Monday, January 31, 2011

Radical Calling

The greatest sermon ever preached is recorded in the book of Matthew chapters 5 through 7. This is what is known as the sermon on the mount preached by Jesus. Jesus is speaking to his disciples giving them a picture of what a disciple of his will look like while living everyday life. The desire of a disciple to live in light of these truth comes from the transforming work of Christ in the disciples life. Though we will never obey this standard of living perfectly we have been given the power of the Spirit to daily grow in the means of godliness. The point is to be like Christ.

Sadly I have heard many people talk about the impossibility of these standards therefore they leave them up to Jesus. But Jesus tells us, "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). This ought to be the desire of every Christian. We want to be like Christ. He has left us with a picture of his character and his will for us to know and apply to our lives. If you see a lack of desire to know God deeper and deeper on a consistent basis then what he demands from us will mean nothing to you. You will want to leave his will for him. But if you have been regenerated by his grace, empowered by his Spirit then your desire will be to grow deeper and deeper into the knowledge and will of God. In turn your life will begin to change more and more into the image of Christ. This is the pursuit of godliness.

Please to misinterpret what Christ is saying at the end of Matthew 5: "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Other translations use the word "holy" rather than "perfect." Jesus is not saying his disciples will obtain perfection while we are on the earth. We are clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ through faith in Christ and we will be brought to glory after this life where sin will be no more but Jesus here is referring to the pursuing of his holiness. If you read Matthew 5-7 you will be amazed at the radical calling God has for his people. I would encourage you to read these three chapters and examine your own heart.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pleasures Forevermore

I haven't been feeling well this week so I decided to do a throwback Text Treasure. I hope you enjoy.

“Pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)

This is what the whole world longs for in life. Every human soul longs to be satisfied with pleasure. We search for this satisfaction any place we can not realizing earthly possessions only satisfy temporarily. But here in God’s holy world we find him saying we can have “pleasures forevermore.”

God who is all-knowing, all-powerful, sovereign, eternal says he will give us “pleasures forevermore.” Only an eternal, everlasting being could offer “pleasures forevermore.” All other satisfactions will end with death but God eternally promises pleasure. But we still seem to look over this beautiful promise from God turning ourselves over to fleeting pleasures that fulfill us for the moment but leave us empty in the end. We want what we think will be the quick fix to our empty soul not looking to God’s word telling us he makes known to us the path of life; in his presence there is fullness of joy (Ps. 16:11). The path we have marked out leads to destruction but God promises, to his children, to make known our path and greater still, his path is in his presence where there is fullness of joy and “pleasures forevermore.”

I think C.S. Lewis had this perspective when he wrote in the opening pages of The Weight of Glory: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” In our ignorance we are toying around with fleeting pleasures not trusting God’s promise that in him we have “pleasures forevermore.”

God has created us to be satisfied. Its not that God wants us to be creatures that live in a dark and gloomy state every day of our lives while he is ultimately satisfied rather he wants us to be satisfied but he knows where the only true satisfaction lies. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6). Seeking the face of the all-sufficient God is the only possible way of being sufficiently satisfied. Striving, by grace, to be more and more like Christ is where pleasure and satisfaction are found. When we seek our satisfaction in Christ, God gets the glory while we get ultimate joy. No where on this earth will we find “pleasures forevermore.”

This truth ought to intensify our worship of Christ. “The great hindrance to worship is not that we are pleasure-seeking people, but that we are willing to settle for such pitiful pleasures” (John Piper). Solomon had everything this world could offer yet near the end of Ecclesiastes he writes, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity” (12:8). In the end Solomon found no pleasure in the world’s goods but rather in fearing God and obeying his commandments. The worship of God is the ultimate, eternal satisfaction who makes known to us the path of life and in whose presents there is fullness of joy and “pleasures forevermore.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Joy of the Soul

"An action is moral...only if one has no desire to perform it, but performs it out of a sense of duty and derives no benefit from it of any sort, neither material nor spiritual. A benefit destroys the moral value of an action." These are the words of Immanuel Kant but, sadly, this is what most of Christianity looks like to the world. We do our "Christians duties" so often from the motive of duty rather than having a delight in our Savior. Often our praying, reading, church going, bible studies, fellowship and so on go no deeper than the fact that we are supposed to do these things. Dr. Piper speaks about this issue:

"Every Sunday morning at 11 A.M., Hebrews 11:6 enters combat with Immanuel Kant. 'Without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.' You cannot please God if you do not come to Him for reward! Therefore, worship that pleases God is the hedonistic pursuit of God. He is our exceeding great reward! In his presence is fullness of joy, and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore. Worship is the feast of Christian Hedonism."

