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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Sunday Follow-up: Living & Speaking Priestly

This past Sunday, while examining Malachi 2: 1-9 in a sermon called Priesthood: Then & Now, I shared a story about a man who allowed Christ to so shine through his actions, that one cynic declare of him, "He was the only Jesus I ever knew." I argued that the story is simultaneously both encouraging and potentially dangerous. It is potentially dangerous when I start to adopt the attitude of: "I'm probably the only Jesus this person will ever know" and the subsequent conclusion: "If I don't help this person, no one will."

Consequently, we don't just serve as a bridge to Jesus with our actions but also with our words. We must always be holding out Christ with our words while we serve and tangibly love others. Otherwise people might see only the glory of what man can do -- while the reality being a Christian is something both intensely human and intensely divine. Human and divine: You may have met him...his name is Jesus.

Anywho, after the sermon, I had two persons share with me a testimony of the danger of man-glorification because of a lack of words. One brother, Ray, shared a little about his friendship with a Honduran co-worker. Ray is a hard-worker, a servant-leader, and a man of integrity. He was living out those traits at his place of work. One day, when Ray finally asked his co-worker about the Lord, his co-worker replied:

Oh, Ray, I don't believe in God. But I've watched you and I do believe in you, Ray.

Ray was floored. Now, he went on to share a bit with his co-worker about the Lord and this last week they even talked about what a "covenant" is. But Ray was describing exactly what can happen when we only share Christ's love with our actions -- we can become the only Jesus someone ever knows. And that's a problem.

This coming Sunday we'll take a more practical look at how being a priest for Jesus is a speaking role.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Velvet Steel: The Best kind of Love on Valentine's Week

In a poem, Pastor John Piper once described his wife as: Velvet Steel. What a great description of a faithfully loving spouse, friend, or brother-sister in Christ.

I ran across the same description of a character in one of my favorite books - The Hammer of God by Bo Giertz. The protagonist, Savonius, is struggling with the idea of faith alone in Jesus for salvation. God sends an older, fellow pastor his way.

Now God had sent him another helper. But the help was the same. He felt as if he had stumbled against something eternal and unmovable, something at the innermost corse of existence, something that was at the same time hard as a rock and soft to the touch as the gentle hand of a mother.

YES! Immovable like a rock (faithful, true, honest...even brutally honest) yet a soft exterior like the hand of one's mother (patient, kind, for you, willing to sacrifice for your good).

Aren't these the kind of persons for whom you're most grateful in Your life? I can't help but think it's because they best model the "Velvet Steel" love of our Heavenly Father.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Relentless Application

I'm grateful this morning for God's Word. I know a number of folks who are still on track to "read through the Bible in a Year" or simply "rededicate themselves to consistent time in the Word." God's Word is also meant to be applied just as consistently. Often this happens immediately when reading the Word. Upon reading a vivid phrase, a timely word, or the climax of a story, the Spirit hits us like a hurricane (sorry, no "freight train" in Cayman...trying to stay culturally relevant). But other times, perhaps even most times, I think the challenge is to be relentless about looking for opportunities to apply His Word throughout one's day. Having shared many a struggle and/or failing on this blog, I want to share a story of victory -- certainly achieved with God's help:

Solomon: Barely Missing the Mark. So a few weeks back, I'm reading I Kings 10 and tracking King Solomon's use of this remarkable wisdom God gives Him with which he is called to faithfully govern God's people (3:8-9). We see that, initially, it was the people that indeed benefitted from Solomon's wisdom (4:20). Each person had "rest under his own vine" (4:25) -- ie. no war, little strife, each person had property, and the crops were fruitful. BUT then we see Solomon's priorities shift in chapters 6-7 with re: to building his own house versus building God's house (the temple). Solomon's house gets done first and not just because he ordered a prefabricated home -- his own crib to house his many ladies became a priority. The cracks in the armor start to spread. In chapter 10, the cracks surface & begin to show as Solomon now uses his wisdom for the purposes both of obtaining loyalty from those in his inner circle (see court officials and Queen Sheba's comment in 10:8) and to spread his fame outside even the borders of Israel (10:23-24).

The Lord had given Solomon a gift and a calling -- the gift of wisdom and the calling to exercise it in the care of God's people.

The Victory of Application. Thankfully, before I left His Word I sensed God saying, "Seek relentlessly to apply this today." While reading this, goings-on in Cayman included this annual Christian conference we host called Keswick (been going on in Cayman since the 1970s). I was invited to participate in some things with it. On this particular day I was reading about Solomon, I had a ton of appointments with persons in our church. Some days/weeks are busier than others, but this one was chalked full of crucial appointments and with some hurting folks. One of the elders in our church really had wanted to introduce me to a man who'd travelled down for Keswick -- this person had written some books/commentaries and had some significant connections. To gallop a little faster to my point, I was ultimately confronted with either dropping/postponing oneof my appointments with persons in the church or seizing an opportunity that could help me by giving me another "connection" for my ministry (something I'm not very intentional about). Thankfully, the Spirit had been helping me keep watch to relentlessly apply His Word -- "Lord, is this it? Is this the chance to apply?" It was. By God's grace, I said "No" that week to the more tantalizing prospect and carried out the calling to His flock using the gifts He's given me.

