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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas is about Messy Relationships and Receiving a Gift

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." - John 1:14

It's hard to believe 2014 has almost come to an end! This next week, we will be celebrating Christmas. This holiday has stolen our radio stations, our TV's, our homes, and if you work in retail, our sanity. But this time of year truly is “the most wonderful time of year" for personal reflections for many. Amidst the chaos of shopping, “Elf”, and long hours, let’s take time to reflect on what Christmas means for us, whatever our perspective

What is Christmas about?

The problem is when people go about doing "Christmas reflections" they are often reflecting on their own idea of Christmas, not the actual one. Reflection on our own ideas will lead us to nothing but pride and arrogance. Today's Christmas reflections can often be self-indulgent and legalistic. "Was I giving enough?" "Did I spend enough money?" "I sure hope they like what I got them." "I'm thankful I am so fortunate." These can be good things to think about, but they miss the point.

Christmas has never been about us. Christmas is about God. If we are going to take Christmas seriously, we must see it as Christians do (Say what you want about it being a Pagan holiday, so are the days of the week, but no one is whining there). And for Christians, Christmas is about mystery.

The mystery of Christmas is found in one word...wait for it...incarnation. As John 1 puts it, the "Word became flesh." The Divine perfectly united with the human. The inconceivable was conceived, while never ceasing to be eternal and infinite. The Infinite became finite. In darkness, the light entered the world. God- in the flesh. Christmas is about God.

The Triune God sought to save a rebellious humanity through an obedient human, Jesus Christ. He came as a man, so that He could truly sympathize, but was God so that He would be a perfect sacrifice. He was made man so that He could suffer; He was God so as to be without sin. Two natures, one true person, He was without conflict in mission. His mission was to "save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21). Only Jesus could do it.

Therefore Christmas is also a celebration of the cross. Jesus Christ was the perfect sacrifice, bearing the wrath of a Holy God. Jesus would die, be buried, and rise again to conquer sin, death and Hell. By faith in this work, He rescues and ransoms people for His glory.

Yes, Christmas is about gifts. A gift. The gift of eternal life. And that is what Christians celebrate and what personal Christmas reflections call us to. We are called to reflect on the gospel- the good news- the work of Jesus Christ and the glorious mystery of His incarnation which is foundational to the gospel itself. We must reflect on the incarnation because without it, our gospel has major holes in it. In fact, without the duo-nature of Christ we have no salvation.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Reading List: November, 13, 2014

These are the books (outside of school) which I am getting into.

Just Finished: "Drawing the Net: 30 Practical Principles for Leading Others to Christ Publicly and Personally"  O.S. Hawkins

Currently Reading: "The revived Puritan: The spirituality of George Whitefield" Michael A.G. Haykin

Audiobook: "The Attributes of God Volume 1" - A.W. Tozer

On Deck Reading:  "He is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World" R. Albert Mohler

"...Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil." - Ecclesiastes 12:12-14

Friday, November 7, 2014

"Prepare Him Room" Music for Advent

Advent is quickly approaching!  Advent is a season of not only celebrating the coming of our Savior (Christmas) but anticipating His second Advent n glory.  I have found emphasizing this season in my life (and the life of a church) can be deeply enriching.  A great place to start is with Gospel-Centered Advent music.  Sovereign Grace has recently released a new album of Advent music.  Check it out and I pray it benefits you in this Advent season.  Playlist comes via Sovereign Grace's Bandcamp:

Our Serving, Suffering, Supplicating, Sympathetic Savior

How does Jesus respond to suffering?  Matthew 14 gives us some insight. 

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, “he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.” (14:13).  Jesus wanted some time to mourn alone.  Suffering well will include solitude.  Needing to be alone is often the best thing for a hurting heart.  But, Jesus did not get much time alone, the crowds were following him.  Upon seeing the crowd Jesus, “had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (14:14).  Jesus did not let his suffering lead him to bitterness but be sympathetic toward others in pain.  He not only took the time to heal the crowds, but to fed 5000 and set with them until they finished eating.  “And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” (14:21) Suffering well will include service. Jesus was suffering, but He took the time to minister to others in need instead of focusing on His own needs.  Lastly, we see that Jesus did get His alone time, after He dismissed the crowd, he spent an estimated 9 hours in prayer, not only for the ministry he was about to do, prayer for his own suffering (Matthew 14:23-25). Suffering well involves supplication.

