Friday, March 30, 2007

Paul Wept as Jesus Wept

Philippians 3.17-18: Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.

As Paul looked at the world - tears welled up in his eyes. He urged the believers to live according to the pattern of his example. The very first thing he talks about are his tears as he observes the lostness of the world.

Those who are lost are not spoken of in neutral terms - they are enemies of the cross of Christ. Their life stands opposed to God - as nice as they may be - they are enemies. And so Paul weeps.

Jesus wept. Jesus wept as the crowds gathered and he knew their hearts of rebellion.

Does the church weep today? Are we to busy compromising the gospel? Pastors and people in churches today try to downplay the "enemy", welcoming as many people in as Christians as is possible - even though they deny all sorts of essential, fundamental doctrines. Are we busy pursuing the world so there is no time for tears? What real difference is there between an evangelical Christian today and the world? One hour on a Sunday morning?

We ask - where do we begin? How do I follow the example of Paul and Christ? Tears. Weeping. This allows us to understand grace (we have been saved by Christ alone) and evangelism (we must be praying and seeking for souls to be saved). Why? In the following verses, Paul talks about the second coming of Jesus. Jesus will come again and judge all His enemies.

Jesus is coming and there is an eternity to follow either in heaven or hell. For those who are headed to hell without Christ - they need our tears which leads to prayer, leading to action and love and grace and mercy.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Willingness of Jesus

In John 18 we read of the arrest of Jesus. One of the striking features of the soldiers coming into the garden to arrest Jesus is the willingness of Jesus to go to the cross.

First, it is very clear that Jesus knew he was going to die for sinners and the pain and suffering that would be involved. John 12.27 we read: Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!

When Jesus was arrested, we read that he did not run or hide - he went out to meet Judas and his gang of thugs. Jesus knew Judas would betray him and we read that after Jesus had finished praying, he went to the exact spot Judas knew he and his disciples could be found. We read in verse 4: Jesus, knowing what was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, Who is it that you want? When Jesus reveals himself, they all fell to the ground (so much for the torches, lanterns and weapons they were carrying). And still, Jesus did not run - he did not hide.

Simon Peter brings out his sword and cuts off an ear, when Jesus commands Peter: Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me. Jesus' statement is striking. In the midst of the sword incident, it is almost as if Peter is offering Jesus a way out - we can fight them Jesus and you can go free. But Jesus' response is clear - I will go and bear my Father's cup - I will suffer your wrath.

What a joy for the believer - Jesus, willingly going to the cross for his people. His love so great, His grace so overflowing, and His forgiveness so complete - he went to face human humiliation and torture and God's wrath - so we may have life.

The message: the willingness of Jesus cries out to His people you are loved with an everlasting love. Rest in Him - and you will find peace and stillness in His presence.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Christian Forbes

A recent article reported that there are now 946 billionaires, worth a total of 3.5 trillion - up from 793 last year. The top billionaire is Bill Gates with $56 bn followed by Warren Buffet at $52 bn. Of particular interest to where some of my money has gone, Ingvar Kamprad, the owner of Ikea, sits in his comfortable chair with $33bn.

Now, I cannot imagine having even 1 billion dollars, let alone 56 of them. What is interesting, however, is that it is searchable - we can know the dollar value and say - this person has this many billion and this person has this many billion. We can search their riches.

When Paul is explaining God's amazing work through Jesus and his ministry in the book of Ephesians, he writes: Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (3.8)

The gift of Christ - his life, sacrifice, death and life - and his free offer of life for all who come to him, repent of their sin and believe in him - this gift is unsearchable. We cannot begin to even put a figure on how valuable Christ and his gift of life is for those who have come to him.

I conclude two things: 1. to know Christ and have his eternal gift of life is the greatest gift of all because the riches are unsearchable. 2. to preach Christ is the greatest message - though preachers may be the least of all God's people. Whether you know Christ or you know Christ and preach Christ, we have so much to be thankful for in this great gift.

Your name may never make it in Forbes but if it is written int he book of life, we have now and evermore the unsearchable riches of Christ to enjoy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Gaining Wisdom - Crying Need for the Church

To you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding. Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. (Proverbs 8.4-6)

It is striking how freely godly wisdom is offered to all God's people in the Bible. In Proverbs 8 the simple and foolish are taken aside and spoken to with opportunities like gain wisdom or gain understanding.

