Archive for August, 2010

MPOW: 1 Chronicles 29 – God Owns It All

NOTE: MPOW stands for Ministry Passage of the Week, and contains a weekly verse that comes from Bible Boot Camp, an intensive leadership development course that I am teaching this fall to about 20 growing leaders. Click here for other MPOWs.

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1 Chronicles 29:11-12 – God Owns It All

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.

Few truths have the same power as this one in the life of well-to-do Americans. When we realize that all that we have is God’s–when this truth sinks in deeply–it has tremendous power to free us from thinking that we are in control of our lives and our stuff.

This passage reminds us of a few important things:

1. Everything belongs to God. All that is in the heavens and the earth–ALL of it–belongs to God. There is nothing outside of all that is in the heavens and the earth. This is intended to be comprehensive.

2. God rules everything. Not only does God own everything, but he also is actively involved in ruling it. He has the power to make great and give strength.

3. God is the only one truly deserving of glory. Because of his unique ownership and rulership over all things, David showers the Lord with praise. He alone deserves the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty.

This passage not only reminds us of God’s ownership over our finances and possessions, but also over our talents, abilities, and endeavors. God reigns over all of it, and deserves praise for it.

May we be men and women who acknowledge that God is God and we are not. May we be people who rejoice in God’s power and glory and rule. May we humbly submit to his wisdom, and may we seek him to give us strength.

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The Bible’s Not About You

Using a clip from Tim Keller’s talk at the 2007 TGC conference, Heath McPherson created using the art of Gustave Doré (1832-1883):

Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.

Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for acquittal.

Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the void not knowing wither he went to create a new people of God.

Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me,” now we can look at God taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing him and say, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us.”

Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.

Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them.

Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.

Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert.

Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.

Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes his people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.

Jesus is the true and better Esther who didn’t just risk leaving an earthly palace but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.

Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.

Jesus is the real Rock of Moses, the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us. He’s the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread.

The Bible’s really not about you—it’s about him.

HT: Justin Taylor

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MPOW: Matthew 18 – The Forgiven Must Forgive

NOTE: MPOW stands for Ministry Passage of the Week, and contains a weekly verse that comes from Bible Boot Camp, an intensive leadership development course that I am teaching this fall to about 20 growing leaders. Click here for other MPOWs.

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Matthew 18: 21-35 – The Forgiven Must Forgive

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

One of the most powerful negative influences in the life of a believer is bitterness and a spirit of unforgiveness. A friend of mine once said, “Holding onto unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping it will hurt the one who offended you.” So true. And so inappropriate for somebody who has been forgiven an unpayable debt through the grace of Jesus.

This parable is especially thought-provoking when you put the debt amounts into modern money:

  • The man is forgiven debt of 10,000 talents (1 talent = 20 yrs wages).
  • Then he refuses to forgive debt of 100 denarii (1 denarius = 1 days wages).
  • In today’s terms, the man was forgiven a $7 billion debt (unpayable) and refused to forgive a $12,000 debt.

Are you holding onto bitterness in any area of your life? Are there certain people that you are unwilling to forgive?

May the gospel of radical forgiveness melt your heart, allowing you to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:32).

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Why 4 different gospel accounts?

Have you ever wondered why there are four different versions of the same gospel story? Mark Driscoll gives a helpful explanation:

The way the Gospels in our Bible have been arranged provides a perfect example of how the same gospel story can be presented in different ways. Some critics of Scripture have argued that the differences between the Gospels are contradictions. This could not be farther from the truth. The four gospels simply are similar to your local nightly news. The first three gospels are like local network television affiliates for ABC, NBC, and CBS, which generally report the same stories with some variation in eyewitness accounts and details. This explains why roughly 60 percent of the first three gospels give the same information. John, on the other hand, is more like one of the national cable television newscasts—such as CNN—which have news stories that are rarely found on the local nightly news. This explains why roughly 90 percent of John is unique to his account. (Radical Reformission, 57)

What do you think are the implications of this in terms of how we adapt our gospel presentation? How can we adjust the form of our gospel presentation without adjusting the content?

