The Love of Christ

I know people who have said: ‘I would follow Christ, but I do not think I can keep it up. I do not trust myself. I think he’d get tired of my failures.’ Please look at him in the garden. Look what his love for you has already enabled him to endure for you. If he had turned away from suffering and the cross, we would have been lost, but he didn’t do that. Hell came down on him, and he would not let go of us. His love for us has already taken everything that the universe could throw at it and it held fast— and you think that you are somehow going to upset him? Is Jesus going to look at you and say, ‘Well, that does it! Infinite existential torment was one thing, but I can only take so much!’? If this suffering did not make him give up on us, nothing will. So Paul can essentially say, ‘Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ’ (Romans 8: 38– 39). The Lord says, ‘I will never leave you; never will I forsake you’ (Hebrews 13:5).

This is the love you have been looking for all of your life. This is the only love that can’t let you down. This is bombproof love. Not friend-love, not personal acclaim, not married love, and not even romantic love – it is this love that you are after, underneath all your pursuit of those others. And if this love of active obedience is an active reality in your life, you will be a person of integrity; you will be a person of prayer; you will be kind to people who mistreat you. If you have this love you will be a little more like him. Look at him dying in the dark for you. Let it melt you into his likeness.

~ Tim Keller (from The Obedient Master)

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Three Astounding Truths

I wanted to provide three bulk quotes from Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel. These quotes have challenged me and intrigue me in more ways than I can put on paper. My recommendation: read them and then reread them. Apply these to yourself. Challenge yourself to see how this relates to you personally and what we ought to do in response. For many of us, we need to just absorb the amazing truths presented herein.

Page 23 –

The Good News means we can stop lying to ourselves. The sweet sound of amazing grace saves us from the necessity of self-deception. It keeps us from denying that though Christ was victorious, the battle with lust, greed, and pride still rages within us. As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful with those closest to me. When I go to church I can leave my white hat at home and admit I have failed. God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.

Page 25 (1) –

When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.

Page 25 (2) –

The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation of televangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heroes. It obliterates the two-class citizenship theory operative in many American churches. For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is gift. All that is good is ours, not by right, but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God. While there is much we may have earned–our degree, our salary, our home and garden, a Miller Lite, and a good night’s sleep–all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love. We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt. This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift. “If we but turn to God,” said St. Augustine, “that itself is a gift of God.” My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.

The Claims of Jesus

The reason Jesus Christ has to argue, and the reason we have to show him arguing, is that not only in the Bible but ever since (and we all see it), when people come to Jesus Christ, they read his statements, they read his life, and they always try to take them and pour them into their existing assumptions about reality.

So people say, ‘Yes, Jesus Christ … basically he said what all the religions say: it’s all about love.’ Or, ‘Yes, Jesus Christ … basically he’s saying what all the philosophers have said: it’s really about living an unselfish life. It’s really about leading a life of character.’ Jesus Christ continually comes and says, ‘No, no, no. No one has ever said what I’m saying. No one has ever claimed the things I’m claiming.’

What he’s saying continually in here is ‘I demand you listen to me. I do not come into anybody’s live to revise or supplement or add to your current worldview. I come in to blast out all of your foundational assumptions. I demand to be the thing through which you see everything. I’m here to open up new vistas, new realms of knowledge. I’m here to explode your paradigms.’

~ Tim Keller

God Owes Me Nothing (But Gives Me Everything!)

Lately I’ve been feeling pretty beaten down. I’ve had what is probably the worst 11 month stretch I’ve ever had to go through. It’s tested me, stretched me, and brought me to the end of myself time and time again. I think the hardest thing about it was that there was seemingly no end.

I’m still in the midst of quite a few of these difficulties (job situation, no car, financial strain), but I finally feel–for the first time in a long time–that I’m turning a corner. I’ve been coming to realize that my frustration stemmed from my belief that God owes me something. I mean, I’m going to church, leading in the capacities I am able, leading a small group, reading my Bible.. that must warrant some sort of special grace to me, right??

Not so much.

In reading through John Piper’s Daily Devotional, today’s content really resonated in a special way with me. For the first time in quite a while I’ve been able to see that God owe’s me nothing, and that’s been incredibly freeing. I’ve been able to come to terms with the spiritual state of my soul and where I would be without Christ’s (perfect! willing!!) intervention.

In short, this changes everything.

I’ll let Piper do the rest of the topic with this framework in mind.

—————

 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

A vague, bad feeling that you are a crummy person is not the same as conviction for sin. Feeling rotten is not the same as repentance.

This morning I began to pray, and felt unworthy to be talking to the Creator of the universe. It was a vague sense of unworthiness. So I told him so. Now what?

Nothing changed until I began to get specific about my sins. Crummy feelings can be useful if they lead to conviction for sins. Vague feelings of being a bad person are not very helpful.

The fog of unworthiness needs to take shape into clear dark pillars of disobedience. Then you can point to them and repent and ask for forgiveness and take aim to blow them up.

So I began to call to mind the commands I frequently break. These are the ones that came to mind.

  • Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Not 95%, but 100%. (Matthew 22:37)
  • Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Be as eager for things to go well for him as you are for things to go well for you. (Matthew 22:39)
  • Do all things without grumbling. No grumbling—inside or outside. (Philippians 2:14)
  • Cast all your anxieties on him—so you are not being weighed down by it anymore. (1 Peter 5:7)
  • Only say things that give grace to others—especially those closest to you. (Ephesians 4:29)
  • Redeem the time. Don’t fritter or dawdle. (Ephesians 5:16)

So much for any pretensions to great holiness! I’m undone.

But now it is specific. I look it in the eye. I’m not whining about feeling crummy. I’m apologizing to Christ for not keeping all that he commanded.

I’m broken and I’m angry at my sin. I want to kill it, not me. I’m not suicidal. I’m a sin hater and a sin murderer. (“Put to death what is earthly in you” Colossians 3:5. “Put to death the deeds of the body” Romans 8:13.)

In this conflict, I hear the promise, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Peace rises.

Prayer feels possible and right and powerful again.

How I Approach God When Feeling Rotten

Fulfill YOUR Ministry

As for you,always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

(2 Timothy 4:5; emphasis mine)

For this posting, I’d like to set the tone for my future posts by simplifying my expectations. Instead of posting a wide spectrum of ideas, thoughts, content, etc. [of which this blog will still consist of in some capacity], I am hoping to narrow my focus to 3 particular frameworks and plan to do so through 4 practical applications.

The Frameworks for my Focuses:

-1) Church Leadership/Planting –This particular content-matter will emphasize such topics as a philosophy of ministry, biblical manhood, Triperspectival leadership (Prophet, Priest, King), and overall leadership (both being a leader and becoming a leader/growing as a leader)

-2) Missions This content will be missions-oriented in nature (both locally and globally). This includes content related to the unreached and unengaged, calling as a missionary (and the biblical command to be sent and on mission), and suffering for the sake of the spread of the Gospel)

-3) Gospel Contextualization — Focusing on, as Mark Driscoll says “showing the relevance of the Gospel and not trying to ‘make the Gospel relevant’.” This content matter will also include information from Tim Keller’s work on delivering the Gospel in urban environments from his book Center Church. Lastly it will include what it means to live a life (both personally and congregationally) that is both deep and wide (simply: theologically deep, a depth of the gospel, and wide relationally).

With these three categories in mind, I wish to accomplish them by doing four things.

1) Be affected (It is necessary to be affected by the Gospel before attempting to talk about it or dissect it. We are ever-living out of a response to what God has already done, is doing, and promises to do)

Love well (This happens through intentionality through service, contextualization, and community)

Lead well (Through church leadership, humility, and realizing that I will fail, mess up, and that Jesus alone provides the ability and perfect model of biblical leadership)

Go well (Through understanding what it means to be sent into the world [again, both locally and globally] and to care more about the lost and hurting in this world than living a comfortable Christian lifestyle)

Pray with me as I pursue these things, and pray that Christ will be glorified and magnified in our time.

Book Review: Gospel Coach (Thomas)

Gospel CoachThe topic of christian leadership has always been a particularly interesting one to me, and as a leader within a church which stands firmly within the Acts 29 network this book was a given for me to get my hands on. I have got to say it did not disappoint.

I loved that this book addressed not only the necessity of having a Gospel coach, but also being a Gospel coach. The Gospel and leadership is not meant for consumption but replication; this was a welcome reminder.

Another aspect of this book that quite rooted with me was the holistic nature of what exactly a “Gospel Coach” is. Scott Thomas describes it through a framework of shepherding by laying out four particular coaching qualities I found helpful. A gospel coach leads through knowing his disciple(s), feeding his disciple(s) [and necessarily pointing them back to their ultimate source of nourishment–the Bible/God Himself], leading his disciple(s), and protecting his disciple(s). This was helpful for me because being a gospel coach involves much more than a weekly session of going through particular curriculum or leading a person through a particular area of their life. Being a Gospel Coach requires a level of investment in the person’s life; a sense of involvement in the person’s gospel growth in all areas of life–not merely the one in which we do as little as possible so we can check our “leading others” box off of our lists.

This being said, I would argue that one of this book’s strengths is it’s practical nature. This book does a good job at tackling potentially vague concepts and providing meat to them; setting out a framework of not only the idea of leadership, but what it would look like to tangible do this leadership. Put simply, this book’s strength lies within it’s ability to be implemented, not studied.

Central to the Gospel is relationship, and I believe that Gospel Coach drives us deeper into a relational model of leadership, where vulnerability, risk, and authenticity is present–and which I would argue that leadership ought to look like.

Lastly, one thing I thought as I was diving into the book is “how is this idea of a gospel coach different from a life coach?” This can be answered quite simply: for a Gospel Coach, the Gospel is always central and primary. This changes everything because the focus of meeting up and fleshing things out is not on self-improvement or rule-keeping; rather, the focus is on Gospel transformation, implementation, and growing into a deeper understanding of Grace and what that means for each of us personally.

In summary, Gospel Coach not only laid out a helpful framework of what it looks like to invest, love, and care for those you are leading/discipling, but it also provides a tangible look at what it may look like as you work it out in practice. Again, the beauty of the book is not in the content it provides but the implementation of said content, and if the Gospel remains central, I believe this book propels us in the right direction towards gospel fruitfulness and the glorification of Jesus, and not ourselves.

[[The book may be purchased here: http://ow.ly/fXLPpx%5D%5D
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes by Zondervan Publishing. I was not required to post a positive review and the views expressed in this review are my own.

Christmas Love

C. S. Lewis put it like this,

‘Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.’

There is no way to have a real relationship without becoming vulnerable to hurt. And Christmas tells us that God became breakable and fragile. God became someone we could hurt. Why? To get us back. And if you believe this and take it into your life, you’re blessed. As you take in the truth of what he did for you—how loved and affirmed you are—you’ll be able to let down your defenses in your own relationships with other people. You won’t always need to guard your honor. You’ll be able to let down the barriers down. You’ll be able to move into intimate relationships with other people.

What is in the package of Christmas? His vulnerability for intimacy with us, which gives us the vulnerability to be intimate with the people around us. If you believe in Christmas—that God became a human being—you have an ability to face suffering, a resource for suffering that others don’t have.

~~ Tim Keller