Friday, December 30, 2011

Plan to Read the Bible in 2012

You will, Lord willing, do many things in 2012. But only one thing is necessary.

If you really believe one thing is necessary, if you really believe that man cannot live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, then why would you not PLAN to do in 2012 that most necessary thing?
"But I don't know where to start."
How about looking here? If you can't find a plan to suit you among those options, you may want to consider creating your own!
"But I'm not much of a reader."
Well, I'm not much of an exerciser, but I need to do it. And you need to feed on the Word more than I (or you) need to exercise!
"But I don't have time."
Really? You don't have time to feed your soul? Will you have time to eat in 2012? Or will you be too busy? Do you know how much Bible food you can eat in 2012 in just 15 minutes a day? You're probably not going to believe this math when you read it. So, first, double check it. Then, after you see for yourself, why don't you go and really see for yourself over the course of 2012?!

Let's say that you are a pretty slow reader. You read, on average, about 200 words per minute. Just for the sake of reference (and to anticipate the objections), 200 words per minute is not very fast. It's just a hair slower than an average read-aloud speed. Reading at 300-350 words a minute is not abnormal for your average caffeinated adult.

If you read the Bible 15 minutes a day for just 300 days out of the year (missing 65 days!), at 200 words per minute, that amounts to 900,000 words read in one year. The total word count of the Bible varies from translation to translation, but most translations come in under 900,000 words. The ESV, for instance, is just a bit over 800,000 words. Theoretically, you could read the entire Bible in 2012 if you were able to give 15 good minutes a day to it!

The question is, "Do you want to?"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Flashpoint For Our Life in Christ

Life is highly combustible. The flashpoint for ignition is pretty low. It often takes very little to set us off. Thankfully, God doesn't leave us to burn up and destroy ourselves. In fact, it's often at that point of ignition and in the pain and loss that is the burning where we become aware of our need for gospel grace. And there it is, like so many extinguishers...and so much more.

If you need a brief reminder of how Jesus meets us in the everyday, this little article by David Powlison is well worth the minute or two it takes to read it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

McGarvey Christmas Letter

Dear Family & Friends,

Warm greetings from The First State! This year, we decided to employ the help of the kids to write ye ol’ Christmas letter. We figured the best way to do so would be to put together a questionnaire of sorts. Here’s the fruit of the interview labor:

Hannah (11 years – 6th grade):
Nickname(s): Hans, Sis, Sissy
Favorite things to do: Sing and play basketball
Favorite subject: Gym!
Least Favorite subject: Grammar
Favorite foods: Crepes, steak, mac & cheese, peaches, pickles, peppermint ice cream, pound cake
Least favorite food: Meatballs
Favorite color: Green!
Favorite movie: Rudy
Favorite musical artist: Sara Groves
Favorite vacation: MI (Grand Haven in the summer)
Favorite restaurants: Outback & Giordano’s
Favorite song: Setting Up the Pins (by Sara Groves)
Favorite date with daddy: Rock climbing
Favorite/most valuable possession: I don’t have one
What you like to do in your spare time? play knockout, make cards, bake with mom, draw
What would people be surprised to know about you? I don’t like to eat breakfast. I haven’t liked the color pink for the last few years…but, it’s starting to grow on me. I like to act.
What do you want to be when you grow up? A teacher (probably elementary school)
What are you future plans? To be the coolest mother of 5 children
What do you want for Christmas? I don’t know. Mac & cheese boxes. A lot of things green.

Sam (9 years old – 4th grade):
Nicknames: Sambo, Dude, Buddy
Favorite foods: pizza, ketchup, pancakes, ketchup, Sunday roast & potatoes , ketchup
Least favorite food: Well, I don’t really know. There are several different foods that I haven’t tried. So, I don’t know.
Favorite books: Magic Tree House, By The Great Horn Spoon, The Phantom Tollbooth, Keeping Holiday, Hardy Boys, The Bible
Favorite movie: Honey I Shrunk the Kids
Favorite sport: Football
Favorite team(s): Bears and Steelers
Favorite subject in school: Recess! Seriously…lunch!
Least favorite subject in school: I don’t have one.
Favorite music/artist/song: Rap / Lacrae / Don’t Waste YourLife
Favorite vacation: IL – because most of my family is there and I moved here from there…so it also brings back a lot of memories…it also has The Bean.
Favorite restaurant: Red Robin
Favorite flower: Lily – because she’s my sister.
Favorite dude time with daddy: When we went to the go kart place together in MI
Favorite/most valuable possession: Lowrider – my pellet gun
Favorite joke: Here’s one I really like: Doctor, doctor. My eyesight is getting worse! You’re absolutely right. This is the post office.
Favorite Bible story: The Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension. (Why?) Who wouldn’t like that?! One, because of the power!
What would people be surprised to know about you? I don’t feel good when I am called, “Sam I am.” I’m a sort of a picky eater. I like to dance.
What do you want for Christmas? The Black Pearl (a Lego pirate ship), and a sword
Future plans? I want to be in heaven (as in 10,000 years from now).
What do you want to be when you grow up? I don’t know. That’s a long time away. Whatever God wants me to be.
Some interesting facts about yourself: I’m a big ham.
What you like to do in your spare time: Dress up like a pirate, read pirate books, read joke books, plain old read, play with Legos, shoot Airsoft guns and pellet rifles
Coolest thing you know about God: He doesn’t have to go to sleep!

