Worship in Suffering

Do you find it difficult to worship God when life is difficult? If yes, then you are not alone. When reading the Psalms we observe that at least one-third are songs of lament. They teach us an honest and raw worship of God when things are falling apart or when we experience suffering.

Peter’s letter is no different nor does he skirt around the subject of suffering, rather he has straight talk for those who are suffering. What we learn from Peter and the Psalms are how to worship God in suffering.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And

“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” – 1 Peter 4:12-19, ESV

God has a plan for suffering so don’t be surprised by it.

There are two scenarios of suffering we shouldn’t be surprised by: when we suffer because we sin or we suffer because we follow Jesus (vs.12, 17-19). Both types of suffering are meant to draw us near to God for either repentance or reliance. It is far better to suffer for following Jesus than for doing wrong. And suffering, especially for the gospels sake allows us to share in the suffering of Jesus and that worships God.

Peter knows what it is like to suffer for wrong and feel the shame of it. When Jesus was imprisoned he denied Jesus three times. Jesus restored Peter afterwards and from then on Peter joyful suffered for the sake of Christ.

God is most glorified when we rejoice while suffering.

Rejoicing seems like the opposite response while suffering. More often people become bitter against God or to complain against God. However, when we complain or become angry we miss out on God’s primary means of draws us to himself.

Our deepest worship of God occurs is when we rejoice in him in spite of pain, trust him in the trial, surrender in the suffering and love him when he seems distant or unclear. No matter how difficult the situation may appear God is still good and he is good to us. Suffering has it’s good purpose and therein is a reason to rejoice because God is trustworthy (vs.13-16, 19).

Peter says that when your life is difficult and people are making fun of you for being a Christian it is more important than ever to trust God. This includes trusting that he exists, loves you, will help you, is ultimately in control of your life, and in eternity will sort everything out and make it right. When suffering we can worship in three ways: through honest lament, a resilient hope in Jesus, and a stubborn trust in God.

 

Questions for Reflections:

  • How are suffering and worship interrelated?
  • When you can expect suffering how does it prepare you to suffer well? How did Peter fail in suffering when Jesus was imprisoned? How does shame play into suffering?
  • Why does Peter tell his readers not to be surprised by suffering? What is the difference between suffering for good and suffering because of sin? How are the consequence of sin and following Jesus different?
  • How can you rejoice in suffering? Why is rejoicing in God harder when life is tougher? What reasons do you have to rejoice in God in suffering? How has suffering drawn you to God?
  • How do you see God a trustworthy and faithful? What does it look like to entrust your soul to God?
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God is…

We live in a culture—as others before—that are not easily wowed.  We pack arena’s chanting our favorite songs from our favorite band.  We wait in line to see the next biggest summer blockbuster.   We swarm sports stadiums to cheer our beloved team.

A few years ago, I had a bucket list item come true.  I went to my first ever Packers game at Lambeau Field.  Growing up in Wisconsin only a 50 miles from the Frozen Tundra is was my dream to see the Cheeseheads play live.  Before the game began I almost teared up as I walked from the concourse into the stadium seats.  It was cold and loud and the Packers blew out the Vikings.  I was wowed by the experience.

What are you wowed by?  Chances are what wows you is what you worship.

It is not easy to define worship in a culture that readily worships anyone or anything.  Yet worship is about what you live for.  Every day, all day, everywhere you go, you worship. It’s what you do.  It’s who you are.  You can’t stop it nor live without it.  Worship is a way of life.  It is a whole-life response.  You are a worshiper before you are a sister, brother, father, mother, student, employee or boss.  Worship is simply about value.  Worship is your response to what you value—what wows you most.

Isaiah was wowed.

“In the year that King Uzziah died” (Isaiah 6:1)

Uzziah is different than Isaiah.  Isaiah is Israel’s prophet, but Uzziah was Israel’s king.  He was revered because he brought peace and stability to his nation.  52 years he reigned, which is longer than most Israelites in his day lived (think Queen Elizabeth II; 63 years).   Imagine your entire lifetime one man was president or king, everything’s running smoothly, then you hear the news “the king is dead.”  Although he was king, he was still human.  Note the reason for his death (2 Chronicles 26:15-21; 27:2).  Uzziah grew proud in his old age.  He thought of himself as superhuman.  And God has a way of humbling monarchs with a god-complex.  God struck Uzziah with leprosy and he died.  And just days after his death the nation of Israel began to unravel.

So in the same year a human king dies, Isaiah gets a vision of the Great King who lives.  While Uzziah isn’t, God is.   And this is what Isaiah sees of God—the God who is.  What unveils are some spectacular truths about who God is.  Get ready, put your seat belt on, and be wowed (vs.1-4) by God as Isaiah sees him.

God is alive.

“I saw the Lord”

Uzziah may be dead, but God still lives.  It’s as David said, “From everlasting to everlasting, You are God” [Ps. 90:2].  God isn’t dead.  Isaiah sees him.  God doesn’t have to prove it, but he often does.  He was alive when the universe began.  He was alive when the Buddha and Muhammad walked the earth. He was alive in 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  He is alive today.  And He will be alive ten trillion ages from now when all the puny powers of the earth like the Kardashian’s and Donald Trump are long forgotten.  God always has been and always will be alive, even right now, He lives.

God is in control.

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne.”

You will never see a vision of God taking a nap or out of the office for vacation or scrambling to figure out what he’s going to do tomorrow or stressed out by all the work he has to do.  He sits.  And he sits on a throne.  He is in control and never out of control.  Heaven and earth are not falling apart.  He holds it together.  He keeps the rules and writes the rules.  Whether you like it or not.  Whether you allow him to or not.  He is sovereign.  Who are you and I to question his authority?  Uzziah is peanuts compared to God.  He’s a pawn in God’s hand.  It’s a humbling yet hopeful truth to know that God is in control.

God is incomparable.

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up.”

God’s throne highest, biggest, and better next to any other earthly throne.   God’s throne stands above all other thrones.  Other thrones are not even in the same stratosphere.  God is the supreme and he exercises supreme authority.  What God purposes, He accomplishes. Later God says to Isaiah, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” [Isaiah 46:10].  Many have tried, but no opposing authority or earthly king or powerful person can nullify the decrees of God.

God is majestic and most important. 

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and his robe [train] filled the temple.”

Why do kings adorn themselves in robes and crowns and extravagant clothing?  It is because they want to separate themselves from the subjects they rule over.  It’s to stand out or to appear majestic and important.

When Queen Elizabeth II had her coronation at Westminster Abbey the train of her robe was carried by a dozen ladies in waiting, but God’s robe made the queen’s robe look like a baby blanket.  It’s like a bride on her wedding day dressed to impressed and her gown covers the aisle, the steps, the platform, the chairs, the lights and all.  That God’s robe fills every inch of the heavenly temple is to show us that his beauty and majesty and importance are incomparable.  God loves to wow us.  Just look at the stars, mountains, patterns of nature, and intricate details of the human body.  If the world God created is so majestic, then he—the Creator—is so much more so.

God is revered. 

“Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.”

What earthly king or mortal man has these kinds of servants?  Say it?  “No one!”  chubby angelNo one knows what these strange six-winged creatures are (certainly not some chubby winged angel babies) nor do they appear again in the Bible.  When one of these angels speaks the foundations of the temple tremble (v.4).  If you caught a glimpse of these angels you’d be wowed, but notice, God wows them.  They cannot look at God.  They feel unworthy to be in his presence.  They revered God.  How much more so should we?

God is holy.

“And one called to another, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!”

God is in a separate category.  He is in a class by Himself.  No one is like him.  Nothing compares to him.  We would say, God is awesome, unbelievable, or unfathomable.  He is beyond words.  We are speechless trying to come up with a word to pin him down.  That is the essence of holiness.

  • “Alas, sinful nation, People weighed down with iniquity, Offspring of evildoers, Sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the Lord, They have despised the Holy One of Israel (27x in Isaiah), They have turned away from Him.” (Isaiah 1:4)
  • “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.” (Isaiah 40:25) “There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides You.” (1 Samuel 2:2)
  • “I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst.”  (Hosea 11:9)
  • “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20)

God is glorious.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Glory is God’s holiness visualized.  One cannot put words on what holiness means, but you can put eyes on it.  God’s holiness goes public in His glory.  When God shows himself to be holy, what you see is His glory.  In Leviticus 10:3 God says, “I will show Myself holy among those who are near Me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”

If you want to know was God’s glory looks like with skin on just look at Jesus.  “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature.” (Hebrews 1:3)  Jesus never turned down people worshiping or praising him, yet he often deflected glory to his Father.

The greatest barrier to being wowed by God is me.  I want to wow others.  I seek glory from my fellow man.  One day God will blow away and chase away every competing glory—the other things that wow you more than God.  The truth is as you live wowed by God you too reflect his holiness and glory to the world around you.

Like Isaiah, maybe you have been wowed by him.  But for many of you maybe you still need more glimpses of God.  Draw near to God.  Look upon him. Be in awe of him.  Let him wow you.  When you spend time with Him, He will point it out to you (Exodus 33:18-19). And when you do God’s will, you show God’s glory to others (John 17:4, 1 Peter 2:12).  And God promises, “You will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me (go hard after me) with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12–13).

 

Coming up next:  Isaiah’s response to God and the result of obeying God.

 

DOWNLOAD QUESTIONS:

Before Isaiah’s vision, who died?  Why was that a big deal?   What emotions do you think Isaiah was feeling before the vision?

