Archive for the month “December, 2011”

Pondering the Passages: Philippians 1:20-26

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red)20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

(I am posting today instead of Thursday because of our travel schedule)

So this will be my last post of the year. You will not hear from me until 2012 because I will be visiting my daughter and son in law in India over Christmas. I chose this passage as my last passage to ponder for the year because it contains, for lack of a better term, my “life verses”. Some of you may remember that I preached on this passage about 3 years ago – it was the message that started off with me saying that I was going to die.

My dad died when he was 42. Both of my granddads died in their mid 50’s. Men die early in my family. When I was 30 I began praying that God would allow to live to be 50 so that I could influence my kids  at least until they were out of high school. Now that I am 53 I feel a bit greedy wanting to hang around to influence my kid’s kids. So why does God keep me around? That is the question that this passage answers for me.

Paul is ready to die because he knows it means that he will be with the Lord. But he also knows that God may not be finished with him yet. That is where I find myself. I love the last 2 verses of this passage. It details Paul’s mission for the rest of his life. Essentially he says that as long as God leaves him here on this earth that his job will be to help others make progress in their faith and to find joy in knowing Christ. I think that is also why God allows me to linger among the living. Perhaps He wants to use me to help  others in the same way.

That is one of the reasons that I started blogging a little more than a year ago. Not only did I know that I needed the discipline of pondering these passages and intentionally thinking them through, but I was also hoping this discipline might benefit others as well. I have found through my years of ministry that most folks have great intentions when it comes to regularly spending time in God’s Word but that more often than not those good intentions don’t go anywhere. So if you are still reading at this point I hope this exercise in pondering passages has helped you at least a little bit to make progress in your faith and has fueled your joy in knowing our Savior.

I’d love to hear from you if this year of pondering has been helpful. My plan is to take these next 2-3 weeks off and then start back in early January. In the meantime I hope you have an incredible Christmas as we celebrate the incarnation and that your joy in our Lord grows deeper and deeper as you ponder the staggering news that in Christ the Word became flesh and appeared among us.

I’m just sayin!’

Grace and Peace to you!

Pondering the Passages: 1 Peter 5:6-11

This Weeks Passage and Memory Verse (in red):  6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

So the most intriguing phrase in this passage to me is found in verse 10 where Peter says “after you have suffered a little while.”  It sounds to me that God could pull the plug, so to speak, on the suffering we go through at any time BUT He is waiting a little while to do so. Why?

It would seem that God has a purpose for suffering. Now this doesn’t much make sense to us because we despise it so much. But to God it is all a part of the big picture. This passage does not so much address the why of suffering as it does the what to do while you are suffering. It  assumes that we understand why suffering takes place because of what Peter has said in chapter 1 of this epistle. So what to do while we are going through times of suffering:

Humble yourselves – The best way to do this he says is by “casting all your cares upon Him.” v 7. Suffering has a way of bringing us to our knees, of driving us to complete dependence upon God. We realize that when we are going through trials and difficulties that we cannot fix things on our own. And lets face it – we like to fix things. We like to fix our messes. We like to think that we are in control and so we like to take control of our own lives and prove to ourselves that we can handle anything. But the fact of the matter is that we CANNOT. We need God. Suffering has a way of reminding us of this. And when we are willing to lay aside our pride and acknowledge that God is in control (and that we are not) by throwing everything in His lap and essentially saying ” God You fix this mess, I realize that I can’t”, then God can begin to shape us mold us for His purposes.

Be alert – Suffering is the perfect time for the evil one to try to wedge his way into our lives. It is a time when he says to us ” Look, this God you say you serve doesn’t really care about you. If He did He wouldn’t let you go through what you are going through.” So especially during suffering we need to be reminded that we are in a war. And the only way to survive the war is to rely on our commanding officer. So do not be at all surprised if you feel under attack when times are tough – because you are. So…

Resist the enemy – How? Run to the Word and not away from it. Cling to the cross gratefully. Rally the troops around you and let them help protect you. Just as you need God you also need your comrades to stand with you and to help sustain you. Again our tendency is to try to get through things without anyone else’s help, but one reason that God designed the church is so that we can fight together the fight of faith.

