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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

This is the gospel, from Mark Driscoll:

God

God exists. He is the triune God: Father, Son, and Spirit. He is infinite and sovereign and has always been. He is the very definition of good. He is the Creator who made this world and us. He made us for relationship with Him, that we would revel in His grace by enjoying Him and the creation He put us in.

Man

Man chose to reject God and choose our own way. Each of us have turned our backs on the one true God and chosen sin, chosen to seek our joy in the creation and in what defames God’s name. So we are diseased by sin. We are dead in our sin. We are lost and away from God. We now hide from him. We have no taste for His goodness. Our trajectory is a place called hell – cut off, dark, alone, in painful fire, separated from Him just like we wanted. We have no hope in ourselves.

Jesus

Jesus, the Son, is sent to rescue us. He was not ashamed to call himself our brother. He willing came as a human, in flesh. He walked in our shoes not as a rich king but a poor carpenter, born in a stinky manger. He taught and showed us the very character of the Father in 3 key years among us. He ultimately demonstrated who God is by dying a gruesome and horrible death, being crucified on a cross, as a payment and atonement for all of our sin. He took our baggage and rejection of God on Himself. He took our deserving of hell on himself. He showed us God still wants us. He showed us that there is now a way back to God. He played the ultimate trump card that God truly loves us and wants to restore our joy in Him.

Response

So now the choice is before us. Jesus’s death on the cross calls us to a response. Will we reject His death on the cross for us? Or will we confess our desperate need for him, for his offered forgiveness and relinquish our fight to rule our own lives (to our own demise). Will we choose the life offered in Jesus, or the death offered by our own way, our own rule? Will we let him be Dad? There is no middle ground. Jesus’ call is not on our terms but his. The Father offers us everything through his Son: the family we were made for, forgiveness of every hideous act or thought we ever had, life, and an inheritance and heaven waiting for us, but, most of all, He offers us the best thing in the world, Himself. Our hunger, thirst, loneliness, our nostalgia & ache, and our desire for eternity all point to His offer. He alone can satisfy. So He calls us, holds our HIs hands to us, knocks on the door of our hearts, and whispers to us, ultimately through His Word, The Bible. But He is our King, Savior, and treasure, or He is not.

Have you heard his voice? Will you respond to Him? Will you live with Him and in Him instead of hiding and running to your own death and destruction? Will you take his hand? Will you accept Jesus’ death on the cross for your sin and call him your brother?

By God’s grace, I made this choice almost 16 years ago and haven’t looked back. He spoke to me and broke into my life. I felt his pursuit and couldn’t help but respond. It hasn’t been easy and there have been times of fog and darkness and being overwhelmed by my own sin and the evil within, but He is good and the best thing that ever happened to me. As much as I struggle as a parent with my own selfishness getting in the way, there is ultimately only one thing I want for them: to know and respond to Jesus’ offer and to walk in life enjoying Him. There is nothing else that matters apart from that. For all of us.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26 ESV)

Also check out What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert

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I have seen Tree of Life (from Terrence Malick) called “a prayer,” “a symphony,” and  “a magnum opus.” It is all of those and it is a meditation. It is a journey through memories and heartache, through the questions of life, and the question of who I am. The Tree of Life is a movie experience that I’ve never had before, a film that plays out like a painting or maybe even a devotional. I’ve never seen a movie that presents the questions and truths that Malick does, and actually give you the space and time to contemplate and think about it. This movie is a contemplation as crazy as that sounds. Critics have raved while filmgoers have been mixed. When my wife and I saw it in downtown Reno last night, there were at least 3 people that walked out right in the middle of the film. It’s not linear, it’s not a simple story and plot, and the creation sequence can seem bizarre if you’re not looking for it. This is a movie that should be read about and thought about before even seen, I don’t think I can actually spoil it for you no matter how much I share. It would be as if I was describing a song or painting – you ultimately just have to see it and experience it.

Malick gives you a lot to think about and wrestle with in his masterpiece. In this post, I want to touch on the film experience and style, the creation sequence, and the big questions. In another post, I want to discuss the aspects of sin and family that Malick so brilliantly gives us. My desire is that this discussion will help you not only digest the film but be prepared to view it as well.

