Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Palatable Gospel According to Rob Bell

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing . . ." (Matthew 7:15)

The Love of God in Death and in New Life

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was . . . he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." (John 11:5-6; 43-44)

Excerpt from “The Love of Christ and the Defeat of Death” – 2011-04-24
The Bible tells us that for the sake of love – love for Lazarus, Mary and Martha; for Jesus’ disciples and for the Jews who were watching all this; and for you and I here today, for the sake of God’s greatest love for us, Jesus glorified God by raising Lazarus from the dead. But was it really loving for Jesus to bring Lazarus from the infinite joy of eternal life back in a world soaked with sin, suffering, pain and struggle and, in the end, to again face the horrible enemy of death a second time? While it may have been loving for Lazarus’ family and friends – it may not have been the same for Lazarus. God loved Lazarus and his family and friends and took him out of heaven in order to show the power of Christ over death. And God loves us and our families and our friends when he takes us and our loved ones out of this world and puts us in the joyful glory of heaven. Both are “for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” But that glory seems too distant from our experience. None of us wants life to be over at birth or at death, and so we most often fight for life at any cost. The thought that we simply have just few short years of time here on earth is despairing for some and desperately hopeless to others. But we must remember that life is a precious, beautiful gift from God; it is His to give and it is also His to take away. The truth of the resurrection is that in surrendering your heart and life to Jesus - when death comes to take your life, God will give it back again forever. Jesus said that even if we die, we will live. In other words, just as he came forth from the grave on the day we celebrate this morning, so also will we come forth from our graves in the great resurrection morning. It is the destiny of all of God’s children to come forth from death to new life in his eternal kingdom. Christ led the way. He is the resurrection. He is the Life. Because he lives, we will also live.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Sovereign Creativity of God

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

Excerpt from “Prayer of Repentance for the Mercy of God” – 2011-04-17
There is a story I’ve told before about two guys who were college students living away from home who were talking together one day, and their conversation drifted from politics to sports to ultimately cooking. One of them said, “I got a cookbook once, but I could never do anything with it.” The other one said, “How come?” To which the first one replied: “Too much work. Every one of the recipes in the book began the same way - ‘Start with a clean dish.’” This is our problem with God. Because God is holy in every fiber of His supreme being – and because we are fallen sinners who possess a fallen sinful nature – our hearts will always be dirty, set against God - unless God Himself cleanses it for us.

David prays that God would “create” in him a “clean” heart and “renew” in him a “right spirit.” This is the renewal David was praying for. David has been praying that his old life, his old heart, his old sins would be blotted out and put to death. Yet he still knows his heart is inclined toward sin and evil – and it’s easy to do what comes naturally. David prays: “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” Note that David doesn’t offer to do this himself. In fact, he knows that he can’t; that’s why he asks God to do it. The word “create” in the Hebrew here is the same word used in the first chapters of Genesis in reference to when God created everything. In fact the Hebrew word for “create” it is a word used only of God in the Bible. It means to create something out of nothing. Human beings can duplicate, fashion, arrange, mold or remodel things – but we can never create anything in the true sense of the word. We cannot bring into being something that never existed before. But God can. And He does!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Singing an Old Song That's New Every Morning

Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. (Psalms 96:1-4)

Excerpt from "Prayer of Worship for the God of All Nations” – 2011-04-10
If you have surrendered your heart and life to Jesus Christ, the Lord has put a “new song” in your heart. It’s an old song, almost 2,000 years old now - but it is also a song that is new every morning. It’s a song we read of in Revelation 5:9-10: "And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’” The song we sing is the song of the great victory God has won in Jesus Christ over sin and death that sets us free and calls us back home to God. It’s a song of the glory of the Lord, which we have come to know in the person of Jesus Christ. It’s a song we are to invite all every nation, every people group, every family, every person in the world to join with us in singing – for its God’s desire to create one family out of all the families of the earth. And it’s a song we are not just sing, but also to live out in everything we think, say and do. And yes, it is an old song - but it’s a song that never gets old. Singing about Jesus is a “new song” every moment of every day!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Doxology - Michael Gungor

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Thomas Ken, 1674

Monday, April 4, 2011

Our Greatest Need: Rescue from Fear

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. (Psalm 34:4-7).

Excerpt from "Prayer of Gratitude for the Rescue of God” – 2011-04-03
Aside from our own experiences with God, there is nothing more powerful than hearing the personal testimony of others as to how God sovereignly responds with mercy and grace to someone in need. Again, David humbly acknowledges it was God who rescued him from his difficult struggle. David prayed and God “answered . . . and delivered.”

David tells us that God delivered him from all of his “fears.” What is significant here is that David is not stressing his deliverance from the danger being executed by Abimelech; what David is stressing is his deliverance from all of his “fears.” There is no doubt that David expected he would find himself in dangerous situations. Those who are committed to living for God will find themselves opposed by evil and living against the grain of the world. Jesus himself said: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account" (Matthew 5:11).

In verse 19 David writes: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” The righteous of God should expect affliction. But God promises He will deliver His own out of dangerous situations - just as He removed David from the hand of Abimelech. But sometimes the way God delivers His own out of dangerous situations is simply to be with us in our dangerous situation. In Deuteronomy 31:6 Moses told God’s people: "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” David prayed he would be delivered from his “fears” so whether he was removed or remained in a dangerous situation, his countenance would reflect his trust in God: “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”

David understood that even if he was rescued, that wouldn’t stop his “troubles.” The Philistines would continue to despise the Israelites; when given the opportunity, Abimelech would come after David again. Followers of Jesus do not live their lives devoid of trouble. Yet God promises he will protect us by saving and delivering us from being defeated by our troubles: “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.” Our protection is the presence of God - “the angel of the Lord.” In any circumstance and every situation we can praise God knowing that He will save and deliver us when we humbly and desperately seek His presence in our time of greatest need.