Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sermon on the Mount

We're studying the Sermon on the Mount in the HS class I am teaching at church.  Fortunately, it is something I have studied in depth in the past, and the book I read while going through it was John R.W. Stott's "Sermon on the Mount."  It doesn't have an impressive name, nor does it have an impressive cover, but that book is SO good!  It really has helped in bringing out the importance of the message and all the ins and outs of it. 

We have been creeping through this passage of Scripture, but I think it's exactly what we should be doing.  We've studied 26 verses in 4 weeks.  Slow huh?  But when we focus in on just one topic, we can really explore it and see how it ties in with other parts of the Bible, and really learn the application of each part.  

This week (tomorrow) we'll be studying murder.  Jesus said not only is murder wrong, but thinking anger and using insults is as well.  And he includes them all in the same discussion!  How could what we think be as bad as actually killing?  As I explored my study aid and went through the Scripture myself, here's what was revealed.  Insulting people, and anger, and ignoring people you dislike - all these things destroy life.  Your words and actions (or non-actions) carry much weight and when you use them against someone else, you are hurting.  That hurt sometimes builds to the point of depression, which sometimes results in suicide.  But regardless of the outcome, anytime you do these things, which start in your mind as angry thoughts and come out as insults, you are not valuing that person's life and are taking away from their ability to live a full life, as Jesus hoped for everyone.  

I can't wait to go through this with the kids.  I think it has enormous application in the life of a teenager and I think they'll get a lot out of it.  I highly recommend this book if you are studying the Sermon on the Mount.  I didn't get everything above from that book, but that's where I ended up after reading some of the things it did contain.  

Everyone counts.  If we could remember that and act accordingly, how different this place would be.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Truth + Grace = The Right Way

I attend a men's community Bible study on Thursday mornings before work at the Presbyterian church downtown.  This past week, one of the things we discussed was how essential it is to have a good balance of truth and grace.  If there is just truth, then the truth is we are all sinners, we can't save ourselves, and it's enough to crush us.  The grace that God extends to us though takes away the pain of the truth - we're forgiven, we're loved despite being unworthy, and our failures are not final.  On the other hand, grace by itself leads to disillusionment - there's no accountability, it doesn't matter what we do, everything's fine all the time, and there's no reality check, no reason why we should change.  The balance of the two is God's perfect way of letting us know the truth, but not letting us just sit with it and be crushed by it.  Truth comes and at the same moment so does grace.  

As Christians, we need to exercise this balance in our lives as well.  Many Christians want to go one way or the other.  There are those out there who like to point out everyone's faults, rip people up and down for their sins, and as we all know - the truth hurts.  They never mix in any grace - they're legalistic and they wield the truth like a club, hitting anyone in arm's reach.  There's no grace to soften the blow.  Then there are those who are just so full of grace they'd never tell you the truth.  You know, all your best friends who would never confront you about sin.  And the people who won't tell people the hard truth because "we're supposed to be gracious."  And we are, but not solely.  Grace without truth is just soft, warm fuzzy love and no one ever addresses sin, so everyone always feels like they're just fine.  

What we need is a healthy balance, as God has modeled for us in His relationship with us.  We need to confront people with the truth, but with grace.  Paul said to deal with people gently.  No, I'm not saying that even with grace we need to confront everyone we know about their sins - there's no job position in the Bible that calls for a sin accuser.  But at the same time, we are responsible for those around us, and we were told to not just overlook it all the time.  We need to use spiritual wisdom to know when it's for their own good, and then we need to use a mixture of truth and grace.  They're both important, and they should be used in the same amount.

I have seen this work in my church.  There was a difficult situation where I knew feelings would be hurt, but the truth was that it had to happen.  So I tried to just heap on lots of grace (not false grace either - I meant every word that I said, and it was a good way of keeping me focused on being gracious while dealing out truth).  And within a week, the ordeal was over, and everyone agreed that we were moving in the right direction and there was little to no long-term fallout.  The grace came along with the truth and it allowed us to confront a situation (not being so gracious we wouldn't say anything and let it continue), but also once the truth was out to begin healing the hurt that came along with it immediately (not letting the truth just camp out and do long-term damage by itself).  

This was God's design, grace and truth, so it ought to be modeled by us in our lives.  

