Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Beast of New Year!

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. - John 3:17

Christmas is over.  Just like that (imagine the sound of my fingers snapping!) weeks of rushing around, buying presents and awaiting surprised faces are over in a matter of days. Now reality sets in.  With another year gone by comes the ever-oppressive new year.   Staring at us like a giant beast of impending, judgemental doom (read: LAW).   What will be different?  How will we change?  What will we quit?  What will we begin?  How can we stick to what we couldn't stick to in 2010? (no rhyme intended)

40 to 45% of American adults make one or more resolutions each year.  Among the top new years resolutions are resolutions about weight loss, exercise, and quitting smoking. Also popular are resolutions dealing with better money management / debt reduction. The following shows how many of these resolutions are maintained as time goes on:
- past the first week: 75%
- past 2 weeks: 71%
- after one month: 64%
- after 6 months: 46%

The statistics above (from The University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology) seem a little bloated but maybe I'm just cynical given my own experience with new year's resolutions.

I saw a special on The Today Show last week giving tips on how to keep new year's resolutions.   I changed the channel when the first hot tip was "make a list".   Who really needs a list to know all the things they'd like to change about themselves?   After 34 years of life, no one knows me better than me.   No one knows better than me all the things about me that could use a little shaping up, trimming down or just plain death.

Like Mr. Fox in Ronald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox who confesses he can't stop stealing chickens because, well, he's a fox, all our actions spout from our identity.   What we do is shaped by who we conceive ourselves to be.
For instance I'm a sweet tooth.  I'm absolutely amazed at how many sweets I've had these past few days.   At first it was comical (to me) but soon I was popping these Hershey Kisses every five minutes or so.    With the restraint of a chain-smoker I probably went through an entire bag as Nat King Cole sang the holiday hits in the background.   

Maybe deep down I thought "hey, it's the holidays"....but after a while, paranoia set in and I started to suspect that Megan might be on to my addictive ways as the bowl began to grow emptier and the little balled-up, shiney wrappers amassed in the trash bin.   What's wrong with me?   When is enough enough?   C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters that addiction entails an "ever-increasing desire for an ever-diminishing pleasure".   I think he was on to something there.

The holidays are a perfect reminder of how little most of us really change year by year by our own will power and unfortunately, they're quite revealing as to how far we all have to go.  So how does change come?

Repentance and Baptism was the call by John The Baptist in making way for the coming of The Lord.
Turning from your old life (repentance), going down beneath the water with your old man and then being raised anew.  Not being simply cleansed by the water but (like all sacraments - physical actions having profound symbolic significance) symbolically leaving the old man below the surface while the new man is raised to walk in a new way - with a new identity.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. - 2nd Cor. 5:17

John Piper claims that sin is like mud on the windshield of your life which keeps you from clearly seeing God's pure, perfect and unique will for you.   This must have been why John (The Baptist) called people to "get right with God"... that they might recognize Him when He came.   Is it not then a continual posture of repentance that would best suit us in the new year?  Constantly turning from our old selves.  But by what power?

When Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to "Go and sin no more"  He had already accurately accessed her guilt by telling the others, "those without sin may cast the first stone."  Yet He did not condemn her; instead His grace set her free to become a new creation - to really change.  She then knew that the full force of the source of real transformational power lied in a life with Him.

My guess is, by God's grace, I'll probably change in ways I can't even recognize as the years roll by.   But as I do, The Holy Spirit will reveal more need for change through the gift of conviction.  Without God's power to do within me what I could never do on my own this would be an oppressive reality (read total condemnation).  

The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more. - Rom. 5:20

But with Him I can say goodbye to another year with gratitude for the work He's done in my life and greet the next one with the knowledge that, though most all New Year's Resolutions won't last past February, my God is The Beginning and The End, the Alpha and Omega and He's faithful to bring to completion that good work that He began in me. (Phil 1:6)

Happy New Year!
Christ's Blessings,
Matt (formerly Sweet Tooth)

This Week:

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am Wednesday AM
   Jed Turman will lead discussion - See you guys next week!
   2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm) 
* The Magills - off the radar for some much needed relaxation.....

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On Celebrating Christmas.....

No one can celebrate
a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud,
those who, because they have
everything, look down on others,
those who have no need
even of God - for them there
will be no Christmas.
Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone
to come on their behalf,
will have that someone.
That someone is God.
Emmanuel.  God-with-us.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.

- Oscar Romero

Horse, Your Breath Stinks and I Don't Like Your Gift!

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- Rom. 6:23

Annually our Sunday Bible Study Class partners with The Boys and Girls Club of Tyler for a Christmas outreach.   Each couple in  our class draws a child's name and then puts together a bag of clothes, toys, toiletries and a Bible for him or her.   One day in mid-December we bring the bags to an after-school program at Douglas Elementary. We eat, play and sing songs with the kids and then present the kids with their gift bag.

This year Megan and I shopped for a boy named  Kieth spending time, thought, energy and money on his bag.   We looked forward to the event all week long.  But when the day arrived and  it came time for Kieth  to open his bag, our (assumed) joy turned to grief when he was underwhelmed to say the least with our gifts.   The 9-year-old, Kieth, looked up at us and said, "Why'd you get me all this?  Didn't you read my list?  I really wanted an X-Box!"

Later as Megan and I recalled the event we both expressed frustration with Kieth.  Why didn't he appreciate our gift?  How could all we'd done be lost on him?  These questions led us to pray for Kieth and do some much-needed introspection of our own.

Maybe we'd wanted too much to have Kieth cry with joy and wrap his arms around us like Tiny Tim who hugged the reformed Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickins' A Christmas Carol.  Perhaps deep down we assumed Kieth's response would affirm us as benevolent givers, as generous care-takers of those less fortunate than us.

But much more indicative of my own sin nature was Kieth's reaction. It revealed a piece of my heart that I like to keep hidden.   Far too often I'm unappreciative of what God has done on my behalf in His Son, Jesus; I carry on with life assuming I know better what I need than God does.   Are we not all prone to grumble about the life we have?  At times, and to varying degrees, all of us, like Dickens' Jacob Marley, are held in bondage by our assumptions about the life we "ought" to have been given.  In reality The Christian has been freed from such illusions but often times feels more comfortable "in chains" (can anyone say recidivism?)
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 
- Gal. 5:1

Encountering ingratitude in others should only serve to remind us of our own all-too-typical posture of entitlement - a gargantuan barrier to authentic thanksgiving.   Apart from The Holy Spirit we are all like spoiled children.   King David wrote that if we truly understand who God is we'd seek Him with our whole hearts.  But alas we just don't get it. .....

God looks down from heaven on the sons of men
to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt;
there is no one who does good, not even one.
- Psalm 53:4-5
God's Christmas gift to us was one of mercy because we deserved wrath.   But instead of wrath we received a gift we never realized we needed.  God's Christmas gift to us was one of grace in that we did nothing to merit Him becoming the unthinkable - a miraculously vulnerable child.   A child who would one day become the Savior of the world.  

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 
- Rom. 5:15

May we all be so moved by God's love for us in Christ that we pray for the supernatural power to truly appreciate it.  In doing so He will overflow from with in us and the world will be filled with His glory.  I like the way Sam & Dave say it....

You didn't have to love me like you did
But you did, but you did.
And I thank you. 
- Issac Hayes & David Porter

Merry Christmas!

This Week:

Tuesday - The Magills play in Longview (private event) - please pray for open hearts!

* Wednesday - Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am Wednesday AM
  TOMORROW MORNING!  2nd Annual Christmas B'fast at Washmon's Workplace
   516 S Spring Ave, Tyler, Smith, Texas 75702 

*  Saturday  - Celebrate the birth of Christ with Deep Gratitude for His birth,
    death, resurrection and ascension!

Support B3 Ministries HERE!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Let There Be Lights.....

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.  - Matthew 5:14-16

Unlike Clark Griswold I've been a little reluctant to put Christmas lights up.  I'm no Scrooge but as a new homeowner I am a bit flummoxed as to how to most appropriately decorate our house for Christmas.  What's too much?  What's not enough?  What color?  How many?  Why waste money this year on what I might not use next year?   Megan has decorated the inside of our house beautifully but the whole dilemma/drama of how to best decorate the roof (etc.) continues.   Thus it's Dec. 15th and it's dark at 2428 Oak Lane.

Can I make a decision already?  I  did a little research for inspiration....