Lily (7 – 1st grade):
Nickname(s): Lils, Beaner
Favorite things to do: Eat, play dolls with Hannah, ride my bike
Favorite foods: Pizza bread, strawberries, jello cake, peppermint ice cream
Least favorite food: Pizza with sauce (scrape the sauce off, replace the cheese, and she’s happily eat it!)
Favorite subject: Math
Least favorite subject: Geography – we have to stand up and say lots of things! And I get bored. I don’t like doing that.
Favorite books: My Father's Dragon, The Princess and the Kiss
Favorite movie: Tangled
Favorite sports team(s): Bears & Bulls – I’m on Papa’s side, Daddy. (Ouch!) … And maybe some Steelers. (Phew!)
Favorite music/artist/song: He’s Alive & Ma Ya Hi
Favorite vacation: Going to Ama and Papa’s and going to MI and Nana’s (and Jason’s house)
Favorite restaurant: Charcoal Pit and Red Robin
Favorite flower: A white lily, and lily of the valley...and snap dragons!
Favorite daddy/daughter date: Berry Yummi & to the park
Favorite/most valuable possession: Elizabeth Mae McGarvey, my (American Girl) doll
Favorite Bible story: David and Goliath
High from this past year: when baby Benjamin was born!
Low of this past year: I don’t have a low!
What would people be surprised to know about you? I can run faster than lots of people and pick people up on MY BACK!
What do you want for Christmas? A dog (Malanie and Mia have one!), I don’t know! American Girl things
Future plans? Have a castle. I want invisible stairs and I push a button and I put these glasses on and I can see the stairs and climb them. And there’s a giant bed. And you can jump on it and do anything you want. And you can get food without asking. And there is any food you want in the whole wide world. Like Jello cakes, ice cream, apple mountains, strawberry mountains, a chocolate kiss hill, a big lion made out of ice cream, and a buttered popcorn mountain.
What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to walk dogs and take care of people’s cats and dogs. Or, a teacher.
What you like to do in your spare time? play school with Jono
Coolest thing you know about God: He can do everything! He helps us! He died for our sins.

Jonathan (4 and a half! – valedictorian of the imaginary school in which his siblings regularly enroll him):
Nickname(s): Jono, Bubbalicious, Little man (though he informed us after Benjamin was born that this nickname no longer applies)
Favorite things to do: Play Legos – build Lego cars, do puzzles, ride my bike and scooters, play store with Lily, play school with Hannah and Lily, go to the store with mommy, go to Longwood Gardens, eat seaweed snacks and play with Daniel Ho, tackle daddy, climb in bed in the morning with mommy and kiss baby Ben
Favorite food: mac and cheese, pizza, Daddy’s Friday afternoon leftover surprise (especially when he arranges it like a face on the plate!), ranch dressing, french fries, hot dogs (cut up), pizza bread, brownies and ice cream, and chocolate pie
Least favorite food: olives – black and green; hot salsa (but I like the normal salsa that is NOT hot!)
Favorite drink: apple cider
Favorite books: Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel
Favorite movie: Cars 2
Favorite sport: Steelers!
Favorite subject in school: I don’t have school.
Favorite music/artist: Josh Garrels (good taste for a 4 year old, eh?)
Favorite vacation: Michigan (Grand Haven)
Favorite restaurant: Chili’s! & Mickey D’s!
Favorite game? Jenga, puzzles, Busytown
Favorite dude time with daddy: Going to the wood park (there’s a park in MI where we vacation in the summer where all the playground equipment is made of wood)
Favorite/most valuable possession: My silky (i.e. his blue blanket)
Favorite Bible story: When Peter got caught in the water and Jesus picked him up!
Coolest thing you know about God: That he’s powerful! That he has the Bible!
What do you want for Christmas: Finn McMissile PJ’s
High of this past year: Being with Mommy all day – that’s my high
Low of this past year: My low is I have to nap
What would people be surprised to know about you? That I like to run errands with my mommy.
Future plans? Future?! That’s what no one has seen! (that’s really what he said!)
What do you want to be when you grow up? A police [sic]. (Why?) So I could stop people who are going fast on the road.
What you like to do in your spare time? What does that mean?

Benjamin (0 – born 10/26/11, 5:25pm, weighing 8lbs 9oz, spanning 21.5 inches):
Nickname(s): Ben, Benny, Super Cute (Jono’s nickname for him),
Favorite music/artist: mommy
Favorite restaurant: mommy
Favorite/most valuable possession: my Steelers binky
Favorite food: you guessed it, milk
Least favorite food: raw onions
Favorite books: Are You My Mother?
Favorite sport: Boxing. I have a mean right cross. Even more lethal is my patented nostril hook hook.
Most embarrassing moment of 2011: the day with that horrible yellow outfit – I finally had to blow out in it just to get it off me!
Favorite music/artist: Sam McGarvey, especially when he sings me Spanish lullabies (en EspaƱol, of course!)
High of this past year: When mommy’s milk came in!
Low of this past year: Can you say, “circumcision?” I shudder even to say the ‘c’ word.
What do you want for Christmas? Milk, more Steelers binkies, and a Terrible Towel burp cloth
Future plans? Sleep, eat, poop, repeat.
Some interesting facts about yourself: I can sleep soundly through junior high basketball games and home improvement projects with nail guns popping, and mitre saw a buzzin’.

As for mom & dad, we’ll make it quick. This thing is already way too long. We are happily married, happily overwhelmed with the task of parenting 5 precious little souls, and happy to be making our new house feel like home. Chris is thankful for the continued privilege of serving Bethel Baptist Church and Beth is steering clear of boredom as the mother of this growing and active brood.

Most of all, we are more thankful for Jesus today than ever before. He’s why we love this time of year! Where would we be (both now and for eternity), without his perfect life (the one we could not live), his death in our place (bearing the just penalty we deserve), his victorious resurrection from the grave (vindicating every claim he ever made), and every great and precious promise that he purchased for us on the cross! This good news of great joy is music to our ears! We long for it to be music to your ears as well...and the life-giving soundtrack to your days.