But in order to gain wisdom and understanding, we must listen to and study God's Word. How desperately needed this ministry of wisdom is among God's people! Would that God's people saturate themselves with God's Word and then, with humility, love and gentleness, patiently instruct one another. Sadly, however, we live in a culture of quick fixes, pithy sayings and "do as I say not as I do" teachers. We also live in a day of professionalism where when it comes time to help the people of God, we send them to less than Christian counselors.

What did the early church do when a brother or sister was in need of counsel? The older would counsel the younger. Or the wise would be sought out in the church. I am not saying there is not a place for professionals; however, I am saying while professionals have their place, the people of God need to fill themselves with Scripture and be ready to help one another.

Let's take the example of a depressed housewife. What is today's solution? Professional counseling! But what about a godly woman coming into the house - listening, loving and then quietly ministering and mentoring the struggling woman. This godly woman has spent years placing herself and her life under Scripture so that when she steps into this ladies life, she is ready to speak discerning words.

Do you want to be a counselor? Do you want worthy things to say? Study Scripture and then pray for the presence of the Spirit to open doors to quietly come alongside and speak to those who are hurting or need direction. A church with Bible-filled people expressing godly truths in quiet love would be a ministry where God's people find life.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Election and Human Responsiblity

John 6.37: All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.

Jesus does not try to make sense or explain two very different teachings. Election and human responsibility in salvation sit comfortably side by side in the world of Jesus.

One truth is that God chooses all who come to Him - all that the Father gives me will come to me. What else could Jesus be saying other than the Father chooses those who come to Him and in response, they will come? John says something similar in 1 John 4.10: This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice (propitiation) for our sins.

The second truth is we are to come to Jesus - whoever comes to me I will never drive away. Jesus never says - wait until you know if you have been called. Instead he invites all to come to him (earlier he has explained this is done through faith - John 6.12) and he will not send any away. What a great welcome and promise to come to him!

Election and human responsibility stand side by side is the words of Jesus. God sending (election) is incomplete without man coming (human responsibility) and man coming (human responsibility) will never take place without God sending (election). Jesus does not explain but simply allows us to embrace these two Biblical truths.

Now we may say, I want nothing to do with election. Salvation, in its final form, is my "sovereign" choice. But if we move further down in the passage, we once again see divine work and human responsibility standing side by side.

Divine work is shown in John 12.39: And it is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up on that last day. Who would deny this great truth of God's sovereign protection? Imagine the comfort ripped out of the hearts of believers if we say - well, you know, God doesn't have the right to be that "sovereign" in my life - it is my choice. No - God will keep his people.

But following this verse is human responsibility: For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. Amazing. In order to be kept, we must believe. We must look to Jesus so we may have everlasting life.

God's sovereign grace and keeping stand alongside human responsibility - they are neither separated nor explained by Jesus. Rather, they are simply stated so God may receive all the glory and we may rejoice in the promises of everlasting life and protection offered by Jesus.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Job's Other Comforters

An aspect of the story of Job we often call to mind is Job's three friends. It can be said if those are friends, who needs enemies. Throughout the book, as Job has suffered loss after loss, his three friends gather and tell Job that there must be some wickedness lurching below the surface to have God's wrath out poured with such venom. God of course rebukes the three friends at the end of the book and Job must pray for them.

What is interesting, however, is that after Job had offered sacrifices for his three friends, others came to comfort him. We read in Job 42.11: All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over the trouble the Lord had brought upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

Yes, Job did go through tremendous suffering but after a while, God sent comfort through friends and family. What a blessing that must have been for Job, especially after what he had gone through with Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar.

This does tell us something about what to expect. Yes, you will have the "three friends" who come and offer little comfort but it is also true that God provides overwhelming comfort for his people as others come along and minister comfort and consolation.

What do you do if a Bildad comes along? Or an Eliphaz? Well, where did God bring Job? He brought Job to the dust. Job had to commit himself into God's hands. When the "comfortless" friends come to visit, thank God that they at least drive you to the powerful and comforting arms of God.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Feeling Overwhelmed?

There is a rather strange story Jesus tells in Luke 17. A servant has spent the whole day working - plowing the ground and looking after the sheep - and now it is time to go home. He is tired and exhausted but is not invited to sit down and eat with the master. It is not yet time. Rather the master says to the servant, "Prepare my meal; get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink." No comfortable armchair for this servant!

