Friday, November 28, 2014


Steven Dilla post at 843 Acres: Neither Toil or Spin

It’s far to easy to get swept away in the rush of the holidays. Anxiety over wrapping the final quarter of the year, scheduling events, and traveling through busy airports can begin to build as Christmas approaches. On Monday we’ll begin our Advent series on The Park Forum (something we’re really excited about), but before we do we wanted to set a tone for the holiday season with the words of Christ, which remind us to trust him in the midst of the life’s pressures.
When Christ talked about anxiety and trust he wasn’t minimizing the stress of life, he was showing the sufficiency of his love. It’s only by placing our faith in Christ that we are given the opportunity to displace it in ourselves. We stop looking to calm daily anxieties with our own success, appearance, accolade—which change far too often to offer security. [1]
A meditation and prayer from the words of Christ in Luke 12.22-31:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”

His Love and Grace and Holiness

Don Carson post:

JESUS TELLS HIS “FRIENDS” not to be afraid “of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him” (Luke 12:4-5). The Gospel demands that we examine not only our loves, but our fears. We are to love God above all others; so also are we to fear him above all others. The reason is the same in both cases: he is God. He deserves our passionate adoration; he is not to be trifled with. His untrammeled holiness evokes our awe; it also evokes our fear. We should love him now, and we will love him without reserve in the new heaven and the new earth; we should fear him, for he has both the power and the right to exclude us from the new heaven and the new earth.

People sometimes say, unthinkingly, that it is a great blessing that so-and-so has died, for he or she was in such great pain during the last days or weeks of life on this earth. But supposing the person was an unrepentant reprobate: is he or she better off now? Not according to this passage. Again, how many of our decisions in life are shaped in part by what people think or, more precisely, by what we fear they will think? In short, we are often afraid of people—if not afraid of brutal attack, then afraid of condescension, afraid of rejection, afraid of being marginalized, afraid of being laughed at. There is very little possibility of overcoming such fear by merely trying to stop fearing. We need to fear something else more, something that will make the fear of people not only wrong but silly. If we absorb the words of these two verses, and fear God above all, the problem will largely be resolved. That is one of the reasons why it is so important to know this God and to think much about him: you will never fear God if he rarely crosses the horizon of your thought.

Lest anyone should think for a moment that the Christian’s connection with Almighty God is characterized by nothing but fear, we must observe that even in this chapter Jesus tells his followers, “Do not be afraid, little flock”—of people, or circumstances, or the future—“for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). Although God is to be feared, the reason is not because he is the meanest dude of all. Far from it: his love and grace and holiness—all of his perfections—combine to provide the most glorious future possible for his own.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Holiday Sanity

Liz Holst post:  Holiday Expectation Management

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — or is it?
Thanksgiving is upon us, and Christmas just around the corner, and with this coupling come lots of expectations. For years I wrestled with how to navigate the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas with some semblance of sanity. Truth is, I still struggle with managing “the Holidays” well. Who will be home? What are the lingering family tensions? How can I make it special for friends who will walk through the front door? The questions, and stresses, go on and on.
I knew I was in big trouble one year when I fell prey to the jewelry commercials that convinced me my husband loved me only if he gave me diamonds. Really? Well, I bought it — obviously a small, neatly wrapped package with a sparkly red bow represented true love. When that package wasn’t under the tree, and my Christmas Day was ruined, I knew I needed to take a closer look at my heart and try to find out what was going on.

Santa’s Idol Workshop

And so began my journey toward “Holiday Expectation Management.” What did I discover? What is God continuing to reveal to me each year?
First, there is joyful anticipation of the Holidays and excitement about the main things that you know are going to happen. Thanksgiving and Christmas will come, God willing. We will pause and give thanks to God for all he has done for us, and we will celebrate the birth of our Savior and be glad.
Then there are the expectations — those unspoken and sometimes misguided, deep beliefs that something could happen. This is where my heart went awry. I allowed wrong expectations to overshadow the real Joy of the season. I needed a serious heart adjustment. I needed to discern what was driving those wrong expectations. I needed to be honest with myself and others, but where to start?

