Monday, June 16, 2014

The Church Should Be Like the NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs last night for a third straight game totally dismantled the Miami Heat. It was a very impressive display of basketball wizardry! As a basketball fan and player myself I was totally impressed at this team concept and how efficiently they passed the ball and not one player shined greater than another. The player with the highest point average on the team this year was 17 the lowest of a player on a winning team in the finals in the modern shot clock era. This proves the team concept that the San Antonio Spurs have been playing with for the last 15 years.

However I was not as impressed with the excellent basketball and team play as I was with several other aspects that I think make them great. I also wonder if the church might have a look at these areas I noticed last night. As I watched them as a team receive the trophy I thought "the church should be like this!"

1. They are Humble Team Players: 
The first thing that occurred to me while watching the spurs last night was that there is not one single ego on the team. Tim Duncan will be in the Basketball hall of fame one day (and maybe a few other players too), but his Jersey is the 14th Highest selling Jersey in the NBA. Do you think he cares? NO He cares about team, and family, and those around him. I have to say I am actually struggling with this lately. I am struggling with the need to prove myself to everybody. Why do I do that? Why can't I be completely satisfied in My Savior? What if I was a person that was actually completely satisfied in my savior? What if the Church was completely satisfied in Jesus? What if the church was a little more like this? Like Christ actually?
This team is full of unselfish basketball players, they are totally unselfish. They pass the ball better than any other team in the league. Every time I counted the passes in a possession it was always over five passes and when I counted the Heat's passing it was always under 5 usually 2-3 passes per possession. This can only be attributed to team leadership that is also unselfish. From the top down Greg Popovich their coach deflects accolades better than anyone in the NBA. He usually doesn't like to say much to the media, but to his players he demands excellence, humility, and the team concept. What if the Church looked like this? Unselfish, humble, team players?

2. They are Diverse: 
One of the reasons that you have never heard of any of the players on the Spurs is because they are humble team players, and also because they are very diverse. Most of their roster are not Americans. There are only seven Americans on the roster for the Spurs.
There are Italians, Australians, French, Canadians, New Zealanders,  Argentinians, Brazilians and one from St. Croix of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Americans are outnumbered by the international players for the Spurs. Greg Popovich has found a winning formula with this international community and great diversity. Jesus has also found a winning formula in seeking and redeeming those from every tribe and nation under the sun. As I watched the Spurs celebrate Their win, the flags of all these countries came out. It was a great sight to see all these various countries represented on the platform. I can remember a missions conference in Germany that I attended in which our worship rose to the Lord in many different languages, and then the flags were flying of every European country. It was AWESOME! There were about 30 countries represented. It was almost like the Holy roar that will rise before the throne of God, everyone singing in Heaven one day in their own language (Revelation 7:9). How can we as a church reflect the diversity that will one day encamp around the throne of God worshiping the lamb? Well maybe we could take a lesson from the Spurs and seek to reflect that diversity now.

3. They are Relentless for the Team and Goal:
Since the Spurs should have won the NBA championship last year and were robbed (I guess you can assume how I feel about last year) they have worked tirelessly and gotten better. I would never have been able to believe that from last year when they played
awesome basketball. Somehow they really got better as a basketball team. They truly pounded a great Miami team. How could we as a Church learn from their example? If a bunch of guys can work tirelessly for sport, something that will ultimately fade away, couldn't we as a Church tirelessly put our efforts to work in this world for Christ and His kingdom? I was reminded recently of a poem written by a hero of the faith named C.T. Studd. this is the last stanza of the poem...

Only one life, ’twill soon be past, 
Only what’s done for Christ will last. 
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be, 
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”

Paul also wrote about giving everything for Christ...

"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

These San Antonio Spurs give everything for the goal, the prize, the trophy that will one day not be shiny,
one day not be made of gold, one day not even be there. However, the crown of righteousness will be awarded one day, and if we have lived a humble, faithful, Christ honoring life then the Church will receive that prize that will never fade away!