How did the vision refocus Isaiah?   How might the vision of God had calmed Isaiah’s fears or worries?  What does fear and worry usually show our hearts are trusting in?

Why is knowing about God so important?  How does knowing God  help you when making decisions?  When facing temptations?  Which truth about God in Isaiah 6:1-3 wows you most?

 

Image from the Science Blog.

what wows you?

I got a question for you.  What wow’s you?  I mean, what really wow’s you?  Is it being in the outdoors like the Teton Mountains, or being with 80,000 fans at a stadium, seeing an amazing magic trick, looking at art or listening music, or a friend giving you a surprise gift.  There’s got to be something that really wow’s you and leaves you awed or speechless.

What if God just showed up in your bedroom and said, “Hey, wake up, you ready to see something amazing?”  And there you were in the throne room of God.  What would you be thinking?  That’s kind of what happened to Isaiah the prophet.  Would you roll over in your bed and say, “Hm. That’s cool.  But I am not crazy impressed.”

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings:with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:  “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;  the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said:“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” – Isaiah 6:1ff

Although none of us would say that to God, we often do when we read the Bible.  Wouldn’t it be amazing to just see God?  To be wowed by him?  Did you know that you can?  Every time you open the Bible you get a glimpse of God.  Does that wow you?  Often we become passionless in our walk and faith because we become Godless.  Passion for God comes from knowing God.  

Would you take up a challenge to read Isaiah?  There might be a lot in Isaiah that can be confusing or cause you scratch your head.  That’s okay.  I am still digging and discovering new and wonderful things about God there.  As you read (any Scripture for that matter) ask one question, “God, teach me about you?”  I promise, you will be wowed.

triumphant odiferous sacrifice

Staying on mission is tough. Even, as I prepare for the mission it’s tough. God has used the stories of missionaries like Hudson Taylor, David Brainerd, and Mary Slessor to keep me moving. These men and women lived on the front-lines suffering for the sake of the name of Christ. Today, I will look at one missionary’s testimony of how he pressed through tough times. His name is Paul.

In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul had just written a hard letter to Corinth and is anxious how it was received. So he sent Titus ahead to find out how they were doing. “When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.” (2 Corinthians 2:12-13) Although the door was open for Paul in Troas, He could not shake God’s moving to connect with Titus and the call to spread the gospel in Macedonia.

This is the context behind two illustrations Paul gives to help us understand how he presses on through tough times in ministry and stays on mission spreading the name of Christ, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (2:14-16)

1) ARE YOU PLACING YOURSELF IN THE TRIUMPHANT PROCESSIONAL GIVING SACRIFICES TO THE NAME OF CHRIST? (v.14)

Paul’s first image is common to Rome, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession.” After a great victory there would be a parade. It wasn’t a parade of candy and clowns, rather a huge triumphant processional with rank after rank of trumpeters, streams of soldiers and senators, wagons of spoil, prisoners to be enslaved or executed, and ended with the hero or conquering general dressed ceremoniously riding a chariot.  Along the route people cast flowers, burned incense or poured out perfume. Wonderful fragrances filled the air.

So why does Paul use this illustration? It serves two purposes. On the one hand, Jesus is triumphant and Paul is in His service. But on the other hand, Jesus is like a heroic general and Paul is conquered and called to suffer in His service—even die.

The word triumph is used one other place in the NT, Colossians 2:15, “[God] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him.” In Colossians, Paul says God leads the devil in triumph, but in 2 Corinthians, he says that God leads Paul in triumph. Both have been defeated in their rebellion against God. Both are being led in triumphal procession and shamed for their rebellion. However, there is a great difference, Paul is “in Christ.” He was defeated and taken captive; but he was brought to faith and forgiven, and became a joyful servant of the greatest General who ever was. Jesus, the One who conquered sin and death.

Although Jesus was the one marched to His death, He rose victorious from the grave. He conquered death as the ultimate and final sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 9). And it is Jesus’ sacrifice that gives Paul motivation to also give his life as a sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1-2). When you are finding ministry difficult, place yourself in the triumphant processional praising the name of Christ. Recognize your place in the parade and give thanks to your Hero.

2) ARE YOU SPREADING THE FRAGRANCE OF CHRIST EVERYWHERE YOU GO? (vs.15-16)

Paul second illustration is a continuation of his first, “And through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.” Smells is a God-given sense that affect us all—for better and for worse. Smell alerts you to danger, such as, a building on fire. Animals use smell to survive.  Smell tells you when someone else is around. There are delightful smells like freshly bake cookies, meat on the grill, fields of lavender, the smell of a little baby, or a new car. There are also putrid smells like dirty socks, moldy cheese, Mosinee’s paper mill, skunks,1 or even worse, a dead skunk.

Paul thinks of his missionary life and ministry as spreading fragrance of the knowledge of Christ. He considers the gospel odiferous. Using OT imagery, Paul says we are like incense being offered to God or animals being burned upon the altar, “we are the aroma of Christ to God.” Notice our aroma is first to God, not man. It is to Him we give our first, best, most, and greatest sacrifices of praise. As God warns the children of Israel: “If you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me…I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas.” (Leviticus 26:27, 31)

Also wrapped up in Paul’s message to Corinth are heart-rejoicing and heart-breaking words about missionary service: spreading the name of Christ pleases God, but it does not please everybody. His fragrance divides the world, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” To those on the side of Christ His smell is of victory and life (cf. Romans 10:15),2 but to those on the side contrary to Christ His smell is of defeat and impending death (John 15:18-25). As a bee makes sweet honey sweet to the taste, it can also sting too. So it is with the work of Christ and spreading His name to your neighbors and the nations. Don’t expect everyone to like the message or the you the messenger.

WHO IS SUFFICIENT FOR THESE THINGS? (vs.16-17)

Paul concludes by asking a crucial question—“Who is sufficient for these things?” Who can bear the weight of knowing that the aroma of a Christ-exalting life will lead some to eternal life and reveal to others death? The answer: no one. That’s why Paul says, “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:16-17) Paul carries out the mission by the grace of God. He is not sufficient—you and I are not sufficient—in ourselves. No missionary feels sufficient. And 2 Corinthians 3:5 Paul says, “Our sufficiency is from God.” (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:12; Romans 1:5)

Staying on mission is tough. Each day you face the temptation to cling tightly to your life, comforts, treasures, and self-sufficiency. Are you willing to lay down your treasures to treasure Him? May God lift your eyes to see His incomparable worthiness and may you without reservation place yourself in the triumphant processional giving sacrifices to your victorious Savior spreading His sweet and putrid fragrance to your neighbors and the nations.

righteous extravagance

What would you do if you had one week to live? This is a question posed in the movie, One Week, in which a young man named Ben is faced with the reality from doctors he has end-stage cancer and will soon die. He impulsively buys a motorcycle, leaves his job and fiancée, and takes off on a solo trip across Canada. In a scene with his fiancée he argues, “It’s not about the cancer; it’s about the life I built for myself. Why am I over-insured? Why do I care so much about being responsible all the time? Why do I give a $%&* about the appliances we’re putting into our kitchen?”

Society conditions us to believe life is about a nicer house, a prestigious high paying job, and granite countertops. Yet when you are faced with the reality that you only have one week to live those things you use to covet, fear, worry about, or fixate upon take a backseat to what’s most important.

What would you do if you had one week to live? Would you live extravagantly? When we think about extravagance we think of money and spending lots of it. There is a Facebook page dedicated to asking people what they would do the last week of their life. The answers reveal what we value. Here are some of the responses:

  • I would quit my job, buy a boat and get a tattoo. I would get married as quickly as possible.
  • I would travel by helicopter to Ireland, the Grand Canyon, and end at a beach spa on Bora Bora.
  • I would pig out on all the cheese fondue and chips and guacamole I could stomach.
  • I would max out my credit cards and spend it on frivolous things like renting a convertible Ferrari.
  • I would write letters to all my children or people who touched my life and spend time with them.
  • I would go out and get a second opinion from another doctor.

Today is Palm Sunday. It is the day we celebrate the beginning of Jesus’ last week of earthly life. Within a week He is praised by the crowds, lynched on a cross, and raised from the grave. Like Ben, Jesus knew He had one week to live. What do you see Jesus do differently the last week of His life compared to the 33 years before? Nothing. What you do see is an expectation of His followers to live extravagantly the remaining days of their earthly life. Not extravagant, as in spending frivolously or living recklessly, but extravagant as in living out your faith with excessive elaborateness that people are sure to hear and see the Savior in your speech and actions.

1. If you truly know Jesus, you will respond with extravagant worship [John 12:1-8]

Within 6-days Jerusalem will celebrate the Passover. People are flocking from all over the region. This Passover will be different. Jesus will die. He will become the Passover lamb. Jesus is moves towards danger not away from it. He does not hide. In fact, He goes to the Bethany—the location of one of Jesus’ greatest miracles—the resurrection of Lazarus. He knows His time is near. The chief priests and Pharisees have already sent out a warrant for Jesus’ arrest [11:57].

When Jesus arrives in Bethany He is honored with a sinner party. It is a thank you celebration for Jesus miraculous power raising Lazarus from the dead. Gathered are the disciples. Lazarus is reclining at the table with a big smiling to the one who gave him new life. Martha is in her usual place organizing the meal and making sure it’s well served. And Mary is about to express her heart to Jesus in a lavish way. This is the same Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet soaking in every word He said and to whom He said, “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her.”