Jesus is still not done with the story. We might expect a bonus in our pay or at least a word of thanks. But as Jesus tells the story, he asks the question - would he thank the servant because he did what he was told? No - he has done what is expected. In fact as Jesus often does, he digs deeper into our hearts: So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'

Jesus is explaining that Christian service will be hard, overwhelming, exhausting and draining. And all of this is not to be congratulated - rather it is the norm for the believer. Are you overwhelmed with Christian living? Yes? Jesus prepares us for those many days of serving God in the home or at work - and he says - this is what it will be like - when you want to sit down and be served, God will call you to stand up and continue to serve. That is Christian discipleship in the Word of God. Simply put, a true disciple is overwhelmed in service to God and will be stretched and exhausted.

The story also tells us we cannot serve God by feelings only. We may not feel like serving - OK - but it is not by feeling. It is our call - a call of obedience. We must continue to selflessly, sacrificially, and relentlessly serve the King.

And finally, praise God that one day you will be invited to sit down at the banquet table of the Lamb of God - the Master: Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready. (Revelation 19.7)

There will be a time to sit and banquet but for now, we will be overwhelmed and exhausted in our service of the King as we give Him glory and carry out His work. This may seem difficult but what a joy it will be on that final day to hear the Lord say: Well done my good and faithful servant - here is your everlasting rest - here is a banquet - come and sit!!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Knowing God's Will - Guidance

Usually when people ask about knowing God's will for their lives, a subtle temptation can enter that period of discovery. The temptation is that we look only at the circumstances that need to be "revealed" but forget the One who will reveal them to us. That is we become so focused on knowing God's will that we forget about knowing God.

What do I mean? If we travel through the Bible, we read about God's guidance. God always led His people - and it was not always easy but it was always wise and good. So we read that God led Abraham in Genesis 12.1: The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you." And at each stage, God would continue to guide Abraham.

Moses and the Israelites were led out of Egypt, through the desert, across the Red Sea and finally into the Promised Land - albeit without Moses and his generation. In fact, we read that just after Israel left Egypt in Exodus 13.17ff, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, "If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle. Israel was armed but they were not ready to fight and God knew they would want to return to Egypt. It may have seemed like a confusing, unnecessary journey to the people but it was an act of love by God.

Another example is the famous Psalm 23.1-3: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness, for his name's sake. Twice the Shepherd is said to lead and guide the sheep. And if you are a sheep, that is really, really good news - quiet waters and paths of righteous for God's glory!! If you are a sheep, you are licking your lips for a drink and you ready to travel down this path!

We could go to many other places in Scripture. All of this is to say that when you begin to ask: What is God's will for my life? In marriage? A job? A family decision? A church decision? our first reaction as believers ought not to be to look at the situation but instead, look to God and confess that throughout all of history, He has led and guided His people for His glory and ultimately for His good.

In knowing God's will, don't forget to know God.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


The above words are not swear words - they are the "under the breathe mutterings" of an unsatisfied person. They are complaining words - words that no one else hears but resound loudly in the speaker's ear. They come from the heart and as we mutter to ourselves, often rambling and disconnected, we convince ourselves how unfair life is and how bad we have it. JAKSDLKU is look it at how good others have it and how rough I have it; IHADHK is where is God and why has his love left me; UHDFS is I had a lot better life before and now look at this mess; OUSHD is why does everyone hate me; and finally ODSSHjk is give me what we need or I will doubt your love.

Others do not understand these words but we do - and so does God.

Grumbling is ultimately a challenge to God - a test. God, if you really loved me, you would do this and since you don't do this - you don't love me. And therefore I have a right to tell You how nasty You are!!

Thank God He is God and not man and He does not play our petty games.

What does He do with our grumblings? Well, what do we do when we hear others grumble? We either agree - yes look at how bad God is or how bad that person is or how bad our circumstances are and we really deserve better - or we get frustrated and come down hard - don't you know there are people starving all over the world and you complain about ... .

God doesn't do that. Why? Because He is God. Israel has just been led out of Egypt, the Egyptian army has been defeated as Israel walked on the dry land through the Sea and Miriam has sung her song of praise. How quickly praise turns into grumbling as Israel travels through the desert only finding bitter water - water they could not drink. And they begin to grumble - what are we to drink?

What does God do? He shows Himself as God - abundant , amazing God of mercy! In Exodus 15.25-27 he does two things. He gives Moses a piece of wood that changes the bitter water into drinkable water. And then he leads them to Elim where there were 12 springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped near the water (verse 27). The amazing goodness of God. In the midst of their grumbling, he provides in abundance.

How does God deal with our grumblings. At times He provides in abundant abundance (springs, palm trees, water) and reveals our hearts - how can we grumble against such a gracious and amazing and powerful and loving God? How shameful our grumbling is in the face of this gracious God.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Seeing Lostness For What Lostness Really Is

Saturday members from the Sovereign Grace Churches of Canada gathered for prayer for 4-5 hours. We spent time praying for churches, our country, seminary education, missions, church planting, fellowship and the lost. One of the prayer requests was from a missionary from Mozambique, Roland Seiler. He asked for prayer that we might see lostness for what lostness really is.

That is a profound and much-needed prayer request for our day and age. Sadly we can be so consumed with self and not see all around us who are "dying" and not hearing the gospel of Jesus. Have we lost the heart to pray for the lost because we are so filled with self?

Prayer times are heart searching times. God searched my heart as I prayed alongside my brothers and sisters - do I look at the world and all its fleeting treasures with passion, neglecting to weep and pray for the lost and dying?

In a biography on Abraham Lincoln, the author writes of him during the time of the Civil War: On the night of Bull Run, noted his secretaries, Lincoln did not go to bed, stayed on the lounge in the Cabinet room all night. The next night, having heard more accounts of the lost battle, he lay on the sofa in his office and penciled an outline of what must be done, a program for immediate action.

As I read that quote, I thought - when do I stay up and pray for the perishing? When am I consumed with a sense of the sinfulness of this life and the fleeting nature of my existence - and all around me? If Lincoln was so concerned about the dying in the battle of Bull Run, what about souls around me - dying - eternal death?

And so I pray - Lord, grant that I may see lostness for what lostness really is - break my heart to weep and pray once again -and then to faithfully share God's amazing and powerful grace.

Friday, March 02, 2007

But Why Lord?

Ever ask the question why? In 2 Corinthians 1 Paul is speaking about his sufferings in the province of Asia which were far beyond his ability to endure, so that he and the others despaired even of life.

Instead of asking why, Paul states a Biblical truth. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 3 quick comments.

1. Paul is satisfied with this answer. He did not need to know the details, he simply needed to know God was present. As you ask why in your circumstances, would you be satisfied with this answer?

2. Paul knows his heart - he can easily begin to rely on himself - and so can we in our circumstances. Our God is so amazing He knows when we are becoming to self reliant and we need to focus our lives and trust on Him. And so Paul's statement of Biblical truth is really and submissive prayer of thanksgiving for God's Fatherly care.

3. Paul confesses a powerful God. We do not rely on a weak and powerless God but a God who raises the dead. Paul felt the sentence of death (verse 9a) but guess what - God is able to raise the dead. You may feel the sentence of death, as if God has abandoned you or left you to die. But God, in His power, raises the dead and displays His glory through your life.

With this confession, Paul concludes His unfailing trust in God that He will continue to deliver them and all God's people. That is what Biblical truth does - gives hope to go on as we daily die to self. Are you "under the sentence of death"? Maybe God is taking your eyes of you and placing them on His power and promises. That, believer, is a far better place to be.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

How Shallow Can We Get? Let's See - Oscar Awards Is A Good Place To Start

I did not watch them but only saw clips of the Oscar awards. The first question that came to my mind was is this really how shallow we have become as a society? Really? We highlight people who have done what? Lived exemplary lives which lead the next generation to great acts of kindness, love and sacrifice? Done heroic acts like saving people's lives or fighting for a country? Gone through intense suffering only to come out the other end better?

No. No, we highlight people filled with silicone who know how to act. We celebrate people who drive in stretched limos, wear expensive jewellery and dress in the latest fashion - and we ask them every shallow question. Are their lives really that interesting? Really?

It caused me to think about some of the people I know - some who are the real "heroes" by God's grace. They are the ones struggling through a difficult marriage saying they are not going to give up - they are going to sacrifice for the sake of their spouse, their children and God. They are the ones who come alongside the hurting and those filled with tears, bringing a meal and a word of encouragement. They are the ones who serve God - when it hurts - in the trenches, seeking to be faithful.

I wonder what God's red carpet looks like? Who will be on it? I imagine it would be far different than the one in the shallow world we live in. How do we get out of the shallowness? How do we celebrate what is important and eternal? There is no easy answer but I think it begins with Christ and holding onto what is eternal. What will happen to the little "Oscar" statues? They will rust, they will gather dust and ultimately - believe it or not - be destroyed. Peter tells us of a treasure kept in heaven for us that does not perish, spoil, or fade - that is because of the resurrection of Jesus.

Living for Jesus is never shallow - not when you are called to die daily to self. That is life - real life that lasts.