Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jesus Wept

Jesus wept. The tears of the eternal God fell to the ground because of His great love for me. The ancient One who walked upon the heavens amidst the fire of the first light bowed low to enter by the peasant’s gate for me. His heart is powerfully gentle and with humble courage he wept over hardened hearts. He bled to redeem me. God bled for me. I feel the humbling tide rolling over my soul. I am not worthy of such extravagance.

The great Father of eternities caught my tears in his bottle, comforting words of promise and of peace. This One, the catcher of my sorrow, so aloof in His splendor and infinity, did become the crier of the tear, humbled low in dullish insignificance. To a stubborn and obstinate people He succumbed to the deep well of saline sadness, to the excessive excruciation of the cross. The Son whose face had never hid from the glory of His eternal Father, laid down his hallowed communion to swallow up holy wrath for me.

Jesus wept. The joy of heaven’s radiant gaze obscured by the unlit darkness of rebels. The veil hanging between the holy and the hard-hearted, the sacred and the sacrilege. God wants it down, so He came down to rend apart the parting, dividing the division by His own flesh. Jesus tore it top to bottom when heaved his final breath. The wrath of God appeased for me in His righteous curse fulfilled in this weeping Son’s sacrifice.

What love is this that raises tears like these? What gracious mercy is it that wells up to such a gift? It is my Lord’s love! It is my Savior’s blood! It is my Jesus who weeps with pity and longs with such passion pursuing my salvation with joyous dread and woeful offering to the Father. It was my sin that brought Him to that wretched glorious tree, but it was His great meritless love that held Him there for me.

Oh for joy to God and man that Jesus wept for me. His tears of pity, warm with love, cleared his vision to Calvary. Up from the grave He lives for joy, leading salvation glowing from the pit of dark despair. Now though guilty I stand not condemned, for Christ my Savior lives.

I will draw near to Christ my God, so warm and gentle the scarred embrace. It was for me He endured the cross, now carrying joy to the Father. My sins, they were scarlet, now white as snow. His cheeks, once wet with tears for me, now stretched wide in welcoming gladness.

The tears that fell from the eyes of my brother; those were my God’s tears for me. The blood that was shed from the body of my King; that was God bleeding for me. What shall I fear in times of duress, when all around me the pillars of life are leaning? My God became man with tears of compassion and gave His life for me. He lives today with conquering power to hold me near forever. I will draw near to Him safely for rest and repose, His tearful love draws me close.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My First Day of Preschool

Well, today I start my first day of preschool. You see, I don't ever remember actually going to preschool, but this time I am going as an "educational assistant" with my son, Ricky.

Ricky has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum disorder, or for those unfamiliar with such language: he has autism. Through many hours of therapy (~30hrs/wk) organized by his mother and performed by volunteers from the church (thank you guys soooo much!) and students from the local colleges (thank you, too!!) Ricky has grown exponentially in his ability to function in everyday situations.

It was a little over a year ago when we started this type of therapy, called Applied Behavior Analysis. It's basically one-on-one repetitive learning. Ricky learns by being shown the same things over and over again over a longer period of time than a typical child. The reason that we chose this type of therapy was that is has been shown to work effectively in preparing a child to function in typical life situations. Our ABA specialist, Jenny Fischer from Bend, has been tremendous with Ricky (and with his dimwitted father!).

Last year, Ricky had begun to injure himself by hitting himself in the face or legs, slamming his head into things repetitively, or by scratching himself with his fingernails. Needless to say, we strongly felt (through many tears) that we had to do something more drastic than group time a few times a week. There was no fear like watching your own child hurt himself and you didn't know why and couldn't stop him. We actually had Ricky wearing a bike helmet and mittens so that he would not bruise himself. It seems everywhere we went someone was looking at us with a look in their eyes that said, "What have you done to your child?!!" And we live in Eugene, where the strange is normal!

