Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jesus Paid it All

I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”

For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim,I
’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.

And now complete in Him
My robe His righteousness,
Close sheltered ’neath His side,
I am divinely blest.

Lord, now indeed I find
Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone.

When from my dying bed
My ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
Shall rend the vaulted skies.

And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete,
I’ll lay my trophies down
All down at Jesus’ feet.

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimsoned stain
He washed it white as snow (Elvina Hall)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Inexhaustible Truth

"Never be content with your current grasp of the gospel. The gospel is life-permeating, world-altering, universe-changing truth. It has more factes than a diamond. Its depths man will never exhaust." (C. J. Mahaney)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, August 27, 2010

I Thank my God in all my Remembrance of You


“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (Philippians 1:3)

Do you have a tender heart for the people of God? Do you enjoy thanking God for his people? The apostle Paul had a heart of compassion for those who labored in ministry with him. His joy was in serving and praying for other believers. May we say with Paul, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.”

This was a common occurrence for Paul to praise God for those who were ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul understood, as we should, that the proclamation of the gospel was a responsibility and joy for all believers. Many times we have the mindset or feel as if we are the only person with the truth and we become burdened by the gospel rather than finding our joy in it. Reminding ourselves of other brothers and sisters in Christ will encourage us as press on in this life as ambassadors for Christ. Church is a place of refreshment as we gather corporately with one purpose: Magnify the name of Jesus Christ. Outside of church we can have one on one fellowship with other believers to strengthen us in the battle. But whether inside the church building or outside the goal of exalting our Savior who was crucified and resurrected for our sins never changes. Paul knew this reality so he says, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.”

Listen to the joy that fills Paul’s heart as he talks about praying for other followers of Christ, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.” Joy? Praying for others brought great joy to the apostle Paul. I confess this is somewhat of a foreign concept to me. I pray for wife with joy. I pray for my daughter with joy. I pray for my family with joy. I pray for my close friends with joy. I pray for those in our local body with joy. But for other churches or believers I don’t really know is tough. There becomes this out of sight out of mind mentality that is not good. What is the purpose? Paul goes on to tell us the purpose and the reason he has great joy in praying for these people: “Because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” The gospel is what brings this great unity, compassion and joy to Paul as he prays for those who are laboring as he is in this world. Read Paul’s letters he wrote and look at how he greets and prays for those he knew and those he did not know. Paul is consistent in praying for both with great joy. He is faithful to encourage others with prayers of joy for their labor in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you…because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”

We have every excuse in the book not to take the time to pray for others. I think most of us would see the life of Paul and admit he seemed to be a busy man. Sure, he was locked up in prison for a lot of his life but think about your own heart, if you were locked up would you spend time praying for others with great joy or complain because you were in prison for the sake of the gospel? I confess my heart would not be in the right place. Paul's focus was others-centered and not self-centered. Paul loved his fellow laborers. Paul prayed for them with great joy every time he remembered them. Paul encouraged them with letters and prayers to spur them on in the gospel. May we strive to follow the example of Paul and pray for those who are laboring as we are for the sake of the gospel. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Singing and Teaching

It seems to me there are two extremes in evangelicalism today. Churches seem to lack balance. I have noticed it mostly with singing and teaching. What I mean is I’ve noticed the extreme of churches driving people’s emotion through music that lasts the majority of the service time and then spend a brief time in God’s Word many times lacking any depth. But I’ve also noticed the other extreme that focuses so much on teaching that the music is of little significance. I think there is a devastating effect in both extremes. Scripture tells us: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16). Paul packs a lot of meat in one passage of Scripture but I love the way he puts things together in this passage.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” To the original audience this refers “to the teaching about Christ as well as the words of Christ himself, which were part of the oral traditions passed on to believers in the early years after Christ ascended to heaven, before the Gospels had been written” (ESV Study Bible). We are challenged by Paul to let Christ’s words dwell in our inner being. This challenge is for believers. Unbelievers cannot worship God in spirit and in truth because they do not submit to God’s authority. They desire to serve self rather than striving to obey God’s Word. Paul is clearly talking to those who have been given the desire, by the Holy Spirit, to know Christ. If the original audience was striving to let Christ’s words dwell richly in them without the Gospels than how much more should we desire to meditate upon God’s Word given to us.

“Teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.” We know from the Proverbs that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. All believers should have an accurate knowledge of God where we stand in awe of his holiness but also fear his awesomeness. Proverbs says, “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life” (Proverbs 14:27). Paul is instructing us to teach and admonish one another in the fear of the Lord. This comes through biblical teaching and biblical council. These are things that ought to be done with one another as the body of Christ. Only through the word of Christ dwelling richly in our hearts will we humbly submit to the teaching and admonishing of one another.

“Singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” God’s Word is clear that we are to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs but what does that look like today? Many of the psalms have been placed to music. Many of the hymns of old are still being sung (although not hymns from that time period). Many great spiritual songs are being sung and being written these days. It seems like God is doing a great work with music for his glory and our encouragement. Paul says in Ephesians to address “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Ephesians 5:19).

From this passage we can see the significance of dwelling upon God’s Word through teaching and singing. The two go hand and hand. Those who just sing without the balance of being richly taught God’s Word may not be singing in response to God’s greatness but rather just enjoying music that is stirring up emotion. On the flipside those who are being taught deep truths from God’s Word may find music to just be into for the teaching rather than responding to God’s greatness. Both teaching and singing are significant according to Scripture. The teaching should complement the singing and the singing should complement the teaching. If both are allowing us to dwell upon the greatness of God and his great work of sending his Son to make atonement for our sins then we need to have a balance of singing and teaching “with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

PS - Happy Birthday Mom!! Love you.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Heralds of Good News

I just finished John Piper's new little book Jesus The Only Way to God: Must we hear the gospel to be saved? and would definitely recommend this book but I wanted to share a part from the conclusion with you. I thought this section really captured the heart of Piper's purpose for writing this book but also ought to encourage and challenge us as we battle daily to love people who want love but willingly reject Christ.

"The world wants to be loved in some of the ways that the Bible commands us to love them. And the world does not want to be loved in other ways that the Bible commands us to love them. Millions of people do not want to be loved by being told that they need to trust Jesus in order to be rescued from everlasting destruction. This seems to them narrow, arrogant, presumptuous, and offensive. This is not new. But it is perhaps more prevalent today than ever.

In the first decades of the twenty-first century, with an ever closer concentration of diverse religions in our urban centers around the world, and with the explosive nearness and immediacy of everything on the Internet, more and more Christians are losing the nerve to tell the world - the neighbors at home and the nations who have no gospel access - the good news of Jesus, because they fear it will be heard as intolerant, old-fashioned, arrogant religious dogma.

I have written this little book to convince our minds and strengthen our hearts to do the loving thing, namely, to spread to all peoples the good news of God's word in Jesus to rescue sinners and someday renew the world. To this end, I have tried to answer three questions with arguments and illustrations from the Bible: Is there an eternal hell of conscious torment to be rescued from? Answer: Yes. Is the death and resurrection of Christ essential for that rescue? Answer: Yes. And do people need to hear this good news and believe it in order to be rescued? Answer: Yes"

May we be faithful to proclaim Christ crucified to a world lost in sin. We have the ministry of reconciliation because God in his mercy has reconciled us. May we be faithful ambassadors as we plead with the people to be reconciled to God through the substitutionary atoning work of Christ for sinners.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

By This We Know Love

God of all Creation, Lord of heaven’s light
Descended into evil’s darkest night
Infinitely Holy, Your perfections know no end
Selflessly You died my rightful death

By this we know love that He laid down His life
God’s very own Son came from Heaven to die
Suspended He hung as He shed His own blood
What grace in His pardon, by this we know love

Forsaken man of sorrows, hated by all men
You willingly surrendered for my sin
Scornfully derided, yet in silence stumbling on
Bearing wrath for all that I’ve done wrong (Judah Groveman)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, August 23, 2010

Growing in Godliness

“I think it is true that no Christian is where he ought to be spiritually until that beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ is being reproduced in his daily Christian life…Even though a person has become like Christ, he will not know it, because humilty and meekness are also a part of the transformation of true godliness!” (A.W. Tozer)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Love of God

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song. (Frederick Lehman)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, August 16, 2010

Words that Give Grace

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." (Ephesians 4:29)

"Notice how comprehensively this command applies to our speech: 'Let no...but only...' There's a certain kind of speech that's never to come from our mouths, and another that should be in everything we say. That's how extensive the reach of this command really is.