The tradition of using small lit candles to light up Christmas Trees dates back to at least the middle of the 17th century.  The tradition slowly caught on (fire?) in Germany and spread throughout Eastern Europe.  As one might imagine immigrants carried the tradition to America where, with the advent of electricity, the first strand of Christmas lights was displayed in NYC in 1882 by an employee of Thomas Edison.  Still far too expensive for the average American, lights didn't replace candles until the 1930's when mass production began of Christmas lights began.

I've heard it said by parents to children, "how else will Santa know where to find our house?".    In this instance lights seem to serve as sort of a landing strip for the bearded-fat-man-gift-giver.   But it seems to me, historically, lights at Christmas symbolize the life of the Christian.   

Early Christians were persecuted for having worship gatherings. A candle in the window signified where worship would be occurring for Christians in a community.  Under the threat of death Christians continued to "shine a light" in order that they might gather to worship God and that He might add to their numbers daily.

Over two millennial later and under far less persecution the same question ought be asked of The American Christian:  How else will people know Christ unless He shines His light through our lives?  Being indwelt with His Holy Spirit we worship God with our lives and like Christmas lights through which electricity rushes we become conduits for the love of God.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. - 2nd Cor. 4:16

Over 700 years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah prophesied how God would send His light into the world.....

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; 
I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.  
I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand.  
I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, 
to free captives from prison and to release 
from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. 
- Isaiah 42:1, 6-7

Released from the dungeon of darkness!  Praise God for His eternal offer of parole from the prison of the self to eternal union with Him.  He is indeed the giver of all good things......

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. - James 1:17

Coldplay has released a Christmas tune and, in the opinion of this writer, it's an instant classic!   With Gospel-heavy overtones it comes off more like a prayer for relational reconciliation.   Martin writes.....

Saying how I always loved you darling
And I always will....
 ...Those Christmas lights light up the street.  
Maybe they'll bring her back to me.  
Then all my troubles will be gone. 
Oh Christmas lights keep shining on

It's hard to miss that this was indeed God's plan in sending Christ to Earth - that in so doing He would win His bride (the church) to himself.  Christ's shining work continues to this day and because we are now plugged into the source of all true power we Christians are the lights called to keep shining on.  
May you shine His light this Christmas and then leave them up all year long!

This Week:

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am Wednesday AM
   Spiritual Warfare and The Mind of Man (chaps. 6-10 of The Screwtape Letters)
   2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm) 

* The Magills - Wednesday Night at The Crossbrand Cowboy Church Youth Event

* The Magills - Thursday afternoon outreach at Douglas Elementary

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Restoration Hardware.....

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. - Phil. 1:6

It's Alive!  It's Alive! - Dr. Frankenstein

I recently purchased a 1976 International Scout II for $300.  Many would argue that this car is not worth fixing up but I'm convinced it's going to be priceless experience.  Saturday my father-in-law, brother-in-law and I put in a full day's work beginning the long process of restoration. What do you know about cars you may ask?  Answer: not much but, thank God, I've got a "ringer" on my team.

I'm just an old chunk of coal; but I'm gonna be a diamond some day

My father-in-law, Ronny, restores vintage cars and it's a wonder to behold.  He truly works redemptively when it comes to cars.   He looks at an old "rust bucket (to quote him)" and sees it as it once was and, more importantly, what it could be again.   With incredible patience and a surgeon's precision he takes cars apart piece by piece to clean, sand, paint, polish, buff, shine, reassemble and restore them to their original magnificence.   And here's another thing - he knows where every unfinished car in town sits.   He'll say to me, "Right over there in that guy's back yard sits a 1965 Dodge Dart and man, could it be a beautiful car!".   He's almost hungry for their restoration; he wants to free them from being pieces of junk!

The Project:

The Present.....
.....The Future


Any gift we see in others that teaches and inspires us or find within ourselves that surprises us is but a shadow of our Creator's true and awesome nature.  

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. - 1st John 3:2-3
God's always known what we could be and who He would make us. And since The Fall He's been hungry for the restoration of mankind.  It's His grace that makes our sanctification possible; It's the gift of faith that enacts the process and the fruit of the Spirit, patience, that allows us to endure the process.  As Christians we are no longer what we were BUT we are also not what God is going to make us.  The "already and not yet" reality of the Christian life can be a frustrating.

