Tuesday, January 27, 2015

God Meets Us Where We Are

Excerpt from Genesis 28; Matthew 27; Esther 4; Acts 27 is a post from: For the Love of God


And God does not strike him down! The story moves on: God does all that he promised, and more. All of Jacob’s conditions are met. One of the great themes of Scripture is how God meets us where we are: in our insecurities, in our conditional obedience, in our mixture of faith and doubt, in our fusion of awe and self-interest, in our understanding and foolishness. God does not disclose himself only to the greatest and most stalwart, but to us, at our Bethel, the house of God.

Only by God's Grace

Jon Bloom:  But God

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4–5)
But God.” These two words are overflowing with gospel. For sinners like you and me who were lost and completely unable to save ourselves from our dead-set rebellion against God, there may not be two more hopeful words that we could utter.
Once we were dead to any real love for God at all, buried under the compounding and disorienting blindness of our sins (Ephesians 2:1), but God. Once we were deceived by our own lust for glory and self-determination; once we were unknowingly led by the pied piper called “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), but God. Once we lived enslaved to the passions of our flesh, being driven and tossed between the impulsive waves of our flesh and mind (Ephesians 2:3), but God. Once we were God’s enemies (Romans 5:10), hating him (Romans 1:30), children of his wrath. But God.
But God being rich in mercy, but God showing his incomprehensible “love for us in that while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8) he said to us God-dead, God-ignoring, God-rivaling, God-hating, dry-boned children of wrath: “live” (Ezekiel 37:5)! Live to true beauty, live to true glory, live to true hope, live to true pleasure, live to true joy! Live to God (Galatians 2:19) and live forever (John 6:58)!
And he did so by taking our God-deadening, God-ignoring, God-rivaling, God-hating, God-wrath inducing sin and placing it on his Son, the Life (John 14:6), and said: “die” (Romans 5:8). And so he who knew no sin became our sin for us — for an infinitely hellish moment became a child of wrath (Ephesians 2:3for us — the righteous for the unrighteous, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:211 Peter 3:18). So that we might live forever (John 3:16)
These two words, “but God,” tell us that we have been saved only by God’s grace. Dead children of wrath do not become living, loving children of God but for God.
Revel in these two priceless words. Every thing, sweet and bitter, that will occur between now and the moment of your death God will work for your good (Romans 8:28), and every glorious pleasure that you will ever enjoy in your future eternal life in his presence (Psalm 16:11) because of the gospel of these two words: “but God.”

Monday, January 26, 2015


Excerpt from Don Carson: GENESIS 27; MATTHEW 26; ESTHER 3; ACTS 26


Providence is mysterious. It must never be used to justify wrong actions or to mitigate sin: Isaac and his family are more than a little sleazy, Judas is a deceitful wretch, Haman is vile, and the Roman court trying Paul is more than a little corrupt. Yet God sovereignly rules, behind the scenes, bringing glory out of gore and honor out of shame.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Do Not Labor Alone

Glory in Rejection

Daily ReadingGenesis 22 (Listen – 4:01)Matthew 21 (Listen – 7:10)
Matthew 21.42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.’”? 
Practicing the Christian faith in the modern professional world is risky. Christian ethics can lead to social, positional, and financial setback or loss. One of the most significant roles of Christians in the workplace is not preaching (which can be detrimental in most places), but the integration of faith with work.
The rub comes not in the vision of integrated faith, but in its cost. Many Christians choose to practice honesty as an act of faith. Honesty, as practiced in far too many organizational cultures, amounts to little more than an value of convenience, negotiation tool, or parlance for any behavior which is unlikely to be indicted. Far too often the honest person pays the price while watching the mendacious prosper. 
The most important work of Christ is found not in changing outward actions, but in restoring the heart within. Part of what Christianity seeks to accomplish is the reordering of a person’s life so that they chase after far more transcendent things than approval, promotions, and accolade. This makes the loss of temporal status and benefit no less real, but felt less deeply. German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls this costly grace. “Costly because it costs a man his life, and grace because it gives a man the only true life.” [1]
Jesus faced his own rejection and loss. In today’s teaching from Matthew, he quoted a messianic prophecy from Psalm 118. The psalmist wrestled with the cost of his faith, yet also celebrated the steadfastness of God’s enduring love. “Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” The psalmist, like the Messiah he wrote about, concluded that he was not left alone. More importantly he revealed that there is joy in giving yourself fully to a God who is worthy of your life.
Prayer:Father, give us today the courage, boldness, and wisdom to live as people of faith in the workplace. Give us patience and contentment as we wait for the right opportunities to share. Give us endurance as we work in industries with realities beyond our control. Give us community with others of faith, and help us draw from our community with you so that we do not labor alone.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Only One

Excerpt from Don Carson post:  GENESIS 18; MATTHEW 17; NEHEMIAH 7; ACTS 17


Jesus brooks no rivals. There have been, there are, many religious leaders. In an age of postmodern sensibilities and a deep cultural commitment to philosophical pluralism, it is desperately easy to relativize Jesus in countless ways. But there is only one Person of whom it can be said that he made us, and then became one of us; that he is the Lord of glory, and a human being; that he died in ignominy and shame on the odious cross, yet is now seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high, having returned to the glory he shared with the Father before the world began.

Preoccupied with Jesus

David Mathis:  Five Benefits of Faithful Preaching

Preaching can be deceptive. It can seem all so normal to those of us who attend church services every weekends. It’s easy to be distracted by the personality of the preacher and the regularity of the practice, and neglect what remarkable things God stands ready to accomplish through such an otherwise unimpressive act.
He changes the world with words.
But as familiar as we in the church can be with preaching, it makes for an utterly unique half hour for outsiders steeped in the modern world. Gone is the day of oration and listening to extended monologues with rapt attention. TED talks, academic lectures, State-of-the-Union speeches, and stand-up comedy are almost all our society knows of public speech today. And these are vastly different than preaching.
In the church, preaching is that holy half hour each week when the assembly of the redeemed closes her collective mouth, opens her ear and heart, and listens to the uninterrupted voice of her Husband, through his appointed mouthpiece, fallible though the messenger be. This weekend, see if you can rise above your familiarity with your regular preacher, and be ready to expect some amazing things when Christ’s herald steps to the pulpit and is faithful to his word, laying out the kindling for the fire of his Spirit.

The Power of the Preached Word

When we put ourselves under the preaching of God’s word, it is one of the precious few moments in modern life when we button the lip, resist the temptation to respond right away, and focus our energy and attention on hearing with faith.
There is something going on in Christian preaching, in the context of corporate worship, that is not the same as your private reading and study of the Bible. Here, as Richard Foster says, “things occur that could never occur alone,” and according to Don Whitney, we come upon “some graces and blessings that God gives only in ‘meeting together’ with other believers.”
Private devotions can’t replace corporate worship. No other experience in the Christian life compares to the sacramental power of the preached word. It is that moment when we hear, through the faithful preaching of a human voice, Jesus’s own voice applied to our one local assembled body.
As you make your way to corporate worship this weekend, or consider whether it’s really worth the effort to be there, here are five specific graces, among many more, of sitting with faith under the faithful preaching of God’s word.

1. To Forget Ourselves

One of the great blessings of good preaching is that it helps us in the life-giving activity of self-forgetfulness. Faithful preaching will expose our sin, and challenge us to change, but it does so in the verses, while the chorus calls us away from self to the Savior.
It is a glorious thing for our souls to be freed from our regular preoccupation with me, even if for only a few moments at the sermon’s climax, as we’re captivated by Christ.

2. To Fill Our Faith

Another way to say it is that faithful preaching refills our faith. Personal renewal and steady-state strengthening come not from giving ourselves a pep talk but from regularly receiving the preaching of the gospel. We simply don’t have the resources in and of ourselves. We need an external word. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the message about Christ” (Romans 10:17).
Our souls are strengthened by the preached gospel, as Paul prays in his doxology at the end of Romans: “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ . . . ” (Romans 16:25). It is the message of the cross that is folly to the perishing, but is the wisdom of God to those who believe, and power for the Christian life (1 Corinthians 1:18–24).
According to 1 Corinthians 15:1–2, the preached gospel is not only what we have received in the past to become Christians, but it is that grace in which we presently stand, and that by which we will be finally saved, if we continue to receive and hold onto this gospel. The ongoing preaching of the gospel is vital to the ongoing life of faith.

3. To Grow in Grace

When we sit attentively under the faithful preaching of the gospel, not only do we forget ourselves and refill our faith, but we are genuinely changed. The gospel we preach is the fragrance from life to life, or death to death (2 Corinthians 2:15–16). We grow or shrivel. Our hearts warm or cool. We soften or become callous. There is no neutrality when the preaching sounds.
Tim Keller calls it “sanctification on the spot.” The main way that preaching changes us is not by giving us points of application to take away from the sermon and tackle as to-dos for the coming week. Rather, as we hear with faith and behold the glory of Christ in our souls, we are “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
This is why it is so essential that preaching be preoccupied not with the preacher or the listeners, but with Jesus. Only in perceiving him is there true power for change. Only through his gospel is our faith strengthened and renewed. And only in knowing and enjoying him is our soul truly satisfied.

4. To Be Equipped

The main note to strike is not equipping, but it is a great benefit of faithful preaching. God gave “the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11–12). One aspect of corporate worship is building up the church. “Strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12). “Let all things be done for building up” (1 Corinthians 14:26).
“True preaching is not preoccupied with the preacher, or even his listeners, but with Jesus.”
Because good preaching is faithful to the Bible, and the Bible is the most important source for building up the church and equipping the saints for ministry, good preaching will equip. It is not the focus, but it is a great effect.

5. To Encounter Jesus

Finally, and most importantly, the chief benefit of faithful preaching is encountering Jesus himself, and enjoying him, through hearing and receiving his word. As Martin Luther said, “To preach the gospel is nothing else than Christ’s coming to us or bringing us to him.”
Good preaching not only helps us to forget ourselves, but to turn our gaze to the God-man, who is the only one who can satisfy our souls. In faithful preaching, we meet Jesus, as his presence is mediated to us through his word. The highest grace of preaching is encountering Christ, to know and adore him and enjoy him as our greatest treasure.
Such will significantly change your perspective and experience of preaching. What if you came to worship this weekend, not looking merely to hear some preacher, but to encounter Jesus?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

We Believe

I believe in God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;
And in Christ Jesus, his only Son, our Lord;
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come and judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the universal Church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Apostle's Creed

God's Nearness

Jon Bloom post:  How Involved is God in the Details of Your Life?

Why does God give us more details about Joseph’s life than any other individual in Genesis?
Genesis has an interesting structure. It zooms over the creation account like a rocket (about 3% of the book), soars over the millennia between Adam and Abraham like a jet (about 15% — dropping speed and altitude over Noah), and cruises over Abraham (21%), Isaac (8%), and Jacob (23%) like a helicopter, hovering here and there. Then it sort of drives down the road of Joseph’s life, devoting to it nearly 30% of its content.
God is always intentional in his proportionality. More does not necessarily equal more important in God’s word economy. The epistle to the Ephesians is much shorter than the narrative of Joseph’s life, but it is not less important. However,more does imply take note. There are crucial things God wants us to see.
God has many reasons to drive us through Joseph’s life, some more obvious than others. Let’s look at one perhaps lesser obvious reason.

Sightings of Sovereignty in the Life of Joseph

On this drive, if we’re paying attention to the scenery out the windows, we see a startling and unnerving level of God’s providential involvement in the details of Joseph’s life. Here are some of the scenes (warning: some of these scenes you may find disturbing).
  • Joseph’s place in the Patriarchal birth order was part of God’s plan (Genesis 30:22–24).
  • This means Rachel’s agonizing struggle with infertility was part of God’s plan (Genesis 30:1–2).
  • Jacob’s romantic preference of Rachel and therefore his (probably paternally insensitive) favoritism shown to Joseph was part of God’s plan (Genesis 29:3037:3).
  • Joseph’s prophetic dreams were (obviously) part of God’s plan (Genesis 37:5–11).
  • His brothers’ jealously (note: sibling rivalry and family conflict) was part of God’s plan (Genesis 37:8).
  • His brothers’ evil, murderous, greedy betrayal of him, and Judah’s part in it, was part of God’s plan (Genesis 37:18–2850:20).
  • His brothers’ 20-plus year deception of Jacob regarding Joseph was part of God’s plan.
  • The existence of an evil slave trade at the time was part of God’s plan (Genesis 37:26–27).
  • Potiphar’s complicity with the slave trade and his position in Egypt was part of God’s plan (Genesis 37:36).
  • Joseph’s extraordinary administrative gifting was part of God’s plan (Genesis 39:2–4).
  • Joseph’s favor with Potiphar was part of God’s plan (Genesis 39:4–6).
  • Potiphar’s wife’s being given over to sexual immorality was part of God’s plan (Genesis 39:8–12Romans 1:24).
  • Potiphar’s wife’s dishonesty was part of God’s plan (Genesis 39:14–18).
  • Potiphar’s unjust judgment of Joseph was part of God’s plan (Genesis 39:19–20).
  • The particular prison Joseph was sent to — the one that would receive the cupbearer and the baker — was part of God’s plan (Genesis 39:20).
  • Joseph’s favor with the prison warden was part of God’s plan (Genesis 39:21–23).
  • The high-level conspiracy and its exposure resulting in the imprisonment of Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker were part of God’s plan (Genesis 40:1–3).
  • Joseph being appointed to care for them was part of God’s plan (Genesis 40:4).
  • The dreams the cupbearer and baker had were (obviously) part of God’s plan (Genesis 40:5).
  • Joseph’s compassionate care for their troubled hearts was part of God’s plan (Genesis 40:6–7).
  • Their trusting Joseph’s integrity enough to confide their dreams in him was part of God’s plan (Genesis 40:8–20).
  • Joseph discerning the meaning of their dreams was part of God’s plan (Genesis 40:12–1318–19).
  • The Egyptian judicial processes that exonerated the cupbearer and condemned the baker were part of God’s plan (Genesis 40:20–22).
  • The cupbearer failing to remember Joseph for two years was part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:23–42:1).
  • The timing of Pharaoh’s dreams was part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:1–7).
  • The inability of Pharaoh’s counselors to discern his dreams was part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:8).
  • The cupbearer remembering Joseph and having the courage to remind Pharaoh of a potentially suspicious event was part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:9–13).
  • Pharaoh’s being desperate enough to listen to a Hebrew prisoner was part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:14–15).
  • Joseph having discernment of Pharaoh’s dreams was part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:25–36).
  • The miraculous amount of immediate trust that Pharaoh placed in Joseph’s interpretation and counsel was part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:37–40).
  • Joseph being given Asenath (an Egyptian) for a wife was part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:45).
  • Joseph’s two sons by Asenath, Manasseh and Ephraim, were part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:50–5248:5).
  • The complex confluence of natural phenomena that caused the extraordinarily fruitful years followed by the extraordinarily desolate years, with all the resulting human prosperity and suffering, and the consolidation of Egyptian wealth and power in Pharaoh’s hands were part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:53–5747:13–26).
  • The threat of starvation that caused terrible fear and moved Jacob to send his sons to Egypt for grain was part of God’s plan (Genesis 42:1–2).
  • The brothers’ safe journey to Egypt and Benjamin’s non-participation was part of God’s plan (Genesis 42:3–4).
  • The brothers’ bowing to Joseph in unwitting fulfillment of the dreams they hated was part of God’s plan (Genesis 42:6).
  • Joseph’s whole scheme to test his brothers was part of God’s plan (Genesis 42:9–44:34).
  • Simeon’s being chosen to remain in Egypt was part of God’s plan (Genesis 42:24). Jacob’s refusal to release Benjamin to return to Egypt causing the delay of the brothers’ return and Simeon’s bewildering experience in custody was part of God’s plan (Genesis 42:38).
  • The relentless threat of starvation that prompted Judah to make his personal guarantee of Benjamin’s safe return and forced Jacob to finally allow Benjamin go to Egypt was part of God’s plan (Genesis 43:8–14).
  • The success with which Joseph was able to continue to conceal his identity and pull off the framing of Benjamin for thievery and all the anguish the brothers experienced as a result was part of God’s plan (Genesis 43:15–44:17).
  • Judah’s willingness to exchange his life for Benjamin’s out of love for his father, and thus initiating his own sale into slavery like he initiated Joseph’s sale into slavery, was part of God’s plan (Genesis 44:18–34).
  • Joseph’s timing in revealing himself to his brothers was part of God’s plan (Genesis 45:1–14).
  • Jacob being told by his sons of Joseph’s survival and position in Egypt (and the exposure of his sons’ 20-plus-year deceit with all the accompanying pain) was part of God’s plan (Genesis 45:25–28).
  • God directing Jacob to move to Egypt was (obviously) part of God’s plan (Genesis 46:2–4).
  • The relocation of the entire clan of Israel to Egypt, where they would reside and grow for 430 years and eventually become horribly enslaved, thus fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:13–14, was part of God’s plan (Genesis 46:5–47:12).
If we wished, there are more sightings we could include from this drive. But these give us a lot to chew on.

Joseph’s Life and Yours

Joseph had a unique role to play in redemptive history. But God’s intricate involvement in Joseph’s life is not unique to yours. One of the many reasons God gives us a close-up of Joseph’s life is to show us how active he is, how he never leaves us or forsakes us all along the way, in both the good and the evil things we experience (Hebrews 13:5).
Joseph knew God’s nearness when he woke from his prophetic dreams and probably when he experienced remarkable favor. But how near did God feel to Joseph in the pit of his brothers’ betrayal, or shackled in the Ishmaelite caravan, or when falsely accused of attempted rape, or stuck for years in the king’s prison, forgotten? Yet we see that God was there all the time working all things together for good for Joseph and millions of others (Romans 8:28).
Yes, God was even working the evil, heinous things people did to Joseph for good. We can say that because that’s precisely what Joseph himself said to his brothers about their betrayal of him, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20).
The detailed narrative of Joseph’s life, among many other things, is a loving letter from your Good Shepherd (John 10:11) — the same Good Shepherd who guided Joseph through green pastures and the valley of the shadow of death, pursuing him with good all the days of his life (Psalm 23) — to remind you that no matter what you are experiencing, sweet or bitter, good or evil, no matter how long it’s lasting, he has not left you alone (John 14:18). He is with you (Psalm 23:4), he is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28), and he will be with you to the end (Matthew 28:20).