Monday, May 31, 2010

I go to prepare a place for you...

"...And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." John 14:3

This is part of the "Upper Room Discourse" that is recorded by John in his gospel. Jesus begins using language that may slip by us in our culture. In Hebrew marriage customs of the time that Jesus was speaking there was a process to marriage different from our own. In brief it would usually look like this:

The bridegroom to be would go with his father to the perspective brides home. The fathers would talk and come to an agreement about the marriage and the other details. The couple was then legally engaged. Though they were not allowed to live as a married couple it took a legal divorce to separate them at this point. The bridegroom would return to his father's house and prepare a place for he and his new bride to live. This would take an undetermined amount of time. The marriage would occur when the place was finally prepared. But who gets to pronounce the place "prepared"? In the cultural practice of the day, it was the bridegroom's Father who would say that the place was ready, and send his son to go and retrieve his bride.

Some exciting points about sheds light on what Christ was talking about when He placed it in the Father's hands as to when He would return for His Bride (that's us!). The thing I would have us be most cognizant of this week is the reality that Christ used emotionally powerful imagery when talking about His level of motivation to come and retrieve us. Imagine a young bridegroom, bursting with passionate love for his bride to be, each day preparing the place, anxiously awaiting the moment when his father will come in and say, "It's time! The place is ready and the time is right. Go and get your bride!" No prophecy needs to be fulfilled before He comes to retrieve us, it could happen to day, even before you finish reading this sentence. And I, for one, hope that it's today! And as excited as we are to see Him, I believe He is more excited to see you! Have a great week!

Monday, May 24, 2010

For the purpose of prayer...

"The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another because love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:7-8

It is amazing to think how important the end of something is. Movies are a great example of this, if a movie starts off well yet ends poorly it isn't likely to have much of a theatrical run. When Peter opens a statement by reminding us that the end of all things is near I am ready to hear what the Holy Spirit has to say through him. Being mindful of the fact that Jesus could come back for us at any moment should cause us to be of sound judgement and sober spirit. This makes sense, and is expected, but I found the next phrase surprising. Why the sober spirit? So that we can pray. It is striking that in view of the fact of Christ's immanent return we are told to keep ourselves ready so that we can have a vital and active prayer life.

"Above all" is another big attention getter. we are told to "keep fervent" in our love for one another. This is the love that comes from resting in Christ. That's not a bad focus for the week, is it? Let's not let anything inhibit our prayer life, and let's let the fervent love that comes from walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5) characterize our interactions.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Be Still

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10

Way back in the late 1990's a school choir sang a piece using this text. Ever since we sang that tune the verse has stuck with me. I have heard this verse used and abused since then, but the message never goes far from my mind. Some want to emphasize exclusively one part and some exclusively the other, but it is all true, and we need to apply every word of it. The command to be still is only useful when we consider the reason: He is God. We don't need to try to take that role from Him, or take responsibility for His part. We can be still and marvel at who He is. His character will always be more than we can imagine and He will always be better than our wildest dreams of any God that we could make.

Finally, this verse looks forward to a future time when He will be exalted among the nations. He will be exalted on the earth as His Son, Jesus Christ will reign on the throne of David until this earth is done. That's great news! That will happen with or without us. There is nothing that we can do to stop it, it is a part of His sovereign will, and at the right time He will bring it to pass. The great news is: we can concern ourselves with our eternal occupation right now - Being forever Preoccupied with Jesus Christ.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Old, Old Books

