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Archive for the month “December, 2013”

Advent – Day 19

YOU WILL NEVER BE THE SAME by Owen Strachan

Most evangelicals these days just want a gospel Snuggie. Wrap us up. Hold us tight. Numb us until we can feel nothing but hazy contentment. Go to sleep with a big smile on our face. We’re halfway into a dream when—

Someone is gripping our shoulder. He’s wrestling us awake. Our head hurts. Who is this crazy guy? A blurry man comes into focus. It’s Jesus. And — uh oh — he’s got a glint in his eye. That means trouble.

Come on, Jesus says. Wake up. We’ve got to get going.

Really, Jesus? we whine. I don’t want to get out of bed. It’s so comfy and warm.

Follow me, he replies. He’s got that dead-serious tone in his voice. He means business. We had heard about this, long ago in ages far away. But now he’s here and he’s calling us. Before we can offer an excuse for not going, he vanishes. We throw on some clothes, racing to catch up. This is going to get interesting.

One of His Specialties

God has been in the disruptive business for millennia. He specializes in it. He seems to love nothing more than to crash-land into people’s lives and alter them. He has a particular affinity for those minding their own business, normal folks who are off the grid and out of the fray. You carve out a quiet little existence in the Bible, and there are better-than-excellent odds that either a ferocious-looking angel or the altogether-normal-looking-but-utterly-transformative-Jesus is showing up in 3… 2… 1…

This happens over and over. Once you see it in Scripture you can’t un-see it. You won’t want to. You’ll come to take a certain glee in seeing the Lord seize another under-performing bystander for his glory. Think of Abraham. He’s barely introduced by name — Abram — in Genesis 11. We know next to nothing about him save for the fact that his wife is barren. But in Genesis 12, Yahweh suddenly instructs him to leave his blip of a life. The Lᴏʀᴅ God Almighty has chosen Abram to become “a great nation” (Genesis 12:2). It’s not written in chapter and verse, but the shock the old man feels is palpable. Him? Why? How? But the promise holds. Abraham becomes the head of the trans-millennial covenant of salvation, the central narratival reality of the Bible.

One minute you and your wife are barren and ready to die. The next you are the cornerstone of the people of God in all the ages, world without end, hallelujah.

Mary, the One-Category Woman

So it is with humble, pious Mary. When we meet her in the Gospels, her chief joy in life is shaping up to be her marriage to Joseph. Mary is on no one’s list of “Women We’re Watching as Potential Birthers of the Messiah.” She’s going to get married, bear children, and die. She’s a grain in the sand on the beach of history, a flower that grows for a time and then is cut down. This is a story as old as the world.

But Mary will not go quietly. Not at all. Mary is chosen to give birth to Jesus. The angel Gabriel appears to her, frightens her half to death, and in just a few explosive sentences unpacks how it is that she, a virgin, is to give birth to “the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). It is hard to put into words how shocking this was to Mary. There were no categories for this sort of thing before her, and there would be no such categories after her. She was a one-category woman, the only integer in this number set: virgins who conceive and give birth to the greater David. No one else knew such word-choking surprise. Only Mary.

But everyone who worships Mary’s Son resonates with this call. Ahhh, we say when we read this narrative. It was for Mary as it is for me: disruption. Jesus is my disruption.

He Said Follow Me

So maybe God breaks in, shakes things up. But surely when God meets you, things get better? Easier? Right?

In their pre-apostolic state, the future apostles minded their own non-apostolic business. They were guy’s guys, really. They fished. They ate fish. They smelled like fish. On sunny days, they fell asleep in their boats. Then Jesus Christ showed up and called them to follow him. As in, now. These were not the seminary all-stars. They didn’t ace the Greek final. They were the salt of the earth. But Jesus wanted them to be the salt of his kingdom. And so they were.

Matthew’s description of their call is straightforward: “Follow me,” Jesus says, and they do (Matthew 4:19). From there, they go on to suffer with Christ, they watch him be taken away to die a criminal’s death, and they themselves die in ministry. No, things did not get easier for the apostles. Things got much, much harder. Jesus is my hardship.

What? You Settled Him Down?