I would say Hebrews 11:6 applies to all of life. We are worshippers who worship every second of every day. The question becomes: Who or what are you worshipping? Only those who are drawing near to God because they believe in him find an eternal reward. God is the eternal reward. His satisfactions and delights and joys never come to end. He offers the only pleasures that grow stronger with time. Every other pleasure outside of God will fade away because we were created to be satisfied by our Creator. As Christians, may we come into his presence with great joy as we are reminded of his great love for us in Christ Jesus.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Like a Forgotten Peach in the back of the Refrigerator

Lately I have been re-reading Desiring God by Dr. John Piper. My soul has been filled with great delight as I am being reminded of the sheer joy that comes when we find our pleasure in God. Piper's lifelong theme has been: "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him." In chapter two Piper is addressing the issue that humans are far too easily pleased but even to a greater degree Christians are delighting in many others temporal pleasures when we are the ones who know God and have pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). Piper says this:

"Through long drinking at the broken cistern of mud-pie pleasures, many have lost almost all capacity for delighting in God - not unlike what happened to Charles Darwin. Near the end of his life he wrote an autobiography for his children in which he expressed one regret:

'Up to the age of 30 or beyond it, poetry of many kinds...gave me great pleasure, and even as a schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare.... Formerly pictures gave me considerable, and music very great, delight. But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also almost lost any taste for pictures or music.... I retain some taste for fine scenery, but it does not cause me the exquisite delight which it formerly did.... My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have cause the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive.... The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.'


Worship services across the land bear the scars of this process. For many, Christianity has become the grinding out of general doctrinal laws from collections of biblical facts. But childlike wonder and awe have died. The scenery and poetry and music of the majesty of God have dried up like a forgotten peach at the back of the refrigerator.

And the irony is that we have aided and abetted the desiccation by telling people they ought not seek their own pleasure, especially in worship. We have implied in a thousand ways that the virtue of an act diminishes to the degree you enjoy doing it and that doing something because it yields happiness is bad. The notion hangs like a gas in the Christian atmosphere."

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

You are my King

I'm forgiven because you were forsaken
I'm accepted, you were condemned
I'm alive and well
Your spirit is within me
Because you died and rose again

Amazing love how can it be
That you, my king would die for me
Amazing love, I know its true
It's my joy to honor you
In all I do I honor you

You are my king
You are my king
Jesus, You are my king
Jesus, You are my king (Billy Foote)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sing for Joy to the Great King

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.

For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care. (Psalm 95:1-7)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, January 21, 2011

The LORD is the Portion of my Inheritance and my Cup


“The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup” (Psalm 16:5)

Psalm 16 is one my favorite chapters in the entire Bible. The chapter is short but packed with sweet reminders of who God is and what we have received from his hand. It is a chapter about his grace to us. We can find great comfort for our souls in this Psalm of David. A couple of those comfronts come when David says, "The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup."

If you are a Christian than you recognize that before God graciously saved you your inheritance was death and your cup was full of God’s holy wrath. The Bible says the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and death is described as a place of eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46). Every human deserves this eternal punishment because of our treason against holy God. This is beyond a gloomy picture. This is a horrific reality! Apart from the saving work of Jesus Christ this is our position. All are born into sin therefore we are all God rejecting rebels who have replaced God to put ourselves on his rightful throne. For those who continue in their sin, not confessing Jesus as Lord and Savior, the horrific truth of being separated from God’s goodness for all eternity can never be escaped. So how is David bringing comfort by saying, “The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup”?

We see clearly two truths about who God is in our salvation. He is “the portion of my inheritance” and he is “my cup.” This is a great comfort because we can see there is hope for sinners. The horrific truth about our sin and the death we have all inherited from birth is taken away. Through faith in Jesus Christ our inheritance goes from rags to riches. “I cry to you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living’” (Ps. 142:5). Our cup, which was full of God’s wrath is not just emptied out (which would be great) but is now filled with God’s saving grace. “What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD” (Ps. 116:12-13). In Psalm 23 we read: “My cup overflows” (5). The comfort is found in the truth that God’s grace triumphs over our sins.

For those who have placed their trust in Christ may you find great comfort from this passage. May you remember the grace of our great God. May we with David say, “The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup.” He is all we need. No matter the external circumstances in this world, we can cling to the God of our salvation. Our inheritance is a blissful eternity with him and our cup is ever overflowing with his great salvation. Rejoice and praise his great name.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Love One Another

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 John 4:7-21)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

May our Light never Flicker Out

I posted the song yesterday and last Tuesday because I have been thinking a lot about what it means to love as brothers and sisters in Christ. As Christians, we must learn how to love like Christ because we want the world to know Christ. Jesus tells his disciples, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35). Without really looking at this passage closely we can neglect what it is saying. At quick glance we can think this passage is speaking of loving everyone. We know from Scripture that as Christians we are to love our neighbor as ourselves because we have been shown the love of Christ. But here Jesus is telling his disciples to love each other. Not only is he telling them to love one another but he says "all people will know that you are my disciples" if you love one another.


I know there are many passages about love in the Bible but I believe this one in John 13 is of great help to Christians. While loving our fellow brothers and sisters we are able to show the world a love they know nothing about because the blood of Christ is our unbreakable bond. I fear the problem is we have so distorted this command because of our lack of love for one another. When the world sees arguing and quarreling and dissension rather than unity in the family of God our light can flicker out. But when our love for one another is shining bright for the world to see, Jesus says they will know we are his disciples. When our light is shining they see the difference which in turn gives us the opportunity to preach the message of Christ crucified.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

They'll Know we are Christians by our Love

We are one in the Spirit,we are one in the Lord,
We are one in the Spiritwe are one in the Lord,
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored:
And they'll know we are Christians
By our love, by our love,
Yes, they'll know we are Christians
By our love.

We will walk with each other we will walk hand in hand
we will walk with each other we will walk hand in hand
and together we'll spread the news that God is in our land:
And they'll know we are Christians
By our love, by our love,
Yes, they'll know we are Christians
By our love.

We will work with each other we will work side by side
We will work with each other We will work side by side
And we'll guard each man's dignity and save each man's pride:
And they'll know we are Christians
By our love, by our love
Yes, they'll know we are Christians
By our love.

All Praise to the Father from whom all things come,
And all praise to Christ Jesus His only Son,
and all praise to the Spiritwho makes us all one:
And they'll know we are Christians
By our love, by our love
Yes, They'll know we are Christians
By our love. (Peter Scholtes)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, January 14, 2011

I am the Way


"I am the way" (John 14:6)

I am sure we have all heard the modern day notion that religion is a personal matter and all roads lead to the same place. Those who claim there are not many roads to God but just one are considered to be narrow-minded individuals. Today we are more concerned about being open-minded rather than truly caring for souls. Jesus, on the other hand, leaves no room for Christians to speak anything other than the truth about who he is when he says, "I am the way."

The first thing we see in this claim is the definite article "the." Jesus is not claiming to be "a" way but "the way." As Christians, we have graciously had our eyes opened to the truth of Scripture therefore we affirm it is the infallible Word of God. Jesus is the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords who is seated at the right hand of the Father. He is our Savior and Lord. As Christians, we hold to the word of Christ which we find in the Bible. In the Bible we read clearly that Jesus said, "I am the way." We can attempt to dance around this truth but I just do not see how it is possible because he goes to say at the end of the verse: "No one comes to the Father except by me" (John 14:6b). No one means no one. Coming to the Father means a change in status from enemy of God to a son or daughter of God therefore we have an inheritance with the King. This is the path to eternal life. Period.

Second we see the word "way" in this claim. I know we touched on it some above but I want to look at one of my favorite Biblical terms which is the word mediation. Jesus is our mediator. Mediation involves three parties: Two at odds with each other and one to provide reconciliation. When we think of it in human terms we get an imperfect picture. The problem lies in the fact that all three parties are sinful. Spiritually, we have God and man as the two parties at odds with one another. Man is at odds with God because man wants to be God and has therefore rebelled against God. God, being holy, cannot look upon sin therefore he cannot look upon sinners. I have heard this described as the great dilemma. At this point in the story God is perfectly just in sending every single human being to hell because we have sinned against our Creator. We have to have a mediator or else we receive nothing but what we deserve which is hell.