The good news is just not just that out Savior suffered, but that He suffers well and sympathizes with us in our suffering. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Faith in Future Grace

"Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him..." - Psalm 91:14

The Psalmists knew that past grace, provision, and power has been enough for him (91:1-13), and would continue to be in the future. We "abide in the shadow of the Almighty" (91:2) Psalm 91:14-16 is God's response to his faith.  "I will deliver...I will answer you...I will satisfy." God promised future grace. In light of past grace, he trusted future grace.  Faith in future grace lead him not only to hold fast to the Lord, but to hold fast "in love." The rock solid foundation of "hold fast in love" faith is thankfulness for past grace with expectation of future grace.
Trust God's grace, it was enough yesterday, will be enough for you today, and for the endless ages to come.

Below are two videos to consider as well:

I am deeply indebted to John Piper's ministry in my life.  This concept of "Faith in Future Grace" was first revealed to me by him.  Check out the video below for more:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Broken Sufficiency

"But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere." - 2 Cor. 2:14

God, in the gospel of Christ, has conquered us and broken us that we might "spread the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere."  God saves us that we might speak of Him to others.

We are "Christ's aroma to God," God's beloved ones in Christ, among those who are perishing and those who have life (2:15).  The fragrance doesn't change, the recipient does. "to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life." (2:16)  Some will see your witness and reject it out right, others will see your witness and be sanctified.  "Who is sufficient for these things?" Who is sufficient for the witness of Christ?  Only those who have been honestly broken by God to speak for God.  Be broken today.  In Christ, only a broken jar can release a pleasing aroma to the Lord.
For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. - 2 Cor. 2:17

Monday, October 13, 2014

5 Reasons Christians Should Sing and Sing Often

This is a photo from my church choir at Christmas.
I’m sure we’ve all met those people who “just don’t sing” at church.  Whether due to their lack of vocal ability, shy personality, or (supposed) unfamiliarity with the songs; I have heard tons of excuses for why people do not want to sing in church.  While, certainly singing is not a requirement for being a Christian (faith in Christ alone is!) we find that singing is right at the heart of our faith.

1) Jesus was a “singing person.”  Jesus was all about singing!  One example of this is found in the Last Supper He shared with His disciples.  After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.- Matthew 26:30.  Jesus does this during a crucial moment in His ministry.  He is sharing what would be His last supper with His disciples before the cross, but He also is instituting an ordinance for His church!  This was a moment to be cherished and remembered and what does Jesus do?  SING!  This raises so many questions I wish we could know!  What vocal range was Jesus?  What song did He sing?  Was this spontaneous or planned?  What we can know is that singing was used as a part of the celebration and was a part of the Son of God’s preparation to suffer.  This bring us to number 2….

2) Singing helps us endure suffering  We can also draw the conclusion that Jesus was a singer because of how much He seemed to cherished God’s inspired song book: the Psalms.  We find that 14 times in the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus quotes the Psalms (ESV Study Bible, pg.2609-2610).  One of the most profound moment we find is when Jesus is on the cross, and of all He could declare, He quotes lyrics to Psalm 22 (Matthew 26:45-46).  In Jesus darkest hour He found comfort in songs overflowing with Holy Spirit inspiration.  As Jesus Christ was bearing out sin, He had a song in His head.  Should not songs of truth be a bedrock for us in the midst of suffering?

3) Singing is a means of fighting temptation.  Once again, in the ministry of Jesus we find another example of Jesus singing.   Jesus, when faced with temptation found power in Holy Spirit inspired Torah and Psaltery.  In Matthew 4 Satan actually tempts Jesus through misquoting Psalm 91, but, He knew Psalm 91 and counteracted with a quote from Deuteronomy.  A song was a means by which Jesus overcame temptation, how much more for us?  Yes, we have the Psalms, but the truth of Scriptures can be communicated via the songs we sing corporately.  Gospel saturated songs have sin conquering power.  In the midst of heavy temptation I often find myself singing, “When Satan tempts me to despair, And tells me of the guilt within, Upward I look and see Him there, Who made an end of all my sin.”  If Jesus fought temptation through singing God’s truth, how much more should we?

