Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas Reflection on the Humility of Jesus

Today was a sweet Christmas. But today was also a really tough Christmas. My grandparents are all nearing the end of their journeys here on earth and it is possible that this is my last Christmas with them. I had to steal away some moments to myself so I could weep a bit before composing myself and heading back out among the family. I don’t really care what that fact does for the image anyone may have of me—all of those tears were brought on by conversations with my grandmother on my mom’s side.

Grandma prays fervently for the return of Jesus. She is ready to “go home.” And by “home,” she means Jesus. Wherever Jesus is, that’s where she wants to go and be. If Jesus were going to greet people at Wal-Mart for all of eternity, she would bow at His feet and kiss His them while He did it. And when I listen to her talk about our home I can’t help but think of the mighty King Jesus that reigns over our home (which is indeed Heaven) and the entire Universe:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

That is how Jesus is described to us in Revelation 19. It’s not exactly the nativity scene baby Jesus is it? But I couldn’t help it. That’s what I thought about all day: the Jesus of Revelation 19 came into this world as a helpless baby? I mean, in the words of Kanye West and Jay-Z: That’s just cray (“cray” means crazy).

This causes me to reflect on the humility of Jesus. The humility of Jesus is something we can’t fully understand. But when we view Jesus’ birth in light of Revelation 19, we get a much better picture of just how amazing His holy condescension to us really is.

Think about it…

The God who breathed stars into being from His mouth (Psalm 33:6) humbled Himself to the point of becoming a baby whose mouth regurgitated food and could not adequately hold in saliva. Jesus as a baby spit up and drooled all over himself—this Jesus who breathed stars into existence and whose very mouth is a weapon of war.

The God who has the earth as the stool for His feet (Isaiah 66:1) became a baby on earth whose feet could not even hold him up. He could not cover his own feet to keep them warm. This baby Jesus became a toddler who could not tie His own sandals on his feet—feet that use the earth as a footstool and tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God.

The God who has a voice that thunders (Job 40:9) became a baby who could not speak—He could only coo and gurgle as babies do. The very voice that created the universe became a voice so small. The God who sees all the children of men (Psalm 52:3) became like them. The God who knows our thoughts from afar (Psalm 139:2) came to know what it was like to be us while dwelled among us (John 1:14). The God whose eyes are like a flame of fire became a baby whose eyes could barely make out the face of His own mother when He was first born in Bethlehem.

The God who is aware of every birth—even of the animals (Job 39:1-4)—was born himself. The God who shut the seas up when they burst forth from a “womb’’ (Job 38:8) was himself born from the womb of a woman. The God who holds the life of every woman and all things together in place (Colossians 1:17) was dependent upon a woman to carry him and hold Him in place.

The God who does not need anything because He does whatever He wants (Psalm 13:5-6) chose to become a baby who needed someone to change his diaper for him. This is unbelievable humility. The God who does not need anything from mankind and is not served by human hands (Acts 17:25) chose to become as a baby who did need to be served by human hands as a baby.

The God of Revelation 19 who sits upon a horse was born in a place that reeked of horses and all of their filth. The God of Revelation 19, which fears nothing and cannot die—nor even be damaged in slightest—He became killable. He was a helpless baby who could be damaged and get sick and be hurt. And that baby grew up and was slaughtered by sinners, for sinners—for me and for you. He emptied Himself to serve us—even though in sin we have failed to serve Him as God.

The God of Revelation 19 who wears a robe dipped in the blood of His enemies…He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and held by a teenage girl who would die in the very presence of His Glory (see Isaiah 6) if He did not veil Himself in flesh. Yes, we serve a God who humbled Himself—even to the point of death (Philippians 2:8).

Whatever gospel you read today, whichever version you heard—the Messiah in a manger (Mathew and Luke) or the Logos (the Word) become flesh (John)—the fact of the gospel is this: God is with us. He came amongst us! Oh what humility!