The time comes when Mary presents Jesus with an extravagant gift. Perhaps the whole family planned this moment. Perhaps they pooled their savings together to buy the gift fit for a king [Songs 1:12]. Perhaps it’s a family heirloom that has been passed on for years. Or perhaps Mary heard about the “sinful woman” at Simons house who poured perfume at Jesus feet and also desired to honor Jesus [Luke 7:36-50]. We are uncertain her reasons, but Mary poured out about 11 ounces (the size of a soda can) and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. The fragrance filled the house. It’s an unforgettable moment of extravagant worship from hearts filled with gratitude.

Not all who were at the party thought Mary’s scene of extravagant worship was such a wise idea. Judas Iscariot thought it was a waste of good perfume. And as if he were ‘Mr. Spiritual’ asks why the expensive perfume was not sold and given to the poor. This is quite the blow coming from the tightwad who is robbing from the disciple’s moneybox.

If Judas wasn’t over exaggerating the 11-ounce flask of spikenard was worth about $26,000 (300 days pay at minimum wage). Judas makes us aware that it is easy to be the judge of another persons worship, rather than just worshiping Christ. His values were so deeply different from Mary and Martha and Lazarus’ that in a few days he would do the opposite. Instead of giving $26,000 for Jesus he would sell him for a thousand bucks (30 pieces of silver). Judas’ heart is full of dollar signs, but Martha, Mary and Lazarus’ hearts valued what money could not buy, a relationship with God.

What do you treasure? If you treasure the things of this world you will hang by them, as did Judas. If you treasure Christ above all things you will live. Jesus said to Martha after He raised Lazarus, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” [John 11:25–26] Jesus wants to make sure that in six days at another grave—His own—they do not lose their sense of worship that He is indeed the Resurrection and the Life, but that they would “keep it” even on the day of His burial.

Jesus does not rebuke Mary’s gift, instead He approves of her extravagantly beautiful worship. Jesus loves extravagant worship. The only thing that matters in worship is God’s approval. He created you for His glory and praise. “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever.” [Romans 11:36] “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth…All things were created through Him and for Him.” [Colossians 1:16] “Everyone who is called by My name, Whom I have created for My glory.” [Isaiah 43:7]

According Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” But Jesus has come to live to die so that you might give Him “praise for His glorious grace” now [Ephesians 1:3-14] and throughout all eternity.[1] He came to be worshiped. He created you as a worshiper. And He has called you to make worshipers. Worshiping God is your mission.

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. Worship is, therefore, the fuel and the goal of missions.” – John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI. 2003. p.17

2. When you worship extravagantly, you are Jesus’ witness to the world [John 12:9-22]

Palm Sunday was an event of great understanding and misunderstanding. The great understanding is that this Jesus really is “the King who comes in the name of the Lord” [Luke 19:38]. He is the Messiah, the Son of David, the long-awaited Ruler of Israel, and the fulfillment of all God’s promises. But the great misunderstanding was that He would enter Jerusalem take His throne and make Israel free from the oppression of Rome.

The understanding of the crowd that day gave joy, but the misunderstanding brought about destruction that led to the murder of Jesus a few days later and the destruction of Jerusalem 40 years later. Jesus saw it all coming as He came into Jerusalem. And as Jesus entered into Jerusalem there were a two interesting cultural nuances to the event:

First, Jesus makes a kingly entrance. Why did Jesus choose a donkey? It demonstrated Jesus’ humbleness; and it showed that Jesus’ entry was part of God’s plan [Zechariah 9:9]. During Jesus’ day, donkeys were part of the peasant life. However, Hebrew kings rode the ‘beasts of burden’ when they traveled throughout their kingdoms in times of peace [1 Kings 1:33–35]. And the king always had a donkey reserved for him that no one else had ever ridden.

Second, the people proclaim Jesus as king. Not only are the people singing Messianic psalms. According to Luke 19:35–36, the people spread their cloaks on the donkey and the road. Cloaks were of great importance. The cloak was so important to the owner that it would never have been loaned out to someone else. Compare it to something important to you like your home, car, or favorite dress or suit. Hence the parable when Jesus says when one asks for you tunic, give him your cloak as well [Matthew 5:40-42].

The disciples did not understand the purposes of the events that day, until after Jesus death and resurrection. Now the Pharisees completely misunderstand what is happening. Their pride blinded them, and they refused to bow to Jesus ‘the blasphemer.’ In disgust they mumble to each other, “Look, the world has gone after Him!” [12:19] In the crowd, Greeks gathered with the join the crowd, which is ironic proof that the world had come to see Jesus.

The idea of world (kosmos) in John is not a negative term [3:16–19]. Neither is it just geographical, but it’s a reference to the population or people of the world. Jesus is called the light of the world [1:9; 8:12] and “the Savior of the World” [4:42]. His coming into the world [1:10] was to take away the sin of the people of the world [1:29]. But because of hard hearts and rejection, the coming of Jesus also meant the judgment of the world [9:39].

Within a few days those same crowds shouting “Hosanna!” would shout, “Crucify Him!” Jesus knew what was about to happen. The Pharisees would get the upper hand. The people would be fickle and follow their leaders. And Jesus would be rejected and crucified. And within a generation the city of Jerusalem would be obliterated,

“Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying,  “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” [Luke 19:41-44]

This is sobering news for Jerusalem. But it made way for the good news to reach the ends of the earth [John 3:16].

In Luke 19:39 the Pharisees ask Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” But He answered and said to them,  “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” [Luke 19:40] How can stones cry out that Jesus is Lord? All nature, just by being, testifies about the God who made the world.

Do you remember pet rocks? Companies must have made a millions selling rocks with felt feet and beady little eyes. It’s silly to think that a rock could talk, much less shout the praises of Christ. But if you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon or the Rocky Mountains, you realize that the rocks do cry out praises to their creator. All of His creation makes His presence and praise known. Why would mankind, the crown of His creation, choose to be silent? He’s called you to be His witness to the world!

3. As a witness of Jesus, God honors your service with unfathomable extravagance [John 12:23-26]

These verses mark a turning point in Jesus ministry. He sounds the alarm saying, “My hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.”[2] Using an agricultural story of a dying seed that gives life to the following years harvest, so Jesus must die in order for the world to have eternal life. Only by understanding Jesus’ death and resurrection can you make sense out of what seems to be the senseless waste of life. Jesus will sacrifice His life so that all may have life.

Jesus is not just talking about Himself but is giving a template for everyone of His followers. Following Jesus may involve the ultimate cost of discipleship, namely the death of the disciple. There are hard things in these verses for Jesus followers. It is not easy to die to sin and self, hate you life in this world, follow Christ, and serve Him. But there are glorious things for followers who do hard things for His name sake. If you die, you bear much fruit. If you hate your life you will keep it for eternity. If you follow Christ you will be where He is and He will be there too. And if you serve Christ the Father will honor you.

If you had 7 days to live how would you make His name known? How would you spend and be spent for the sake of His fame? The way you live the last week of you life reveals your priorities or what you value. When Martin Luther was asked what he would do if he knew when he would die he responded, “If I thought the world were going to end tomorrow, I would plant a tree.” He gets to the heart of the matter, that when the end comes the Lord should catch you doing the things you were called to do all along.

There is great honor for serving in your church. No matter if you are a deacon, Sunday school teacher, nursery helper, or sanctified toilet scrubber, God is honored with selfless service. There is great honor in sharing your faith out loud to your unbelieving classmates, coworkers, and family members. As Jim Elliott said and lived to his death, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Mark was part of a team of two families serving Muslims. Late in August, the team received death threats. The families were evacuated, but Mark stayed for one last meeting with believers before joining them. The night after the meeting while at home preparing his dinner, Mark was shot. He was discovered the next morning in his home, but he had lost too much blood to survive. At his passing, Mark left a young wife and two infant twin daughters. Mark’s agency feared the possibility of legal action from Mark’s father, who was not a believer and who vocally opposed his son’s service among Muslims. But at Mark’s funeral, Mark’s father was among fifteen people who gave their lives to Christ. His wife plans to minister in the same region where her husband was killed.

I think of the five men who lost their lives in Ecuador to reach the Auca Indians. A wife and a sister returned to the village and the wife raised her daughter among the tribe that killed their husband. Many in the tribe converted because of the similarity between Christ sacrifice and the five men. The risk versus rewards for extravagantly following Christ is literally out of this world. You are guaranteed to be an heir of everything that God has created and eternally be at home with Him. God is lavishly, excessively, exuberantly, graciously, outrageously loving. In a word, He is extravagant. When His extravagance registers in your hearts and minds, extravagant devotion flows towards Him.


[1] Cf. Revelation 4:11; 5:8-14; 7:9-10; 15:4

[2] Cf. 2:4; 4:21, 23; 7:30; 8:20; 16:4; 13:1; 17:1

unstoppable

Have you ever sung a song dozens of times in church it became old? Or sung a song enough to forget the meaning of the song because you are too familiar with the lyrics? Today I was singing a song I’ve sung many times before, but became enraptured by on of the words in the song. The word was unstoppable. It stuck and pierced me to the soul. The object of the song is a beautiful lover. Not any ordinary lover, but a Lover who defines and exemplifies love.

There is no one like our God. Many have come to the realization that God is God and we are not. Moses warned [Exodus 8:10], Hannah prayed [1 Samuel 2:2], David worshiped [1 Chronicles 17:20; Psalm 86:8], Asa reformed [2 Chronicles 14:11], and Jeremiah challenged [10:6-7]. That is why people consider who God is they tend to use absolute terms to describe Him.

He is indescribable, incomparable, unchangeable, uncontainable, unshakeable, and utterly unstoppable. God is as passionately romantic and relentlessly pursues you with His love for His Creation. He bears patiently with tireless compassion despite the ways you ignore His love or neglect to show love for Him. The greatest example of His love is when His Son came down from Heaven as a human to die in my place [Romans 5:8], bearing my wrath, taking my shame, and giving me a new name.

God’s like a freight train with no brakes. He has more compassion than I could ever imagine or comprehend barreling down on us. Whether you acknowledge it now or later. Sooner or later all will know who is greater. His name is above every name, and at His name every knee will bow [Philippians 2:9-11]. There is no like Him. He is unstoppable.

home

My grandmother had a cross-stitch in her kitchen that read, “Home is where the heart is.” There is a lot of truth this common cliche. For me, the truth is beyond what is easily suggested.

My idea of home is changing as I am on the road away from home without a home. The change has been a good change. Since saying “yes” to God’s call and going global for Christ’s mission, I have visited numerous homes in dozens of countries from urban Europe to rustic Africa. Living in homes all over the world will change you. As I have exchanged stories and photos with families in these homes I see how different my home and how foreign my home experiences are from theirs.

During a prison sentence the Apostle Paul had time to think about what mattered in his world. He sat in a cell far from home. Far from earthly comforts. Far from security. He encouraged the church saying, “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.  Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you…For our citizenship is in Heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” [Philippians 1:23-24, 3:20].

Paul knew that Heaven is home. Heaven is an unfading, incorruptible, and infinite home [1 Timothy 6:6-7]. Jesus taught this too [Matthew 6:20-21]. And His closest followers understood it [James 4:13-15; 1 Peter 1:4; Hebrews 10:34] and longed to dwell there with Him.

Home is a place I long to be. There is a sense of comfort and security about being home. The danger is that I will begin to see my temporary home as comfortable or secure and not see my Heaven as incomparable and glorious. This world is not my home. God in heaven is my home. He has a better country. He is preparing a place that makes our home seem like a squared camp. To desire God is to desire a better country, that is a heavenly home.

This world is not my home I’m just passing through
my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
the angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door
and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

thumb lick thursday [4.21.11]

Parenting Daughter’s
I am only 5 months into parenting a new born daughter. Already I am thinking about that day when I will give her away to a future husband. In preparation for that day Dave Bruskas shares some practical insights about leading his daughter well in the dating season of life.

One thing a parent should never say
Is there a method of parenting that is so effective that it will erase the sin nature in our children? Short answer? “No.” And if you don’t get this, it’s very possible that you’ll expect more from parenting than it can deliver. But here’s the tricky part: parenting matters! It’s possible to be a good parent or to be a terrible parent. Parenting makes a difference! But how much is parenting meant to provide? How much can we actually do for our children?

Why So Many Words in Worship?
Perhaps you’ve wondered why Christian worship is so heavy on words? Perhaps you or your church has been criticized for being too propositional, too auditory, too…wordy. Well, here are twenty-five reasons why verbal proclamation–through the reading, preaching, singing, and praying of the Bible and biblical truth–should have the preeminent place in corporate worship

Why We Sing in Church
Christians sing together during corporate worship gatherings. Colossians 3:16-17 helps us understand why. Paul tells us that worshiping God together in song is meant to deepen the relationships we enjoy through the gospel. This happens in three ways (or three R’s): remember, respond, and reflect.

Matrix Music
I’ve always dreamed about being a DJ. You can spend hours creating mixes on this beat blasting application. Who knows, you might be the next Moby!?

A Beautiful Mind
It is amazing what the human mind can do. In this video a man with a gifted mind is able to draw entire cityscapes from memory by flying over that city for an hour in a helicopter. The drawings are precise, almost perfect.

Noah (Part 3): The Covenant

Doesn’t it feel great to finish a big test? Or come to the end of a long school year? Or arrive at the weekend from a drudging week on the job? Or come to the close of a long hard trial in the family or with friends? You get home sit down with a sign and say, “It’s finally over.” I am sure Noah felt some relief as he saw the waters begin to reside and land began to appear. After all the darkness and drowning of God’s wrath in Genesis 6-8, chapter 9 is a breath of fresh flood-free air.

Noah Worships God [Genesis 8:20-22]

After the flood subsides and God dries the ground, God called Noah and his family to step out of the Ark. What does Noah do after getting off the boat? Does he stretch? Take a shower? Take a nap? Go to MacDonald’s for a burger and shake? No. The first thing he does shows his hearts highest priority. The first thing the father of new humanity does is gathered dirt, sticks and some clean animals to sacrifice [cf. 7:1-3]. He builds an altar to the Lord. The first thing Noah does is worship God.

Genesis 8:20 reads, “Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.” After living through the devastation that God wrought upon the earth Noah is convicted of his own sin knowing that he too should have been killed like everyone else in the flood. Therefore, he offers a burnt offering for the atonement of his sin [cf. Leviticus 1:4; Job 1:5; and ultimately foreshadowed in the death of Jesus for sin]. God was so pleased with the odor of Noah’s repentant worship [cf. Leviticus 1:9,13,17] that He responded by promising to never flood the earth again.

God blesses Noah’s obedience and worship [Genesis 9:1-7]

God blesses Noah’s obedience building and boarding the big boat, and blesses his God-centered worship and confession of sin. “Bless” appears over 80 times in Genesis. If a word appears that much it must be a major theme. When God blesses marriages, families, lives are restored. God is good. He is a giver of good gifts [James 1:17-18].

How does God specifically bless Noah? He gives Noah children that will fill the earth [cf. 9:1,7; cf. 1:28]. Biblically, children are a symbol of God’s blessing. God celebrates new life. God gracious sends His people out into the earth to fill it again. However, the new world is now different.

The peaceful harmony between creatures is broken because animals eat humans. God must make provision and man is able to eat meat of animals. Up to this point in human history everyone was a vegetarian, now you have the privilege of killing and grilling beef, bacon, birds, and fish on your BBQ. As a steward and dominioneer of God’s green earth, man is not to abuse his right to kill beast. Also, man is called to continue to respect the sanctity of human life because man bears God’s image [cf. 1:26-27].

God Keeps His Promise and Gives Noah a Covenant [Genesis 9:8-17]

What is a covenant? Once you turn 18 you are a legal adult. You don’t need your parents to sign a consent form anymore. A covenant is not a consent form or a contract. It is a treaty of guaranteed promise [i.e. marriage, oneness]. It is a binding agreement that brings relationships together. The covenant given to Noah is originated and crafted by God for Noah and all his descendants, which includes you and me.

There are some important truths to understand about God’s covenant to Noah. First, this covenant is universal, meaning they cover all people for all time. Some covenants, like the New Covenant, are limited. The New Covenant is only for regenerate followers of Christ. Second, this covenant is unconditional, meaning that God will uphold it no matter what man does [9:15; cf. 8:1, remember]. He will promise to keep His covenant no matter what. Some covenants are conditional and dependant upon the obedience of the other party involved in the covenant [cf. 2 Chronicles 7:14, Promise Land]. Be careful not to make all God’s covenants unconditional and universal because they are not.

Third, this covenant came with a signature. God promised that He would never again send a cataclysmic flood and that the seasons would continue by His provision. What sign did God give of His covenant? The sign of the covenant was the rainbow to remind God’s people of His promise [i.e. Abraham’s circumcision, Lord’s Supper, Baptism, rings in a marriage, etc.]. God gives meaning to the rainbow: God kills sinners, but not yet nor through a flood [cf. Isaiah 54:9-10]. Through the covenant God restores His intentions to bless people—even sinful people—because God is good.

Life After the Flood [Genesis 9:18-29]

Man is still tainted by evil [cf. 8:21b]. Noah responded to God’s kindness by growing grapes, getting drunk and passing out naked in his tent, and as pastor Mark Driscoll says, “like a Redneck on vacation. You don’t see this kind of stuff in your kid’s church coloring book. You don’t sing, ‘in the arky-ark, no drunky-drunky.’”

Ham, Noah’s son, walks into tent searching for his dad in the nude and tattles to his brothers. The other two brothers come into the tent backwards out of respect and cover their father’s shame. Whatever happened, no one knows, but one thing is for sure: it is not a good thing when a son walks in on his dad drunk and naked. This is a really bad day recorded about Noah.

What is the point of this sinful situation including Noah? Is sleeping naked sinful? No. Is it that drinking alcohol is sinful? No. Drinking alcohol is not sinful, but drunkenness is. The point of this sinful inclusion is simply that sin remains the human predicament even after the flood.

After Noah’s hangover, he wakes up. He realizes that his sons have dishonored him [cf. Exodus 21:15-17; Deuteronomy 21:18-21; Mark 7:10]. We all have sinful fathers, but they still need to be honored. In Genesis 9:25-27, Noah’s declares cursing and blessing directed toward his sons. Ham’s son, Canaan, is cursed to serve the line of God’s people that would come from Shem. Canaanites are forever labeled unclean perverts. It was also promised that Japheth would prosper for God would dwell in their tents. In Genesis 9:28-29, the genealogy resumes [cf. 5:32] as Noah dies and the human race again begins to grow and still sin.

