Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"I'll Stand by Merits"

I'm not sure if you've been following this story about the coach of the New York Jets, Rex Ryan.

Ryan appeared on some kind of reality show, on which he apparently uttered some profanities.  In the days following, Tony Dungy, a former coach and professing Christian, voiced his disappointment in Ryan's words, saying "the league doesn't need that."

And now Ryan has responded to Dungy inviting him to training camp to see that Ryan's really not that bad of of a guy.  There was one comment from Ryan in this latest article that caught my eye.

"I'm a good person," Ryan said. "Just because somebody cusses or whatever doesn't make them a bad person. Just because a guy doesn't cuss doesn't make him a good person. So, I'll stand by my merits."

Now, Ryan can't be faulted for making such a comment (1 Corinthians 2:14). But it is good for us as Christians to recognize that this is likely typical of unregenerate man's view of goodness. Most people will proclaim their own goodness. But it is this claim that doesn't finally hold water when it comes to our last reckoning. For we know full well that we cannot possibly stand in front of Holy God "by my merits." God's standard is perfection. The only way we can stand is by another's merits, namely the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

We can only pray that Rex Ryan would come to this realization. Perhaps the spirit of God might be pleased to use Tony Dungy or anyone else to point out this fatal flaw in Ryan's response.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Helping Questions for Bible Studies

Colin Adams, over at Unashamed Workman is a pastor's friend. He consistently shares good resources, and seems to have access to great preachers (see sidebar on his blog, called 10 Questions interviews). Today he shares some questions for Bible study from J.I. Packer, which I am re-posting  below. These are not just for pastors, but for Small Group Leaders, Bible Study leaders, or for those seeking to interpret a passage for themselves.

J.I. Packer suggests that we ask 6 questions of any bibilcal text. I’ve found these most helpful:
(1) What do these words actually mean?
(2) What light do other scriptures throw on this text? Where and how does it fit in to the total biblical revelation?
(3) What truths does it teach about God, and about man in relation to God?
(4) How are these truths related to the saving work of Christ, and what light does the gospel of Christ throw upon them?
(5) What experiences do these truths delineate, or explain, or seek to create or cure? For what practical purpose do they stand in Scripture?
(6) How do I apply them to myself and others in our own actual situation? To what present human condition do they speak, and what are they telling us to believe and do?
J.I.Packer, Among God’s Giants: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, p138.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"Reminders of Grace are Not Dry Cereal for the Soul"

I believe it was Jerry Bridges from whom I first read that we must preach the Gospel to ourselves every day. To that point I love this paragraph from Bryan Chappell in his Christ Centered Worship:Letting the Gospel Shape our Practice

The corruption and weakness of our natures make it vital that we preach the gospel to our own hearts every day. Reminders of grace are not dry cereal for the soul; they are daily bread, blessed manna, and needed meat. For those in whom the Spirit dwells, grace is the fuel of obedience and the foundation of hope. Without its regular support, we quickly resort to self-dependence or private despair. The maturest of believers most appreciate regular nourishment from the truths of God's love. The old gospel song is true: those who know "the old, old story" best are "hungering and thirsting to hear it, like the rest."  While the gospel's power can become lost in canned and stale recitations, its sincere and authentic expression is a never-ceasing source of joy that is strength for God's people. Worship that keeps the gospel before God's people serves their deepest needs and highest aspirations, enabling them to feed on God's grace while praising Him for it (p. 117).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Adoption Reflections - Story #2

As I said in an earlier post, I aim to start posting adoption stories in this site. Our family has been forever affected by adoption.  If you are a Christian, you have been forever affected by adoption. You were a spiritual orphan adopted by your heavenly Father. And now you are a son or daughter of God. 

My contention is that, as Christians, our transition from orphans to sons/daughters in a spiritual sense ought to move us to care for the many orphans that populate our world. Reflect on your spiritual condition before you were adopted. Then find a way to care for orphans. The possibilities are endless - domestic adoption, international adoption, adoption funding, foster care, pregnancy care, right to life advocacy, orphanage volunteer, starting an adoption ministry at your church, etc.

By way of disclosure, I must admit that my wife and I did not fully realize the spiritual implications of adoption when we entered the process. Our eyes were opened to the realities of vertical and horizontal adoption at some point during the process. Our initial motive could be viewed as selfish. We wanted children. We were told we would not be able to have children the way most people have children. So we immediately pursued adoption. And God has blessed us with three boys.

Sounds simple. But, trust me, in between the periods of those previous sentences, there are many stories.  Each adoption was fraught with varying levels of anxiety.  In our case, all three adoptions have had good outcomes. But I am well aware, that's not always so. Josh and Miranda's story is a case in point. It is a story of hope, grief, loss and hope.

After the experience of the past three weeks, Josh amazingly still has the where-with-all to reflect on the experience. Here is part of that reflection. 

Miranda and I know and love Jesus Christ – not the one on television commercials for churches, not the one who says he’s just there to make you healthy and happy, but the one in the Bible. We don’t believe because I’m a pastor. We believe he actually lived the life we should have lived and actually died a death that we sinners deserve to die. We actually believe this. I know for many of you that’s completely crazy. And I agree. Christianity looks quite foolish. That’s part of what attracts me to it.

The cool part about an adoption story is that as Christians, Miranda and I know what it is like to be adopted. God didn’t have to graft us into his family, but he did. 
Read the entire story. And then pray for Josh, Miranda, the "boy we called 'Cash'" and the birth mother.

HT: Jason Kovacs

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The God-Centeredness of Christ's Sufferings

Frederick Leahy on Matthew 26:67-68 - "Then (the religious leaders) struck Him and spit in His face."

O my soul, what a sight is this! As with tear-dimmed eyes we look on this terrible scene - do we? - we behold with wordless wonder the matchless love and infinite condescension of the one who came to seek and to save the lost.

Here, however, there is an error to avoid, the danger of seeing the loving obedience of Christ as primarily and exclusively for the sake of man, when, in fact it was primarily out of the love of God that he accepted the cross... This is a truth too often overlooked.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Two Voices in Caiaphas' Courtroom

I'm being aided in my personal Holy Week reflections by Frederick S. Leahy's little book, The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Suffering of the Redeemer. In numerous places in the margins, I'm finding myself scribbling the words, "great insight." My eyes are being opened to the redemptive significance of the plot/trial leading up to the crucifixion.

Here is one such instance.Concerning the high priest's garment-tearing response to Jesus' confirmation that He is in fact the Son of God (Mt 26:63-65), Leahy writes,

Ultimately two voices have spoken in that courtroom, the voice of God and the voice of Satan: both said, 'One for all.' But there is fundamental disagreement between them. God speaks in terms of redemptive substitution, substitutionary atonement; Caiaphas, who is Satan's tool as much as Judas, speaks in terms of elimination. God would have his Son die for his people so that they might live; Caiaphas would have Christ die in order to be rid of him, and so he sticks by his policy (John 11:49-50) that one man should die for the people rather than that the whole nation should perish.

Thus predestination and human responsibility meet as Christ is condemned. He was 'delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God,' yet 'crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men' (Acts 2:23). God's eternal purpose was realized in the death of His Son.

Jesus as Lamb and Lion

Exulting in Diverse Excellencies - a worship-inducing reflection on the Person of Christ from Kevin DeYoung. Here's how it starts:

Secularists and liberals might take him if he were a Lamb. Muslims might love him if he were a Lion. But neither side will worship Jesus Christ as both.
Read the rest.