'Corrupting talk' is referring to any and all communication that deters growth in godliness; any speech that hinders the cultivation of godly relationships; any words that have a deadening or dulling effect on the soul of another.

Our words are to edify - they should be 'good for building up.' And that goes for all our speech. We're specifically commanded to communicate 'only' that which edifies."

C.J. Mahaney realizes this comes through a cross-centered life. He continues:

"Truly edifying words are words that reveal the character and the promises and the activity of God. They're cross-centered words. They're words rotted in and derived from Scripture, words that identify the active presence of God, and words that communicate the evidences of grace that you observe in others. They're words that flow from a humble heart."

This is a great challenge for all of us as believers. If you struggle in this area confess to the Lord your sin and repent. Search his Word to know more of God's character so you may speak words that edify all people. This is a command to believers but not for us to just display to other believers but to every person we come in contact with. Lord, help me to speak words that edify and give grace to others so they may see your great glory.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, August 13, 2010

Who am I that I should go


“Who am I that I should go” (Exodus 3:11)

As a Christian have you ever asked the question, “Who am I that I should go”? Often we are so focused on the reality of our sin that we turn away from knowing the God who has graciously saved us. Not only did he save us but he has called us to worship him through our lives as we serve others. But this is not our natural way of thinking so we often wonder and ask, “Who am I that I should go”?

Imagine the angel of the LORD appearing in a flame of fire in a bush yet the bush never being consumed. This is exactly what happened to Moses and Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned” (Ex. 3:3). When he had turned to see the bush God calls out to him from the bush, “Moses, Moses!” Think about this for a moment. The God of the universe is appearing through a burning bush speaking to a person like you and me. The verses that speak of God being a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24; Heb. 12-29) always come to my mind when I read this passage. God is an eternal consuming fire deserving of worship out of reverence and awe because he is holy. God tells Moses to take his sandals off because he is standing on holy ground. The holy ground is not in reference to the location being a special place but rather Moses is in the presence of God Almighty.

Part of our struggle with being God’s ambassadors on this earth is our lack of faith in the God who has called us. The God who has called us is the same today as he was when Moses was called out by him in the burning bush. We do exactly as Moses does in this account. The LORD speaks to him from a burning bush and proceeds to speak about the affliction of his people in Egypt. God has heard the cries of his people Israel and is now going to use Moses to deliver his people out of oppression. “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10). Pharaoh was a very powerful man who had control over many people. From a human standpoint Moses knew what this would mean so Moses says, “Who I am that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” Once again from a human standpoint this is not a bad question but we must keep in mind who is speaking to Moses. Our sovereign God is trustworthy. He has called us to be his ambassadors of his message of Christ crucified and so we must trust in his ways and promises. We are unworthy sinners but God’s plan of redemption includes his working through us as his children.

God’s compassionate and loving response to Moses is also what should comfort us when we are asking, “Who am I that I should go”? God told Moses, “But I will be with you.” What comfort. What kindness. What compassion. When we are wondering, “Are you sure Lord that I am supposed to go?”, he kindly answers us, “But I will be with you.” He promises never to leave or forsake us. As his children we can trust that he will do exactly what he plans to do; so may we, in faith, trust God rather than in ourselves. May we forsake trusting in ourselves and trust solely in our sovereign Creator.
Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Everything Flows Through the Gospel

J.C. Ryle helps us as believers focus our attention on the Cross of Christ as the essential message for the Christian. To read the whole article just click here.

"[The cross of Christ] is the subject [Paul] loved to dwell upon he wrote to believers. It is wonderful to observe how full his epistles generally are of the sufferings and death of Christ, how they run over with 'thoughts that breathe and words that burn' about Christ's dying love and power. His heart seems full of the subject: he enlarges on it constantly; he returns to it continually. It is the golden thread that runs through all his doctrinal teaching, and practical exhortations. He seems to think that the most advanced Christian can never hear too much about the cross.

