We’re all limping and crawling towards the finish line

I’m learning as Christians that we’re all fellow sufferers. We’re all limping and crawling towards the finish line. We all have scars. They’re different but we all have them. I have them, you have them, and no matter what we do our kids will have them. We live in a broken world and we’re sadly broken. 

Temptations are plenty, victory feels sparse, and sufferings abound. 

We need to walk hand in hand. We need to carry each other’s burdens as it says in Galatians. Who am I to look down on you with your burden and brokenness?! Who am I not to extend a hand of grace when I have stumbled so often and took others?!

Jesus was tempted too, though thankfully He was forever without sin. And Jesus was limping too. In fact, someone had to carry His burden for Him. Someone carried His burden up to the point of His crucifixion. And yet He bore the ultimate burden their. 

Jesus is brokenness incarnate. He broke. He wept and wailed. And in His agony sweated great drops of blood. 

He broke for us. And He breaks alongside of us. He suffered for us. He suffers with us. He intercedes for us. 

He who knows no bounds. He who is beauty, took on woe. He who deserves nothing but highest and infinite praise was broken to the depths. He was sorrowful unto death. 

Jesus the Lord, Master, and Creator of all, suffered. How can we, His servants, expect anything less?

Father, by Your Spirit, grant that we may suffer and walk (or limp) well and honor Your Son Messiah Jesus. And haste the day when we shall see You face to face where sorrows shall be no more! And Father, help us Your children to walk this weary life hand in hand, fellow pilgrims on the way to the land of peace and plenty. We trust and we wait as we walk heavenward. Help us we ask in Christ. Amen. 

What is Expository Preaching?

What is expository preaching? What are the duties of the pastor and the role of the congregation? 

Expositional preaching has three main characteristics. First, the passaged that is preached on is a single passage rather than various passages put together. Second, the main point or theme of the sermon is derived from the theme or main point of the passage. That is, expositional preaching seeks to exposit the text that is preached. Third, expositional preaching is typically lectio continua—that is, it is preaching that consecutively works through passages of Scripture in their biblical context.[1]

Here are two of my favorite definitions: 

“Expository preaching is that mode of Christian preaching that takes as its central purpose the presentation and application of the text of the Bible. All other concerns are subordinated to the central task of presenting the biblical text. As the Word of God, the text of Scripture has the right to establish both the substance and the structure of the sermon. Genuine exposition takes place when the preacher sets forth the meaning and message of the biblical text and makes clear how the Word of God establishes the identity and worldview of the church as the people of God”   (R. Albert Mohler Jr., He is Not Silent: Preaching in a Post-Modern World, 65).

“To expound Scripture is to bring out of the text what is there and it expose it to view. The expositor pries open what appears to be closed, makes plain what is obscure, unravels what is knotted and unfolds what is tightly packed. The opposite of exposition is ‘imposition,’ which is to impose on the text what is not there. But the ‘text’ in question could be a verse, or a sentence, or even a single word. It could equally be a paragraph, or a chapter, or even a whole book. The size of the text is immaterial, so long as it is biblical. What matters is what we do with it. Whether long or short, our responsibility as expositors is to open it up in such a way that it speaks its message clearly, plainly, accurately, relevantly, without addition, subtraction or falsification” (John Stott, Between Two World, 125-26).

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An Imprecatory Prayer

God, You are good and You do all things well.
You are a God of justice and power.
Bring justice, we ask.
This land is full of evil.
People disregard people made in Your image.
People capture other people
and use them and abuse them.
O’ LORD, may that not be!
People plot and carry out senseless acts of violence
O’ God, bring justice!
Destroy the destroyers of the earth,
Destroy those who destroy Your good creation.
Pour out Your anger on those who have no regard for You and Your law.
Why should they escape?!
O’ Lord, regard and repay their wrongs!
This world cries out for justice!
And Father, Your sons and daughters,
whom You purchased with the blood of Your precious Son,
are disregarded
and slaughtered like lambs.
O’ God, regard Your servants, Your sons, Your daughters.
Protect, we plea!
For Your glory!
You deserve the nations crying out Your praise!
Bring that about, we plead.
Father, may all who refuse the salvation offered through Jesus,
who is the wrath-absorbing-sacrifice,
receive Your right and holy wrath.
And Father, we thank You for Christ!
Without Him we would be damned.
We are not better than those for whom we ask for justice.
It is but by Your grace and mercy that you have made us righteous and new.
Yet, even while we have Your grace and even Your Spirit,
we struggle with sin.
So, even as we call out for justice, Lord grant us grace and mercy for those who wrong us.
You are the Judge, vengeance is Yours.
And so, we trust You.
We trust that all those who do not receive Your grace through Jesus Your Son
will receive Your wrath from His hand.
So, Father, make us merciful and forgiving, even as we trust in Your justice.
It is through Jesus our Great High Priest that we come and bring these requests.
Amen.

Be Eager to Maintain Unity

“Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2).

I quoted this verse to my daughter today and she looked at me with a confused look and said, “What does that mean?” 

That’s always a good question. I explained to her that in the Church we are all one big family and so we need to stay together and get along. We need to make sure that even when we’re mad and hurt by each other we work at still forgiving each other.

It is very necessary that we read this verse and heed its exhortation. It will inevitably be a verse we have to apply in our own lives. So, as my daughter asked, “what does it mean?” And I would add, “how do we do it?” and “what motivation are we given to obey?”

What does this verse mean?

It says to be “eager”? That means to want to do or have something very much. What do you do when you want something really bad? You pursue it. You work to get it. Even if there are opticals you keep at it. That needs to be us. We need to be zealous in our pursuit of unity. 

Notice also that we are to want to “maintain” the unity. Unity is not just important at one point in one situation. We should desire and work towards maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace at all times and through all situations. 

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We’re not fighting a human war

“For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

The Christian battle is not a battle of the flesh. The Christian’s weapon is not physical and material. But the battle is no less serious. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). 

As Christians, we are to fight. But our fight is the fight of faith (1 Tim. 6:12). Our weapons are not human. We don’t use swords, knives, and guns. Instead, we carry “weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left” (2 Cor. 6:7). Our sword is the sword of the Spirit, the word of God (Eph. 6:17).

Our weapons, even though they are not of the flesh are powerful. They’re powerful because they are “through God” (2 Cor. 10:4). We are “strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Eph. 6:10).

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All His Benefits

“Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:2-5).

If we are to rightly praise the LORD then we must know the LORD. We must know things about Him. We must know things about what He has done. We must know and not forget all His benefits.

“All His benefits.” I like that phrase.

When someone is thinking about taking a job they consider what the benefits of the job are. “Will I get enough vacation? Is the health insurance good enough?”

Yet the Lord gives “all His benefits” for free! Not as payment for work. The LORD heaps benefits on all those “who fear Him” (v. 11) because God is a God of “steadfast love and mercy” (v. 4).

God does not pay us for our sins as we deserve (v. 10). If He did that would be bad news and we certainly wouldn’t get all the benefits we enjoy. Just like a good Father, however, God shows great compassion and care to all who fear Him (v. 13).

The LORD forgives, heals, redeems, crowns, satisfies, and strengthens (v. 3-5). The LORD is merciful and gracious and slow to anger (v. 6). The LORD’s love is vast beyond comprehension. It is high—higher than the heavens, it is vast—further than the east is from the west, and it is long—from everlasting to everlasting (v. 11, 12, 17).

So, praise the LORD! Praise the LORD because He shows mercy and withholds the punishment we deserve. Praise the LORD because He shows grace and heaps on all sorts of blessings we don’t deserve. Praise the LORD because of who He is and all He has done.

Why did Jesus flip over tables?

“And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And He would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple” (Mark 11:15-16).

