Thursday, July 28, 2011

mercy in Jesus

For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.
Hebrews 8:12

This is a quote from Jeremiah 31, the Old Testament promise of a New Covenant to come with Israel. This covenant came in Jesus. He enacted it and offered it. He is the mediator of it. And grace is the distinguishing relationship.

I am glad that Jesus came to in mercy, grace, and with the solution to the dead-end drama of my sin! I needed it. And the more I am called into the lives of other people, the more I see the absolute beauty of this. We all are marred, wounded, and helpless in our sin. We are masters at sinning. Even as we want many times to desperately stop ourselves. We are powerless. But Jesus makes the difference. He came to our rescue.

I see Him bring hope and strength and the grace I desperately need. I am thrilled to see Him use that same grace to change the situations of those around me. I am overwhelmed by his intense mercy! My sins don't deserve such grace. But grace is the mark of my relationship with Christ. I want it to be what makes my life memorable. I want to help others discover the grace of God, the love of our Father, and the forgiveness we all need in Christ.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Jesus... our high priest

For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.
Hebrews 7:26

The universal problem with mankind is that our sin separates us from a holy and just God. This has always been our problem. In the Old Testament, a necessary mediation between God and man took place in the sacrificial system. A priest would serve as the mediator, offering sacrifice and obeying the dictates of a holy God. The priest had to be God's choice (not man's), and had to even offer sacrifice for his own sins.

But in Jesus we have a great mediator because Jesus is both holy God and a sinless man. He came to be the sacrifice that forever would atone for sin. He is both priest and sacrifice. And His work ended the need forever to find a go-between in man for man because in love, He offered His life as the final and complete atonement. Now we can be at peace with God through trusting the sacrifice of Christ.

The passage describes our high priest as being holy. As God, that is the very essence of His nature. He is holy and distinct. He is innocent. He did not sin, yet took upon Himself via the cross all the sin of all the world of all time. He is unstained, yet by the stains of His blood, we are made clean. He is separated from sinners by a sinless life, yet able to identify with us because He was tempted like we are. And He is exalted above the heavens. He is the only priest worthy of worship because He is God. The Father was pleased with His sacrifice and has exalted His name above all names. It is at His name that every knee will bow in earth and in heaven.

Jesus is our high priest. Jesus is our sacrifice for sin. Jesus is our great God and Savior!

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

anchor of the soul

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain...
Hebrews 6:19

All words that
describe lives
born today
marred by sin
needing stable love

Also words that
tell outcomes
for those
lost in sin
needing a savior

There is a Savior
Jesus is the anchor
the solid ground
God's wisdom
come to all
so all may know

father love
in the anchor
of the soul

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Monday, July 25, 2011

liquid diet or solid food?

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:12-14

Not all believers are ready for all biblical teaching. There are levels of maturity in the faith. Just like you can't feed steak to a newborn, so you can't expect strong doctrine to be desired by an immature Christian. There is something of a "learning curve" in the faith. There are basics that ought to be mastered first. You have to be able to hold the fork and knife before you can cut the meat into bite-sized portions.

There is an expectation also that as Christians mature in their faith, they move into training roles. The point of the passage was that the audience to which this truth was written should have had enough time to mature to that role. They should have been teachers. Instead, they were still sucking on a bottle of milk. They were unskilled. They were still infants at heart.

The gauge of maturity was familiarity with the Word of God and some practiced discernment from understanding scripture. This allowed the mature believer to distinguish right from wrong in terms of doctrine and practice. That takes both time and exposure. We have to know the Word of God by reading, studying, understanding, applying, and living out its truth in our lives. Then, and only then, can we truly mature to the point that the Bible is our "solid food".

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Thursday, July 21, 2011


For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

The Word of God gets to the real issues. It cuts through our layers of lies and excuses. It gets to the real truth. It is sharp enough to lay open what needs to be known. It is powerful enough to change everything. It does this because it is the Word of God. God is truth. His Word is truth.

A Christian cannot have a casual attitude about the Bible. We must be a people who are all about the Word. We don't worship scripture. We worship the God revealed there. And if we want to see our Savior, we really have to go there. That is why a regular habit of time in the scripture is absolutely essential and non-negotiable for the believer. It nourishes us.

It is also the tool that God uses to get to us. It opens us up. It is the scalpel in the hands of the Great Physician. It shows us where we need to change AND it shows us how we need to change. It dissects our diseased souls and forces us to confront our wrong thinking, attitudes, choices, and actions. It always exposes what needs to change, but never in a way that leads to death. It may be painful to undergo its plunging revelations about us, but it is always good in the end when we obey and follow its directions. We come out of the "surgery" much healthier than we were before we let God's truth cut into us.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

care to confront

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Hebrews 3:13

This admonition calls believers into mutual accountability. It commands us to care in such a way that we encourage and compel one another to deal with the problems that our sinful hearts cause within our lives. The church is a place where Christians can honestly and openly deal with what is wrong in their lives. This is not a threatening environment. It is a caring community that truly exhorts its members to turn away from the deceits of our sinful thinking and actions.

This underlying command exists not so that the church is a company of busy bodies. Rather, it exists so that the church can actively pursue holiness. And that is a two-way path. The first direction is to identify the good that God wants us to do. That involves study of God's Word and obedience to the leading of His Holy Spirit. The second direction involves turning from the wrong thinking and actions that our sinful natures are bent to do. Almost always, the predominant factor in identifying a sin is the root of "self". If it is all about what "I want", my experience is that it is more than likely a sinful desire or action. When it is clearly a desire to do what "God wants", we are learning to encourage each other toward holy living.

I also am impressed with the urgency in this little command. We exhort one another "in the now", while today is still called "today". We should develop relationships in the Church that have this sort of urgency and practicality in them. And that can only come by getting close to believers. I think from a practical standpoint that it means that there are a few Christian friends who get this kind of relationship. I cannot say that I can confidently exhort 800 such people. I do believe I could get there with 8 of them. And that is why churches grow in holiness by growing "small" in their "in reach". It is one reason why at Mill Creek, LifeGroups are vital to the health of the church body. Without commitment to be in smaller groups we are leaving ourselves open to the deceitfulness of sin. With that commitment we are creating a place where we can encourage each other to Christlike faith every day, while it is called "today".

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

destroyed & delivered

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
Hebrews 2:14-15

There are two concepts from this short passage of scripture that encourage us in the mission of Jesus. He came to do these two things, and Christianity is centered on this work of His. The first thing is that he destroyed the power of death over us. The text here says that the devil had the power of death. This is an interesting thought. Adam and Eve were cursed with mortality (and death) because of their disobedience. And at that root of the temptation to sin against God was the devil's big lie. Since that time, the devil has been working to ensure that death is his domain and that human beings received the full effect of the fall. Jesus came and dramatically changed that. He beat death for us by dying. He destroyed the power that the devil had over us.

The second concept is very personal. We are delivered from the slavery that our mortality brings with it. No longer is the outcome of mere death the essence of humanity. In Jesus, cursed humans are freed. We are given eternal life. Our souls will never perish. We are delivered from the worst that death can do to us (eternity without God in hell) and from the devil's power over us. We are set free from lifelong slavery.

So in the mission of Jesus to destroy death and deliver us from its bondage we have the greatest of human tragedies avoided. We can know life if we truly know our great Savior! That is the way in which the gospel is the best news possible!

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How Jesus makes us consider normative dispensationalism

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
Hebrews 1:1-2

This statement in Hebrews, along with a lot of other scripture, is one reason why I believe a simple, plain, normal interpretation of scripture MUST lead someone to an understanding something like normative dispensationalism. Dispensationalism in its classic form teaches that God has used different means to reach mankind through the history of redemption and that the Bible clearly shows this. I chose it as an interpretative grid for scripture and especially for prophetic teaching BECAUSE it is most consistent with a plain method of interpretation. I realize it has its problems and its abuser. I pray I am not one of them. I am not so much worried about charting it all out to the finest detail. I am concerned that we not confuse what God was doing with Israel with what God is doing now in the church.

Hebrews is very clear that in the past in "many times and in many ways" (that is so dispensational in its orientation) God spoke to a past generation (the Jewish fathers) through the prophets. That was one way in which God chose to reveal His truth to humanity in the past. But now to a different group of people (us), God has spoken by his Son.

And the Son is superior. No prophet was heir of all things. No prophet created the world. So listen up... the Son has spoken, and we better pay attention. In many ways that is the theme of the book of Hebrews... the Son is superior, He has spoken, and we had better pay attention so that we can be the people God has now chosen to use in His plan.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
Galatians 6:1

Of all the tragedies that can happen within the church, I think the fractured relationships that believers have with one another is one of the very worst. Jesus had a special prayer (John 17) that was on His heart as he prepared to die for us. During His last night with His disciples before His arrest and crucifixion, He prayed for unity for them. His big concern was that they abide together around Him in unity. And I think the 21st century church often breaks the heart of Jesus.

Paul knew that big hindrance to unity was sin in the church. And he advised the Galatians to seek unity even as they dealt with a transgressor in the church. He assumed that people would be trapped by their sins (caught in a transgression) and that the church would need to wrestle through the implications of this sort of thing on a regular basis. But he warned the church to do so with two clear thoughts in mind.

The first was to to restore in a spirit of gentleness. The driving force of confronting sin is not to be judgmental and toss out the transgressor. The driving force is to see the sinner repent and for GRACE to win out in the life of the believer so that unity can be restored. Restoration is the goal of any confrontation over sin.

The second attitude was one of self-caution. But for the grace of God, the same sort of things could happen to any one of us. We must be mindful of our own heart and life before God. I could be the next person in need of restoring grace. And that should keep me humble. It is a wonderful source of unity in and of itself.

Our goal should be to humbly, gently, and in obedience confront sin in our own hearts and within the Body of Christ with a spirit of unity and restoration. That would make the church the kind of place that Jesus prayed for as He gave His life for us.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Monday, July 11, 2011

for freedom set free

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

At stake in this assertion is not just the issue of the Jewish Law and new life in Christ. At issue here is the mentality that each believer ought to apply to his knowledge of his own salvation. We were not saved to a new bondage. The Christian life is not about submission to painful restrictions. It is about a new freedom... the freedom to pursue Christ and live in His kingdom and live in His righteousness.

Righteous living is NOT restrictive. Far from it... it is liberating to the extreme. It is real life. Jesus says that He came to bring us life... so that we can have it TO THE FULL. That is extreme living. It is full and satisfying and joy-filled beyond all capacity for description. It is the life we have always wanted and only in the freedom we have in Christ can we know it!

God brings us good things. He sets us free. And any religion that seeks to shackle us with self-righteous philosophy and practice is not the faith that Jesus brought! Any time we reduce our lives down to the "right" checklist, we need to be careful... we have probably entered the realm of man-made religion and not the life that Jesus brought. And that sort of thinking is slavery again. Don't get me wrong. Righteousness is holiness and it does "look" a certain way. But we do the righteous things because we are new in Christ. We don't do them to get better. We do them because Christ has made us better and that is all the difference in the world!

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Friday, July 8, 2011


But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Galatians 4:4-5

Every Christian is adopted. We are adopted into the family of God. Jesus is the begotten Son of God, very God of God. And we are the adopted children of God solely by the work of the Son that God sent forth Who was born of woman, under the law, to redeem us so that we might receive that precious, precious place of being in God's family.

Adoption means that we recognize the distinction. A natural child is born into a home. And an adopted child is chosen into the home. Both loves are great loves. But more than anything, being adopted by the Father means that I don't really "deserve" to be here. It means that His grace is the foundation of the love that I know as God's child.