Five Steps to Holiday Sanity

1. Holiday expectations can become holiday idols.

To begin with, I needed to be mindful that my expectations were becoming idols. I was replacing true thanksgiving to God, and all the mercies he has shown, with turkey and pumpkin pie. Celebrating the birth of Jesus, the real reason for Christmas, was being replaced with glittery trees and presents. Those things are good gifts, but they are not meant to take first place in my heart. I needed to remind myself of the simple truth in 1 John 5:21: “keep yourself from idols.”

2. Be honest about your holiday fears, weaknesses, and insecurities.

Communicating to others clearly that this can be a hard time of the year for me was the next step. Being honest and vulnerable wasn’t easy, but opening up the dialogue with my husband, my friend, or my coworker proved to be an amazing blessing. I found often that by communicating my angst, I found someone who was more than willing to help me. What a gift! What a sweet provision from God — which I would have missed out had I not been honest.

3. Ask where your holiday expectations come from.

Being aware of who or what was defining my expectations was another hurdle to get over. Was it my husband? My children? Extended family? Guilt? The media? Fear of man? The still, small voice of the Holy Spirit continues to help us when those “expectations gone awry” begin to surface in this way.

4. Plan ahead for holiday health, maybe way ahead.

Being proactive — planning — was next. Knowing what I can and cannot do is one of the most helpful things I have discovered. Determining healthy boundaries before Thanksgiving and December is an ongoing practice at our house. One year, after a particularly bad holiday season, I wrote a letter to myself outlining what I would say “yes” to the following year. I gave the letter to a dear friend who held it for me until the following October; I received it in the mail on November 1. To this day, I am thankful for my godly friend who had the wisdom to suggest this plan of action.

5. God is the Hope of every holiday, however sweet or hard.

Finally, and most importantly, it is essential to remember that we have a loving Savior whose plan is perfect. Whether it includes a large gathering of friends and family at Thanksgiving, or a happy Christmas celebration with squeals of delight or perhaps even tears of deep sorrow, it is exactly what God planned. He doesn’t make mistakes. It may be hard to weather the Holidays, and yet we are not without hope.
Ephesians 3:20 reminds us that he “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” Knowing that, we can ask for healthy and happy expectations, anticipating that because God is sovereignly and lovingly directing all that happens, it may actually be “the most wonderful time of the year.”
Are there dangerous idols hiding in your holiday expectations?

Systemic Issues

Voddie Baucham post: Thoughts on Ferguson

In early August my wife and I, along with seven of our nine children, left for a month-long ministry tour in Africa (Kenya, Zambia, and South Africa). It was a couple of days before we got settled and had any access to media. As such, I was taken aback when I began to receive Google alerts, emails, and Facebook and Twitter messages either demanding that I comment on “Ferguson,” or condemning me for failing to do so. The only problem was, I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. Who, what, or where was Ferguson? Why was it such a big deal? Why was I being condemned (along with other “high-profile” evangelicals) for “failing to speak out on such an important issue”? 
I eventually got up to speed. Or at least I found out what all the fuss was about. Over the next several weeks I viewed this issue from a unique perspective. I was an American in Africa watching an issue ignite ethnic tensions in my homeland. It was almost surreal. 

Who Am I to Speak?

My first response to Ferguson was to say nothing. I was on the outside looking in. I didn’t know what happened. I didn’t know the communities or the issues surrounding the tensions. Second, I chose to remain silent because people were demanding that I speak—even condemning me for my silence. In this age of “I sure would love to hear your thoughts on” I get tired of the sense of entitlement with which people approach those whom they deem to be popular or high-profile Christians. No one is "entitled" to my opinion. Nor is my faithfulness to God determined by how quickly I respond to "relevant" issues.
As a pastor, I have a responsibility to my flock. If those for whose souls I care (Heb. 13:17) want help thinking through these issues, I am obligated to them. I have a duty to walk them through issues like these to the best of my ability, and with sensitivity to their particular needs. What worries me is that Christians in the age of social media care more what "popular" preachers have to say on issues like this (and whether or not they agree with other "popular" preachers) than they are about taking advantage of an opportunity to work through challenges in the context of Christian community. More importantly, it worries me that so many Christians view themselves primarily as members of this or that ethnic community more than they see themselves as members of the body of Christ.

The Plight of Black Men

Rest assured, I do believe there are systemic issues plaguing black men. These issues are violence, criminality, and immorality, to name a few. And all of these issues are rooted in and connected to the epidemic of fatherlessness. Any truly gospel-centered response to the plight of black men must address these issues first and foremost. It does no good to change the way white police officers respond to black men if we don’t first address the fact that these men’s fathers have not responded to them appropriately.
There is indeed an epidemic of violence against black men. However, that violence, more often than not, occurs at the hands of other black men. In fact, black men are several times more likely to be murdered at the hands of another black man than they are to be killed by the police. For instance, in the FBI homicide stats from 2012, there were 2,648 blacks murdered. Of those, 2,412 were murdered by members of their own ethnic group. Thus, if I am going to speak out about anything, it will be black-on-black crime; not blue-on-black. I want to apply the gospel and its implications in a way that addresses the real issue. If a few black men being killed by cops requires a national “dialogue,” what in the world does the overwhelming number of black-on-black murders require? If the police do not see black men through the proper gospel-centered, image-of-God lens, what does the black-on-black murder rate say about the way we see ourselves? 
In addition to violence, black men are plagued with criminality. Low-income black communities like Ferguson know all too well that black criminals preying on their neighbors makes life almost unlivable. Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, I know all too well what it’s like to have bars on the windows and doors for fear that thugs will break in to steal or kill. I remember being robbed at gunpoint on my way home from the store one day. It was one of the most frightening and disheartening events of my life. The fear, helplessness, and anger I felt stayed with me for years. And it taught me an unfortunate lesson: the greatest threat to me was other black men.
The underlying malady that gives rise to all the rest of these epidemics is immorality and fatherlessness. We know that fatherlessness is the number one indicator of future violence, dropout rates, out-of-wedlock births, and future incarceration. And in the black community, more than 70 percent of all children are born out of wedlock! Fatherlessness is the bane of the black community. 
Nor is this plague forced on us. It is as common as morning dew, and as overlooked as dust under a refrigerator. Were are the marches against this travesty? Where are the protestors who demand better? Where are the black "leaders" who . . . oh, that’s right, they have just as many illegitimate children as anyone else. Again, it is common knowledge that this is the most immediate root cause of the ills plaguing black Americans.

But What About Racism?

I have been pulled over by police for no apparent reason. In fact, it has happened on more than one occasion. I was stopped in Westwood while walking with a friend of mine who was a student at UCLA. We found ourselves lying face down on the sidewalk while officers questioned us. On another occasion, I was stopped while with my uncle. I remember his visceral response as he looked at me and my cousin (his son). The look in his eye was one of humiliation and anger. He looked at the officer and said, “My brother and I didn’t fight in Vietnam so you could treat me like this in front of my son and my nephew.” 
Again, this experience stayed with me for years. And for many of those years, I blamed "the system" or "the man." However, I have come to realize that it was no more "the system" when white cops pulled me over than it was "the system" when a black thug robbed me at gunpoint. It was sin! The men who robbed me were sinners. The cops who stopped me were sinners. They were not taking their cues from some script designed to "keep me down." They were simply men who didn’t understand what it meant to treat others with the dignity and respect they deserve as image bearers of God.
It does me absolutely no good to assume that my mistreatment was systemic in nature. No more than it is good for me to assume that what happened in Ferguson was systemic. I have a life to live, and I refuse to live it fighting ghosts. I will not waste my energy trying to prove the Gramscian, neo-Marxist concept of “white privilege” or prejudice in policing practices. 
I don’t care what advantages my white neighbor may or may not have. If he does have advantages, God bless him! I no more fault him than I fault my own children who have tremendous advantages due to the fact that they were raised by two educated, Christian parents who loved, disciplined, and taught them. Ironically, when I think about THAT advantage, I am filled with joy and gratitude to God for his faithfulness. People are supposed to bequeath an advantage to their children and grandchildren (Prov. 13:22). Why, then, would I be angry with my white neighbor for any advantage he is purported to have? And what good would it do? How does that advance the gospel? Especially in light of the fact that growing up with the gospel is the ultimate privilege/advantage! It is the advantage that has granted us all "American privilege"! Are we guilty for being citizens of the wealthiest republic in the history of the world? I think not!
As a father of seven black men, I tell them to be aware of the fact that there may be times when they may get a closer look, an unwelcome stop, or worse. However, I do not tell them that this means they need to live with a chip on their shoulder, or that the world is out to get them. I certainly don’t tell them that they need to go out and riot (especially when that involves destroying black-owned businesses). I tell them that there are people in the world who need to get to know black people as opposed to just knowing "about" us. I tell them that they will do far more good interacting with those people and shining the light of Christ than they will carrying picket signs. I tell them, “Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay'” (Rom. 12:19). And I tell them that there are worse things than suffering injustice. That is why we must heed Peter’s words:
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Pet. 3:15–17)
In the end, the best lesson my children can learn from Ferguson is not that they need to be on the lookout for white cops. It is far more important that I use this teachable moment to remind them that “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Moments before his death, Michael Brown had violently robbed a man in a store. A man doing the best he could to make a living. Minutes later, Brown reaped what he sowed, and was gunned down in the street. That is the sad truth. 
My sons have far more to fear from making bad choices than they have to fear from the police. The overwhelming majority of police officers are decent people just trying to make a living. They are much more likely to help you than to harm you. A life of thuggery, however, is NEVER your friend. In the end, it will cost you . . . sometimes, it costs you everything.

Monday, November 24, 2014

It Is Well


Joseph Rhea post:  Gratitude Is Hard to Do

Gratitude should fill the Christian’s life (1 Thess. 5:18Acts 2:46-47), especially with Thanksgiving on the horizon. So why am I so prone to ingratitude? Genuine gratitude seems elusive.
We live in maybe the most prosperous country in certainly the most prosperous era yet of all time. And as people bought back into relationship with God by the merit of Jesus Christ, Christians should be even more thankful than anyone else. Besides, gratitude is fun! As G. K. Chesterton says, “Thanks are the highest form of thought, and gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." We miss out on so much when we fail to live gratefully.
I think there are three big reasons why gratitude can seem so hard to find.
1. Gratitude requires making more of the good we have than the good we don’t.
If you’re like me, you tend to dwell on what you’d like to have. I’d love to own a house. I’d like to have a permanent job. A book deal, maybe? I’m always looking to the next thing, the bigger or better thing. Wishing isn’t necessarily wrong. But wishing does necessarily preclude gratitude, because by definition I can’t be grateful for something I don’t have. And if wishing is all I do, I’ll never be grateful.
Gratitude requires moving my eyes from the things I don’t have to the things I do have. It means saying there is good, real good, in this car. In this job or this home. I have to say, in one sense, “This is enough.”
Gratitude celebrates blessings received. As long as we’re consumed with blessings we haven’t received, we’ll never possess it.
2. Our society cultivates ingratitude.
As if we couldn’t be ungrateful enough on our own, ingratitude may be the yeast that makes American culture rise. Advertising persuades us that this thing will satisfy that need we didn’t know we had 30 seconds ago. HGTV shows us how beautiful our homes could be if we only had $50,000 and a professional crew. Political radio—doesn’t matter the party—says we cannot rest until this agenda is met and those people are thrown out of Washington.
“If only” is the prayer behind ingratitude, and it’s everywhere.
Let's try a simple thought experiment. Pick an area of your life you talk about with your friends: your job, your salary, your body, your family. Then imagine one of your friends saying something like, “Guys, I want you to know that I’m really happy with the salary at this job.” Or, “I actually love the way my stomach looks right now.”
If you’re like me, you may have thought: Wow, she sounds a little full of herself. Or maybe, Let’s see how long he can whitewash this thing before we hear how he really feels.
Our culture assumes that normal people operate with a consistent level of discontentment. We think that “real” equals “dissatisfied.” We definitely don’t want to live with a Botox spirituality that papers over real problems with a smile. But we don’t want to steer so far from that ditch that we fall into its opposite. Our society’s gravitational pull is already toward ingratitude.
3. Ingratitude elevates desire for a creature over desire for the Creator.
We desire food, shelter, friendship, health, happiness. These appetites may lead us into sin, but God made us with them, and they’re good at root (see Ps. 104:14-15).
However, God also gave us an appetite so unique it has its own category: the desire to see and savor his infinite, eternal presence. Ecclesiastes describes it as God “put[ting] eternity into man’s heart” (3:11); Augustine captures it with the line, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” We all hunger for God.
More often than not, ingratitude comes when we try to satisfy this hunger for God with blatantly sinful desires or too much of our basic needs. Somewhere in our hearts, maybe on a level we’re not consciously aware of, we convince ourselves that whatever created thing we lack—health, popularity, pleasure—will satisfy us if we can get just a little more of it. 
But as Christians, we know that our satisfaction can only be found in God. Our creaturely appetites will be fulfilled in the new creation; but for now, Christ suffices in abundance or need, plenty or want, life or death (Phil. 4:11-13).
Gratitude is elusive because we’re easily duped into thinking that an eternal hunger can be satisfied with temporal things.

Cultivating Gratitude

With these three reasons for ingratitude in mind, here are some thoughts about how to cultivate gratitude this Thanksgiving season.
1. Raise your ingratitude-sensing antennae.
Start sensitizing yourself to ingratitude, in your own heart and around you. Complaints about a job or a spouse or a body part. Fantasies of a bigger house, a bigger bank account, a different political climate. Being aware of ingratitude-messages will help you deal with the root problem.
2. Cultivate contentment in Jesus.
Jesus Christ is the one and only key to human happiness. As God incarnate, he provides our ultimate satisfaction; as our atonement and mediator, he alone makes it possible for us to have the communion with God that brings ultimate satisfaction (Ps. 16:11).
Cultivating that relationship with God through Jesus builds contentment in our hearts. Preaching the gospel to ourselves, meditating on the Word, worshiping God through prayer and song—all these open our hearts to the divine fount where we find satisfaction. Tasting and seeing God’s goodness leads to gratitude.
3. Supplant ingratitude with thanksgiving.
Botox spirituality misses that gratitude grows out from the inside. Ingratitude, like any sin, is a lion that grows when we feed it and shrivels when we don’t.
Once we catch the messages of ingratitude around us and inside us, we can start supplanting ungrateful thoughts with prayers of thanks. Sure, our 2003 Ford Escape isn’t sexy; but it’s given us 150,000 miles of reliable service with barely a repair needed. Yes, my job will end in seven months; but it’s been a wonderful experience and kept our family fed for the last two years.
I don’t practice a Sabbath, but a rhythm of remembrance and worship seems like a great way to cultivate gratitude. Israelite festivals marked major occasions—both yearly rhythms like the harvest and also national turning points—with prayer and the celebration of God’s actions. Building times of identifying and celebrating blessing into our weeks, months, and years could help open our eyes to see and celebrate God’s goodness. Thanksgiving this week is a great time to start.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Derivative of the Supremacy of Jesus

Jonathan Parnell post:  The Local Church and the Supremacy of Christ

Membership in your local church is one of the most important things about you.
The local church is the greatest, most profound collective of which any human could be a part. Your family, your career, your nationality — these all pale in comparison to what it means to be a member of a local church. And of course, this doesn’t make any sense unless we understand what the local church actually is.
There is a lot we could say at this point, and there are many good definitions out there, but in hopes of keeping it basic, here’s one way to put it:
The local church is a community of Christians who live as the on-the-ground expression of the supremacy of Jesus by advancing his gospel in distance and depth.
Now, there are three important parts of this statement that especially highlight the unparalleled role of the local church. But foundational to the whole thing is the supremacy of Jesus, and before moving to the other pieces, this is worthy of our focus. The most basic part of this basic definition is that the local church is the on-the-ground expression of the supremacy of Jesus. What does that mean? And how so?

1. Jesus is supreme.

The centrality of the local church is derivative of the supremacy of Jesus. If it weren’t for him and who he is, the local church would simply be an affinity club, something conjured up by our own devices and sustained for our own false sense of hope. But Jesus is who he is, and he’s behind this thing. Jesus is the one who has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18), the one before whom everyone will bow (Philippians 2:9–11), the one who reigns among a cascade of endless praise (Revelation 5:9–14).
Everything that is, or could be, for as long as it will ever be, is entirely pointing to Jesus — the eternal Son of God, the radiance of God’s glory, the exact imprint of God’s nature, the second person of the holy Trinity through whom all things were made, the one who became God with us, God in human flesh, the God-man, the last Adam, the offspring of Abraham, the lion of Judah, the prophet like Moses, the root of Jesse, the descendant of David, the suffering servant, the hope of Israel, the Savior of the world.
This is Jesus, and he is the great end. He is the one we are meant to see, to know, to treasure. Through our tears and triumphs, our pain and pleasures, our losses and loves, Jesus stands at the end of the road offering himself to us, inviting us to behold his worth and cherish his sufficiency.
And fact is, this is fact.
It isn’t ancient mythology or theological well-wishing. Jesus is real and everything the Bible says about him is true. And so we must ask: How is his reality felt?

2. Jesus expresses his supremacy.

If Jesus is really reigning, is that reign actually operative? What does it even do? In order for the reign of Jesus to transcend the mere climax of a good story, it must have a tangible expression in the real world. What is the force of his supremacy felt here?
Answer: his church.
It is no accident that immediately after Peter confesses the identity of Jesus — “You are the Christ, the son of the living God!” (Matthew 16:16) — Jesus makes a statement about the church. He says, first, “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven” (verse 17), and then, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (verse 18). Both parts of this statement are related to the supremacy of Jesus, making the church its exposé. The first part is about the church’s beginnings; the second part is about the church’s sustenance.
The church exists because God has designed it to be. It’s not according to “flesh and blood” creativity, but to God’s eternal purpose that he has realized in Jesus (Ephesians 3:11). This is God’s prerogative, in other words, and the purpose is to say something about himself by letting the church say something about Jesus. It is Jesus who stands as the fulcrum of a new nation, having created in himself “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15). And there’s the key: He’s the one creating, not us. We would all still be in darkness had it not been for the mission of God — Jesus having been sent, and his Spirit opening our eyes.
But not only that, the only reason the church lasts is because the Father, who put all things under the feet of Jesus, gave Jesus to the church (Psalm 110:1Hebrews 1:13Ephesians 1:22–23). Jesus gave his life for the church, but he also nourishes and cherishes her (Ephesians 5:29), which makes her holy and invincible. The head of the church is the ruler of the universe, which makes for pretty good auspices under which to have our being.
Everything about the church — her beginnings, her ongoing life, and her destiny — is owing to God alone, who laid out the script of world history in eternity past, the Father and Son agreeing in the Spirit’s fellowship to share their communion by creating, redeeming, and creating anew, all with the Son at the center (2 Timothy 1:9Ephesians 1:41 Peter 1:20Revelation 13:8).

3. This expression is on the ground.

“On the ground” is another way to accent the local nature of how Jesus expresses his supremacy. Without doubt, there is the one holy, universal, and apostolic church — “all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:2). But then there is the myriad of her local expressions spread out across different times and places.
The time-and-place element has always been important, even long before interstate freeways and information highways have shrunk our modern landscape and discombobulated our sense of geographical belonging. Place matters, as the Book of Acts shows us, because it reminds us that the work of Christ isn’t an ideological movement for abstract, amorphous peoples, but that it’s the good news proclaimed to people who are surrounded by the concreteness of somewhere, some place.
It is glorious that Jesus became God with us — with us here on this earth as the God-man. And then there’s a whole extra layer of wonder in that he is God with us here in the particulars — here on the same road I drive to work everyday, when I get stuck at that same light, by that same gas station. The supremacy of Jesus is expressed not just in the church invisible, but here, in the touchable, smellable, hearable pell-mell of this planet — and he does it by touchable, smellable, hearable assemblies of people worshiping him, serving one another, and making him known.
And no matter how insignificant it may sometimes feel, our being part of that, our participation in that fellowship, is one of the most important things about our lives.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pictures of Christ

