Thursday, October 29, 2009

Declarations...

Inspired by the resolutions created by the young Jonathan Edwards... my own "declarations" may God be gracious to let me pursue them...

Declarations:

Declaration #1: I declare to aim with the best of my ability to perform at all times in a manner that: could and should others see my actions, they would give praise to my father who is in Heaven. Matt 5:16

Declaration #2: I declare to honor the temple of my body and withhold the utmost moderation, sobriety, temperance, and control. Recognizing the self-control is a fruit of the regenerated spirit (Gal 5:23) and that though all things are lawful to the one who is free in Christ, not all things are beneficial and I am not to be enslaved to any matter other than the Lord, his holiness, and goodness. (1 Corinthians 6:12)

Declaration #3: I declare to maintain a habit of and hunger for the study of the word of God so long as the habit of study provides the blessing of savoring him more and proclaiming his majesty to all the peoples of the earth.

Declaration #4: I declare to always maintain the practice of hiding his word in my heart (Deut 6:6, Colossians 3:16), and in this practice find the power to have victory over sin; “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you”-Ps. 119:11, as well as confidence in my witness the world around me.

Declaration#5: I declare to aim and toil to fulfill these declarations to the best of my ability, to look upon them often, and repent often of the ways that I have failed to honor them and dually my Lord and Savior who sits at the right hand of the throne of God.

Declaration #6: I declare to treat all men and women, from every tribe and tongue as though they themselves were Jesus, who is the Christ. Knowing that God loves them… loves all men and so honoring both the imago Dei, as well as Christ’s decree that “whatever you did for the least of these you did unto me” Matt 25:45

Declaration #7: To clothe myself in humility in all things, recognizing the reformers words that all of us “are beggars this is true”.

Declaration#8: To meditate often upon the doctrine of depravity, seeing not only that of Calvin’s followers who maintained the doctrine of Total Depravity. But also a doctrine of “Personal depravity”, knowing that all have fallen and are saved by grace, but I am deeply and totally fallen, wicked at my core, and it is only the grace of God working in me that produces supernaturally things not of the flesh but of the Spirit who is holy. And may the depravity and confessions of others stir my heart not towards disdain but compassion on them as I empathize with their condition and confession towards the Lord as I am confronted all the more with my own wickedness.

Declaration#9: I declare to think often upon my death asking the Lord to remind me that I am but a breath,(Psalm 39) and “it is better to go to the house of mourning than the house of feasting for this is the end of all mankind” (Ecclesiastes 6:2).

Declaration#10: I declare to fight for immense and intense happiness regardless of the situation and to transform even to darkest of circumstance into one of a more exciting experience.

Declaration#11: I declare to pursue with all my strength new forms of pleasure, excitement, exhilaration, and life for as long as air fills my lungs.

Declaration #12: I declare to receive instruction and wise counsel from young and old, knowing wisdom has many cupbearers and to apply any wise counsel to my life that in so doing would further manifest Christ’s power and Holiness here and to the world.

Declaration#13: I declare to Pursue fun, boundless amounts of fun and joy in every facet of my existence knowing that to live is to serve the author of Life, and to die is to gain his presence all the more.

Declaration#14: I declare to Love my family with all that I have, knowing that if one does not provide for the needs of his family he is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Tim 5:8).And should God see fit to bless me with a wife and/or Children to love them with all my might. Fighting for their joy, happiness, and pleasure as long as I shall live and to make provision for them as best I can even when I no longer live.

Declaration#15: I declare to until that time fight to regard all older men as fathers, older women as mothers, and all other men and women as sisters and brothers. Loving and respecting the elders, and protecting and providing for my brothers and sisters.

Declaration #16: I declare to lay down my life for the sake of Jesus Christ, dying daily for the greatest cause of all, and should the Lord see me worthy to give my earthly life know that there is “no greater love that of him who lays down his life”, and to count myself as blessed for being considered worthy to share in momentary sufferings for the sake of Christ.

