Posts Tagged ‘Christ’

Quick Quote: Look, Love, Lean

“The gospel message…first calls on us all to be realistic in facing and admitting our sinfulness, our weaknesses, our actual transgressions, and our consequent guilt before God; and then it addresses us, in God’s name, substantially as follows:

Look to Christ your loving Sin-Bearer and living Lord. Embrace him as your Savior and Master. And then in his presence resolve to leave behind the old life of conscious self-service, marred as it was by bitterness, self-pity, envy of others, and feelings of failure, in order that you may become his faithful – that is, faith-full – disciple, living henceforth, by his rules under your care.

Love Christ, in unending gratitude for his unending love to you. Labor to please him in everything you do. Let his love constrain, compel, command, comfort, and control you constantly, and, like Paul, stop regarding human approval as in any way important to you…

Lean on Christ and rely on him to supply through the Holy Spirit all the strength you need for his service, no matter how weak unhappy circumstances and unfriendly people may be making you feel at present…lean on Christ, the lover of your soul…”

~ J.I. Packer, Weakness is the Way

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Preparing for Cancer – A rejoinder to myself

In some ways this is a rejoinder to myself and what I wrote about preparing for cancer a few weeks ago.  While I do strongly believe in what I wrote, as it applies to my situation and can for many others, I do not intend to imply that only those who’ve been worshipping and learning in church for years can successfully face cancer with faith intact.  I do think there is great value in learning Scripture and hymns and other things that point us to the truth of the goodness and sovereignty of God before we need them.  In that sense, some of what we do week to week is practice for when we need it. 

            That said, and I had this in mind from the beginning, there is something (really Someone) that is completely outside of our experience.  Our faith is in Christ and He is the anchor that holds when the storms of life begin to surround us.  He is the anchor that is the yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), regardless of whether we have been following and walking with Christ for a few days or a few decades.  He is not tossed about by the waves, as we are, and is able to hold onto us when we are unable to hold onto Him.   

            This is good news!  The anchor holds.  And it is this that gives our faith confidence – not whether we are being strong, faithful, or dependent – though the Lord may grant us those as a gift too.   I love this quotation from A.J. Gordon that was in the bulletin a few Sundays ago on this very idea:

Christ in heaven is our hope in glory, and Christ in the heart is our hope of glory. An anchor is useless unless fastened at both ends, and Christ has fastened one end in glory, which the Holy Ghost comes down and fastens the other end of the anchor in our hearts. In older times the anchor used to be brought in first and the ship came in afterward. So Christ has gone in as the forerunner within the veil, and we shall come in afterward.”  What a great picture!  And what an awesome savior we have! 

 

Here is one more thing I came across this week using the metaphor of an anchor: 

Are you in a storm? Does it look like your ship is about to go under? If so, you need some anchors: 

The anchor of God’s presence: He is with you – “an angel of God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me.”

The anchor of God’s ownership: You are his possession – “the God whose I am.”

The anchor that comes through serving God: “…the God….whom I serve.”

The anchor of faith: “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.”

With anchors like these, God’s servants will stand strong and true.

Acts, The Church Afire, by R Kent Hughes (comment on Paul’s Acts 27 shipwreck on p 338).

Wedding Homily: Welcome One Another

This is a wedding homily I gave this past Saturday:

[Intro]
One of the joys of working outside the home is the gift of returning home.  Not just because it’s nice to be home or because I get to kick my feet up to relax, but because of the welcome that I receive.  My children are especially good at making me feel welcomed back home, whether it’s them running to greet before I have even gotten out of the car or the giant hugs that I get from them.  There is a particular joy that comes from their delight in my return home and that helps put the troubles of each day in perspective.  Also important to me are the words of welcome from my wife – each brings me into that place we all long for: home.  Paul speaks of welcome at the end of the passage from Romans 15 that we have already heard.

