Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dating Jesus' Birth and Death

I said on Sunday that Jesus was most likely born in late (Nov or Dec) 5BC and died in April, 33AD.  Rather than getting bogged down in the details on Sunday, I mentioned that I would post links to those details for those who are interested.  I recommend going here, and then here and here.  And if you're really ambitious, you can read this

Thank you, David Brainerd!

Don't you love it when someone puts perfectly into words what you've tried, not so effectively, to articulate?  David Brainerd did that for me today (at least, I read it today).

David Brainerd lived a short life.  He had nine siblings.  He became an orphan at 14.  He was kicked out of Yale for a little "intemperate, indiscreet zeal."  He criticized one of his professors by saying that the man had "no more grace than a chair."  This ended his chances of pursuing pastoral ministry.  But in God's providence, it opened the door to missionary work among the Delaware Indians of New Jersey.  He labored among them for three short years.  He died from tuberculosis in Jonathan Edwards' home in 1747.

This short life, filled with a life-changing failure, has had an enormous impact for the kingdom of Christ.  Jonathan Edwards published Brainerd's journal, with some biographical additions, a few years after his death.  That diary had a life-changing impact on the likes of such missionary pioneers as William Carey, Henry Martyn, Adonirum Judson, and Jim Elliot.  It's never been out of print (since 1749!) and it continues to impact people today.

Okay, already!  So what did he articulate so well?  Here it is.  Read it carefully so you don't miss what he's saying.
God has given me that disposition that, if this were the case that a man has done me an hundred injuries and I (though ever so much provoked to it) have done him one, I feel disposed and heartily willing humbly to confess my fault to him, and on my knees to ask forgiveness of him; though at the same time he should justify himself in all the injuries he has done me and should only make use of my humble confession to blacken my character the more and represent me as the only person guilty. (quoted on p153 of Rescuing Ambition by Dave Harvey)
Thank you, David Brainerd, for shining light on this path of Christlike meekness and humility!  And now, O God, please give us that disposition you gave David Brainerd!  In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Jesus Didn't Die For Just You"

Back in the late spring/early summer (I think) I ran across a free sample chapter from David's Platt's book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream.  We had recently finished working through the book of Philippians.  In that series, we repeatedly pondered the question, "How much is Jesus worth?"  I think that free chapter was called "The Radical Question." The radical question was "What is Jesus worth to you?"  It was good providential reinforcement of what we'd been studying in Philippians.

I haven't read the book (though I believe the Russia team did in preparation for their trip - so maybe you can ask Jean, Chris, or Peter about it), but I did run across an excerpted article in the Nov/Dec 2010 Missions Frontiers magazine (lent to me by Marion Howell).  This excerpt from the excerpt is worth reading and pondering:
We live in a church culture that has a dangerous tendency to disconnect the grace of God from the glory of God. ... And while the wonder of grace is worthy of our attention, if that grace is disconnected from its purpose, the sad result is a self-centered Christianity that bypasses the heart of God.
If you were to ask the average Christian sitting in a worship service on Sunday morning to summarize the message of Christianity, you would most likely hear something along the lines of "The message of Christianity is that God loves me. " Or someone might say, "The message of Christianity is that God loves me enough to send His Son, Jesus, to die for me." 
As wonderful as it sounds, is it biblical?  Isn't it incomplete, based on what we have seen in the Bible?  ...if "God loves me" is the message of Christianity, then who is the object of Christianity? 
God loves me.
Christianity's object is me.
Therefore, when I look for a church, I look for the music that best fits me and the programs that best cater to me and my family.  When I make plans for my life and career, it is about what works best for me and my family.  When I consider the house I will live in, the car I will drive, the clothes I will wear, the way I will live, I will choose according to what is best for me.  This is the version of Christianity that largely prevails in our culture.
But this is not biblical Christianity.
The message of biblical Christianity is not "God loves me, period," as if we were the object of our own faith.  The message of biblical Christianity is "God loves me so that I might make Him--His ways, His salvation, His glory, and His greatness--known among all nations."  Now God is the object of our faith, and Christianity centers around Him.  We are not the end of the gospel; God is.  God centers on Himself, even in our salvation.  Remember His words in Ezekiel: He saves us, not for our sake, but for the sake of His holy name."
Remember our purpose statement: We exist to reflect God's infinite worth through Christ, for the glory of His name and the good of all peoples.  Are you on board?