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5 Reasons I’m Excited for the Beyond Series

This Sunday, we kick off a new series and vision campaign called Beyond, which coincides with the news of our new full-time facility. I will be introducing the vision of Beyond as well as lots of information about this new facility and the investment that we’ll be making to make this vision a reality. Here are 5 reasons why I’m excited about this series:

1. I rejoice when I think about the power of the gospel to change lives. Beyond is really a dream that we could continue to be an agent of radical life-change through the power of the gospel. Not through techniques or tips or self-help advice with a little Christian lacquer — but through the bold, direct, hope-giving proclamation of the gospel. This is the kind of life change I’ve experienced, the kind we are seeing in our ministry and the kind that our community needs.

2. I love how we have a God that is so focused on reaching lost people. Mission (the sending of God’s people to seek and save the lost) is not just one part of the Christian faith — it’s a central part. God is a missionary God who goes BEYOND the comfort of heaven to take on flesh in the person of Jesus and seek and save the lost (Luke 5:23). Then he sends his people out to do the same. Why? Because God loves saving sinners. Jesus said, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). We get to now join God in his mission.

3. I am thrilled about the plans that are developing for this new facility. This new facility will provide worship space on Sundays (for about 500 adults) and multi-purpose space throughout the week, making our church the first medium-large sized church in the southeast edge of the Valley with a facility. I think God will do wonderful things in this space, and I love how the drawings and design are coming together (just wait until you hear about “The Box”)!

4. I look forward to seeing God provide miraculous answers to prayer. This facility will require financial sacrifice from everyone who calls Second Mile Church home. I can’t wait to hear the stories of how God provides for people who step out in faith and trust him with their financial commitment.

5. You and I need moments that remind us of our utter dependence on God. We are always dependent on God, whether we realize it or not — after all, he graciously provided the air that’s in your lungs right now. But sometimes God allows the circumstances of our lives and the desires of our hearts to be so beyond our control that we remember that we desperately need him. To see the kind of ministry and life change that we dream about actually happen will take much more than a well-organized campaign and a building. It will take the unparalleled power of the Spirit of God.

With this in mind, will you join me in praying that God’s Spirit works in an undeniable way through this series?

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MPOW: Deuteronomy 17 – Guard Your Heart Against Gold, Glory & Girls

NOTE: Today is the first of what I hope to have become a weekly installment on the Second Mile Pastor’s Blog, the Ministry Passage of the Week, or “MPOW” (I kind of like how powerful the term M-POW sounds!). These passages come from Bible Boot Camp, an intensive leadership development course that I am teaching this fall to about 20 growing leaders. In the next four months, these men and women will work through 350 Bible passages that they’ll be able to use in ministry. I’ll take one per week on the blog and use this as an opportunity to share an important text of Scripture and how it can be applied to our lives in practical ways.

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Deuteronomy 17:14-20 – Guard Your Heart Against Gold, Glory and Girls (Instructions for a king over Israel)

14 When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ 17 And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold. 18 “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

In this passage God gives instructions to the people of Israel about the kind of leadership they will need from their future king. The people have not even asked for a king yet, but God knows that they will — and here are his expectations:

1. The king should be a student of Scripture (v. 18-20). God expected the king to write out a copy of the law by hand that he would read and study all the days of his life. Why? So that “his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment” (17:20). In other words, God knew that the only thing that would keep Israel’s leader humble and obedient would be clinging closely to Scripture.

2. The king should guard himself against seeking Glory (v. 16). God prohibits the king from multiplying horses, an obvious symbol of a king’s power or wealth. He knew that the king’s thirst for power, glory, and acclaim would potentially lead him to even return to Egypt.

3. The king should guard himself against seeking Girls (v. 17). God also prohibits the king from multiplying wives, “lest his heart turn away.” God knew that the king’s appetite to have many women would have devastating effects (and God also knew that taking on additional wives usually meant forming treaties with other godless nations — also an evidence of a thirst for glory).

4. The king should guard himself against seeking Gold (v. 17). God tells the people that they king should not “acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.” God knew that when the king had too much money resources, he would be inclined to forget his need for God.

What’s the lesson for us?

The lessons here are pretty obvious. There is something about the human heart that is easily wrapped up in money, power, and romantic relationships (women) or sexual fantasy (men). These idols often lead us astray and without being tethered to God through his word, we stand very little chance to be faithful. Interestingly, Solomon is a case study for a man who–despite his unparalleled wisdom–was undone by his lust for power, money and women. It literally tore the kingdom apart.

We are the children of God in Christ, which means that our true identity lies with the one who:

1) used the Scripture to reject the enemy’s invitation to short-lived power (Matt 4:8-10) so that he could give us the true power of reigning with him,

2) lived as a homeless man with no place to rest his head (Matt 8:20) so that we could have an eternal and Heavenly home, and

3) was pure in his relationships with women so that through his substitutionary death he could truly create one new and purified bride for himself, the church (Eph 5:25-27).

May we embrace our identity in Christ and guard our hearts from these lesser idols!

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Great Lessons on Marriage

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church and his wife, Grace, recently posted 18 lessons each on marriage they’ve learned as they celebrate their 18th anniversary. These are insightful and helpful, so I thought I’d share them with you.

Grace’s 18 Lessons

1. Make time with Jesus your first priority, husband second priority.
2. Be intimate often.
3. Be willing to have hard and honest conversations, and pray for Jesus to make them fruitful.
4. Pray for wisdom often.
5. The enemy is always ready to divide you during trials. Don’t let him; cling to Jesus and each other.
6. Forgive, forgive, forgive, forgive …
7. Don’t enable his sin, but pray for wisdom in timing and words, and be respectful when addressing it.
8. Be a woman of inner and outer beauty.
9. Make your home a place of retreat and rest.
10. Study your husband, appreciate, value and respect him, especially when you don’t “feel” like it.
11. HAVE FUN.
12. Pray against lies. Memorize the truth of scripture.
13. Spend regular, meaningful time together. Invest in the relationship.
14. Don’t let bitterness set in if you are hurt or frustrated; dig up the root and pray it through.
15. Be an attentive and available listener.
16. Be teachable and willing to submit.
17. Set your heart and body toward your husband and don’t let either wander.
18. Repent often and allow trustworthy people to speak into your lives.

    Mark’s 18 Lessons

    Spiritual

    1. Stay in church community and under godly authority.
    2. Stay in your Bible and always have at least a few good Christian books you are reading.
    3. Be the spiritual leader by praying with your family, modeling followership of Jesus, repenting of sin, teaching your family, etc.
    4. Serve your family and serve others as a family.

    Family

    5. Pick a good potential mom and grandma for a wife.
    6. If she respects you, the kids will too. If she does not, your family will be a grief to you.
    7. Work with her to make the home, holidays, vacations, and other times filled with fun, laughter, and memories.
    8. Just get through the rough seasons (sickness, demanding newborns, tough work seasons, extended family troubles, e.g.) by God’s grace.

    Financial

    9. Find an honest way to make enough money to give to God, be generous with others, and take care of your family.
    10. Spend some money to make her life easier (dependable car, babysitting help, decent home, e.g.)

    Practical

    11. Try to make her laugh a lot and touch her heart and soul before you touch her body.
    12. She’s not a guy, does not want to be treated like a guy, spoken to like a guy, or do what guys do.
    13. She will sanctify you. It’s not her fault that your sin is obvious in relationship with her as she’s not changing you, but rather exposing you.
    14. Syncing schedules is key: meet every week to organize your life together and plan out your life as one so you don’t live parallel lives.
    15. Date night is important so make it happen, ideally every week.
    16. Her needs change, especially when she becomes a mother, so look for new ways to humbly serve her.
    17. Encouragement is to a wife as water is to a plant.
    18. Every year gets better by the grace of God. Keep pressing forward together using the gospel to repent, forgive, and become more like Jesus.

    Which of these did you most need to hear? What lessons have you learned that you can share with us?

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