Rest in God’s grace – Never forget that the God who rescued you from sin and raised you from life to death also has a future in store for you that is literally “out of this world.” What you are going through is temporary; what He has in mind for you is eternal. What you go through during times of suffering reveals your weakness; He wants to use these times to empower you with His strength. So rest in His amazing grace. Rest in the joy of your salvation. Rest in the comfort that God IS in control even when things seem out of control. Rest in the hope that one day all will be made right.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Philippians 1:20-26
Next Week’s Memory Verse: Philippians 1:21

The Greatest Missions Text in Scripture: John 1:14

** As I mentioned during my message this morning here is the full version of my notes and all the questions that I did not get to. You will note that there are some variations from the actual presentation – but they are minor.

The Greatest Mission’s Text in Scripture

Intro

This is a deeply theological text but ALSO a deeply practical text. Practice should always be rooted in theology. In other words what you do should be determined by what you believe. I’m worried that this isn’t the case so much in our Christian culture. There seems to be a huge disconnect btw what we say we believe and how we behave – how we conduct out lives. And for that reason the church is in danger of being irrelevant. With that being said I hope you hear what God wants to say to you today.

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Packer, J. I.  “The divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needed to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child… The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets.”

Q#1: Why is the doctrine of the incarnation vital to the Christian faith?

Where men stand on the doctrine of the incarnation often defines the dividing line between orthodoxy and heresy, between true Christianity and the cults:

There is an inseparable relationship btw the incarnation of Christ and the atonement – can be seen at the communion table. In our church we observe the Lord’s ordinance of communion weekly. Here, we are reminded that our salvation has been obtained through the shed blood of Christ on the cross of Calvary. What two elements are used to represent the work of Christ on man’s behalf? They are the bread and the wine. Both these elements are evidence of the necessity of the incarnation. The bread is a symbol of the body–the human body of our Lord which was given for man’s salvation. The unleavened bread reminds us that His body was without sin, which was also a result of the incarnation of our Lord. And the cup symbolizes the blood of our Lord which was shed for the forgiveness of our sins. Blood could not have been shed apart from a human body. Thus, the atonement which our Lord accomplished for us was dependent upon the incarnation. To put in more directly, “apart from the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins” (Heb. 9:22), and apart from a human body, there could be no shedding of blood (cf. Heb. 10:5-10).

In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

Q#2: Who was Athanasius?

In the fourth century, during the time of Constantine, the church was rocked by a controversy started by Arius, a deacon of the influential church of Alexandria in Egypt. Arius denied that Christ was truly and fully God, arguing from the Bible that only the Father was truly God, and the Son was the firstborn of creation.

Athanasius was his arch-enemy – and a deacon in the same church. His main disagreement with Arius concerned salvation: we are saved because in Christ God himself became a human being and died a human death. the immortal became mortal to raise mortals to immortality. No mere creature could achieve this but only the very Word of God.

The Incarnation of the Word is Athanasius’ most famous writing, and his most celebrated statement of his case against the Arians. His theology was recognized by the Council of Nicea as being the true Gospel of Christ, and as such it has been passed down the centuries.

Q#3: Why does John refer to Jesus as “the Word”?

A practical logical explanation….  Words communicate. A talkie movie is better than a silent movie. A good book is so much better than the movie. Words have the power to teach us truth, to move us emotionally, to bring healing, to empower us… to hurt us, to destroy us.

“Sticks and stones…” Bull. Words are POWERFUL.

A hermeneutical explanantion

Answer: The answer to this question is found by first understanding the reason why John wrote his gospel. We find his purpose clearly stated in John 20:30-31.

“Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Once we understand that John’s purpose was to introduce the readers of his gospel to Jesus Christ, establishing Who Jesus is (God in the flesh) and what He did, all with the sole aim of leading them to embrace the saving work of Christ in faith, we will be better able to understand why John introduces Jesus as “The Word” in John 1:1.

By starting out his gospel stating, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” John is introducing Jesus with a word or a term that both his Jewish and Gentile readers would have been familiar with.

The Greek word translated “Word” in this passage is Logos, and it was common in both Greek philosophy and Jewish thought of that day. For example, in the Old Testament the “word” of God is often personified as an instrument for the execution of God’s will (Psalm 33:6; 107:20; 119:89; 147:15-18). So, for his Jewish readers, by introducing Jesus as the “Word,” John is in a sense pointing them back to the Old Testament where the Logos or “Word” of God is associated with the personification of God’s revelation.

PS 107:20             Hesent out his word andhealed them, anddelivered them from their destruction.

