March 30, 2012

How Jesus Patiently Loves, Part II

Part I here.

Let's walk in the disciples' sandals for awhile...

... returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. (Luke 24:9-11)

... they (the two disciples on the road to Emmaus) rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:33-35)

The women visit the tomb, find it empty except for angels announcing the risen Christ. The women return to tell the apostles and other disciples, who do not believe it. He appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, who then come back and tell the others. How patient He is. How He loves them. Appearing again and again, the patient love of Jesus is evidenced. He understands how hard it is for the disciples to believe He has risen, even though He told them about this before His crucifixion.

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, "Peace to you!" But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. (Luke 24:36-43, ESV)

"He showed them His hands and His feet.” You are seeing the good news of the grace of God in Jesus' resurrection. Jesus condescends to show them His pierced hands and feet, to prove it is truly him standing alive before them. He is their risen Messiah and He will stop at no ends to ensure they believe in Him.
While their doubts continue, He says,“Have you anything here to eat?” Oh, the patient love He shows for His disciples here. He is not asking for something to eat because He is hungry. He is eating in front of them to destroy their unbelief and renew their faith in Him. Their doubt is like a great rock wall they cannot scale or break through. It even blocks out the light of the risen Son standing before them. He destroys the wall of unbelief with hammer-blow after hammer-blow as He presents himself alive to them.
He saw and exposed the doubts in their heart to the full light of reality.
  • See! 
  • hands 
  • feet 
  • touch me! 
  • flesh and bone 
  • eat 
They must know it is truly Him, truly alive, truly risen from the grave. See how the hammer falls again and again on the great rock wall, crushing their unbelief through his patient love.
To Be Continued...

March 28, 2012

How Jesus Patiently Loves, Part I

Many Convincing Proofs


Jesus' public ministry has been growing for about 3 years. The small band of disciples has grown to a large crowd that follows Jesus from place to place. He comes to Jerusalem, greeted by throngs of worshipers. Only a few days later, he is brought to trial and condemned to die the most cursed death in the Roman arsenal of punishment even though he is innocent of any and all wrong-doing. The disciples panic at his betrayal and arrest, scattering in all directions. He is crucified, dies, and is buried in a donated tomb under the guard of Roman soldiers and the seal of the government placed on the stone covering the doorway.

This is not what the disciples expected. Sound familiar? Have you ever had a clear vision where your path would lead as you followed the Lord and found yourself completely stunned when it took an unexpected, disastrous turn?

He rises on the third day. Jesus died and now lives, and that makes all the difference in the world and all of creation. But what about his disciples? They ran away at his arrest, stayed away from his trial, and were conspicuously absent during his crucifixion, death, and burial.

How is the gospel of God's grace in Christ demonstrated by Jesus following his resurrection?

"In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God." (Acts 1:1-3, ESV, emphasis added)

The disciples are trying to cope with the circumstances of Christ's death. His death was a tremendous blow to their faith. They did not expect the circumstances to play out as they did. Then, hearing of his resurrection and even seeing him alive was such a tremendous shock to their system that they could not believe it.

I see here... Jesus' patience with people. And this gives me great hope. Great hope for me and for you. Hope for faith. Hope for perseverance. Hope for restoration. Hope because of God's grace, not because of anything in us or done by us. Our hope and boasting is in God, not in the strength of men. (Hint: men and women, boys and girls have no strength.)

To be continued...

March 27, 2012

Words of Wisdom

"O glorious state! unspeakably desirable! No sin, no curse, no death, no sorrow, no pain, no temptation; God Himself with us for ever, and our God: all holiness, all blessing, all life, all joy, all bliss, all victory and triumph for evermore! What a scene of glory must this be! Come, Lord Jesus, quickly come!" - Edward Bickersteth   Excerpt from Words Old & New by H. Bonar

March 25, 2012

Philip's Successful Ministry?

Continuing in Acts chapter 8, we come to a series of events that directly challenge the modern idea of 'successful ministry'. Philip the Evangelist has been preaching and performing miracles in the city of Samaria. The people of the city are listening intently to the gospel and believing in Jesus the Messiah. News gets back to the apostles at Jerusalem that Samaria is receiving the word of God, so they send Peter and John to Samaria. This results in the apostles praying for the Samaritan believers to receive the Holy Spirit, and their prayers are answered.  If ever Philip could have prayed for 'successful ministry', he is right smack dab in the middle of it. Philip's faithful preaching has been used by the Lord to bring a significant harvest of lost souls into the kingdom of God in Christ.  (Acts 8:5-25)

People are being saved. The message is being preached. Philip is told by an angel... to leave, to go somewhere else (Acts 8:26). What does Philip do? He is in an amazing series of events in Samaria, with the gospel bringing the blessings of life and joy to the people. What does he do? Without hesitation, he immediately rises and goes where the angel of the Lord directs him. (8:27) In the middle of what gives every appearance of 'being in the will of the Lord', the picture changes. Can the Lord be trusted to know what is best?

Oh, dear reader, eager obedience to your Master is successful ministry no matter the outward circumstances. (Sidebar: this is not an endorsement of Francis Chan bailing on his church.) Philip lives out his love for Christ through active obedience. How active? As the scene continues, the Spirit tells Philip to go up to the chariot waiting on the road. Philip runs to the chariot. I love that picture. Obedience. Eager obedience. Philip has traveled from the city of Samaria, to the south of Jerusalem and sprints the final stretch. He has moved from ministering to a city to preaching to a single person. Without hesitation. 

We are tempted, even counseled these days, to think 'successful ministry' is about numbers, new buildings, larger programs. Philip's ministry was successful in the truest sense of the word, whether he was ministering to a city or a single person, whether there were disciples made or only seed sown. Success was not the number of converts, or the harvesting, but rather his eager obedience to the Lord.

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15, ESV)

March 20, 2012

Persecution Brings... Joy?

Reading through Acts, the motion is always forward. The story presses on with little pause. Immediately following the martyrdom of Stephen in Acts 7, persecution breaks out broadly against the church. Men and women are being dragged out of their houses and off to prison by the blindly zealous Pharisee named Saul. This scatters everyone except the apostles. Philip, one of the deacons appointed alongside Stephen earlier in Acts, goes to the city of Samaria.

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.  (Acts 8:5-8, ESV)

The gospel of Christ comes to the Samaritans in word and power, gaining a hearing with the people. God has a purpose in Philip's presence and preaching. Philip bears witness from Scripture and history -  Messiah has come!  It is said that 'the crowds with one accord paid attention' to what Philip was saying. You can almost see in your mind's eye the entire city, to a man, turning to face Philip and giving heed to his words. What a blessing God is pouring out on Samaria. Grace, mercy, and demonstrations of His mighty power to save. Philip calls them to faith in the risen Christ; calls them to repentance from dead works that they may serve the living and true God; calls them as Lazarus from the hopeless tomb of sin to the eternal-life-giving cross of Christ.

As the message of peace with God through Messiah sinks in, and the physical blessings of healing and deliverance are accomplished, the people respond in faith. A river of joy streams from the fountain of faith. Joy in their salvation. Joy in their deliverance. Joy in Messiah, the resurrected Son of God. Great joy in God!

Seeking to stamp out the church, Saul in his persecution of the church in Jerusalem, by God's providence, has become the sower of seeds of joy throughout the region. His every intent is evil towards Christians. His every desire is to destroy the works of Jesus Christ. And his every act furthers the glory of God in Christ.

What a fantastically challenging and encouraging word. Here in America many evangelicals are supremely comfortable, untroubled as we seek out 'the good things in life', and entirely ignorant of the great purposes God has in seasons of trouble and persecution. We pursue every opportunity to minimize risk, to cover all the bases, to always have a backup plan for our backup plan. And most of all, to keep our mouths shut. (I say this to my own personal shame.)

No matter... trouble will come. Persecution will arise. With it, opportunity. Can God be trusted to lead you through trouble, through perfect storms, through persecution? Can He be trusted when trouble begins, continues, and lands squarely on your life and those around you? Can He be trusted when stress bends you, twists you, turns you inside out? Can He be trusted when illness and disease ravage body, mind, and spirit? Can He be trusted when you are pulled out by the roots and forced by providential circumstance to resettle in another area, another job, another church, another family? Is He trustworthy when there is no immediate or obvious deliverance?

Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes. He can be trusted. He is trustworthy. You and I, dear brothers and sisters, are called to live by faith in the Triune God. He will lead us through trouble, not from trouble. He goes before us, follows behind us, and upholds us in every way needed.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3-4, ESV)

March 16, 2012

It's Clobberin Time... or is it?

James White has been a 'net friend of mine for many years. I was able to meet him in person last year when he returned to his homeland of Minnesota for a small conference. He's a great apologist and has the reputation of a pit bull on Energizer batteries when it comes to theological debates.  Many of us tentmaker apologists look up to James as a model for our apologetic approach.  He' a real scrapper - a sort of Christian Apologist version of the Fantastic Four's Ben Grimm.

For those of us who like a good theology throw-down, we run to I Peter 3:15 and latch onto the 'apologia' section of that verse like an electro-magnet. In the linked video here, James re-examines this key text and places the emphasis where it truly is in the text... "in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy,...". It is wise counsel for all of us, both those apologetically-bent (meaning those bent towards apologetics) and the unapologetic (meaning those not having a clue what apologetics is). Each of us does have a common ground - our dear Lord and Messiah.

Give James a listen. It will cost 38 minutes of your life, and will be time well-invested.

Set Apart Christ as Lord In Your Hearts - James White

March 13, 2012

Good on you, Dan

I read some great news from author/blogger Dan Philips this week.  He's now Pastor Philips!  I know this has been a desire of his for many years. Dan has a great blog, Biblical Christianity and is a key part of the world famous Pyromaniacs team blog.

To follow the news, here are his two posts:
He has begun shepherding the flock at Copperfield Bible Church in Houston, Texas, with the installation ceremony to be held this coming Sunday.  They publish sermons actively on Dan has a couple sermons already on record, which I am planning on listening to this week.

I'm eager to recommend Dan's ministry in its various forms (blog, books, preaching, shepherding) because he has a proven track record in my own life. While blogs abound and many worthy ministries exist, Dan's writing has reverberated in my life for several years. I am thankful for the counsel and wisdom he has been able to provide and look forward with anticipation to a consistent preaching ministry. While I can't say that we're buddies, there is one thing I know for certain about him. Dan loves the gospel of the Triune God.

May God be glorified, magnified, exalted, and treasured by the dear souls of Copperfield Bible Church and all those reached through their faithful ministry in the coming years.