I guess the reason that I'm writing this is because I have seen the goodness of God in all of this. Through much struggle and many trials (try having different people in your house for 30 hrs/week when you're an introvert by nature! I love all of you IA's!!!) I have seen my little boy move from a child who sits by the wall and bangs his head into a little boy who plays with stuffed animals and loves to laugh. He no longer hits himself, is learning sign language, is using a few words, and all-in-all seems quite typical apart from his inability to speak (Ricky also has cleft palatte and is recovering from his 4th surgery, which was 2 weeks ago).

Going to school with him this year will be a challenge for me. I know that the Lord is going to be teaching me true heart patience and humility. Being Ricky's shadow has a tendency to weigh heavily upon my heart because my sinful flesh tries to wrest control from the Lord. I put heavy burdens upon myself to "fix" Ricky. I consider it, in times of small faith, my job to make sure that he succeeds in this classroom. In the light of the gospel, however, my little boy is secure. I know that if God loves us enough that He gave His Son in our place, then He will not hold back anything else that we need to find our joy in Him.

If it's one thing that Jesus brought when he established His kingdom is that He loves the marginalized, the weak, the outcast. He healed lepers, ate with brigands, and exorcised the demonic. God loves the weak, and any success in my boy's life is going to be due to the power of the Holy Spirit transforming his mind and healing his body. Now, I work with all that I've got for the growth of my son, but in the end I know that it is not due my work, or Katie's work, but the very Creator of my boy's mind that is doing His work of recreation. What sin has decreated, God is in the business of recreating. In this promise I take great joy!! Though I do not know the details of what the future may hold for Ricky, I know with great confidence that Jesus is restoring and recreating him. God's Holy Spirit is powerful to effect transformation, I have seen it happen time and again in the lives of people. If He has promised, He will follow through, for God cannot be untruthful to Himself.

So, I go with trepidation to sit on the floor and sing songs and glue stuff to other stuff with my son whom I love. My heart is seizing more of what Jesus meant when He said that we must become like children in order to enter the Kingdom of God. Through great trials comes great humility and a desperate cry out to the Lord. When we are made powerless, then God shines in power, to His glory and His honor. If this struggle is what it takes for me to find my joy in the Lord, then I cherish it as my treasure. Deep repentance comes in such strange ways.

Lord, I want to learn patience, humility, and deep self-giving love. Bring it on at whatever the cost, that you may be worshipped in joy for your self-giving love in Christ.

Soli Dei Gloria,

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Salvation is Not Through the Perfection of My Repentance, but by the Death and Resurrection of Jesus

It is not in the perfection of our repentance in which our salvation lies, any more than it is in the perfection of our faith. Rather, it is in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that our salvation lies, so it is objectively and divinely secured for us by our Savior, our Master, our God.

The reality of my soul's sin is that I am constantly finding myself trusting in things other than the Lord. I trust my intelligence, my morality, my own sense of being right, and I am always finding more contrition, more repentance, constantly turning away from putting my faith in myself. The Romans 7 reality of my struggle against the idolatry of my own heart and the sin which so easily entangles me must lead me to distrust even the perfection of my own repentance.

If I am trusting in the perfection of my repentance, where then does this lead me? Joy? Hope? No! Into utter fear and despair that my contrition might not be good enough and God's wrath may still be upon me! I am tossed about fearing that I may still not be good enough, contrite enough, repentant enough to earn God's mercy.

However, if my trust is not in the perfection of my repentance, but rather is in the death of Christ on my behalf, then I take great joy in HIS perfection of obedience and His atonement for my sins agaisnt God. HE has removed the wrath of God from me, which was justified because of my sins and has put His righteousness, the very righteousness of God, upon me. I trust in Him. God substituting Himself for sinners, of which I am coming more and more to understand my heart's propensity to join! What kind of grace is this?! Holy amazing grace of God, that You should die for me.

How vastly different from the pagan understanding of the gods is this? God appeasing His own just and righteous hatred of sin by becoming weak, so weak as to die under His own wrath. The pagan gods demanded sacrfices from humans. The biblical God demands sacrifice, and then pays it Himself!! The reality of our salvation is this concept of this self-substitution. John Stott says this,

“The essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting Himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts penalties which belong to man alone.” (taken from The Cross of Christ)

There is joy! There is freedom from fear! There is hope! Jesus is my SAVIOR! He is my SECURITY! The Cross is my righteousness and by faith I will never be turned under God's wrath. To the repentant heart, with knowledge of the severity of his sin in light of the holy justice of God, this is truly GOOD NEWS! My debt is actually paid! My sins are actually cleansed! My life is actually secure because Jesus, my God, has removed the Father's righteous wrath and made me an acceptable son.

