Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christ Heals the Brokenhearted

Colossians 1:16 says: “For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.” We were created for Christ. We were created to worship Him, to know Him, and to love Him. We experience abundant life when we walk in submission to Him. Likewise, we experience nothing but emptiness and disintegration when we direct our own lives.

As humans we attempt to play God by deciding how life should operate. The problem, however, is we are not the Creator. We do not know the ultimate design.

Our stubborn disobedience results in nothing but brokenness. In my own life I have experienced much pain as a consequence of living outside of Christ’s Lordship. The tragedy is my spiritual blindness prevented me from seeing the damage I was inflicting, and it has only been since submitting my life to Christ that I have obtained the faintest glimpse of the latter.

I love this verse: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). I believe our God is a healer. I believe Christ wants to mend our bleeding hearts for His glory. I believe Christ came to redeem and restore. I believe God is near those who are crushed in spirit. I believe wholeness is not reserved for those who have never left the path of obedience. Rather, I believe abundant life can be shared by the broken and wayward, and I believe God deeply yearns to extend healing for His glory.

If your heart is broken find solace in Christ. Cling to Him dear brother and sister. He who promises is faithful.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christ's Covenant With An Impure, Adulterous Bride

Colossians 1 says that all things were created for Christ—all things were meant to glorify Him and point to Him. Marriage is no exception. God patterned marriage very purposefully after the relationship between His Son and the church, which He planned from all eternity. This is evidenced in Ephesians 5: Wives are instructed to submit to their husbands, as the church submits to Christ. Husbands are likewise to love their wives as Christ loved the church—namely by dying to themselves and putting their wives' interests before their own.

"'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church" (Ephesians 5:31-32). The Apostle Paul says that the union of marriage points to the covenant relationship between Christ and the church. The reformer Martin Luther describes this beautifully: Faith “unites the soul to Christ, as the wife to the husband, by which mystery, as the Apostle teaches, Christ and the soul are made one flesh.” One with Christ, as a wife is to her husband, the possessions of the believer and the possessions of Christ become likewise one. Christ, as Luther writes, “is full of grace, life, and salvation,” while “the soul is full of sin, death, and condemnation.” Tainted by depravity, therefore, “the believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in Christ, becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell, and endowed with the eternal righteousness, life and salvation of its Husband Christ.”

In Hebrews 13:5 Christ promises: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” From the moment of true, repentant faith, Christ makes an eternal covenant with the believer. If we are faithless, he remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). In John 6:39-40 Jesus further promises: “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” Christ will never forsake His bride, and nothing can separate the church from His love (Romans 8:38-39).

How deep is the love of Christ! The Lord makes a covenant not with a pure bride, but a disobedient and adulterous one. Hosea 1:13 says Israel went after other lovers and forgot the Lord. The Lord's response is immensely beautiful: "Therefore I am going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her...In that day...you will call me 'my husband'; you will no longer call me 'my master'...In that day I will make a covenant for them...I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness and you will acknowledge the Lord...I will show my love to the one I called 'Not my loved one.' I will say to those called 'Not my people,' 'You are my people'; and they will say, 'You are my God.'" (Hosea 2:14-23).

Christ laid down His life for those who did not love Him. He pursues the hearts of the disobedient and He calls not the righteous but sinners. He woos them with His love, and He clothes His bride in a spotless, white garment of righteousness. His covenant love can never be broken. How deeply beautiful!

Lukewarm Lovers and a Relentless God

In the book of Revelation, Jesus addresses the church at Laodicea: “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:14-16).

The church at Laodicea is lukewarm: The believers do not blatantly reject Jesus, but they have no zeal or ardent love for Christ. Such a state is not tolerable. In fact, it is appalling—so much so Christ threatens to spit the lukewarm believers out of His mouth.

Jesus continues: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17). These believers claim to be rich, but they are utterly impoverished. They have forsaken the true Treasure for the fleeting treasures of this world. They desire the gifts more than the Giver.

How can such a state be overcome? Lukewarmness is cured by Christ alone: “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:18-20). Notice Christ does not call the believers to work harder or attempt to muster up passion. Rather, He urges the believers to accept Him into their hearts. He urges them to be with Him.

When we are in relationship with Christ we cannot be lukewarm. It is impossible. All is rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ. His love is better than life.

The church is the bride of Christ. A bride does not have halfhearted love for her groom. Rather, she longs ardently to be with her lover—so much so that her heart and mind are bent towards her groom. In the same way, our love for Christ ought to be zealous. We ought to long to be in His presence and we ought to wait in anticipation for His return.