I find this moving. This is the deep emotional part of my walk in Christ. I know one experience in this life growing up in an earthly family. I know a completely different experience in Christ adopted by the Father into His heart and home. Both are great loves, but one is showered in sheer grace. And it is that kind of grace, that in love chose to pay the price to adopt me that overwhelms me even now as I think about it!

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Thursday, July 7, 2011

all God's children?

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
Galatians 3:25-26

It is very popular (and psychologically soothing) to refer to all of humanity as "children of God". But scripture reserves that designation for a unique class of people. I think it is fine to know that all people are loved by God as unique creations of His hand, but the concept of being one of God's "sons" is reserved for those who by faith have trusted Christ for eternal salvation.

Paul makes this argument in a unique setting. The Jews had prided themselves on a unique relationship with God as His chosen nation. And they saw themselves as the "sons of God". But Paul makes it clear that things have changed. God sent His only Son into the world. And the unique covenant with Israel was meant to bring people (Jews and Gentiles alike) into faith in Christ. That is what makes one a "son" of God by faith.

What a privilege then it is to live as one of God's children in the world! It comes through the work of Christ on the behalf of God's sons. It leads to a new relationship with God in the work of Jesus Christ. It makes us God's own children in a full and a legal sense. We are no longer under a "guardians" care. We have all the full and legal responsibilities of an heir to the family fortune. That is what Paul is driving at in this statement.

It is a lot to think about. God has entered into a new relationship with me because I have trusted Christ. In that new relationship, I am trusted by him as His "son", given all the rights and privileges and responsibilities of an adult heir along with Jesus. That is what it means to be a child of God. It is to live a responsible Christian life for the glory of the Father.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

by faith in Christ

yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Galatians 2:16

The battle being waged in the book of Galatians is a battle for the truth of the gospel. Paul makes it clear that no person can be justified by doing anything "holy". Even if it were possible to keep the works of the OT law, such actions would not be sufficient. Christ Jesus has died for us and we must put our trust in Him alone for our souls to be right before God. There is no other way.

Paul's ministry was beset with these battles with those who rejected this gospel. It was more "religious" for these Judaizers to insist that Gentiles put themselves in relationship with the law that required something extra. It is Jesus plus something. And that kind of gospel is not the true gospel. Our salvation is solely found in the redemptive work of Christ. We cannot perform any kind of self-righteous act to save ourselves.

Paul knew this. He lived it. As a Jew himself, he was compelled to trust Christ alone. His conversion to this gospel was dramatic, because he fought so hard to stamp it out. But when Jesus called him, Paul was convinced He was Lord, and from that moment on, being "zealous for the law" ceased to be the drive of Paul's heart. He became a man who was passionate for the gospel that saved him.

We must always be on the guard against any theology, any addendum to the truth that insists that the real gospel is "Jesus plus something". The good news is that believing Christ as Lord, accepting His atoning work on the cross, and trusting Him alone for eternal salvation and saving life is what gives us peace with the Father. There is no other gospel. We are saved by faith in Christ.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

the gospel received

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Galatians 1:11-12

Paul chides the Galatian church for slipping away from the truth and falling under the teaching of a different gospel. He spends the first part of the book in an elaborate explanation of his own background and apostleship. This is key to understanding the book. The point he is arriving at is that legalistic religion is NOT the gospel. It was the "different" gospel then he had preached to them.

Paul's starting point is his own conversion. It was at that point that he received the gospel directly by revelation from Jesus. It is not just what was revealed to him on the Damascus road. It came from his conversion. He did not receive it from any human agent. It appears that somewhere in the three year period of time in the Roman province of Arabia, these revelations occurred (Galatians 1:15-16).

And Paul was passionate about the gospel. In this book of Galatians, he defends the purity of the gospel against mankind's contrived religions that seek to add to it or distract from it. He shows that he has been combatting this sort of thing from the very beginning of his ministry. We do not need to desert the gospel for religion. But it is a great danger and an unfortunate consequence for many in Christianity. My prayer while I read Galatians over the next couple of weeks: "Lord, open my eyes to the pure gospel and show me where I may have deserted it for less than fruitful religion."

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13