[Rest from your] Labor Day

(These thoughts were spurred by a post by Seth Godin on “scuff-proof shoes”.) Just like Adam and Eve in the garden, our tendency when we sin is to pull away and hide, both from others and from God (Genesis 3:8). But we’re told that by doing this — hiding our screw-ups is essentially the same as claiming not to have any — we’re both lying and calling God a liar (1 John 1:8-10). (It’s also exhausting.) Like Adam and Eve, it’s when we come out into the open (being honest with God, ourselves, and the people we’ve wronged) that we receive His mercy, healing, and rest (1 John 1:9, 2:1-2; Hebrews 4:9-11). But unlike them, the sacrifice made to atone for our sins and cleanse us is far superior than the animals slain to cover their shame (Genesis 3:21; Hebrews 9:13-15): their atonement was accompanied by curses (Genesis 3:16-19) and banishment (Genesis 3:23); through Christ, ours is accompanied by God adopting us as His own sons and daughters — and promises of a rich inheritance befitting our new status as His children (Ephesians 1:4-14)! We are the recipients of such amazing blessings and promises — blessings and promises God prepared for us when we were still His sworn enemies (Romans 5:8-11)! So when we sin, let’s not shrink back into the shadows like our “first parents”, thinking we can cover our failures and shame by our own efforts — and all the while, those very efforts robbing us of the forgiveness and healing God can provide. Instead, “let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16). Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” — Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

We love and reason because God loves and reasons…

We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it. #CSLewis — C. S. Lewis (@CSLewisDaily) December 18, 2011 (Longer quote on Facebook.) I love the way Lewis describes this, because when people say things like, “well if God’s in control, then what does it matter what I do?” I feel the same as when I’m helping my kids form letters (or shapes), and their grip goes slack because I’m guiding the pencil’s movement. It’s like the point of what we’re doing is lost on them — as if so long as the triangle’s drawn, our work is done. Of course, if I wanted to get a triangle on a piece of paper, I could do it all by myself — and with a lot less trouble, to boot. But the goal of the exercise isn’t the triangle; it’s that my children learn — in a real, first-hand, experiential way — how triangles are made. Asaph the Psalmist quotes God talking about our obedience in relation to His needs: “I do not need the bulls from your barns     or the goats from your pens. For all the animals of the forest are mine,     and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird on the mountains,     and all the animals of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you,     for all the world is mine and everything in it.” — Psalm 50:9-12 (NLT) God doesn’t call us to “love and reason” — and pray, and read the Scriptures, and care for the poor, and extend hospitality to strangers, and sing our hearts out to Him — because He needs anything from us. He calls us to these things because His goal is to make us like Him: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” — 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJ) “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” — Philippians 2:12b-13 (ESV)

Talk that’s “good for building up”

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 (ESV) This passage from the Bible has been on my radar lately. I wanted to take a few minutes and share my thoughts on it, because it seems like one of those scriptures that we can misunderstand when we read it through the lens of our culture. This verse marks the last of four times in this epistle where Paul uses the same word (Gr. oikodome, but your translation probably says something like “good for building up,” or “edifying”). Even so, when I’ve heard pastors preach on this topic they’ve typically focused in on an understanding of the word that’s informed solely by the verse itself, and divorced from other passages where Paul’s usage could shed light on what he means by it. This sort of thing always bugs me: if pastors are trying to build a true understanding of what Paul’s telling us to do here, then at the very least they ought to point us to those previous instances of the word. Right? Because let me tell ya… it certainly helps it all make sense! Here’s all four appearances of oikodome as they’re translated in the ESV.

NASA Exists for the Glory of God

What if, when Jesus spoke of “the world,” he really meant exactly what it says in the Greek: that is, the kosmos (universe)? How would it change our approach to the various fruits of the Gospel? “For God so loved the [universe], that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the [universe] to condemn the [universe], but in order that the [universe] might be saved through him.” — John 3:16-17 (ESV) And no, I’m not talking about universalism–that’s a whole different beast. What I’m talking about is this idea that’s grabbed me—that maybe John 3:16 has less to do with God loving “each individual person” and more with loving his entire creation and seeking its redemption. Like Paul told the believers in Corinth: For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. — 1 Corinthians 8:19-24 (ESV) The entire universe was “subjected to futility,” “its bondage to corruption”–that is, entropy–along with us, so that it will also be restored along with us! It is an unbiblical notion that God only sent Jesus to redeem people. When man sinned, the universe cracked under the weight of our guilt. Jesus has come, and is coming again to make all things new! And he said to them, “Go into all the [universe] and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” — Mark 16:15 (ESV) And what has NASA done with the Hubble telescope? And what of all the many television and radio signals shooting off into the ether? Whether they intended to or not is beside the point; the gospel is being proclaimed by the whole creation and to the whole creation. “And then the end will come.” The end where he says, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.“ Just think about that for a minute: a day is coming when living a life apart from God… and tears… and death… and mourning… and crying… and pain will all be “former things.” That’s a Sabbath rest worth getting excited about! 🙂

“It is a severe violation of the adult conscience to treat the saints as children under the over-lordship of elders. The ultimate effect of treating the saints as children is that they will either remain children in their understanding as they submit to bondage, or they will rebel. Elders exercise appropriate authority as fathers within their own households, but their role in the assembly is not as fathers and lords over children and servants, but as elder brothers in the faith and humble servants to the whole. Source: Steve Atkerson, New Testament Church Leadership”

– The Saints are Kings and Priests

“Then the Elder continued, "What if a truly strong leader is one who is un-threatened enough to actually, honestly listen to the input of those around them, precisely because (a) they are secure in their identity in Christ, and (b) they know they need the voices of others to adequately hear what God is saying to the whole group? What if the 'weak' leader is really the one who insists on his or her own personal vision, and is too threatened to consider the voices of anyone else?""Maybe it takes more cajones to NOT insist on the leader's 'vision', or 'strategy', and to trust that the Spirit speaks through the Body, hmm?", he asked, gesturing with open hands. Source: Robby Mac, Through The Looking-Glass”

– What Makes for a Strong Leader?

Faith To Be Strong

Don’t you love it when you listen to a song and it brilliantly captures exactly how you’re feeling at that particular moment? I just had that experience with a song from a new (to me) album I’ve wanted for years, but didn’t have a sufficient excuse to buy until I had money to burn on an iTunes gift card I got for Christmas. This is not another song about the mountains, except about how hard they are to move. Have you ever stood before them like a mustard seed who’s waiting for some proof? I say faith is a burden: it’s a weight to bear; it’s brave and bittersweet, and hope is hard to hold to. Lord, I believe, only help my unbelief till there’s no more faith; no more hope. I’ll see your face and Lord, I’ll know—I’ll sing your praise and let them go—’cause only love remains. — Andrew Peterson, No More Faith (Clear To Venus, 2001). As wonderful as this life can be sometimes, nothing could possibly compare to the day that’s coming. More than anything, my heart cries out: But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait—the sky, not the grave, is our goal. Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord! Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul! And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend… And sometimes, I want that Day so badly that I can’t sing the last line: “Even so, it is well with my soul.” Because sometimes it’s not well with my soul “even so” (that is, even if the Lord doesn’t “haste the day”). I want sin to be gone; I want to stand face-to-face with my lord and my God in that city he’s been preparing. I’m weary of the pain and disappointment and disease and death that sin has subjected this world to. I want to see everything finally brought into utter subjection to Jesus, the Christ. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. — Isaiah 11:6-9 (ESV) Yesterday was Easter Sunday, a day when we celebrate God’s triumph over Satan, Death, and Hell. His victory was total, but it is not yet utter. And so we praise and work and wait and hope, until “…the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” — 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 (ESV). But until then… Give us faith to be strong, give us strength to be faithful; this life is not long, but it’s hard. Give us grace to go on, make us willing and able; Lord, give us faith to be strong. — Andrew Peterson, Faith To Be Strong (Carried Along, 2000).

Is Heaven Really Our Home?

Heaven is our home where we’ll reign forever Shining like the sun with our King forever Every sorrow gone we’ll rejoice forever Heaven is our home — Kathryn Scott, Heaven Is Our Home It’s a catchy tune, but this just ain’t so. Heaven isn’t our home… at least, it’s not “our home where we’ll reign forever.” Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” — Revelation 21:1-4 (ESV) If we die before Christ returns, we will spend a time in Heaven with him… but our eternal home is on Earth. God will bring the celestial “City of Peace” down to earth, and make his home here with us. Isn’t that amazing?! He will pitch his tent among us, and never again take it down! Never again will ichabod (“the Spirit has departed”) be uttered! God has decreed that he will humble himself to live among us on Earth for eternity. I hope that mind-blowing thought lets a little bit of Sunday spill into your Monday. 🙂