The Film Experience & Style

This is no simple story or plot. You find out about the death of a character before you even meet him. You hear voice overs of characters intermixed with other characters through sequences of the big bang and the ocean. This film was genius. I realized at the end as my wife and I discussed it that it truly is a walking through of the memories of the older brother. Malick goes beyond that to give you meditations and memories of the parents and the vision of creation, but it is mostly through the eyes of the oldest brother and thereby has some of the limitations of his knowledge and vision. There is still significant progression through the middle part of the film from the birth of the older brother to the significant moment that starts to bring the movie to a close, but even that progression jumps and melds together like a collection of memories and thoughts.

The acting was powerful. There are so little words that the film depends upon the unspoken interactions of the characters, the facial expressions at the dinner table, the look of their own wrestling with life, the way these characters express physical affection and how that is affected by their struggles and sin. Pitt is amazing, Jessica Chastain is brilliant, Penn is perfect, and Hunter McCracken as the oldest son is really good. This film is made or broken by how well you empathize & understand these individuals and I was sold. But what will turn off and turn away most of you is the creation sequence that seems to come out of nowhere early in the movie.

The Creation Sequence

The parents are introduced, as well as the older brother, and a reason for grief. Then, the creation sequence hits you. This is where one couple simply got up and walked out. It’s not a simple 2-3 minute part but it felt at least 15-20 minutes long. Malick takes you from the big bang to the dinosaurs all with the overarching questions of “Where is God?” and “Why?” You know this is creation though presented more with the slant of millions of years. It was very jarring to my wife. She even leaned over to me, saying, “This is weird!” So why is this story here? A dinosaur interaction sequence, really? Couldn’t the film have been fine without it?

I think the creation sequence is crucial to the film, as strange and jarring as it can feel. Malick presents a world where God is real and where God created, where we look for him and listen for him. This creation is part of who God is to Malick, who God is to these characters, it’s the main way Malick presents God and introduces us to him. This part of the film, along with the beginning scenes leading up to it, made me think of Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl by ND Wilson. If you’ve read Wilson’s book, I think it helps you appreciate Malick’s focus on creation, nature, and the wonder of the world we live in. However, the problem with the world of the Tree of Life is what my wife quickly discerned: God is creator but distant, impersonal, and seemingly absent.

The Big Questions

Who is God? Why is their pain and suffering? Who am I? Malick presents a world where God exists, where he creates, but a world that I would question where the hope is. In Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl, Wilson ponders creation and suffering but brings his thoughts to single point on which it all relies in order to know God is good and that he is personal and loves us: the Cross. Without the cross, without God coming to us in the form of a man in Jesus, we are lacking. Tree of Life presents the weight of sin with no atonement, God with no face, and us with no grounded identity. Think about Jack in the future: nostalgic, pondering, praying, and… very alone. God apart from Jesus Christ is distant, impersonal, and simply who we make him. This is the fatal flaw in the powerful vision presented by Malick. Don’t get me wrong though. Tree of Life is a tremendous movie and an experience that worth the ride. I appreciated the creation sequence, it was very gutsy and amazing. I appreciated the prayers of these characters. I appreciated that God was even invited to this experience of a film. The film simply evoked a desire for more than just nostalgia and meditation. I wanted God himself.

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. (John 14:9-11 ESV)

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The line of Jesus Christ includes:

Jacob – Liar and cheat

JudahBetrayer and sexual pervert

Rahab – Canaanite gentile and prostitute

RuthMoabite gentile

DavidAdulterer and murderer

Bathsheba – Adulteress

Solomon – Promiscuous man-whore and apostate

ManassehBaby killer and murderer

What kind of King is this?