This is what he lived upon all his life, from the time of his conversion. He tells the Galatians, 'The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me' (Gal. 2:20). What made him so strong to labour? What made him so willing to work? What made him so unwearied in endeavouring to save some? What made him so persevering and patient? I will tell you the secret of it all. He was always feeding by faith on Christ's body and Christ's blood. Jesus crucified was the meat and drink of his soul."

This is a great reminder to all of us who claim the name of Christ. May we never get beyond the gospel but rather see that all of life and doctrine flow through Christ crucified.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Why don't you and Laura put together a scrapbook?"

My wife wanted to write a tribute to her sister Laura for her Birthday so without further ado...

My mom is so smart. I know, you’re thinking, I thought Jason said this was a tribute to her sister. I’ll get there. I feel like my mom always knew things I needed; saw things I could never see about myself. She could suggest something seemingly insignificant and as I’m doing it I realize that she’s brought it up to cause me to realize something significant. One of my favorite things she’s ever said to me is, “Why don’t you and Laura put together a scrapbook from our vacation?”

Some background information, I have three younger sisters. We’re all three years apart and we all got along great growing up. We also always went on vacation growing up. So the summer after my sophomore year of college my parents take us on my favorite vacation; we go to London. A week or so after we get home my mother suggests casually, “Why don’t you and Laura put together a scrapbook?”. We think it’s a great idea. Laura and I are very much alike; we plan, we think through things, we make a great team on projects. Laura and I proceed to spend the entire afternoon and evening together for the next two to three weeks.

This is why my mom is so smart. It wasn’t really ever about the scrapbook; it was about her knowing that doing this together would bring about a deepening to Laura and my relationship. She was exactly right. By the end of that summer my fourteen year old sister was one of my best friends. We were choosing not to hang out with friends so we could stay home to spend time together. That summer still is one of my favorite memories and one of the most significant times in my life because of the friend it gave me. Laura is one of the greatest servants and most others focused people you will ever meet.

She’s been a servant since I can remember. I have distinct memories from when we were little of her volunteering to fold the clothes as Claire and I complained about having to help. Laura is the child who asked me to teach her how to clean a bathroom so that she could help with the house cleaning before Mom considered her old enough to have that be assigned as one of her chores. I remember thinking how different her attitude was from mine. As Laura has grown up and in her walk with the Lord her desire to serve has grown and deepened. She gives up her time, money, whatever it takes to care for someone else. She really may have bought my lunch for a month last summer right after I had Emma as she came over day after day to help me, do my laundry, let me take a nap and a shower, anything I needed.

Laura never wants credit; never asks for attention to be brought to how she served. She actually would prefer that no one knows. She doesn’t serve for attention, she serves because she loves you. She serves because that’s where she’s in her element. She serves because she knows that’s how God’s gifted her and that how she can bring glory to Him.

Happy birthday Laura! I hope I haven’t drawn too much attention to you. You have always been a wonderful sister and are one of my dearest friends. Without even knowing it, you constantly convict me about my selfishness and encourage me to serve others as I see your joy. I love you dearly!

Heather

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Philippians 2:3-4

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Woo Pig Sooie

Today is my brother-in-law's birthday so I wanted to take today to talk about this man who married my sister (Krista). Jason Spoon came into the picture many, many years ago. As I've watch him over the years with Krista and their four children I have observed a tender spirit. He is man I watch as he parents his kids. Jason is nothing like me because he has a tender spirit and is patient (those are not strong points of mine). My prayer for Jason is continued patience and compassion with both his wife and the kids as they grow older. I hope he continues to be the example of Christ in his home. I will recommend these verses to his kids:

"Listen, my sons, to a father's instruction;
pay attention and gain understanding." (Proverbs 4:1)

Another area that I truly respect in Jason's life is his self-sacrifice. Krista and the kids are, shall I say, really active in sports. Krista coaches volleyball and the kids do everything from softball, volleyball, swimming, football and baseball. They also love to entertain at the house a lot. He just loves to serve his family and others so much and I know that comes from a heart of self-sacrifice and a lot of grace.