Declarations#17: I declare to never see myself as above another, but make myself a slave to all men.

Declaration#18: I declare to become whatever I must (within my conscience) “that I might win some” 1 Cor. 9. Forsaking the disdain of the religious even if my actions should cause indignant feelings among the hyper-religious, and fight with all my heart for the lost and dying world.

Declaration#19: I declare to season my life and interactions in the most gracious way imaginable, erring on the side of grace with those who are young in faith, or ignorant of it. And take no measure of Judgment on others that I would not be delighted to turn and take on myself. (Matt. 7)

Declaration#20: I declare to warm every person I meet with love and to attempt to reflect the very face of Christ to every man or women, no matter their demographic or stage of life.

Declaration#21: I declare to pursue friendships, new and old. To deeply invest in those of the closest ring, but to seek every moment and interaction with strangers and new faces as an opportunity to make a new friend. And that by that new friendship our walks would be strengthened and encouraged or that the new relationship would initiate opportunity for some unfamiliar with the good news of Christ to become familiar with it.

Declaration#22: I declare to Fast, Pray, Rest, pursue silence and solitude, as well as the rest of the disciplines often and feverishly.

Declaration#23: I declare to give generously, to give of my time, my soul, myself, and my belongings knowing that it is far better to “be rich in good deeds”; and to remember that I brought nothing into this world and can take nothing out of it. (1 Tim 6)

Declaration#24: To be the best friend that I can, and to never avoid conflict, if its resolution would draw one of those involved (including myself ) to look more like Jesus. Many of us desire to look like him and I have far to many blind spots to do this alone.

Declaration#25: To be faithful, to make all my ambitions, dreams, and desires be rooted in this. Better to be poor, unknown, dying, having nothing, foolish, and faithful, than to be handsome, wealthy, famous, successful in gain, status ,or possession, and to be “a wave tossed about by the sea…”

A recent inquiry...

I have a friend who recently asked me this question in email, I think it is a good one, and one that deserves an answer:

His question..."I have been having this thought lately. Question 1:Do you think someone can love Jesus without knowing it? Question 2:And do you think Jesus is bigger than religions and can bring us together?"

My friend, forgive me for my the two days that have passed unanswered, good questions need good answers and seminary provides little time to suffice for such. Along with a job at a church...time is seldom. But I love you and miss you come to Dallas and let me buy you a meal. Hope my answers suffice

Question #2: Yes, I believe Jesus is far bigger than all religions. Religion I believe in a universal sense is a cultural expression. Christ is far greater than any cultural expression and calls his people not into begrudging obedience but freedom. He is greater than every system of religion, and for that matter greater than every system of culture, politics, race, nationality, all are cultural expressions transient in their nature and lack much of anything other than a sense of creativity. Christ calls us to relationship not religion. He invites us to come and know truth. It is not us expressing our moral laws, but rather Christianity is meant to be Christ expressing the truth of how things are at the deepest level of the universe and us accepting his beautiful and gracious invitation to walk in this truth. But I think the nature of the question is more aimed at can one be saved apart from faith in Jesus. No, I would side with Peter who said of Jesus that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12. He is the only way, the only truth, and the only real “life”. He will unite men from every tribe and tongue under his name, but it will be men and women who are saved only by the sacrifice he made, saving them by his grace through faith. He is supremely and enormously greater than all religions…

