Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ruth: Redeemed By Love

This past Sunday, I began a new series on the book of Ruth (you can listen in here). Many people see Ruth as simply a good love story. Others see in Ruth the perfect picture of the Proverbs 31 woman. Still others see in Ruth a picture of extreme devotion and faithfulness even in the worst of circumstances (1:16-17). All of these things are very true! Yet, is there still more to the story? If we stop with the above are we missing out on something deeper still?

In the story of Ruth, not only do we see a love story between a young widow and a well respected redeemer. We also see a love story between a desperate people and a faithful God. In the story of Ruth, not only do we see the Proverbs 31 woman in the flesh, we also see that same woman as a foreigner in dire need for redemption, just like us. In the story of Ruth, not only do we see Ruth's devotion and faithfulness to Naomi even in the worst of circumstances, we also see Jesus' covenantal faithfulness and devotion to "go" where God's people were; to "lodge" where God's people lodged; to become like God's people to make them His own; and to "die" and be "buried" in a foreign land. (Ruth 1:16-17; Phil. 2:5-8) This is the full significance of the book of Ruth! Our God is a redeeming God. What Boaz could do for one family in a temporal aspect Jesus would do for a whole people with eternal results! Jesus has won us back to God. We now stand firm in Christ with our future eternally secure because we have been redeemed through God's love! May we see all of the Scripture in light of this grand overarching story of God's redemptive love!

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Monday, June 16, 2014

A Resource Suggestion for You: Exploring Grace Together

As you know, the purpose of this blog is to delve into the truths of the unsearchable riches that we have in Christ Jesus. In doing so, I want to suggest resources that have been a help to me and my family in gaining a greater understanding and appreciation for the gospel and its sufficiency. I would like to introduce to you Exploring Grace Together, a short but profound gospel centered, 40 day devotional for families.

In these devotionals, Jessica Thompson takes the family through everyday circumstances that expose our frailties and weaknesses. However, rather than just diagnosing the issues of the heart she also presents the ever-present solution: the sufficiency of Jesus Christ and His grace. These devotions, geared to the level of children and the circumstances they encounter, will be sure to hit both child and parent directly. I would encourage you to put this book at the top of your families summer devotional reading time. As you do, be prepared to come face to face with your need for the wondrous good news of the gospel.

You can purchase this book here

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Church: Christ's Project

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25-27

When you hear the word "church" what comes to your mind: maybe "hypocrites",  "imperfection", "not worth it", "meaning well", "ups and downs", etc, etc. etc.? There are many, many positive and negative thoughts that can flood into a person's mind. But what goes through Christ's mind when he thinks of the Church? Let me answer that according to the above passage: "loved", "sacrificially purchased", "sanctified", "cleansed", "splendor", "perfect", "holy", "without blemish". Wow! How can Christ see the church in that way? The answer is two-fold: because of (a) what He has accomplished for her and (b) what He will accomplish in her.

Jesus, through His perfect death and resurrection, won a people to Himself. In winning a people to Himself, He took them and joined them to Himself in perfect union. That's right, Christ is wedded to His Church. His sacrificial love is the love exemplar of all wedded love. He purchased an undeserving people to Himself and now is fully committed to them, through thick and thin, promising to perfect them and glorify them to mirror His perfect image.

When we look at the state of the church and the imperfections that characterize so much of the Church today, such glowing language seems impossible. But since when has Christ been limited by mankind's failures? The sufficiency of His work on the cross is more than enough for the failures of His people.

It is for this reason that we cannot give up on the Church! The Church is God's idea. The Church has been called, united, and wed to Christ. It is His project! God promises to work through His Church and Christ promises to perfect His Church. That is why it bothers me when people say that they follow Christ but don't bother with the Church. What they don't realize is that you cannot have one without the other! If you have been united to Christ then you have been united to His people. The local church is but a picture of the universal Church and we are called to engage ourselves among the people of God wherever He has placed us.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

They Had Been With Jesus

"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13

There are so many different things that we can focus on. So many voices call out to us. So many activities demand our time and attention. So many problems stare us in the face. If we are not careful, every minute of every day can be filled with the bondage of trying to "make things happen". Even in our churches today, so many different good things can overtake that which is best.

So, what should our focus be upon? Who should demand our attention? How should we approach our problems and in what should we put our energies into? I think the verse above gives us great insight. The passage says that Peter and John "had been with Jesus" and that was the determining factor. In other words, what really made a difference in their lives and ministries was not the strength they could muster from within nor was it their innate abilities or talents. It was the fact that they had learned from the person of Jesus and His truth took hold in their lives.

How about you? Are you learning from the person of Jesus? Has the truth of who He is, what He has done for you, and who you are in Him really gripped your heart? In other words, are you consciously focusing your attention on the person and work of Christ? You see, nothing else matters in life if we are not connected to the Source of life. Nothing can ever change if we fail to look to the One who brings change. The truth of who and who's we now are will not grip us if we are not learning from the One who is Truth.

I hope this challenges your heart to make Jesus the focal point of your life. I would like to close with a few final reflections that we must realize as we seek to draw upon the person and work of Christ:

1) Learning from Jesus takes time: The disciples had been with Jesus for well over three years before the events of this verse ever took place. As in any relationship, learning of your identity in Christ and of His sufficiency for all of life will take time. There are no shortcuts

2) Learning from Jesus Makes You More Reliant: That's right, more reliant! Contrary to popular teaching, growing in Christ makes you more dependent not less. As you realize your own weaknesses and Christ's sure sufficiency, you realize how you really can do nothing without Him (Jn. 15:5). Peter and John had just acted very boldly before men of great power but it reflected nothing upon themselves. They were "uneducated" and "common" men. Something more was at play here and the people around them knew it.

3) Learning From Jesus Always Points Others to Him: As in our verse, when people see the power of the gospel at work in our lives, it will not reflect upon us but will direct others to the source of our strength and message. We have nothing worthwhile that we can claim from our own hands. When our focus is upon Christ we direct the focus of others to Him as well.

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