I just saw “The King’s Speech” last week and King Edward had to abdicate his throne simply because he wanted to marry a divorced woman! There is much more scandal in the line of Christ, severely tainted by sin and non-Israelites. Why would God choose this route? Why not choose Joseph over Judah and the child born through him sleeping with his daughter-in-law? If you’re going to bring Jesus through David, why not through another wife besides Bathsheba? Don’t bring the Son of God through the one he committed adultery with and then killed the husband. Why bring Christ through Manasseh? This man was so evil he was the final straw in the end of David’s Jerusalem, he even sacrificed his own sons in fire.  This is the lineage of son of God in flesh we’re talking about! God in the flesh!

Jesus ChristIllegitimate son born in a stinky manger, and poor carpenter

You use prostitutes, incest, infanticide, adultery, poverty, murder, and betrayal to bring your Son into the world. Then you bring your Son into the world as a poor illegitimate son who would become a simple carpenter. Why associate with such filth? Why associate with me, a lustful, cold-hearted, angry, selfish, self-righteous Pharisee? Because You are approachable! You are not a God far off! You are not afraid of my sin! You are a God who comes to us! You are a God who humbles Himself! You became unclean and tainted for us. How much more do I need to see of you to know that you are approachable? You are a God whose mercies are new every morning. You really do want us and love us.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV)

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I received a Christmas letter from some friends serving in a country in Asia where nongovernment controlled churches are illegal as well as most forms of public or private expression of the Christian faith. This is a country where pastors are regularly jailed, home churches crushed, and movements squashed. Churches have to switch up meeting times and places in order to keep fellowship alive. People giving out the Jesus Film have been executed. My friends have been living there for a number of years, now as a family of 4, seeking to see the gospel furthered. I had to quote some of the letter as the wife quotes one of the nationals she is helping grow in Christ:

Someone asked me to look back on this year and give them a summary of what we have seen and I thought you might be interested in a short story or two of how the girls we disciple have grown recently.

Someone who chooses to be a disciple here must choose to go against their culture and face pressure from all sides, including parents, friends, and employers.  For many, once they grab a hold of the Truth and make His Word a part of their lives, they just can’t live the same way anymore.  I’ve seen this lived out on a daily basis from a friend I’ll call Sarah.  She has been studying regularly with me for some time and is growing in her faith, and I see a change in her week to week.  Just last week, she told me that she felt she could compare her life to that of the Israelites when they were leaving Egypt because they just complained about everything that God gave them, even though most things were meant to be blessings and provisions for them.  Because of their complaints, many lost their lives and they had to wander another 40 years.  Sarah said that as she keeps her eyes on Jesus and the road He is directing her to take, it is hard not to complain and wonder if it is fair. To paraphrase our last conversation, she said:  Due to my education and work experience, I have been working as a cashier/accountant for the last few years, but I can’t do that any longer because in that occupation, I am forced to cheat people and lie everyday. So now I’m having a hard time finding a job since I can no longer work in that way.  Also, most people must work seven days a week and it’s very difficult to have Sundays off and that is a must for me now so that I can attend fellowship.  I’d also like to have one other day during the week off to help serve and volunteer my time, but that dream seems impossible.  In addition, I’m getting pressure from my parents and friends to get married, but I tell them that I can only date and marry men who are Christians.  They all criticize me and tell me I’m stupid, foolish, and lazy.  They say that I’ve given up many good opportunities for work and marriage because of my new faith and that what I do each day is useless.  Since I’m not working, I’ve been taking advantage of my free time by studying the Bible everyday, listening to sermons online, and reading devotional books that my teacher has given me.  But they just say I’m wasting my time.  Now that I’m a Christian, I can’t be angry at my dad or those who say these hurtful things to me and I have to just hold my tongue when they yell at me.  I have to just keep silent.  But I’ve seen a change in my father.  Now that I don’t yell back, he runs out of things to say and just lets the subject drop.  When my aunt was going to come over for a visit, my mom and dad both asked me if I was going to share the gospel with her while she was there.  They were being somewhat sarcastic in their question, but it was a great idea!  I love to serve, to spread the gospel, and to spend time with the Lord.

Sarah went on to explain that many people around her are in the same condition and that in some ways we are all like the Israelites.  But now, she can see that even the difficulties that she faces is just training from the Lord and that it’s not an easy road, but it’s worth it because the end will be so good.