Christ is relentlessly pursuing His bride. May we, the bride, respond to His relentless pursuit. May He cure our wretchedness and present us to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.



Monday, December 20, 2010

Will You Stand in the Gap?

"So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one." -Ezekiel 22:30

This world is in desperate need of men and women who are willing to stand in the gap between an all-powerful God and a dying, broken generation. This world needs men and women who are willing to weep and ache over the lost. This world needs men and women are willing to die to themselves that Christ might live through them.

This world is not our home. Our citizenship is in Heaven. As followers of Christ, the only reason we exist on earth is to know Jesus and make His name known. We waste our lives when we store up treasures on this earth. We waste our lives when we cling to comfort and security. We waste our lives when we live for our glory rather than the glory of God.

We have the Spirit—and we hold the power of God. The Kingdom of God dwells within us. Jesus promised we would do greater things than Him. Do we believe that?

God uses the redeemed to spread His glory. He uses the redeemed to proclaim good news to the poor and bind up the brokenhearted. We are the body of Christ; we are His hands and feet.

Will we complacently hold the truth of life to ourselves? Or will we love by pointing others to what they need most deeply—namely, Jesus Christ? Will we live comfortable American lives under the guise of Christianity? Or will we walk in the way of the cross that others might see the Christ on the cross?

We stand before the throne of God clothed in Christ’s righteousness. We are free of accusation and without blame. We do not deserve such a pardon, and we are certainly not entitled to such a garment. Look dear brother and sister to your left and to your right. Look at the men and women who stand clothed in their sin. They stand condemned. They do not share your hope. They face an eternity separated from Love. How can that truth not grip your heart?

Oh Jesus, break our hearts for what breaks yours. Lord stir us from complacency. Lord empower us by your Spirit to live for you. Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.



Sunday, December 19, 2010

Suffering and Self-Denial Are Not Optional

Satan offered Jesus the splendor and power of the world: "The devil led him [Jesus] up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, 'I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.'" (Luke 4:5-7). I believe Satan's tactics remain unchanged today. Satan similarly tempts us to pursue the fleeting treasures of this life.

Jesus said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

Whoever wants to be Christ's disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow Him. Self-denial and suffering for the sake of Christ are not optional.

Jesus continues: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:24-25).

What is our treasure? Is Christ so glorious—so beautiful—that we will forsake all for His sake? And if we are unwilling do we truly know the Jesus of the Bible? I bluntly say no.

Jesus Christ is worthy of supreme, absolute devotion. He is worthy of all.

While he [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

-Mark 14:3-10

The woman recognized Jesus Christ’s surpassing greatness, and she joyfully forsook lesser treasures. Judas Iscariot, by contrast, betrayed Jesus for money. To Judas, money was a greater treasure than Jesus. He never saw Christ’s glory and he was proven a false disciple.

Knowing Jesus Christ changes us: "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him" (1 John 3:6). Jesus Christ is better than any sin, and a true disciple cannot continue sinning. That is not to say a true disciple of Christ will be without sin. 1 John 1:10 says: "If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us." In our pursuit of Christ, God's grace covers our failed attempts to treasure Him.

2 Corinthians 4:6 says: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” Treasuring Christ and beholding His glory is a work of God alone. What a humbling truth!

We are enabled to come to Christ by grace alone. In the same way, we are empowered to live a life of faith by grace alone: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

I confess I do not always treasure Christ, but oh how my heart longs for the body of Christ to hold Him as the true treasure! I long to see believers forsake the pursuits of this world for the sake of Christ and the joy of the nations. I long for Jesus to be loved with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. And so I pray, pray, pray His grace would not be without effect!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Freed to Worship

“Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14).

God is jealous for our worship. He longs not merely for external conformance to a set of rules. He wants our hearts; He wants our love.

The object of missions is worship. The Gospel is about Christ and His glory. The Gospel is not about making us greater, but making us less. We were created for an eternal relationship with our Creator. We were created to glorify Him.

In our pride and rebellion we long to be God. We long to be worshiped and praised. We long to be in control of our lives. We defame the glory which belongs to God alone.

We are enslaved to ourselves and we are far too easily pleased. C.S. Lewis said it best: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.”

Mathew 27:51 says the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom after Jesus gave up His spirit and died. This is deeply significant.

In Jesus’ time a veil separated the Holy of Holies—the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence—from the rest of the temple. The veil symbolizes the separation between God and man due to sin. Christ was the perfect sacrifice for sin. He has torn the veil, and through faith in Christ we can have access to God the Father. We can have access to the source of true joy and life.