What if?

"What if there really were billions of people on this planet who are headed to an eternal hell, and millions of them that haven't even heard the name of Jesus?  And what if there were unprecedented numbers of suffering people on this planet?  And what if God decided to give His people on this side unprecedented wealth to make a difference among the lost and the poor?  What if that is exactly what He has done?" (David Platt, quoted in Missions Frontiers magazine, Nov/Dec. 2010, p8.  Thanks Marion for lending me your copy!)

Added to the prayer book - 12/13/10

"God, let me make a difference for you that is utterly disproportionate to who I am." David Brainerd

I know who I am.  And I know that "apart from [Jesus, I] can do nothing."  So, Psa. 143:1.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Good family reading before Christmas

If you want a good book to read with your family leading up to Christmas, I recommend Keeping Holiday by Starr Meade. 

You can read the publishers description and some endorsements here.

We read this with our kids two years ago and they loved it (so did Mom & Dad!).  It's back by popular demand this year and we're enjoying it the second time around.  It may be aimed at elementary school aged kids, but it has something to say to all ages.  (Note: If you order from Westminster, it's likely that it will arrive in 1-2 days.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Don't Waste Your Life

I love this song...and video:

Clipping weeds or digging out roots?

I ran across Gen. 18:15 this morning and noticed that it was another case of "the sin beneath the sin."
The LORD said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.  Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah.  So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?"  The LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?'  Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son."  But Sarah denied it, saying, "I did not laugh," for she was afraid. He said, "No, but you did laugh." (Genesis 18:10-15, ESV, emphasis mine)
Some sins tend to be pregnant, frequently giving birth to other sinful progeny.  In Sarah's case, fear gave birth to denial (i.e. a lie).  Fear was the sin beneath the sin (of lying).  Take away: Strike at the root and the weeds die above ground.
Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. (John 12:42-43, ESV, emphasis mine)
It looks on the surface like fear of man was their issue.  But Jesus got underneath their fear and showed that their loves determined their fears.  Why did they fear the Pharisees and fear being put out of the synagogue?  Because they loved the glory (i.e. praise, approval, acceptance) that comes from man.  What they loved determined what they feared.  And don't miss that it works both ways.  If we love the glory that comes from God, then we will fear displeasing him more than displeasing people.

In your fight against sin, are you clipping dandelions or digging out roots?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"You...shall talk of them...when you sit..." at Red Robin

I officiated a funeral this morning for a family that attended Bethel for a short time many years ago.  The internment was down at the Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery in Bear.  It turned out that I was driving back by our kids’ school around the time Lily gets out of Kindergarten.  I don’t often get to eat lunch during the week with Beth or the kids, so I called Beth and told her I would pick up Lily and take her on a special “daddy-daughter date” lunch.

A few days ago, I asked her what she would like to do the next time we went on a daddy-daughter date.  She said, “Go to Red Robin!”  (For those of you who don’t know, it’s a restaurant.)  Red Robin is a pretty special treat.  And that’s where we went.

We had a great time.  We sat on the same side of the booth and played tic tac toe (3 for the “kitty” – no wins for either of us – she’s pretty good for a 6 year old!).  We cracked the secret code on the coloring page they provided.  We found the “Rad Burger” that was hidden somewhere on the page.  And Lily was hungry.  So hungry that when I asked her if she could handle both of her chicken strips and all of her apple slices, she said, “Of course!  I could eat the whole world!”  I said, “Really?”  She quickly reneged on the claim by saying, “Noooo!  Only God could do that!  (pause)  But he wouldn’t do that.”

I responded by saying, “Yeah, you’re right.  He wouldn’t do that.”  But then I thought of a relatively obscure passage in the book of Isaiah that I love:
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.  And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.  He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.  It will be said on that day, "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation." (Isaiah 25:6-9, emphasis mine)

“Yes, Daddy?” 

“Do you know that there is something that God is going to swallow up someday?” 

“No. What?” 

“He’s going to swallow up death forever one day!  And we’ll be with Jesus forever in heaven and there will be no more death!” 

“Then what will he do with the earth?” (!)

