Friday, January 29, 2010

Love is...


"Love is..." (1 Corinthians 13)

We see constantly the rewriting of definitions of words such as love to suit what anyone is thinking or feeling. Is there a standard? Is it possible to know what love is? How are we to determine love’s true meaning? “Love is…”

If you head over to Dictionary.com you’ll discover love is: “A profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person; a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection; sexual passion or desire; a love affair and a score of zero in the game of tennis.” As I was skimming through the definitions I noticed one about mid-way through that read, “Affectionate concern for the well-being of others.” In the Bible Jesus speaks the similar words, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:37). As Christians our love for our neighbor will look different from the world's love. The gospel is what challenges to us love one another. The gospel is also how we show love for one another. As new creatures in Christ we realize the love of Christ is what compels us to love others. We will have an affectionate concern for the well-being of others by telling them about Christ.

The standard for us as Christians is to love the way Christ loved. As we strive by the Spirit to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, naturally we will learn how to love our neighbor as ourselves. We can know what love is because of what God has revealed to us in his word. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Cor. 13:4-8). If you’re like me you probably read that list discouraged by your lack of love. Loving our neighbor is not an easy task because Christ has the standard set high. He wants us to realize our own inability to love so that we put our complete dependence in him. He has given us his Spirit to guide and strengthen us to love one another. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Love is…” found only in Jesus Christ.

We see many characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13 but in Galatians 5 we see many similarities between love and walking by the Spirit. This is encouraging news for the Christian. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). Once Christ saves us from our helpless, sinful state and regenerates us by his grace he promises us the renewal of his Spirit (Titus 3:5). By his Spirit we are able to love. We are able to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is good news. Apart from the gospel, love is a relative term because everyone has their own definition of love. But once we surrender our lives to Christ we see what true love is. We fully submit to Christ’s authority and his will which is revealed in his word. “Love is…” clearly defined in Scripture. May we love our neighbor with the love of Jesus Christ and his atoning work done on our behalf on the cross. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pandora's delusional world, heaven's reality

I read an article on CNN.com about the movie Avatar. What I read slightly disturbed me but also convicted me about not spreading the gospel like I should. My desires are weak and sadly I fear man many times more than I fear the Lord. But what I saw in the article was a group of people longing for heaven and they don’t even know it. Here are some clips:

“James Cameron's completely immersive spectacle "Avatar" may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora.”

On an Avatar forum online here are what people are saying:

Elequin – “That's all I have been doing as of late, searching the Internet for more info about 'Avatar.' I guess that helps. It's so hard I can't force myself to think that it's just a movie, and to get over it, that living like the Na'vi will never happen. I think I need a rebound movie."

Ivar Hill - "When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed ... gray. It was like my whole life, everything I've done and worked for, lost its meaning," Hill wrote on the forum. "It just seems so ... meaningless. I still don't really see any reason to keep ... doing things at all. I live in a dying world."

"One can say my depression was twofold: I was depressed because I really wanted to live in Pandora, which seemed like such a perfect place, but I was also depressed and disgusted with the sight of our world, what we have done to Earth. I so much wanted to escape reality." Hill said.

Stephen Lang who plays the villainous Col. Miles Quaritch in the movie says - "Pandora is a pristine world and there is the synergy between all of the creatures of the planet and I think that strikes a deep chord within people that has a wishfulness and a wistfulness to it."

Stephen Lang is right and wrong about his assessment. The world “Pandora” does strike a deep chord with people because of its beauty and unity within that world but while “Pandora” is not a reality there is even a greater place than “Pandora” that is real. Elequin keeps searching and searching for more about Avatar. He says “living like the Na’vi will never happen” which is true but there is yet a greater place than “Pandora” where people will live greater than the Na’vi people. Ivar makes a great point about seeing “Pandora” and realizing this world is nothing in comparison to that world. He longs for something greater. While this world isn’t meaningless we must remember this world is tainted with sin from the fall in Genesis three. Ivar picks up on that reality without even knowing it. Deep in his soul he realizes something greater but has no idea where to find it. His greater world is delusional but the good news is that a greater world does exist.

