riches


Using the Lenten season profitably

The Gift of all gifts

Death in Adam, Life in Christ

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come…for if by the one man’s offence many died, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ…the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,  so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord…

(abbreviated from Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 5. ESV Bible)

No one understands at once all that is included in God’s Gift to Adam’s sinful race. In fact, I plan to still be unwrapping the gift of Jesus Christ until the day my life on earth ends. The Lenten season for me has become an excellent time of extended meditation on this gift and the far reaching themes it touches- from the beginning in Adam into the eternal age that is even now breaking in-the new heavens and the new earth.

For Lent, I’ll be thinking about the reality of sin and it’s destruction here on earth. I have plenty to mourn about, starting with my own participation in the rebellion & conspiracy against the Creator. This mourning will only end at the crucifixion of the Holy One of God, Jesus Christ the Righteous son of God.

Did you happen to notice in this critical text, that the Apostle Paul calls the free gift from God to sinners, “the gift of righteousness“? Going back and reading the context of these verses, beginning at Chapter 5, and reading through Chapter 8, I think I will have a deeper unwrapping of the gift. Peace w/ God, access to the presence of the Holy God, and a rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God! (and this will also put suffering in perspective-see chapter 8, verses 18-39).

Slowly unwrapping this “unspeakable gift” has its own reward; through Christ it will strengthen me and enable me to “reign in life” in the midst of this wicked generation together with those “who love God and are called according to His purpose”, and to be “more than conquerors through Him who loved us”.

Speaking of righteousness, see my related post on Psalms 1,2

Advertisements

” That they may behold my glory” – The Prayer of Jesus 


Gifts of the Ascended Christ

 

The greatest desire that Christ expressed in his prayer was that his people might be with him to behold his glory. It is clear that in this prayer the Lord Christ was referring to his own glory and the actual sight of it.

Only a sight of his glory, and nothing else, will truly satisfy God’s people. One of the greatest privileges the believer has, both in this world and for eternity, is to behold the glory of Christ.

Ever since the name of Christ was known on the earth, there has never been such direct opposition to the uniqueness and glory of Christ as the present day. It is the duty of all those who love the Lord Jesus to testify according to their ability to his uniqueness and glory.

I would therefore try to strengthen the faith of true believers by showing that to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ by faith is the climax of all Christ’s requests for his disciples in this present world. Here in this life, beholding the glory of the Lord, they are changed into his own likeness by his Spirit (2Cor.3:18). Hereafter, they will be like him for they will see him as he is (1 John 3:2). This knowledge of Christ is the continual life and reward of our souls.

If, therefore we would have a more active faith and a greater love to Christ, giving rest and satisfaction to our souls, we must have a greater desire to see more of his glory in this life. We should not look for anything in heaven other than what we have some experience of (by faith) in this life. If we were fully persuaded of this we would be more often thinking about heavenly things than we usually are.

– John Owen (1684) from The Glory of Christ, the theme of the final year of his life (d.1683).

If Owen found it difficult in England in his day, how much more in our day to keep the greatest gift of all our constant priority. The Advent season is the perfect time to evaluate the year and one’s own choices to judge how well we have resisted all the distractions of the world and kept our eyes on this Leader who is both the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

 

Watch ‘Jesu, Joy of man’s desiring’.

For Brazilians: YouTube honoring Nilson Fanini (1932-2009)  “Verei Jesus como Ele e’ ” e tambem “Para Que vejam a minha gloria” http://youtu.be/3HLhhHNDvxg

Related Post: What difference has looking made?

 

 

A wonderful discovery regarding worship resources. I find encouragement from many places in the blog world and yesterday was an outstanding example. It was on a blog that I had not visited before (believe it or not) called “Stay on the Rock“, that turns out to be the blog of Lifewayworship.com. I don’t feel bad singing their praises since I have spoken several times of my appreciation for the worship resources of other denominational sources such as that of the United Methodist.

The sacrament of communion

What caught my attention first was the theme of the post: Worship at the communion table. For those that don’t already know, Lifeway is the publication arm of the Southern Baptist Convention of churches and is the largest supplier of protestant material. Many churches that are not Baptist use it as for resources.

The Baptist tradition as well as the larger evangelical church, has come under fire from those of the liturgical churches for a weak theology of worship by men the likes of J.I.Packer and John Stott, Anglicans, just to name a few. So you can imagine my delight to find someone in the inside of Lifeway worship team who is reading something outside the Baptist tradition like Robert Webber’s “Ancient-Future Worship”. The post let me know that the guys producing worship resources for the churches understand that the theology of the church is important. Just another example of how rich the different traditions are and that by being willing to consider what those outside our own limited tradition have to say can only enrich everyone.

I made a short comment on the post but I wanted to publicly say to the blogger and his team- “congratulations”, for their important contributions to the churches. If you visit the post, you will note at the bottom a link to a long list of church music deemed appropriate for the communion service including both traditional hymns and contempory choruses. Here again, the rich theology of the Lord’s Supper should dictate what is best appropriate to make this one of the most blessed experiences of our corporate life together.

So thank you Lifewayworship team for your faithfulness and for including some of this bloggers favorites such as “I Love Thy Kingdom”, “In Christ there is no east or west”, “One Day”, “The Wonderful Cross”, and “Come to the table”.

See my own post last year related to Communion

I am so glad there is an interval of days between the Ascension of Christ and the Day of Pentecost. I admit that in the past I have not paid enough attention to Ascension Day. And if I did, it was to focus more on the disciples, what they were doing in obedience to their Lord’s instructions.

By continuing now to give my spirit free reign to roam through the narrative looking for additional ways the Ascension is referenced by the Biblical writers, I am finding all sorts of treasures. Some of these I have added as comments on the previous post.

Gifts of the Ascended Christ

Since this one deals so directly to the theme of E4Unity, the unity of the universal Church of Jesus Christ, and the necessity of that unity as related to the perfecting of the Saints, I want to post this separately. Read how the Apostle Paul, reasoning from the historical Ascension of Christ, emphatically states how the Church is to perfect herself in this present age: Ephesians 4:7-16

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?  He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)  And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds  and teachers,  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,  to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

This I believe, is exactly what the Apostle had in his spirit and in his prayers for those first recipients of this letter (see chapter 3: 14-21). This is the vision the Father has allowed me to see for most of my adult life- the vision of His purpose for His new creation, not the race of Adam but the race of the last Adam, even Jesus Christ.

A great read for Saint Patrick’s Day.

Thomas Cahill’s, “How The Irish Saved Civilization” (1995) 

When I picked up this little book a few years ago, I had no idea what I was in for. I only picked it up to give it a glance because I had previously read Thomas Cahill and found him to be an exciting writer who had a very unique style with historic themes. He always does his homework and makes historic events and themes come alive much like a historic novel. I have sinse read my third Cahill book, “Pope John XXIII“, which I also highly recommend.

The title also captured my interest. It is rather a bold claim, isn’t it. How could such a small country and their people have been responsible for saving civilization?  Well, that’s what Cahill set out to find out- the untold story of Ireland’s role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe. Fascinating stuff.

Of course Cahill is talking about only one part of the world’s civilization- western civilization. Actually this is part of a series Cahill calls, “The Hinges of History” in which he means to retell the story of the Western world, “as the story of the great gift-givers, those who entrusted to our keeping one or another of the singular treasures that make up the patrimony of the West”.

This is exactly the kind of focus we love here at E4Unity blog. I call these heroes, brave-hearts, and like to pay tribute to a few representative examples as often as I can- those living as well as those in past generations. I’ll let Cahill’s words describe them-

” We normally think of history as one catastrophe after another, war followed by war, outrage by outrage- almost as if history were nothing more than all the narratives of human pain, assembled in sequence. And surely this is, often enough, an adequate description. But history is also the narratives of grace, the recountings of those blessed and inexplicable moments when someone did something for someone else, saved a life, bestowed a gift, gave something beyond what was required.”

Thank God for the Apostle to the Irish and may God bless the Irish heritage. Have a great Saint Patrick’s Day, whether you’re Irish or not.

Cannon

Billy Cannon runs for an 89 yard LSU touch-down

On October 31, 1959, one of college footballs premier teams, the LSU Tigers, won a closely contested game with an amazing punt return by a Heisman trophy winner named Billy Cannon.

I was introduced to the Louisiana culture as a child, since my mother and her family for five generations were a part of it. This story over at ESPN is pure Louisiana culture if it is anything. But it is much more: it is the culture of the South and the place sports, especially football, plays in that culture. The folk heroes are more often than not, the football stars.

But Billy Cannon’s story-about a young married football star who seemed to have it all, after spending eleven years in the NFL, returned home to take up his life as a Dentist, and fell from grace. He was found guilty of counterfeiting $100 bills and sent to prison.

The Redemption of Billy Cannon is an excellent article that fully explains every factor in this story to the depth of infamy after the pinnacle of fame and the long road back to finding a place of honor in the State of Louisiana and beyond at age 72. No, you won’t find any mention of religion or religious faith in this story- it’s not that kind of redemption. I would rather call it a great example of redemption American vintage cultural style.

Be sure to read the whole story and watch the video of Cannon’s famous punt return at The Redemption of Billy Cannon. Thank you Wright Thompson and ESPN for the memory and the lesson on the American football culture.

Are Americans being given another chance?

It was 1956. From the steamy jungles of Ecuador, news spread around the world that five young American men were mercilessly killed by members of the Auca tribe (now known as the Waodani)-a people those young men had gone to serve and befriend and ultimately take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to. That seemingly senseless tragedy a half century ago has become an inspirational marvel as that tribe is now friends with the families of those they killed! This is the story of one of those brave torchlighters–Jim Elliott.

jim-elliott

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose”. – Jim Elliott, writing in his personal journal in 1949 while a student at Wheaton College.

As I come to the final months of involvement in the “Year of Saint Paul” emphasis proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI, its time to try to come to some conclusions about what I’ve learned. I didn’t lay all this out in the beginning. I had an idea in general where it was heading but I didn’t check the calender for example and see how Easter and Holy Week would be a perfect time to coincide with the great themes of the Apostle. But here we are and I could not have planned a better time to “cut to the chase” as they say about what He was all about.

We’ve shown that he was all about the Gospel- the full Gospel in contrast to the truncated versions so prevalent in America. The one who truly understands the Gospel of Christ as God’s own testimony concerning what He has accomplished for the human race, understands it as a summons from God to His rebellious children to give up their rebellion and be reconciled to their Heavenly Father.

Jim Elliott, just one of the thousands of Christian martyrs of the 20th century, understood the same thing the Apostle Paul did in the 1st century. He understood that by obeying the summons to enter the Kingdom of Christ, he also accepts an obligation to no longer live for his own ego, but for the glory of another. Is this not exactly what Christ told his very first disciples:

If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever losses his life for my sake will find it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

The Apostle Paul, in a real way, represents the second generation of disciples who were given the same summons to follow Christ. Here is how he expressed his reasoning: “For the love of Christ constrains us, because we judge thus- that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”

Is it not painfully clear that America has been reminded about just how fleeting the material treasures of our rebellion are and how at any moment they can be evaporated into thin air? Who is the real fool then, the one who insists on keeping his toys or the one who answers the summons to enter the eternal Kingdom with treasures we cannot imagine?