Monthly Archives: March 2013

How Can We See the Depth of Jesus’ Love for Us?

In a culture where we use the word “love” to describe our affection for things as trivial as candy and then turn ar0und to use it in an intimate expression toward a spouse, we need some helping qualifying the statement “Jesus love me”.  images (20)

What are we talking about when we refer to Jesus’ love for those who trust him?  How do we measure the depth of that love?  In his Holy Week devotional, Love to the Uttermost, John Piper gives four ways the depth of Christ’s love is revealed:

  1. We will see the depth of Christ’s love for us by the greatness of what it costs him.
  2. We will see the depth of Christ’s love for us by how little we deserve it.
  3. We will see the depth of Christ’s love for us by the greatness of the benefits we receive in being loved by him.
  4. We will see the depth of Christ’s love for us by the freedom with which he loves us (that is, there are no constraints on his love).
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On the Day When Bliss Will Never End

images (19)This morning I was talking with one of my students about a similar feeling we both experience upon finishing a good novel.  Actually it’s two feelings.  On the one hand, there is a sense of bliss knowing that you invested yourself in a story that made you feel things you know to be true.  But on the other hand, there is a frustrated longing for more that comes with the knowledge that the story is over and the journey you were on is through.  At the end of a good narrative, we want more of that bliss we were left with at the end of the story, but there are no more pages left to turn.

These feelings made me think of the day when the bliss will never end and there will be no more frustrated longings because we will be with the only One in whom our souls find rest.. in the place where evil and pain cannot enter.  It made me think of Isaiah 25:6-8

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
    He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.


A Resource for Praying God’s Words Back to Him

Yesterday on Facebook, John Piper highlighted a stellar resource for prayer.  It’s a compilation of approximately 1500 Scripture promises and prayers called Take Words With You by Tim Kerr.  This resource is designed to be used as manual in helping you praise God and plead with God based on what he images (18)has already said in the Bible.

Here’s what Kerr has to say in the Introduction about the importance of praying Scripture:

There are two words that are very powerful when used in prayer.  These words are simply, “you said”.  In Genesis 31:2, God makes a promise to Jacob.  Involved in that promise is one of the most faith-giving promises in Scripture – “I will be with you”.  A promise that means God will do us good and pour out his favor upon us!  Then later, when in deep crises, Jacob cries out to God in prayer and reminds God of his promise to him.  Listen to what he says:

But you said, ‘I will surely do you good’…and Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good.’  (Genesis 32:12, 32:9)

The fuel of an intercessor is the promises of God.  We remind God in prayer of what he has said and call him to be faithful to his word.  Attaching God’s promises to people and situations is the very backbone of all faith-filled praying.

This resource is only $0.99 for the Kindle version.  It seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?


For Those Moments When You Struggle to Believe Jesus is Coming Back

images (17)Do you ever pray, “Come, Lord Jesus”?  Do you direct these words to heaven on those days when you think you can’t take any more of the burden of your sinful heart and the sinful world that surrounds it?  If you do, do you ever fight the temptation to wonder if Jesus will ever come back?  I mean, it’s been almost 2000 years since he rose from death and ascended into heaven, so it’s likely that we’ve all struggled with doubt to some degree.

I was reminded this weekend, however, that we have an advantage which believing Jews went without in the Old Testament.  Consider this, the first prophecy to foretell Jesus’ coming is found just three chapters into Genesis and it’s given by God himself:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel.

Speaking to Satan, God reveals that the offspring of the woman (Jesus) will bruise Satan’s head (defeat him).  How many years existed between when this prophecy was uttered and when Jesus actually came to earth?  We can’t be precise on the number, but we can say with confidence that it was thousands…and definitely more than two thousand.  Yet, God kept his word and so we read in Colossians 2:15 that God “disarmed the rulers and authorities (demonic rulers and authorities) and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (that is, Jesus, the offspring of the woman).”

In his perfect timing, God sent Jesus the first time in order that he would give his life as a ransom for sinners.  After thousands of years, God did what he said he was going to do.  I’m sure you can imagine what the impatience of faithful Jews must have been like, having moments of doubt and unbelief that the Messiah would ever come.  But we have the advantage of possessing the entire canon of Scripture and we know that Jesus did come.  So, when your heart dips into doubt, let Jesus’ first coming strengthen your belief in his second coming.  He who is faithful has shown that time is no threat to his plan.


A Gospel-Centered Approach to Reading the Bible

Yesterday, I ran across this well-balanced quote from J.D. Greear’s book, Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary.

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A Guide to Help Believers Confess Their Sins to God

After preaching Psalm 32 a couple weeks ago, I’ve been thinking more about how to help people confess their sins to Lord on a regular basis.  It’s true, telling someone they need to confess their sins is overly simplistic.  That statement needs explanation and guidance.  With that end in mind, here are five steps (along with Scripture texts) that I think will help us make this discipline a practice for the glory of God and the joy of our soul:images (16)

1) Read Psalm 32:1-5 to remind yourself of the deep agony of harboring sin and the soaring joy of confessing sin:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

2) Ask God to reveal your sins to you.  Praying through Psalm 139:23-24 will help give form to this prayer:

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

3) Then, as you begin to recognize your sins, ask yourself, “When I did that, said that, thought that (or didn’t do that, didn’t say that, didn’t think that), what did I want more than God, and what lie did I believe  instead of believing God’s truth?”  This brings you to the root of your sin, so that your confession isn’t merely superficial.  The more you realize the deep rebellion of your sin, the more you’ll realize the transcendent joys of the gospel.

4) Confess your sins to God without making excuses or making them sound better than they really are.  Remember, if you are a follower of Christ, then God does not hold your sins against you.  Read Psalm 51 to give form to your confession (this is David’s prayer of repentance after committing adultery and murder).

5) To remind yourself of the riches of God’s love for you through his Son, read Romans 8 and praise him for what you encounter there.


When You See Kids Misbehaving at Church

images (15)My college Western Lit. professor called it “the cat cough”.  It’s that sound we make when we’re annoyed with some person or some circumstance.  We furrow our brow, flare our nostrils as if we’ve just smelled something foul, and let out a short, truncated burst of air from our lungs that says more about our mood in that moment than a ten-minute soliloquy.  The cat cough has popularly been followed by the word “whatever” with the younger crowd, but make no mistake, we’ve all let it fly.

I thought of the cat cough yesterday when I read a paragraph in John MacArthur’s book, The Master’s Plan for the Church yesterday.  In it MacArthur writes, “The families of a church should uphold each other.”  This is a statement that resonates with me because the weight of parenting has left me with a clear realization of how much I need other people who love God to also love my kids and help me point them to Jesus.  But this realization does not mean that I, myself, have always done a good job of doing that with our church members’ kids.

Later in the paragraph, MacArthur asks the question, “What is your reaction when you see unruly children?”  Sadly, for me, I have let the cat cough expel from my lungs on far too many occasions.  This response is a proud, un-Christ-like response that shames me to admit, but what should I do instead?  What should I put on after I’ve put off proud, self-righteousness?  After reminding myself of my great need and Christ’s sacrifice to provide for that need, I think MacArthur’s next question gives us a good answer: “Do you pray for them?”

Do we pray for those children and their parents?  Do we pray for the salvation of those kids?  Do we pray for their parents to have wisdom and balance in the way they approach disobedience?  Do we pray for them?  And I don’t mean in a falsely humble way like the Pharisee in the temple in Luke 18:9-14.  I mean praying like a person who recognizes that we are all dependent on the grace of God and if not for his kindness we would all be sunk.  Church, if the families in our churches are going to uphold each other, then we should start with prayer.


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