Christ frees us from the entangled trappings of self that we may live a life of worship. This is good news! Only the Creator’s love can fully satisfy our hearts.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Plead Made from a Broken Heart

We all believe in something. If you are an atheist you believe that death is the end of life, because no one knows with certainty what happens after death. As a Christian, I also cannot prove there are a heaven and a hell. We both have faith. The atheist has faith that nothing happens after death, and I have faith that there is a heaven and a hell.

But what if the atheist is wrong? What if death is really not the end of life? What if there really is a heaven and a hell?

Matthew 13:41-43 says: "The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear."

All who do evil will be thrown into the furnace—which symbolizes hell. We all have done wrong. We all deserve the punishment of hell.

Even more, we are separated from God because we are covered in evil. God hates evil. He cannot bear to be in its presence. We therefore cannot be in the presence of God.

God loves you! He wants to know you and so He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to the earth. Jesus lived on the earth and He committed no evil. He was perfect, and He was the perfect sacrifice for our sin. He died the death we deserve to die! He offers us forgiveness for every evil thing we have done. His gift is FREE. It is received by FAITH. When our sins are forgotten, we can know the love of God because we are sinless in God's sight. Our evil deeds no longer separate us from Him.

To every agnostic and atheist: Look within your heart. You long for love. You long for meaning. There is emptiness within your heart and even though you may be happy at times, you do not know lasting happiness. I speak as one who has questioned and denied the existence of God myself.

Could it be possible that the emptiness in your heart is meant to be filled by God's love? The things of creation are alluring, but creation only hints at the beauty of the Creator. Apart from Christ's forgiveness we cannot know the Creator. We cannot know the source of true joy and love, and so we settle for lesser treasures.

I plead with you with everything within me: Search for the truth! Search for answers! Please do not be content not knowing the truth!

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” –Jeremiah 29:13

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Where is Our Treasure?

Where is our treasure? Do we treasure the things of this world or is our treasure Christ?

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” –Matthew 6:21

Where our treasure is our hearts will be there also. If our treasure is this world can we truly say we love Christ? Is Christ one of the most important things, or is He the most important thing?

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” -1 Timothy 6:17-19

This world is not our home. “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21). Do we eagerly await Christ? Do we truly claim citizenship in Heaven? Do we live our lives as strangers here in reverent fear (1 Peter 1:17)?

We are called to be set apart. We are called to be in the world, but not of it. Do we live like that? Do we simply claim the name of Christ or do we walk in the way of the cross? Do we live for our glory or do we live to see His name exalted? Do we live religious, self-righteous lives under the guise of Christianity, or do we live in relationship with Jesus Christ?

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.” -1 Corinthians 15:17,19-20

If Christ is not real we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!

Grace alone produces saving faith and grace alone unblinds our hearts to Christ’s glory. I pray that His grace would not be without effect! I pray that we would behold His surpassing greatness and hold Him as the true treasure! I pray we would not waste our lives chasing after the fleeting treasures of this world!



Saturday, November 20, 2010

Living out the Gospel in America?

My heart has been unsettled recently with the way international missions are described within the American church: “I want to go on an adventure.” “I want to leave America and do something radical.” “I want to live out the gospel.”

Jesus calls His followers to deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow Him. This calling is not simply for the foreign missionary—it is for every man and woman washed in the blood of the Lamb. It is for every American believer living in America.

The United States has something many countries do not: freedom. We are not entitled to freedom—we have been entrusted freedom.

Luke 12:48 says: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Are we as followers of Christ being faithful stewards of our freedom? Are we using our freedom to radically live out the gospel? I would be a hypocrite to say I am…

May we, by grace, seek to carry our cross and follow Christ here and now. May we live radically in the freedom He has entrusted to us. May we bring the gospel to the hurting and broken in our midst.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Guarding One's Heart?

I believe the phrase “guarding your heart” is misused.

Proverbs 4:23 says: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Biblical guarding is guarding from contamination/anything that could taint one’s heart. I do not believe it is referring to the outward expression of love, but rather to what enters one’s heart.

Why do we need to guard our hearts? “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Our hearts are DECEITFUL, which is why we need to bury God’s TRUTH in our hearts: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).

When people refer to guarding their hearts, they often refer to guarding the outward expression of love (as opposed to guarding what enters the heart). I see immense wisdom in keeping things sacred. As followers of Christ we are called to love, and so what separates a friendship from a marriage? Intimacy. And intimacy is not merely physical—it is also spiritual and emotional. That established, true friendship involves HONESTY and TRUST. True friendship is two people SHARING life. True friendship is VULNERABLE.