Jesus humbled Himself because He loves us, He lived a perfect life, and He understands just how desperate we are in need of grace (Hebrews 2:17; 4:15). His humility is based not on sin but on grace. His humility is a rooted in His understanding of grace and His understanding of grace is that He is it! He is the only way back to the Father (John 14). We need Him. And at just the right time (Galatians 4:4-5) He came to our rescue because we need Him more than anything else in the universe.

This grace shown to us should be humbling. The sacrifice made to come save us is more than we could ever imagine—it is far greater than I could ever dream of writing about, and that causes my heart to worship even more. And in fact, we can read in Matthew 2 that the Magi came to do one thing: worship Jesus. I pray that we are wise enough and humble enough to do the same—for He is worthy of our worship. I pray this meditation of my heart blesses you this Christmas and the year to come.

O Father, in the name of Jesus, please begin a work in our lives that humbles us and makes us more like Christ. May we see that humility does not come from seeing how sinful we are, but rather it comes from how great grace is. Jesus, thank you for being grace incarnate. Your humility and grace are far greater than we will know in this life—but help us understand it just a little bit more. We are so arrogant and prideful, but thank you for pursuing us anyway—we do not deserve it at all, and that is what makes your love and grace so amazing. Help us be humble salt and light in a world dying from selfishness and pride. Holy Spirit, do not let us quench you in your quest to move us toward humility. Over come our fight against humility and give us joy-filled obedience to your Word. Thank you God for loving us enough to come and die for us. Amen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Adopted? Who me? Surely not me.

I'm reading Children of the Living God by Sinclair Ferguson for a class. Here's my thoughts on chapters 1-5:

My favorite concept in Ferguson's book has been adoption. He identifies this adoption into God's family as both legal and creative. God acts in a creative manner to bring us into the new family and He declares us legally as His children. Before the Law and its' demands, we are His. We've been regenerated and adopted. The second part to me is the one that hits my soul deep. Ferguson lays out the thickness of the adoption we have as sons and daughters.

I cannot negatively critique Ferguson. He does a beautiful job of displaying the biblical evidence for our adoption. He even goes into the parable of the Prodigal Son and does a brilliant job of explaining son-ship from that text. He and Tim Keller have both enlightened our minds on the depths of the Father's love for His sons in that parable. Also, Ferguson shows us the example of David and the son of Jonathan. David's love for and covenant with Jonathan includes Jonathan's heirs and household at David's table. God has done this with us because of Jesus and that's all over the Bible. Ferguson shows the scriptural support for his thesis and that's important to do with something this scandalous.

I've been adopted by God. And that's crazy because I know how rebellious I am. Like even as I write this I sit in wonder and awe. Adopted? Who me? Surely not me. Do you know who I am? Do you know what I've done? How could God ever adopt a child like me? The answer is Jesus. Jesus' blood purchased the Father many sons. And I am one of those sons.

I know how I've offended the God of the universe. It's absolutely mind blowing to think that he would choose to adopt me. Sons that are adopted are chosen. They don't just happen by accident. This part of the gospel needs to be preached to everybody. And adoption needs to be something we as Christians do if God calls us as individuals to adopt children from other nations and our local community. We need to live out the gospel to the world through adoption. We're all called to at least consider it because God has done a mighty thing and given us a way to display it to the world.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Judges and Jesus Christ.

Just for the record…I can’t sleep. Maybe because this has been on my brain for 2 weeks and it’s time to get it out of there. There isn’t much space up there anyway.

A few months back I wrote a blog about Leviticus. Two people read it. But in that blog I said that Jesus is everywhere in the Old Testament. And that’s true. I just read the book of Judges and this book of the Old Testament is packed full of Jesus and New Testament application.

The Bible is not a boring book. Don’t believe me? Read Judges. A guy stabs a king with an 18-inch sword and can’t pull it out because the guy is so fat. The words “taught the men a lesson” is literally in the 8th chapter. I mean, the Bible basically says a guy takes grown men behind the wood shed. But that’s not the craziest thing. Seriously. Read it. It’s unreal, and Jesus’ fingerprints are all over it. Jesus is our Greater Judge.