But God in the greatest act of love sends his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to redeem sinners. Jesus, being fully divine and fuly human, can be the mediator between humans and God. The Bible says, "There is only one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). The Son has fellowship with the Father because he is perfectly holy. The Son has fellowship with humans because he has humbled himself to take the form of humanity (Phil. 2:5-8). Through the cross Jesus provides the reconciliation between sinners and God. "For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son that whoever believe in him might not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

Do you believe Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father? Do you believe he provided the payment for your sins at Calvary? I want to be as loving as I can in saying Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. There are not many paths, only one. Listen to the Words of Christ: "I am the way."

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Knowing God and Knowing this World

Have you considered the comparison of knowing God and knowing this world? I confess this is a struggle of mine. I often wonder how much of the world we ought to engage in and as we engage how do we keep ourselves Christ-centered? Scripture clearly says to do everything to glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31) but in our fallen condition this is no easy task. Paul says he counts everything as rubbish compared to knowing Christ (Phil. 3:8). I think the answer is two-fold:

First, we have such a small knowledge of God that we cannot imagine the things of the world as rubbish. J.I. Packer says, "When Paul says he counts the things he lost rubbish, or dung (KJV), he means not merely that he does not think of them as having any value, but also that he does not live with them constantly in his mind: what normal person spends his time nostalgically dreaming of manure? Yet this, in effect, is what many of us do. It shows how little we have in the way of true knowledge of God" (Knowing God, p. 25). Our small knowledge of God brings about a dwelling upon the temporary because we do not know God well enough to ponder his majesty with all our thoughts.

Second, the reason doing everything for the glory of God is so hard is because we have a small knowledge of God. We are just not sure how he fits into our lives. I'm not saying we need to stop watching sports, playing video game, watching movies, going out with friends, playing games and so on and so forth but we do need to do those things to the glory of God. The only way that is possible is knowing God. We must pray for wisdom in these areas where we are not really sure how to do them for God's glory. "Entertainment time" or "Free time" are not times to put our Lord and Savior on the shelf. As Christians we have the command to do all to the glory of God therefore we must wrestle with this reality in this fallen world until we are brought into eternity where the struggle will be no more.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Victory!

Heather and I have been teaching Emma different verses from the Bible and also different songs for her to keep in her head. It has been fun to see all the words she remembers as we teach her both verses and choruses to songs. The latest chorus she is learning is the chorus to Victory in Jesus. As a matter of fact as I type she is leaning on me listening to Bart Millard's version of the song. She loves the song and also know many of the words in the song. It is a joy for me to sing the song as well as I am reminded that the victory is already won in Christ. I know Emma does not comprehend the song but what truth to have feeding her mind as she learns these great truths.

"O victory in Jesus my Savior forever
He sought me and bought me with his redeeming blood
He loved ere I knew him and all my love is due him
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood." (Eugene Bartlett)

The song is clear that this victory is all the working of God in the lives of sinners. He sought me! He bought me! It was his redeeming blood! He loved me! He plunged me to victory through the blood of Christ! May we all celebrate this great truth and rejoice that victory is already won in Christ.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

By Our Love

Brothers, let us come together
Walking in the Spirit, there's much to be done
We will come reaching, out from our comforts
And they will know us by our love

Sisters, we were made for kindness
We can pierce the darkness as He shines through us
We will come reaching, with a song of healing
And they will know us by our love!

The time is now
Come Church arise
Love with His hands
See with His eyes
Bind it around you,
Let it never leave you,
And they will know us by our love

Children, You are hope for justice,
Stand firm in the Truth now, set your hearts above
You will be reaching, long after we’re gone,
And they will know you by your love! (Christy Nockels)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, January 10, 2011

Our Great Mediator

"Let us strive to know more and more, every year we live, our need of a mediator between ourselves and God. Let us seek more and more to realize that without a mediator our thoughts of God can never be comfortable, and the more clearly we see God the more uncomfortable we must feel. Above all, let us be thankful that we have in Jesus the very Mediator whose help our souls require, and that through Him we may draw near to God with boldness, and cast fear away. Out of Christ, God is a consuming fire. In Christ, He is a reconciled Father. Without Christ, the strictest moralist may well tremble, as he looks forward to his end. Through Christ, the chief of sinners may approach God with confidence, and feel perfect peace." (J.C. Ryle)

"There is only one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 2:5)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, January 7, 2011

The LORD is Good to All


“The LORD is good to all” (Psalm 145:9)

At our church we have a time at the beginning of the service to prepare our hearts to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth. I often open to Psalm 145 and read this text. It is a chapter that reminds to of who God is and why he is worthy of our praise. Each time I read it new things jump out at me that bring fresh amazement to my heart about our great God. Just last week I was intrigued by the phrase: “The LORD is good to all.”