The conclusion: “Within the fan community, suggestions for battling feelings of depression after seeing the movie include things like playing "Avatar" video games or downloading the movie soundtrack, in addition to encouraging members to relate to other people outside the virtual realm and to seek out positive and constructive activities.”

Christian, read and see that people long for heaven. We have the reality of heaven given to us by God’s amazing grace. We must be future focused in this life to give it meaning. This life is about spreading the fame of Jesus Christ. He is the One who grants us an eternity with him which is greater than any movie could ever display. “Pandora” has struck a chord of longing but they are missing the reality that it can be fulfilled to a greater degree in Christ. Christ gives us eternity with him. Listen to the greatness of heaven:

“And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass.

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life” (Revelation 21:15-27).

People with no hope turn to video games and soundtracks as a solution. If we would be faithful to tell them about Jesus and the reality of everlasting life with him would satisfy their longing. The reality of unity and beauty are found in Jesus Christ. The delusional world of “Pandora” pales in comparison to the reality of Heaven. We must speak the gospel.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

God has been Faithful

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness" (Lam. 3:22-23)

On Sunday morning we sang the song He's been Faithful which has some beautiful lines about God's faithfulness to us. As I was singing I was struck by a line in the second verse which reads "The days I've spent so selfishly, reaching out for what pleased me." I immediately was reminded of my life before Christ. Then he graciously reached down his hand to give me a new heart. Most of the people I was around had no clue about my sinful life because I concealed it through deception. But God cannot be fooled or deceived. God knew my heart and he pursued me in love. "By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for" (Prov. 16:6).

Now as his child I can see over and over his faithfulness to me but looking back I am reminded of how he has always been faithful to me. I deserved wrath but he lavished his grace upon me. Here are the words to the song He's been Faithful:

In my loneliness and fear, through every pain every tear
There's a God who's been faithful to me
When my strength was all gone, when my heart had no song
Still my God has been faithful to me

Every word He promised is true
What I thought was impossible
I've seen my God do

When my heart looked away, the many times I could not pray
Even then He's been faithful to me
The days I've spent so selfishly, reaching out for what pleased me
Still in love He's been faithful to me

And every time I come back to Him
I see Him waiting with His open arms and I know once again

He's been faithful, faithful to me
Just looking back His love and mercy I see
When in my heart I have questioned
And failed to believe
He's been faithful, faithful to me

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Christ is the Son of God

Is it possible that Jesus really was just a good moral teacher? The majority in our world would have no issue with saying Jesus was a good moral teacher but how many good moral teachers have made the claims of Christ? Was it not the religious, moral teachers of the day that hated him most? Jesus claimed to be the Son of God (Matt. 27:43). He said he had authority to forgive sin (Matt. 9:6). He claimed that no one would take his life away but that he would lay it down on his own accord and raise it up (John 10:17). C.S. Lewis helps us view this idea logically:

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [Jesus]: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to" (Mere Christianity, 52).

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, January 25, 2010

Seeking your own agenda in the Scriptures

Have you seen the trend of religion where people are taking snippets of the Bible and making Scripture into their own interpretation? This has been a huge reality in our delusional world that fears God enough to look at the Bible but not enough to see what God really is saying. Many times we love ourselves and our sin too much to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and his word. Apart from the work of the Spirit in our lives we will not cry out with David, "With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments" (Ps. 119:10)! By God's grace do any of us seek to obey Christ and his commandment with joy and for his glory.

C.S. Lewis helps us see the approach of most when it comes to Christ's commandments: "Most of us are not really approaching the subject in order to find out what Christianity says: we are approaching it in the hope of finding support from Christianity for the views of our own party." Seeking the Scripture with our own agenda will get us no where. We must come to the Bible humbly confessing Christ as our Lord and Savior then we will see his commands as a joy and blessing to our souls.