All that being said I just wanted to wish him a Happy Birthday!

Grace upon grace,
Your Brother-in-law

Monday, August 9, 2010

An Urgency for Evangelism

James Smith reminds us of the urgency to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world. The urgency comes from the truth that souls will live on forever either in eternity with God or in hell bearing God's wrath. Mr. Smith says, "We should feel for sinners as if we saw them suspended over the burning lake of hell, and one after another falling in! We should feel for sinners as if we could hear the awful splash, as the lost soul takes its terrific plunge into the liquid flaming brimstone!" This is a graphic yet very real image of perishing souls.

A great question to ask yourself is one Mr. Smith addresses: "Friends, do you ever weep over perishing sinners?" I confess this is not my mind-set throughout the day. He goes on: "Is it not astonishing, that we can go to the house of God and pass multitudes of ungodly, careless creatures that throng our streets and never shed a tear! Is it not more astonishing still, that we can preach on the torments of the lost, and the joys of the saved and see the great mass of the people around us rejecting it, yes, refusing to listen to it and not weep bitter, bitter tears!"

Father give me compassion for lost souls and an urgency to tell them of your Son's atoning work for sin.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, August 6, 2010

I will take joy in the God of my Salvation


“I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:14)

Habakkuk celebrates the truth about God. This comes from Habakkuk’s rejoicing in seeing the great God of the universe. God has just revealed himself to Habakkuk and now Habakkuk’s response is praise and adoration to our everlasting Creator. “I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

Who is this God that saves sinners for his own glory? Strictly from the truth that he saves sinners we know this God loves, he is merciful and gracious. Earlier in chapter three we read more about this great God: “His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power…He stood and measured the earth; he looked and shook the nations; then the eternal mountains were scattered; the everlasting hills sank low. His were the everlasting ways” (Hab. 3:4,6). This is a God bigger than our minds can comprehend. No human beings splendor covers the heavens. We cannot measure the earth or shake the nations. These realities belong to God alone. This is the God who has revealed himself to us in his Word yet it would take all eternity to know him. The amazing part is he desires to know us. Not know that we exist because he already knows that about us but he wants to know us intimately. He wants to adopt us into his family where we can all him our Father.

Christian, have you consider the magnitude of this reality? The God of the universe, the very One who holds the entire world his in hands, also holds you in his grip. The God who would be perfectly just to send each and every one of us to hell because we have rebelled against him instead has redeemed us. He paid the penalty for our sins by crushing his only Son upon the cross. His holiness demanded a payment for sin and that payment is death. The amazing part is because of Christ it is no longer our death but Christ’s atoning death on our behalf. This does not only save us from the wrath to come. It not only washes away all of our sins. Salvation means we can know God now and have fellowship with him. Through Christ we can approach the God whose splendor covers the heavens. When Habakkuk realized this reality of who God is his first response was: “I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me” (3:16). This should be our response when we see through the lens of Scripture and creation the greatness of God. But with this dread should also come great joy because, as his children, he has rescued from his holy wrath and made us his own. This is what brings excitement to say, “I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

We can trust God with our lives. We can know for sure because of his goodness that everything he does is for our good. This does not mean health and wealth but rather a confidence in God’s goodness to do as he promises. Part of the joy of salvation is looking for that day when we will be freed from sinning and in his perfect presence for all eternity. While here on earth may we keep our trust in our great God. Habakkuk had this trust: “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.” May we be faithful to rest upon God’s promise to never leave us nor forsake us.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Drawing Near to God

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

I find myself rehearsing this passage over and over when I begin to pray. This is a great reminder that through the blood of Christ we can approach the King of kings with confidence. It is also a promise that we may receive mercy and grace to help in time of need. But sometimes I wonder if I or we, as Christians, understand who this God is that we are approaching. We have the tendency to condemn those who bring God down to our level and think of him as nothing more than our homeboy. Sadly, without even realizing it, we can have the same tendency in prayer life. It is true that we can “draw near” to the throne of grace but I wonder if it is the same throne Isaiah saw in his vision. Or is it the same God who revealed himself to Job and caused Job to repent in dust and ashes? Or what about Habakkuk when he saw the reality of who God is and said, “I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me” (Hab. 3:16). I must confess this not the view of God I have in mind when I approach the throne of grace.

Sadly this has hindered my prayer life. Having a wrong or low view of God has made my prayer life sink to shallow times with a God who is not high and exalted. I have made him someone not much higher than I am. I have made him something of my own idea rather than knowing the true God described in the Scriptures. God is inexhaustibly great. I admit this is difficult to understand but we can understand to some degree because he has revealed himself in his word. The problem is we need to be more faithful to be in the word, not just seeking out answers for life, but getting to know our sovereign Ruler as well. If we would read a passage like Isaiah 6 and see God “sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple” with angelic beings saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”, this would increase our awe of the God we are approaching in prayer. May we strive to study God’s attributes in his word so when we approach the throne of grace we can bow humbly before our great God who listens to sinners like you and me and say with Isaiah, “Woe is me!” Then we will trust his promise that we will receive mercy and grace because we will understand that our perfect, holy God never fails in the promises he makes to his people.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Passion for the Gospel

"Let me speak to your conscience. Where is your zeal? Where is your zeal for the glory of God, and for extending the Gospel throughout the world? You know well, that it is very low. You know well, that your zeal is a little feeble glimmering spark, that just lives, and no more—it is like a thing ready to die. Surely there is a fault somewhere, if this is the case. This state of things ought not to be. You, the child of God—you, redeemed at so glorious a price—you, ransomed with such precious blood—you, who are an heir of glory such as no tongue ever yet told, or eye saw; surely you ought to be a man of another kind. Surely your zeal ought not to be so small." (J.C. Ryle)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Greatest Substitution

When I should stand before Your wrath condemned
When I should be the one, consumed with sin
When I should be the object of Your justice
You took my place and died

When I should stand, cursed from Adam’s sin
With every breath my God offend
When I should be enslaved to law
Your grace broke through my mess

When I turn away, and selfishly betray
It seem that I can only make mistakes
When all the guilt, tells me I’m unworthy
You only see Your Son

Love brought a different way,
Barged in to save
Yeah, the greatest substitution came my way
And I will sing to You, and with my life I’ll say
Love has no greater than this. (Steve Patterson)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, August 2, 2010

"Wait until next year"

"Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all." (Mark 10:43-44)

Yesterday was the birthday of man I admire highly for the way he serves others. I've had the privilege of knowing Josh Keifer now for many years. He is my wife's cousin so I met him back in his college years. We kind of became friends by default because he was dating Heather's best friend, Jennifer, who is now is lovely wife. I'm glad for those years and I am also glad to still know him and to know him more than I did back then. We share a common love for saying, "Wait until next year" when the Cubs season ends always thinking next year will be it. We also share a liking for sports and video games. But I've also seen him grow into a man of God and a leader in his marriage. The biggest thing that has always stood out with me about Josh is his willingness to serve others. Never once have I seen or heard him complain when an opportunity to serve another arises.

Unfortunately Josh and Jennifer live a couple hours distance from us so that kind of hinders our time to spend with one another. I remember when Emma was born Josh and Jennifer just hopping in a car to come see us and spend a few hours at the hospital and then get back in the car and drive home. Or when Heather and I were struggling and they drove down after work to come talk and eat dinner and then drove back home. Or Josh always making time for his younger cousins. Or the way he serves at the house with their new little one, Noah. Or the times he has picked up the phone to talk Theology with me so we can discern false teaching. Or the way he loves his wife and serves her. He's never been the outspoken leader but I think he's content to lay back, serve others and do it for the glory of his God. I say that because as you read on in this passage of Mark we read of the ultimate example of servanthood in Jesus Christ. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).

Josh loves to serve because he loves Jesus Christ and he knows the reality of the gospel. Josh has been transformed by grace so his life is a reflection of that truth. I'm grateful to have him as a friend and really I'm glad to be a part of his family. Thanks Josh for your example of what this passage speaks about being a servant.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

PS - Happy Birthday