In conclusion, what do we learn about God from the narrative of Noah? First, God is holy. His love and justice demands that sin be punished [6:5, 11-12]. Second, God is personal. He is sorrowful that He made man [6:6]. Third, God values life, especially human life [9:1-6]. Fourth, God keeps His promises [9:8-17] and remembers His people [8:1]. Fifth, God is Father. Even when you earthly dad is sinful and not a good example, you have a great on in your Heavenly Father. Honor both.

Is Jesus seen in the story of Noah, the ark, the flood, and the covenant? You bet! First, Jesus is a better Noah. Like Noah, Jesus was chosen by God, He was favored by God, He faithfully preached though many rejected and mocked, He was obedience to God, He offered sacrifice to God. Second, Jesus is the ark of salvation to escape the impending flood of God’s wrath by fire [2 Peter 2:5,9]. The ark was the only hope of salvation for Noah and his family. Jesus is the only hope of salvation for you and your family, even Canaanites [cf. Joshua 2:14; 6:17, 22-25; Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31].

Third, Jesus is the author of the New Covenant fulfilled in His death, sealed by His blood, and confirmed by His resurrection. Those who repent and respond to Jesus in faith will be saved. Fourth, Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for man’s sin once and for all. You do not need to sacrifice an animal on the altar. Jesus did that for you with Himself on the cross. Repent of your sin and believe in Him, as your Savior, and you will be saved [2 Corinthians 5:21]. Jesus is the hope promised through Noah.

thumb lick thursday [3.31.11]

Lick it, flip it, clip it, quote it. A thumb lick is a term used to describe the action taken when turning the page of a book. While reading I often find great one-liners, statements and paragraphs that are golden nuggets of biblical wisdom. So Thumb Lick Thursday is a way to pass along great tidbits of truth.

Is Mandated Bible Reading Healthy for Kids?

This is probably one of the most common questions  I hear from parents wanting to establish Christian disciplines in their kids. Every Christian parent deals with this at some point. They struggle with what they should mandate vs just encourage their kids to do. And with this, how much? At what point will we defeat our purpose and discourage them?

Hope for hurting marriages

There are far too many marriages in our Churches and communities that are hanging together by very thin threads. When marriages are like this, patterns of neglect are almost always part of the reason. It takes commitment and work for a marriage to be the mutually satisfying relationship it was intended to be (Note: 5 key commitments for a good marriage).

Worth-ship

Worship is “worth-ship”, an acknowledgement of the worth of Almighty God…It is therefore impossible for me to worship God and yet not care two cents whether anybody else worships Him too…Worship does not beget witness is hypocrisy. We cannot acclaim worth of God if we have no desire to proclaim it. – John Stott, Our Guilty Silence. 27-28

Suffering & Death

The Greatest single secret of evangelistic or missionary effectiveness is the willingness to suffer and die. It may be a death to popularity (by fatefully preaching the unpopular biblical gospel), or to pride (by the use of modest methods in reliance on the Holy Spirit), or to radical and national prejudice (by identification with another culture), or to material comfort (by adopting a simpler lifestyle). But the servant must suffer if he is to bring light to the nations, and the seed must die if it is to multiply. – John Stott, The Cross of Christ, Leicester: IVP, and Downers Grove, IL. 1986. 322.

What are you Sinking about?

It is easy for communication to be lost in translation. This commercial by the German Coast Guard and their new recruit emphasize this point.

raising Cain: the call for repentance

Raising Cain is an expression given to someone who causes havoc. We get the phrase from the Genesis 4, where we get a glimpse into the first family and the children they raised. The children of Adam and Eve were far from perfect. This is a tale of two brothers. Woven into this story are incredible lessons for parents, children, and everyday followers of God.

What’s in a name? [Genesis 4:1-2]

Biblical names have meanings. The biblical meanings of names are significant and often shape the life of the one who bears the names. Let’s meet our two brothers: The first brother is Cain. His name means ‘acquire, get, possess’. The second brother is Abel. His name means ‘vapor or breath’.  As we will see in the story their names have a predetermining affect on their futures.

What is the purpose of your work? [4:3-5]

In Genesis 1-2, during the days of created God set an example for man to live by—6-days a week man works the land God creates and the seventh day man worships the God who created the land which they work [1:26-28]. Both the brothers are hard workers. Cain works the land and Abel ranches the animals. They are generous workers. From an early age both brothers learn the value of giving God a portion of their labors for praise and worship. Work is a means of worship because work involves sacrifice. This is a great lesson for all laborers.

Your mission while working is to give God your best in time, effort, aspirations, career, and money. Come to God with something in your hands to worship God from rewards of your reaping. Both brothers recognize their work and rewards of their work come from God. Both brothers bring gifts of their labors to God. Cain brings the first fruits of his land and Abel brings the firstborn of his flock. Both brothers come with something in their hand, but also something in their heart.

God questions what you bring for worship [4:6-7a]

In Genesis 3:9-13, God questions Cain’s parents over their actions in the Garden; He does the same here with Cain. God loves to ask questions. Man seeks to avoid questions. Man’s motto is, “Don’t ask; don’t tell.” God asks, “Why are you angry? It’s all over your face. I see your heart. Will you do what is right and repent?”

Cain comes to God with full hands but a jealous heart of unbelief [cf. 1 John 3:12; Hebrew 11:4]. He looks at his bowl of Cheerios and then at his brother’s box of Omaha Steaks and thinks, “Wow, my offering is pretty lame,” and jealous grew in his heart over Abel. Was it that Abel’s offering was better? No. The mass of the offering in your hands does not matter a bit, but the manner of your heart before God does matter.

Do you compare your worship with others? When in church are you looking around at what others bring? Are you jealous because someone else has your is growing in their relationship with God more than you, better life [job, girl or guy] than you, appears more success than you? Are you obsessed with other people around you, rather than the only One whose opinion matters? Abel comes to God with a love for God in his heart. His offering is regarded because his heart is to please God. Cain’s offering looked religious, but his heart is not dependent upon God. Some Christians are a lot like Cain, even worse because they come to God with nothing in their hands. He at least comes with something in his hand, even though what he had in his heart was wicked and twisted.

What are the consequences of keeping a jealous heart? [4:7b-9]

If Cain does not get a handle on his jealousy it will handle him. God warns Cain, “Your sin will drive you insane.” Sin is powerful enough to drive one to insanity and death. Cain must have learned the desire for power and prestige from his mommy [cf. desire; Genesis 3:16b]. Do you notice the pride in Eve’s statement, “I have made a man” [4:1]? She didn’t make man, God did. Eve is trying to rule over her roost and her redemption, but Cain is not the promised Redeemer Seed [cf. 3:15].

The consequences of keeping jealousy in your heart will cause it to grow and spiral out of control. First, if you internalize jealousy you will be depressed. Second, if you externalize jealousy you will get violent [i.e. Cain]. Third, if you deal with jealousy through repent you will rule over it with self-control. If you are convicted of a jealous heart, repent, before it gets worse. And worse it did get for Cain. Cain invites his brother to the farm, kills him in broad daylight, and buries his bloody body under the ground. This is a premeditated murder. Jealousy led to insanity. Insanity led to Abel’s mortality.

God as Counselor and Judge [4:9-12]

Echoing God’s question in the Garden [3:9], God asks Cain, “Where is your brother, Abel?” [v.9]. And like his parents, He covers with a lie, “I don’t know! Am I Abel’s babysitter?” This should have been an opportunity for immediate repentance and restoration. Instead, God has to step in as the law enforcer, CSI agent, prosecutor, and Judge. Therefore, since Cain alienates himself from God, God alienates him from good farmland. Cain dishonors the dirt, and the dirt dishonors Cain [cf. 3:17].

What happens when you repent? [4:13-26]

I believe, Cain responds to God’s curse with a repentant heart, “My sin is greater than I can bear” [v.13]. The curse cracks the hard shell of Cain’s heart. He realizes and wakes up to the consequences of his sin. He knows he will have to move away [East of Nod = “wandering” alienation from God], be a fugitive, believes someone will track him down and kill him too.

It is not a popular opinion, but I believe Cain repents because God blesses him through protection [15-16, tattoo], gives him a family [17a], gives him a refuge city [17b], gives him another brother [25a], promises a Redeemer Seed [25b-26a], and brings a revival [26]. God is a good God—a gracious God. God gives Cain good gifts despite his sin.

In Genesis 4, you see Cain’s worst day. Lame Lamech gives you a look into where Cain’s sin could lead without repentance [vs.19-24]. I am glad that the Bible is an honest book describing the gruesome details of people’s lives. I could not image God putting my worst days in the Bible as an example for others to read and remember. God gives these examples to learn about His grace, so that in your worst day you can also have your best because God’s restoration follows repentance.

The story of Cain and Abel does not make sense until you put yourself into the shoes of Cain. You are Cain. You have killed your brother, Jesus. You come to God with empty worship and an unrepentant jealous heart. Jesus’ death offers you life and hope. Jesus’ death and blood cries out so that you would believe in your brother and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ [Hebrews 12:24].

Questions for Reflections and Application:

What are some of the lessons in this story for parents? Children? Or everyday followers of God?

What is the overall effect of sin’s mastery as this story is played out?

What do you think Genesis 4 is meant to instill in you? How does it impact you?

understanding your calling FAQ

I have heard many Christians say, “My work is not fulfilling,” “I feel lost in the meaningless of the mundane,” “I feel like I’ve have failed God because I’m not doing enough for Him,” “I feel called to _____, but I feel like I’ve have missed my calling.” If this is you, you may be suffering from confusion and over-complication of the Christian calling. What does the Bible say about your calling? Let’s look at Jesus’ idea of calling as seen in His closest companion John.

WHAT IS A CALLING? [John 1:35-51]

In order for there to be a calling there must be a Caller. If there is no Caller, there are no callings—only work. When Jesus commands His disciples to follow Him, He is the Caller calling followers to a lifetime of worship and service. He is calling them to be a worshiper of One [primary call], and be a servant of all [secondary call] spreading the fame of Christ. Your calling is to follow Christ so decisively that everything you are, everything you do, and everywhere you go, and with everything you have worship God and serve His church spreading the name of Christ. Calling is the foundation of Christian existence itself. Calling in the Bible is a metaphor for living as a follower, worshiper, and server.

Whether you are a teacher with the TSC, a plumber in Pittsburgh, a mother on Monroe Street, a businessman, secretary, missionary, or pastor; your call is the same—worship God and serve the name of Christ through His church. Calling is not just for those in full-time Christian service, and everyone else is part-time or not even clocked in yet. The clergy-laity distinction was created by Roman Catholic Church, and a bad hangover for the modern evangelical church.

Martin Luther said, “God and the angels smile when a man changes a diaper.” William Tyndale wrote, “if your desire is to please God, pouring water, washing dishes, cobbling shoes, and preaching the Word is all one.” Bishop Thomas Becon wrote, “Our Saviour Christ was a carpenter. His apostles fishermen. St. Paul was a tentmaker.” Everyday ordinary work without a calling is simply work. Everyday ordinary work with a deep and devoted sense of calling is an extraordinary opportunity to live as a worshiper God and servant of the cause of Christ!

Christ gives your work meaning, not that you are working for Him [secondary], but that you are satisfied in Him [primary]. You are not called because God needs your help [Acts 17:24-25], or you need to payback God [2 Corinthians 9:8], or you need to do something for God [John 12:25-26]. You are not primarily called to something or to go somewhere, but are called to Someone.

WHO IS CALLED? [John 3:16-36; 5:19-35]

Every genuine follower of God has been called from Adam and Eve to Moses to David to John the Baptist to Paul the Apostle to Fred the follower living in a flat in Philadelphia. To Noah God said, “make yourself an ark of cypress wood…” (Genesis 6-7, and he had not even seen rain before). To Abraham, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12, and he had no clue where God was calling him to go). To Esther (via Mordecai), “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4). To Jonah, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1, and he was on a short-term mission).

The list could go on and on of people who were called by God. The New Testaments most frequent one-word description of a Christian is that he is called [2 Thessalonians 2:13-17]. These folks in the Bible are people just like you and me—ordinary people, wanting to trust the extraordinary God of the Universe, but not always under the most comfortable and clear circumstance. However, a common thread runs through each calling: proclaim the salvation of God through worship and service to the ends of the earth.

HOW DO I KNOW THIS IS MY CALLING? [John 13:1-17]

Jesus said so, and Jesus did so. Jesus’ calling was to worship God and service His name [i.e. wash feet]. He lived as the example towards that calling, even to the enemy who would eventually betray Him [i.e. Judas].

IS MY CALL SPECIFIC? [John 21:15-19]

The biblical call is specifically general: be a follower of Christ devoted to worship God and serve the name of Christ. It’s easy to swallow the fact that God has a macro-specific call, but you can quickly complicate and confuse the call by forcing a micro-specific call. God’s macro-specific and micro-specific plan for your life is to stay close to Jesus, worship Him [“if you love Me”], and serve Him [“if you love Me, feed His sheep”].

What about God’s calling Paul to go specifically to Macedonia [Acts 16:8]? Notice this “course correction” was given in the context of Paul’s active service in God’s mission. Then Holy Spirit tells the church at Antioch to set apart Barnabas and Saul for a church planting mission [Acts 13:1-3], but both men were already active in preaching and serving.

HOW DO I DECIPHER MY DECISIONS & WORK WITHIN MY CALLING? [Acts 13:1-5]

1) Seek wisdom in God’s Word. [Psalm 1:1-3; 119:105; Luke 24:32] You first learn how to hear from God by following His written word. If you can’t follow what He’s written in His word, chances are, you are ignoring the Holy Spirit.

2) Seek wisdom through prayer. Matthew 9:38 says, “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to throw out laborers into His harvest.” The point is to pray. “If anyone of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously without reproach, and it will be given him.” [James 1:5]

3) Seek wisdom in your church (4-fold ministry). Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors/teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” When you sit in a service like this, you’re hearing wisdom from God. He speaks through your pastors and spiritual leaders. Seeking wisdom and guidance from spiritual authorities is wise.

4) Live out loud the gospel. Most people find their world is a small zip code on this grand planet where a particular people group live who needs the gospel. Surrender all you are and have to the gospel of Christ [Luke 14:26-27, 33]. Don Alban Sr. [my ol’ missions prof],says, “Every follower of Christ is an immediate missionary for Christ.”

5) Use your spiritual gifts in conjunction with your church [1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; 1 Peter 4:11-12]. Work through the organism that God uses in this world today. Worship and service is funneled through Christ’s church. If you are worshiping and serving God through your church you can reproduce the same anywhere.

WHAT ABOUT THE HUTTS CALL TO GO TO UNREACHED OF NORTH AFRICA?

Sarah and I have believe we would be honoring Christ either by remaining on staff at BGBC just as much as we would spreading Christ’s fame among the unreached peoples of Arab North Africa [or any other nation]. We also believe we can be an extension of the ministry of our church in a land where there is no gospel influence. There are literally hundreds of unreached people groups around the world.

So why would we be burdened for a small region in North Africa among a small unnamed and unreached people group? Simply, God has called us to worship Him and spread His fame among those who are not. Our calling is about lifting Christ high, being Christ-like, and through His church serving the name of Christ to the ends of the earth.

i love the world

I love lots of things. I love Taco Bell, IKEA, Swedish Fish, Wisconsin, VW’s, my wife, and traveling around the world. I understand that is a random list of things. How can a list of things that are so good be so bad?  Everyday things that are good can be twisted towards evil, in turn, ruling my heart and distracting me from wholehearted worship towards God.

John says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” [1 John 2:15] But then in another place John says, “For God so loved the world…” [John 3:16] and Jesus says, “As [God] sent Me into the world, so I have sent [believers] into the world.” [John 17:18] So on one hand, I am not supposed to love the world, but God loves the world. And on the other hand, I am not supposed to love things in the world, but Jesus sends His followers to live in the world. Okay, let’s decipher and answer: What is the world? Should or shouldn’t I love the world? How can I love the world?

What is the world?

I am going to begin with biblical worldview of the world. The gospel message sums up the biblical worldview of the world. The gospel is a belief that the Bible is absolutely true in that God is a loving Creator, and man has sinfully disobeyed God, therefore Jesus graciously and sacrificially died for man that they might respond to Christ’s forgiven and have a means to become right before God. In other words, since God is my Creator I am responsible to Him, but I have rebelled against His authority, therefore I need a Redeemer to restore me to a right relationship with God, so I must respond the gospel of Jesus Christ with wholehearted commitment.

According to the gospel, God created the world and the world God created He created “good”. The “good news” does not begin with Jesus, it begins with the good world created by Jesus. The Bible says that God’s creation worships Him and honors Him as the Creator. However, the sinful fall of man has tainted the world. The Bible says that creation and humanity groan for the day when they will be recreated. The world I am called to love is the world God created, not the sinfully rebellious, self-centered, God-forsaken; independent-spirited that marks worldliness.

How can I love the world without loving the world?

First, love the world by enjoying the world God created. All of creation enjoys and worships God, so must I [Psalm 19:1-4]. God created the world for His glory. The created world does not just sit still in its place, it shouts out constant worship to its Creator. Creation worships a real and tangible Creator whose fingerprint is on that creation [Romans 1:19-20]. Not all created beings acknowledge God as Creator, rather they ignores Him [Romans 1:18] and worship the creature over the Creator [Romans 1:21-25].

God created the world good for you [Genesis 1-2; 1 Timothy 4:4-5; 6:17]. Eden, which means “pleasure” or “delight”, was meant to be that for the humans He created to indwell the garden. The garden was a sanctuary of God’s goodness. How can I practically enjoy the world God created? Take a walk outside and breath in the fresh air. Worship God’s worldwide beauty in how He formed the planet, scattered the stars in the sky, carved the mountains, plains, deserts. Worship God in how He made the human body works from the smallest electron to the beat of the heart to the mysterious brain. Worship the simple ways God cares for you,

“The earth feed us. And clothes us. And shelters us. Think of grass for a moment—possibly the most abundant form of vegetation on the planet, in its myriad varieties in all climates. We eat grass, one it has become meat from grazing animals whose only diet is daily grass. We drink grass, in the form of milk and curds. We wear grass, in clothing made from wool or shoes made from leather. Millions of humans still use grass for effective thatched shelter from sun and rain. Grasses are woven in ropes baskets, and floor coverings. Grass alone provides humans with incalculable benefits and supplies so much of our needs, even before we go on to talk about cultivated grasses that produce the vast variety of nourishing grains we shake into our cereal bowls in the morning.”[1]

God created the world as your home, a temporary home. The world is your temporary residence, not your eternal dwelling place. You are a temporary steward of the home God has given you. The Bible says in this present world you are strangers and aliens to this world [Hebrews 11:13]. You are homeless and God is calling you home. Your time here on earth is worship practice for what is to come afterwards. To a home that He will recreate [Revelation 21:14] not filled with worldliness.