Lewis continues with this example: "I may repeat 'Do as you would be done by' till I am black in the face, but I cannot really carry it out till I love my neighbour as myself: and I cannot learn to love my neighbour as myself till I learn to love God: and I cannot learn to love God except by learning to obey Him" (Mere Christianity, 87).

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, January 22, 2010

Can Mortal Man be in the Right Before God?


“Can mortal man be in the right before God?” (Job 4:17)

There is a great chasm between sinful man and the holy God. We have dumbed down the reality of God’s holiness to make him like one of us. Our fear of God is so messed up and unclear that we have shrunk him down to be an ordinary being. God is not a big deal in our world. But the question “Can mortal man be in the right before God?” must still be answered.

“Can mortal man be in the right before God?” We know from the Scripture that through Adam all of us have inherited the title “sinner.” We have sinned against a holy God who is perfect and just (Rom. 3:23). There is no escaping this reality. The penalty rightfully should be instant death. If you are reading this post right now you have been extended great grace. But this question above addresses a deeper sort of grace. Being right before God means we too must be holy and blameless. Sin tainted humans can never stand in the presence of a holy God.

The comfort from Job is that the Lord in chapter one did declare Job a “blameless and upright man.” Job put his trust in the Lord without ever hearing of Christ. We are privileged beyond Job to have the rest of the story. We have been given the entire inspired word of God but like Job our hope and trust must be in God alone. So “Can mortal man be in the right before God?” YES!

God, the Father, sent his Son to die for sinners. He poured his punishment for sin on his Son. This is how God is both just and the justifier of those who repent and believe in Christ for salvation (Rom. 3:26). But to answer the question directly above Paul writes these words to Timothy, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). This is how mortal man can be in the right before God because of the God-man Jesus Christ. Christ is our mediator. C.J. Mahaney writes:

“No one else could do it. Only Jesus Christ, truly God and fully man, could be our substitute and make this sacrifice. Only Jesus could ever stand in this unique place and position. This One who lived the only perfect life also died a completely unique death as a ransom for our sin. He paid the price you and I owed to the innocent offended party, God our Creator and Judge” (Christ our Mediator, 45)

Jesus was the answer for Job. Jesus is the only answer for us as well. Our own wisdom, possessions, feelings and morality will not make us right before God. We must be declared right by the God of the universe. He is the One who justifies the ungodly. Don’t be duped by the world’s solutions to freedom. Don’t buy into the lie that living for yourself will satisfy you. The gospel of Christ is the answer and the question is of upmost significance: “Can mortal man be in the right before God?”

Grace upon grace,

JRL

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Eyes Fixed on Jesus

"If then we would indeed be 'filled with wisdom and spiritual understanding'; if we would 'walk worthy of the Lord unto all well pleasing, being fruitful in etery good work, and increasinig in the knowledge of God'; here let us fix our eyes! 'Laying aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.'

Here best we may learn the infinite importance of Christianity; how little it deserves to be treated in that slight and superficial way, in which it is in these days regarded by the bulk of nominal Christians, who are apt to think it enough, and almost equally pleasing to God, to be religious in any way, and upon any system. What exquiste folly must it be, to risk the soul of such a presumption, in direct opposition to the dictates of reason, and the express declaration of the word of God! 'How shall we escape, if we neglect to great salvation?'

Here also we shall best learn the duty and reasonableness of an absolute and unconditional surrender of soul and body to the will and service of God - 'We are not our own'; for 'we are bought with a price', and must therefore make it our grand concern to 'glorify God with our bodies and our spirits, which are God's.' (William Wilberforce, 365 Days with Wilberforce)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Election is a Great Reality

"Election is a truth which should call forth praise and thanksgiving from all true Christians. Except God had chosen and called them, they would never have chosen and called on Him. Except He had chosen them of His own good pleasure, without respect to any goodness of theirs, there would never have been anything in them to make them worthy of His choice.

The worldly and the carnal-minded may rail at the doctrine of election; the false professor may abuse it and turn ‘the grace of God into lasciviousness’ (Jude 4); but the believer who knows his own heart will ever bless God for election. He will confess that without election there would be no salvation.” (J.C. Ryle, Day by Day with J.C. Ryle)

For more on divine election visit http://bclr-roc.blogspot.com to read Tim Senn's series titled Chosen by God from 1 Peter 1:1-2.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Formula How to know Right from Wrong

This isn't a perfect formula but Jerry Bridges does a great job helping us through Scripture see right from wrong. Keep these for Scriptures and questions close at hand.

1. Everything is permissible for me - but not everything is beneficial. (1 Corinthians 6:12)
Question - Is it helpful - physically, spiritually, and mentally?

2. Everyting is permissible for me - but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)
Question - Does it bring me under its power?

3. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall. (1 Corinthians 8:13)
Question - Does it hurt others?

4. So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Question - Does it glorify God?

This formula can be found in Jerry Bridges excellent book The Pursuit of Holiness.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, January 18, 2010

Seeing Danger and Taking Refuge

Last week as I was waiting on a friend for lunch I was looking at a verse in Proverbs on my phone that reads, "The prudent see danger and take refuge but the simple keep going and suffer for it" (27:12). As I pondered and stared at the verse a couple of things stood out at me:

1. The prudent are the righteous, not the self-righteous but those covered in Christ's righteousness. The prudent are the children of God.

2. To see danger implies we have been given eyes to see danger. We were once blind but now we see. The bible says "Satan has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ" (2 Cor. 4:4). Because God has revealed himself to his children through his Son Jesus Christ we have now have his Spirit to guide and help us. The Spirit graciously illuminates our minds to the truth of God's will in his word and empowers us to live it out. God's will is the opposite of danger. I know this because of what I saw in the next part of the verse.

3. Taking refuge means we see danger and turn away to Christ. Christ is superior to the offerings of this world. Dangers are sins which ultimately lead to destruction. Through the eyes of Scripture we recognize danger and flee to our refuge, Jesus Christ.

Don't be like the simple who see danger and keep going and suffer for it. Heed the words of Scripture and take your refuge in Jesus Christ. Pray that he would give you eyes to see the glory of God through the Son. Christian, rejoice that God has been gracious to give you new eyes to see danger and flee. He alone is worthy of praise: "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6).

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, January 15, 2010

5 Golden Years

Heather,

Five years ago today you married me. It's crazy to think it has been five years. Look how young Tim and I both look!! You are a wonderful wife. My love has become stronger for you over the last five years. You have shown me grace upon grace all these years. You have been forgiving and loving during times in our marriage when things were not easy. You are an example of the love of Christ. You have faithfully loved me! Thank you for being a woman who lives out what she believes. Thank you for looking at Christ and what he did on the cross and allowing it to transform you as a person by the work of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God alone. It really is amazing to view the way you live day in and day out. Now that you are a mother it just shows more. You tirelessly serve myself and Emma. I love the reality that you love being a wife and mother. It is truly a gift from our gracious Father. All this to just say thanks!

I hope and pray for many more years together. Lord willing in five years I can tell you my love has grown more. As we grow in our relationship with Christ I know his work in our lives will cause us to love each other more and more. I want nothing more than for you to continue to love Christ with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. As we both make this our striving our marriage will continue to grow and flourish. May our marriage be a light shining in a world of darkness. May the gospel be shown through our marriage. May people see Christ because of our marriage.

"Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation. " (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Love you Heather.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

On a side note congratulations to Lee Dodd for winning the John Piper book Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Singing Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs


“Singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Col. 3:16)

This week I’ve tried to focus on the importance of the cross in the music we sing corporately but also listen to individually. The reality is our styles and preferences will be different depending on background and taste but I thing must remain constant for the believer and that is the truth. Music can be used to edify the soul. Music can stir our affections which can be a good thing but may also be a dangerous and destructive thing. As Christians may we remind ourselves of the gospel by “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”

In our day and age music is everywhere. Most people have multiple iPods, cell phones with music, computers or they hear music on TV commercials, radio, sporting events and on and on it goes. My concern is not in the fact that music is everywhere but rather what is coming out of the speakers. Messages about drugs, sex, money, murder and so on fill our minds. Many times, as Christians, these messages have an effect on our lives when we drop our guard of biblical truth. We must beware not to get sucked into the message the world is offering. “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15). The gods of this world are being sung to us many times with beautiful melodies so we must not be deceived by the beauty but focus in on the message. Many times that is the point in the music market: The better the music the more people will listen to our message. But many times the message ought to appall us as Christians. Sadly this is not the case. We must “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2) which comes through studying the Scriptures but can also come through “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”

Now before the thought arises about me being a legalist let me just say secular music does not always present a dangerous message. My statement above referenced the majority of the music in the secular market. “Christian” or “Secular” all boils down to worship. Any artist will admit that they sing real, honest messages about life and most of the time about their life. They sing about what they love. I believe the Bible addresses that very topic: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). Jesus is clear that we will treasure what is in our hearts. Also in the Proverbs we read, “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man” (Prov. 27:19). The way we live our lives reflects our heart. Musicians get to express their hearts in a different manner than most. They have a platform to stand on and tell people their message. Therefore we get to hear about what people worship. We, as listeners, have a responsibility to discern whether we need to be fed the message or turn away from the message. Our turning away ought to be to a position of prayer for the lost. Many people buy the message and therefore choose the worlds fleeting pleasure rather than the pleasure of knowing Christ.

Christian, let’s remind ourselves that we have the greatest treasure in Jesus Christ. I encourage you to fill your mind with the message of the gospel. Music is one avenue God has given us to renew our minds. Music is a powerful way for communication so use it as a powerful way to promote the cross to your own soul. Maybe the secular message isn’t bad but is it the gospel? Maybe it has a positive message but isn’t it better to be reminded of the cross? I love music so maybe I’m harping on this a little too much but Scripture reminds us as well in Colossians 3 to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL
I'd also like to wish my wonderful older sister a Happy Birthday today! Happy Birthday Krista, Love you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Content and Culture

If you are wondering what type of music is okay for cross-centered songs then here is a great post from Shai Linne talking about Truth and Culture. Maybe you have the idea that cross-centered songs only involve one type of music but I would encourage you to think through that idea fully before writing off certain styles.

"When it comes to truth and culture, I've found it helpful to use the analogy of the lyrics and melody of a song. Here's what I mean:

Truth= Lyrics
Cultural Expression = Melody

In this analogy, the content of the gospel is the 'lyrics' of the song and cultural expression is the 'melody' of the song. The 'lyrics' (gospel content) should never change. Truth transcends language, ethnicity and cultural expression. The gospel is the same whether it's proclaimed in China, the Sudan or the Bronx.

'Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.'- 1 Corinthians 15:1-5

The objective facts concerning Jesus Christ's atoning death for sinners and glorious resurrection have always been a part of the gospel message and always will be. When these things are missing, the gospel is not being proclaimed. In addition to this, we would add the truth that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. This content would be the "lyrics" of the song in our analogy. If we are to faithfully proclaim the gospel, the lyrics must not change, regardless of the context.

At the same time, cultural expression varies. Cultural expression is the 'melody'. The sound of the 'song' will be as varied as the amount of languages that are spoken. I should not expect the melodies of a Japanese gospel song to necessarily sound the same as the melodies of a gospel song in Trinidad.

'After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'-Revelation 7:9-10

The beauty of God's design is that He is drawing a people to Himself that represent a staggering amount of diversity (vs. 9). And yet, the 'lyrics' to the song are the same-'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and unto the Lamb!' (vs. 10)

Of course, we have a tendency to prefer our own 'melodies'- the cultural expressions which are familiar to us. In turn, we look down on unfamiliar 'melodies' and even attempt to make our 'melodies' seem righteous compared to others. Some even try to make a case that certain 'melodies' are inherently sinful- even without Scriptural support. But at the end of the day, the key question is if the 'lyrics' match up with what the lyrics have always said. If so, Christians should at least be able to rejoice in that, even if the 'melody' is strange or unfamiliar to us." (Shai Linne)

I'll go ahead and recommend Shai Linne to you as an artist whose sole intent is to spread the message of the cross.

To help in your pursuit in the cross I'd like to offer John Piper's book Seeing and Saving Jesus Christ for this weeks FREE book giveaway. Entries must be in by Thursday at noon to jrldailythoughts@yahoo.com. I will anounce the winner in Friday mornings post.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Look

Here are words to a great cross-centered songs from John Newton. Sovereign grace did this songs on their album title Songs for the Cross-Centered Life which I would recommend if you want to hear songs about the cross. Bob Kauflin worked with these words from Newton on the song The Look:

I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agony and blood,
Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood.

Sure, never to my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke.

My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And helped to nail Him there.

A second look he gave, which said,
"I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;;
I die that thou mayst live."

Forever etched upon my mind
Is the look of him who died
The lamb I crucified.
And now my life will sing the praise of pure atoning grace
That looked on me and gladly took my place.

Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too

With pleasing grief and mournful joy
My spirit now is filled
That I should such a life destroy
Yet live by Him I killed

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, January 11, 2010

Why Cross-Centered Songs?

Do you love cross-centered songs? I hope you are part of a local church that loves to sing cross-centered songs. C.J. Mahaney gives us four reasons why we should sing cross-centered songs:

First, since the cross is the storyline of Scripture, it should be the storyline of our corporate worship.

"For I delivered to you as of first importance...that Christ died for our sins...that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures." (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

Second, we must never leave the impression during corporate worship that we do not need a mediator.

"For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." (1 Tim. 2:5)

Third, cross-centered songs imitate the heavenly model.

"And they sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." (Rev. 5:9)

Fourth, cross-centered songs affect our souls.

"As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." (Ps. 42:1-2)

I would encourage each of you to be reminded of these truths when you go to worship corporately. I would also encourage you to apply these truths to your listening habits. We can never be reminded of the gospel enough. Find cross-centered songs and play them in your car, house or office to be constantly reminded of God's amazing grace.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, January 8, 2010

Bear Fruit in Keeping with Repentance


“Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8)

The voice crying out in the wilderness spoke these words: “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” But who did he speak them to and why? John cared about the souls of men because he preached the message of repentance, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” These words of John the Baptist are a great reminder to us that repentance breeds fruit. Here in Matthew 3, John has been baptizing those from Jerusalem, Judea and the region of Jordan in the river Jordan, confessing their sins (5-6). At the start of verse 7 we read the word “But” indicating the scene is about to change. The message of the gospel (confession and repentance) does not change but now John is going to address the religious leaders who have recently arrived on the scene.

Remember John came crying out: “Prepare the way of the Lord” (3) then reminding us that Christ “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (11). Christ is the One who changes lives by his Spirit but sadly these religious leaders were trusting in their heritage and religious deeds. When these religious leaders, the Pharisees and Sadducees, walk on the scene, John greets them with, “You brood of vipers” (7)! Why? John knew these religious leaders were trusting in the wrong things for salvation. “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’” (9). As far as being justified before God their status as Abraham’s children did not matter. We know from Genesis that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness (15:6). Salvation comes through trusting in Christ's finished work on the cross.

Fruit in keeping with repentance is not saving fruit but rather confirms the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. These religious leaders (and many times all of us) thought their religious deeds would make them right in the sight of God. But only when we stop trusting in our good deeds to save us and start trusting in Christ will we produce good fruit. If we do not repent of our sins and trust in Christ the Bible is clear that “the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (10). Good trees are produced by God’s grace. Any other tree is one chopped down and thrown into the unquenchable fire (12).