Church how can we refocus and realign our hearts with the heart of Christ in Humility, embracing Diversity, and being Relentless for Christ? I pray that this emboldens the Church to be what Christ had envisioned for His bride form the beginning. Let us seek Him in these ways so that we can be a most beautiful, appealing, and effective Bride.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Christ is the Riches of God

Colossians 1:24-29 Christ the fountainhead of Life: week 3
"Christ; the Riches of God"

24) Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25) of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26) the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27) To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28) Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29) For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:24-29 ESV)

Objective Statement: The Church is Fully Complete in Christ by Receiving the Stewardship of His Ministry in Three Areas.
1. We Receive the Stewardship of Sufferings for the Church

Verse 24-26
24) Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25) of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26) the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 
This word that Paul uses here in verse 24 has stumped Biblical scholars probably since the letter was written. He says He "fills up what was Lacking": So I wanted to look at that word for a moment. The Greek word is
G5303 ὑστέρημα
Pronounced hoos-ter'-ay-mah
from 5302; a deficit; specially, poverty:--that which is behind, (that which was) lack(-ing), penury, want.
By his sufferings Paul enters into the sufferings of Christ, who is now exalted above earthly sufferings as the head of the church (kittle) 'what is lacking' or 'what is wanting'.  
The wanting that Paul is referring to here is that he enters into Christ sufferings and becomes a fellow partaker in the suffering. For us the same when we enter into sufferings we are entering into the full measure of what it is to know Christ. We have never before seen Him in His suffering so as we and Paul suffer as a follower of Christ we "fill up what was lacking". By way of suffering Paul fulfills the suffering that Jesus went thought and presents that suffering to the church, so that they can also see and enter into the sufferings of Christ and thus "fill it up". He does this so that the church can know better their great suffering head. And be in true communion with him as suffering head. As Paul also said in Philippians, "that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:10, 11 ESV). Paul was glad to receive the stewardship of suffering from Christ to display to the church. And they were many sufferings indeed. His stewardship of sufferings for the church is best expressed in 2 Corinthians 11:24-33
"Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands." (2 Corinthians 11:24-33 ESV)
If you are interested here is info on the greek word also used here for Sufferings:
G2347 θλῖψις
Pronounced thlip'-sis
from 2346; pressure (literally or figuratively):--afflicted(-tion), anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble.
The Greatness of this message is that we can enter in to what our savior experienced and as Paul did He was a steward of the great sufferings that he experienced for His name. How a bout you? do you complain, moan, or resent your sufferings. We can leverage, and steward them for Christ and His glory in the Church?

2. We Receive Stewardship of the Riches of Gods Glory as Revealed in Christ (to the Gentiles)

We as modern day Christians have such an insiders, consumer, entitlement mentality. But what Paul says here is that we are the outsiders! God made His mystery that had been hidden forever, namely Christ, known to Jews first then to Gentiles (outsiders). And His mystery in Christ are the riches of God. God's riches; let's meditate on that for a while. God is the best thing in all the universe! He is also the most wealthy, because not only does he own all things, he is the inventor, creator, and manufacturer of everything in all of the entire universe! All that we see and know, and all that we cannot see and will never know in a thousand lifetimes belongs ultimately to him! So he is the wealthiest individual in all the universe. He makes the top ten wealthiest individuals put together look like they are running a lemonade stand. Let's have a look...
#1 Bill Gates $77.1 B 
#2 Carlos Slim Helu & family. $71.5 B 
#3 Warren Buffett $64.6 B
#4 Amancio Ortega $63.3 B
#5 Larry Ellison $50.6 B
#6 Charles Koch $41.2 B
#6 David Koch $41.2 B
#8 Sheldon Adelson $38.7 B
#9 Christy Walton & family $38.6 B
#10 Jim Walton $36.2 B
With a grand total of. $736.2 Billion in net worth...
Their wealth is as a drop in the bucket compared to His. If His wealth is so immeasurable it must be great to experience His wealth and receive it. Guess What...YOU HAVE! Jesus is his wealth! Jesus is his greatest prize to you! The most valuable thing God could give you is 'Christ in you the hope of glory.' Not only do you have God's wealth in Christ, but you also have a fast and sure hope of glory! An immovable mountain as steadfast as God himself that one day you will experience glory with Christ in heaven, as co-heirs of Jesus himself, he is our brother! And we His! And not to mention that...Heaven is a wonderful place (Revelation 21), I wanna go there! 
You see his riches revealed in Jesus in Vs. 27
27) To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
-God's glory now extends outside the bounds of Israel and now can be entered through Christ by anyone! 
-All nations
-all tribes
-all people groups
-all languages
And he will be The Lord and king of them all

