Monthly Archives: July 2010

Humility in Today’s World

The Humility of Jesus

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Matt 11:29 KJV

Humility is seeing yourself as God sees you: dark yet lovely (Song of Songs 1:5), weak yet strong (2 Cor. 12:9), and poor yet spiritually rich (2 Cor. 5:21). Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking less about yourself. Humility is not denigrating yourself by making yourself out to be less than the total person that God has gifted and called you to be as his servant.

Humility is admitting your weaknesses, calling out to God for help, and depending completely on his strengthening grace. Humility is surrendering yourself to God the Father by allowing him to do in your life whatever he pleases, irrespective of what others might say about you or do to you. Humility is not allowing people to walk over you, but humility is allowing Christ to live his life in and through you.

God is brilliant, yet he speaks to us in simplicity and with great tenderness. God is all-powerful, yet he waits for a response from us to his love. God is perfect, yet he does not expect perfection from us. God is all knowing, yet he never grows impatience with our ignorance and inability to understand. God is truly humble: he became God incarnate in human flesh in order that you and I might know him.

A truly humble man is sensible of his natural distance from God; of his dependence on Him; of the insufficiency of his own power and wisdom; and that it is by God’s power that he is upheld and provided for, and that he needs God’s wisdom to lead and guide him, and His might to enable him to do what he ought to do for Him.

Jonathan Edwards, Christian Quote of the Day, January 16, 2007; available from

What Is the Gift of Teaching?

Instructing Unto the Lord

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.

Eph. 4:11

Teaching is a gift of God which equips an individual to instruct with insight from Holy Scripture. The spiritual gift of teaching releases special grace to the listener to obey the instructions of the Lord and heed his commands. A gifted teacher exalts the Lord Jesus Christ grounding the congregation in the Word of God, training the Body of Christ in the ways of the Lord, and encouraging them to trust Christ. A good Bible teacher does not solely rely on their intellectual ability, but trusts the Holy Spirit to make God’s Word fresh and alive. The gift of teaching glorifies God, magnifies Christ, and proclaims Christ’s victory on the Cross.

No teacher should strive to make others think as he thinks, but to lead them to the Living Truth, to the Master himself, of whom alone they can learn anything, who will make them in themselves know what is true by the seeing of it.

George MacDonald, Discovering the Character of God: Profound Insights into God’s Wondrously Loving Character, Michael R. Phillips, ed. (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1989), 5.

The Gaze of Christ

All-Knowing and All-Loving

All that which the Father giveth me shall come unto me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

John 6:37 ASV

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

John 6:37 ESV

When Jesus gazes into our eyes, our hearts are overwhelmed. When Jesus looks at us, we know that he knows everything about us. As a result, we expect divine rejection. However, Jesus’ look is a gaze of love. It is Christ’s love that says, “Draw near to me, I know your need, I created you, and I am ready to heal and restore you.” Christ’s gaze is a look that knows everything about us, yet still loves us.

Like Matthew, former tax collector and erstwhile apostle, we are dazed by Christ’s gaze. We drop everything to follow him. We are one and at the same time, fearful and strangely drawn to a Savior who knows all our faults, failings, and foibles, yet still loves us. Christ gaze is a look that says “Trust me, I know who you are, what you have done, and I am ready to love and change you.” Christ loves us as we are, also he loves us so much, he will not leave us as we are.

God loves us; not because we are lovable but because He is love, not because he needs to receive but because He delights to give.

C. S. Lewis, Letters of C.S. Lewis, 231.

No iphone App For That

No Short Cuts

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

John 15:15

We get impatient, we do want it all now. We are spoiled by all our high speed technological gizmos. As twenty-first century technology addicts, we have electronic devices that give us everything and everyone at our disposal. With the touch of one finger, we talk to Africa or order lunch across town.

However, we stop “walking in the Spirit” the moment our battery fails, a program locks-up, or an application fails to load. We complain when the internet is down and when our phone coverage is not 4G perfect. We want everything to work NOW with no glitches. Otherwise, we have a hissy fit and make sure that the appropriate customer service representative knows our frustration. We dismiss our bad behavior as genuine concern for the benefit of other customers who might have the same problem. We fail to see that our impatience is sin.