(ESV) Romans 15:7 – Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Paul addresses these words to the Christian community and it is appropriate to consider these words in light of the smallest, but very important community that exists in a marriage.  In this verse, there is a Command, a Connection, and a Consequence. I want to consider these briefly in light of this wonderful of occasion of your two lives being joined in marriage today.  First, the command…

[Command]
Paul says, “Welcome one another”.  It is a simple command.  At least it’s simple to understand, maybe less simple to apply. The word here that is translated as “welcome” is much deeper than a greeting or anything merely on the surface.  Paul is not describing a casual greeting, but the kind of reception or acceptance for someone else that is rooted in our hearts.  It refers to our opening our hearts to another person.  And in marriage, we are welcoming another person into the most vulnerable and sensitive place in our lives – our hearts.  C.S. Lewis recognizes the inherent danger in this, as he says: to love at all is to become vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safely in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless space, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. But you are opening your hearts to one another today.  The challenge in marriage is to see this kind of opening of our hearts as something that is done not just today on the wedding day, but rather everyday.  Especially when we become frustrated or annoyed with our spouse.  Especially when we have hurt or been hurt.  Especially when the pressures of finances or work intrude into the peace of our home.  You fight to welcome one another, because to do so is to fight for your very marriage.  This might be through a welcoming word, a welcoming touch, or a welcoming sacrifice of service for the other.

Paul understands the difficulty in this command.  So, Paul offers not just a command, but also a connection to Jesus Christ.

[Connection]
This is the pattern of the New Testament Epistles, especially in Paul’s letters.  The commands of Christianity are always connected in some way to Jesus Christ because we are not able to keep them in our own strength.  So, the command to welcome one another is connected to Christ’s welcome of us:  “just as Christ has welcomed you.”
This leads to us naturally to a question:  How has Christ welcomed us?  Scripture does not pull any punches in describing our lives prior to faith in Christ.  We need only go back in the book of Romans to see this:  in Romans 5:6-10 we get a picture of who we were:  “weak and helpless, ungodly, sinners, enemies” – these are the words used to describe us.  The picture of our lives without Christ is not pretty, but the testimony of Romans is that we were not chosen for salvation because we deserved it or had earned it.  The weak, the ungodly, sinners, and enemies of God actually deserve something far different than the welcome that we receive in Christ.  It can be hard for us to see ourselves in this light.   What becomes clear from Scripture is that Christ does not welcome us because we deserve it, but rather because grace and mercy are at His very heart.  

Just as we have to keep the command to welcome one another alive in our marriages, it is also crucial to keep the connection with Christ alive in it as well.  Again, this is not easy and there will be a hundred other things (many of them good) that will challenge your connection with Christ.  The question then that we must ask is this:  to what or whom should I connect to help me grow in love and welcome for my spouse.  There is no greater help that I know of than a connection to Christ.

Both our keeping the command to welcome one another and our connection lead to a consequence.

[Consequence]
How might you describe the dating scene across America these days?  To me it seems that it is largely about figuring out how one person can present their most attractive qualities and minimize their flaws to another person who is doing the exact same thing.  Too often the flaws aren’t revealed until after the wedding.  Unfortunately, this is the poor foundation upon many marriages are built.  And the consequences are often severe.  But to welcome one another recognizing the welcome we have received from Christ leads to a far different consequence – the glory of God.   There is no greater thing for us to do than to give glory to God. And here we can see the purpose that our marriages may serve within the greater community that we live – giving glory to God.  I found in my own marriage that what galvanizes our relationship more than any other, is for us to both to be focused on something much greater than ourselves or our desires.  As a result, this consequence strengthens our marriages and helps us to grow deeper in the difficult work of an ongoing welcoming and drawing each other into our hearts.

[Conclusion]
A simple message:  welcome one another…But not always easy to apply.  So, we look at the little ways and build from there.

  • Words of welcome for one another.  The kinds of words that go beyond the surface and touch each other’s hearts.
  • A welcoming touch:   a hug, a kiss, or just remembering that physical proximity matters.
  • Being quick to listen, and slow to speak
  • Being quick to apologize and quick to forgive
  • Living in light of the welcome of Christ, so that you learn what the welcoming heart is and does

[Prayer] Pray with me….

Our Greatest Need

This was too good not to share.  Of First Importance shares gems like this just about everyday and I get an email from them anytime they post something.

“If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, he would have sent an economist. If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, he would have sent us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician. If he had perceived that our greatest need was health, he would have sent us a doctor. But he perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Savior.”

– D.A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation