Archive for the ‘ Exhortation ’ Category

Thoughts from a Young Man: Suffering

Jesus suffered in the garden. He died on the cross, yes for our sins, BUT he also suffered because of our sinfulness. He suffered a pain that was not his. The act was not a single moment or a collection of moments as nails pierced his flesh. His suffering was such that we will never suffer. His suffering was a faith breaking suffering. He suffered under the silence of God. He suffered it completely. He bore pain. He cried out longingly, desperately for grace but heaven was seemed closed to his bleating. He suffered so that we could endure the the silence.

Silence of this type would break us. Andrew Peterson poetically says the silence of God

“is enough to drive a man crazy, to break a man’s faith, it’s enough to make a man wonder if he has ever been sane…when he is bowering for comfort and heavens only answer is the silence of God.”

It does drive us crazy. It drives us to question the promise of Grace. As the silence of God, the unanswered prayers, the waiting, the loneliness, goes on and on we question if we have ever heard the voice of God. We know he speaks; others around us tell us about their sweet fellowship but we feel a cold iron curtain robed around us like shell, a prison cell with no widow or door. We begin question whether we have ever come to know God. We often question whether we are God’s chosen sheep at all. Aside from the grace bought by Christ’s suffering, this suffering would break us and tear us apart.

Christ became like us so that in sharing in our suffering as we suffer he would be made perfect and by his death he would put to death, death. The lonely weeping, the prayers in the solitude of sleeping friends, the agony of the Father’s silent turning away, became the grace we need to suffer under silence. Christ suffered an unmerited silence, a coldness, a distance, a separation that would break men. Silence of this type is not a muted voice, it is a blinded eye. This silence is separation from the creator, sustainer, and source of life. It is a separation from the Light of Life. It is a silence of unfathomable depths, it is penetrating, it is consuming, it is hell.

Christ walked through this silence to purchase our help. He suffered such so that we would endure. No matter the weight of the silence there is the promise. The cross is the receipt. The character of God is the guarantee and the Spirit is the promissory note. The silence WILL be broken. The Father will come. The Father is working amidst the silence. The Son suffered so that the silence, a painful weight, would not be a rod of breaking or a stone of crushing.

Whatever you from suffer remember our savor. Remember that he breathed his last breath, he yielded up his spirit by his choice by his will. Remember his words,

“It is finished!”

Christ, then, consciously, “breathed his last breath and yielded up his Spirit.” His death did not end the suffering, it did not remove the cup of reeling from His hand, the cup of the wrath of God ran dry. Our savior suffered completely. The Father’s justice satisfied so that we would be left unbroken by the silence but that the silence would be tool of conforming, a means of developing Christ-like endurance. The silence doesn’t break our faith, it doesn’t uproot faith, it drives the roots of faith deeper into the fertile soil of Christ amidst the the barren wasteland of this life!

Let the silence drive you deeper. Let the waiting conform you. Trust the promise. Trust the Savior. Endure for the sake of the Joy set before you! Endure that you would get Christ. Endure that you would become one of those among the great crowd of witnesses from which we, who enjoy such grace now, will look to when the silence becomes deafening! If you have walked through the valley, encourage your fellow travelers. You may be be that voice they are longing to hear!

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Thoughts From a Young Man: Every Member

Luke 19:35

And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.

We think highly of the preacher, the court herald, and at times more highly of the guitarist, the court minstrel, we never think much of the valets and mechanics who work to the glory of their King. Oh but here what glory is it to be the valet, the motor pool worker, the stable hand of the Son of God. Oh how highly does he esteem each of us. How significant in his eye is the role that each of us are given! We are vital and honored in the kingdom of God. Oh how blessed is he who holds the door for the Son! We blessed to be in his kingdom. Not because we make music or stand in the podium. These few held the reigns the Son of God, the Christ. Our blessing is being in the kingdom that is the measure of our value and that alone. Christ died that I might live! That is our resounding chorus.

Thoughts From a Young Man: Battle with Sin and the Garden

Father if it is possible let this cup pass from but your will be done not mine.

The cross was not the battle Jesus faced. The cross was not what killed the Christ. It was and it wasn’t. The Cross was pain it was suffering and it was the REAL demonstration of the REAL battle that BEGAN and was WON in the garden. No the battle was not done but it was won!