May I warn you from the words of John the Baptist: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Confess your sins and turn to Jesus for salvation. If you are trusting in your good works for your salvation you are a bad tree that will never produce one bit of good fruit unless you turn to Jesus. If you are a person who cares nothing about Jesus Christ may I share with you the good news that he came to die on a cross for sinners like you and me. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)! This is good news. True repentance will produces good fruit. It is guaranteed because God has left us his Spirit as our helper and guide to produce those fruits to the glory of God. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). That is the same message of John the Baptist: “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Content

Do you struggle with being content? If this were a video you would clearly see my hand in the air saying, "Yes!" We live in a time and world where everything is changing and we must continue to stay up with the times. We "have" to have it. Or we "need" this or that. New computers, phones, ipods, TVs, clothes and cars tempt us everyday. Now I'm not suggesting we all where sackcloth and eat locust and honey but I am recommending we examine our hearts to see whether they are content or not. Maybe a good way to look into the heart is to ask: Do I crave the latest and greatest thing or am I satisfied in Christ Jesus?

Paul addressed this same issue in the book of Philippians: " I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need" (4:11-12). No matter the circumstance we are to be content. There is only one solution to the sin of discontentment. Paul was not content in his own strength. I will never be content in my own strength. By our own strength we will find the toys of this world to satisfy a longing impossible to satisfy through fleeting pleasures. Paul says, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (4:13). Contentment comes through the strength God supplies in all circumstances. The good, the bad and the ugly are satisfied in Christ Jesus.

This is the way to have life abundantly because Christ satisfies completely in every area of life. "Every earnest Christian wants to live a truly beautiful life, whatever the circumstances may be" (J.R. Miller). The truly beautiful life is lived out through the strength God supplies.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Alive to God

In the same way count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 6:11)

In his book The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges helps us understand the significance of these twin realities. Bridges talks about how Christ's death on the cross brought the forgiveness of sins and the indwelling work of grace through the Holy Spirit to be transformed into the image of Christ. Christ's death brought freedom of sin's reign on our lives but that's not all. Here in Romans Paul says we are not only dead to sin but also alive to God in Christ Jesus. "Paul said we have become slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6:18). God does not leave us suspended in a state of neutrality. He delivers us from sin's reign into the reign of His Son."

Praise God for the power he supplies for us in the battle against sin. "God 'is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us' (Eph. 3:20). This is the first implication we should grasp of being 'alive to God.' We are united with the One who is at work in us to strengthen us with His mighty power. We have all known the awful sense of hopelessness caused by sin's power. We have resolved scores of times never to give in again to a particular temptation, and yet we do. Then Satan comes to us and says, 'You might as well give up. You can never overcome that sin.' It is true that in ourselves we cannot. But we are alive to God, united to Him who will strengthen us. By reckoning on this fact - counting it to be true - we will experience the strength we need to fight that temptation.

Only as we reckon on these twin facts - that I am dead to sin and its reign over me and that I am alive to God, united to Him who strengthens me - can I keep sin from reigning in my mortal body." (Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness, 69-70)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Lamp to your feet and light to your path

J.C. Ryle gives great straightforward advice about reading your Bible:

“Begin reading your Bible this very day. The way to do a thing is to do it, and the way to read the Bible is actually to read it. It is not meaning, or wishing, or resolving, or intending, or thinking about it; that will not advance you one step. You must positively read. There is no royal road in this matter, any more than in the matter of prayer. If you cannot read yourself, you must persuade somebody else to read to you. But one way or another, through eyes or ears, the words of Scripture must actually pass before your mind.”

I think a reading of Psalm 119 would let us know the significance of picking up the Bible daily:

"I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments" (119:6)
"How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word" (119:9) "Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!" (119:12)
"My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times" (119:20)
"I cling to your testimonies, O LORD; let me not be put to shame!" (119:31)
"The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces" (119:72)
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (119:105).

Go read the whole chapter. It is essential to the life of the Christian to read God's word. If you are not in the God's word daily you are missing out of the richness of knowing the will of your Savior.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, January 4, 2010

Trophies of His Grace

"You yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:5)

"God builds a palace for Himself in heaven, made of 'living stones'. Where did He get them? Has He brought forth the richest and the purest marble from the fine quarries of Paris? No! Christians, look to 'the hole of the pit where you were dug out of, and to the rock where you were cut from!' You were full of sin. Far from being stones that were white with purity-you were black with defilement, seemingly utterly unfit to be stones in the spiritual temple, which would be the dwelling-place of the Most High God. And yet, He chose you to be trophies of His grace!

Goldsmiths make exquisite jewelry from precious materials; they fashion the bracelet and the ring from gold. But God makes His jewels out of base materials. From the black pebbles of the defiling brooks-He has taken up stones, which He has set in the golden ring of His immutable love, to make them gems to sparkle on His finger forever. He has not selected the best-but apparently the worst of men-to be the monuments of His grace!" (C.H. Spurgeon taken from Grace Gems)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, January 1, 2010

Search me, O God, and know my heart



“Search me, O God, and know my heart!” (Ps. 139:23)


Are you willing to pray this prayer like David did in Psalm 139? Are you broken enough to ask God to search your heart? Are you willing to be tried and tested by the God who knows all your attitudes, motives and thoughts? This is a humbling prayer. Praying to ask God to search your heart can be a tough prayer but as followers of Christ this ought to be our prayer daily: “Search me, O God, and know my heart.”


Scripture tells us “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jeremiah 17:9)? I don’t think anybody is raising their hand saying, “I can understand my heart.” Jeremiah is clearly asking the question rhetorically. The obvious answer is nobody. I know for me there is a desire to follow after Christ with all my heart, soul, mind and strength but my flesh is waging war to steal those affections and desires. My flesh wants Egypt and slavery instead of freedom in the promise land. I fear I’ve lacked to pray like David and ask the Lord to search me and know my heart. The LORD responds to verse 9 of Jeremiah by saying, “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jeremiah 17:10). It is the LORD alone who can search the heart and test our thoughts. We need to pray often, “Search me, O God, and know my heart.”


As we pray for the LORD to search our hearts we can rest assured he will provide grace and strength through the work of his Spirit. The significance is not just in asking the LORD to search us but knowing that he alone can restore our broken hearts. If he did not want restoration he would not have sent his Son to die on the cross. God loves us, not in some mystical way that gives us some sort of tingling sensation but in a real way that we can see through the cross. God sent his Son to die so we might be given hearts of flesh rather than our hearts of stone. Since God has given us new hearts he is not going to leave us to do the rest on our own. He promises to be our strength in the battle against sin. He has given us his armor of the gospel to fight in the battle (Eph. 6:14-17). We must continually beg for God to search our hearts so he may graciously reveal our sin to us. As he reveals sin to us we must confess and repent. He promises to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). He promises to renew us daily by his Spirit. Our daily pursuit of holiness will cause us to cry out, “Search me, O God, and know my heart.”


“For God did not call us to be impure but to a holy life” (1 Thes. 4:7). The fight for a holy life is not an easy road to travel but we are not alone. God has given us his Spirit, his Church and his word as helpers. We need to be faithful to ask God to continue to search us and reveal sin in our heart so we can put sin to death. My great lack last year was prayer so I wanted to start the New Year challenging myself more than anybody else to be a man of prayer. I would also encourage each of you to be people who pray for God to search your heart and thoughts. O if you are like me this will not be an easy walk but God in his grace will gently show me sin. As he does my only response will be praise for his great love which he showed by crushing his Son to pay the debt I could never pay. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there by any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24)!

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Congratulations to Mike Morse for winning the Andrew Murray book Humility!