Question #1: Plato and Socrates both held to the idea that this world is but an expression of another one; a deeper and more true existence. They believed in a sovereign transcendant being who governed the universe, and the immortality of the soul. However I don’t know that they will be in heaven. Romans 1 says that man is a fool to claim that there is not such a being simply by looking around and within one sees this. It says “God has made it (his existence)plain to them, for his invisible attributes, namely eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made”, it continues that “although they knew God they did not honor him as God nor give thanks to him, but became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened”. So it is not simply being able to notice philosophically speaking there must be something behind the brilliant and magnificent workmanship we see in creation...With that said I believe that a “Rose called by any other name is still a rose, and doth smell just as sweet” (Shakespeare). And so through some sort of special revelation God may and could reveal himself to a person. But all are only saved by a saving faith in the God of the universe (this is the trinity…not saved by simply belief in "a God", but "the God" of the bible and all things. This does not mean one has to have read the bible, but has to worship the God of the universe as he has revealed himself…feel free to reply if I am not clear on this point), and that faith is justified as righteousness only by the blood of Jesus. But this leaves us with a plethora of questions for people throughout history and in isolated pockets of the world throughout time. In answer to this I find solstice in Genesis 18:25 “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” He will and does. Not what feels right, after all “there is a way that seems right to man that in the end leads to death” Proverbs 16:25. So it is not what seems right that will come into being, but what the scriptures tell us .We are by nature children of wrath and deserving of death. But God being rich in mercy entered into his own creation, bore the reproach of the cross, and paid for our sins that he might be both just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus. He is loving, but he is also holy. Thus only cross we see both his immense love for man in that he would die for me, and the incredible cost of my sin, in that it required the life of Jesus the son of God. Simply put it is at the cross we see the intersection of God's incredible love and his incredible holiness. Remember we all like sheep have gone astray and are justified only by his grace as a gift…Hope this helps...


"And they sang a new song:

"You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:

"To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be praise and honor and glory and power,

for ever and ever!" They said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped."- Revelation 5

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Law fulfilled...

"Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." Luke 24:26-27

The 39 books of the Old Testament are a baffling subject for most who are under the new covenant that Jesus established. Due to a lack of teaching in the church most of us are either unfamiliar with the purpose of the laws and rituals established in the Old Testament or at best disenchanted with them. But this must not be the case. The purpose of the law was given that Israel would have established rules and boundaries that would lead them into a deeper reality of life.

No one, Christian or not would say that “adultery” is a good idea. Thus all of the laws were given so that they would have a clearer understanding of the order of how things are, and the fact that they were articulated so clearly gave understanding to the fact that although man knows at some level that there are certain things man knows are wrong (gentiles…. show the work of the law is written on there hearts, even though they do not have the law”-Romans 2:15), he still given to his own devices will trespass these laws. That being said what do you do with the hundreds of rituals that exist and are commanded but are not celebrated in the new covenant. Why???

It would give the appearance that we have simply done the proverbial “thrown the baby out with the bath water”. But this is not the case. In the 24th chapter of the Gospel of Luke Jesus teaches his disciples that all of the Old Testament was given to point to him.

Now we take this along with Jesus’ teaching that “I did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it.” So Jesus does not abandon the law but fulfills it and furthermore he explains it. To ask the question well then “Should we celebrate the traditions of the Old Testament?”

Well…maybe but understand that the 613 laws given in the old testament were given with a purpose. Primarily to point the fact that man is incapable of keeping the law and was in need of a savior. The New Testament states that Jesus has “offered for all time one sacrifice for sins”-Hebrews 10:!2. So all people are justified before God through faith, but by the grace extended in God’s mercy through Jesus Christ. Old Testament Jew of New Testament Gentile. All saved are saved through faith and saved by Jesus. Ok so the Old Testament Law, throw it all out if it was accomplished in Jesus right???

Well…no. The purpose of the law was to help man find life, and point to Jesus. That does not negate the truth that they contain. Many of them no longer apply since they have been fulfilled in Jesus but many of them were true then and still prove true today. It is comparable to me graduating from high school. While I was still in high school I was given certain rules that applied to my conduct as a student. That by following these rule I would be led to a life free from “detention, failed tests, etc… I was told not to hit other people because I would get in trouble and cause disruption, as well as told to make a point to close my locker because leaving it open was untidy, irresponsible, and left me subject to having my things stolen.