Maybe we read these stories (and many others like them) and feel a little shiver race through us. Whew, we say, that was all very exhilarating. Jesus sure did call people to himself in wild ways in the Bible. So glad life is more normal now.

Whether we know it or not, we’ve got Jesus domesticated. We think we’ve calmed him down, cleaned him up, and talked to him in an inside voice. Now he’s renounced his disruptive ways. No more of this “sell everything you have and follow me” (Mark 10:21). No more of this “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11). No more forsaking all, no more unrelenting holiness, no more explosively exclusive truth claims. Jesus is on an apology tour. He’s holding a press conference at noon and he wants to tell everyone how he’s a changed man. He lets you keep your life now. His gospel isn’t really about dying to self, it’s about becoming your best self. If you’re shiny and happy, bonus points. He’ll throw in some prosperity and comfort to seal the deal.

The God Who Disrupts

But when you show up for the press conference, you spot Jesus. Oh no, you say to yourself. We got him all wrong. Jesus is on the move, and he’s coming straight for you. He’s after his own glory, and there’s no telling what he will do with you. He may catapult you to an unreached people group far, far away. He may send you back to normal life to stop punching the clock and start building a vocation. He may instruct you to keep on raising the kids and changing the diapers, but to do so as worship, not weary labor.

Jesus is not a Snuggie. He is not a long, languorous dream that makes everything hard disappear. He is the God who saves. He is the God who stays. Do not ever forget: he is the God who disrupts.

We thought he was gone; we thought he had gone quiet.  But Jesus Christ is here, and he has that look in his eye. You and I will never be the same.

Advent – Day 16

THE BIRTH OF THE ANCIENT OF DAYS by John Piper

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” —John 18:37

This is a great Christmas text even though it comes from the end of Jesus’s life on earth, not the beginning.

The uniqueness of his birth is that he did not originate at his birth. He existed before he was born in a manger. The personhood, the character, the personality of Jesus of Naz- areth existed before the man Jesus of Nazareth was born.

The theological word to describe this mystery is not cre- ation, but incarnation. The person—not the body, but the essential personhood of Jesus—existed before he was born as man. His birth was not a coming into being of a new per- son, but a coming into the world of an infinitely old person.

43 Good News of Great Joy Daily Readings for Advent44

Good News of Great Joy Daily Readings for Advent

Micah 5:2 puts it like this, 700 years before Jesus was born: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”

The mystery of the birth of Jesus is not merely that he was born of a virgin. That miracle was intended by God to wit- ness to an even greater one—namely, that the child born at Christmas was a person who existed “from of old, from ancient days.”

Advent – Day 11

Instead of a written thought – check out this short but powerful video about Advent: God With Us.

Advent – Day 9

TWO KINDS OF OPPOSITION TO JESUS  by John Piper

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. —Matthew 2:3

Jesus is troubling to people who do not want to worship him, and he brings out opposition for those who do. This is probably not a main point in the mind of Matthew, but it is inescapable as the story goes on.

In this story, there are two kinds of people who do not want to worship Jesus, the Messiah.

The first kind is the people who simply do nothing about Jesus. He is a nonentity in their lives. This group is represented by the chief priests and scribes. Verse 4:

“Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, [Herod] inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.” Well, they told him, and that was that: back to business as usual. The sheer silence and inactivity of theleaders is overwhelming in view of the magnitude of what was happening.

And notice, verse 3 says, “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” In other words, the rumor was going around that someone thought the Messiah was born. The inactivity on the part of chief priests is staggering—why not go with the magi? They are not interested. They do not want to worship the true God.

The second kind of people who do not want to worship Jesus is the kind who is deeply threatened by him. That is Herod in this story. He is really afraid. So much so that he schemes and lies and then commits mass murder just to get rid of Jesus.

So today these two kinds of opposition will come against Christ and his worshipers: indifference and hostil- ity. Are you in one of those groups?

Let this Christmas be the time when you reconsider the Messiah and ponder what it is to worship him.