For his Greek readers the use of the term Logos would have likely brought forth the idea of a mediating principle between God and the world.

So, essentially, what John is doing by introducing Jesus as the Logos is drawing upon a familiar word and concept that both Jews and Gentiles of his day would have been familiar with and using that as the starting point from which He introduces them to Jesus Christ.

John1:1-18 is known as the Prologue. It is designed to stay in the mind and heart throughout the subsequent story. Never again in the Gospel of John is Jesus referred to as “the Word,” but we are meant to look at each scene—the call of the first disciples, the changing of water into wine, the confrontation with Pilate, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection—and think to ourselves: This is what it looks like when the Word becomes flesh. This is God Incarnate.

Q#4: Why was it necessary for the Word to “become flesh”? or, why was it necessary for God to become a man)

Plain and simple… we just didn’t get it. God had given His people the Law to explain our need for an atoning sacrifice but His people didn’t get it. He sent the prophets, but they didn’t get it. So He sent His Son, hoping to win again the hearts of the people He created and loves but who betrayed and turned away from Him.

Perhaps you’ve heard this story:

A man did not believe in all that incarnation stuff that the Churches proclaim at Christmas time, so he stayed home while his family went to church on Christmas Eve. Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier, then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper.

Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. Then another and another. At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. Well, when he went to the front door, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter they had tried to fly through his large landscape window.

Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze. He remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter — if he could direct the birds to it. He quickly put on his coat and galoshes, trampled through the deepening snow to the barn, opened the door wide, and turned on a light. But the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in and he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow making a trail to the yellow lighted wide open doorway of the stable, but to his dismay the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them, he tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms — instead they scattered in every direction except into the warm lighted barn.

Then he realized they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature, if only I could think of some way to let them know they can trust me. That I’m not trying to hurt them, but to help them. How? Any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him. If only be a bird myself he thought. If only I could be a bird and mingle with them and speak their language, and tell them not to be afraid, and show them the way to the safe, warm barn. But I’d have to be one of them, so they could see and hear and understand. At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sound of the wind. He stood there listening to the bells. “Adeste Fideles.” Listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.

So why did He come?
To reveal God to men – Jn 1:17-18, Jn 14:9
To provide a sacrifice for sin – Lk 19:10, Heb 10:1-10
To destroy the work of the devil – 1 Jn 3:8
To set an example for believers – 1 Jn 2:6 

Incarnational Ministry – our job is to “flesh out” Jesus to the world. Q. What do people learn about the Savior both by listening to you speak and watching the way that you live?

Q#5: What is the Old Testament allusion that is inferred in this verse?

Don’t see the allusion??? To me its probably the most interesting thing about this great verse.

And the Word became flesh, and made His dwelliing among us…” John 1:14

Botswana. Camping.

The Greek word skenoo used in John 1:14 literally means “to pitch a tent.” In Greek, the word for tent is skene —

This word skene (tent) is the very word used in the New Testament to refer to the tabernacle of God used by Israel in their early worship of God.

If you remember, the tabernacle was a wooden structure with a tent pitched over the top. (In the Greek New Testament therefore, the word translated “tabernacle” is skene — “the tent” (Acts 7:44; Hebrews 8:2, 5, and chapter 9). Hence, when the glory of God descended to the earth to take up residence in the midst of Israel as described in Exodus 40:34-38, it could be said that God “pitched His tent” among men. The glory of God went camping with Israel as Israel wandered in the wilderness.

Years later when the temple of God was about to be destroyed by the Babylonians, Ezekiel described how the glory of God left the earth and went back to heaven (Ezek. 10:4, 18-19; 11:22-25). Six hundred years later, the apostle John wrote that the glory of God had come back—this time in a new tent — in the body of Jesus Christ. “…and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father…” (John 1:14).

John is saying, “He’s back! God is pitching His tent among us once again. Jesus Christ, who is the Word, DWELT [skenoo] among us.”

This is how John describes the birth of Jesus Christ . Then, as the tabernacle of old, John takes us to the brazen altar to behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

You see, the tabernacle of the OT was a foreshadowing of the Son Incarnate:

The “tabernacle” was a temporary structure
Outwardly the “tabernacle” was humble, and unattractive in appearance
The “tabernacle” was God’s dwelling place
The “tabernacle” was, therefore, the place where God met with men. It was termed “the tent of meeting.”
The “tabernacle” was the center of Israel’s camp
The “tabernacle” was the place where sacrifice was made. In its outer court stood the brazen altar, to which the animals were brought, and on which they were slain. There it was that blood was shed and atonement was made for sin.

Q#6: What does “we have seen his glory” refer to?

 We walked with him everday for over 3 years believe me when I say he is the glorious One. John details a few specific stories:

-Jn 2:11 Water to wine. “This is the first of the miraculous signs Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed His glory, and His disciples put their faith in Him.”

And then there was that time up on the mountain… The transfiguration. 

Q#7: Why did John add the phrase “the glory of the one and only”?

The glory that belongs to the one and only Jesus. We have a tendency to ascribe glory to those things that don’t deserve it and fail to give glory to the only one who does.  You know what the Bible calls that? Idol Worship!

And we often done flippantly – “Praise God the devils pulled out another one.” Listen to what John is saying…

Q#8: What is meant by ‘one and only”, i.e. “only begotten”?

Unique – one of a kind:
He is the ONLY way to heaven – Jn 14:6
He is the ONLY one to be tempted and yet be without sin
He is the ONLY one that can satisfy the cravings of the human heart

Q#9: What are the implications of the phrase “full of grace and truth”?

Jesus came full of grace AND full of truth – just as He was fully God and fully man. He was a man of GRACE. He gave to us when we did not deserve anything but judgement and wrath and condemnation.

But he also boldly tells the TRUTH. Sermon on the Mount, Word to Pharisees (Mt 23)

We must do the same.

The Grace and Truth Paradox – Randy Alcorn

Truth-oriented Christians love studying Scripture and theology. But sometimes they’re quick to judge and slow to forgive. They’re strong on truth, weak on grace. Grace-oriented Christians love forgiveness and freedom. But sometimes they neglect Bible study and see moral standards as “legalism.” They’re strong on grace, weak on truth.

Countless mistakes in marriage, parenting, ministry, and other relationships are failures to balance grace and truth. Sometimes we neglect both. Often we choose one over the other. (p. 17)

*****
If we minimize grace, the world sees no hope for salvation. If we minimize truth, the world sees no need for salvation. To show the world Jesus, we must offer unabridged grace and truth, emphasizing both, apologizing for neither.

Truth is quick to post warning signs and guardrails at the top of the cliff. Yet it fails to empower people to drive safely–and neglects to help them when they crash.
Grace is quick to post ambulances and paramedics at the bottom of the cliff. But without truth, it fails to post warning signs and build guardrails. In so doing, it encourages the very self-destruction it attempts to heal. (p. 87-88)

Q#10: What does this passage have to do with missions?

EVERYTHING!

-God sent His Son who made himself nothing, taking on the appearance of a man, humbled himself and became  obedient  to death – even death on a cross.

-He pitched His tent right in the middle of a culture that for the most part wanted nothing to do with Him.

-He revealed God to them by reflecting His glory, by showing them what grace was AND by telling the Truth.

How do you respond to a message like this:

  • Incarnate the Incarnation
  • GO – just as Jesus was willing to go and leave behind…
  • Demonstrate grace. Speak Truth.

Don’t let your faith be an irrelevant part of your life.

Pondering the Passages: John 1:14-18

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red):  14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” 16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

Today I am going to pose a bunch of questions based on verse 14 only. No answers. No thoughts. Just questions. Why? Because it would seem that I am preaching this Sunday at Ridgecrest and this will be my text. Think of these questions as the trailer before the full version is released. Hopefully they will get you thinking ahead of time and anticipating the preached word. The title of my message on Sunday is “The Greatest Mission’s Text in Scripture”. Here are the questions:

Why does John refer to Jesus as “the Word”?

Why was it necessary for the Word to “become flesh”?

What is the Old Testament allusion that is inferred in this verse?

What does “we have seen his glory” refer to?

Why did John add the phrase “the glory of the one and only”?

What is meant by ‘one and only”, i.e. “only begotten”?

What are the implications of the phrase “full of grace and truth”?

Why is the doctrine of the incarnation vital to the Christian faith?

Who was Athanasius?

What does this passage have to do with missions?

Perhaps these are some of the same questions that came to your mind as you pondered this week (maybe not the next to last one). What an incredible verse (and passage)! I’ll post answers to all these after I preach on Sunday. Hope you can be there.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: 1 Peter 5:6-11
Next Week’s Memory Verse: 1 Peter 5:7

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