The thing about Judges is that they weren’t really judging Israel in the way our American culture would think. Like they weren’t standing before Israel in a court room and declaring judgment, that really was more or less the role of the prophets (that job sucked by the way—read the prophets some time, just for kicks). The Judges were really more like defenders or better yet, deliverers.

Judges were Deliverers.

This begs the questions: who needed deliverance and why do they need it?

The problem in Israel was that God’s people kept going through this cycle of trusting/obeying Him and then disobeying Him a few years later. It happened over and over again. It’s pretty unbelievable when you read it in the text, but it’s actually exactly what still goes on today in 2011.

One generation of Israelites would follow hard after God and the next would do nothing but wickedness and evil in the eyes of God. And the people would get themselves into huge messes, because that’s what happens when you worship false gods (it’s called idolatry) instead of YAHWEH.

So God would send a Judge to deliver them out of their predicament, bless the nation and then keep the people in line. But…then the Judge would die and the people would go right back to whoring after other gods—false gods. And yes I used the word “whoring.” The Bible does too, try not to be offended.

So…God would send another Judge. And then…another. On and on this went until eventually the line of the Judges ended because Israel wanted a king instead. Well, fortunately for us, Jesus is both our Judge and King—and He is perfect at both.

Now, let’s be clear, when we see the Judges roll onto their particular scenes in history, we never see them condoning the actions of the people, but we never see them bringing hellfire and brimstone to the people either. They didn’t have to. The people were already under judgment. They were already suffering the consequences of their sin. In order for God to really bring wrath onto them, all He would have to do is nothing.

Think about it: if the biggest, baddest bully on the block is punching you in the mouth, does the Light-Heavyweight champ have to show up to judge you and bring wrath? No, you’re already getting you’re tail whipped by that behemoth of a kid who repeated 5th grade like 4 times. It’s the same thing with God and His people. Israel was always getting merked by everyone else in the world when they were in discord and disobedience with/to God. So God intervening was not a sign of judgment, but rather it was a sign of deliverance out of the judgment Israel was already under.

So…Israel was in trouble and the Judges would show up, tell them why they needed to repent and then deliver them out of whatever mess they were in.

Hmm…this sounds like Jesus. What did He say in John’s Gospel? He said in chapter 3 that He hadn’t come to condemn the world because we stood condemned already. The Gospels tell us Christ came to seek and save that which was lost. He came to ransom—or deliver us His chosen people. He sounds like an Old Testament Judge to me—except way better. Because no Judges has to follow Him up—in fact, who could? Hebrews makes it clear that His deliverance, His ransom, His redemption is a one time, eternal deal—no follow up is necessary.

This is why Jesus is our Greater Judge—Our Greater Deliverer.

Having said all of that, I do feel as if the office of Judge is no longer in place, but God does raise up very special people in ministry even in our New Testament Era. These men (and women) are called by God to draw a line in the sand, stand for truth, lead God’s people, and deliver the Church through tough times, much like the Judges did for the nation of Israel. I could be waaaaay off here, but let men explain what I am saying.

First of all, people didn’t select the Judges. God selected them. They didn’t have a standard length of their term. Some were “in office” a lot longer than the others. Some are mentioned for like a paragraph and others get multiple chapters dedicated to their lives and escapades of Judging Israel. Some are very prominent but others are seemingly minor.

This is the same with men in ministry. People don’t call men into ministry, God does. Of course, people can affirm and confirm God’s call (this is a great thing), but it is God who calls men to stand in the gap for His People.

Also, just like the Judges, these men come and go quite differently. Some are called young—some old. Some guys get 10 years in the mission field. Others get 60 years in the states as they preach in a local pulpit. Some guys have big names, conferences, blogs, podcasts, books and multi-site church formats. And some have a brick building with no A/C and no sound system. And none of these men are better than the other in the sense that a book deal or big church makes you better than a guy without one, it’s just how God chooses to work. God delivers the tools to these men and they work.

When I think of these kind of men, I am very thankful. Men like Polycarp, Irenaeus, Augustine, Luther, Spurgeon, and others, including what I affectionately call “Team John” (John Calvin, John Owen, John Edwards, John Wesley, John MacArthur, John Piper). They all held the line.

They all served Christ. None were perfect. None were really Judges, but all of them, in my limited estimation, were ordained by God to dwell in a specific place, during a specific time, amongst specific people so that they declare the Gospel with boldness—because while these men cannot deliver us, God can. The Gospel can. And God uses men (and women) to be His mouthpieces for the proclamation of deliverance.

Jesus delivers. Jesus saves. Jesus Judges.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Love Wins: A Cage Fight for Truth, Rd 2

Round 2, Chapter 1: What about the flat tire?

Rob Bell enters Round 2 exactly like we knew he would open up at least one round. He fires questions and returns no answers. He does this in interviews. He gets asked questions and he doesn’t answer them. He responds with another question that doesn’t help at all.

This chapter is no different. In fact it’s worse. Bell fires off over 100 questions in this chapter. Many of which are phrased in an insinuative ways so as to communicate an answer without actually giving one and then being accountable for it. Almost all the questions he asks go unanswered he just let’s them hang in the balance.

So the hope and the dream is that Bell will answer all or at least most of these 100 questions over the next 7 chapters. Because if he doesn’t, we have a major problem. Why? Because you can’t ask questions about weighty things that the Bible clearly answers (i.e. the character and nature of God, salvation, and hell) and then just leave people wandering aimlessly for truth. Especially after you make grand claims in the Preface of your book that Christianity is about answering questions and not shirking them. So it would be embarrassing if you shirked questions.

So just based on those facts alone we can consider Bell to be somewhat irresponsible if he doesn’t accurately answer these weighty questions from Scripture in this book. Also, it’s just bad as a communicator to ask 100 questions before addressing a single one of them clearly and thoroughly.

Sidebar: Now there were some bright spots: Bell had a few really good paragraphs that I thought were really insightful—but unfortunately he doesn’t clarify those things. With guys like Bell, we must beg for definition. For instance, in a recent media sound bite, Bell claims that he does believe in “hell.” He’s responding to those of critics who accuse him of not believing in hell. Well, he says does believe in ”hell.”

Okay? Wait…it’s Rob Bell. What do you mean by “hell”? Because if he believes in “hell” and his definition of “hell” is a bunch of people hanging out playing shuffleboard and eating cashews—then clearly we don’t have the same idea of “hell” and so although he may claim to believe in “hell” it’s still possible that he really doesn’t. So a clarification of terms is totally necessary. Unfortunately, he didn’t clarify and so all of my “orthodox” friends who have read all of Bell’s previous stuff got really excited over Bell’s proclamation that he “believed” in all of these cool little phrases and words that appear really Biblical and historical.

Calm down and for goodness’ sake, use some discernment. He said nothing. He said a whole bunch of stuff that literally means nothing given his track record.

Back to the book…

Here’s the summary of chapter 1:

-Bell asks 3 questions about hell and God and words them in such a way that indicts the character of God until he actually answers them from the Bible. Don’t ever indict God. It always ends with him powning you. Read the book of Job.

-He asks some more questions, he doesn’t answer.

-He mentions “the age of accountability” and then drops the ball.

-Plays on the hearts strings of readers and unwittingly pits people against the justice and holiness and sovereignty of God. Sweet move.

-He finally says some things that make sense.

-Then he reverts back to things like: claiming that the term “personal relationship” isn’t in the Bible when referring to our salvation and relationship with God. Which is true but the idea is very clear in scripture, so although the term isn’t explicitly in the Bible, it is quite implicit and the textual exegesis of this idea is everywhere.

-He then claims a woman wrote the book of Hebrews. I literally think he only believes that to bolster his edgy, emergent image.

-Bell then displays an incorrect understanding of Luke 18.

-He rips Matthew 10 out of context.

-Oh and then he does the same to 1 Corinthians 7 and 1 Timothy 2.

My favorite part of the chapter is when Bell writes, “But maybe all of these questions are missing the point.”

My thoughts were literally: “Oh thank goodness.”

But then he spends another whole page asking questions.

But once again…a glimmer of hope!

He writes:

“But this isn’t a book about of questions.

It’s a book of responses to theses questions.”

Once again I breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

Overall, this chapter is bonkers. I highly doubt he’ll answer all of these questions because he literally asked over a hundred of them. But I’m hopeful!

I’m forced to initially award this round to “Love Wins” for this chapter due to the thoroughness of Bell’s questions and concerns as well as his promising ending. But he gets penalized for ripping Scripture out of context so much, which brings the round to 9-9. But he gets penalized another point because he leaves a potential indictment of God hanging in the air. Round scored 9-8. Lastly, Love Wins gets deducted one point for practicing such poor exegesis in a few, but basic texts. Round 9-7.

So, on a 10-point must system I’ll give Round Two a score of 9-7, NOT in favor of Love Wins/Bell. I have high hopes he can easily turn this thing around with some shockingly strong arguments and exegesis of Scripture to completely flip he’s current standing.

Monday, April 11, 2011

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Love Wins: A Cage Fight for Truth, Rd 1

Round 1, The Preface

Bell comes out in his typical stance. Not Southpaw, but still “Unorthodox.” If you’ve ever read a Bell book, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

If you haven’t read a Rob Bell book before, this is what I mean:

Rob Bell

writes most

of his


like this.

He writes

in such a way that


have to follow

a pattern of reading

that defies

common sense

and a normative

reading flow

in general.


most people


it’s edgy,

and really


In fact, they get so caught up in how awesome and different Bell’s “style” is that they forget that they might actually need to cross check his words with the Bible. You know, that thing that has become a coaster for their Starbucks latte.

Side Bar: Actually, the hardcore Bell fan doesn’t go to Starbucks. They’re usually the kid that will give you a 15 minute spiel on how Starbucks is “evil” and it would be better if the entire world abandoned Starbucks and went to the cool, low-key, local coffee joints like they do. But all the while they secretly hope nobody listens because they really like the fact that they have that “indy” coffee shop all to themselves and if everyone abandoned Starbucks for the local joint, then their own patronage would no longer be cool because then “everyone would be doing it” and they find their identity in being “rebellious” and talking about how much they want to stick it to “The Man.” So, of course, if too many people show up to “their” coffee shop where they hangout and listen to John Mayer while wearing TOMS, their good time will be ruined.

By the way, I own a pair of TOMS and I love them. My anti-Starbucks friends introduced me to them and I couldn’t be happier. End Sidebar.

So that’s what’s going on. Typical Bell print style as expected. No surprises. To be honest, it’s cool for like 10 pages and then it’s just annoying.

As far as the content of the Preface goes…it’s not a great start for Rob Bell, but it could get worse in the pages to come. I’m hoping it doesn’t.

So far, in less than four full pages, Rob Bell has:

-Read John 3:16, but failed to mention the rest of the passage, which he could make up for later.

-Failed to read John 18 and therefore he has wrongfully stated the purpose of Jesus’ entry into human history.

-Called a basic teaching/doctrine of historical, orthodox, Biblical Christianity “misguided and toxic.”

-Failed to mention justice, wrath, and holiness alongside love, peace, forgiveness, and joy as attributes of God, which is not surprising given the previous point.

-Said that our faith isn’t one that “skirts” the big questions. Let’s hope he doesn’t do what he just said our faith was not all about.

-Failed to read 1 John 2:19 and numerous other passages to mold correct theology and doctrine on those who are “Christians” and then dip-set from (leave) the faith.

-Correctly stated that others have taught what he teaches in this book for years and years. The only question I have is: Were his predecessors heretics?

That’s in less than 4 pages. I’m sure the next 200 pages should be a real blast. But that brings a close to a short Round One. It’s too early to tell whether or not Bell will make some sort of epic turn around in the next few rounds so out of the generosity of my heart and being the kind of writer that would like the benefit of a doubt to be given to me, I’ll call Round One: A Draw.

The good news is: it’s still early in the rounds for Bell.

The bad news: he’s in the cage and dealing with a Big subject here. This is no Bantamweight he’s staring down. It’s much bigger.