With much love,
The McGarveys

Monday, December 12, 2011

Firing On Your Foot

Imagine yourself taking a loaded gun, aiming it at your foot, and firing. That would be really dumb. Not only would it hurt, there would be all kinds of other inconvenient and painful fallout. First, an immediate trip to the ER. Who likes to waste time waiting in the ER? It would mean extra medical bills you don’t need. It would preclude most kinds of exercise for a time. Instead, there would likely be inconvenient, time-consuming, and painful rehab. It might affect your ability to take a shower for awhile. Working, walking, driving, sleeping, and all manner of other normal activities would be affected. 

Now, think of covetousness, or lust, as a loaded gun. When you toy around with, and especially when you buy the "greener grass" lies, you pull the trigger on yourself. You assault your joy. You do violence to contentment. You poison the present with a false future. And that has all kinds of other unhappy effects. You become more dissatisfied with the present, which makes the greener grass lies all the more appealing. And turning away from God as your portion to look for quick relief or satisfaction elsewhere always leads to dissatisfaction and regret and shame and grief. It’s a nasty, self-perpetuating, suffocating, life-sucking, joy-stealing, contentment-choking downward spiral.

Don't fire on your foot. Take aim instead at the soul-killing lies of covetousness and lust. Look up to God as your comfort and joy and refuge and satisfaction and treasure. He is enough.
Keep your life free from love of money (and other forms of contentment-stealing desires), and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Heb. 13:5)
Walk today with your more-than-enough God and Savior with your two feet whole.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Love at First Sight

Fanny Crosby (1820-1915), prolific writer of gospel songs and hymns like "To God Be The Glory" and "Blessed Assurance," was blind.

When asked by a preacher if she was upset that she was never able to see. She said, "No."

When asked, "Why?"

She replied, "Because when I get to heaven, the first face that will ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior."

Christianity & Brainwashing

Does Christianity believe in brainwashing? Of course! They (our brains, that is) are dirty!
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:1-2, emphasis added)

Monday, November 14, 2011

IDOP Everyday

Yesterday was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. We prayed yesterday (and will hopefully continue to do so!), but the reality of that persecution is faced today by so many around the world. Here's a brief video put out by Gospel for Asia that will give you a taste of what our persecuted family faces.

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. (Hebrews 13:3)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"I Am Happy That You Failed"

From Voice of the Martyrs (sent to me by Chuck Barmore): 
Zhang Rongliang, one of the most prominent house church leaders in China, was sentenced in 2006 to seven and a half years in prison for using an illegal passport. But even as Christians pressured communist leaders to release Rongliang, he was building a ministry inside the prison.
"I am happy that you and others tried to arrange for my release, but in one way, I am happy that you failed,"
Rongliang told a VOM contact.
 "You almost made a big mistake. If you had been successful, there would be no church in that prison today." 
After his release on Aug. 31, Rongliang was immediately admitted to a hospital for 15 days. Doctors treated Rongliang's high blood pressure and diabetes.

Though imprisoned, the utter freedom of his freedom betrays our slavery and shames us. Lord, grant us such freedom in Christ that we will be happy for "failures" (or unanswered prayers) that serve Providential plans for Freedom.
Genesis 50:20 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.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Technology: Master or Servant?

Mouthwash Recommended

Walter Hooper is a trustee of the C.S. Lewis estate. He served as Lewis' personal secretary for a short time and knew Lewis quite well. He wrote the introduction to Present Concerns: A Compelling Collection of Timely, Journalistic Essays. The essays were written by Lewis and later compiled by Hooper. In the introduction, Hooper recounts the following exchange he had with Lewis:
"Who is Elizabeth Taylor?" asked C.S. Lewis. ...
"If you read the newspapers," I said to Lewis, "you would know who she is."
"Ah-h-h-h!" said Lewis playfully, "but that is how I keep myself 'unspotted from the world'."
He recommended that if I absolutely "must" read newspapers I have a frequent "mouthwash" with The Lord of the Rings or some other great book.
I read this quote on vacation awhile back and found one more reason to love C.S. Lewis! Funny how timely and relevant Lewis was and still is for not having read newspapers! If this was his opinion roughly a half a century ago in England, what would he say to us today in America?!

So much of what passes for "news" is not "newsworthy." When "news" becomes more a business than a service, it's bound to shoot itself in the foot. When the compulsion to gain a greater market share trumps the responsibility to inform the populace of real and newsworthy news, "(cheap) entertainment value" might rise, but news as a good and public service dies.

As you walk through this holiday season, you might have a little extra time on your hands here and there. Shut off the TV, close your internet browser, and sink your teeth into a good book -- like this or this (present Book of the Month) or this or this or this or this (or this, if with your kids) or this or this or this. It's a great way to wash the world off your teeth.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Axe Your Boasts

The Lord is most graciously helping me to see how absolutely nothing I am without Him, and helping me to keep little in my own eyes. ... The axe cannot boast of the trees it has cut down. It could do nothing but for the woodsman. He made it, he sharpened it, and he used it. The moment he throws it aside; it becomes only old iron.
(Samuel Brengle, as quoted in Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Sanders, 63)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wayne Ho's CaringBridge Site

For those of you who heard Wayne Ho's testimony last Sunday, you heard him refer to the powerful testimony that Alice's writing provided throughout this journey with multiple myeloma. It's all still there for you to read on his CaringBridge site.

And for those of you who didn't have the chance to hear Wayne's testimony, you can go find it on Bethel's "Sermons" page (October 9, 2011).
Proverbs 18:10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Gospel According to Deuteronomy

Listen to these sweet, gospel prelude notes sounded back in Deuteronomy 6:21-23: 
...'We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. ... And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in....
The Apostle Peter's reprises (and ratchets up!) that same gospel song:

Brought out from...
1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
That he might bring us in...
1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God
That he might bring us in forever...
1 Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Look back. Do you remember the slavery? You've been brought out! Give thanks for the freedom!