4) We will sing in Heaven

Corporate worship is an earthly shadow of a Heavenly reality (Hebrews 9-10), so when we sing we are mimicking (and joining in with) the choir off Heaven!  Revelation 5 pulls back the veil and we hear that the Gospel truth is declared even by glorified saints, And they sang a new song, saying ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.’” (Rev. 5:9)  Heaven will be far to glorious to want to hold back due to being “shy.”  Worship will not be cold or dead in Heaven.  In fact, many may think we are Charismatic (this coming from a non-Charismatic!).

Certainly we are going more than sing for all eternity, the next verse says we will be reigning as well, but this passage and many others make clear that much of the joy of Heavenly is going to be found in expressing our salvation in song.  Song is not sinful, but in fact even in the garden was expressed by God’s image bearers to express delight (Gen. 2:23).  Singing is at the core of what it means to be human.  Even God Himself expressed his delight in song, which is why we need not fear singing to Him…

5) Because God’s singing over us will always be louder than our singing to Him

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” – Zech. 3:17 (ESV)

The glorious news is that God does not accept us because we sing well, or because we sing loud, but God sings over us because of His great love for us in Christ.  Christ died that God might sing.  Sing over sinners.  Delight over you.  You.  In the gospel, God sings a song over you.  Even on our “best” worship days, the singing of God over His people will always be louder than a congregation in chorus together.  That, my friends, is good news.  News good enough to sing about.

Friday, September 5, 2014

What Does it Mean to be Filled with the Spirit?

Photo Credit and Helpful Blog Via Cripplegate
So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;  always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;  and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. – Ephesians 5:18-21 (NASB)

     What does it mean to be “filled with the Spirit”?  Many have given attempts to answer this question, but often I find the answer is not found using the Scriptures but subjective experience.  Often the Holy Spirit of God has been put in a box to be nothing more than a “warm fuzzy” which seems to only come when the slow songs are playing, and on the 6th repetition of the bridge.  "We can unleash Him, we just have to get the situation right."  "We just have to set the mood.But, according to the Scriptures, we have it reversed.  Being “filled with the Spirit” is not produced by our Sunday gatherings, but our being filled with the Spirit produces our Sunday gatherings!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Why “Foreknowledge" Doesn’t Solve the Problem

“…elect…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father1 Peter 1:1-2

     In light of the most recent #CalvinismDebate (which can be found here and here), I felt a blog regarding election was in order.  Proposition 1 of the debate was, “Calvinism necessitates unconditional predestination and unconditional election is incongruent with the God revealed in Jesus Christ”.  Each side was asked to debate in an affirmation or denial form.  Those who affirmed (who would prefer to be non-Calvinists) spent most of their time arguing how “double predestination” was at the heart of their problem with Calvinism.  The problem isn’t so much so that God chooses people and seeks them, but that He doesn’t chose  and doesn’t seek others.  Why would God do that?  Why would God , who as 1 Timothy 2:4 says, “desires all men to be saved”, allow men to go to Hell under His watch?  If God could save everyone, why doesn’t He?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What Window Blinds can Teach us about Corporate Worship

"Also for the house he made windows with artistic frames." - 1 Kings 6:4

The windows in the temple of God communicate much to us about worship.  First, we know based on how other translations rendered this verse, they are "latticed","beveled" or "recessed" (i.e. the windows of the temple have blinds!).  What does God's interior decorating teach us?  First and foremost,worship must be functional.  The blinds serve a basic purpose, light the sanctuary so the priests can work.  So whatever is done in corporate worship must be done for a purpose, so the people of God (priests)  may do the work they are meant to do (the meaning of liturgy is “public- work”). What is our work?  Our work is to worship God through proclaiming the Gospel.  All of a worship service is about the Gospel: from the songs we sing (Col. 3:16),to the ordinances  we observe (Roman 6, 1 Cor. 11:23-34), to the sermon that is preached (Luke 24:44).  Our worship must function for the end of proclaiming the Gospel.

I'm Back!!!

After the advice of a friend I am back to blogging.  Hope to do it as the Lord gives me insights into His Word and grants the opportunity to share it with others.  Not going to allow it to consume me, but to be consumed by Him!  May it richly bless others.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How Should Christians Feel about “Blood Moons”?

In the news recently there has been swirling around talk about the “blood moons”, lunar eclipses which will set the moon to a red color.  There events are set to also happen on Jewish Feasts.  Many Christians and non-Christians alike see significance in these events and there timing.  But, how should Christians feel about these events?  Here are three quick thoughts.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rediscovering Jesus' Hymnbook (via 9Marks)

Interesting article from 9Marks on Psalm Singing (which I have only recently meet people who do).

