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.

rags to riches reality

Steve Jobs was born to a teenage mother and later adopted by a working-class couple in California. He dropped out of Reed College when he couldn’t afford tuition, but continued auditing classes. In 1976, he started Macintosh in his friend Steve Wozniack’s garage with just 50 computers. He was fired from the company because of a power struggle. He then started Pixar and sold it to Walt Disney. He returned to Apple in 1996, leading the company to a massive expansion in music and media through devices and software including iPod, iTunes and the new iPad. Some love him in a cultish way, whiles others love to hate him for being a rock star CEO. Most remember the scene in Forest Gump when Gump says, “I investment in this fruit company [Apple]. I don’t have to worry about money anymore.” No one can deny Jobs is a true to life rags to riches success now worth over 5.5 billion dollars.

We love to hear stories about people who rose out of poverty into the path of success, like those seen in the Pursuit of Happiness and Cinderella Man. We are inspired by the work ethic and luck of people who climbed out of the hole. The Bible tells us the greatest rags to riches story of all time—you—a follower of Christ.

The Bible describes people without Christ like filthy rags [cf. Isaiah 64:6]. You might look like you have it together on the outside, having acquired the “good life” by the worlds standard, or believing you don’t need any help to make something of ourselves, but we are still viewed as wicked inside out if we do not have Christ. Without Christ you are a dead men walking.

Dying Penniless in your Filthy Rotten Rags [Ephesians 2:1-3]

Sin literally a deadly poison. Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. Sin might be cute in a baby, but the older you get the more ugly your sin appears. Before Christ my biblical rap sheet does not look hopeful. I was a gutter dweller, saturated with a thirst for sin. We are reminded that this is what, “You were…”

…dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [Ephesians 2:1-3]

It is hard to believe the Bible characterizes us like this. I certainly did not think of myself as that bad. Now my mother would probably disagree, since I was no angel. But was I as bad as the verses above describe me to be? These verses seem to be describing a vile murder or rapist, not an innocent young boy who grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee. Is anyone innocent of sin? It is clear from these verses we are born into a world that is sinful, by nature we are inclined towards sin, and there are supernatural powers influencing us to sin. The odds are triple stacked against me—I am a sinner [vs.2-3], living in a sinful world [v.2], powered by sinful opponents [v.2]. Is there any hope?

The truth is we need to be reminded of how sinful we are in order to be grateful to savor the sweetness of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Remember all the ways God has blessed us in Christ? [cf. Ephesians 1:3-14] Without Christ I am a pile of filthy rags that are good for absolutely nothing.

Becoming Rich without Deserving a Dime [Ephesians 2:4-7]

There are two words that bring us hope in a sinful world, “but God…” These two words contrast all that we are before Christ [vs.1-3], but who we can be in Christ [vs.4-7]. Even though I am sinful and sold out to sin, God comes through with His mercy when I ultimately deserve His wrath. “But God,” are two wonderful mysterious words of salvation.

Why is God so merciful to His followers? Paul shows that the origins of Gods saving initiative are found in His mercy [v.4; cf. Ex.34:6; Ps.103:8], His great love [v.4; cf. Rom.5:5-8; 8:39], His rich grace [vs. 5, 7-8] and his kindness to us in Christ Jesus [v.7]. Our salvation is totally undeserved, but again that is the character of God.

The benefits of Gods mercy are both present and future. In Christ, I am saved for eternity, but now have power over sin through my present day relationship with Christ. We see three present future realities of God’s mercy for His followers in verses 5-6. First, I am “made alive with Christ.” Without Christ I was dead in my sin [v.1], but through Christ I am made alive. I am alive because my sins have been forgiven in Christ forever [cf. Colossians 2:13].

Second, I am “raised up with Him.” There is a clear connection here between Christ’s resurrection and mine [cf. Colossians 2:12; 3:1]. Without Christ rising from the grave I would not have hope of raising either. My salvation secures my resurrection. Third, I am “seated with Him in the heavenly places.”  In others, I no longer have to live under the authority of the ruler of the kingdom of the air [v.2]. In Christ, I have been transferred from the old kingdom to the new reign of Christ.