Look around. It's so easy to grumble about where we are and where we are not, but wish we could be (like maybe somewhere warm and sunny?!). But if you are in Christ, just think about where you are! You're out! And you're in! Think about where you could be had God not mercifully brought you out and brought you in! Do you see where you are?! You've been brought in! You've been reconciled to God! He is your Father. You can approach him with confidence! You are at peace with him because of Jesus. What better place is there than that?!

Look forward. Do you see where you're headed? The path to the Promised Land certainly does lead through the wilderness that is this world, but very soon you will be IN. You will soon enjoy eternally the imperishable, undefiled, unfading inheritance as sons and daughters of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, your Father.

Brought be brought in. That is the sweet gospel soundtrack of our lives. Listen and look, and sing along, all the way IN!

Finishing Well to the Glory of God

A good word for the Church, for our church.

Serving Seniors from HeadHeartHand Media on Vimeo.

And a few other recommendations from Justin Taylor:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Mission is Far From Complete

I mentioned this past Sunday that I would post this video. "The job is not done." What is your part in the completion of the Great Commission? What is getting in the way of you doing that part? What is Bethel's part in the completion of the Great Commission? What is getting in the way of us doing our part?
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Tears of the Saints from AsiaLink HistoryMaker on Vimeo.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Reminder: Your Refuge and Your Rock

The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Deuteronomy 33:27a)
If you are in Christ, you have a Home with an omnipotently strong Foundation. You have a Refuge and a Rock.

Your Home is an eternally unchanging, always reliable, never-leaving-nor-forsaking Person. You have this Home because He delivered you from the "house of slavery," the "domain of darkness," and drew you into Himself, transferring you to the kingdom of his beloved Son.

He did that deliverance with a mighty arm. Those everlasting arms that did the rescuing are still underneath you. Your feet are set not on the shifting sand of vocational or investment or social or relational or educational or physical-appearance success. They are set on the everlastingly rock-solid and omnipotently strong arms of your Deliverer who is committed to carrying you all the way Home.

Moses reminded me this morning. Thought I'd pass it along. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What If An Abortion Doctor Was Killed In The Act?

Justin Taylor posted this provocative quote on Monday:
“Suppose, in the encounter between doctor and child [in an abortion], the child won half of the time, and killed the doctor in self-defense—something he would have every right to do.
“Very few doctors would perform abortions.
“They perform them now only because of their absolute power over a small, fragile, helpless victim.”
—Stephen D. Schwarz, The Moral Question of Abortion (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1990), 143.
Cited in Francis J. Beckwith, Defending Life, p. 228
In case you've never seen it, he also posted it with this picture:  

* Just to be clear: the title of this post and the quote above should not be taken to imply that killing a doctor who performs abortions is morally justifiable for a Christian citizen. It is not. We condemn the bombing of abortion clinics and the murder of abortion doctors along with condemning the practice of abortion.

A Dying Orphan Alive Forevermore

Orphaned at nine in a hospital while battling Ewing's Sarcoma. Adopted by a family whose daughter was often on the same unit battling a similar cancer. Adopted by God through the loving witness of his adoptive parents. Brought Home to His Father on Sept. 7, 2011. Prepare to weep for sorrow, and joy, and the beauty of God's grace that is stronger than our sin and stronger than death.

You can also read or listen to the message John Piper preached at Victor's funeral service. It's very powerful and very instructive for learning how to deal with the fear of death by the power of the cross.

HT: JT (and Bill Hughes)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Live The Gospel Rhythm

There is a kind of rhythm to the Christian life. You could call it gospel breathing. Inhale (believe). Exhale (repent). Breathe in. Breathe out. We must die and live. We must die to live. Daily.
And [Jesus] said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26)
Cornelius Plantinga unpacks this daily rhythm of mortification and vivification in very helpful and practical terms.
Everybody wants liberty. The problem is that everybody wants it on his own terms. But salvation doesn’t work that way. God doesn’t save people (from slavery, from addiction, from sin and shame) and then cut them loose to do what they want, because without the guidance of God “doing what we want” is a recipe for falling right back into slavery.
So, to prevent a relapse, God preserves those who die and rise with Christ in baptism.... How? The Spirit of God empowers believers to “keep the rhythm going” where dying and rising are concerned. Yielding to the Spirit of God, a believer seeks the death of her old self and the resurrection of her new self. That is, she puts her arrogance to death and raises her humility to life. She puts envy to death and raises gratitude to life. She puts rage to death and raises gentleness to life. When she breaks this good rhythm for a time, she confesses her sins, which is another form of dying because it kills us to admit we are in the wrong. What’s wonderful is that when a person goes through the “little death” of confession to imitate Jesus’ big death at Golgotha, she also rises toward new life, like Jesus walking out of his tomb. Confession of sin is an enormously freeing thing to do.
Once reformed, a Christian life needs continual reformation. Even our reforms need reforming, and especially when we grow proud of them or despairing of them. And the central rhythm of reform is dying and rising with Christ, practiced over and over till it becomes a way of being.
Take compassion as an example of dying and rising. A compassionate Christian feels distress at another’s suffering and wants to relieve it. His willingness to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15) represents the death of scorn (“He made his own bed; let him lie in it.”) and the death of aloofness (“Why should I care about people tortured by a military dictator in some country I can’t even pronounce?”). Compassion represents the death of our old self, with its emotional stinginess, and the birth of our new self, with its emotional generosity. The compassionate person unites with Jesus Christ in “losing his life to find it” by getting out of his shell and into the full range of the world’s joys and sorrows.
Meanwhile, the recipient of compassion gains vitality too. Love vivifies us. … If the givers and receivers of compassion are believers, they will connect their exchange to the suffering love of the Son of God, who did not remain aloof, but made himself vulnerable “for us and for our salvation.” 
(Engaging God’s World, 83-87, emphasis added)

Grace and Peace

For those of you who attended last night's class with Jeff Stark, did you wake up this morning with grace and peace ringing in your ears? Have you made your "Grace and Peace" note card yet with Gal. 1:3-5 on it?

Jerry Bridges says a helpful "Amen" to the gospel grace and peace Jeff was infusing into the atmosphere last night:
I cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of living our Christian lives each day in the atmosphere of the gospel. The gospel is not just for unbelievers. It is also for us, because we are still sinners – saved sinners to be sure, but still sinners in need of the daily assurance of God’s forgiveness through Christ. As we experience His love through forgiveness, our hearts are drawn to Him in this filial fear, and we stand amazed at His love.
– Jerry Bridges, The Joy of Fearing God, 124 (emphasis added).
Grace and peace today. Grace and peace.


Balm For The Battered Soul

When you are wrestling with “soul-trouble,” Charles Spurgeon, who battled deeply with depression, offers the following wise advice:
  • Should the power of depression be more than ordinary, think not that all is over with your usefulness.
  • Even if the enemy’s foot be on your neck, expect to rise and overthrow him.
  • Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsakes not his saints.
  • Put no trust in frames and feelings.
  • Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement
  • Be not surprised when friends fail you: it is a failing world.
  • Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are.
  • Set small store by present rewards; be grateful for earnests by the way, but look for the recompensing joy hereafter.
  • Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light: faith’s rare wisdom enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places her hand in that of her Great Guide. 
From Lectures To My Students.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Parables of Growth

In childhood, you think the sun (or the moon) revolves around you. "Daddy, why is the sun following us everywhere we go?

In adulthood, you know that you revolve around the sun.

In childhood, you think that large objects far away are small objects. (With pointer and thumb only a centimeter apart) "That airplane is only this big!"

In adulthood, you know that large objects far away only appear small because you are so small and so far away.

In childhood, you think that not-so-big things are really big.

In adulthood, you return to those so-big-as-a-child things and realize they are not so big.

"...until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children..." Ephesians 4:13-14

Glorious Gospel Paradoxes

Christ knew the nakedness of Adam, but by this shame he was clothing his people in righteousness (Gal 3:27).
Adam had made a grave of a garden, but Christ would make a garden of a grave (Luke 24:5).
—Warren A. Gage, The Gospel of Genesis: Studies in Protology and Eschatology (Eisenbrauns, 1984), 46-47.


"Getting Out"

I mentioned yesterday I would post a link to the message on The Exodus by Tim Keller. I can't recommend it highly enough. You can find it here.

In case you want to ponder it some more, here's the story I shared of Keller's time 40 years ago in R.C. Sproul's living room listening to Old Testament scholar Alec Motyer. Sproul asked Motyer to share something about the connection between the Old Testament and the New. Here's one of the things he said:

Think about what an Israelite would say on the way to Canaan having come out of the Red Sea. Here’s what an Israelite would say. If you said “Who are you?”, he would say, “I was in a foreign land under the sentence of death, in bondage, but I took shelter under the blood of the Lamb, and our mediator led us out and we crossed over, and now we are on our way to the promised land but we are not there yet. But he’s given us his law to make us a community, and he’s given us the tabernacle because you have to live by grace and forgiveness. And his presence is in our midst and he’s going to stay with us until we get home.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How Do You Feel About The Commands of God?

What do the commands of God usually feel like to you? I know, I know, it's doesn't matter how you feel about them. you must obey them. Of course.

But the commands of God are not supposed to be a burden. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. His commands are not burdensome.

It matters how you feel about the commands of God because your disposition toward the commands of God betrays what you think about the character of God. It re:flects the temperature of your love toward God.

Think about it this way. When a couple gets married, they make vows. They promise, for instance, to be faithful. Do you think it matters how a husband feels about the command to remain faithful? If you were the wife, would it matter to you? Does he honor you if he feels like that command is a burden? Does he honor you if he feels like that command is a joy and delight? Does it matter?

Must we obey the commands of God? Absolutely! Must we take heed to how we feel about the commands of God (and the God of the commands)? Absolutely!

Here's one helpful reminder from Deuteronomy 10:12-13 that we need to keep preaching to our hearts -- esp. when we don't feel like it's true:
And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?
All (you might need to say that again) of the commands of God are for your good. Do you believe that? It really matters that you do.

Steve Saint's Flying Car

A friend of mine sent me this video about Steve Saint's flying car (yes, he's that Steve Saint - the son of missionary martyr Nate Saint who was killed with 4 other missionaries on January 8, 1956). I had heard a few years back about some related projects that he was working on. It looks like he's made some good progress toward making some of his dreams a reality.

This is a beautiful illustration of using your imagination to the glory of God and the good of all peoples! Make sure you watch to the end to see his real reason for inventing it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Re:flection at Work