I'm reminded of a terrific analogy Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC uses to describe the sometimes painstakingly-slow process of sanctification.   He first teaches the difference between mechanical growth (white-knuckle compliance to The Law) and botanical growth (the inner transformation of man by the power of The Holy Spirit that produces true and lasting Spiritual fruit).   He then went on to say, "if you ever have to bet on a winner between an acorn and a marble slab, take the acorn every time".   Under a marble slab the acorn might seem like the ultimate underdog, but over many years an acorn will always split the marble slab in half!

It's the same with God's sanctification of Christians.   It's said that "a watched pot never boils". We might not always perceive it but He is always moving within the hearts of those He has captured.   We can always expect God to move in our lives but only in His timing and, ultimately, only for His purposes.   We are His works in progress and to the degree we focus not on our sanctification but on His beauty our lives will begin to more visibly reflect His glory.


Paul described this process to the 1st Century Christians in Philippi.   First he detailed how The Jews were "dull in their minds" because of their legalistic (i.e. mechanical) approach to The Law.   He said it was as if a veil kept them from seeing God.    Going further he explained how Christians (Jew and Gentile alike) have encountered the "word made flesh" in Jesus Christ who fulfilled the Law in His life and canceled the law by His death eliminating the gulf between man and the Glory of God.   He emptied Himself that we might be filled with His Spirit.  Thus we see God's glory perfectly in the face of Jesus Christ.....

And we all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 
- 2nd Cor. 3:18

....and we are becoming new beings in His spirit.....

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. - 2nd Cor. 5:17

In this season of Advent may we all wait on the Lord to move in our lives and with hearts of thanksgiving proclaim His presence withing us with our the words, works, thoughts, and prayers.

Christ's Blessings,

This Week:

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am Wednesday AM
   Spiritual Warfare & The Battle for the Mind of Man
   The Screwtape Letters (Chaps 1-5)
   2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm) 

The Magills - Three private events - please pray for our time with these groups

*  The Magills - KE Cellars - Tyler, TX - Saturday Night - 6pm-9pm

Support B3 Ministries HERE!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

While We Were Sleeping....zzzzz......

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”  He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
- Mark 14:32-34

I heard a fantastic sermon this past Sunday but not everyone in the sanctuary got as much out of it as I did.   I was feverishly taking notes in an attempt to absorb as much as possible when I heard what I thought was a really loud "mouth breather" somewhere near me. I looked over my shoulder to find a teenage boy "sawing logs".  I wanted to shake him, wake him and say, "Bro! You are totally missing this. This guy is throwing out pearls here....wake up!"

I couldn't help but think of Christ praying in The Garden of Gethsemane only hours before His capture while His church slept....
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if  possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba,Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 
- Mark 14:35-36

God's answer to Jesus was definitive when Jesus returned.....  

 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour?  Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 
- Mark 14: 37-38

Peter, the very man on who had recognized Jesus as The Christ, The Son of The Living God, by direct revelation from God (Matt 16:8) and was a part of Jesus' inner circle throughout His short ministry was asleep at this, the most crucial time in history.   How?  He and the other disciples were without the thing they needed most.  They had an outward relationship with Jesus but lacked the inward dwelling of The Holy Spirit.   In commenting on their "weak flesh" Jesus detailed their inability to do that which God would have them do.  They had responded with faith to Christ's call to follow Him (physically) but lacked the supernatural power required to obey God (spiritually).   Consequently the pursuit of holiness was beyond their reach.  Still God had a plan....

But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 
- John 16:7, 12-14

Without The Helper how could the disciples ever truly follow?  How could they "put off the old self that is that is being corrupted by deceitful desires and be made new in the attitude of their minds putting on their new selves created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness?" (Eph. 4:22-24)   I know that I'm far too prone to self-deception and like like the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing states "I feel it".   I actually sense that I am prone to fool myself into believing my ways are God's ways when in fact nothing could be further from the truth.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 
- Isaiah 55:8-9

Thank God then that it is His Spirit within me that quickens my mind to His thoughts and leads me to walk in His ways.  In His Spirit I'm roused from my worldly slumber and awakened to the reality that the creator of the living universe now makes His home the heart of every man, woman and child who has received His Son.