3. We Receive the Stewardship of Proclamation (warning, teaching, and wisdom): that makes us mature in Christ

We receive warnings not touch, do not eat, speed limit 55, weather warnings, Danger signs, caution, speed bumps ahead. These warnings are loving! Sometimes we hear the word warning and do not see it as loving, but it is. Warning us of danger is a loving thing. Usually the warning comes from a person wanting our good and not our destruction. As we traveled from California to South Carolina we saw some pretty interesting things, but I loved the signs the most...
1) Do not pick up hitch hikers, prison near by!
2) Gusty winds may exist!
3) Drive safely
4) Drive carefully
5) Would u trust Indian food at a truck stop in Texas? (Literally that was a real sign!)
6) Drive friendly the Texas way
7) Road construction sign: "be caution"
8) Aircraft used! (I guess this sign is true aircraft is often times used)
Some of these signs make no sense at all. Some of these warnings were not very thought through...or passed by an English teacher, or anyone who speaks English for that matter. But the signs and warnings that Paul proclaims are the only pertinent and meaningful signs ever. Him (Jesus) we proclaim. The end game of the proclamation and warning is that he could and would present everyone "mature in Christ". How does Paul do this continually? How does he endure his trials? With "His energy that so powerfully works within me." Are you toiling on this earth in some meaningless task, something altogether unimportant? Or are you toiling, warning, teaching, proclaiming Christ? If not why not? And if so do you lean completely on Him struggling with all His energy?
Vs. 28
28) Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29) For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:24-29 ESV)

Close: the church needs proclamation and maybe it even needs people to suffer in that proclamation that Paul goes through. Lydia my five year old asked me when she was four, "where is Jesus' church"? I said, "Jesus church is everywhere all over the world in America, Germany, China, Pakistan, and lots of other countries." I said, "why do you ask." She said, "because I love Jesus." I said, "but there are lots of people who have not heard about Jesus yet, and so we have to go and tell them about him." She responded, "they need Jesus in their heart too, it's only fair." It is only fair and our stewardship of his message is of utmost importance. He has given us everything we need to make Christ known His sufferings, His riches and His message to proclaim faithfully. So let's proclaim Him and the riches found in Him! 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The most un-Reached people group in America!