Is all that worth it? This sweet gal has given up marriage and jobs for the sake of Jesus. She’s been drilled by her family and friends for it. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then we who believe in Jesus are most to pitied, especially Sarah. But Jesus did rise from the dead and He tells us this:

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. (Hebrews 10:32-35 ESV)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4 ESV)

You bet it’s worth it. In this life we get plenty of fresh starts to remind us of this: a new year, a new day, a new month, a new birth, or a new decade even. One day, Christ will give us one final fresh start that will be like none other we’ve ever seen. Father God, in 2011, let me more fervently anticipate that day when everything will be made new.

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3 hours of driving in Fort Collins to see Christmas lights that is! A fun evening it was. We piled into the Alvarado-mobile and took off around Fort Collins to see a multitude of amazingly decorated homes, including our favorite shown above, the Habitat for Humanity “Lights for Habitat” house.

We also made it to the live nativity at Peak Community Church. It was cold and my kids were tanked, but they were enthralled and I thought Peak did an excellent job, it made me very thankful for my brothers and sisters of that church.

Overall, it was fun night that made me thankful for my family and for how much Jesus has blessed us. It also made me very thankful that we live in a country that still goes a little crazy to celebrate Christmas. Maybe not every house had the same motivation but it stirred me as I prayed with the kids putting them to bed: Jesus coming to us a child in a manger really happened. He came to serve and give His life a ransom for us. He did it willingly. Celebrating this is worth 10 million times the beauty and number of lighting displays that my family witnessed tonight!

Here is the map set (moves from South to North) that I used tonight (big thanks to the Holiday Guide at the Coloradoan!): Christmas Lights Map and Plan

 

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This is part 2 on Job 1-25, read part 1 for the foundation and the initial discussion of grieving.

Grieving is hard (continued)

Why do we need such grief? Death feels wrong and reveals how we were never meant to experience it apart from the destructive result of our sin. Yes, Jesus defeated ultimate death at the cross. Yes, death has lost its sting. But it is still loss. To lose someone close hurts immensely. To merely blow off any loss in this life as trivial, is to be callous. Suffering is not good and Jesus came to ultimately wipe it away but while we walk in this earthly life, in our flesh, suffering is our life and our calling. However, nowhere does God call us to become stoic unemotional beings. Jesus certainly was not a stoic when walking in our shoes. Jesus empathizes time and time again. This life will always be bittersweet: news of a friend’s stillborn baby coupled with news of the birth of a child to friends after years of battling infertility. We might enjoy a delicious steak and glass of wine for dinner one evening but then deal with immense ailments the next month. We have sweet times of closeness with God followed by hard times when we can question if He is really there. We get enough of a glimpse of the goodness of God but not so much so that we would cling to this life. Grieve with Job when you read the book of his namesake. His friends do this initially but then make foolish attempts to reason with him.

Grief is not assuaged by logic

Job’s friends do not speak for a whole week when first visiting him. This is an enormous grace on their part! However, they then try to diagnose Job’s problems, try to fix it, at the same time they are trying to understand this harsh episode of suffering for themselves. They are his friends! They are foolish, and it is so easy to forget that they are his friends who are trying to enter into his suffering. The problem is that they try to fix things, to reason with Job. They end up isolating him even more. Even if they were completely right, would it matter? Would it have been helpful to Job? I don’t think so. Job needed encouragement, even if that meant letting him process thoughts that were not necessarily truth. I am not professing to completely understand the book of Job, but I do have some understanding of grief. The way Job’s friends do not listen to him would likely have made a scoffer of me as well. Job did not need reproof or reasons or logic to get through the fog. His friends did not get this.

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! (Job 19:25-27 ESV)

Grief is only assuaged by our Father

Notice that I said assuaged not answered. Does God tell Job about His confrontation with Satan? Does God truly answer any of Job’s questions? Nope. In His words to Job, God seems to merely assert His infinite power and wisdom over Job’s. However, God reveals Himself to Job! God meets Job exactly where He is at! Even if God did not restore much of what Job lost, I think Job would have been satisfied. Job 38-42 is not a prescription, just as grief and loss are not the same for each of us. To me it reveals that suffering is ultimately answered not in logic or in reason or in some pat answer but through the presence of God by way of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. The Gospel gives us the hope we need to freely approach our heavenly Father with our hurts and loneliness. The Gospel gives us the knowledge that we have not merely a savior but also a brother in Jesus who walked in our shoes, knows us, understands us, empathizes with us, even in our loneliness. The Gospel gives us the truth that we have the comfort in us, the Holy Spirit; a presence better than even having Jesus with us in the flesh. Job shows us that grief is not easy, is part of being human, and that ultimately assuaging it is a job of God and God alone.

Why did Job suffer? A refinement of his righteousness? Drawing him more personally near to God? Glorifying God and rubbing Satan’s face in the sand of Job’s choosing the truth and choosing to still wrestle with and walk with God? Giving us a small faint picture of the innocent suffering of Jesus in Job’s life? The answers don’t nearly assuage as much as meeting God personally and intimately.

Additional resource: “Job: Five Sermons on Suffering”

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In my reading plan the past 2 weeks I have been immersed in the book of Job. It is a challenging book, difficult to fly through Job, taking what is said at face value. It’s easy to judge Job and focus too much on his subtle self-entitlement. This time through, I attempted to focus on empathizing with Job, trying to feel what he feels. It’s been helpful, revealing new insights that have hit me. I have to set up the important foundation first though.

The Foundation

In the first 2 chapters we are given a glimpse of God’s confrontation with Satan. God calls Satan’s attention to Job and his righteous life. Satan scoffs and says that this is because Job’s life is easy. Satan says to take away what he cares about and he’ll spit in God’s face. God then gives Satan permission to do anything but harm Job physically. The next thing we know is that Job loses his livestock, servants, and his children all die. Job mourns but still praises God. Satan again comes before God and again scoffs at God defending Job. Satan is then given permission to afflict Job with sickness but not to kill him. Job is then afflicted with sores and skin problems and the book moves on the dialog with Job and his friends. This is huge. Job never gets this glimpse. Job never even gets this confrontation explained to him later (which is awesome, stay tuned). We do. Why? A major reason is because we must see that God does not initiate suffering in Job’s life because of any particular sin in his life. Yes, Job has sin. Yes, God draws out some issues through Job’s suffering. But it was not primarily due to sin in Job’s life.

All the back and forth then in chapters 4 through 25 are not, honestly, helpful. Job and his friends can’t see what we see and so it quickly devolves into trying to tie up Job’s suffering in a neat a tidy equation: Job + suffering = Job’s unrepentance from sin. The disciples do the same thing in Luke 13:1-4 and get rebuked by Jesus in doing so. We need to be careful of this equation when reading Job as well as when trying to interpret the dialog between Job and his friends. Therefore, In light of this foundation, what did I notice?

Grieving is hard

We cannot gloss over what Job is enduring emotionally or water down the heavy fog of grief. Grief is different for each of us but, for me, I didn’t feel like myself for 6 months after my dad passed away. I felt cut off and isolated, but there was nothing I could do. Most of it I just didn’t even notice. I was very lonely. My wife was an irreplaceable presence and encouragement, but this was a much deeper loneliness. I was not angry with God or going through depression, I just felt like I was in a cloud of hurt and numbness. Would I have said that to you at the time? No, I couldn’t put words to it. Even the loneliness that grief drew out in me is much easier to see in retrospect.

While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” (Job 1:18-19 ESV)

Think about this in Job’s life. He has lost all of his kids and is disunified with his wife. Think about what kind of fog that would bring on. Think about the loneliness you would feel. So much of what Job expresses in Chapters 4 through 25 surrounds how isolated and cut off he feels. Why does he long for death in Job 3 and 6-7? Do we think this righteous example of a man is merely whining and complaining? This man is broken and in a massive dark cloud!

What then was the point of Job’s suffering? You’ll have to stay tuned. It’s not an easy answer at face value nor can I say I understand it fully.

Part 2: Dealing with Grief

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