But without The Helper..... I just get exhausted trying (and trying and trying...) to win favor with God and others and feel good about myself.   An exercise in futility.

On The White Album's I'm So Tired, The Beatles, perhaps unknowingly, but deftly summed up the end result of modern man's idolatry of romantic love (read  relational salvation through human striving).  The line "I'd give you everything I've got for a little piece of mind" is especially striking.   Wow!  How easy it is to be swept up by such an honest and passionate profession.

But wait!  In Christ God has radically reoriented our  perspective.   In God's economy it's Him alone that does the giving and therefore Him alone that does the saving; To the degree we allow ourselves to be captured by such grace our new selves  can find peace resting in His Spirit while our old selves rest in peace!   In this newness of life our relationships have a hope that is not centered in man but in Almighty God.  These relationships don't "wear us out" they bring us to life!

Now if we died with Christ,
we believe that we will also live with Him. 
- Rom. 6:8

In Christ alone do we have true peace of mind.  Jesus slept as  the storm swept in and the waves crashed against the boat.   We too can rest easy knowing that though our best efforts will always fall short of the glory of God, His power begins to move within me precisely when my strength ends....it's at our point of helplessness when The Helper begins to do His greatest work in our lives.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 
- 1st Cor. 12:19

This Week:

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am Wednesday AM
   True Spirituality, Chap. 13 - The Substantial Healing of The Church
   2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm) 

* NEW MEN"S STUDY NEXT WEEK! Spiritual Warfare and The Man of God
   Pick up a copy of The Screwtape Letters

 * The Magills - Two private events - please pray for our time with these groups of couples....

Support B3 Ministries HERE!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Broken Brotherhood & The Roots of Our Righteousness

And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.”  At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord. - Gen. 4:25,26

My relationship with my brother, Wes, was tenuous at times.  Dad would tell us to "take it to the backyard" when things got too heated.  But for all our disagreements, bruises and busted lips we always loved each other and continue to to this day.  This was not the way things went down with the first brothers.

Cain and Abel - Eric de Saussure
As one of Adam and Eve's first two children, Abel sure gets a bit part in The Bible! All we know of Abel is that he brought what God deemed a proper offering to the Lord while his brother, Cain, brought an insufficient offering.  Abel is rewarded with the favor of God but when a jealous Cain kills him we see the disastrous consequences of The Fall of Man in full effect.

Soon Seth is born to Adam and Eve,  a pure descendant of Jesus.  According to The Bible this is when men began to call on the name of the Lord.

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more - Rom 5:20

Here, the seed of a family tree is planted by God from which the Son of Man would come.  An imperfect, highly-flawed family tree to be sure but then again.....

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong - 1st Cor. 1:27

Thus God began to reveal His plan for healing the broken family and, ultimately,  the salvation of man in the forth chapter of Genesis! Where Abel was replaced with Seth, with whom calling on the name of the Lord began, we have been replaced with the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.

Lyle Lovett is a genius songwriter and in penning "I Married Her Just Because She Looked Like You", he's at his best.  Whether or not it was Lyle's intention (can anyone say Common Grace?) the profound theological depth of this song struck me yesterday while listening to Direct TV's Honky Tonk Tavern.

This is the very essence of the gospel. Not only was Jesus punished for our sins, but his righteousness is the meritorious basis for our justification. We are justified by an alien righteousness, a righteousness that is not our own.  - R.C. Sproul

God is so holy that He couldn't have anything to do with our wicked flesh.  Yet because of Jesus Christ, who is our propitiation, we could be reconciled to God (read: married eternally).   Now when God looks upon followers of His only begotten Son He sees only the perfect life, love and sacrifice of Jesus. 

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. - 2nd Cor. 5:21
Blind Faith
We are justified by the blood of Jesus and have the benefit of history to shed light on God's faithfulness in Chirst to those who seek His grace and mercy.  Yet those who first began calling on the name of the Lord did so out of a desire to be distinguished from a pagan people (descendants of Cain) - those who refused to call on the name of the Lord.  Seth's descendants exhibited faith in recognizing who they were in relation to God.  In reckoning themselves creatures (sinners) of the created (sinless) they availed themselves to the purposes of God.

...work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose - Phil 2:12-13

I wouldn't have lasted one lazy afternoon with The Patriarchs of our faith.  I'm too conditioned to comfort, ease, peace and prosperity.   Thank God then that it's Jesus' work within us vis-à-vis The Holy Spirit that day by day brings His likeness more clearly into view.   He does so that we might bear witness to His covenant love and that His name might be glorified in the world.

Abel, a mortal man, was killed for his partial righteousness.  But God in His infinite wisdom provided another who, though He was to be killed for His total righteousness, would be resurrected conquering death once and for all.  The Good News of Jesus Christ began unfolding with the first family and thus, was there from the beginning.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. - John 1:1

This is reason enough for our eternal Thanksgiving!!

Christ's Blessings,

PS - The Pilgrims must have been men of great faith...

This Week:
Wednesday: Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am - True Spirituality, Chap. 12
                        2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)
Thursday: Thanksgiving!

Support B3 Ministries HERE!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Eczema and Messes: A Blessing?

Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
- 2nd Kings 5:14

Maggie, my 2-year-old daughter, has a skin disorder called eczema.  She can also be a “bull in a china shop”.  The two aren’t necessarily connected but she understands both the pain of a skin disorder and the consequences of making messes.  She recognizes when she makes a mess Mommy or Daddy have to clean it up and she shouts a joyful “all better” every night when we apply the medicine to her eczema break outs.

So with the help of her trusty Jesus Storybook Bible I found it particularly easy the other night to explain the story of King Naman who was healed of his leprosy after he finally submitted to The Prophet Elisha's call to dip himself seven times in The Jordan River.
I was so moved because, in a tiny way, she “got the Gospel”. After she declared Naman’s face “messy”, we learned that even though he was a successful king he was sad.  He didn’t have any friends; they didn’t want to be around him because of his sickness.  So desperate was he for healing and relational restoration that he followed a simple slave girl’s advice to consult The Prophet Elisha. 

Initially the idea of being healed by such a simple act seemed preposterous to Naman; He   was a self-reliant and spiritually-calloused king.  He believed his sickness to be purely physical when in fact he was a deeply wounded, embittered man.

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
- Matthew 9:12-13

It's clear from scripture that Naman's disease has deep theological underpinnings.  Leprosy begins within but results on the skin(externally). In that way it's much like sin.  As Schaeffer put it so deftly last week, “since the fall, man has become psychologically divided from himself in his rebellion”.

Unaware of who we are created to be, we don’t know ourselves. The worldly search for identity leads us to either indulge our passions/appetites becoming beasts or follow only our intellect becoming emotionless, calculating machines. In both instances we become less than human; and far less than what those who are born again by His Spirit can become in Christ.

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
- C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Similarly man's thought-life is full of iniquity. We are far too often unwilling to believe the promises of God. According to John Piper it's this internal unbelief which leads to external sin and draws us further away from the holiness of life in the Spirit.  Jeremiah says we've fooled ourselves....

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.
- Jeremiah 17:9-10

It is God alone who makes sense of our desperate position apart from Him and makes reconciliation possible. Leprosy, like sin, was incurable by man. Naman’s healing and restoration of relationship with his people was a miracle that could only come from God...not from himself and not from his fellow man. Once he realized this he "came to the end of himself" and did the "childish" thing accepting his position as the created and submitting himself to His Creator's power.

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
– Matthew 18:3

May we, like Naman, receive God's ever-present offer of healing and wholeness. Believing Jesus to be both our portion and our peace, may we see this story like a child.....

...The Way Maggie Sees 2nd Kings 5:

1. Naman had "boo boos" all over his body. (The Problem - The Human Condition)
2. Elisha told him to get in the bath tub. (The Solution - Spiritual Baptism)
3. After doing so he was “all better”. (Repentance and Restitution)
4. Finally he was happy and thanked the Lord. (Reconciliation and Thanksgiving)

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
- Psalm 139:23-24


PS: From a man who knows a bit about making messes and who cleans them up!

This Week:
Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am Wednesday Morning - True Spirituality, Chap. 11
2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)

The Magills at KE Cellars in Tyler - Friday Night 6-9! 
The Magills at Breckenridge Villages in Tyler - Saturday 4:30! 

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