In many ways, our attitude toward technology has been transposed into our relationship with God. God must answer our prayers instantly in no more than a few kilobyte seconds. No waiting list for us: our needs must be prioritized, and therefore, ranked first in the Kingdom. Our prayer life is a series of one-liners: we treat God like a Facebook friend or Twitter account.

However, there are no speedy shortcuts to developing a relationship with God. Prayer, study, meditation, fellowship, and the sacraments cannot be performed with an app or a touch on a screen. God is more concerned with developing a relationship with us than he is answering our wishes and desires instantaneously. No iphone application exists as a shortcut for an enduring relationship with God.

In my creature impatience I am often caused to wish that there were some way to bring modern Christians into a deeper spiritual life painlessly by short easy lessons; but such wishes are vain. No short cut exists. God has not bowed to our nervous haste nor embraced the methods of our machine age.

It is well that we accept the hard truth now: the man who would know God must give time to Him. He must count no time wasted that is spent in the cultivation of His acquaintance. He must give himself to meditation and prayer hours on end.

So did the saints of old, the glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets and the believing members of the holy Church in all generations. And so must we if we would follow in their train.

A. W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man (Camp Hill, PA: Wingspread, 1950), 5.

Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat: Worship As Warfare

Praise to Our Lord and Creator

After consulting the people, the king [Jehoshaphat] appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!”

2 Chron 20:21 NLT

King Jehoshaphat faced a great dilemma: three people groups from the other side of the Dead Sea have decided to target Jerusalem for capture. Jehoshaphat could call upon his troops, but he knows that they would be greatly outnumbered. Beyond all human logic Jehoshaphat rejects foreign alliances and the mobilization of the army. Instead, he calls on the tribe of Judah to pray, fast, and believe God.

Before all the people, Jehoshaphat prays and recalls God’s sovereign purposes, his covenant promises, and their current situation. As if on cue, a prophet declares God’s Word: “The battles is not yours, but God’s.” The command: “Do not fight, but worship. I will win your battle for you.” In short, worship me and I will win your warfare. The Lord calls Judah to trust by a faith that stands firm, stable, and firmly established in God. Judah believes God that he will bring the promised victory.

Indeed, God causes the three foreign armies to ambush themselves. Israel’s spoils are so numerous, it takes three days to gather all the stuff. God did not call Judah to win the battle, he called Judah to be available. God does not call us to be adequate, he has called us to be available instruments of his glory. God never calls us to something we can do, God only calls us to ministry that he can do in and through us.

Like Israel of old when we worship, we enter afresh into the victory of the Cross. Worship makes us available to God’s purposes. Worship acknowledges God’s greatness and exposes our neediness. Worship wins the warfare.

Worship takes place when we acknowledge that we are not the Creator, we bow our wills, and adore the eternal Lord. In worship, we recognize the infinite beauty of God, his unsurpassing love, and his omnipotent power as the God of the universe. In true worship, we submit our lives to his will, embrace his all-encompassing love, and trust his great goodness.

Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, the nourishment of the mind with His truth, the purifying of the imagination of His beauty, the opening of the heart to His love, the surrender of the will to His purpose.

William Temple

Worship is the love offering of our keen sense of the worth-ship of God. True worship springs from the same source as the missionary himself. To worship God truly is to become a missionary, because our worship is a testimony to Him. It is presenting back to God the best He has given to us, publicly not privately. Every act of worship is a public testimony, and is at once the most personally sacred and the most public act that God demands of His faithful ones.

Oswald Chambers, So Send I You: The Secret of the Burning Heart, electronic ed. (Hants UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1930), 149.

Worship is giving the best we have unreservedly to God. 

Oswald Chambers, If Thou Wilt Be Perfect: Talks on Spiritual Philosophy (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1941), 79.

A basic outline of my sermon,“Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat,” is available in Google documents.