David is writing this song as a Christian. He is acknowledging throughout the song that he will extol “my God and King…and praise your name forever and ever” (1). David is praising God for what God has done in his life. He is reminding all of us to commend God’s works from generation to generation (4), declare his mighty acts (4), meditate upon God’s wondrous works (5), speak of the might of his awesome deeds (6), declare God’s greatness (6), pour forth the fame of his abundant goodness (7) and sing aloud his righteousness (7). This is what all creation called to do. I don’t think this is just for Christians alone. All of us are to proclaim the truth about our Creator. But this reveals the problem with the natural man because every person in their natural state will not acknowledge God as great and mighty proclaiming his goodness from generation to generation. We would rather ignore God and exalt ourselves until things in our life do not go the way we want them to. This is why we hear questions directed to God which say, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” or “If God is so good why is this happening to me?” I could respond to these questions with posts of their own but I want to just hit on what this passage says to those questions: “The LORD is good to all.”

When I first read this verse my initial thought was the Lord is good to all Christians, but that is not what this text says. Yes, David is writing as a believer. Yes, it is in God’s Word so Christians will affirm this great truth. But if you go on in the verse it says, “The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” This indicates that the LORD is good to everything and everyone he has created. Sadly the majority of the world is content to rule upon their own throne while rejecting the one true King. When things are good (This is the majority of life) we want the credit. If you have money it is because of something you did. If you have possessions it is because of something you did. The problem is we are not acknowledging God as the giver of all good things including life. But when things go badly we don’t want any responsibility. We instantaneously blame God. Think about this statement: “Things are not going good anymore so God you are to blame.” WOW!! We want the credit for the good and we want to blame God for the bad, rather than acknowledging with Scripture that we live in a fallen world full of sin.

God is so good that he provided the way to remove our prideful, self-seeking life. He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to remove our sin. He made the way for a relationship with him. For those who have repented of their sins and placed their trust in Christ, God has given them the grace to acknowledge him as the great and awesome Creator and sustainer of all life. He is great. His works and deeds are awesome. His fame is worth declaring from generation to generation. “The LORD is good to all.” I’m grateful he opened my eyes to this truth.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, January 6, 2011

It's hard being a Sports Fan

Do you struggle with being a God-glorifying sports fan?

We are commanded in Scripture to eat and drink and do everything to the glory to God (1 Cor. 10:31). "Everything" include being a sports fan! I really enjoy sports. I am so often awed by the talents God has given to these athletes. I love the team aspect of sports. I love watching how each individual player fulfills the role specifically given to them on a team. It is intriguing to watch as teams collapse many times when players do not want to fulfill their role. The competition gets my adrenaline flowing as two teams battle out for victory. So many aspects are great about sports. But the hard territory for me is glorifying God when watching a team I love.

I was reminded of this Tuesday night as some family gathered at our house for the Sugar Bowl. It was a house full of Arkansas Razorback fans. We were gathered as a unified fan club for our beloved Hogs. The food was great and the fellowship is always a blast when we gather as family. The game was hard fought and very emotional as the Razorbacks did not show up in the first half and then slowly clawed their way back. Down by five with a minute to go the madness began as the Razorbacks blocked a punt and gained possession at the twenty yard line. Emotions went from thinking we had lost to now believing we were going to win the game. Then...a dropped pass....an interception....game over. It was tough.

As I went to bed that evening I reflected back on the night. I was grateful for many things: Family, food, unity, football, emotions, desire and so much more. But I as my mind went back to the game over and over I had to remind myself as I often do: It doesn't count for eternity! When we put life into its proper perspective it does not necessarily mean we shouldn't care about our team but it does mean we strive, as Christians, to not be consumed by this temporal joys. I know my fear is making a good gift into an idol.

So how do we glorify God while enjoying the gift of watching sports? We must keep our eyes fixed on an eternal perspective. We must remember sports as a gift rather than making it an idol. When the games over and whether we win or lose we must ask, "What does this really matter in the scope of eternity?" Maybe that doesn't make it easier right away but it is truth to feed our souls.