Second, love the world by serving of the world. In Genesis 1:28, God give you a creation mandate: care for creation as a royal steward [cf. Genesis 2:15]. As a dominioneer, you are charged to take care of everything God has created on earth, spread yourselves out in population, and spread the popularity of God’s fame through your obedience. You were made in the image of God to bear His name, to work, to rule, and to serve as God’s steward [Genesis 9:1].

Remember at the end of the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, when Sam was giving a speech to Frodo to continue on the journey of carrying the ring of burden?

Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo; the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was, when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going… because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.

What is good in this world? What in this world is worth fighting for? God. God is what this world is about. Your life now matters. Your work, family, sleep, and daily routine all matter. Every square inch of the earth you trod matters. Every second of life is significant. God rules it all. He owns it all. As Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: Mine!”[2] God is supreme over every sphere you enter and roam.

Third, love the world by shining the light to the darkened world. People tend to fight for the spotlight. We want the spot to shine on us. However, the gospel reminds us that we are not the central actors in this divine drama. It is not about me. My fame will fade. The story that matters, which all history focuses upon is: Jesus Christ. He is the Light of the world [John 8:12]. He is the primary light. We are just secondary reflectors of His light, like the sun and the moon.

The best way you can love the world is to be an ambassador of the gospel to a darkened world. Shining His light into it through your words and deeds. The way you live, the way you work, and the way you talk all reflect on the God you love. Your first mandate was to subdue the earth [Genesis 1:28] and your final mandate is to make disciples of all peoples [Matthew 28:19-20]. Both mandates spread the fame of God’s name along the way putting the gospel on display.

In conclusion, Should or shouldn’t I love the world? Yes and no. No, I should not love the things in the world that steal my affection for God and rob me of wholehearted worship. Yes, I should love the world God created. How can I love the world? I can love the world by enjoying God’s creation, ruling over His creation as a servant, and shine His light to the darkened world.


[1] The Mission of God’s People, Christopher J.H. Wright, Zonderzan, Grand Rapids, MI. 2010. Pg. 54

[2] Abraham Kuyper, Sphere Sovereignty. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI. 1988. 488.

spreading the fame

It is unbelievable to think that there are hundreds of people groups around this planet that do not know the name of Jesus or bowed their knee to His name. Unreached people are all around you. They might be in your family, at your work, next door to your home, or even in your church.

In our nation you do not have as many unreached as you do have unengaged. Unengaged are people who do not hear or see a gospel. Instead, you see people busy building their names and kingdoms. Personal fame is the name of their game. However, what you observe from history is that it takes one to two generations before your name disappears and becomes forgotten. This land has acres of rectangle lots where people are buried, but few know anything about those 6 feet below those tombstones. What will be remembered about you 100 years from now? Where will you be 100 years from now? That’s what matters. There is One whose fame will last the test of time. Do you know Him?

In Psalm 145, we hear a majestic masterpiece. It is a song that is composed of beautiful Hebrew acrostic hidden to our English eyes.  This psalm is what is called a doxology. A doxology is praise based on doctrine—worshiping God from in spirit and truth. People praise God based on what they know about Him. What you can know about Him is revealed to you in His Word through His Spirit.

This is David’s last psalm recorded in the Book of Psalms. It is his crescendo of praise—his swan song. It is like that of a powerful rock ballad that hammers an explosive ending that just when you think it is coming to an end there is encore multiplied by encore. Praise [Heb.Hallel] means to radiate and shine—boast and brag. This is a song needs to be integrated in our souls and ringing in our ears. No matter where you are at today—discourage, overwhelmed, confused, bored, ready to worship—this song is for you.

 

Prelude [1-2]: David begins his song with a high and low. In the high David says to God, “I extol You, my God and King.” To extol means to lift high. It is to make God’s name the highest, greatest, best, most known and most famous. In the low he says, “Bless Your name” To bless [Heb. barak] means to make low—to literally bow the knee. It is an expression of humility to God’s authority. This reverent kneeling is not just a one-time deal. David says, “I will bless You everyday… forever and ever” Now not everyday is the same. Some days are harder than others. Some days have challenges. He says, “I will bless God no matter the circumstances.” The idea of praising God is to lift Him higher and bow me lower. This is worship. How do we spread the fame of God’s name? Note these 5 stanzas of praise to God:

 

Stanza 1: Greatness of God [3-7]. God’s greatness is seen in His power and authority. His greatness cannot be contained. His greatness is limitless and awe-inspiring. Even your greatest thought about God is puny compared His reality. He cannot be fully realized or comprehended. He boggles our minds. His greatness is unsearchable and indescribable [v.3]. Trying to comprehend Him is like floating on a raft in the middle of the ocean. You can not know its depth, width, breadth or height. So it is with God.

The greatness of God is spread by “One generation shall declare your mighty acts to another.” [v.4] Do you share what God has done in and through you? There is a mandate for parents in these verses—that parents would declare God’s mighty acts to their children. Do you tell your children about the great things God has done? This fires me up about being a parent. Tell and retell God’s great works. Don’t be the last link in your family. Pass the spiritual torch to the next generation. What is the greatest inheritance you can give to your children?

There are many ways we can declare God’s greatness. You can begin by declaring it to yourself [v.5]. Meditate means to ponder, to converse aloud with yourself, to remind yourself, to stir up your memory, to preach to yourself. The idea of meditation is to hear your own thoughts make statements about God. Take a moment to think about His greatness. What does David meditate upon? The “glorious splendor of God’s majesty.” [vs.6-7] He weighs in on the worthiness of God’s greatness. Do you need peace and comfort for your soul, counsel through a tough marriage, rough workweek or nagging sin issue? Meditate upon God’s great power and work.

The more I know about God the more I amazed that I do not know very much about God. Getting my Masters Degree taught me that I could spend the rest of my life just scratching the surface of God’s greatness. As I learn about God it cannot keep silent. The greatness of God is too exciting to keep secret. David needed to talk about God. It was on the tip of his tongue Does your conversation lead to God? If you were to map out your talk do they funnel towards God? This is the basis of our fellowship in this church. Our unity and community is in our talk about the greatness of God.

 

Stanza 2: Grace and Mercy of God [8-9]. These verses are a classic expression of praise for God’s character.[1] God’s grace is His favor that He gives to those who do not deserve it. His mercy is withholding of His wrath from those who do deserve it. He is patient with those who arouse His anger with their sin. He is loyal with a long-lasting love. God is a good King. He does not rule with dread to those who are in His kingdom and escape His wrath by the blood of His Son. God’s grace is not cheap little gifts from the dollar store, but priceless gifts poured out from a warehouse stocked full to the ceilings. In response, all of His works and all His people will praise Him [v.10].

Stanza 3: Sovereignty of God [10-13]. God is enthroned in the heavens and His kingdom remains forever. He rules over all things. He has the authority to do as He pleases. He has the power to carry out all He promises to do. Does that bring comfort to your soul? God is not a maverick. He is not random. He doesn’t second-guess Himself. He does not make mistakes. He holds all things together.

The sovereignty of God is key to evangelism. Since, God is your Creator that makes Him your absolute authority. You are responsible to Him. He owns you. Stop your rebellion and return to Jesus Christ. You will stand before Him as your King. That is the essence of the gospel.

Stanza 4: Faithfulness of God [14-16]. God is generous. God is a provider. He comforts those in need [v.14]. He nourishes the needs to those He has a covenant relationship [vs.15-16]. Considering the faithfulness of God can be the greatest counsel to your needy, broken, and empty spirit. He will fill your hand and satisfy the hunger in your soul. As I think about the people of North Africa and reaching them with the gospel I am overwhelmed by their physical needs. However, the gospel will provide them more satisfaction than drilling a well for fresh water, protecting from radicals, rapists and terrorists, or reforming nations with decent dictators who will care for their own people. The gospel changes somebody from the inside out, forever.

Stanza 5: Righteousness of God [17-20]. God is working all things together for your good and His glory [cf. Romans 8:28-29]. There are many people around the world that consider their current circumstances: sisters and mothers raped, families displaced by genocide, immense poverty and suffering at the hands of tyrants, “Is there any justice?” Does it seem like Satan is winning the war? In the Lord, justice is at home in His righteousness. Everything the Lord does is right [v.17]. His righteousness looks for your sincerity [18], your reverence [19], and your love [20] even in the face of worldly danger. God’s righteousness will deal with injustice.

Coda [21]: The coda is the final movement of a musical piece. The coda of David’s psalm answers the question: How do we spread the fame of God’s name? By proclaiming His praise to every person [v.21; cf. Revelation 5:6-10]. How will they believe if no one tells them?

So this is why our hearts are set the unreached. Why not stay in North America? Good question. The answer from Psalm 145 is simple; Have a passion for God and compassion to make the name of Jesus famous to the forgotten and unengaged peoples of the world. 100 years from now we will not be remember, but God’s name will still remain. Will they know Him?


[1] Cf. Exodus 34:6; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; 103:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2.

blessed

Your Blessed Life Now

  • “We are a blessed.”
  • “We live in a blessed nation.”
  • “Count your blessings.”
  • “God bless you.”