So when I graduated from high school I also graduated from all of the rules that of high school right? Well kind of… but not entirely. You see many of them apply not only then but now. It is still a bad idea to hit people, or run around with scissors, even if I have graduated from High school. But I no longer have a locker and am not bound to buy one and make sure I keep it closed in my apartment, but rather am to look at the principle of why I was told to “keep it closed” while in High school. I have graduated from the rules of High school, but some of them remain true today, while others are to be understood in light of the principle they were meant to convey while I was under the “law of high school”.

This is the story we see in the Old Testament, although we have graduated and “moved to a new covenant”, this does not abolish the old rules. But allows us to look at those that clearly still apply. For example we are not bound to keep Yom Kippur (The day our sins are atoned for where a sacrifice was made for God’s people), but to look at why we were told to keep this command. In this example the day of atonement is fulfilled in Jesus who has made everyday a “day of atonement”, he provide a sacrifice for all days where God’s peoples sins are forgiven.. But just as it is still a bad idea for me to run with scissors and hit people now and in high school, so there are still laws in the Old Testament that apply today. Look at the Ten Commandments, all of them are still applicable, and to be observed not out of a bond of slavery, but because they lead us to life. (Not murdering, Not committing adultery, worshipping $$, lying, stealing…etc, no one debates these things as less than “ideal”. But we also see other laws that no longer are to be observed but understood. I.e. the sacrificial system is not to be practiced but understood in light of the principle it was meant to convey. Jesus was the sacrifice.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Moon and the Stars declare who you are...

ManKind was made as an "image bearer" of God. Those who have been reconciled to Christ are called to do this in a number of ways. One of the ways this is done is to testify proclaim the "Truth" of God to a deceived world. We are to reflect and declares God's image, (God is Truth..."I am the way, the Truth, and the Life") by proclaiming his Truth (God) to the world around us. (Just as a Prince would declare the image and representation of the King for whom he travels and does battle).

The best depiction of this has been painted onto the canvas of creation in the Sun and moon. The Sun is infinitely greater than the moon, the Sun creates light and brings life, while the moon neither creates nor brings about anything apart from the sun. The moon simply testifies to the existence of something infinitely greater, that which is its source. Simply put the Moon is meant to "bear the image" or "Reflect the image" of the sun and Testify even when it appears as though the sun if no longer visible (ie. At Night). If the moon could fail to do this(I realize it does not have much of a choice), it would not mean that the sun does not exist. For example in a lunar eclipse the moon does not reflect the radiance of the Sun, but the Sun is still every bit as illuminating and brilliant.

We were created to bear his image and reflect his light, just as the moon reflects the light of the Sun. We are in darkness without the Light of God. So it is with the moon, who is unable to illumine anything apart from the Sun's light shining on it.

Today we have the choice to either be "image bearers" of God and shine HIS light, to be the "light of the world" or to not. Our participation his little to do with whether he will continue to shine, it will only affect whether or not we "enlighten" the world and testify that something greater gives us our source of Light. Or we will simply continue to tolerate the darkness, and fail "to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light".

Will we declare today? Will you be an "image bearer" and reflect his marvelous light or be content with dwelling in the darkness?

-Give us your Grace oh God, we need you...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Eternity

"Can you fathom the weight of a soul in light of Eternity?"- Charles Spurgeon

The interesting thing about humanity is that each distinct person bears the eternal weight of glory within the fabric of its makeup. Every man, woman, and child you interact with is made in the image of God. And a crucial component of being an image bearer is that we are composed with a soul.
Although most people will recognize that to some extent their is an ever longing echo inside of them that depicts there is something more than mere existentialism or simple existence. Thus if enough time, thought, and contemplation takes place, with the grace and mercy of God allowing them to see, all eventually find that the life they longingly fill their energy, money, and time pursuing is simply hollow dream that is a fleeting myth. A vacant and empty passage from one moment to the next. Where hope for more is all that sustains them.
They may for a season numb themselves to this truth, but somewhere, if given enough time they will see that "what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but forfeit his soul."