The blood of Jesus takes my sins away (1 John 1:7)!! Praise Jesus for His immeasurable kindness and unfathomable love!

Hebrews 10:19-22
"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water."

Let us draw near to the Lord with great hope and assurance that Jesus has opened the way for us into the holy place of the Father. Draw near to Him, for He has drawn near to you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Meditation on Psalm 32

Happy is the forgiven sinner who knows he's a sinner and knows that he is forgiven! There is no joy like the guilty shown mercy, the prisoner set free, the condemned delivered justly!

Happy is the man who has seen his iniquity and has not deceived himself about it. He has felt its weight and its severity. He hates it within himself and knows that God is righteous in judgment and holy in all His ways. He is not self-deceived, but grieves in reality, and then has found the LORD has not counted it against him! Mercy strong and vast and free!

SELF_DECEPTION: Hiding my sin consumed me and stole my joy. It sapped my strength and my soul wasted away. My life's juices dried up like a peach in the summer heat. The dryness of death overtook me. Wrinkled woe wasted up my thoughts in tossings upon my bed. My soul did not rest because of my sin hidden from You.

REPENTANCE: I declared my sin to you, and did not hide my iniquity any longer. I came clean concerning the hideous hidden sins and the destructive way of my own will. I will confess my transgressions to the LORD and you lifted up the inquity of my sin. You lifted up Your Son in the place of my sin! MY sin. Hidden no longer, Your holy light illumined the Cross and I weep in joyful sorrow.

RESTORATION: I can hide in you, O Lord. You are the stable rock of preservation and deliverance. We should cry out to You at all times, while we still have days on earth. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

ADMONITION: The Lord instructs me. He guides me in the way. I come to Him as the learner, the weak one, the ignorant, and the broken-hearted over my sin. He calls me to learn without stubbornness and insistence on MY way, as if I needed a bit and bridle to be turned from my rebellion. I don't want to be a stubborn beast, a brute to You. I want to follow Your ways, and not be turned by discipline and judgment. How good to me You are. Oh, so good. Lead me in Your ways and I will follow You all the days of my life.

REJOICE: Rejoice, you righteous! Be glad and sing for joy for you have been redeemed from your sins! The salvation of the LORD of all the Universe has come to meet you in your brokenness! Be glad for He has made you clean! Repent and Rejoice for the Lord is near to the contrite and dwells with the lowly in spirit!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Communities of Intolerance

I've been reading through Timothy Keller's newest book, The Reason for God, lately and have come upon an interesting line of thought. In his book, Keller argues about skepticism and the many charges brought against Christianity and attempts to ask readers to evaluate and criticize their worldviews in the same light. One of the chapters that has recently caught my eye is the chapter that includes some thoughts on "Christianity as a straight-jacket."

One common view of Christianity is that it is narrow and exclusive. Not only is it narrow and exclusive, but that it demands that its people hold up certain standards and beliefs. In the eyes of the world this is divisive and intolerant, therefore not a good community or acceptable faith. Keller goes on to describe that every community, no matter how liberally democratic, holds its members to commonly shared beliefs and standards. Our society, while claiming to be tolerant and "unified" holds to the personal beliefs such as "a preference of individual to community rights, a division between private and public morality, and the sanctity of personal choice." Therefore, even a liberal democracy like ours is based upon a common set of beliefs. And, these beliefs are by no means universal or commonly held throughout the world. He ends this paragraph by stating, "Every human community holds in common some beliefs that necessarily create boundaries, including some people and excluding others from its circle." I guess that's why we have prisons. Some people have not met the common standards or believe the shared beliefs of the community. If we were truly "unified" and "tolerant" we wouldn't have prisons, or a justice system. But because we do have some common assumptions of personal safety and personal and individual rights, we need a justice system and a penal system.

