Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Exclusive Message for the Whole World

Why are Christians so narrow minded? Why are they so adamant that Jesus is the only way? Why do they think they have the truth? These are questions I am sure we have all heard from the world as a response to proclaiming the gospel. If you haven't heard these words then I would encourage you to speak up about Jesus. What the world is really asking us to do is not believe the Bible. Therefore they want us to reject God. The Bible is our authority therefore we need to listen to God speak from his Word and obey his will. This is our desire and we love to listen to our Father.

Are we narrow minded?

Jesus says, "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matthew 5:13-14).

Should we be so adamant that Jesus is the only way?

Jesus says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).

Do we really have the truth?

Jesus praying in John 17 says, "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth" (17).

There are many verses on all three of these offenses of Christianity. Christians must affirm Jesus is the only way to the Father and the Bible is the infallible Word of God. But while this message is exclusive in its nature it is also inclusive. As a matter of fact the gospel is the inclusive message for the human race. The message of salvation through Jesus Christ alone is for everyone.

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 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 2:1-6)

The message of the Bible is clear: Declare to all people, every nation, tribe and tongue, the salvation found in Jesus Christ alone. Repent and believe in Christ.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I Will Glory in my Redeemer

I will glory in my Redeemer
Whose priceless blood has ransomed me
Mine was the sin that drove the bitter nails
And hung Him on that judgment tree
I will glory in my Redeemer
Who crushed the power of sin and death
My only Savior before the Holy Judge
The Lamb Who is my righteousness
The Lamb Who is my righteousness

I will glory in my Redeemer
My life He bought, my love He owns
I have no longings for another
I’m satisfied in Him alone
I will glory in my Redeemer
His faithfulness my standing place
Though foes are mighty and rush upon me
My feet are firm, held by His grace
My feet are firm, held by His grace

I will glory in my Redeemer
Who carries me on eagle's wings
He crowns my life with lovingkindness
His triumph song I'll ever sing
I will glory in my Redeemer
Who waits for me at gates of gold
And when He calls me it will be paradise
His face forever to behold
His face forever to behold
His face forever to behold (Steve & Vikki Cook)

Grace upon grace,
JRL


Monday, August 29, 2011

Psalm 1

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, August 26, 2011

Come, Everyone Who Thirsts



“Come, everyone who thirsts” (Isaiah 55:1)

Think for a moment about a hot summer day. You have just been out running errands in the heat of the day. You’re sweaty, tired and hot. Wouldn’t a tall glass of water taste really good in this scenario? Our body is restored once we have a drink of water. Spiritually all of us are born dying of thirst. Our souls are never quenched because we are running after broken cisterns that never satisfy. But Jesus says, “Come, everyone who thirsts.”

Each of us was created for a purpose whether we acknowledge this truth or not. We all have a desire to be satisfied. Look around and see the different fountains people drink from to quench their soul’s desire. Christian, check your own heart to see what cravings you have for fleeting pleasures. When we try to fill our eternal soul with temporal stuff it just doesn’t work. You cannot satisfy the eternal with the temporal. This is an impossible goal. But there is an eternal fountain to drink from that will satisfy your soul forever. Yes, forever! The Fountainhead is calling: “Come, everyone who thirsts.”

The apostle John records the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. This was an interesting situation from the start because Jews did not associate with Samaritan’s. But Jesus comes to the lady and asks, “Give me a drink.” Taken aback by the fact that this Jewish man was speaking to her she asks him a question, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” Jesus answers back, “"If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." I imagine the blank look on her face as he is sitting there with no bucket to draw water yet he is offering her living water. What she doesn’t understand is this Jewish man is the Messiah. Jesus then makes it clear that the water from the well will satisfy for a time but the thirst will naturally come back. But spiritually Jesus offers her the only eternal thirst quencher: Himself. “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Jesus didn’t need a bucket because he is the eternal spring of water welling up to eternal life. He is calling us to come and drink.

The question can be asked: Why do Christians still drink from the well water when the spring is dwelling within them? That is a fair question. For all of us, believer or not, that question reveals a problem with us, not God. Naturally we are all born enslaved to sin. We love sin and sin has the power over us. We don’t just sin but we are sinners. On the surface this may not always show itself because of God’s common grace. But in our hearts we are in bondage. We are not as bad as we could on the surface because of his grace. But for the believer, Jesus, through his death and resurrection, has pardoned our sin and empowered us to have victory over sin. We have been raised to newness of life through the power of the gospel. The Christian has the supernatural power to forsake sin because of the all-satisfying treasure of Christ’s Spirit dwelling within us. When our eyes are fixed upon Christ the broken cisterns of the world begin to lose there allurement. But sadly we are still sinners. This is why the believer longs for heaven because sin will be gone and our eyes will never be removed from Christ.


Until that day we strive, by God’s grace, toward holiness. We want to be like Jesus. He is our standard. Sadly, most people keep dropping their buckets down a well which ultimately doesn’t satisfy their soul. Jesus is inviting everyone who thirsts to come. There is only one eternal spring of water, Jesus Christ, but he is inviting all to come and drink. “Come, everyone who thirsts.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Quick to Forgive Myself, Why not Others?

Currently I am studying the book of Philemon and learning about forgiveness. Reading through John MacArthur's commentary on the book has made a significant change in my view of forgiveness. I thought I understood what forgiveness was all about yet struggled with being a forgiving person. By no means has this study been a quick fix to my struggle but it has allowed me to view forgiveness in a practical way of my life. My struggles came from a lack of understanding the truth found in Scripture. Dr. MacArthur gives eight foundation elements of a biblical doctrine of forgiveness that really opened my eyes to my lacking of understanding. My bitterness toward certain aspects or people in my life ran deeper than I understood but also my view of the gospel has been distorted. This is what sin wants for our lives as believers. In one of the eight foundational elements of forgiveness Dr. MacArthur says:

"Matthew 22:39: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' We find ourselves eminently worthy of forgiveness, and have a hard time understanding why others would not forgive us. We are quick to forgive and excuse ourselves. It is utter selfishness to fail to extend that same forgiveness to others. Selfishness also cause us to exaggerate the faults of those who offend us. Humble, unselfish people, in contrast, do not see offenses against themselves as significant."

OUCH! I am so grateful God is breaking down this area of sin in my life. I am a very prideful person that needs breaking. What amazing grace from God to forgive me from my lack of forgiveness to others. I want to be more like him.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Are you Staring at Jesus?

I recently started reading Rick Holland's book Uneclipsing the Son. The subject: Christ. This is a book to help examine your heart to see whether Christ is truly the object of your faith. Rick says:

As strange and unthinkable as it may seem, in the hurricane of Christian activity and the avalanche of "Christian things" in which most of us live, Jesus Himself can come up missing. Look around. Listen. Check your own heart. It's way too easy to begin to think of Christianity as behavior modification, as a limitation on what you can enjoy or maybe making a moral or political stand or a social alternative to the world. And when we slip unwittingly into this mind-set, we effectively estrange ourselves from Christ, which sets us on a hunt for satisfaction in thw world. And when the world fails to satisfy our souls - and it will - we try harder to do better to fit in more with Christians and to feel better about ourselves. When this happens, we have entered the cycle that sends us spiraling into yet deeper frustration.

What's wrong with me?

I'll tell you - you've ceased to worship Jesus. After all, Christianity is the worship of Jesus Christ. It's the worship of Jesus Christ exclusively, and it's the worship of Jesus Christ comprehensively. He alone is worthy; he alone is God; he alone is the infinite sacrifice made for the sins of those who would believe. But it's comprehensive as well, which means that every part of our being should be engaged in the worship and honor of Jesus. If Jesus is who the Bible says he is, if he did what the Bible says he did, he is worthy of absolute, complete, exclusive, comprehensive attention and focus in our life...That's the first and last word on the subject at hand. Worship this Jesus. Don't let Jesus be crowded out.

"But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:3)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Beneath the Cross

Beneath the cross of Jesus
I find a place to stand,
And wonder at such mercy
That calls me as I am;
For hands that should discard me
Hold wounds which tell me, "Come."
Beneath the cross of Jesus
My unworthy soul is won.

Beneath the cross of Jesus
His family is my own—
Once strangers chasing selfish dreams,
Now one through grace alone.
How could I now dishonor
The ones that You have loved?
Beneath the cross of Jesus
See the children called by God.

Beneath the cross of Jesus—
The path before the crown—
We follow in His footsteps
Where promised hope is found.
How great the joy before us
To be His perfect bride;
Beneath the cross of Jesus
We will gladly live our lives. (Keith & Kristyn Getty)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dead Bones Come to Life...In Christ

Have you ever taken the time to consider what takes place when God saves a lost soul? Have you considered what speaking the truth of the gospel to someone could do for them? Have you considered what God did in saving you? Want to see what evangelism is all about?