Believers often live in bondage to legalism. Their actions are determined by rules. Boundaries are good if they are established through prayer and the guidance of the Word/Holy Spirit. Boundaries formed by man, however, are stifling and legalistic: “Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence” (Colossians 2:20-25).

And so, what does it mean to guard your heart? Bury God’s truth in your heart and guard your heart against contamination.

When you protect what enters your heart, you ultimately protect what leaves your heart. Your heart is the WELLSPRING OF LIFE. It is foolish to believe we merely need to guard what leaves our hearts! We need heart TRANSFORMATION. This broken world needs more love, not less.

And so, may we seek Christ. May He redeem our hearts for His glory, and may we love FULLY and FREELY.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Magnifying the Gospel through Love

I have been contemplating the way I love (or rather fail to love).

My love is conditional and imperfect. I love those who love me back, and I do good to those who do good to me. My love makes much of myself, rather than Christ.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells his disciples how to love: “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:26-36).

When we love like Christ—when we die to ourselves and love unconditionally—we magnify the gospel. Why? Agape, or unconditional, love is the very essence of the gospel: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

We must not attempt to love unconditionally in our own strength. Rather, we need pursue the Lord, for He alone can bear fruit. Agape love is a natural consequence—not precursor—of an intimate and growing relationship with Christ. Let us thus seek Christ and trust Him to perfect our imperfect love for His glory!



Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Author and Perfecter

I am a thinker. I love finding depth in life. I love analyzing things.

My capacity for thinking can at times be more of a hindrance than a blessing. Why? When I dwell upon and analyze my shortcomings and failures, I fail to see the only One who can mend my life and bring healing.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

The implications of these verses are significant: Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. Next, run with perseverance the race marked out for us and fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Notice that these verses do not call us to dwell on our sin and failures. Rather, they call us to abandon our sin at the foot of the cross and look upward, on the Healer. Jesus Christ is the only One who can mend our broken lives. He is the only One who can put the pieces back together. He is the only One who can bring freedom and redemption.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Wasted Life

"If Christ is not made much of in our lives, they are wasted. We exist to make him appear in the world as what he really is—magnificent. If our life and death do not show the worth and wonder of Jesus, they are wasted." -John Piper

We waste our lives when we live for our glory rather than the glory of Christ. We waste our lives when we store up treasures on earth and live for the fleeting pleasures of this life. We waste our lives when we do not love others by pointing them to the cross. We waste our lives when we do not carry our cross and follow the Lord, regardless of the cost.

The wasted life is really the wasted day. If we are not to waste our lives, we must not waste our days. Living for Christ's glory and His Kingdom does not start after graduation, after we have a family or at some other distant point in the future. Living for Christ's glory starts now. It starts today. If we are not to waste our lives, we must not waste our days.

"Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." -Luke 9:23

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." -Matthew 6:34

Sunday, September 5, 2010

When Ministry Becomes a Joyless Burden

I love the story of the Samaritan woman who encounters Jesus at the well. She encounters the living Christ and the experience is so radical that she immediately goes back to her town to tell others about Jesus. Ultimately, her testimony prompts others to believe: "Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony...So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers" (John 4:39,40-41).

I believe the story of the Samaritan woman holds several implications for the body of Christ:

First, the Samaritan woman shares the message of Christ not out of duty but joy. Where is our joy? Where is my joy? Ministry so often becomes a burden. It becomes a joyless task. Why? We are no longer pursuing Jesus. Yes that is blunt, but I believe it is truth.

When we ardently seek after Jesus Christ we inevitably encounter His surpassing greatness and supreme goodness. Jesus is the true treasure, and all is rubbish compared to Him! We simply cannot keep Jesus to ourselves after experiencing Him and His love.

Second, the Samaritan woman meets Jesus and through her testimony of Christ many more become believers. She does not share an abstract and intangible Jesus. Rather she shares a Jesus she personally knows. She shares a Jesus who is living and active in her life. Her testimony holds merit because she speaks of something she actually has experienced.

And so, may we seek Jesus! May we abide in Him and His love. May we keep our eyes ever fixed on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Redemption

Stories of redemption stir my heart. Stories of human frailty encountering the life-giving grace of Jesus Christ. Stories of captives being set free. Stories of Jesus taking something broken and making it beautiful.


I think my heart awakens to such stories because they illuminate deeper realities and truths...