Keller asks people to evaluate communities with these tests: "Which community has beliefs that lead its members to treat persons in other communities with love and respect - to serve them and meet their needs? Which community's beliefs lead it to demonize and attack those who violate their boundaries rather than treating them with kindness, humility, and winsomeness? We should criticize Christians when they are condemning and ungracious to unbelievers. But we should not criticize churches when they maintain standards for membership in accord with their beliefs. Every community must do the same."

Sadly, I believe that this inadequate view of "tolerance" and "unity" has pervaded our churches, having hijacked the wondrous word of "grace." In our churches today it is deemed horrific if we hold our members up to the standard of Scripture and the belief of the gospel. How could we tell somebody that they don't believe correctly? That's not gracious! It's legalistic and pharisaical!How could we discipline a member for not living in line with the belief of the gospel, though they claim to believe in the beliefs of the church? Am I speaking of those who are unbelievers? No! I'm not. We do not judge those outside the church. However, we are called to judge those inside the church (1 Cor 5:9-13), to call each other to repentance and faith when we see each other wandering away from the truth of the gospel. In fact, true love of each would do these very things. The more we love each other the more we hate in them the sin that destroys and pulls them away from the joy of the gospel. Exhortation and admonition are to be held in great esteem, because the holiness and truth of God in the doctrine of the gospel is held in great esteem. Because Jesus has pardoned us for purity, not from purity. Where a passion for purity does not exist, then neither does a passion for the God of Scripture. As John Piper states, "The proof of your pardon is your passion for purity."

Let us seek to walk in-line with the gospel, to repent daily and turn away from and fight against sin in our hearts and behaviors. Let us make enemies of sin for God has made peace with us. But, if we make peace with sin we make ourselves out to be enemies of God, for we cannot make peace with sin and make peace with God. And if our community holds a shared set of beliefs and conduct to be a community, let it ever lie in the gospel of Jesus Christ and for His glory and our obedient dependence.

Peace to you.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Blessed Self-Forgetfulness

I hate grass. No, I mean I really hate grass. At least during the pollen season.
I spent last Sunday huddling inside my own Notre Dame's belltower known as the couch, trying to avoid the repulsed reactions of disgust upon the faces of my brothers and sisters at church. My eye was swollen up as big as a congresssional ego (well, maybe not that big) so that I looked like Rocky after his fight with Apollo. It was not fun!

There's something good about being very irritated and uncomfortable, though. I tend to take my health for granted (hence the thrice-used treadmill in the garage). It's not until some body-part isn't working correctly that I really take notice of it, seemingly without taking a break in its attention grabbing endeavors. I don't think about how nice it is to breathe at night until I've awakened for the 25th time to blow my nose, only to find that even after expelling the tissue I am plugged up again. In the same way I don't realize how nice it is to see well until your eyes itch so badly and swell up until you can see parts of them that you shouldn't naturally be able to see.

My ego is like that, too. It's broken and sick. It wants to be noticed all the time, calling attention to itself through complaining and gossip, challenging others and feeling wounded when its brokenness is revealed. I'm always feeling my ego drawing attention to itself like an itchy pollen laden eyelid. It cares so much about what other people think, comparing itself to others trying to gain an advantage over them so that it will think that it's good. It's not working correctly.

According to our Lord, it is in humility that we find salvation. It is in contrition, not competition that we find our redemption. My ego so wants to perform and achieve so that I can boast and control my own life. Jesus calls me to come and die. You see, humility is not merely not bragging, or in viewing oneself as low and worthless. Even when we view oursleves as low and worthless we are still looking at our ego! We're still comparing and defending. Only when we forget about the ego are we at peace. Only when we are at rest in the work of Christ for us as complete, sufficient, adequate, and powerfully eternal are we humbled and emboldened enough to forget about us and place our eyes upon our illustrious Redeemer. Here is where true humility lies.