“Great question, honey!  Actually, if we die before Jesus comes back, then our bodies go in the ground and our spirits go to heaven to be with Jesus – like Big Gramma [Beth’s maternal Grandmother].  When she died, her body was buried in the ground, but her spirit went to be with Jesus in heaven.  You see, we aren’t like animals.  When they die, they just go into the ground.  They don’t have spirits.  They don’t have souls.  But we were made in the image of God and we have souls.  Does that make sense?  When Jesus comes back, our bodies will be resurrected and he will give us new bodies that will never get hurt or sick anymore.  And there will be no more death.  He’s not only going to give us new bodies, he’s also going to re-make the earth and everything will be perfect.  And we’ll live happily ever after with God in a new heavens and new earth!” 

“I think the Bible is the best book in the whole world!”

“I think you’re right, Lils.”

“The Bible is my favorite book in the whole world!”

“Mine too!”

“We need to be missionaries and tell the whole world about God.”

“We are missionaries, right here where we live.”

“But we need to get on a plane and tell the whole world…and bring a Bible!”

“Well, Daddy has gotten to talk about Jesus with quite a few people over the years who were sitting by me on airplanes.”  (pause)  “Maybe you’ll get on an airplane and be a missionary somewhere in the world someday.”

“When I have my flower shop, after I close the shop at night I can go and tell people about Jesus.” [A necessary aside: This precious little girl is named Lily Rose and she has always loved flowers.  We’ve half-jokingly, half-seriously said that she will one day own her own flower shop.  Sam has aspirations, among other things, to become a carpenter.  He has thus offered to do all the build-out in Lily’s flower shop for free.  He says, “I am her brother, after all!”]

“You know what, Lils?”

“What, Daddy?”

“I don’t think you’ll have to wait until after you’ve closed your shop to tell people about Jesus.  I bet you could tell people about Jesus even while you’re working at your flower shop.  Do you know what kinds of people often need flowers?  People who are sad.  People who have lost a loved one.  When you bring them flowers, you might have a chance to tell them about Jesus.  And, you could also paint Bible verses on the wall of your flower shop.  Some people might come in and ask, “What does that mean?” and you could tell them about Jesus!”


“So, what are you going to call your flower shop?”

“Lily’s Flower Shop.”

“Sounds like a good name to me.  Could I come and work at your flower shop with you sometimes?”

“(Smile) Yes!”
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Aquaintance or better acquainted?

We begin our study of the Gospel according to Luke this Sunday.  I am praying that it will make a deep and lasting impact on us.  I hope you'll join me in that prayer. 

If you're like me, you've probably never heard of William Hewitson.  Here's what I heard about him yesterday from Dr. Andrew Bonar, a minister in Scotland in the 1800s.
One thing often struck me in Mr Hewitson.  He seemed to have no intervals in communion with God - no gaps.  I used to feel, when with him, that it was being with one who was a vine watered every moment.'  And so it was that he was able to say with truth,  'I am better acquainted with Jesus than with any friend I have on earth.' (The Hidden Life of Prayer, by David McIntyre, 20, emphasis mine)
What would happen if we became a church made up of people who were "better acquainted with Jesus than with any friend [we had] on earth?"  I hope you don't write that off as unrealistic.  I hope it fires your heart with longing to know Christ.  I hope it leads you to the book of Luke...on your knees.  Let's refuse to be merely acquainted with Jesus.  Let's refuse to merely know about Jesus.  Let's press in to know Christ.
"More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord...that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. ... Let those of us who are mature think this way ... join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those (like Mr. Hewitson) who walk according to the example you have in us" (excerpted from Philippians 3:7-21)

The counterintuitive love of Christ

"Today we are all bombarded with the message that we will be more loved when we make ourselves more attractive.  It may not be God-related, and yet still it is a religion of works, and one that is deeply embedded.  For that, the Reformation has the most sparkling news.  As Luther put it: 'sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.'  Only this message of the counterintuitive love of Christ offers a serious solution." (The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation, by Michael Reeves, 191, emphasis mine)

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

Unattractive sinners + the life-changing love of Christ = lives that grow increasingly more grace
Unattractive sinners + effort to be attractive enough to get God's attention ≠ loved by Christ

Or, we don't obey in order to be accepted by God.  We obey because we've been accepted by God.

"We love, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19).

Getting the order right makes all the difference.  Transposition is as serious as condemnation.