One of the largest un-reached people groups in the United States is the disability community. Over one-fifth of all Americans are affected by permanent disability, according to the most recent Census Bureau numbers. They're un-reached because of the isolation, pain, difficulty, and degree to which people affected by disability are ostracized in our culture.
Our daughter Ana has Down syndrome. I've had a lot of exposure and contact with the world of Down syndrome as a result. As I look back on my life experiences, I see how God was preparing me for life with Ana. I have been in youth ministry for 20 years, and in every one of my ministries there have been many students with disabilities, including Down syndrome. God has been so kind and gracious to expose me to the world of disabilities before I was graciously pulled into it on a deeper level with Ana. 
When she was 10 months old, we noticed strange things were happening to her. She would lose control of her body, especially her head and arms. We quickly called the doctor and got an EEG test that showed a thing called Hypsarrhythmia. Our neurologist gave us a diagnosis of infantile spasms. We were devastated. It was a difficult and tiring journey to her being fully cleared of all seizures. Her seizures were most often in the middle of the night; I would get up and hold her during the seizures, and sometimes there were episodes of 40-50 in a row.
I remember a night about 7 years ago very vividly. I felt completely helpless, and all I could do was cry out to Jesus through the tears. "Help me. Please help me, Jesus."
This is just a glimpse into life for people in the disability community. To face these struggles is exhausting spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically.  One amazing way God has refreshed my family is through the ministry of Joni and Friends, especially the ministry's "Family Retreat." Most families facing disability struggle with endless demands on their time, energy, emotions, mental capacity, and spiritual life. I've been in support group, after support group, where people were completely overwhelmed. These families rarely have time to feed their own souls in substantial ways. Yes, we really are committed to the Lord daily, we believe in the importance of personal and corporate time with him, but practically how does this work out?
When my family attended the family retreat for the first time five years ago, this renewal happened for us. When we drove up to the camp, we wept as counselors and staff held up signs with our children's names on them. We were being celebrated for the first time, and it was completely disarming. As a result of the disarming power of celebration, we were able to have complete respite and be rejuvenated through corporate worship with like-minded people in the disability community. We also had the opportunity to be blessed by those facing the same struggles. "Short term missionaries" served the families, each one assigned to our individual children. My wife and I even had the chance to talk to each other about goals for our family and the deep, hard things we were dealing with, without interruption! We even went on a date! Every year on "date night," we find there are couples who haven't been out for a date since the birth of their child with disabilities, and for some this is 10-15 years prior.
In our involvement with Joni and Friends ministry over the years, I've met so many people neglected by their own church. One such woman was a single mother with a 21-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy.  As soon as her child was born, her husband left her. This is actually, sadly, a common occurrence; some figures reflect the divorce rate is as high as 80 percent ( Her husband couldn't handle the shame he felt, so he left.
She would often seek out other people to connect with in her church, but nothing materialized. One day, her pastor preached on the passage in Luke where Jesus says to invite the poor and disabled in to your homes, the people who can't repay you.  "He (Jesus) said also to the man who had invited him, 'When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just'” (Luke 14:12-14).
As she tells the story, she became so excited when she heard the passage and her pastor's teaching. "This is finally the day; now someone will invite us over!" she thought. So she rolled her daughter's wheelchair out to the foyer, turned it around and parked it so people would have to walk by them. Yet the people filed by; not one single invitation was extended to this very tired single mother. This is unfortunately an all too familiar scene for many in the disability community.
As we partner with ministries like Joni and Friends, however, we can make it more of a priority to serve families in our community affected by disability, and we can learn the best ways to meet their needs. For my family, the retreat has been crucial. Our heart has grown for the most unreached, un-evangelized, hurting, and isolated people group in the country. Let us with fresh vision obey the words of Jesus to "invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed."
I believe Joni Eareckson Tada is the most influential Christian leader of this generation. See her testimony below. And here are a few links to information about ministries the church can take advantage of:

Friday, May 23, 2014

Cultivating Curiosity in the Name of Christ

Pastoral ministry requires a person to be curious and genuinely curious about other people. Over the years, I’ve found that ministry required me to be curious about people, and early on in my ministry, I noticed I was genuinely uncurious, arrogant and proud.
A mentor pointed this out to me. It was hard to hear, but it was the best thing he could’ve done for me at the time. I went with him on a weekend retreat where he was the speaker. On our way there, he said to me, "You interrupt people all the time."
I was shocked. He said I had interrupted his wife at dinner at least a dozen times. They were looking at each other, thinking, “Who is this guy; what is he doing?” He offered to observe me over the weekend and let me know what he noticed by the end of our time ministering together. 
At the end of the weekend, he told me he felt I cared more about myself, and what I wanted to say, than about other people and what was on their minds.
This hurt to hear, but it was so eye opening. I realized I needed to overhaul my pride, and my lack of curiosity. I needed to flex my selflessness muscles and genuinely begin caring about people’s souls, interests, passions and needs. James, the brother of Jesus, has this wise advice for us: When we’re tempted to speak first in any situation, we need to choose first to listen, understand and ask questions.
Are you curious, or are you self-important, arrogant, and proud? Here are a few ways to discern where you need to grow:
1.       Do you come into groups of people and begin immediately to talk about yourself or what's happening to you?
2.       Do you, like me, interrupt people when they’re in the middle of a sentence or thought? Do you rush to interject your opinion, tell a story about yourself, or somehow promote yourself?
3.       Do you ask questions of people? Do you seek to get to know people beyond surface level?
4.       Have people ever made these types of comments to you: “you talk too much,” “you interrupted me,” or “you’re not listening”?
5.       Do people seem to pull away from you after a while, even people you had considered a friend?
In order to become deeply caring and curious people, we need to be transformed by Jesus. For me it is happening as I submit myself to the direction of the Holy Spirit. My wife has also sharpened me; she knows my struggles and challenges me. "You aren't listening," "you’re interrupting," she will graciously point out.  
We can also grow by asking other people who are close to us: "Do you feel listened to by me?" "Do I have any blind spots in my character?" Our culture is head over heels for celebrities, starved for information about the rich and the famous, but our Christ call us to minister to the poor, marginalized, hurting, unpopular, and unfamous. Christ is calling his church to be genuinely curious about those that cannot repay you or return the favor:
“(Jesus) said also to the man who had invited him, ‘When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just’” (Luke 14:12-14).
Let us with fresh vision obey the words of Jesus, and with great curiosity, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, “and you will be blessed.”