A book I would recommend is Ted Kluck's The Reason for Sports.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

PS - Maybe I'll report back on Monday after my Packers have played their first playoff game.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Gospel Power

Tim Challies wrote a wonderful article about what it means to live a Gospel-Centered life. It was not a huge article but a helpful one. Please take the time to click here and read the entire article and check out the recommended resources at the bottom. I have read a few of the books Tim recommends and I would also recommend them myself. On top of the list is C.J. Mahaney's book Living the Cross-Centered Life which is practical for any Christian. Also a book not on Tim's list would be Milton Vincent's book A Gospel Primer for Christians. Below is a snippet from Tim's article:

Gospel
The first thing we’ll need to do is define gospel. In our church we’ve got a handy little short-hand way of doing this, one that all the kids understand. I’m pretty sure you could go to just about any child in the church, ask “what is the gospel?” and hear this response: “Christ died for our sins and was raised.” When we talk about this during services, we accompany it with a little action. We begin with a closed fist held out in front of us and with each of the first five words we open one finger. “Christ…died…for…our…sins.” And then, with the open hand, we raise it up and say “and was raised.” And that’s the gospel. Of course the gospel can be as simple as those eight words or as complex as many volumes of theological text. But the essential gospel is right there—that Jesus Christ was put to death as an atoning sacrifice for our sins and was then raised back to life.

Gospel-Centered
Living a gospel-centered life is really simply living in such a way that this gospel is central. Thus when any kind of a situation arises we can say, “How does the gospel apply to this situation?” When I am dealing with a particular sin or temptation I can ask, “How can I apply the gospel to this sin?” When I am confused about parenting, how I am to raise my children, I can ask, “What does the gospel tell me about my task in parenting?” The primary reality of the Christian life is this one: Christ died for our sins and was raised. Thus everything else flows out of that gospel and every question is answered in reference to it.


What a comfort to know the Gospel does not just save us from God's wrath and cleanses us from all sin but the Gospel is also sustaining for every child of God. The Gospel takes us through every situation this life has to offer and then ushers home in to the presence of the God at the center of the Gospel. He saves and sustains by his grace through the Gospel!

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In My Place

In my place, he stood condemned
He who know no sin became sin for us
That we might become, his righteousness

Bearing all my sin and shame
The punishment and blame he conquered the grave
That we might become, the heirs of grace

In my place, Jesus died
The spotless Lamb laid down his life
The wrath of God was satisfied
In my place, Jesus died

Nail pierced hands, bleeding side, His body bruised, my God crucified
A crown of thorns, dying cries, his flesh was torn, my God crucified
Hallelujah, what a Savior! (Matt Boswell & Michael Bleeker)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, January 3, 2011

Fighting the Flesh

A new year is here but as Christians our pursuit of holiness should continue on in the grace of the Lord. I have recently been reading Thomas Watson's book The Godly Man's Picture which has been hard to get through because I have been reading over again and again his section on humility. Pride is so evident in my life so I love the godly wisdom Watson provides in this section of the book. Watson starts by asking the question: "How may a Christian know that he is humble - and consequently godly?" This is a question all of us need godly counsel. Watson helps us:

1. A humble soul is emptied of all swelling thoughts of himself. (Job 22:29; Psalm 22:6; Job 10:15)
2. A humble soul thinks better of others than of himself. (Phil. 2:3; Proverbs 30:2)
3. A humble soul has a low esteem of his duties.
"[The Christian] sees that his best duties weigh too light; therefore he desires that Christ's merits may be put into the scales."
4. A humble man is always giving bills of indictment against himself. (Rom. 7:24)
"The more knowledge a humble Christian has, the more he complains of ignorance; the more faith a humble Christian has, the more he bewails his unbelief."
5. A humble man will justify God in an afflicted condition. (Neh. 9:33; Psalm 97:2)
6. A humble soul is a Christ-magnifier. (Phil. 1:20)
7. A humble soul is willing to take a reproof for sin. (Proverbs 9:8)
"The humble-spirited Christian can bear the reproach of an enemy, and the reproof of a friend."
8. A humble man is willing to have his name and gifts eclipsed, so that God's glory may be increased.
"A humble Christian is content to be laid aside, if God has any other tools to work with which may bring him more glory."
9. A humble saint in content with that condition which God sees is best for him. (Gen. 32:10)
10. A humble Christian will stoop to the lowest person and the lowest office.

I think these are helpful as we examine our souls for the new year to weed out the sins which make us more content with ourselves and less content with Christ. Our satisfaction and joy ought to be completely found in our great Savior. I hope you will join with me in this pursuit of holiness. May we rely on the grace of God and his Spirit's work as we fight the battle against our flesh.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Happy New Year