Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Delayed Birth Announcement

So I thought it would be appropriate and a joy for me to announce the birth of our second child, Judah Elihu Mancuso. Judah was born 4 weeks early on December 27th, 2008. Kendra, my wife, is recovering quite well but Judah has been spending a few extra days in the hospital in NICU. He was diagnosed with pneumonia 2 days after being born and has been getting better and better with each passing day. As of today we have been told that he should be ready to go home by Friday, January 2nd, 2009.

Like his older brother Ethan; Judah is already showing a great deal of personality, strength and a full head of hair! All the nurses say that he is strong, too cute and certainly has his own little "attitude." You might have "attitude" too if you had a bunch of cords and tubes attached to you right after being pushed into a new world!

We have been grateful for everyone's prayers thus far and thankful for those who continue to do so. We look forward to the great grace God has given us to raise another child to the glory of His marvelous name.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Deep, Deep Love

Sorry it's been awhile since my last post. I promise a new and hopefully stirring post very soon. Until then, please take some time to watch this video. The song that accompanies these spectacular images from Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" always seems to leave my eyes full of tears and my chest breathless. Tune everything out for just a few minutes of your day, focus on the lyrics and images and lift your heart and soul in gratitude to God as you consider his deep, deep love.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Roll Your Troubles to God

I have recently been reading a sermon by C.H. Spurgeon entitled "How to Keep the Heart." I want to share an excerpt with anyone who reads this blog and I encourage you to encourage others on this matter as well. I am sure we all know someone who is anxious about something if we ourselves are not. The content of the sermon is an exegesis of Philippians 4:7 and the surrounding verses. In his sermon, Spurgeon devotes a section to how "the peace of God which passeth all understanding" is obtained. Here is one of the precepts (as described by Spurgeon himself) that he says is a requirement for obtaining that peace as is found in verse six of the aforementioned passage:

"The last precept that you have to obey is, 'be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication make known your requests unto God.' You cannot have peace unless you turn your troubles up. You have no place in which to pour your troubles except the ear of God. If you tell them to your friends, you but put your troubles out a moment, and they will return again. If you tell them to God, you put your troubles into the grave; they will never rise again when you have committed them to him. If you roll your burden anywhere else it will roll back again, just like the stone of Sysiphus ; but just roll your burden unto God, and you have rolled it into a great deep, out of which it will never by any possibility rise. Cast your troubles where you have cast your sins; you have cast your sins into the depth of the sea, there cast your troubles also. Never keep a trouble half an hour on your own mind before you tell it to God. As soon as the trouble comes, quick, the first thing, tell it to your Father.

Remember, that the longer you take telling your trouble to God, the more your peace will be impaired. The longer the frost lasts, the more thick the ponds will be frozen. Your frost will last till you go to the sun; and when you go to God--the sun, then your frost will soon become thaw, and your troubles will melt away. But do not be long, because the longer you are in waiting, the longer will your trouble be in thawing afterwards. Wait a long while till your trouble gets frozen thick and firm, and it will take many a day of prayer to get your trouble thawed again. Away to the throne as quick as ever you can.

Do as the child did when he ran and told his mother as soon as his little trouble happened to him; run and tell your Father the first moment you are in affliction. Do this in everything, in every little thing--'in everything by prayer and supplication make known your wants unto God.' Take your husbands head-ache, take your children's sicknesses, take all things, little family troubles as well as great commercial trials--take them all to God, pour them all out at once. And so by an obedient practice of this command in everything making known your wants unto God, you shall preserve that peace 'which shall keep your heart and mind through Christ Jesus.'"


The other two precepts that Spurgeon says are paramount to maintaining the peace that surpasses all understanding are rejoicing (Php. 4:4) and letting our reasonableness or moderation be known to everyone(Php. 4:5).

Remember, the Lord is at hand and that is NO SMALL MATTER!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

I know it's a little late, but here is a hymn that my last post makes me think of:

O soul are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's light for a look at the Saviour,
And life more abundant and free:

Chorus:
Turn you eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion
For more than conqu'rors we are!

Chorus

His word shall not fail you He promised;
Believe Him and all will be well.
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Chorus

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

For the Joy Set Before Him

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood." (Heb 12:1-4 ESV)

The word translated "witness" in verse one comes from the Greek word "martus" which, as you may notice, is where we get our term martyr from. Coming out of the end of chapter eleven and going into verse four of chapter twelve, the use of this term makes perfect sense. "In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood" is how verse four reads pointing us back to the blood that some did shed as mentioned at the end of chapter eleven (especially verses 35-38).