In the garden Christ was faced with the temptation to flee the suffering promised him in Isaiah 52. Imagine him, as a boy, as a 12-year-old sitting in the temple reasoning with the scribes. These were the teachers of the very men who would kill him. Caiaphas may have been in the temple that day, watching the perplexity of his teachers as they reasoned with the 12 year son of Man; a mere carpenter apprentice. “God” was an apprentice to a trades men a factory worker, Selah.

Jesus knew his end. Jesus knew he would be crushed by God. Here in the garden he was tempted to walk away. And the battle begins. Wrath pouring through his body. Death infecting the Perfect One. Sin slaying the GREAT I AM. Like a child amidst the fire he cry out, “ and Christ says thus, “Father, Oh Father if you are willing please remove this cup from me; but not my will be done, do yours.” It is the bleating of a child, “Daddy rescue me.” For Christ cam, setting emptying himself of power and walking in humble submission a man to God. The temptations of the wilderness are illustrative. The Christ is not trapped there amidst the flames as a helpless Child; the angels must have stood a breath away limbs out reached ready to grasp their master from this horror, ready to lift him from the burden of wrath due the men killing him.

Jesus could have stepped through the flames unsinged but that was not the path he had come to walk. His temptation his fire is knowing that the crushing of God could be removed. His need of grace is to remain to walk the path. To bow humbly and take the pain that is not his. To drink the “cup of reeling” due the every man for everyman jubilantly swimming in miry pools of sin. This was the path he came to walk. He came, the Light of the World, the light of life, in the humble tent of human flesh a sojourner, from the land of heaven, in a world of death. God became a man and walked the line.

His word says,

“Although he was a Son [God’s Son], He learned obedience from the things he suffered.” His suffering what was not his own to suffer it was ours! He suffered in our place as we suffer yet more for he drank down the wrath of God so that, “having been made perfect, he became to all those who obey him the source of eternal salvation…” (Hebrews 5:8-9) Selah!
This is the battle before me cause me to stand to your glory. If it is your gracious will to remove I want that but your will be done.
And so, in the garden he begins his suffering. He asks that God would bring it to an end and he did not. It was there that he entrusted himself to God. God gave the supply that was needed to walk the line he came to walk. That was where the battle was one the rest was a fight to keep walking. So also it is for us. The battle is won when you see the lines drawn. When temptation comes you fall at the feet of the risen Christ crying out, “This is the battle before me cause me to stand to your glory. If it is your gracious will to remove I want that but your will be done.” This is what we are to cry out when we know we should not take another help helping  of food, another drink from the bottle, when we know the images before us will lead us to sin. This is what we ask. We can walk away from these and we should but even more this is for those times when anger rises and we need grace to not lash out. There is not walking away then it is a path we must go down. When someone in the group in the group is dressed in an overly sensual way and we must stay there is grace; our way of escape is the cross. When our wallets have the ability to meet the needs of another but at the cost of our comfort there also is the cross. When confession of ones sins and failures will bring pain there the cross is also. For in all of these we cannot walk away but must walk the path.This path though is not that of Christ’s. We have great hope. For Christ left the garden and we know the agony of wrath he left with. The strain burst forth from the capillaries of his brow in streams of blood mixed with sweat, he was not yet on the cross. Then there is the beatings. the torture and the mocking scorn, then the long path to Gethsemane. All the while he walked in obedience looking for His way of escape. Then the nails and the slow ragged breaths. And the final series of utterances that which breaks the heart of Men, the cry of the helpless child in the flames. The Father perfectly able to rescue his dear child watches and does not move. The Child cries out,  “Daddy, oh Daddy why do you leave me in this flames? I need you but stand afar watching me amidst the flames.”The truth is God was the flames consuming His Son. He was the weighty stone, the scepter that crushed his Son. He didn’t look on He was the active killing force. And Christ cries out “Abba, Abba, why have you forsaken me?”

He was forsaken by God but God shall never leave you. Wage war against your sins, they will not kill you; they killed your savior.
With Christ’s final ragged breath the answer resound blasts of a clarion calling all to battle “IT IS FINISHED” This was the cry of the savior the battle is one! Here is your way of escape. The wrath of God was drank in full. Not a drop left  and death had not overcome our savior. He was yet a live death was dead he had won. It was then that he willing exhaled that final breath and surrender his life so that new life would be given to all who believe. It is here that we escape for he has fought the battle. He won in the garden and you to win there. He was forsaken by God but God shall never leave you. Wage war against your sins, they will not kill you; they killed your savior. Therefore, fight for fidelity to him in every temptation and we walk in that grace waiting for HE WILL provide the way of escape!

Thoughts From a Young Man: The Silence of the Father

We speak much, as we should, of the silence of Christ before his murders. Have you stopped to think of the silence of the Father? He himself was walking those paths to the cross watching seeing, knowing feeling, the crushing of the soul of His own son. He Yet was silent. The taunts the jeering, the anger, the vileness, the screaming mocking, reviling hate the foaming mouths screaming profanity not at but at God as he took each staggering step not on the weight of that physical cross but under the weight of your sins on his back. The crushing of your souls was the dying of his soul. We bellowing anger at God Himself. Vomiting forth sin by the lungs full. The wickedness of our hearts. Had we at that moment been able to carry the knife would we have jumped in and slit the throat of God? What kept them from it? The staying had on of God and blood lust to see God tortured just a bit more. This was the path to the Cross.

Why was it so? Why did we pronounce curses of death and damnation on God? Indeed, they sure called down heaven upon the bright and glorious radiance of heaven himself. What foolishness. But Why? Oh for a simple reason; truth. His life was such that light was cast about on our wickedness. His words were such that we saw what we were. His love was such that we see the hypocrisy of what we call love. He worked and lived and spoke in such away that what we call worship and service of a holy God was seen to be what it is “arrogant worship of self and men”. This is GOD HIMSELF. The very creator of those whom hurl abuse at him. They didn’t hurl stones for  if they had they would be morally guilty of his death; the Pharisees were smart enough to see to it that the Romans would bear that guilt before their YHWH. These are the potters blaspheming against the potter. The guilty killer standing before the Judge accusing him of the murder for which he is sentenced. Neigh, it is even simpler it. It is the guilty killer standing before the judge accusing him of being human. They crowded the streets abused the Son of God for being God. It is simply insanity; but what other word best describes sin.

What more could God to than reveal truth? What would you expect of the messiah to be other than one whom would forgive sin, one in whom is the authority to heal, one in whom right and duty to call men to worship God in spirit and truth would rest? Would not the Messiah call men to be honest about what they are? Liars, cheaters, hypocrites, perverts, swindlers, lovers of money, champions of immorality, drunkards, idolators. Would the messiah be the messiah if he said all that hogwash which God hates its fine just remember to give your yearly offerings of crippled useless animals? Just be sure to tell God occasionally that he is wrong and your immorality is good. Just be sure to show up each week to a building with a large group of people sing some pretty little songs that have no weight of meaning which proclaim things about yourself and your devotion to God which are not true. Indeed sing songs to me about your love for a God which, as described in your songs, is not me. Come  extol the goodness of vanity and the goodness of those who hate the cross. What ever you do don’t come honestly facing your depravity your sin and your need of God. This is what our churches and people what these days. It is these things which Christ preached against. He didn’t congratulate the self-loving, self-sufficient, arrogant, Pharisee that mocked the genuine prayers of the poor, sinner around the alter from him. Jesus said that man when away rightly judged, and under wrath and Jesus was honest about it. He said the brokenhearted, contrite man went away forgiven, saved, redeemed, blessed of God. It is that man who will see Gates of that heavenly City that is yet to be joined with earth. This why the people hated him, he helped them, in love, see what they were. He told them of the blessed forgiveness that he would purchase. He told them of the helper who lead them in the works of God. He told them of the new heart the new creation of being born from above. They didn’t want it. That was mystical hogwash; they wanted their sin.

Yet in all this the voice of God is silent. He bore their mocking and spoke not a word. His wrath was withheld. This is not a father who hears of a son being mocked at school or even pummeled by the school bully after the fact. This is a father who watches as the principal, leads the teachers and the students in cheering, jeering, mocking, and taunting his son as the police beat, abusive torture and kill him. This is that and more. This is a Father silent as he himself is in agony of separation from his son. No thunder bolts, no split open earth, no lions in a cave, no bears along the path. There is anger, there is fury, there is wrath but there is mercy, there is love, there is righteousness, the very core of his Character. For those who witness this spectacle and the subsequent resurrection and believe, the see their sins upon the Son, The Christ. Oh what a humbling sight. Paul says we have but one life to live and then the judgement. We have but one life in which we look to the cross for life. To come to God for mercy. For those who having eyes do not see and ears yet do not hear, who look not to Him who is high and lifted up as the serpent in the wilderness, there is an abiding anger, a fury yet unknown. A wrath abides, restrained by the gracious forbearance of a Holy Father, who watched silently as his Son was crushed for the sin of those who scorned him.

Thoughts From a Young Man: Sanctification and Loving Jesus Part 2

The greatest weapon in the fight against sin is an ardent love affair with King Jesus!

part 1

This ardent love means two things:

I know what I am because what you say is true

  1. We humbly agree with the proclamations of God concerning who we are; sinners. For me it sounds like this, “Because I know what I would do with these lust fostering things. I must live as if making a covenant with my eyes. I must live in my knowledge of  the power of Sin, the nature I HAVE cultivated for so long. I will as far as I am able not allow sensuality to remain before my eyes or occupy my thoughts.” This is being honest about who you and I were and the sinfulness yet in our unperfected flesh. It also lays an important ground work for how we battle.
  2. We love of the King of all creation our very own creator in a passionate, and intoxicating way with the knowledge that the sinfulness of our flesh rebels against Him. So what you would do to protect this ardent love affair with Christ? Develop means by which we fight sin.
    1. As far as I am able I guard my eye, mind and heart. I yet live in the world and that is very important; I cannot create a false world with out temptations that would be to leave the world. I must live in the world but increasing not be of it. As far you are able guard you eyes, mind and heart, physically you must do so. You develop some way of turning from, avoiding known and unnecessary temptations while still living in the world. This system is not you protection but more on this later.
    2. We must realize that the battle is won. Each skirmish, the number won or lost matters not for this present skirmish threatens to take away you treasure, you fall on Christ’s grace and power to do battle for you. This is done through prayer.

Your system or shields or defenses or castle walls or rules have no power. They are powerless in this fight. They are an expression of humble honesty about who you are and they are an expression of your desire for God to come and help. Prayer to him to deliver power through Christ within you is your only hope. I will expand on my view of the means of turning from temptation and their relationship to the grace of Christ in a later post. For now I will say, our protections and turning from temptations are evidence of repentance from what we are and ARE critical evidence of grace in our hearts. I think this is clearly seen in Luke 17 where a pharisee and a sin offer their prayers. The pharisee trusting in what he is for righteousness leaves unjustified while the sinner, having nothing to trust but God’s mercy, leaves justified. Our tools are not our trust. Our trust is Romans 8:29, God’s promise and electing purpose to conform us to the image of His Son, the Christ!

This is the battle. Temptations will not rule you. You are not fighting for victory you are fighting to see and know Christ and your rock of refuge your mighty castle your tower of defense. In fighting thus you are experiencing eternal life john 17:3. The spirit is undoing Romans 12:1 and performing humble dependence of Christ on God Romans 8:29 this is our glorious privilege, not a heavy burden, as adopted sons and daughters of the Father the many brethren of the first born Son- this verse is my fighter verse.

Thoughts From a Young Man: Sanctification and Loving Jesus Part 1

The greatest weapon in the fight against sin is an ardent love affair with King Jesus!
I don’t mean the wishy-washy, squishy stuff that passes for “love” while speaking about self which can be found in most modern “worship” music. What I am speaking of is soul burning intoxicating passionate love with the King of all creation, Jesus!Think, the drunk never passes up an opportunity to have another drink, if it can be allowed. Indeed, the alcoholic looks for every opportunity to do so and will create a reason, say a saints birth or even Jesus’, to have a drink. He certainly doesn’t was his resources on “cheap” thrills. Why do we?So, why do we allow these cheap thrills to hinder us from our fellowship with the King? We don’t stop sinning because we love our sin. We love those cheap thrills, they cost so little and Christ costs so much, as God he would know! It is only when Christ, and his fellowship, become so infinitely valuable to you, that, you begin to long to tarry with the lover of souls, the giver of life, and the treasure of your heart. Temptation will come and you will wonder why you would ever sodden that fellowship with filthy rags? Thus, your sins will become to you as Jeremiah illustrated them.
You want freedom from sin? Cultivate love with the lover of your soul! Read His word. Seek him in prayer; pull the heavens to earth if need be! In these, Christ will become more precious to you than your sin! Then, you won’t defeat sin…no, you won’t get victory; it is merely a by-product.  You will get Christ! He is more precious than victory!
If you think you hear something of Ravenhill in there I give him the credit. I am not sure if he spoke thus and I have heard it but I have been reading him of late and his manner is rather…..suitable and effective.