We have an inner awareness that things are not how they should be. We realize things are broken. We realize we are broken. And yet we tirelessly attempt to create the semblance of perfection. We wear masks. We pretend to have it all together. Perfection, however, is but a fa├žade. No one is perfect—not one.


We are imperfect and broken because this world is fallen: Adam and Eve were created in the image and likeness of God. They were made holy and righteous, as God is holy and righteous. When Adam and Eve chose to sin, however, their perfect nature was cancelled, and all born of Adam and Eve inherit a contagion to sin.


We are thus created in the image of God. We were created to be holy, as He is holy, and yet because of the Fall, we are prone to sin. This is the tension we feel. The longing to be perfect because we bear the image of a perfect God, and yet the paining realization we are incapable of living out His image.


In enters the Gospel. God sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to be a sin offering. Jesus came to set the captives free. He came to redeem sinners. He came to make all things new. He came to reverse the effects of the Fall and to restore creation to its original order.


And yet we live between the times. Jesus died and was resurrected. We are waiting for His second coming. We are waiting for the new earth where sin will have no place—where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.


Thus, until His return we will feel the tension between the old and the new order. The Kingdom is here, but not yet. Because of the Spirit, we are continually renewed into the likeness of Christ. We are continually being made holy and whole--and yet we live in a world marred by sin. We are freed from the control of sin, but we have not yet been freed from its presence.

“The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently."

Romans 8:19-25

Let us wait patiently in hope. Let us wait in expectation for His return, and as we wait let us love extravagantly.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sun and Rain

A poem I wrote in high school:

By the meandering creek grows a daisy
Its outstretched arms basking in Sunlight drenching
As it sways naively in a dainty breeze

Consumed in ignorant wonder
An army to the east mounts unnoticed
And soon pelts of ice Rain land irately upon it

Flustered it awakens from its trance
With the Rain it cries while viciously blown about
It cannot see beyond the storm
It cannot know its purpose

It's only after the tempest does part
That the young flower learns
The Rains of life make it stronger

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Beautiful Exchange

Imagine this: A people soiled in sin. Lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, and disobedient to their parents. Ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not lovers of the good. Treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.

Now imagine this: Love, perfect love. His name: Immanuel—"God with us." Jesus, the Christ, lived and breathed and walked upon the earth. He was tempted in every way, yet was without sin.

Love led Jesus to the cross. In fact, His mission was love: Not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.

At the cross a beautiful exchange occurred: "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus took upon Himself the iniquity of all, and dying upon the cross He endured the wages of the world's sin: "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

Jesus offered for all time one sacrifice for sins: Himself. "Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart for sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself" (Hebrews 7:26-27).

By faith, we have access to His forgiveness. And by that same faith, we have access to His spotless righteousness.

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Galatians 3:26-27).

We are clothed in Christ. We are clothed in His righteousness!

Jesus took upon Himself our sin, and He gives us His righteousness. Though we are soiled with every kind of evil, we are clothed in the pure and spotless righteousness of Christ. His righteousness covers us, and we stand before the throne of God without blemish and free of accusation!

"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel" (Colossians 1:21-23).

Christ's righteousness is our identity. The doing of righteousness, therefore, confirms the being of righteousness: "He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous" (1 John 3:7).

Let me be quick to clarify: The pursuit of righteousness is not a work of the flesh! How foolish to think that depraved sinners can achieve righteousness by self-effort! The pursuit of righteousness is rather the working of the Holy Spirit. Our identity is Christ's righteousness and day by day we are transformed to reflect that reality. That is sanctification. It is the process by which we are made holy.

Jesus' grace is sufficient. In our pursuit of God, His grace covers our failed attempts to live out our identity in Christ. To live out our imputed righteousness. And His grace propels us forward. The Apostle Paul wrote: "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I but the grace of God that was with me" (1 Corinthians 15:10).

I pray that Christ humble us with His love and mercy. May His grace work in us. May we continually be molded into His likeness. May we, by the Spirit, increasingly reflect our true identity.

abandonded to Love

We have all fallen short. We have all sinned and defamed the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

We are in need of Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus lived the life we never could. He was sinless. He was an acceptable sacrifice for the sins of all men.

Out of love, He took the sinner's place. He took my place. He endured the wrath of God and died my death.

Yet Love was victorious—even over hell. On the third day, He rose again and now sits at the right hand of God the Father.

His gift of life is free to all. "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).

Accepting Jesus' grace does not simply save us from hell. His grace enables us to enter into a relationship with our Creator. Our sins no longer separate us from a holy God, because we are clothed in Christ's pure and spotless righteousness.