John Piper recently spoke at a conference in Australia for young professionals. In an interview, he was asked, "How can [you] glorify God at work?" Here's a summary of his excellent answer that he posted on the Desiring God blog (be sure to watch the video he links to under "corporate shaping"):
  • Dependence. Go to work utterly dependent on God (Proverbs 3:5-6; John 15:5). Without him you can’t breathe, move, think, feel, or talk. Not to mention be spiritually influential. Get up in the morning and let God know your desperation for him. Pray for help. 
  • Integrity. Be absolutely and meticulously honest and trustworthy on the job. Be on time. Give a full day’s work. “Thou shalt not steal.” More people rob their employers by being slackers than by filching the petty cash. 
  • Skill. Get good at what you do. God has given you not only the grace of integrity but the gift of skills. Treasure that gift and be a good steward of those skills. This growth in skill is built on dependence and integrity. 
  • Corporate shaping. As you have influence and opportunity, shape the ethos of the workplace so that the structures and policies and expectations and aims move toward accordance with Christ. For example, someone is shaping the ethos of Chick-fil-A restaurants with this video
  • Impact. Aim to help your company have an impact that is life-enhancing without being soul-destroying. Some industries have an impact that is destructive (e.g., porn, gambling, abortion, marketing scams, etc). But many can be helped to turn toward impact that is life-giving without being soul-ruining. As you have opportunity, work toward that. 
  • Communication. Work places are webs of relationships. Relationships are possible through communication. Weave your Christian worldview into the normal communications of life. Don’t hide your light under a basket. Put it on the stand. Winsomely. Naturally. Joyfully. Let those who love their salvation say continually, Great is the Lord! (Psalm 40:16) 
  • Love. Serve others. Be the one who volunteers first to go get the pizza. To drive the van. To organize the picnic. Take an interest in others at work. Be known as the one who cares not just about the light-hearted weekend tales, but the burdens of heavy and painful Monday mornings. Love your workmates, and point them to the great Burden Bearer. 
  • Money. Work is where you make (and spend) money. It is all God’s, not yours. You are a trustee. Turn your earning into the overflow of generosity in how you steward God’s money. Don’t work to earn to have. Work to earn to have to give and to invest in Christ-exalting ventures. Make your money speak of Christ as your supreme Treasure. 
  • Thanks. Always give thanks to God for life and health and work and Jesus. Be a thankful person at work. Don’t be among the complainers. Let your thankfulness to God overflow in a humble spirit of gratitude to others. Be known as the hope-filled, humble, thankful one at work.
There are more things to say about glorifying God in the workplace. But this is a start. Add to the list as God gives you light. The point is: Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink or work, do all to make God look as great as he really is.
Oh, how we would re:flect the glory of God - with increasing brightness and clarity - if we would live these things out in our places of work!
1 Peter 2:12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Matthew 5:14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Philippians 2:14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Did Jesus Become A Glutton And A Drunkard?

I missed something important when I preached on Luke 7:11-35. I noticed it the other day while reading in Deuteronomy. Remember how Jesus characterized so many of that generation?
To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, "'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.' For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' (Luke 7:31-34, ESV, emphasis added)
In other words, "You find fault with whoever is aligned with God's purposes. You simply can't be pleased."

This accusation against Jesus, however, may have been saying more. It may have been intended to communicate more than Jesus' lack of commitment (in their eyes) to the holiness codes regarding food and drink and table fellowship. The phrase "glutton and drunkard" (in that order) is only used one other time outside of the two uses in the Gospels (Matthew 11:19 is a parallel passage). It's found in Deuteronomy 21:18-21:
If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, 'This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.' Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear. (emphasis added)
The religious leaders knew the Pentateuch like the back of their hand. Were they not saying that Jesus deserved to be put to death? They viewed him as a rebellious son. And they wanted him dead.

But, oh, the irony! They were the rebellious sons! They deserved to be put to death. And that's exactly why this faithful Son came to live the life they and we could not live. And then he died the death we should have died.

Look where Deuteronomy 21 goes just after this "rebellious son" account:
And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.
Jesus became a curse for us, so that we might receive the blessing - the blessing of faithful, (New) covenant sonship.

Galatians 3:13-14, 26, 29:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"--so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
...for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. ... And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
The irony, then, in the accusation of Luke 7:34, is thick. And it is glorious! Though Jesus was not literally a glutton or a drunkard, he did most certainly "become" a glutton and a drunkard. And a whole lot more. On the Cross. All for us. All in our place.

2 Corinthians 5:21:
For our sake he (The Father) made him (Jesus) to be sin (like gluttony and drunkenness and every other known sin) who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Jesus willingly took on flesh and blood. He endured the shame of being called a glutton and a drunkard. Then he "became" a rebellious son and died in our place. He despised the shame of "becoming" a glutton and a drunkard...and every other evil thing we've ever thought or desired or done or become. And he did it all so that his faithful sonship could become ours, so that rebellious sons like us could be reconciled and call God, "Abba, Father!"

Savor the glorious irony of this shameful accusation! In Christ, the "glutton and drunkard," we rebellious, death-deserving, cursed sons are now repentant, believing, faithful, blessed sons!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Just Do Something - September/October B.O.M.

The Book Of the Month for September-October is Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung.

I love the full title:
Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will OR How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, Etc.
A few quotes...
This book is not designed to make us all into hyper-rationalistic decision-makers who need to consult an Excel spreadsheet before deciding on an appetizer from Applebees. (83)
So here's the real heart of the matter: Does God have a secret will of direction that He expects us to figure out before we do anything? And the answer is no. Yes, God has a specific plan for our lives. And yes, we can be assured that He words things for our good in Christ Jesus. And yes, looking back we will often be able to trace God's hand in bringing us to where we are. But while we are free to ask God for wisdom, He does not burden us with the task of divining His will of direction for our lives ahead of time
The second half of that last sentence is crucial. God does have a specific plan for our lives, but it is not one that He expects us to figure out before we make a decision. I'm not saying God won't help you make decisions.... I'm not saying God doesn't care about your future. I'm not saying God isn't directing your path and in control amidst the chaos of your life. I believe in providence with all my heart. What I am saying is that we should stop thinking of God's will like a corn maze, or a tightrope, or a bull's-eye, or a choose-your-own-adventure novel.
... Many of us fear we'll take the wrong job, or buy the wrong house, or declare the wrong major, or marry the wrong person, and suddenly our lives will blow up. We'll be out of God's will, doomed to spiritual, relational, and physical failure. Or, to put it in Christianese, we'll find ourselves out of "the center of God's will." We'll miss God's best and have to settle for an alternative ending to our lives." (24-25, boldface added, italics original)
Not all of this book will apply equally to everyone. You may not agree with everything DeYoung writes. You may not agree wholeheartedly with where the emphases fall in every aspect of his handling of the subject. But this book will challenge and help your thinking (and your feeling and doing) as you seek to pray and live, "Your will be done."

Loving Your Neighor You Don't Even Know

The law of God is not merely a code of conduct "out there" to which the people of God must conform. It is most fundamentally a re:flection, a revelation of the character of God. In light of that, it's a good habit to ask of any command in the Bible (even, or especially, with Old Testament commands that may no longer apply to us because they were specific to the nation of Israel at a point in The Story when the people of God lived in a national theocracy), "What does this command say about the nature of God?" Or, "What kind of God commands this of us?"

Lately, I've been reading Deuteronomy. There have been several commands that have functioned like windows to see the character of God more clearly. Here's one:
Deuteronomy 22:1 "You shall not see your brother's ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother. 2 And if he does not live near you and you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall stay with you until your brother seeks it. Then you shall restore it to him. 3 And you shall do the same with his donkey or with his garment, or with any lost thing of your brother's, which he loses and you find; you may not ignore it. 4 You shall not see your brother's donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and ignore them. You shall help him to lift them up again. (ESV, emphasis added)
A few things stick out to me here.
  1. Indifference is prohibited in God's kingdom (v1, 3, 4). "It's not my problem!" is out of step with the character of God and his kingdom.
  2. An Israelite did not even need to know his neighbor for his neighbor to be his "brother." In our God's government, the call to love is not contingent on the nature of the relationship with the neighbor in question.
  3. An Israelite did not even need to know his neighbor to be able to love his neighbor. In our God's kingdom, the "finders, keepers" is bunk. Love trumps selfish gain, or even convenience, every time.
Don't you want this God's kingdom to come?! His will to be done? He's so good!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"Motherhood is Application"

After reading this the other day, I couldn't wait to read it to Beth. So much grace and wisdom in there!

I encourage you (mother's especially) to read and ponder the whole thing. In doing so, don't blow by that first paragraph. Take a minute to ponder how you can consciously see your many roles as a mother as wonderful opportunities to reflect the glory of God.

"In the beginning," all was formless (chaotic) and void (empty). God worked each of those first six days to order and fill the heavens and the earth. He made man and woman in his image to reflect his glory. He then entrusted them, as his image bearers, with the stewardship of ruling and subduing, multiplying and filling, cultivating and keeping.

Do you see it, mothers? Do you see how so much of what you do, as "ordinary" and routine as it may seem, is a beautiful opportunity to image forth the glory of God?! Re:flection in the home that often no one sees (notices?!) but you and your God! But God does see...and you should see the cosmic significance in all that you do! God loves to see his glory shine back at him!
  • Every meal prepared is formlessness to functional, edible form (even if the cooking process, and the time around the table, with little human pre-dinner pinballs and dinner table whirligigs all around, can seem more chaotic than orderly!)
  • Every grocery run stocked up and belly filled is a filling of the voids
  • Every dirty laundry pile washed and folded, every playroom and bedroom cleaned and straightened (for the umpteenth time!) is chaos to order
 Just wanted to make sure you mothers didn't miss the glory in the ordinary.

Don't Be A Stupid Bible Reader!

Thank you, Mr. Spurgeon, for speaking the truth in love!
You are retired for your private devotions; you have opened the Bible, and you begin to read.
Now, do not be satisfied with merely reading through a chapter. Some people thoughtlessly read through two or three chapters—stupid people for doing such a thing!
It is always better to read a little and digest it, than it is to read much and then think you have done a good thing by merely reading the letter of the word.
For you might as well read the alphabet backwards and forwards, as read a chapter of Scripture, unless you meditate upon it, and seek to comprehend its meaning.
Merely to read words is nothing...
The business of the believer with his Bible open is to pray, “Lord, give me the meaning and spirit of your word, while it lies open before me; apply your word with power to my soul, threatening or promise, doctrine or precept, whatever it may be; lead me into the soul and marrow of your word.”
Also, it is not the form of prayer, but the spirit of prayer that shall truly benefit your souls.
That prayer has not benefited you, which is not the prayer of the soul.
You have need to say, “Lord, give me the spirit of prayer; now help me to feel my need deeply, to perceive your promises clearly, and to exercise faith upon them.”
In your private devotions, strive after vital godliness, real soul-work, the life-giving operation of the Spirit of God in your hearts.
From Charles Spurgeon’s 1867 sermon “A Song at the Well-head” (emphasis added).


Don't Feel Like Reading Your Bible Today?

J.C. Ryle has something to say to you: 
You live in a world where your soul is in constant danger. Enemies are round you on every side. Your own heart is deceitful. Bad examples are numerous. Satan is always laboring to lead you astray. Above all false doctrine and false teachers of every kind abound. This is your great danger.
To be safe you must be well armed. You must provide yourself with the weapons which God has given you for your help. You must store your mind with Holy Scripture. This is to be well armed.
Arm yourself with a thorough knowledge of the written word of God. Read your Bible regularly. Become familiar with your Bible. . . . Neglect your Bible and nothing that I know of can prevent you from error if a plausible advocate of false teaching shall happen to meet you. Make it a rule to believe nothing except it can be proved from Scripture. The Bible alone is infallible. . . . Do you really use your Bible as much as you ought?
There are many today, who believe the Bible, yet read it very little. Does your conscience tell you that you are one of these persons?
If so, you are the man that is likely to get little help from the Bible in time of need. Trial is a sifting experience. . . . Your store of Bible consolations may one day run very low.
If so, you are the man that is unlikely to become established in the truth. I shall not be surprised to hear that you are troubled with doubts and questions about assurance, grace, faith, perseverance, etc. The devil is an old and cunning enemy. He can quote Scripture readily enough when he pleases. Now you are not sufficiently ready with your weapons to fight a good fight with him. . . . Your sword is held loosely in your hand.
If so, you are the man that is likely to make mistakes in life. I shall not wonder if I am told that you have problems in your marriage, problems with your children, problems about the conduct of your family and about the company you keep. The world you steer through is full of rocks, shoals and sandbanks. You are not sufficiently familiar either with lighthouses or charts.
If so, you are the man who is likely to be carried away by some false teacher for a time. It will not surprise me if I hear that one of these clever eloquent men who can make a convincing presentation is leading you into error. You are in need of ballast (truth); no wonder if you are tossed to and fro like a cork on the waves.
All these are uncomfortable situations. I want you to escape them all. Take the advice I offer you today. Do not merely read your Bible a little—but read it a great deal. . . . Remember your many enemies. Be armed!
As quoted by J. I. Packer in 18 Words: The Most Important Words You Will Ever Know, pp. 40-41 (emphasis added).


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Listen and Lead

This one is especially for the men of Bethel. We need to hear this. And we need to listen...and lead.

For the good of our wives, for the good of our children, for the glory of Christ, let's resolve to humbly and dependently follow Christ, so we can lead our wives and children in a Christlike manner, in the right path.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

In Praise of our Soap-Like Savior

In Luke 5:12-14, Jesus cleanses a leper. When preaching on that passage back in February, I mentioned that Jesus is our soap-like Savior. Unless it's some decorative bar in the powder room, you never worry about getting a bar of soap dirty and ruining it. Similarly, you never nervously hesitate to pour the Clorox out of fear that your bleach might get moldy. The influence only travels one direction.

Jesus is our soap-like Savior. He was not afraid to touch this ritually unclean leper, making himself unclean according to the law. Instead of contagious skin disease or uncleanness being communicated to Jesus, Jesus communicated contagious holiness to the leper.

A friend of mine recently listened to that message and sent the following insightful and encouraging expansion of the word picture (thanks, Jeff!):
In your sermon, Jesus was soap-like particularly in His divine ability to cleanse without Himself getting dirty--i.e., the mechanism of cleansing is unidirectional, from soap to dirty hands, from Savior to poor and needy sinner. Jesus is also soap-like in His incarnation: without soap, you can't get oils off of your hands with just water. The oil and water won't mix, the water will run off your hands, and the oil will remain behind. Soap is effective because at its molecular level, it bridges the gap between oil and water, uniting them molecularly: soap has a polar hydrophilic end (water-loving) and a non-polar lipophilic end (fat-loving). Soap unites oil and water molecularly, because it is uniquely equipped to bond with both of them. So, in a sense, soap is able to "reconcile" water and oil, allowing one to clean off the other...the parallels between a loving God, His messy creation, and the soap-like Savior, are rich indeed.
2 Corinthians 5:21
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Hebrews 2:14-18 (emphasis added)
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. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Gossip and Flattery

A very helpful summary from a very helpful book: 
Gossip involves saying behind a person’s back what you would never say to his or her face.
Flattery means saying to a person’s face what you would never say behind his or her back.
—R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man, 10th anniversary ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006), p. 139.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Deuteronomy 6:20-25 On This Side of the Cross

Deuteronomy 6:20-25

“When your son asks you in time to come,

‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’

then you shall say to your son,

‘We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt.
And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.
And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous,
against Egypt and
against Pharaoh and all his household,
before our eyes.
And he brought us out from there,
that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers.

And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes,
to fear the LORD our God,
for our good always,
that he might preserve us alive,
as we are this day.’

And it will be righteousness for us,
if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God,
as he has commanded us.’

Deuteronomy 6:20-25 this side of the cross

When your son or daughter asks you in time to come,

“Mom and/or Dad, why do we do all of these things? What is the meaning of these commands and songs and prayers and testimonies and baptisms and communion and sermons and Home Group meetings and acts of service and telling people about Jesus?”

Then you shall say to your son or daughter,

            “We were slaves of sin and enslaved to the fear of death. We were blind to our blindness, in the domain of darkness, under the heavy hand of the wicked Prince of Darkness.
            And the LORD brought us out with a mighty hand. It was SO amazing!
He showed his unstoppable power through unassuming weakness. He so loved us that he sent his only Son to enter this dark world, taking on our flesh and blood. He lived the perfect life that we could not live so that he could be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. And he died in our place on a shameful, cursed cross so that the curse would fall on him and not on us. He was condemned – it looked like weakness and a defeat – so that we would be pardoned.
Do you see the power of the cross?!
The signs and wonders, great and grievous, that you expect on the day of the Lord’s deliverance fell not on us, not on any earthly enemies, but on Jesus! Deep darkness at midday, rocks splitting, the earth shaking – it was all evidence of God’s righteous wrath being poured out on his Son! It looked like the Son of God was bound in weakness to a wooden cross, but really he was binding the Prince-of-Darkness Strongman and plundering his house!
            And he brought us out from there, he rescued us,
that he might bring us in – home to himself. He reconciled us to God. We have peace with God now through our Lord Jesus Christ. We’ve been adopted into his family. Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is ours in Christ Jesus. And not only that, but he went away to prepare a place for us. One day he will return in power and make all things new! And we will inherit the earth! Not this old earth with all its brokenness and groaning and pollution, but a new heavens and new earth where there will be no more death or crying or pain anymore. We will see God face-to-face and walk in the light of his face forever! That’s when we’ll experience the fullness of what it means that he brought us out…to bring us IN!

And the LORD commanded us to do all these things,                     
to fear the LORD our God,
                        for our good always,
                        not in order to live and be accepted,
but because he has made us alive together with Christ, because Jesus Christ is himself our righteousness, and because we are already accepted and loved and have eternal life in him.