When my eyes are upon Jesus and His work I may be attacked and wounded by others, but my soul rests in Him and clings to Him. I am not devastated by failure or others' recognition of my ego's weaknesses. I can agree with it and rejoice in the work of my Jesus. I have forgotten about myself and cease to compare myself to others, but rather rest myself in Christ. I do not need to defend myself and my achievement or failures, for I am wrapped in the achievement and holiness of Jesus. Blessed self-forgetfulness.

When my body is working right I do not notice it. When my ego is working right, humbly secure in Christ, I do not notice it. The world thinks that the only way to cure low self-esteem is with a bigger ego, but that's no answer for the bigger my ego the more that I notice it and am hurt and angry and bitter when it gets snubbed. The cure for low self-esteem is to forget self-esteem and find Christ-esteem. "I am more sinful than I can dare to admit. Yet in Christ I am more loved than I can even dare to imagine." Blessed self-forgetfulness in the clarity of vision that is Jesus, who gave Himself up for me that I might be called a child of God. Who am I to fear? Who am I to boast? I cannot fear and I cannot boast when I believe the gospel, for I was chosen by God's grace and I am deeply loved for all of eternity by the One who made eternity. Blessed Self-forgetfulness.

May the allergens of life's woes call you to humiliation and the joyful rest of blessed self-forgetfulness in Christ. He is trustworthy, so trust Him.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Another 3 weeks! I was supposed to write in this blog every week. Well, that tells us something about me, doesn't it?! It truly does.

Some brothers and I were wrestling together in the book of Galatians this morning. Through their help I was thinking about the distinctiveness of the "gospel of Christ." In Galatians 1:4 Paul defines the work of Christ, the gospel, as the "rescue." "He gave Himself for us to rescue us from this present evil age..." Rescue. Jesus the Rescuer. Richard the Rescuee. I'm not sure that's a word, but I'll use it anyway (go figure, I make up words).

I think that too often I don't treat Jesus as my rescuer, but rather as my teacher. Not that Jesus doesn't teach, I believe that His teaching is fundamental and necessary to know God. However, I don't think that His primary work in the gospel is to instruct us, but rather to rescue us. I imagine that if you asked Christians what a Christian is, many would reply that a Christian is "one who follows Christ." A good definition of a disciple, but it really implies that what defines a Christian is not their rescued state, but rather their power to follow the teachings of Christ. I think that this falls woefully short of the gospel.

The gospel is the good news for lost sinners that there is a Rescuer who is willing and able to save us from our desperately woeful condition in sin, enslavement, death, and God's wrath. In this paradigm there is no room for "my righteousness" or even my values as the delineating factor in God's approval of me (or, by extension, of anybody else). When I live in the light of Christ as my Rescuer I cannot rely upon moralistic success or "good values" to give me any position of acceptance before God. I needed rescued, completely rescued b/c I was completely lost! Therefore, I cannot look down on those living in sin. I cannot withdraw from those who are still lost. I must tell them of the Rescuer, rather than condemn them with their moralistic failures.

The religious heart (who sees Jesus as the teacher whom they emulate) thinks that God owes them good things because they have followed the teachings. And the Scripture tells us that Jesus did not come to those who think that they are righteous, but to those who know that they are sinners (Luke 5:32). To the "righteous" (in their own estimation) Jesus has nothing to offer! He is not merely a Teacher who shows us how to live "righteously" so that God will accept us. He is the Rescuer who "gave Himself in our place." Through His blood He has rescued us. By His death He has satisfied the wrath of God and placed us into the New Kingdom where He sits enthroned for all eternity to be honored, worshipped, and joyfully enjoyed forever. This Rescuer moves us with great affections to love Him. The Teacher demands respect, but the Rescuer compels love!!

Learn with me daily that Jesus is our Rescuer to be loved and honored in the infinite gratitude of a soul set free from the death of sin and condemnation. This humble rest springs forth from the powerfully effective working of the Spirit of God into the joyful exuberance of God-honoring grace-filled worship.

Oh, Jesus, my heart longs to see you again. To know You as You are and to rest in the lavish wonder of the fullness of Your grace. Break my heart away from its foolish wandering and draw my by Your Spirit within me into the joyful wondering of Your glorious grace.

