Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Search for Insignificance

While John the Baptist was baptizing he was approached by his followers with a comment about Jesus:

"Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him."

Up to this point, John was getting all the attention. But, now, with Jesus on the scene, his popularity was waning.

John's response to this?

"A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but 'I have been sent ahead of Him.'...So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease."

What a beautiful picture of humility. Realizing his mission and that it was to be accomplished, John's joy is increased. Even more remarkable about this is that John was becoming a side-show. He was no longer the main event. Jesus - the one prophesized about - had come.

O that I might have the heart of John. His one true aim in life was to make Christ known and then, to get out of the way.

Lord, grant me the head and heart realization that you did not come to make us well-known, but to make Jesus Christ famous - that all the world would look on Him and lift Him up. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Life of No Reserve, No Retreat, and No Regret

William Borden had a heart for Jesus and for making Him known.

A graduate of Yale and Princeton Seminary, Borden set sail to minister to Muslims in Cairo, Egypt. But, a month after his arrival, he contracted spinal meningitis and died. He was only 25. While at Yale, Borden had been instrumental in one of the largest college christian movements to date. What started out as an early morning prayer meeting with himself and another classmate his freshman year, soon spread into small groups and prayer meetings of over 1000 participants his senior year (at a college of 1300 students).

Borden was not only a catalyst on campus, but outside it as well. One of his friends wrote that he "might often be found in the lower parts of the city at night, on the street, in a cheap lodging house or some restaurant to which he had taken a poor hungry fellow to feed him, seeking to lead men to Christ."

A heir to the Borden Dairy estate, Borden was a millionaire. But he didn't act like one. When asked by a friend why he didn't own a car, Borden replied simply, "I cannot afford it."

Many expressed regret that he was "throwing himself away" as a missionary, when they thought he could do so much more with his life. Apparently, Borden had come to terms with the perishables of wealth, and wanted to invest in something imperishable. By his late teens, his eyes were already wide open to the person of Jesus Christ.

In her biography on Borden, Mary Taylor writes, "Borden not only gave (away) his wealth, but himself, in a way so joyous and natural that it (seemed) a privilege rather than a sacrifice."

Six, poignant words were found in the back of Bordens bible. They were:

No reserve.

No retreat.

No regret.

Lord help us to live as a man who has everything, and lives in such a way that he can not keep it all to himself. Thank you.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

On Preaching

The whole and the aim of preaching today, should exist to display all that God is and all that He is in Christ Jesus. It is an act of worship and exulting in God - alone. Any preaching that fails to meet these ends is not preaching to the glory of God.

When you go to church, is your pastor's proclamations inflaming your love for God? Or, for yourself? Does your pastor use the Word of God as a basis for his proclamations? Or, does your pastor use the Word of God as a contriving tool whereby he manipulates it to his agenda? When you walk away from church, do you love God more? Are you moved to go and spread His fame? Or, are you sent away into more introspection and how you might modify a behavior or "self-improve".

The end of preaching is - at it's root - to paint beautiful pictures of Christ. It is to paint Jesus for all that He is and was. It should exist as a means to conjure up the heart and the mind of Christ followers to go deeper in love with Him.

  • Preaching is not about helping the Body to love itself more. It already does (love itself).
  • Preaching is not about prescriptions and of dictating to people what they ought to be doing (most already know).
  • Preaching is not about moralisms or of self-improvement episodes (the Body can consume that elsewhere).
These are good things. It is good to love yourself. It is good to get direction now and again. It is good to want to improve oneself.

Good preaching takes care of these things while it rightly places the emphasis on Jesus and of His work on the cross. When we are in love with Christ and His ministry - as a by-product - we will love neighbor as we already love ourself. We will reach out to the unreached. We will want to be our best and do everything to the glory of God. It will be a natural causation of our being overfilled and overflowing with love for Christ and namely, by His love for us.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

On Obedience and Being Left Out

Jesus expects obedience:

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." (John 15:1-2)

Several verses later, Jesus goes on to explain who are the branches (speaking to his followers):

"I am the vine; you are the branches."

This is a weighty statement. And, it makes me tremble. For every christian who does not heed Christ's admonishment to pursue Him and obey, He suggests they will be cut off from Him.

Obedience is not always easy. But, it is good. In the end, the rewards that await the obeying christian far outweight the disobedient. Christ knows the difficulty we face in obeying Him and the fight our flesh puts up.

To His disciples, He says this:

"I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life."

Jesus again and again, lays out the future that awaits the christian who obeys and follows. It is one full of blessedness and of joy in the "age to come".

As christians, we ought to think hard on this. For those who do not listen to Him and follow - we can be replaced by others who have heeded the call to obey. This is a disconcerning. Do I want someone else to "take my place"? To bear the fruit that I was going to bear?

It's much like the unreluctant worker. When told of his paycheck in the coming weeks, he complains, "it's so hard and takes so much time and..." On and on go the complaints.

Those who obey reap the rewards of obedience and a life lived in the Vine. They see things the disobedient do not see. They are blessed beyond paychecks and nice things. Their hearts are filled to overflowing.

In the end, the fruitful will say, "I gave up nothing - to gain everything."

Lord, help us to obey.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Working Out Our Salvation

Paul wrote to the Philippian church, "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling".

For many who see the christian faith as a works-based philosophy and self-improvement program to get right with God, this may sound good.

But in reality, Paul doesn't have a works mentality in mind here. What he was trying to get at is the heart of the believer - and how when God enters that heart, He begins a new work. Growth happens. Love blossoms. Bitterness and envy waste away. Things that you once saw as valuable, you now see as rubbish. Chains are broken.

And most importantly, Christ becomes beautiful.

In Jeremiah, we see a man whom God is at work in:

"But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,’ then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it”.

Does your heart become weary when you do not proclaim Christ? Does your heart become like a "burning fire, shut up in your bones", when you try to mute the excellencies of God in Christ within your soul?

Freedom in Christ involves a working out our salvation, with fear and trembling. But again, this is not a burdensome thing. "-for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."

You will do well to work out your salvation now, by thinking on these things (His dying on the cross for you; that you were once lost, and are now found; that He has saved you from the reality of hell; that He has now, sealed you and saved you to Himself; that He is to be prized and is worthy of all affections and value in the universe; and so on). And then - out of that thinking and feeling - go, be and do out of the overflow of His riches and mercies poured out in your own life.

For hearts, burning for Him.