Why did Jesus drive out those who sold and bought in the temple? Why did He flip over tables? That seems pretty extreme. Why was He so worked up? What was such a big deal? I mean in some ways the moneychangers actually helped people it would seem.

When I was in Germany, for instance, I had to go to the “moneychangers” to get euros. Without the moneychangers, after all, I would have had no schnitzel. Further, pigeons were sold. That is actually pretty convenient. Because who wants to have to haul a pigeon halfway across the known world? Not me. So, what was the deal with Jesus getting upset?

It seems that money was not the only issue. In fact, maybe not the biggest issue. Though, Jesus does mention that the moneychangers were essentially robbers (again, reminds me of the bank in Germany where I got my euros). But I think the bigger issue is what the Temple was intended to be and what it had become. It clearly was never meant to be “a den of robbers” but “a house of prayer.” A house of prayer “for all peoples,” it says.

The moneychangers were in the “Court of the Gentiles,” that’s basically equivalent to where Gentiles (non-Jews/”the nations”) would worship. As you can imagine that would obstruct worship. It would be a hindrance from Gentiles, “the nations,” from worshiping the Lord. This is the converse, as Jesus pointed out, of what Isaiah said: “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Is. 56:7).

Jesus brings blessing and salvation to all peoples but at the temple people were hindered from worshiping. That is why Jesus was furious. And rightly so. May we never be worthy of Jesus’ wrath for that same sin. 

May we never prevent or hinder people from coming to the LORD, even if they are convenient or important things that we don’t want to give up. May we work to destroy unnecessary stumbling blocks. And may the church be a house and family that welcomes all people in!

We Harvest what we Plant

“If you sow to the flesh you will reap from the flesh, reap corruption. But if you sow to the Spirit you will reap from the Spirit, reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:8).

Sowing and reaping are not things most of us are really familiar with, let alone sewing and weeping. So, what does it mean to sow? To sow means to plant seeds. 

What does it mean to reap? To reap means to gather, to harvest what was planted.

If a farmer plants corn what do they collect at the end? They gather corn. Whatever we plant we harvest. You can’t plant beans and expect wheat to grow. That’s not how things work.

In life it is the same way. What we plant we gather. Where we work is where we get paid. What we sow we reap.

In this verse, we see that in life there are only two types of seeds to plant. There are only two options of things that we can harvest at the end. 

We can plant towards the flesh, that is, we can just care about and live for our physical and material life. What, however, is the end of all physical life? It is death and decay. It is corruption. It is decomposition. If we live merely for the flesh we don’t get a very good return on our work.

If we plant towards the Spirit the harvest is much different. At the end, there will be eternal life. And because this is the case, we have huge motivation to continue planting towards the Spirit. Because we will reap at the appointed time if we don’t give up (Gal. 5:9).

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He is the Faithful God

“Know that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands” (Deuteronomy 7:9).

How surprising and sad that we need to be reminded so often of God’s truth. And yet we do. I’m thankful that God accommodates to our forgetful ways. 

We are told to know something. Our knowledge is not to be merely intellectual. Though it is intellectual. We need to know actual things about God. In this verse, we are to grasp with our minds that the LORD God is actually God. 

It is not only that the LORD is really God but that the LORD your God is really God. There is a relational aspect to our knowledge of God. The LORD your God is the supreme being and Creator of the universe. The LORD is not distant and uncaring, He is not god, but our God. 

Wow. That’s a game-changer. 

It doesn’t stop there, though.

The supreme being and Creator of the universe that is our God is also faithful. Amazingly faithful. 

Deuteronomy 7:9 heaps good news upon good news. If you have the LORD as your God then that means that God—The supreme being and Creator of the universe—is your God. It means the Faithful One is your God. 

Our intellectual knowledge of God has a huge practical impact on our lives. It means we do not need to be afraid because the LORD our God is powerful (Deut. 7:18). 

So, fight forgetfulness. Work to remember and intimately know your faithful God. And don’t be terrified because the LORD your God, a great and awesome God, is among you (Deut. 7:21).

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