But their is more. There is life that is wonderfully contained in that grace of a God who is both good and great, wonderful and mighty, beautiful and terrifying. The King of Kings who nobly laid down his life for the life of the subjects of his kingdom. A God who longs breathe truth into the lies that fill the world around us. He is both great and good, just and the justifier. He is reconciling all things to himself in Christ Jesus and he will be victorious. He who provided peace through the cross will provide Justice unsparingly. Rendering either Glory, honor, and peace...or wrath and fury.

But for now, we who know the truth, are called to open our mouths. Bearing in mind that "faith comes through hearing", and that those who are justified by the blood of the name that is above all names are "a chosen race", called that me may "proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light."

We are not mere mortals, food, movies, television, cars, homes, status, trinkets... these are mere mortals. All of humanity created in the likeness of the invisible God are not mortals, we are immortals. And so is everyone we come into contact with. Friends, neighbors, teachers, classmates, teammates, rich, poor, white, black, asian, all are image bearers. All will stand before the throne and give an account. Man is immortal, our eternal destinies may differentiate. But there is nothing mortal about us. (Save our outward flesh that is wasting away, but make no mistake our soul will live on).


Monday, October 5, 2009

Truth

"He (the devil) was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies."-John 8:44

"The very essence of your words is truth;
all your just regulations will stand forever."-Psalm 119:160

"Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth." John 17:17

For a majority of my life I fell for a lie. I chased fleeting pleasure after fleeting pleasure and was left in ruin and misery. I have no idea why his grace called me out of darkness and into his marvelous light, but it did. My sin was the same as the worlds. I had "exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator." This lie is a very subtle one, it creeps into the hearts of followers by taking what are seemingly good desires and bringing them to despotic and destructive enslavement. Taking good things and making them "god" things...this exchange leaves us empty longing for more to satisfy longings or simply numb our existence. The mysteriously interesting thing of the gospel is that it is the essence and reality of all truth. Thus the lie that life will and can be found apart from it is just that; a lie. This deception will suffocate those who venture down its path, and what appeared to be pleasure filled, easy, fun, and enticing, turns out to be in truth a place of death, despair, depression, and enslaving.

But God is good, and he desires that all men and women would come to a saving knowledge of him. Of his goodness, his love, and his mercy. The thoughts of which cripple the inside of me, when I think on the benevolent mercy of the God who rescued me from myself. It is interesting that in losing yourself to something so magnificent you become the most "you" that you could possibly ever be. In other words in losing your life you find it, and in trying to preserve your "life" you lose it. The Human capacity for emotion is incredible. As image bearers of God we have within the fabric of our souls the incredible ability to "feel", and "feel" immensely. However, often the feelings we entertain are not explored for the truth behind them or the lie that is really beneath them. These emotional false prophets that come from the father of lies must be rebuked, destroyed, brought into the light and called for what they are; Lies.

God is good, he is grace, he is love, he is power, he is strength, he is immeasurably wonderful, irresistibly beautiful, overwhelming pleasure filled. He is truth. He is indescribable. He is the only hope we have, I don't have the words to give him the praise he is due, nor the power to release those captive to the lies that this world claims of him. Taste and see... the author of life longs to give it to you.

Call for truth, dig deeply into the realm of philosophical rhetoric, science, psychology, discover that there is more. Close your eyes and breath deeply feel the world around you. There is a truth that melts away all falsity. Love that breaks through all tragedy. Grace that wipes away all duplicitous self-indulgency. Mercy for all your iniquity...

Come to him, all you who search and thirst for more, you who are tired, and lonely, broken and have fallen into deceit. Find mercy from a God who is able to sympathize with you in your weakness and give you strength to find life.

C.S. Lewis speaks of the unseen longing that rings in the chaotic desperation of our souls:

"We...desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited."

-Let your mourning turn to dancing, and be consumed today with hope of what is to come.



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