These are a few of the praises we hear as anthems in our personal arenas. I am so blessed that I don’t even know what being blessed means anymore. Blessed has become as shallow as the word love. As we enter the book of Ephesians we see blessing defined.

EPH 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

Paul begins his letter by blessing God for pouring down on His people every spiritual blessing in Christ. The word blessed [Εὐλογητὸς, eulogy] simply means praise. “Blessed” in the NT always refers to God as Creator and Father [Rom. 1:25; 2 Cor. 1:3; 11:31]. Ephesians 1:3–14 is one long sentence, but in one breath Paul empties rich praises from the caverns of his soul praise for God’s grace. It should be noted that there are no commands in this passage telling us how to live only a praise song showing us how to lift up Christ.

Eulogy to Praise a Living God

This sentence is a eulogy for what God has done and giving Him the glory He is due. Normally a eulogy is for someone who is dead, but God is not dead. This eulogy is an enormous and extremely humbling list of all “spiritual blessings” God has blessed His followers “in Christ” [x11 in 1:3-14]. I am the beneficiary of a blessed inheritance now and later that is literally: out of this world.

One can also observe how the Trinity works together in our salvation, as seen in this chart:

Who gives the spiritual blesses? What is the spiritual blessing? How is this a spiritual blessing?
FATHER [vs.3-6] chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” [v.4] Before we were created God chose us to be His children. Blessed are those who respond to His grace.
“predestined us for adoption” [v.5] God invites us to become His sons and daughters. We become children of the King with all the benefits of the kingdom. God lovingly rules and reigns as our Abba Father. He willed it.
What is to be our response? “to the praise of His glorious grace” [v.6]
SON [vs.7-12] redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” [v.7] Christ purchased our salvation through His blood—the perfect sacrifice for sin [cf. 1 Cor.6:20; Gal.3:13; 4:5].  My sin had a debt I could not pay and Christ paid the ransom with His life.
makes known to us the mystery of His will” [vs.8-9] Through Christ we have the capacity to understand and know the will of God. Jesus made God’s plan visible to the entire world.
“we have obtained an inheritance” [vs.10-11] Through Christ I am an heir of all that God owns. What does God own? Everything. You cannot put a price on everlasting life—it’s priceless.
What is to be our response? “to the praise of His glory” [v.12]
HOLY SPIRIT [vs.13-14] sealed” [v.13] At salvation the Holy Spirit declares that we are beneficiaries of all the above, right now. We do not have to wait for it. He has given us His stamp of approval as a guarantee.
inheritance” [v.14] There are some things we cannot have just yet, but the Holy Spirit let us know we can bank on Him [cf. 1 Peter 2:9].
What is to be our response? “to the praise of His glory” [v.14]

Think about the lengthy list of blessings we have in Christ. It is infinitely better than Bill Gates and Warren Buffet dumping their wills in my lap. How do you respond to God’s grace? Are you amazed?Are you caught up in a chorus of praise with Paul? Does the Almighty God who has masterminded your salvation move you? This melodic eulogy that sounds a mountainous symphony of my salvation stuns me. God is blessed for revealing His gracious redemptive plan. Syntactically and structurally, the mystery God is revealed and summed up “in Christ.” Jesus gives meaning to the mystery because He is the mystery [cf. Colossians 1:20-22]. Therefore, the crescendo of this eulogy trumpets glory to God because He is:

EPH 1:9 making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Blessed Predestination

Paul reaches back before creation, before time began, and into eternity-past when only God Himself existed. Election is described with different facets of God’s gracious, saving purposes: “will” [1:5, 9, 11], “mystery” [1:9], “purpose” [1:9, 11], “appointment” [1:11], and “plan” [1:11].

What does it really mean that God has predestined and elected man? Does this mean man has no responsibility before God? What did He choose us to be? He chose “us” [i.e. saints, believers] to “be holy and blameless before Him,” [1:4] “predestined us for adoption as sons,” [1:5] and “be to the praise of His glory.”

Predestination is to a relationship with God the Father through his Son Christ. Election is always and only in Christ. God chose “us” in connection with Christ and our response to His work of redemption. God chose the believer for His glory and redemption is only accomplished though Christ. Being adopted into God’s family as sons [and daughters] is an incredible privilege, since we were at once “sons of disobedience” and “children of wrath” [cf. 2:2, 3].

Think of election and predestination like being given a special assignment at school or work. What does it feel like to be chosen for a special assignment? Election and predestination do not take away man’s responsibility in fact they enhance man’s responsibility. Election does bring privilege, but it also carries with it weighty responsibility. The divine purpose in our election was not simply to repair the damage done by sin but also to fulfill God’s original intention for humankind—to be conformed to the likeness of Christ [Rom. 8:29–30]. Therefore, I am responsible to respond to God’s gracious redemptive plan and praise Him for His glorious grace [1:13].

Marvelous Mystery Revealed

Think about the list of blessings we have in Christ. How do you respond? Are you amazed? Are you caught up in a chorus of praise with Paul? Does the Almighty God who has masterminded your salvation move you? This melodic eulogy that sounds a mountainous symphony of my salvation stuns me. God is blessed for revealing His gracious redemptive plan. Syntactically and structurally, the mystery God has revealed in Christ is the crescendo:

EPH 1:9 making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.

The mystery of life, everything and the meaning of our existence are solved in Christ. Through Christ I can be a child of the King, live eternally with Him, and have the hope to live holy and blameless before Him. This plan of God revealed in Christ put into poetry makes me what to shout with Paul, “To the praise of God’s glorious grace. To the praise of God’s glorious grace. To the praise of God’s glorious grace.” [1:6, 12, 14]

you become what you worship

Part 3 of 3 Why Worship Matters

We are imitators [1 Cor. 11:1]. From the time we are little kids we mimic what our parents say and do, much to their cringing. We reflect [Gen. 1:26, image bearers]. It is a matter of what or who you imitate and reflect. G.K. Beale says in his book, “What you revere you resemble for your ruin or restoration.” You either become like the idols or like God, you either reflect or imitate the Creator or something in creation. We are at worship war every day [Psalm 135:14-18].

Idolatry blurs the line between the Creator and creation, damaging creation [me] and diminishing God’s glory. Isaiah both reveres and reflects God to the nation of Israel amidst the nations idolatry. Idolatry = whatever your heart clings to and relies upon, other than God [What is your security?]. Idolatry is wasted worship.

I remember in college I really wanted to have a new Volkswagen Jetta. It was the hottest car for college students to have. I took one out for a test drive and was enamored. The sound system was pumping and the accelerator had some get up and go. I needed to have one. Need is a very strong word. Three years ago a family member was selling their Jetta and it was in my price range. I bought it. As I drove away I though I was hot stuff. In a matter of months the luster wore off, maintenance became an issue and a new model of the Jetta rolled off the line. Isn’t that how idols works? Idols cover as needs, but when you have it, they wear out quickly.

In Isaiah 6 God gives both a command with consequence concerning what we worship:

Command: “go and tell” [Isaiah 6:8-10]

Within God’s command He gives 3 imperatives—do not perceive, do not understand, render hearts insensitive. He says to tell the people that they will be like the idols they love: dumb, deaf and blind.”

God is judging a nation for centuries of sinful rebellion and Isaiah is chosen to deliver the bad news. His generation was the last straw. God had enough. God is slow to anger, but His patience does run out. Like Hebrew 6:1-3, God’s grace and justice are in the balance. He is gracious [slow to anger] and just [character demands consequences for sinfulness]. Isaiah would see the fulfillment of His people being destroyed. His family, childhood friends, men who sat in the cubical next to him at work would all feel the wrath of God. Can you see the tears well up in Isaiah’s eyes? What if these were your neighbors, kin or co-workers?

Did Isaiah know he would be preaching repentance 50 years to a rebellious people who would ignore His God-given message? Yes. He knew from the beginning he would be speaking to people who would be incapable of accepting correction. He knew God is gracious because His doctrine of God was inspired by God’s forgiveness.

Consequence [vs.11-13]: spiritual stumps

Isaiah asks a heart-filled question, “How Long?” The response is grim, “until there is complete devastation.” The children of God—His chosen people—will be like stumps. In other words, they will be an illustration of a ruined life to the world. Can you think of some so-called followers of Christ who are pictures of a ruined life?

However, in the midst of the smoke and rubble a remnant remains [cf. v.10 “return and be healed”]. God promises restoration no matter how far gone or deep under water His people have become. In the midst of chaos there is always Cosmos. God is a Restorer [Note: in Isaiah 7-9, God promises a Restorer who will come to His people]. Jesus is the Seed that will sprout from the stump and Restore His people through His work on the cross [cf. Isaiah 7:14; 11:1-2; 53].

Making it real: Imagine next Sunday you go to church to attend the worship service and imagine yourself in the throne room of God because He is present. Since He is here how could that affect how the Word penetrates or what comes from your mouth? Who is on the throne in your life? Who rules and calls the shots? How can the characteristics of God give you hope in times of weakness or temptation? What idols are gripping your heart?

Worship is part of our God-given DNA. We are wired [pre-wired] to worship! We were made for God [cf. Roman 11:36]. Worship begins and ends with God. He is the center of our existence. Worship is what God is all about. Worship matters because it matters to God.

Worship matters because God is [alive, authoritative, omnipotent, majestic, revered, holy, and glorious], God is pursuing willing worshipers [STOP, DROP, and ROLL], and what you worship you will become for your ruin or restoration.