Followers are given these realities so that “in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.” [v.7] Grace is basis of the whole work of salvation [cf. 1:6; Rom.3:21-25; 5:15]. God’s grace is like a physician bringing back-to-life a person whose heart has been flat-lined in a coma for years, raising Him from the artificial life-support, and setting him loose into the world to live freely. God has taken us from below the spiritual poverty level, raised us to new life, and given us an eternal inheritance.

We think we deserve God’s grace. I hear people say often, “God is love and would not send anyone to hell. I am certainly good enough to get into heaven.” Grace would not be grace if we deserved it. We don’t deserve it. Instead we impose upon God that we do deserve it. Grace is not cheap. It came at the cost of Christ’s death upon the cross. Grace is priceless.

Becoming Rich without Doing any Work [Ephesians 2:8-10]

When God pours out His grace He does not hold back, “For by grace you have been saved.” [v.8] This is the heart of the gospel message [vs.8-10]. I am not good enough, smart enough, strong enough, or rich enough to get salvation by my own merit. God has to come through with His grace.

There are comments on either extreme of grace, “I am too bad for God to forgive me,” or “I don’t need grace, I’m okay.” To this David Powlison writes, “Left to ourselves, we think we are either too good to need grace or too bad to receive it. Are you too good to need a major redemption?”[1] This is echoed in the Bible,

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. [Ephesians 2:8-10]

Salvation is humbling. It is humbling because I cannot do anything to get it on my own. Salvation is the work of grace is supremely and solely through the work of Christ. Any good work that I do produce is a gift from God and picture of His grace. Even faith in God’s is a gift from God. As one commentator states, “If Gods grace is the ground of salvation, then faith is the means by which it is appropriated. And faith itself cannot be a meritorious work; it is the response which receives what has already been done for us in Christ.”[2]

I was once a poor man living in the squanders of sin, now I have been given the riches of the kingdom in Christ. God’s grace has picked up my horrific tab and canceled my spiritual indebtedness. Salvation through Christ is the world’s greatest rags to riches reality. When I think about the grace of God I sing with Paul, “to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has blessed us in the Beloved [Christ].” [1:6] God’s grace is not only a source of comfort, but counsel to work out my salvation as I “walk in” His grace in a manner that is worthy of His glory [v.10].


[1] David Powlison. Seeing with New Eyes, Phillipsburg, NJ. P&R Publishing, 2003. 49]

2 Peter Thomas O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, The Pillar New Testament commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 174.

mercy for haiti

The pictures and reports coming from Haiti are heart wrenching. We cannot imagine the carnage and devastation they are experiencing. We cannot smell the rotting corpses, hear the weeping in the light of the moon, hunger after a meal you are unsure you will receive, and feel the rage of those have lost ones they love. How can this happen? Where is God in all of this? How should we respond?

Haiti is broken. Rescue is coming. Revival is possible. Christ is King.

I plea to God for mercy. With David in the midst of tragedy and doubt, I sing a song. I praise the God who is in control of creation and thank him that it was not my home that was shaken and torn. I plea for His mercy over Haiti and me.

1 To you, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me,
lest, if You be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.
2 Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to You for help,
when I lift up my hands toward Your most holy sanctuary.
3 Do not drag me off with the wicked, with the workers of evil,
who speak peace with their neighbors while evil is in their hearts.
4 Give to them according to their work and according to the evil of their deeds;
give to them according to the work of their hands; render them their due reward.
5 Because they do not regard the works of the Lord
or the work of His hands, He will tear them down and build them up no more.
6 Blessed be the Lord! For He has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.
8 The Lord is the strength of His people; He is the saving refuge of His anointed.
9 Oh, save your people and bless Your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever.

Psalm 28