a ongoing topic with them. 
We Believe – Book by Michael Horton
The Cross of Christ – Book by John Stott
Wikipedia article about the Social Gospel Movement & misquotations
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