Knowing Jesus Christ compares to nothing in this world! Along with the apostle Paul, I count all things as rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord! In the same breath I humbly confess I did nothing to unearth Christ's surpassing worth. My conviction is solely the working of the Holy Spirit, which unblinded my mind and enabled me to behold Christ's glory. I am the worst of sinners and yet Jesus did not come to call the righteous. He came to call sinners to repentance.

While I have accepted Jesus into my life, I have in recent months been wrestling with what it means to allow Him to become my life:

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it." (Mark 8:34-35).

"In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33).

These verses call for radical abandonment to Christ. Deny yourself. Take up your cross daily. Give up everything.

I have been wrestling with these verses for months—and still am. The following is what the Lord has revealed to my heart:

In Matthew 7 Jesus says: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"

There will be people who will stand before the throne of God—people who called themselves Christians—who will be rejected by Christ. Why? A label is not enough to save us. Christian deeds will not save us. Nor is it enough to have an intellectual knowledge of Jesus Christ. We must be born again. We must be filled with the Holy Spirit—the seal of redemption. And the Holy Spirit will lead us where He led Jesus: the cross.

Jesus' yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Why? Jesus' call to abandonment and self-denial is a call of love. Jesus Christ is the only One who can truly satisfy. All is rubbish compared to Him! His love—which surpasses knowledge—is so wide, long, high and deep that He longs to give us that which is best: Himself.

"Crucify your desires that you may know Me more." "Give up everything to obtain Me, the true treasure." "Carry the cross of Christ that others may see Me, the Christ on the cross."

Pursue Jesus!

There are three paths to walk upon: lawlessness, legalism, and love.

Lawlessness is the disregard of God's design for creation. It is manifested through immorality, idolatry, envy and the like.

Legalism is the false belief that right standing before God is obtained by works and good deeds.

Both lawlessness and legalism reveal one thing: a lack of relationship with Jesus Christ.

Lawlessness reveals that one is not finding supreme satisfaction in Christ. Thus, the one who disregards God's pattern for life is not pursuing the Lord, because all things are rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:8). Legalism likewise reveals that one has a self-righteous view of him or herself. The legalist is not pursuing the Lord, because he or she is blinded to Him who died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous (1 Peter 3:18).

The solution, therefore, to both lawlessness and legalism is Jesus Christ.

Pursue Jesus and you inevitably pursue love.

Jesus said: "If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you an do nothing" (John 15:5). Apart from Jesus we can do NOTHING! We cannot produce fruit. We are depraved sinners lacking every good of our own merit. Jesus alone produces fruit when we abide in Him; when we pursue a relationship with Him. And so how do we remain in Jesus? 1 John 4:16 says: "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him." Jesus Christ (one with God the Father) is love. Thus, whoever lives in love lives in Jesus, and Jesus in him.

We abide in Jesus when we love. And how do we love? We love out of His love, which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We have been crucified with Christ and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us! We walk empowered by His Spirit. We allow Jesus to love through us.

I pray that our eyes will ever be fixed on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. May we pursue Him. May we come to know His surpassing worth. May we continually forsake lesser treasures to obtain Him, the true treasure. May we see His holiness and our own depravity. May our hope rest soley in His gospel of grace through faith. May we abide in His love; may His love compel us.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What is a "Christian"?

What does it truly mean to be a Christian?

Is a Christian a moral person who abides by a set of rules? Is a Christian someone who goes to church on Sundays?

No.

A Christian is a deeply flawed man or woman who lacks every good of his or her own merit. A Christian is a man or woman who has turned away from the living God in heart, mind, or deed. A Christian is a man or woman who has worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.

Jesus Christ came to seek and save the lost. He came to redeem sinners.

And so what does it truly mean to be a Christian?

To be a Christian is to despair in your own morality. It is the open admission that in yourself you possess no good. You are incapable of obtaining perfection and in need of He who is perfect; you are incapable of obtaining righteousness and in need of He who is righteous.

To be a Christian is to despair in the pursuits of this world. It is the confession that the things of this world cannot satiate and fill the void deep within. It is the realization that you were created for a relationship with your Creator and only His love can satisfy.

To be a Christian is to live a life of love out of His love, and it is the pursuit of the greater joy—namely Jesus Christ Himself. It is the forsaking of self to obtain Him, and it is the reckless abandonment of lesser treasures to obtain the true treasure.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44).

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter: 8,9).