Monday, May 5, 2014

Christ the Fountainhead of Life: Week 2 "What Does Jesus Control?"

Colossians 1:15-23 Christ the fountainhead of Life: Week 2 "What Does Jesus Control?"

I don't pretend to understand Quantum Mechanics but I do know from middle school science that protons have a positive charge and electrons have a negative charge. This makes them attracted to each other. You should thank them for that attraction because I guess if they all of a sudden lost their attractional force one to another we would quickly cease to exist. I guess it would kind of be like the Arnold Schwarzenegger  film The Eraser.
Did you ever see that movie it was pretty terrible, but that ray gun was pretty awesome at making people disappear. I would posit that we are held together by the great loving kindness and mercy of Christ. As we see in our next section of Colossians. "And in him all things hold together". We see today from this passage that Christ is totally supreme over all things down to the very basic building blocks of your life even your protons and electrons. There is not one thing that is out of His ultimate control, careful, and kind watch. 

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister." (Colossians 1:15-23 ESV)

Christ is completely supreme for our good and his own glory in three areas. 

1. He is completely supreme over all Created Things 

-all things we see and even those things and powers that we cannot see are under his careful purview

"15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16) For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17) And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together."
All these things were created through him and they are for him."
-What could these things possibly "do" for Jesus that would do anything for Him?

Psalm 19 
"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat." (Psalm 19:1-6 ESV)
And what does creation say day after day? It says to everyone everywhere, "I am here look at me, see me, I am God! 
This creation cries to us all that there is a great and wonderful creator that cannot be ignored. You can try to ignore him and fill your life with distractions but he has made everything 'ex nihilo' (from nothing) and we must pay attention! Not only did he create all things but all things will eventually one day return to him for his glory. One day at the end "every knee will bow" either bow voluntarily or involuntarily! This is the length and breadth or his supremacy! 

2. He is also completely supreme over His Church

"18) And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19) For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20) and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross."

Whatever your view of Jesus was before now, it was too small. Your view of Him was too small before you read this today! And hopefully after you read this, it will continue to grow! Ekklesia is the Greek word here that Paul uses to describe the assembly or church. And also likewise whatever your view of the church was when you read this today it was too small. The greatness of Jesus Church should continually be growing in your mind! Acts 20:28 says that the Ekklesia is the people whom The Lord has "bought with his own blood". It is all people who belong to him from every tribe, and nation, from all people, from all time! 
And he is the head and Lord of that Ekklesia! 
He is firstborn with preeminence because of his resurrection. 
He is also preeminent because of all fullness of God resting on him. 
He is also preeminent Lord of the Church because he has made peace with everything by his blood
And His Church will grow, until the gospel of Jesus Christ has reached every language, and tribe, and nation

3. He is completely supreme over you and me through the Gospel 

21) And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22) he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23) if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

-we were aliens and completely foreign but now we have victory!!!

-he presents you holy and blameless. Who does he present you to? God himself!

"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV)
Because of Christ's gracious sacrifice for you and I, we can boldly approach His throne, where Christ lives to make intercession for us. At His throne we will receive Mercy and Grace, no longer Judgement and Condemnation. He has the authority to give it, because of His supremacy in Redemption and His authority in the gospel.

Close: Our views of Jesus will always be too small until the day we see him face to face. Until then how are you seeking to worship and make much of Christ? Let your view of Him be always growing! As the famous Dutch Reformer Abraham Kuyper said, "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'"

Watch this sermon jam from John Piper, and let it help you worship the supreme Christ!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Colossians: Christ the Fountainhead of Life Week 1

Colossians: Christ the Fountainhead of Life Colossians 1:1-12 Week 1

Have you ever had a great shower? that shower in the morning that just wakes you up and is so refreshing that you didn't want to get out. That shower is refreshing because that shower head is the source to you of wonderful hot water refreshment! Oh yea makes me want to take a shower right now? Just as that shower head is the source of that nice shower, Jesus is the fountainhead like a shower in the morning when your butt is dragging. It gives life it starts me off like wow what a beautifully awakening thing. The gospel is Jesus in his supremacy, his knowledge,many things good or worthy of praise ultimately come from Him, and will return to him as a fragrant offering of praise. He is like the shower head or the fountainhead that awakens us to everything. I am going to do a series on Colossians, and in it I will seek to show you that he is the source of all life. Lets have a look

Objective statement: we all can be deepened in gospel awakedness by seeing and savoring our positional status in Christ the fountainhead of life as seen in Colossians 1:1-14. Or first position in the gospel is...

Position #1. We are GREETED in the Gospel: 
I love the German culture of greeting. Every time I talk on the phone with German family or see them they greet me. It is awesome at first I did not know what to do with a greeting, But after a while I learned that they are just thinking about you America is not a culture of greeting and maybe should be. "Gruß Gott" in the south of Germany is a typical greeting it literally means Greet God! What a greeting! The point of sending a greeting is that you know that people are thinking about you. The gospel of Grace and peace means that God himself is thinking about you!!! He is sending His Grace and Peace to you!!! Paul starts off there. You must start off there. You must know that God himself is greeting you!!!

What are the greetings of the gospel. How does the gospel arrive to us? 
-Grace to us from God: undeserved, unearned, favor and kindness
-Peace to us from God: that passes all understanding. And in Christ God has made peace between us and God. whereas before there was animosity or wrath, but He has greeted us in the peace of the Gospel through Christ!

His greeting goes...
1) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2) To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. 

Position #2. We are made THANKFUL and AFFECTIONATE in the Gospel 
Have you ever noticed how American pop culture is not a culture of affection, but a sort of schizophrenic emotionally backward culture. Every reality show must have at least one emotional breakdown in a tirade, or a weepy mess.
And then when someone has a real emotional moment of compassion, hope, joy, affection, by way of a real emotional response, they are lambasted or at least feel obligated to apologize for their 'unprofessional meltdown. What a double standard! We encourage immature emotional tirades, and handcuff people from real emotional connection. The gospel however is a totally counter-cultural thing. We are freed from emotional dependence and immaturity into a freedom to be truly thankful, and affectionate. Paul is "always" thanking God for the people at Colossae, and expresses a deeply affectionate posture toward them and those involved in their "love in the Spirit"

He writes...
3) We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4) since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5) because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6) which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7) just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8) and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. 

3. We are QUALIFIED in the gospel: 
Christ through his death on the cross qualifies us to be brothers with Him! 

After Jesus resurrection he tells the women at the grave to go tell his 'brothers' that he is alive and "I ascend to my father and your father"

"Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her." (John 20:15-18 ESV)

Paul describes our Qualifications in the gospel this way...
9) And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10) so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11) May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12) giving thanks to the Father, who has "QUALIFIED YOU" to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13) He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14) in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

G2427: ἱκανόω
Pronounced hik-an-o'-o
to enable, i.e. qualify:--make able (meet)

Because of Christ we are qualified and enabled to become His brother and to share in the complete inheritance that he will enjoy...
Romans 8:17 says "And Since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God's glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering"

In closing we see deepened in Gospel awakedness by understanding our positions in the gospel better we are...
1) Greeted by God in the gospel, 2) We are made Thankful and Affectionate in the gospel, and 3) We are Qualified By Christ to stand before God  and He gives us everything we need in the gospel. If this were all the gospel that God would have given to us, it alone would be enough However, the extent of the gospel goes, deeper, richer, wider, and higher than we could ever imagine. And so we rest in this little revealed goodness, knowing it is only the tip of the iceberg of the glorious riches in Christ.feel free to respond to His goodness as revealed in the gospel by worshiping with the song below...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Alabaster Worship

Have you ever had a terrible experience of worship? Why do you think is was terrible? I have! I have had awful experiences. I have felt disconnected, I have felt lackluster, I have felt many times like the songs were not my style. I have felt depressed, sad, proud, sinful, and otherwise disengaged. Many of these times in worship were definitely when I should have humbled myself even though I was feeling something else and taken the opportunity to worship with abandon. That is why the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with an alabaster jar of expensive perfume is so refreshing and inspiring to a worship-less person like me. It makes me believe a person as disengaged, judgmental, and harsh as I am might be capable of authentic worship. Worship is for the needy. Please take a moment and read or re-read the passage in Matthew 26:6-13 that describes the story where this woman anointed Jesus with her costly perfume.
"Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table. But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, “Why this waste? For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”"
Here's what I observed in the passage.
1. Worship is costly (or at least should be).
Notice this woman brings two things into the dinner meeting at Simon's house. First, she brings an alabaster jar. This item in that culture would surely have been very expensive. The Mark account says the woman broke the jar! It's as if the perfume meant for Jesus could not be contained in any vessel, and it must be let out so it can perform the worship and fulfill its purpose. Mark and Matthew also noticed the vial/jar contained "very costly perfume." I have noticed in my own life when I was really giving Jesus everything in worship, those were the moments when giving worth to God usually cost me something. It cost me something in money, time, position, plaudits, social standing, reputation, or something even more valuable. But true worship is finding value in the one who is only supremely valuable. The woman here gave a beautiful gift in the alabaster which was very costly by human standards, but pales in comparison the how costly our master is in His majesty. He alone is supremely valuable, and no gift no matter how valuable could begin to show His supreme worth, but we can and should try. Nothing is ever wasted which is bestowed on Jesus, but the disciples cry "Foul." They say "what a waste!" And Jesus rebukes them.
2. Worshiplessness is often disguised in religiosity.
Notice as the disciples cry "Foul," they say this perfume could have been sold and "the money given to the poor." These guys are thinking along great religious lines, but they are just probably mad they didn't have the idea to anoint Jesus, so they make a super religious comment. They firstly call this act of worship a "waste"; again nothing is ever wasted that is bestowed on Jesus. Jesus hears our faintest cry, and receives our greatest gifts. Whatever those gifts may be, none are wasted that are given in a true heart of gratitude. The disciples cry against the waste of worship, and in the same breath give a religious antithesis to worship: works. This woman finds it easy to worship, and the men find it difficult. I have found that women many times are more capable of high praise. Please do not get me wrong; men can be found also to praise God with great affection, but that is what we as men have to tap into. We need to tap into our affectionate side. This woman tapped into a deep affection for the Lord and unashamedly, unabashedly, and publicly showed her affection. Sometimes I have found liturgy within religion masks an affection the original authors of that liturgy experienced as they wrote those words. How can you strip down the trappings of religion through dead works to authentically, affectionately, and passionately worship the living Christ?
3. Worship is the point of the Gospel.
Since Jesus is greater than all things in the universe (Colossians 1:15-29; 2:2-3) and His death is the greatest thing that has happened in human history, then it makes sense that such a great act of worship by preparing Jesus for burial would be mentioned "wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world." I asked myself what was so special about this one act that it would be mentioned in all the world hand in hand with the gospel? The answer is that worship is the point of the Gospel. Proclamation of the Gospel exists because worship does not exist yet in every place in the world. Where worship does not exist, then Gospel proclamation must happen, and what is the message of the Gospel? Receive Christ and worship Him! He is Lord and he's worthy of your alabaster jar, and much, much more than you could ever give Him. Jesus' rebuke of the disciples was this: "She has done a good thing." Christ has done a good thing to us on the cross by receiving us as brothers and making God our Father. So what good thing can we do to Him in response? You cannot clap loud enough, shout loud enough, sing beautifully enough, dance hard enough, or play skillfully enough. As David said, "I could become even more undignified than this." My deepest and most undying affection should only and always be reserved for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
So clap, shout, sing, dance, play, weep, kneel, lay prostrate, raise hands, bow, meditate, smile, laugh, rejoice, and break your alabaster jar on the feet of our Lord. Know that nothing is ever wasted which is bestowed on Jesus out of love. This song "Alabaster" by Rend Collective might assist you in pouring your perfume on Jesus. If I worshiped this way every time I had opportunity, then I would never have a bad experience in worship because it's more about Jesus than me!