I was down in the big city this morning and was able to find some treasures. I found three treasures, but alas, could only afford to buy two on this journey. The used Christian bookstore always has some old old books hidden away that have been used for generations to grow closer to Jesus. To draw closer to Him through His word. Today's treasures were two Old Greek Grammars. I only have pictures of one here.
Most of these old grammars are beautiful, well worn books that have seen better days. There are pencil and pen notes in the margins and the bindings rarely look like they will make it through another reading, so you must be very respectful to find the treasures within. Almost every great Greek resource that I have gotten used is in this condition and always seems to have a name on the front page. I must imagine that it was picked up by a seminarian years ago. Money that had been carefully saved and set aside was put forth to buy this treasure for the first time, no investment could be so great as the reward of beholding Jesus more clearly and being able to more confidently share His love and message with others. I sometimes even pray for these saints who went before, and wonder what use the book went to.
This is a shorter version of the larger grammar by A.T. Robertson, which I also treasure (a gift from the beloved saint who has mentored me over the past years, and continues to do so, to the praise and glory of the Lord). This might make it difficult to explain to my wife why I would buy the shorter version of something that I have in the more complete version. I can't clearly answer the question of why, except that I saw this volume having inestimably greater value than the number on the inside cover. Like if you saw real diamonds (and knew them to be real) being sold for a nickel a piece. You would buy them, simply on principle. Now add to that rational viewpoint, that I love these old works and am drawn across time to these men who spend years upon years digging into the word and bring out out treasures, both old and new.

I know you are dying to know more about this book, so I will give you a quote, speaking of the Universality of the Greek of the New Testament: "It was a providential circumstance that Paul could carry the message of Christ in one language and be understood wherever he went. Those who held on to their local language as in Lycaonia, Palestine, Egypt, Italy would know Greek. So Paul wrote to the church in Rome in Greek." (p. 13). What a wonderful affirmation. God planned the timing perfectly. He sent Christ in a time when the world was more prepared than it ever was before to move the message that He had put on skin and come down to earth. Not just the Greek language, but the Roman road system would have aided the Gospel's spread. Furthermore, the Pax Romana would have given the gospel even easier travel, not having to worry itself over all of the lines that it crossed that would once have been cultural and linguistic boundaries that may have been caused great hindrance. God wanted the people of the world to know how much He loves her, and He still does.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What made Jesus Weep?

The shortest verse in the Bible that I know of is John 11:35: "Jesus wept." Congratulations, you just memorized a new Bible verse (if you hadn't already). Jesus is the "visible expression of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15) and the fact that He was brought to tears here should draw our attention. What makes the God of the Universe weep?

John 11 is the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. On the way to the tomb Jesus weeps. The people present had a theory that was put forth in 11:36, that Jesus loved Lazarus so much. That he was mourning. This cannot be the case. Jesus knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, he said so in verse 11. Others have thought that Jesus wept because of the result of sin in the world: death. The reality is that death was not His creation, it was a consequence of man's sin. But he told Mary that he came to undo this as well (11:25-26).

So what made Jesus weep? I believe that the answer is found throughout the story. When Jesus resolved to go to Judea He met with the disbelief of the disciples. When Thomas speaks in verse 16 he doesn't even believe that Jesus will be able to preserve His own life in that hostile environment. Neither Mary nor Martha (friends who knew Him) could demonstrate belief that Jesus could do what He claimed He would do. What made Jesus weep? The people who knew Him best did not have faith in Him. What brings joy to our Savior and Our Father in Heaven? When we have faith in His character, His ability, His love, and trust in Him.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Relaxed Mental Attitude

Dr. Troy Welch is president at the seminary I did my academic work through. He is a godly teacher and the Lord's love is evident through His life and ministry. One of my favorite phrases of his that I love to borrow is this phrase, "Relaxed Mental Attitude." It is Dr. Welch's contention that the mature believer should possess a "Relaxed Mental Attitude." Why does he believe this?

Our faith is built on Jesus Christ and all that He has done on our behalf. Once we understand this, we can begin to comprehend Grace. What it means that our salvation is totally of Him and not at all of us. Furthermore, our sanctification is totally by His work and our part is resting, relying on Jesus Christ and His finished work at the cross (John 15; Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 1:3-14; Hebrews 2-3). Once we understand this reality we are able to trust Him with the major and minor details of our life. It does not mean we are inactive, we actively submit to Him. We actively pursue beholding Him through the Bible. It gives us a peaceful mindset and confidence that knows that there is no room for fear, worry or concern for us who are in Christ Jesus. And that is a great way to go into each and every day.