Advent – Day 3

HOPE IS A PERSON by Paul David Tripp

In this week’s devotional, I want to lay out two principles about hope found in Isaiah 59. Here’s the first – the doorway to hope is hopelessness. It sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? But the only way you will ever find true hope is to give up on all those places where you’ve put your hope before. Our default is to find hope horizontally, in the situations, locations, and relationships of everyday life. How many times have you thought, “If only I had ______”? Or, “If only I lived _____”? That’s finding your hope horizontally.

You’re not going to meet a person who will give you life. No one can give you the peace and security you’re seeking. You’re not going to get a job that will make life worth living. You’re not going to own a possession that will give you the happiness that you seek. You’re not going to have an experience that will fulfill you. It’s all horizontal hope, and before you can find true, life-giving hope, you need to reach a point of hopelessness.

Here’s the second principle – to be reliable, hope needs to fix what is broken. Hope must address the biggest, deepest, and darkest dilemma of our life. Isaiah 59:2 tells us what is broken. “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

Just as horizontal hope will fail us, a horizontal diagnosis will miss what is truly broken. I like to think that my biggest problem in life exists outside me, not inside me. I want to say my problems are situational, locational, or relational. But they’re not. My biggest problem is vertical and personal.

There is something that lurks inside me that is dark and dangerous – sin. It kidnaps my thoughts, diverts my desires, and distorts my words. Only Christ can fix this problem. No horizontal hope can ever fix a vertical problem. So God promises to send His son as the vertical and ultimate solution. “And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression (59:2).”

That’s the Christmas story. The Christmas story is about hope coming. That’s why the angels sing the glorious song that we’ll focus on next week. That’s why the wise men came to worship. That’s why the shepherds were blown away. Hope had invaded the earth in the person of the Lord Jesus. Hope had come.

This Advent season, celebrate the true, life-giving source of Hope. And remember, hope is never a situation. Hope is never a location. Hope is never an ideology. Hope is a person, and his name is Jesus Christ.

  1. Name some situations, locations, and relationships that our culture defines as sources of hope?
  2. Reflect on times when you searched for hope in the wrong places. What was the outcome?
  3. Reflect on times when you relied on Christ as your only source of hope. What was the outcome?
  4. Who in your life is in need of Hope? How can you use the Advent season to share Hope with others?

God bless

Advent – Day 2

Yesterday, December 1st, began the Advent season (it always starts the 4th Sunday before Christmas).

The English word “Advent” is from the Latin word “adven- tus,” which means “coming.” The Advent season is a Church tradition that calls us to celebrate the first coming of Jesus, and to patiently long for the 2nd coming of Jesus. In the midst of a chaotic and busy time in our culture, Advent can be a beautiful time of redeeming all the holiday hustle & bustle.

And to that end, yesterday we kicked off a new series called “The Rescue” in our Sunday service. You can listen to the first sermon here.

But we are also going to be sending out devotionals and articles and scripture thoughts over the next few weeks — not every day, but a few times each week. And not always from Pastor Chris; sometimes from other folks in our church, and sometimes from other folks at other churches.

For today……

PREPARE THE WAY by John Piper

“He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a peopleprepared.” —Luke1:16–17

What John the Baptist did for Israel, Advent can do for us. Don’t let Christmas find you unprepared. I mean spiritu- ally unprepared. Its joy and impact will be so much greater if you are ready!

That you might be prepared…

First, meditate on the fact that we need a Savior. Christ- mas is an indictment before it becomes a delight. It will not have its intended effect until we feel desperately the need for a Savior. Let these short Advent meditations help awaken in you a bittersweet sense of need for the Savior.

Second, engage in sober self-examination. Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23–24) Let every heart prepare him room… by cleaning house.

Third, build God-centered anticipation and expec- tancy and excitement into your home—especially for the children. If you are excited about Christ, they will be too. If you can only make Christmas exciting with material things, how will the children get a thirst for God? Bend the efforts of your imagination to make the wonder of the King’s arrival visible for the children.

Fourth, be much in the Scriptures, and memorize the great passages! “Is not my word like fire, says the Lord!” (Jeremiah 23:29) Gather ‘round that fire this Advent sea- son. It is warm. It is sparkling with colors of grace. It is healing for a thousand hurts. It is light for dark nights.

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