Thoughts from a Young Man: “Cultivate Obedient Men not Skilled Men”

We are not to be, primarily, cultivating skilled preachers and teachers. Dear Brothers we need to be cultivating hearts of love and passion for the saviour. As we cultivate faithful obedience the gifts of the Spirit will become evident. We should seek to see disciples grow in the use of those skills but above that we should seek that they would be faithful in the wholeness of their lives. Teachers and Preachers are important. We have the command to entrust the gospel to to worthwhile men who can teach it to others but that teaching must be in accord with faithfulness. If we are fostering obedience and love the men and women in our care will use their varied gifts faithfully and in time they will use their gifts obediently. Various gifts and various individuals bring specific temptations and that is again a manner of teaching faithfulness and obedience. I am not against producing wonderful leaders, please don’t hear that. We need wonderful leaders who love the Lord deeply and will be examples of Christ. We need men and women who know the Lord with a passion that roots and goes beyond their gifts.
Leaders of the church, have placed on them, a greater expectation to meet the standards of holiness but the standard we are all called to meet is the same; Christ.
We must avoid the the fault of our fathers and grandfathers who reduced fundamentalism to agreement to several points of doctrine. We must avoid producing eloquent preachers who have right doctrine but no unction. Avoid creating men who have strong words but no lives of conviction. Moreover, not all are called to such positions and such lives are not for our leaders but for every christian in every place. Such holy lives are not for the preachers because they are held to a higher standard. Leaders of the church, have placed on them, a greater expectation to meet the standards of holiness but the standard we are all called to meet is the same; Christ.
Let us pursue obedient-faithful use of gifts. That is merely an extension of the life of love and obedience we have already cultivated. Indeed, in is such cultivation that we will see the gift we have been given manifested and we will see the higher call to use those gifts in loving pursuit of Christlikeness. They are tools for the service of the church in pursuing Christ-likeness and areas of need for greater faithful obedience. The gifts are born of of the Spirit for obedience; obedience does not beget the gifts.
Our goal is Christlikeness and that WILL require us to use the talents HE has given us in service to the kingdom.
Let us not depart from this task of sanctification in holiness. Our goal is Christlikeness and that WILL require us to use the talents HE has given us in service to the kingdom. There is a need to develop such talents but I fear in our day we miss the proverbial boat. We focus on get the the gifts and using them will missing the real call “abide in my word…abide in my commands and you will abide in my love…in my joy will be in you and your joy will be made full.” (John 15). Abide in Christ our vine. Grow in Christlikeness and the gifts will come. If we have worn the paths of obedience deep we will respond to the budding gifts with faithful development of them in the context they are provided for by God, His church.
This obedience is not a thing we have to do, pray pray pray, that God would so overwhelm you with Christ that you want him more than all else and your obedience will be born of Joy.
I thought of this as I listened to 5 leading pastors discuss preaching Christ from the OT. They were obviously teaching. WHat were they teaching? Faithful us of the gifts and of the word. It was amazing how the very interpretations offered were a product of faithfulness. I realized how blessed we are to have such men who are not teaching, THIS IS WHAT THIS MEANS, but here is how you faithfully, obediently, honor the Word of God in teaching. Let us pursue this model at the most fundamental level, our own hearts our own lives. This obedience is not a thing we have to do, pray pray pray, that God would so overwhelm you with Christ that you want him more than all else and your obedience will be born of Joy. Jesus says it best:
If anyone love me he will keep my commands…he who does not love me does not keep my commands nor my Father’s who sent me…this I tell you so that my joy would be in you, and that your joy would be made full
John 14:23b, 24, 15:11
An all encompassing, heart-rending, love breeds this passionate obedience. It is a love that abounds in good works. It is a love that pursues its singular desire, communion with the great Love, the lover of men, Christ. This love produces works that please Him for whom they are done. This is the love of Christ for the Father. This is the love that leads God to the Cross. This is the love the world must see if they are to see the Christ. Lets us pray that we would so love our savior.