"The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, 'Son of man, can these bones live?' And I answered, 'O Lord GOD, you know.' Then he said to me, 'Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.'

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, 'Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.' So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army." (Ezekiel 37:1-10)

When we open our mouths and speak the truth of Christ crucified this is what God does to dead bones: He makes them alive in Christ Jesus.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, August 19, 2011

Charge that to my Account



“Charge that to my account” (Philemon 1:18)

Philemon is a letter that has forgiveness written all throughout it. The letter is short but packed with great theological truths. The main truth: Forgiveness. This is a theological truth that so many of us need to focus on so when the time comes for us to forgive someone (and they will) we can be prepared to respond in a manner worthy of the gospel.

Near the end of the letter Paul is telling Philemon to accept Onesimus as he would accept Paul. Paul had been the Lord’s agent in Philemon’s salvation and we see Philemon has grown in godly character based on what is written throughout the letter. Paul says he has “derived much joy and comfort” from Philemon’s “love” for the saints. He also speaks of Philemon’s great love for the Lord Jesus (5). But Onesimus had committed a great crime against Philemon which was punishable by death at the time yet Paul had confidence in the work Christ had done in the life of Philemon to send Onesimus back to him. Paul is also testifying to the repentance shown in the life of Onesimus since he has runaway. In the Lord’s providence Onesimus and Paul had established a relationship in which Paul was used by the Lord in the salvation of Onesimus as well. Paul knew what had transpired between the Philemon and Onesimus and he also understood the seriousness of the crime committed therefore he acts as a mediator between the two parties. In his mediation we can clearly see how the gospel transforms us into forgiving people.

The Bible is clear that Christians ought to forgive others the way the Lord has forgiven them (Colossians 3:14). The standard is high but it is possible because of the cross. Near the end of Philemon, Paul is recalling the reality of Onesimus great sin in fleeing and potentially stealing from Philemon. He knows Ovesimus is unable to pay back Philemon so he says, “If you consider me your partner, receive [Onesimus] as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account” (17-18). We ought to read these words and instantly be reminded of the gospel. We should see these words and understand that the gospel is practically working itself out. Onesimus, the fleeing rebellious slave represents the sinner enslaved to sin. Philemon is the master from whom the sinner has run from and is rebelling against. Paul is acting as the mediator. He is bringing reconciliation between the two parties. He is pleading to the master to forgive the crime committed. The sinner has a debt he cannot pay back and Paul says, “Charge that to my account.” When I see those words I cannot help but head back to Colossians 2 where Paul writes, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (13-14).

Christian, we need to understand Onesimus represents all of us. We all rebelled against our Master. Yet in love Christ came to mediate between us and God. Christ came to bring reconciliation between us and God. Christ came so we could be forgiven and set free from the bondage of sin. How? Christ said to the Father on behalf of those who would repent and believe, “Charge that to my account,” which he bore upon the cross and validated by the empty tomb. He takes our sin and we receive his perfect righteousness in exchange. He commands us to forgive the way he has forgiven but it is only because of his forgiveness that we can truly forgive others. This is why we ought to be more amazed by grace.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Humble Servant and A Wonderful Wife


"Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands" (Ephesians 5:24)

Today I want to talk about the woman I have the honor to call my wife. Heather is having another birthday celebration today so I want to talk about her. You might be thinking, "That is odd selection of Scripture to pick to honor her" but let me explain. This is an area of Heather's life where she excels. God has given her a great amount of grace to be able to live this out with a husband like myself. In the passage we read how the church is to submit to Christ. Christ loves perfectly and always works things out for the good of his bride. He loves his bride unconditionally. The way he loves us should make easy for us to love him back but that is not the case. As believers we still sin against God. Even though he has awakened us to his great love we still turn to other gods to love upon. Our love is weak and conditional because of sin. It doesn't make sense when know of his great love for us.

With that in mind, consider the calling Christ has placed upon two sinners in marriage. He has given the man and the woman different roles in marriage. The husband is to be the leader and the one who sacrifices for the sake of his wife. The wife is to be a helper and encourager in the marriage, submitting to her husband as the leader. The two are to respectfully compliment each other in submission to the design of our Creator. This won't be done perfectly because of sin. But when I read this passage I can't help but think of how wonderfully my wife lives this out. The command is to submit to your husband in everything (unless it is against God's will). This is not an easy task because this text is commanding Heather to submit to me in everything. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have to submit to a sinner like myself. This also reminds me of my great responsibility as a leader in our marriage. Yet I see Heather excel in her submission. I don't see her complain but rather submit with joy. To the world this makes no sense at all. When I see how I have treated her at times I wonder how and why she does submit. I'm sure for her this is not always easy. So what does make sense of this high calling for husbands and wives?

The Gospel!

The only thing that makes sense about a wife submitting to a fallible husband is the gospel. Marriage is supposed to be a human illustration of the gospel. By grace I am aware of this reality and by grace Heather is as well. This is what makes leadership such a joy for me and what makes submission such a joy for her. I don't lead perfectly and she doesn't submit perfectly but we strive daily to be more and more like Christ so that our marriage will be a reflection of his love for sinners like us. We strive by his grace and for his glory so that our marriage will magnify his great name to a lost world. This is only accomplished through what Christ accomplished on the cross. His life, death and resurrection makes sense of marriage. Sinners saved by grace united until death do them part for the glory of God.

I love you.

Grace upon grace,
Your Husband

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Life is a Vapor

From John Piper's book Life is a Vapor:

"As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more" (Psalm 103:15-16)

"Only one life, 'twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last. What a tragedy when we fail to see that Christ, by his death and resurrection, has freed us from this evil age - from everything that we would look back on and say: wasted.

Therefore, attach yourself to the gospel of Christ. This alone will turn your earthly vapor into everlasting life. 'For all flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the world of the Lord remains forever.' And this word is the good news that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:24-25) "


Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Do Not I Love Thee, O My Lord?

Do not I love Thee, O my Lord?
Behold my heart and see;
And turn each curs├Ęd idol out,
That dares to rival Thee.

Do not I love Thee, O my Lord?
Then let me nothing love;
Dead be my heart to every joy,
When Jesus cannot move.

Is not Thy Name melodious still
To mine attentive ear?
Doth not each pulse with pleasure bound
My Savior’s voice to hear?

Hast Thou a lamb in all Thy flock
I would disdain to feed?
Hast Thou a foe, before whose face
I fear Thy cause to plead?

Would not mine ardent spirit vie
With angels round the throne,
To execute Thy sacred will,
And make Thy glory known?

Would not my heart pour forth its blood
In honor of Thy Name?
And challenge the cold hand of death
To damp th’immortal flame?

Thou know’st I love Thee, dearest Lord,
But O, I long to soar
Far from the sphere of mortal joys,
And learn to love Thee more! (Philip Doddridge)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, August 15, 2011

Not Who I Once Was

Christian, you ought to be able to say with John Newton:

"I am not what I ought to be.
I am not what I want to be.
I am not what I hope to be.
But still, I am not what I used to be.
And by the grace of God, I am what I am."

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, August 12, 2011

I have derived much Joy and Comfort from your Love



“I have derived much joy and comfort from your love” (Philemon 7)

Could these words be said about your life from another brother or sister in Christ? Bringing “joy and comfort” to a fellow believer would surely bring great encouragement to our souls and also great glory to our Savior, Jesus Christ. Thinking about the affect “your love” could have on a soul or many souls should be motivation to live a gospel saturated life.

Paul, writing to Philemon, says, “I have derived much joy and comfort from your love.” Paul had heard good reports from others about the life of Philemon. He was a member of the church of Colossae who had his slave, Onesimus, flee from his work. This letter in Scripture is Paul’s commending of Onesimus back to Philemon. Onesimus had since repented of his sin and given his life to Christ. Paul was a major contributor in the life of both Philemon and Onesimus so Paul wanted to see the relationship restored. He knows the character of Philemon and is trusting his love will carry over into the forgiveness of Onesimus sin against him.

Studying this book quickly makes us realize Philemon character should be the norm for Christians. What Onesimus had done to Philemon was a severe crime at the time. In our day when someone commits a sin against us we tend to hold a grudge without forgiving. Even when the offending party comes to repent and seek our forgiveness we often cling to the wrong committed. Philemon, on the other hand, tends to show a different portrait of forgiveness because his life has been changed by the gospel. His love for the saints is bringing “joy and comfort” to other believers who are not even in his own church. Paul had only heard of his love for other believers from other believers. This is a great testimony of grace in his life. This is how Paul could send Onesimus back to Philemon because he knew Philemon would be ready to forgive another believer. Paul is buttering him up but rather trusting in the power of the gospel.

Keep in mind Onesimus was potentially close enough to be back-handed by Philemon as he read Paul’s letter. But Paul was trusting in the work of the Holy Spirit to keep in his mind the truth which says, “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:13). This implies that people will sin against you and even worse, other believers will sin against you. The answer to sin is always the cross of Jesus Christ. Paul says we must forgive the way Christ has forgiven us. Paul was confident sending Onesimus back because of the life transforming power of the gospel in Philemon’s life. This should be the kind of attitude every believer should display in their life. When the gospel has transformed to love and forgive the way Christ has loved us than we will bring joy and comfort to other believers. We will also show the world what it means to lay down our lives in surrender to the King of kings. Jesus gave us a new commandment: “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).

Christian, how are you doing in this area of your walk? When the world or other believers see a conflict in your life do they see a person who is striving to be like Christ or a complainer? Do they see someone who is unable to forgive the way Christ has forgiven? This is not easy but with the power of the Holy Spirit and the reminder of the empty tomb we can fight against our sin. May we turn to see the example of Philemon and hear, as he did, “I have derived much joy and comfort from your love.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, August 11, 2011

An Open Letter to Chris Jones

Recently an article was written on the sports/pop culture blog Grantland talking about Barry Zito, a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. In this particular post, Arts vs. Science: The Barry Zito Debate, writers Chris Jones and Jonah Keri debate over a previous article written by Jones on how Barry Zito was destroyed by lofty expections. Rather than give you the entire set of e-mail exchanges between the two I will just give you section that caught my eye and than a quick response.

Chris Jones writes:

"You're asking me to defend art with science, and I can’t. It’s why science always wins. Art can’t overcome the burden of proof, and I concede that point, absolutely, which is why I’d never claim that statistics are stupid. I understand their importance and their value. But that doesn’t mean I have to love them.

This will sound strange, but stick with me. I’m an atheist, and have been for as long as I can remember. Back in high school, I was asked to debate a minister, in front of my biology class, about evolution. I presented all of my carefully researched and well-documented science, from the voyages of Beagle on down, and made every possible rational argument against the existence of God and every other deity (including the fairly obvious argument that if there is a Higher Power, there can be only one). And the minister’s only Argument Against was that he believed otherwise. He had no real proof, of course. He could not rebut my case with any sort of fact-based evidence. If our debate had happened in front of a purely rational audience of 100 people, I would have won 100 minds.

But people think with their hearts, too.

And after that debate, if I’m being honest, I envied the minister and his allies. I envied his belief. I still do. It’s really hard to be an atheist. It’s hard to believe that life is just a series of accidents, that at the end of it is only darkness. It’s hard to have things go wrong and have only yourself to blame.

So I’ve found my small gods in other things. I see the constellations in one of Norman Mailer’s perfectly written paragraphs. I listen to “
Montana” by Youth Lagoon and I believe in something like the divine. I am a man of deep feeling, and when I see people do beautiful things, I feel it in my chest. Barry Zito’s curveball was one of those beautiful things. When I first saw it and wrote about it, I thought for a long time how I might describe it. I ended up writing that “It dropped like a broken heart,” because that’s what I felt when I saw it."

Mr. Jones,

As a Christian this section of your e-mail response makes complete sense. I really appreciate your honesty about envying something about the minister's beliefs. I understand in your debate you presented careful research and well-documented science to disprove God to seemingly win the debate; but what you write in your following paragraphs really prove against your rational argument against the existence of God. You debated completely on science while the minister's "believing otherwise" was probably based on the truth that God created everything including you, me and the minister. Since God created everything and created humans in his own image, he therefore owns everything including you, me and the minister. Since he created us, he knows everything about us, and we can conclude he would know what would satisfy us. But rather than seeking our Creator for our joy and satisfaction we have rejected and rebelled against our Creator to seek other things (or gods) to try and satisfy our soul. God's says in his Word: "For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things" (Romans 1:31-23).

The amazing part is you admit to this very thing in your article. Rather than submitting to the truth about God you have sadly rejected him while trying to fill the void with his very creation. Evolution makes no sense of this reality but the Bible makes it crystal clear. The void comes from rejecting Jesus, the eternal, all-satisfying treasure. In turn you have created multiple god's to temporarily fill the void. The saddest part is that the void will never be completely filled. You will find yourself seeking new god's when the others wear out. But the Bible offers an eternal hope because it the Word of the eternal God. "In [God's] presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11). You were created for a purpose Mr. Jones and that purpose is to bring glory to your Creator.

Can I show you something beautiful and breath-taking? I know you love things that are beautiful and beyond description so let me point you to the greatest news in all of history. Though you have rejected and turned your back on your Creator (As was my life for so many years) he has graciously provided the way to restore the broken relationship. Nothing you will ever do can earn favor with God but, in love, he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price for all who would simply trust in him. Sin is the rejecting of God as God and what has separated you from God. Sin is what separated me from God. As humans we don't naturally love him "but God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Placing your trust in Jesus Christ is the way to have your void filled forever. He is the one who came to remove the wrath of the Father by dying in your place so your sins could be pardoned forever. This is amazing news. It all makes sense when we can go back to how and why we were created.

Life is not just a serious of accidents that will end in darkness. God is sovereign over all events and people. He is on his throne and his plan is absolutely perfect. And when things go wrong we do have only ourselves to blame because sin is what has caused all the corruption and destruction in this world. God is not to blame for sin, we are. "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire" (James 1:13-14). The Bible makes sense of all your questions. God created us for the purpose of basking in him and bringing glory to him as our Creator. We have sinned and rebelled against God (Genesis 3; Romans 3:23) therefore earning our wage of death (Romans 6:23). Yet Jesus comes and lives the life we could not live and dies the death we deserve in order to bring reconciliation between us and God (2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 2:13-14). The Bible says about Jesus, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

I'm not pleading with you to give Jesus a trial run for 30 days to see if he works or not. I'm not asking you to try to do a bunch of good things in order to find God. I'm pleading with you to "be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20). I'm pleading with you to forsake your rejection of your Creator and place your trust in his plan of salvation. I'm pleading with you to trust Christ!

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Parental Mission Field

If you are a parent have you ever considered the mission field? I know for many of you the thought of packing up your family to move halfway across the world does not sound appealing. But that is not what I am talking about when I ask you to consider your mission field. Yes we need and love those families who have packed up everything to move and minister to a certain group of people in a specific country but the mission field I am talking about is in our own home. As parents we have a mission field at the house.

Followers of Jesus Christ are called to be faithful proclaimers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have our commission from the God of the universe. So often in our Christianized culture we tend to think that is a job for missionaries and pastors only but that is not the case. We are all called to be lights in this dark world. We are called to be a city on a hill whose light cannot be hidden. We are called to be ambassadors for Christ pleading with people to be reconciled to God. As parents the best place I know to do this is in our own home with our children. God has given us precious gifts in our children but sadly, we too often forget they are sinners in need of a Savior. We can get too busy pinching their cheeks and telling them how cute they are rather than letting them know of sin and how it separates them from holy God. We are more concerned with getting them to church to learn all the Christian songs and memorize Bible verses rather than being faithful gospel proclaimers at home with our words and actions. Psalm 145:4 says, "One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts." This is what we are able to as parent who love Christ.

Everyday God gives you is to be used for his glory. If he should bless you with another day of dolls and tree houses than you have another great opportunity to speak of his glorious gospel on the mission field. Kids are not automatically Christians because of their parents or their church. Kids are natural born sinners in need of Jesus Christ. Believing parents are a gift to their children because they can proclaim the truth of the cross over and over. Have you been faithful? Your child's eternity is at stake.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Alas! And did my Savior Bleed

Alas! and did my Savior bleed,
and did my Sovereign die!
Would he devote that sacred head
for sinners such as I?

Was it for crimes that I have done,
he groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkness hide,
and shut its glories in,
when God, the mighty maker died
for his own creature's sin.

Thus might I hide my blushing face
while his dear cross appears;
dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
and melt mine eyes to tears.

But drops of tears can ne'er repay
the debt of love I owe.
Here, Lord, I give myself away;
'tis all that I can do. (Isaac Watts)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, August 8, 2011

God Opposes the Proud but...

I hate sin. I know of no other way to start this post than stating that reality. It grieves me to see the sin that is in my life. It grieves me more that my sin so often affects the people I love the most. I've lately been noticing the pride in my life and how often that pride is directed toward my wife and others in my family. This weekend was good because God started showing me this reality. I know he is graciously working on my heart by his mercy and grace.

This weekend I did open up C.J. Mahaney's wonderful book Humility so I could get a dose of counsel and Scripture to help in my fight. Mahaney gives a great definitions of humility: "Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God's holiness and our sinfulness." The reason for not noticing sin in our lives boils down to how we know and see God. The more we study, read and understand who God is then, in turn, the more we will know about ourselves. I know at times I tend to avoid this study. I am afraid of knowing God because of what I will find out about myself. It is ugly!

The Scriptures encourage us to fight against pride. God's word is clear: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). I want grace! All of us want grace but grace comes at a great price. In Philippians we are told to "have this mind among yourselves." What kind of mind? "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others" (2:3-4). The mind we are to have is a humble mind which is only possible with Christ. He set the example by taking on humanity in order to die a substitutionary death on our behalf. God left heaven to take the death and punishment for our sins. This is humility. Only through the power of the gospel are we able to have a humble mindset and heart.

So, the fight is on. The battle is waging war. I'm grateful for the battle but I'm even more grateful to know Christ has already won. My encouragement comes from knowing this is not my home and one day I will be with him in that place where sin will be no more. I long for that day but until he comes or takes me home I want to be faithful to fight for joy in him.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Soul Waits for the LORD more than Watchman for the Morning



“My soul waits for the LORD more than watchman for the morning” (Psalm 130:6)

Have you ever considered how we, as followers of Jesus Christ, are to wait for the Lord? We are to be people waiting with great anticipation for the return of Christ. We long for the day when he will come to take us to be with him forever. We wait trusting in our sovereign God to sustain our souls through the dark of sin by his amazing grace. “My soul waits for the LORD more than watchman for the morning.”

Watchmen were those who watched over the city to protect the city and to deter any sort of criminal activity. They would be like our modern day police and fire departments that protect our cities. These men had great responsibilities which lead to great consequences when failing to keep watch over the city. The prophet Ezekiel helps us see this responsibility: “If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand” (33:2-6). The watchman, no doubt, is in a dangerous role of warning and fighting against wickedness. This is why the Psalmist compares our waiting on the Lord to a watchman waiting for the morning.

The last watchman of the night would be relieved of his duty when the sun would rise in the morning. During the night would be the most dangerous time to be on guard. Sight is limited so attacks take place through the night so criminals might not be seen. The last watchman in the night would no doubt be grateful if no activity had taken place. He would be praising the Lord for his protection from harm. He would carefully watch through the night and wait eagerly for the morning. This is how Christians ought to live as well. As we wait for the day when we will see Jesus face to face we carefully guard our hearts against all ungodliness through the promises of Scripture and we wait eagerly for the great day of his return. Our new lives, in Christ, come with the great responsibility of guarding our souls while caring for other souls. Whether it is warning fellow believers against the false doctrines outside and inside the church or telling lost souls about the gospel of Jesus Christ, we have a great responsibility as we wait.

Christian, how are you spending your time waiting and watching? Are you too busy complaining about your circumstances that your missing out on opportunities to serve and love your neighbor? We have the gospel to protect and proclaim. This is a great responsibility that comes with an everlasting reward. We are waiting for the One who promises eternal joy and pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). But while we wait may we not let people die under our watch and care without warning them of the coming of Christ. As the watchman blows the trumpet of warning so must we be proclaiming: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners!” May we wait in great anticipation. May we wait responsibly with the message of the gospel. May we wait patiently for our Savior. May we wait resting in Jesus Christ. “My soul waits for the LORD more than watchman for the morning."

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Psalm 130

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Merciful God

Merciful God, O abounding in love,
Faithful to all who draw near You;
Hearing the cries of the humble in heart,
Showing the cross they may cling to.
Broken I come, helpless in sin,
Found at the feet of Your mercy.
Father, forgive; may my sin be remembered no more.

Merciful God, O abounding in love,
Faithful through times we have failed You;
Selfish in thought and uncaring in deed,
Foolish in word and ungrateful.
Spirit of God, conquer our hearts
With love that flows from forgiveness;
Cause us to yield and return to the mercy of God.

Merciful God, O abounding in love,
Faithful to keep us from falling;
Guiding our ways with Your fatherly heart,
Growing our faith with each testing.
God speed the day struggles will end;
Faultless we'll gaze on Your glory.
Then we will stand overwhelmed by the mercy of God. (Keith & Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townend)

Grace upon grace,
JRL