It is within this context that the author begs his recipients to endure. Now, to the heart of the matter. How easily is our faith defeated? What does it take to get us to give up the fight of resistance against faithlessness? Have we even come close to being asked to resist sin and faithlessness to the point of shedding our own blood? Not nearly. Why, then, do so many of us grow weary and fainthearted in our struggle against sin and the hostility of sinners? More specifically, why do so many of us grow weary in our fight against faithlessness, for doesn't all sin come from a lack of faith in God? There are a few reasons that this passage seems to offer, but one central and very powerful reason that the others seem to orbit around.

"For the joy that was set before him, he endured..."

What was it that drove Jesus of Nazareth on with such fierce and invariable determination? I beg you, if you think you already have the answer to this question, do not move on so quickly and so miss the great mass and gravity of the truth that is in that most delightful and priceless answer. To have the answer to this question ever before our eyes is to unlock the "secret" to fearless faith, bold determination and relentless love. Just one small drop of the sweetness of this truth has the power to ward off weariness and faintheartedness as we struggle against the hostility of sin and sinners.

What joy, then, could Jesus have had before Him that would bring down the glorious, perfect and self-sufficient Word of God made flesh? What would cause the one "who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Php. 2:6-8)" to go to such ends? The answer is in the following verses:

"Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Php. 2:9-11)

Did you see it? The joy set before Jesus was the glory of God the Father. Was that your answer? No? Perhaps your answer was, "the joy set before Jesus was our salvation," or "the joy set before Jesus was the forgiveness of sins." Though these are both true, as they are both to the glory of God, the ultimate joy or "ultimate end" set before Jesus was the glory of God. But how does having this same "ultimate end" set before us give us courageous and fiery endurance? Don't we need something that is "more to our own benefit" to give us endurance? I hope that question looks as wrong to you as it does to me.

As wrong as the assumption behind that question is (namely the idea that the glory of something other than ourselves is not to our benefit), is it not the assumption that most of us base our faith upon? Is it not true that for most of us, our faith is determined by whether or not we perceive that we are in possession of, already, that which benefits us the most? That this is true is most evidenced in the constant ebb and flow of our strength and faith that is ever determined by whether or we do or don't have our definition of joy before us. When finances are secure, when we are healthy, when friendships are rich, deep and profitable to us and when we can express ourselves in whatever way we want, whenever we want no matter who it hurts; then our faith is strong.

The hostile tyranny of sin in ourselves and others seems bearable and almost trivial, then, as we perceive ourselves to have that which gives us the most benefit and joy. And so we think we endure as long as we have our current definition of joy set before us, but if it is removed than our hearts begin to faint under the weight of weariness and sin. An insufficient model or definition of joy set before us, therefore; will forever leave us vulnerable to these crippling curses.

This begs the question, then, of what is most valuable and beneficial to us. What definition of joy can possess both unsurpassed value and eternal sustainability enough to give us true and unassailable endurance to face down the weight of sin in ourselves and others?

So then, what is most worthy to be sought after and take delight in? Certainly, whatever it is, it must be perfect. That is, it must have no flaws in form or function. It must be perfectly beautiful and "operate" perfectly without and alteration in how it functions. It must also be perfect eternally. It's perfect nature must, by the very definition of being perfect, continue on forever. At whatever point in time the thing "looses value" or ceases to be perfect, then it is obviously not that which is most worthy to be sought after.

With these sorts of qualifications, the only thing which is worthy to be sought after and be the object of delight is God Himself and His own glory. What greater joy could Christ have set before Him than the eternal glory of the God-Head? The joy Jesus set before Him was the will of the Father which Jesus describes:

"For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."
(Joh 6:38-40 ESV)

It was this glorious will that Jesus set before Himself. That God would be glorified by having his will carried out which was to our benefit. Without God glorifying Himself (more specifically revealing that glory to us), through His will in our salvation (a salvation He was not obligated to perform) we would have no promise of anything valuable throughout all eternity. All the things we esteemed while we were still alive would prove to be useless and meaningless to us without eternal salvation and eternal life.

It follows then, that the greatest joy that we can set before ourselves is the glory of God. It is the only joy that is perfect and eternal and will thus never be susceptible to change. If our endurance is determined by the nature of the joy set before us, then the greatest thing we can have before us is the goal to glorify God through submission to His will. How do we submit to God's will? Through belief (clinging to, total dependence upon) in Jesus Christ. We do this by putting "self" to death, as the glorification of self never really seems to give us sustaining endurance and certainly will not give us eternal life. But what does that mean in reality?

Going back to the original text we started with, we see that the weight of sin and the hostility of sinners, and the negative effects thereof, should mean nothing to us in comparison to the goal of seeing God glorified. If the glorification of God meant our salvation, then it (God being glorified) should be that which is worth the most to us. Nothing we loose or suffer from others sinning against us can take away the joy of God being glorified. Nothing we "gain" or could "gain" from sinning is worth anything in comparison to God being glorified. And, as the author of Hebrews states, we have a great many "witnesses" or martyrs who have proven that with the shedding of their blood.

In each moment we are faced with the decision as to whether or not we will sin, we are standing before the executioner who says "deny Jesus or die." Martyrdom is not, then, just a single act of bravery wherein we loose our physical life in order to prove our loyalty to Jesus. Instead, martyrdom takes places each time we choose the glory of God over the alternative--denying Him in our sin. "The glory of God is not greater than what I will gain from this sin" is what we are really saying.

Every time we face hostility from the sins of others, we are choosing to either despise (in Greek; kataphroneo "to think against") or avoid shame. If we avoid shame, we must avoid our own cross and thus deny God again. If we care nothing for it, or "think against it" then again we prove ourselves to be martyrs by choosing obedience over caring about what others will think about us or what might happen to us. The joy of the glory of God carries us through the most heinous of hostilities of sinners.

And we can keep the joy set before us as we "look to Christ" and His example, as the passage states. And we can do this with the power that He works greatly and mightily in us and in His strength:

"May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light." (Col 1:11-12 ESV)

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." (Eph 6:10 ESV)

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Certainty of Yesterday

For those of you who do not know; I was laid off from my job yesterday. Please do not, in that statement, try to detect even those most minuscule amount anxiety, fear, regret or sadness. For me, today is no different from yesterday, save that the particular details of today are different than that of yesterday. Nothing that is ultimately important has changed.

As I walked the docks up at my in-law's boat up on Lake Superior, contemplating (with joy) the change that has occurred, I heard God say to me "Has anything really changed?" The implication in the question, and I think in His tone (if one can perceive a tone from that divine, quiet internal voice) was that nothing had changed, more specifically, He Himself had not changed and therefore nothing of consequence had changed. God was who He was when I was working Boston Scientific, and was the same before that. What is certain now, the past, was once just as uncertain as today and tomorrow. What is certain now, however, is that God was faithful yesterday, and since God has not changed; I have no reason to believe that today or tomorrow will be any different.

After thinking these very thoughts walking the docks late yesterday; I started to read a sermon by G. Campbell Morgan (and chose to read this one very indiscriminately) entitled "The Untrodden Pathway". Please do not think my unconscious chose to read this sermon because of the nature of the title. I thought for sure the title implied that the sermon would be about the way of Christianity that few people will tread upon. I was shocked by the entirety of the content (and not shocked given how God tends to work this way with me). Here is a section of the sermon I read as the sunset and stars rose yesterday evening:

"As you face the new, never forget the old, for the most absolute certainty that we possess as we face the uncertain is that of the things of the past. Deliverance prophesies deliverance. Guidance predicts guidance. Supply promises supply. Let me make this a little more geographical. There is a river in front of us. Then measure the river by the sea. He divided that, He can divide this. There is an unknown land before us. Measure the unknown land by the unknown wilderness. But passing into a new country, we shall need to be fed with bread and water. Measure your hunger in the new land by the manna in the old.

The one thing no man can take away from me as I face tomorrow is yesterday. You may confuse me about problems of next year, but you cannot confuse me about the solutions of last year. You may tell me of all the perils and difficulties and dangers that are ahead, but on the pathway o'er which I have passed lie dead my foes. I have sung a song on the deliverance side of the Red Sea; Jehovah hath triumphed, His people are free, and I do not think you can frighten me with a running river when I have seen the sea divided. Therefore, I look into the future and it is all uncertain, and I come to it with the certainties of the past, with the deliverances wrought, the prayers actually answered, with the supplies that have come out of nowhere into the here. That is the first certainty, and it is a great one...

