Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Changed by the gospel

For my personal devotion times each morning I'm currently working through a Bible study workbook called Gospel Transformation produced by World Harvest Mission. It's 36 lessons are divided into six sections:

1. Introducing the gospel

2. Enemies of the gospel

3. Believing the gospel

4. The power of the gospel

5. The fruit of the gospel

6. The gospel in relationships

These lessons take you deeply into Scripture and help you look honestly at both your own sin and the fallen-ness of the world around you. They apply the good news of the sufficiency of God's love for us based on Christ's life, death and resurrection, helping us learn day by day to exchange our 'substitute saviors' for Christ alone.

Though Gospel Transformation can be studied individually (as I'm doing), it is ideally designed to be done with a small group of trusted friends, such as a small group, youth group or women's or men's study. It would make for ideal material for family worship or a homeschool environment, as long as dad or mom work through the material ahead of time to help contextualize it for their children. I hope many of you will profit from it as much as I am.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Real manhood means real mission

In light of last week's message about God's creational design for us as 'princely subduers of creation' with a global mission to saturate the world with His glory, the following soundbite by Mark Driscoll is helpful as it challenges us Christian guys to pour ourselves into a mission and a warfare that really matters.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sickness and Sabbath

As people designed by God for lifestyles of vitality, productivity and energy, we naturally hate sickness. Illness is our enemy. It saps our strength, darkens our mood and throws wrenches into our plans. Illness is not natural. At its core, it is a twisting of God's good design, giving us a brief snapshot of what waits for us all on this earth: death. Illness is an effect of God's Genesis 3 curse on us as rebels wanting independence from Him. Therefore, it doesn't surprise us that when Jesus comes again, all things twisted will be made straight. "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 21:4) Unquestionably, illness is one of many accursed effects of the Fall which will one day be no more. For one in a currently sick state, I say "Hallelujah!"

But that may not be the whole story. When one reads the opening chapters of the Bible, it becomes unmistakably clear that God's good creation was crowned with a space of sacred rest, worship and recovery. "And on the seventh day, God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that he had done in creation." Woven into the fabric of human history and life on planet earth is sacred rest, designed both to honor God and bless mankind. In order to impress its importance on His people, God mandated it again under threat of death in the fourth commandment (see Exodus 20:8-11 and Numbers 15:32-36). The importance of consecrated, Sabbath rest could not be more clear.

Now, let's think again about physical illness. Though it is an effect of the Fall which eventually comes to all of us through fallen elements in our fallen world, like viruses, water-born illnesses and infections, could it be that much illness - especially in our production-oriented culture in the West - is the natural effect of our refusal to seriously and fully embrace God's Sabbath design? Could my present illness be the result not merely of having picked up a 'bug' from other sick people, but the result of my arrogant marginalization of the restful margin God commands that we need to function well? Could it be that other kinds of illness which plague our society (such as workaholism, depression, ulcers, panic disorders and social breakdown in general) could sometimes be caused by our rejection of Sabbath? Could it be that God's medicine for so much of what ills us is something as profoundly simple as disciplined, holy rest? I think we know the answer to that question.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Does our church transcend our sub-culture?

With inter-Republican bickering about to give way to partisan lampooning, it will be tempting for us to take sides during 2012 and want the church to take sides. In light of that, consider this trenchant observation by Tim Keller:

"Secular people have a strong belief that religion is really just about social power. There is a need to place every church somewhere on the ideological spectrum, from liberal left-wing to conservative right wing. But the gospel makes the true church impossible to categorize. Justification by faith brings deep, powerful psychological changes: 'Though I am sinful, I am accepted based on the good of Another.' This truth converts people. On the other hand, the gospel of the Cross and Kingdom brings deep, powerful social changes. It defies the values of the world: power, status, recognition and wealth. The gospel is triumph through weakness, wealth through poverty, power through service. This changes our attitude toward the poor and toward our own status, wealth and careers. A gospel-centered church should combine zeals that are ordinarily never seen together in the same church. This is one of the main ways we make people look twice and take our message seriously."

- Redeemer Church Planting Handbook, p. 225