~ To the Glory of God Alone

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Atrocities of My Culture

I've been studying this week the truth that the church is God's display of His powerful authority over all that exists. How the assembly of the redeemed, simply by the fact that we are the recipients of God's gracious plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, display His power to overcome sin and its disasterous effects and to produce for Himself the glorious reconcilation.

Then it struck me how we don't always look different than the world. Some cases in point:

My home group has been reading God's Word in the book of Judges. Just last week we came to the story of Jephthah in Judges 12 and his horrific sacrifice of his own daughter. Human sacrifice!! He offered her up as a burnt offering! How ugly is this?!! It completely offended my nature that a man would do such a heinous thing and call it good. In our home group we wrestled with how much Jephthah's culture had impacted how he functionally believed and behaved. To him, because his culture understood it as OK to sacrifice humans to the gods, what he was doing was OK. He was not living according to the revealed Word of God (God hates human sacrifice; Deut. 12:31) but rather according to the accepted principles of his culture.

I was shocked this week to hear again of Al Qaeda's use of mentally handicapped women, having Down's Syndrome, as "suicide" bombers in Iraq. I was angered and disgusted that these evil men would go so far as to use these weakened humans, made in God's image, to carry out their plans. John Piper said it well when he states, "This was not this was not suicide bombing, but the detonation of retarded girls at a distance." Did this news anger you?! Did it send you into a fury over the depths of this evil? It did to me. "How could they do that?! They are so evil!!"

Then Dr. Piper made an interesting parallel to our culture that blew me away. Not that it was true, but rather that my heart was not angered by its truth. Piper drew the parallel between what Al Qaeda did to those two women and what we in the U.S. and in England do when tests show that our unborn children have Down Syndrome: 90% of the time these children are aborted. They are torn limb from limb, "blown up from a distance." For the studies and to read Dr. Piper's blog, click here.

Why am I not as angered to this truth of such terrible atrocities toward the weak and helpless? Shouldn't my heart cry, "How can we do this?! We have been so evil!!" My culture has affected my heart more than I realize and I need to be transformed by the renewing of my mind to come into line with God's revealed Word. Am I speaking out on the horrors of evil here? Now? Am I challenging my culture's accepted norms in order to defend the weak, the helpless, the destitute?

So, what are you going to do about it?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Losing My Righteousness

I just realized that I haven't posted in awhile, and I feel like I should. However, I really don't have anything that's weighing on my mind like I usually do. I guess blissful ignorance still has its pull on me. :)

Functional faith. What am I actively trusting to give me "righteousness" before God and others? For me, it's usually somehow related to parenting, preaching, or intellect. Let me try and explain how this works itself out in my life.

First, it may help to think of the concept of "righteousness" and how we base our acceptance before God on whether or not our "righteousness" is adequate. The gospel teaches us that we are given the passive righteousness of Jesus Christ by faith, or reliance, upon His sacrificial death on the cross and the power of His resurrection to hold us secure. However, we typically live according to our own righteousness in any of a number of different spheres. For me, some of these (not an exclusive list, I might add) are parenting righteousness, preaching righteousness, and intellectual righteousness.

When I am not functionally believing the gospel (passive righteousness of Jesus) in my parenting, I will functionally depend upon my parenting righteousness to make me OK with God. So, I will look down on parents who cannot "control" their children like I can mine. So, my pride and disdain are the sins rooted in my self-righteousness of parenting b/c I'm functionally not believing the gospel. As God tends to do, He has promised to discipline me to trust Him more and myself less, to bring my functional faith in-line with the gospel. So, in my parenting righteousness, He has given me an autistic son! Oh, the grace of God! Now what can I stand on concerning my parenting righteousness?!! When my son breaks others children's toys and my discipline has little to no effect?!! When my son slams his head into the ground repeatedly and I can offer no answer to curb his disturbing desires while strangers with shopping carts give me dirty looks?!! I have no parenting righteousness left!! God brings my righteousness crumbling to the ground!! Blessed be the Lord for not letting me stay in my self-righteousness, but working to open the eyes of my heart through such good and excellent discipline.