Friday, December 19, 2008

Advent Conspiracy

This is not a post against Christmas.  It is a post against the way we "celebrate" Christmas.  My last Christmas post pretty much addressed this, so I won't go into it again here in detail.  The point it this: you're going to buy a bunch of stuff for people who don't need it, when instead you could be using that money to bring people clean water who will otherwise die because of it, or many other worthwhile things that help people.  Christmas is the celebration of the life of Jesus.  Let's honor that life by heeding His teachings and helping those around us, by being His hands and feet in a broken world.  Check out this website for more ideas and for some videos you can share with those around you.  If nothing else, you should at least take two minutes to view the video on the top right of the home page.  You can make a huge difference.  The only question is will you?  

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Being Jeremy Keegan

I read some interesting writing by a friend of mine today and long story short I was inspired to just write something a little different today and go a little introspective.  So, here are some interesting things about me:
- I really like westerns, not so much Clint Eastwood as John Wayne, and my favorite western is The Cowboys.  
- One day I hope to have a farm on which we will raise animals and have a big garden and we'll be much more self-sufficient than we're currently able to be here in town.  I just like the idea of having a family on a farm, working the land, being surrounded by natural beauty.  
- I enjoy different styles of music at different times of the week.  On Mondays, I like to get pumped up with something faster.  Wednesday nights I like something quiet.  Fridays I like the "music of your life" - like Frank Sinatra and friends.  Saturday nights I prefer jazz.  I go through phases where I like country music, but it is usually country music from 30+ years ago, and right now is not one of those times.  
- I am learning to speak, read, and write Chinese (Mandarin).
- If I could get time to do it, I would absolutely love to sit down and read my two volume set of Sherlock Holmes stories cover to cover.  
- My favorite bird is the pelican.  I'm not sure what our connection is, but I'm very taken with them.  One of my favorite things to do on vacation is wake up early and head down to the shore to watch the pelicans.  
- I really like to cook.  I would call myself an "experimental chef."  My favorite thing to cook right now is chili.  
- I used to be afraid of roller coasters as a kid.  Now, as an adult, I can't get enough of them - the bigger, faster, and crazier the better.  
- I have a white german shepherd named Jack.  As a puppy he destroyed most of my furniture. But he's my buddy and the day he goes will be one of the worst days of my life.  
- My two favorite TV shows are the Simpsons and MASH 
- Things that annoy me are unflushed toilets, people that don't smile back, being interrupted, gossip, and when people discontinue making food I really like.
- I cry every time at the end of the movie Hardball - every time.  
- My favorite board game is chess.  
- I am very interested in doing things that help the environment, like drinking right out of the milk carton to save water by not having to do as many dishes
- Something I want to be when I grow up is a writer.  
- I love having a family more than I ever could have imagined, and I would be fine having several more kids.  

I really enjoyed writing this, and hope that it entertains, informs, and inspires you to share more of yourself with those around you.  Relationships.  That's where it's at.  Opening up, being real with people.  Try it today!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

God - megalomaniac or extreme lover?

I ran across this question and subsequent answer on J.D. Greear's blog and saw that it provided permission to reuse and reproduce it, so I thought it was worth sharing here.  I encourage you to read this in its entirety before you render a verdict.  I started to get a little pumped up midway through, and then right after that, I found what I had been missing.  I think this is a very unique and important thought process we need to have.  Enjoy!

Why God Is Not a Megalomaniac in Demanding to Be Worshiped

The Evangelical Theological Society (ETS)
Providence, Rhode Island

By John PiperNovember 20, 2008


Several years ago Wayne Grudem told me that I should come to ETS more often because I am surrounded by people at my church who largely agree with me and may not challenge me in the way I would be challenged here at ETS. Here people will be more critical, and I will be helped to avoid error and refine my thinking.

So here I am, and I am looking for criticism—or at least penetrating questions that will help me avoid error and sharpen my biblical thinking. That means I aim to leave half my time for questions. That also means I can only give a few theses and a few arguments.

What I am presenting is the nub of what I have been saying over and over for about 25 years. This will not be new. I hope that your questions about it will help me do better if the Lord gives me a few more years, because this message is close to the heart of what I believe he put me on the earth to say.

Thesis 1

My all-shaping conviction is that God created the universe in order that he might be worshipped with white-hot intensity by created beings who see his glory manifested in creation and history and supremely in the saving work of Christ.

Thesis 2

I am also persuaded that people need to be confronted with how self-exalting God is in this purpose. To confront them with this, I give a quiz:

Q 1: What is the chief end of God?
A: The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy displaying and magnifying his glory forever.

Q 2: Who is the most God-centered person in the universe?
A: God.

Q 3: Who is uppermost in God’s affections?
A: God.

Q 4: Is God an idolater?
A: No. He has no other gods before him.

Q 5: What is God’s chief jealousy?
A: God’s chief jealousy is to be known, admired, trusted, enjoyed, and obeyed above all others.

Q 6: Do you feel most loved by God because he makes much of you, or because he frees you to enjoy making much of him forever?

Thesis 3

I press on this because I believe that if we are God-centered simply because we consciously or unconsciously believe God is man-centered, then our God-centeredness is in reality man-centeredness. Teaching God’s God-centeredness forces this issue of whether we treasure God because of his excellence or mainly because he endorses ours.

Thesis 4

God’s eternal, radical, ultimate commitment to his own self-exaltation permeates Scripture. His aim to be exalted glorified, admired, magnified, praised, and reverenced is seen to be the ultimate goal of all creation, all providence, and all saving acts.

  • “He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1:5-6).
  • God created the natural world to display his glory: “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalms 19:1).
  • “You are my servant Israel in whom I will be glorified” (Isaiah 49:3); “. . . that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory (Jeremiah 13:11).
  • “He saved them [at the Red Sea] for his name’s sake that he might make known his mighty power” (Psalm l06:7-8); “I have raised you up for this very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (Romans 9:17).
  • “I acted [in the wilderness] for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out (Ezekiel 20:14).
  • [After asking for a king] “Fear not . . . For the Lord will not cast away his people for his great name’s sake (l Samuel 12:20-22).
  • “Thus says the Lord God, It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act [in bringing you back from the exile], but for the sake of my holy name . . . . And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name . . . and the nations will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 36:22-2332). “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My namebe profaned? And My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 48:11).
  • “Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (Romans 15:8-9).
  • “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (John 12:2728).
  • “He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
  • “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
  • “I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25).
  • “Whoever serves [let him serve], as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified” (1 Peter 4:11).
  • “Immediately an angel of the Lord smote [Herod] because he did not give glory to God” (Acts 12:23).
  • “. . . when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints and to be marveled at in all who have believed (2 Thessalonians l:9-l0).
  • “Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory, which thou hast given me in Thy love for me before the foundation of the world” (John l7:24).
  • “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).
  • “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the lamb” (Revelation 21:23).

Thesis 5

This is not megalomania because, unlike our self-exaltation, God’s self-exaltation draws attention to what gives greatest and longest joy, namely, himself. When we exalt ourselves, we lure people away from the one thing that can satisfy their souls—the infinite beauty of God. When God exalts himself, he manifests the one thing that can satisfy our souls, namely, God.

Therefore, God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is the most loving act, since love labors and suffers to enthrall us with what is infinitely and eternally satisfying, namely, God. Therefore, when God exalts God and commands us to join him, he is pursuing our highest, deepest, longest happiness. This is love, not megalomania.

Thesis 6

God’s pursuit of his glory and our pursuit of our joy turn out to be the same pursuit. This is what Christ died to achieve. “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). When we are brought to God as our highest treasure, he gets the glory and we get the pleasure.

Thesis 7

To see this and believe this and experience this is radically transforming to worship—whether personal or corporate, marketplace or liturgical.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Gospel Message

There is a reason why the story and teachings of Jesus was told 4 different ways by 4 different guys and made it into the BIble in 4 different books.  BECAUSE IT'S IMPORTANT.  Anyone who has studied literature will tell you how repetition is a literary device used to show importance (and other things).  Is it any wonder there is so much attention given to the life of God who came down in flesh?  This must be given priority in our study and teaching.  Now, that is not to say that the rest of the Bible isn't important or shouldn't be taught - because it is and should.  You wouldn't understand the Gospel without the rest of the Bible.  Everything before it leads up to it and sets up why it was necessary.  Everything after it describes what to do with it and what will happen because of it.  But don't miss this - the essentials are in the Gospel.  If you are structuring your life around Deuteronomy primarily, you're misusing your Bible.  The OT provides you the backstory of the history of God and people and that all points to and leads up to the Jesus part of the story.  It is vital to read the OT so that you get a better picture of who God is, how people had relationship with Him, and there are many beneficial things to learn there.  Also, a lot of people like the writings of Paul.  All that stuff is good, but the story of Jesus is in there 4 times for a reason - because it is the most important part.  Whatever part of the Bible you are reading, keep all this in mind, and it will enrich your understanding and will keep bringing you back to the Gospel.  One last sidenote - are we teaching and preaching it as that important as well?  Same arguments listed above apply to teaching - do we have that understanding?  Christ followers need to primarily be living the life Jesus Christ instructed them to.