How interested would you be if archaeologists unearthed a hymnbook embossed with the name, “Jesus of Nazareth?” Overlooking the anachronism for a moment, wouldn’t “Jesus’ hymnbook” be immediately republished and rocket to the best-seller lists? Wouldn’t those songs find instantaneous popularity in worship services across the globe?

We have that hymnbook. We do know what songs Jesus sang: he sang the psalms.

Continue Reading....

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Will we light the spark?

Reading up on the Third Great Awakening (1850-1900) for a history paper.  Many profound things marked this revival, both positive and negative, but the emphasis on prayer and unity really struck me.  Walter Hampel writes, "Denominational differences were considered important but secondary to the purpose of seeking God’s face in prayer."  This unity in prayer is credited with much of how the revival "spread to be like a lightning strike in a forest".  Christians, will we light the spark of revival on our knees?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Thought for the Day: "Free Will"

“Free Will” is a concept many people boast in.  Free Will is the ability is “do as we please”.  But, then is free will in fact not free, but a servant to pleasure?  The prophets of old told of a day when we would get new desires through a New Covenant.

By His death, Jesus inaugurates this New Covenant (Luke 22:20) in the hearts of His People and regenerates them from death to life (Eph. 2:1-10) not by infringing on “free will” but by redirecting desires away from sin and toward Christ. 
Apart from God's work you would never chose Him (Romans 3:10). 
Praise Him for His gift of a new heart.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Great Response to the Nye-Ham Debate from Last Night

"The central issue last night was really not the age of the earth or the claims of modern science. The question was not really about the ark or sediment layers or fossils. It was about the central worldview clash of our times, and of any time: the clash between the worldview of the self-declared “reasonable man” and the worldview of the sinner saved by grace."

Check out Al Mohlers Response HERE.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Missionary Ann Judson on the Topic of Missions:

"I want the Baptists throughout the United States to feel, that Burmah must be converted through their instrumentality. They must do more than they have ever yet done. They must pray more, they must give more, and make greater efforts to prevent the Missionary flame from becoming extinct. Every Christian in the United States should feel as deeply impressed with the importance of making continual efforts for the salvation of the heathen, as though their conversion depended solely on himself. Every individual Christian should feel himself guilty if he has not done and does not continue to do all in his power for the spread of the gospel and the enlightening of the heathen world. But I need not write thus to you. You see, you feel the misery of the heathen world. Try to awaken Christians around you. Preach frequently on the subject of Missions. I have remarked it to be the case, when a minister feels much engaged for the heathen, his people generally partake of his spirit." (Letter to Francis Wayland, 22 January 1823)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Don't the Feed the Monsters

Guilt and shame are monsters we daily feed.  Monsters we all desire to be freed off. The cultures remedies do nothing but feed these monsters, increase their appetites and thereby cause addictions.

Don’t run to the worlds so called “remedies”.  The only remedy is the blood of the shameless, guiltless Son of God who bore our shame and guilt on our behalf.  He was slaughtered to set you free. He resurrected to destroy the root of all guilt and shame, sin.

Jesus Christ is the medicine for the disease of guilt and shame. 

“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” - Hebrews 9:14

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Greek Words, Dan Brown and Why the New Testament is Not like the iPhone

Preface:  This is a paper I wrote for my English 102 class on the validity of the New Testament and why it should be studied.  It was meant to be a 15 page argument paper, but we were able to talk the teacher down to 9 pages.  The following paper is 11 pages (with the worked cited) in Times New Roman 12 point font, double spaced.  So grab a beverage and a comfy place; my hope is this will edify you.  This is why I have stacked my life, both finite and eternal, on the words found in a book.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Matt Chandler on "Actively Engaged in the Abortion Battle"

"If you’re a young woman in here, or maybe an older woman—I didn’t say old; I said older woman—and you were pregnant in your first or second trimester, and you were driving toward the abortion clinic to have an abortion, and on the way to the abortion clinic you were hit by a drunk driver, that person is charged with involuntary manslaughter of your baby. But if you make it to the clinic, the doctor in the clinic is legally allowed to take a vacuum pump and rip that baby to shreds in your womb."

Click here to read the rest.