The depth of the riches of God's word are inexhaustible -- like a professional wrestler in a folding chair factory or a mermaid at a swim meet (loved that CarMax Super Bowl commercial), you could plum those depths 24-7, all of your life, and still benefit. But how much more can we benefit when, after reading and prayer, we vigilantly & relentlessly look for any and all opportunities to apply it to our lives. To believe that God has, in His sovereignty, given us this specific Word for today and has prepared some opportunity to, by faith, apply it!!

I find Relentless Application requires two convictions & two actions:

Two convictions. One: "God means to provide me a sovereign, specific Word for each day." When I open the Bible to read, which is usually just to the verse or story where I left off the day before, I try to remind myself/pray "Okay, Lord, I know You have something cooked up and are ready to serve today" --truly a Daily Bread (like the super-cool, super-long-lasting devotional by the same name...remember? >>>).
A great couple of verses from the prophet Isaiah to jot down and consider each time before reading His Word that may encourage us to trust He has a Word to speak & then submit, receive & apply in turn:

The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward (Isaiah 50: 4-5).

Two: All of God's Word is applicable & relevant to life. "All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be equipped for every good work" (II Timothy 3: 16-17). Each of us will agree it's not necessarily easy to understand/see its relevance/apply at all spots. But I take great comfort that, neither did the Apostle Peter, who affirmed that the writings of the Apostle Paul were inspired by the Lord (direct equivocation with his letters and "other Scriptures") and also was refreshingly honest:

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures (II Peter 3: 15-16)

Nevertheless, each Word applies to life. And while the tendency is to only equate our experience with reality, the Scriptures spotlight a deeper reality both around us and in us of which we would otherwise remain ignorant. I love how Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it: "What we really call our life, our troubles, our guilt is by no means all of reality; there is in the Scriptures our life, our need, our guilt and our salvation."

Two actions. One: Reading it right. I don't have enough room in this post to cover inductive Bible study and, specifically, hermeneutics (ie. interpretation -- for more on this visit our SCC Resource Page, Under "Truth about your faith," for a great resource). But start with this. Ask yourself: What do I have here?
  • Is there something I've learned about God that creates further trust in Him and praise toward Him?
  • Is there a good example to follow?
  • Is there a command to be obeyed? Is there a promise to believe?
  • Is there a sin to avoid or about which I need to repent?
  • Is there a prayer to be prayed or a gift for which we can thank God.
This series of questions is a good start in properly interpreting God's Word.

Two. Remember the building project when we don't understand or apply. God is always seeking to build our faith (Jude 1:20). How does He do so? Primarily through His word. "Faith comes from Hearing and hearing from the Word of Christ" (Romans 10:17; cf. Isaiah 50: 10-11). Some days end with us believing God has simply given us His sovereign, specific Word to build up a holy faith. Perhaps it's to make a connection with something you are to read the next day, perhaps to show you a pattern through out the whole chapter or book that will apply to life, perhaps knowing something about the Levitical sacrificial system now will help illuminate some earth-shattering concept later down-the-road. Heck, sometimes I think He has us read just so because He asks us to and is, thus, wanting to test our faithfulness to Him.

One last thought. You know what relentlessly seeking to apply His Word does to help an onlooking world, it makes God's Word look even more beautiful -- if that's somehow possible, but I guess it is according to Paul, who encourages us to "Be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering (thieving), but showing all good faith, so that in everything [we] may adorn (Gk. cosmeo - from which we get our word "cosmetic") the doctrine of God our Savior" (Titus 2: 9-10). Relentless application in the midst of an onlooking world can be the cosmetic required to cause God's Word to seem beautiful in their eyes -- perhaps for the very first time.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Know any real-life funny names??

I'm in need of some real-life funny names for an upcoming sermon -- perhaps you knew the person growing up or it was a friend of a friend. Certainly along the lines of the Seymour Butts (but, as this will be for sermon purposes, that's about as 'dirty' as it can get).

PLEASE HELP!! Post your funny name below or you email me at Thanks.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Free AudioBook of the Month: Adopted for Life

Each month, provides a free audiobook for downloading. No catch. In the past they've had some goodins' on there such as J. Oswald Sanders' Spiritual Leadership, J.I. Packer's Knowing God (classic!), & Tim Keller's MInistries of Mercy. I'm going to try to start posting each new one on my little real estate in the blogosphere.

February's choice is an interesting one. It's called Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches by Russell D. Moore. Dr. Moore is the Dean of the School of Theology over at Southern Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He & his wife have two adopted boys from Russia.

My understanding is that Dr. Moore gets into the important doctrine of adoption into God's family through Christ as well as the priority of caring for the "fatherless" in the Old Testament -- then understanding their import upon the call to adopt in the modern world. My quick take is that it may not be for everyone, but from everything I hear it is a "must read" for anyone who has even remotely considered adoption. Here's the link: