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! 

Support B3 Ministries HERE!