When I am not functionally believing the gospel in my preaching, I will trust my preaching righteousness to make me "good" with God. So, I will look down "lesser" preachers and idolize great preachers. I will become depressed when I my sermons are lousy and become angry when people challenge my preaching righteousness, because I feel (functionally) that they are challenging my "goodness before God," my righteousness. So I must defend myself vehemently and I will try and tear my accusers down so as to elevate my own righteousness. How petty! How ungospel-like! How arrogantly unbelieving of the gospel! So, God brings my righteousness crumbling down again by revealing to me His grace toward me. He challenges my pride by working in spite of my perceived failures in preaching. My most effective sermons of spiritual transformation are usually the ones that I perceive to the be the biggest failures. How gracious of God!

There are many examples of self-righteousness in various spheres of my life. What are yours? Where do you find yourself becoming arrogant? Depressed over failure? Angry when attacked? Maybe it's parenting, like me? Maybe it's your career or profession? Maybe it's competitive sports, music, art, wookworking, how nice your yard is, car looks, or the size of your house? Where do you find yourself comparing yourself or your performance to others? and whether you succeed or fail in your comparison dictates your feelings of pride or envy, disdain or hatred? This is where you have functionally forgotten the gospel of grace, where Jesus died, not because we were beautiful or wise or had nice yards, but because HE IS GRACIOUS!!

So, we must repent!! Not merely of our active sins, but of our righteousness. That's right, repent of your righteousness!! Turn again to the gospel of grace, where Jesus has done it all on our behalf and has born the wrath of God in our place, even for our current self-righteousness, and has given us all the restful blessings of God.

When I see you next, I want to hear where you are growing in repentance of your righteousness. Where are you struggling to depend upon the passive righteousness of Jesus? Boy, my preaching righteousness needs to crumble, and I know that we all have righteousness that needs to be shattered. By the grace of God, He has the power to do just that!

to the glory of Jesus, peace

Monday, January 14, 2008

Men With No Repute

Do you ever have those days where you think to yourself, "I really have no idea what I'm doing!" and there comes a severe revelation in your soul that most of what other people see is a complete farce?

I'm having one of those days. It's like unwrapping gifts, only underneath the tightly creased edges of the box and past the perfect placement of the ribbon-tied bow lies a broken gift, shattered by its own weight. Broken, ugly, and sharp enough to cut whoever tries to handle it. That's how I feel today.

I know that some of my brothers and sisters, if they read this, would try to encourage me and "put me back together," some may even try to rewrap this brokenness with pretty paper and ribbon. But I know that this is where I need to be. I am not in despair over my brokenness, and I know that a rewrap is just a thin facade of useless shimmer, not the Real. I want the Real. So, forget the wrapping paper, the shine, the perfect-looking folds. I want you to see the broken man, the shattered man, the weak man.

I am a self-centered and arrogant piece of work. My sense of justice usually revolves around my enjoyment, not the Word of God. I am prone to turn my eyes from suffering, rather than run to help or to cry out in anger when I see injustice. Why is this? Why, when I know in my head the grace of God in Jesus toward me, do I not love like Him? Why do I not weep over the cruelty of inaction within my heart? How long, O Lord? Come again to sweep away my self-reliance with the powerful wind of your Spirit! Let me not stay on this course, but blow me another way, to the leading of change...again.

I will not run from brokenness, from weakness, from the reality of my ineptitude or even my inaptitude. Jesus is my strength of change. Jesus is my source of love. Jesus is my soul's cry for redemption and hope and peace and joy! Jesus! Your beloved needs you now. Perfect my weakness and be my all in all.

My prayer for you is the same my friend. Be broken, take off the wrapped facade of repute, and see Jesus as your only strength and hope for REAL redemption and change and joy. Let us be men with no repute of our own, so that Jesus would be revealed as the Sovereign King of Grace. Then, and only then, will we mount up with wings as eagles, walk and not grow weary. In complete reliance we find our wings and ride the updraft of the powerful Holy Spirit of God. Faith producing the powerfully effective fruit from the very heart of God.

Join me in my prayers, to the glory of God alone.