“Do Not Despair Then, O Faithful Soul”

Jesus Bore Our Just Judgment

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5

As a pastor, I counsel with many believers we have experienced an unexpected and difficult hardship. In many cases, they somehow have decided in their minds that the bad event happened because God was judging them for a past sin (Rom. 8:31-32). They assumed that the Christian life is based on performance. Since, they did not perform according to expectations, God must be out to get them. However, Christ died taking upon himself our just judgment (Isa. 53:5). The Cross dealt with all our past, present, and future sins (Rom. 4:5, 7-8). We need not live under the shame and guilt of a past failure (Rom. 4:25). Christ bore our retribution on that awful and awesome tree (Gal. 3:13-14).

Bad things that happen to the Christian believers are not God’s judgment, but the painful result of continuing to live this life in a fallen world (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Gratefully, the pain and sorrows that we experience can be redeemed by God’s grace and used by the Holy Spirit for our greater good (Rom. 8:28). As we thank God for our trials and tribulations, Christlike transformation can be our experience (Rom. 8:17).

Christ has been judged in order to free us from the judgment of God. He has been prosecuted as a criminal so that we criminals may be pardoned. He has been scourged by godless hands to take away from us the scourge of the devil. He called out in pain in order to save us from eternal wailing. He poured out tears so that he could wipe away our tears.

He has died for us to live. He felt the pains of hell through and through, so that we might never feel them. He was humiliated in order to bring forth the medicine for our pride; was crowned with thorns, in order to obtain for us the heavenly crown.

He has suffered at the hands of all so that he might furnish salvation for all. He was darkened in death so that we would live in the light of heavenly glory. He heard disgust and contempt so that we might hear the angelic jubilation in heaven.

Do not despair then, O faithful soul.

Johann Gerhard, Sacred Meditations VII

A Twofold Grace

A Grace that Empowers

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.

Titus 2:11-12 NIV

Grace is a word that has been cliched in Christian churches. So overused and misused that very few people truly know what the word actually means anymore. Grace has become an abstraction in people’s minds. Often, it is misunderstood to mean, “God overlooks our sin(s).” Some truth exists in that statement, but not the whole truth. Biblical grace has two meanings:

Justifying grace is God’s undeserved, loving commitment to rescue us from his wrath and judgment. In Christ, God delivers us from sin and transports us into his loving kingdom of forgiveness.  Justifying grace calls us to trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, the one who has taken all our sin and just judgment upon himself. When we trust Christ by faith, his work of forgiveness begins by releasing us from our debt, transforming our hearts, and freeing us to live for him. Grace flows from the Cross: Christ death, burial, and resurrection was a costly grace.

Sanctifying grace is Jesus being the desire, ability, and power in us to respond to every life situation according to the will of God. Jesus is our desire for he works in us a hunger for holiness. Jesus is our ability for he enables us to make godly decisions and righteous choices. Jesus is our power for he strengthens us to overcome the world and its influence, our flesh and its passions, and inbred sin and its bondage.

In other words, grace is not the freedom to sin, but the freedom not to sin. Freedom from our sinful past, we are made right God; freedom from the power of sin, we can walk with God; and eventually, freedom from the presence of sin, we will live with Him in eternity.

The word grace is used in two senses. It is first the gracious disposition in God which moves Him to love us freely without our merit and to bestow all His blessings upon us. Then it also means that power which this grace does its work in us. The redeeming work of Christ and the righteousness He won for us, equally with the work of the Spirit in us and the power of the new life He brings, are spoken of as “grace.” It includes all that Christ has done and still does, all He has and gives, all He is for us and in us.

Andrew Murray, The Believers’s New Covenant (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1984), 83.

It is impossible to speak too strongly of the need to know that as wonderful and free and sufficient as is the grace that pardons, so is the grace that sanctifies; we are just as absolutely dependent upon the latter as the former. We can do as little to the one as the other. The grace that works in us must as exclusively do all in us and through us as the grace that pardons does all for us. In the one case as the other, everything is by faith alone.

Andrew Murray, The Believers’s New Covenant (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1984), 85.