“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Beauty of Imperfection

We try to hide our weaknesses, but the depth of true fellowship with Christ and people begins when we acknowledge our imperfections. We are imperfect people, and imperfection is beautiful because it is real.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

East Asia


I had the opportunity to go on a week-long vision trip to East Asia over Thanksgiving break. Here is a glimpse of my experience:

The first night we ate dinner with the long-term missionaries. Walking back from the restaurant, I was overwhelmed by the general darkness and despair. As we darted through the crowded streets, I was heartbroken by an old man playing a traditional instrument, as his empty and deeply sorrowful music seemed to be the cries of a lost heart.

The next morning we went to the university and began meeting students. I was overwhelmed by the graciousness of the East Asians. One girl approached me and offered to buy me lunch. She sat me down, ordered my food, and then served me—only to tell me she needed to go to class!

Later that day, my partner and I were able to share the Gospel with a girl who had never heard of Jesus Christ before. She shared how she felt empty inside—and yet her deep spiritual hunger did not result in an acceptance of truth. Instead she responded in the manner every person I talked with did: “We 'East-Asians' do not believe in God.”

East Asia is a spiritually dark place where Satan has a stronghold. He is using the government to disseminate lies and block out the truth. Take for instance, Wang, another girl I talked with. Specifically, when I asked her if she felt like something was missing in her heart, she paused and responded: “You know here in East Asia we honestly do not have time to think about deep things.” I was heartbroken beyond words.

Despite Satan’s manipulation, Jesus Christ is victorious over darkness. People here do respond to the Gospel and over the course of the week my team saw one person accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. His response, I believe, illuminates an even deeper spiritual reality: East Asians need a Savior just as much as people anywhere else in the world.

No clearer is this evidenced than in the suicide rate: Monday night one of the long-term missionaries debriefed us, explaining how students are responsible for supporting their parents and both sets of grandparents, as there is no social security or health care. Pressured to succeed, students work extremely hard during high school to get into the university, and while some assume acceptance to the university will allow them to relax, they soon discover that competition is high at the university as well. Some fail tests and classes, and rather than face the disappointment of their families, many ultimately resort to suicide. I was horribly burdened and heartbroken by the fact that people take their lives because they simply have no hope.

Tuesday my partner and I had three spiritual conversations. We shared the Gospel with a junior, who like the rest expressed that there was emptiness within his heart. Following our conversation with him, my partner and I talked with two freshmen. The one looked horribly depressed, and when we asked him about his experience at the university he explained how he did not enjoy it and wanted to go home. As we continued talking, we discovered he had questioned the existence of God and had a Bible in his room. My partner and I went through the Gospel, and looking back I now see God’s sovereign hand at work: Our friend had a Bible, but he did not understand it. God, therefore, used my partner and I to explain what Jesus had done.

Ultimately, our friend had to leave for class, leaving my partner and I the opportunity to talk with his friend. He had little exposure to Christianity, and yet he said something quite profound: “You know, if there is a God, I think He must be love.” My partner and I both readily agreed, and we pulled out our bilingual Bible to show him 1 John 4:7-9: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” My partner and I proceeded to go through the Gospel with him, and at the end we prayed for him, asking that Jesus would give him a real experience of Himself. It was very powerful to pray for him, and I pray that as the long-term missionaries follow up with him the Lord will be working in his heart.

Wednesday I spent time with a girl I met on Monday. When I asked her about her religious traditions and beliefs, she explained that she worships her ancestors. I asked her if she ever felt like her prayers were left unanswered and she responded with a resolute yes. She admitted, moreover, that something is missing within her heart. I shared the Gospel and again I heard those paining words: “We 'East-Asians' do not believe in God.”

Thursday we had our main outreach. Specifically, we hosted a Thanksgiving party for all the people we had met throughout the week. I was paired off with Wang and her friend Mary. After making a craft project, we each shared what we were thankful for. When it was my turn, I shared that I was most thankful for Jesus, to which Mary responded: “Oh I know about Jesus. He makes you warm in your heart.” I proceeded to ask her if she followed Jesus, and she said she didn’t although she had searched for information and wanted to know more. I explained that I could tell her more and we went through the Gospel together. Neither Mary nor Wang accepted, but in sharing truth I planted seeds which prayerfully God will make grow.