Steven Dilla at 843 Acres post:  3 Characteristics of Christ in Luke 5

3 Pictures of Christ in Luke 5 | by Steven Dilla
1. Christ as a Master Worth Following
As Simon Peter responded to Jesus’ command to lower his nets after a night of fruitless fishing, he called Jesus, “master.” It’s likely he was obeying out of respect, and Simon Peter must have been wondering what kind of master Jesus was. The masters of the world lorded their power over people like Simon Peter; he was a mere fisherman, dependent on what he pulled from the water for the well-being of his life. After a miraculous catch, Simon Peter fell in awe at the Master’s feet. The sovereignty and generosity Jesus had shown was something Simon Peter joyfully pursued with all his heart, mind, and strength. (Luke 5.1-11)
2. Christ as the Lord and Healer of Our Greatest Pain
Later, Jesus gave clean skin to a leper and strong legs to a paralytic; but he wasn’t satisfied with just physical healing. Jesus knew there were many then, and now, that he would not stand in front of to touch and heal, so he drew our attention to something greater. “Your sins are forgiven,” he said to the paralytic. Jesus taught it is sin that separates men and women from God. It is only in the healing of our deepest pain, which we cannot heal apart from Christ, that Jesus shows himself as true Lord and Healer. (Luke 5.12-26)
3. Christ as Friends of Sinners 
Tax collectors were notoriously corrupt. Eating at Levi’s table is the equivalent of sipping wine from Bernie Madoff’s cellar——it’s offensive to even think of an upright person partaking in the fruit of corruption. Jesus wasn’t there to enjoy exquisite food and drink, he was there to give himself as a friend. Jesus befriends sinners to his own detriment, giving up his reputation as the elite scorn him and offering his life as sinners reject him. Jesus is the living example that there is no greater love than a man laying down his life, even while we were yet sinners. (Luke 5.27-39)
None were left the same, all had been touched by grace. Instead of unapproachable power, Simon Peter found blessing. Instead of a God removed from the pain of life, the sick found intimacy and healing. Instead of judgment that precludes relationship, Levi found sacrifice that allowed for embrace. Christ shows himself as our greatest provider, the solution to our deepest problem, and loving friend who lays down all to live in relationship with us.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gospel Centered

  1. To be gospel-centered is first to do everything you do in reliance on blood-bought grace and promises.
  2. To be gospel-centered is to do everything you do with a view of displaying the all-satisfying grace of God.
  3. To be gospel-centered is to live so that you show the glory of God,treasuring above all things the One through whom grace comes.

Running Back to Your Promises

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Blessings Like Wine Pouring off the Mountains

Amos 9

11-12 “But also on that Judgment Day I will restore David’s house that has fallen to pieces. I’ll repair the holes in the roof, replace the broken windows, fix it up like new. David’s people will be strong again and seize what’s left of enemy Edom, plus everyone else under my sovereign judgment.” God’s Decree. He will do this.
13-15 “Yes indeed, it won’t be long now.” God’s Decree.
“Things are going to happen so fast your head will swim, one thing fast on the heels of the other. You won’t be able to keep up. Everything will be happening at once—and everywhere you look, blessings! Blessings like wine pouring off the mountains and hills. I’ll make everything right again for my people Israel:
“They’ll rebuild their ruined cities.
They’ll plant vineyards and drink good wine.
They’ll work their gardens and eat fresh vegetables.
And I’ll plant them, plant them on their own land.
They’ll never again be uprooted from the land I’ve given them.”
God, your God, says so.