What of the future? With the inspiration of the past filling the soul, with the certainty of the present enabling the life, they were to go in and possess. Thus let us go forward to face each day in the name of the Captain of salvation. Oh, but giants are there! To be slain! Walled cities are there! To be taken! Difficulties await us! To be overcome! So may God give us grace to follow our greater than Joshua into the unknown tomorrow, and to possess it in His name, and for His glory."

These words to me were obviously very timely! The one certainty that Morgan keeps pointing to is the certainty of the unchanging nature of God in His character, nature and promises. Don't worry for my future, because I don't. Instead, let us all realize the uncertainty of our everyday and watch and witness as it transforms into the certainty of the past that tells us certainly that God is certainly faithful, and will continue to be so.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

For God Alone

"For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken."

Psalms 62:5&6




Just a quick, simple meditation tonight. What are you waiting for? A new job? More money? Perhaps you are waiting for things to improve financially at your church even? Maybe you are still waiting for the right guy or girl to walk into your life and make everything right and "complete." Perhaps illness has beset you and you await that final relief/cure.

True, I desire things for my life as well, but I do not wait for them. No, for God alone we must wait, in silence and in peace. Our hope is from Him and in Him. It is He alone who is our solid, unchanging and unmoving foundation. He alone is our rescuer in times of need.

For those of you who have read or seen the Lord of the Rings, bring to your mind an image of Helm's Deep and the Battle of the Hornburg. God is that great impenetrable fortress, but greater. He is also our salvation, when all hope seems gone. Whenever I see the scene in the second of the Lord of the Rings movies where Gandalf comes riding in at the dawn of the third day (sound familiar) and descends down the hill on a white horse with thousands of soldiers behind him blinding the enemy and bringing hope to the hopeless in Helm's Deep, I cry.

Tonight I remind myself, and hopefully others, to stop waiting for things, people or events, but to instead wait in silence for the God of Hope. Hold up in the fortress that is God Himself and fight in His strength (Eph. 6:10; ESV) till the dawn of his promise breaks and the Lord descends to bring about the victory!

Monday, July 21, 2008

First Love

"But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first." (Rev. 2:4)

When Christ first laid His hands upon your heart, who was He to you? Did you feel lighter yet fuller? Did you feel the bitterness of His death and yet the sweetness of the forgiveness that flowed there from? Staring into His inexplicably magnificent face did you fall deeply in love, resulting in a desire to do whatever He asked of you? Forsaking all worldliness, did you take up your cross in service of His glory, the saints and the lost? If so, why have you turned away from your first love? G. Campbell Morgan finishes the sermon I mentioned in the last blog entry as follows:


"What answer do you give to the Apostle's question. "Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?" If you say honestly, in this hour of clear vision, "No," then receive Him now. You say, "How can I receive Him?" Not by opening your heart to the Spirit, but by opening your heart to Jesus Christ. Not by believing the Christ is the perfect example, but by enlisting under His banner and putting your whole life at His disposal. By trusting Him for yesterday, today, tomorrow, and the infinite forever, with your whole life, physical, mental, and spiritual. If your answer to the Apostle's question is "Yes," then in God's name remember your peril, for we are all in peril...

That was the foundation of the Ephesian Church. It was a wonderful church, so great that Paul wrote the last flaming glory of his letters to it. But that is not all about the church. There is another letter to the Church of Ephesus, which the great Lord, believing in whom, they had received the Spirit, sent to them through John from Patmos. In that letter he says such tragic things as these, "I have this against thee, that thou didst leave thy first love." As God is my witness, I can hardly take up my Bible and read these words without my heart being ready to break. It is the sigh of Christ over the lost love of people who had received the Spirit, and who once had tongues and prophesied...

Here me again patiently. Do not think this harsh, unkind. I deliver it as the message that is on my heart. I am not half as much anxious about you as I am about the multitudes who are outside. I want to reach you in order to reach them. I would far rather see this place in ashes than see it the tomb of a dead, lifeless mob that admires Jesus and feels nothing of His life pulsating in them. We stand upon the threshold of tremendous opportunities. Are we ready for them? The question we are to ask our own souls is, "Did we receive the Holy Ghost when we believed?" If not, here and now, let us yield ourselves to Christ, and we shall receive. If we have received and have lost the thrill, and the saffron of morning has become the gray of eventide, let us go back. Through the way be rough, even though it means the cross, even if shame attends our going, let us go back to the first works, and out of the valley of humiliation shall rise Emmanuel's land of light and love and service for everyone of us."

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Lack of the Spirit

I recently started reading a five volume set entitled "The Westminster Pulpit" which is a set of about 300 sermons as preached by G. Campbell Morgan at the Westminster Chapel in London. G. Campbell morgan was a contemporary of D.L. Moody and Charles H. Spurgeon. Morgan is renowned for being one of the greatest Biblical expositors of his time and his famous Friday night Bible class was easily the biggest London had ever seen drawing somewhere between 1,500 to 1,700 people on a weekly basis.

Below is a quote from one of his sermons I am currently reading entitled "The Lack of the Spirit" which was an expository sermon on Acts 19:2. His words are astonishingly stiring and could most certainly be a description of the church today, though the man has been in the ground for some 63 years now.


There are hundreds and thousands of people who in some measure believe in Jesus Christ who have never received the Spirit, who have never been baptized with the Spirit, who have never been born again, for the terms are synonymous. Ethic without enthusiam, principle without passion, desire without dynamic, negation of the wrong things without position in the soil of the new life--this is a perilous state in which to live. It is a perilous state because to continue in that state is to become in the one tremendous word of the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, "hardened."

The ethic merely accepted as true becomes traditional bondage. The principle obeyed with no passion of fire burning through it becomes heartlessness. Desire for the higher life and the broadening of the outlook long unfulfilled become cynicism. The negation becomes chaos. This is what is happening everywhere. You believe on Jesus, yes, and you believe on Jesus very reverently; you have never taken His name in vain. So far from that, you have always attended what we call the means of grace, you have sung hymns of the sanctuary, you have attentively listened to the message delivered by the servants of God. You have come so far as to believe the ideals of Jesus, you accept them, but there is no passion, no fire, no force, no light upon the mountains, no song in the heart.

Faultily faultless, icily regular, Splendidly null.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Out Of My Hands

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.
(Isa 26:3-4)


Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
(Pro 3:5-6)


In honor of some upcoming lay-offs that are about to possibly effect my job, and in honor of general reality; I thought I would post the lyrics to a song by Matthew West that I have always liked. When I listen to this song, I personally don't hear anxiety, fear or reluctant trust. No, instead I hear freedom!

"So it's into your will, and it's out of my hands" is the phrase that sticks with me the most. The reason I say "in honor of reality" is simply because a great deal of things in all of ours lives are truly out of our hands.

Thank you God that so many things (most things really) are out of our hands, out of our reach, over our heads and out of our league! Let us rejoice that such important things are indeed out of our fumbling, hasty, and uninformed hands and are in your completely informed, firm and loving hands! Oh how amazing thou art!

Out Of My Hands

There you go changing my plans again
There you go shifting my sands again
For reasons I don't understand again
Lately I don't have a clue

Just when I start liking what I see
There you go changing my scenery
I never know where you're taking me
But I'm trying just to follow you

It's out of my hands
It's out of my reach
It's over my head
And it's out of my league
There's too many things
That I don't understand
So it's into your will
And it's out of my hands

There you go healing these scars again
Showing me right where you are again
I'm helpless, and that's where I start again
I'm giving it all up to you

Refrain

Move me, make me
Choose me, change me
Send me, shake me
Find me, remind me
The past is behind me
Take it all away
Take it all from me, I pray

Refrain

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Fallacy of the God Shaped Hole


I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20 ESV)


How easily do we all fall into using common and often trite phrases without thinking of the theological statements behind them. Though some may see them to be quite innocent and not worth "over-analyzing," I would argue to the contrary.

The Bible compares the word of God to life giving sustenance or 'bread." The implication there is that words have an effect on the well-being of our souls. If the Word of God (truth) equates to a necessary and healthy spiritual diet, then what, consequently, do lies and falsehood equate to? And what about those phrases that aren't false but are the equivalent of "empty calories"?

Falsehood, lies and "empty calorie" phrases compare to nothing more accurately than poison. It is not, however, as though one eats a piece of bad fruit and gets food poisoning from it, only to have that poison flushed out of the system. No, instead it (lies and falsehood) gets into the system and stays there, slowly and most often stealthily killing its host. This poison effects the way we see and react to God, to others and how we view ourselves. It is like having one wrong line of programming in a computer program that throws the whole program out of whack. Though sometimes small in appearance, these lies are potent and have a deep and long lasting impact on our entire life.

There is one such lie that I would like to expose, and, hopefully, provide an antidote for. This lie looks innocent enough and some may argue it is really no lie at all. These lies, the ones that look far too much like the truth, are arguably the most dangerous and hardest to prove as lies. However, just as one little lie can cause big problems, so too can a little truth dissolve the lie and bring life to its recipient.

"There is, in all of us, a God shaped hole that only He can fill," is a phrase that most people have heard, especially those in the Christian world. The thrust behind the phrase is one that attempts to prove to others that there is a mysterious need or want within all of us that we try to fill with all sorts of things but ultimately can only be filled by God Himself. Though the phrase seems to communicate something about our need for God, I think that it insinuates things that are discreetly harmful to our relationship with God.

1) The first insinuation I see in this, is that God only fills one particular hole within us, and thus only satisfies one of many needs. The best illustration I can think of for this is the old children's toy that has various differently shaped holes with corresponding yellow pieces that fit into their respective holes. God, in this illustration, would be perhaps the star shaped piece. We, in the illustration, are the blue and red ball, and God alone can fit through the star shaped hole in us. Obviously we are in need of the star because the hole exists. Subsequently, however, we are in "need" of all the other shaped blocks and only those blocks can fill those holes. God, being a star, cannot fit through the hole for the circular shape. The implication here is that there is a need that God cannot satisfy.

This fact, that most Christians perceive God as fulfilling but one need in their lives, is well proven by the constant usage (if not verbally most at least think it) of the phrase "Yeah God, but..." Yes, God exists, and God is faithful, but... Can anyone finish that sentence for me to make it true, reasonable, logical or not heretical? Some might say this "Yes God, but we are human and in the flesh." To say that our sinful nature and humanity somehow negates and cancels out some part of the nature and promises of God is both illogical and ludicrous, not to mention it is in no way supportable by any text in the Scriptures. Our faithlessness does not cancel God's faithfulness. Instead of saying "Yeah God, but..." we should instead be saying "Yes this thing about my life is true, but God is/will..."

2) Secondly, nowhere in the Bible is there any implication that God fills some mysterious vacuum in our being. Instead, the Bible depicts man as being utterly sinful and in need of death and re-birth. There is not a single aspect of our life that does not depend on God's sovereign love and faithfulness. To think that we will finally feel relief when we "get God into our life," is a misrepresentation of the Christian life. With this sort of philosophy, one may "get God" in their life and never die to self, but instead think that their "self" is complete and not lacking.

The person who sees life this way, for one, sees that "self" the way it is is only lacking something. This person will not see the need for a death and re-birth, because to them the Christian life is about completion, not renewal. God, to many, is just an means to an end, the end being self-satisfaction and the placing of the "last piece of the puzzle."

God does not satisfy a part, but the whole. To perceive God as an entity that satisfies just one of many parts, is to all too often equate him to those other things that gives us some sort of quasi or apparent satisfaction. God is not just some other puzzle piece likened to many of our other desires. Instead God, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, is the whole--the All in All. God does not come in and fill a blank, rather he puts us to death as Paul refers to in Galatians 2:20, and He takes up residence inside of us changing our desires and fulfilling them all at once.

N. T. Wright in an interview with Tim Stafford for Christianity Today magazine (Jan 2007) says it this way

“… If you simply address the God-shaped blank that people think they’ve got, the God you end up with is the God shaped by the blank. The real God specializes in taking the blanks in people's lives and pulling and tugging and turning them into a new shape.”

What I think Mr. Wright is getting at here is that God is about the business of a new shape, or new creation. God does not just fulfill desires and fill holes, rather He changes our desires altogether.

God does not fill the hole, but instead becomes The Whole. Paul stated that it was no longer he that lived, but Christ living through him. There is a very real danger in trying to make God an addition to a life that we perceive simply needs such an addition, and that danger is death and damnation. Jesus says that unless we be born again, we cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Trying to "fill the God shaped hole" opens way to a life time of perceiving and wrestling with trying to keep God in that hole, and thus stay complete. It is not a small hole inside of us that cries out for God to fill, but our entire being screaming to be put to death and re-created.

We must come to see our lives as not being completed, but put to death and transformed into a new being with Christ intermingled within every part of who we are, obliterating old desires, making new ones and satisfying them all.

Buried With Christ

Buried with Christ and raised with Him, too, What is there left for me to do? Simply to cease from struggling and strife, Simply to walk in newness of life.

Refrain

Buried with Christ and dead unto sin;Dying but living, Jesus within;Ruling and reigning day after day,Guiding and keeping all of the way.

Refrain

Risen with Christ my glorious Head,Holiness now the pathway I tread;Beautiful thought from walking therein,He that is dead is freed from all sin.

Refrain

Living with Christ, who dieth no more,Following Christ, who goeth before;Not under law, I’m now under grace,Sin is dethroned, and Christ takes its place.

Refrain

Thursday, July 10, 2008

'Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus

So I was going to attach the lyrics for this hymn to the end of post on a segment of scripture, but I decided not to wait because I love it so much and wanted to share it. It is indeed a sweet delicacy to trust in Jesus. What a great grace it is that we are allowed the privilege to trust in our precious Jesus, savior and friend!

'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise;
Just to know, Thus saith the Lord.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,
How I've proved Him o'er and o'er,
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more.

O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
Just in simple faith to plunge me,
'Neath the healing, cleansing flood.

Yes, 'tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life, and rest, and joy, and peace.

I'm so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

Monday, July 7, 2008

True Religion

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." (James 1:27; ESV)

"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:14-17; ESV)

I read an article today that just about drew a few tears (which to those of you who know how easily I cry perhaps this is not so amazing). My tears, however, are quite warranted I think.

The amazing article tells the story of how a comment a father's daughter made, after seeing a mercedes stopped next to a homeless man on the curb, prompted them to sell their extravagant home to provide for those less fortunate than they. I've no idea if this family is Christian by confession, but their actions sure preach the Gospel and are Christian at the core.

While reading this article, please consider the thought process that prompted them to give the they did. What do you have that you don't need? Are you challenged at all by the teenagers response (notice the kind of lifestyle the teenager is used to)?

This is the sort of thing people in the Church should be doing! Rise up Church!

"The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.
(Eze 34:1-4; ESV)


Now certainly this passage was speaking to the gluttons that were the religious leaders of Israel, but I think it applies to any of us who are Christians and have both spiritual and physical things to give to others. Let's not be Christian Gluttons!

The Revolution By Tree63


Who will feed the hungry if we don’t?
There’s people losing their lives ‘cos we won’t
If we believe but we still do not follow
Then maybe we don’t believe

If we could only love this world like we’ve been loved
Then all the world would know what love is really made of
We live in plenty, there is more than enough
For what the world needs, but not for our greed

Another world is possible yeah
Another world is possible yeah
The revolution’s far from over – it’s not over, it’s not over

Once upon a time a small seed
Died in the soil and became a small tree
Now it’s a forest still growing silently
And waterless earth turns green

Another world…

Full stomachs and both parents
and a church that acts like it really believes that the Good News
is is good news for everybody everywhere.

My Apologies

To those of you who actually read this; my deepest apologies for not getting to a new post sooner. Finding time to sit down and write a well thought out reflection on the scriptures has been a hard task. Though I have had time here and there to write; I have not had enough to write well and without just trying to throw something together. Because of my deep respect for the power, force and depth of the scriptures; I don't want to short change a passage or over simplify it.

I do, however, have a lot of ideas that I am working on, so expect quite a few posts this week. I hope they inspire, encourage, admonish and challenge.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Cut Off From Christ For The Love of Another?

"I am speaking the truth in Christ--I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit-- that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh." (Rom 9:1-3; ESV)

Perhaps you, like me, have read over this passage a few times without stopping long to consider the gravity of its verbage. Perhaps other times you stopped, pondered shortly and moved on to see how it fit in with the rest of the chapter as is fitting for a good reading. Tonight, however; these three simple verses have left me quite stunned.

In my last post I considered how valuable God's love was to me and how knowing that it can never be taken away leaves me emboldened to say "I am more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus, I will not merely survive each day but master it in Jesus name!"

It is quite true that the love that God has shown me is valuable to me beyond what any verb, adjective, superlative or any other element of grammar could ever fully describe. Like the man who found the treasure in a field (as noted in Matthew chapter thirteen) and sold all he had to buy the field, so too have I given away anything that was of value to me in order to obtain the ever appreciating worth of knowing Christ and being found in Him.

What do we have apart from Christ? Nothing. We have death, lies and loss of direction. The mere thought of being parted from this lover of my soul makes me shiver inside and cry out as David did when he said, "Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me." (Psalms 51:11)

Christ has become to me as "the one ring" was to Smeagol in the Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R Tolkien. It (Christ's love and presence) has cast a deep, intoxicating and controlling power over me that has left me "deformed" and bound to him as Smeagol was to the one ring.

So I assume that Paul (once Saul the Jewish terror to the early Church) felt the same way if not more reagarding the worth of God. This same Paul says to the Philippians,

"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (Php 3:8-11)

Certainly Paul asserts the nature of his love for Christ in many other words in many other passages. With all that said and established, look back at what Paul says at the beginning of Romans 9; "For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh."

What kind of love did Paul have for his people that he would ever begin to contemplate separation from His Lord and Savior that they too might know Him by such a title and in truth? Notice the powerful and sharp words Paul uses to describe the depth of love he has for his Hebrew bretheren (according to the flesh)--great sorrow and unceasing anguish.

It appears to me, that Paul has caught the terminal virus that is the love of God. He wished that he could be to his people what Christ is to him. He wished that he could be cut off from Christ as Christ was cut off from the Father for the sake of us all. Of course he realizes that only Christ can and does suffice as a perfect sacrifice even for those souls that he is drowning in anguish over, but the inclination and idea is beyond marvelous.

Do we feel this for our fellow man? Do we feel deep sorrow and unceasing anguish for the lost around us? Can we say that we could give whatever we can, even contemplate momentary separation from Christ? Even a moments separation from Christ seems unthinkable and horrendous to me now. Do I truly love my fellow man that much?

God help us to feel great sorrow and unceasing anguish for those lost ones around us. Moreover, let that agony drive us to sacrifice even unto death for their sake, as Christ did for us.

O let me kiss Thy bleeding feet, And bathe and wash them with my tears!
The story of Thy love repeat In every drooping sinner’s ears,
That all may hear the quickening sound,
Since I, even I, have mercy found,
Since I, even I, have mercy found.

O let Thy love my heart constrain!
Thy love for every sinner free,
That every fallen soul of man
May taste the grace that found out me;
That all mankind with me may prove
Thy sovereign everlasting love,
Thy sovereign everlasting love.


Read/hear the rest of Would Jesus Have the Sinner Die? By Charles Wesley.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More Than Surviving

One day often seems to slip right into another, with weeks evaporating like a drop of water on asphalt in the high heat of a blazing summer day. Often times I look back at my week and wonder; did I just make it through, though battered and somewhat bloodied, or did I escape without a wound though accomplishing nothing meaningful. Neither of these week-end results seems sufficient to me.

Is the Christian life really one of "just getting by" or "just surviving?" Something about the whole notion of struggling through the minutes and hours just to make it to the seemingly safe haven that we call weekends just doesn't make sense in light of what I know about God and His grace. So what do we know about God and His grace? For starters, we know this,

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than just conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."(Romans 8:35-39; ESV)


This passage leaves me with two questions:

1) What is God's love worth to me?
2) How should I respond knowing that someting of such value cannot EVER be taken away from me?

To answer the first question, we must be very honest with ourselves and take a good look at how the knowledge of God's inseparable love affects us in comparison with how the loss or gain of other things affects us. Do you rejoice when you receive good things in your life, only to dispair when things are not quite as ideal as you would like? If this is the case, perhaps you must ask yourself, could there be a more ideal situation in life than to have had your soul saved (undeservedly) and to be joined with the Living God Himself through the Holy Spirit?

The all-surpasing worth of the love of God displayed in the incomparable act of forgiveness and renewal of life should be an unending source of joy when all other joys forsake us or are taken away.

How did we respond when the joy of salvation first swept over us? Were you as elated as I was? Did you think you could conquer the world for Jesus the Christ, the redeemer of your polluted soul? I did. I still do.

Perhaps we should scroll up a tad from Romans 8:35 to verse 17 which says, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comapring with the glory that is to be revealed to us." And a tad further down in verse 31 and 32 "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare is own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with Him graciously give us all things?"

To answer my second original question, I start by asking this; is there something more than Christ? Is there something we are still lacking? If we are lacking, will God, who "did not spare his own Son," not give it to us? But surely, O Lord, your Son is more than enough for us!

How shall I respond to my knowledge of the value of God's love? Perhaps with faith, joy and thanksgiving of course. More than that though, I shall respond by being more than just a survivor of my days, nay, more than just a conqueror! To conquer means to fight, and we fight with a God who is for us!

When we look at each hour of every day, each tribulation, each distress, each danger and every sword; I pray that God quicken us with the reality that we are more than conquerors through His all-sufficient everlasting love.


Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war
with the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
forward into battle see his banners go!

At the sign of triumph Satan's host doth flee;
on then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell's foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthem raise!

Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud, and honor unto Christ our King,
this through countless ages men and angels sing.

See the rest of the hymn here.