Friday evening we had a final team dinner. Two professed Asian believers from the university attended and each shared what God had done in their lives. I was particularly affected by the last testimony shared—namely that of a young man who had wanted to kill himself until, by the grace of God, someone shared Jesus with him. I was moved to tears by his story, mostly because it was a faint glimmer of hope: The East Asian people do not know the relentless love of Jesus Christ because their government, like the horrific pollution of the city, darkens the light. They do not know a hope that never fails and they do not have salvation. And yet God is moving. He is victorious in the darkness, as He is victorious in the light. His truth is as real in East Asia as it is in the rest of the world, because the Gospel deals with the deepest and truest realities of the human heart. Everywhere people struggle with sin. Everywhere people turn away from their Creator, seeking fulfillment in other things. And everywhere people have emptiness which can only be satiated by the love of Jesus Christ, who endured the cross to redeem all peoples and nations.

I went to East Asia a sinner and I return one. I am still, and will always be, a sinner redeemed solely by Jesus Christ’s unmerited grace. And yet, His truth has become more real and alive in my life and heart. While I do not fully know yet what God desires and wills for my future, I know one thing is for sure: I want to live the abundant life of experiencing and sharing His love.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Go, Send, or Pray



"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked" -Luke 12:48

It is estimated there are 2.75 billion unreached people within the world (www.joshuaproject.net). 2.75 billion people who have little or no access to the Gospel of life! 2.75 billion people who are perishing apart from Jesus Christ!

In the United States we have access to Bibles, churches, and community. We can gather in public and freely proclaim our faith. I can write this blog post without fear of being placed in jail by my government. These freedoms are the exception not the norm!

I do not deserve to have access to the truth, but God in His providence chose to entrust this knowledge to me. The question is: How can I best steward His blessing?

Can I with an unsettled heart choose to pursue a life of comfort and security while thousands are perishing apart from Jesus Christ? I pray that God would burden me in such a way that I cannot...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Relentless Love

Jesus Christ loves me with a relentless love. Though I am faithless, He remains faithful. His love never fails.

Though I did not love God, He loved me and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for my sins. He laid down His life that I may have Life.

Jesus Christ came to seek and to save the lost. He came to seek me. I am deeply in need of a Savior.

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1-5). 2 Timothy 3:1-5 describes my life before I knew the Lord. I was consumed by a consuming self-love, and while I told myself I was happy, deep within I was empty, broken, and hurting.

I was awakened to the Gospel when I was awakened to my brokenness. Jesus became beautiful when my sin became detestable.

I nailed Him to the cross. It was my sin that held Him there. Oh what great love that He would die for a sinner like me!

Jesus Christ has set me free from myself and given me new life. In my emptiness He has brought fulfillment. In my brokenness He has brought redemption. In my hurt He has brought healing. His mercy and love I do not deserve.

Jesus gave everything for me. Oh for grace to give everything for Him!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Jesus Wants to Redeem the Saints

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" -2 Corinthians 3:17
Jesus Christ came to seek and save the lost. He came to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance. He came to deliver us from the dominion of darkness to the everlasting Kingdom of light. He came to break the chains of sin that we may experience liberty in His grace.

As followers of Christ, we are called to proclaim the good news of the Gospel to the world. How can we, however, proclaim freedom for the prisoners when we have not been freed ourselves?

The Christian walk is not about what we can do for God. It is about what God does through us by the power of His Spirit. All chains of sin are unbreakable by our power; by His power, however, we are more than conquerors.

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead also lives within us. The Lord is fully sovereign, and NO sin or stronghold of Satan is unbreakable by His power.

Dear friends, Jesus Christ died upon the cross not merely to forgive our sins—HE DIED TO SET US FREE. And so, let us seek Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us. May He reedem us into His likeness and deliver us from bondage that we may experience true freedom.

Do You Know Him?

When we seek obedience for the sake of "Heaven" we will fail. When we seek obedience for the sake of Christ we will be victorious.
Compelled by a fear of Hell, I sought to live a moral Christian life while growing up; the problem, however, was that the abstract notions of Heaven and Hell were never enough to compel me to complete obedience. Why? Living for myself was more immediately fulfilling than the intangible and distant promises of Heaven.

Having been awakened to the love of Christ, I now realize why the promise of Heaven was never enough to yield full obedience: I had lost sight of the Author and Perfecter of my faith, Jesus Christ.

Christianity is not about gaining entrance into some abstract paradise called Heaven. It is about knowing Jesus Christ personally. In fact, knowing Jesus is Heaven. ”Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

Knowing Jesus Christ Himself is the only thing more fulfilling than living for myself. I crucify my desires for the sake of knowing Him more, because knowing Him and His love is better than life.

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" (Philippians 3:7-9).

Do you know the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ?