“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).
Since Jesus is Risen, I will go to the house of the Lord and put my hope in his Rule and Reign over my life. If you want to fight disillusionment, excessive boredom, and cynicism, you have to set your heart and mind on something bigger than the mess, and more fascinating than the latest gadget from Apple. Let’s worship him who has made a way for everlasting life – see you at 9:30 am.
O How I love frost, let me count the ways:
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven . . . a time to die . . . a time to pluck up what is planted . . . a time to kill . . . a time to break down . . . a time to laugh . . . a time to dance . . . a time to lose . . . a time to cast away . . . a time to tear . . . He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecc. 3:1-11).
When frost comes, my wife cries but I rejoice. Frost is proof that God wants all gardeners to take a break. It’s proof that he really does love the non-gardener, too. Frost is God’s way of saying, “Man shall not live by gardening alone, but by watching College Football, The World Series, and eating venison.”
Enjoy God’s gifts to you this weekend, but enjoy him above his gifts – worship Him who made all things, including frost, for his own glory and our delight (especially mine).
What if that were this mornings headline in the newspaper? It was in February, 1949, when the post-war muscle-flexing was reaching new proportions between the U.S. and Russia. These are my great-grandpa Sears sermon notes with newspaper clippings warning of what could happen if a Nuclear War breaks out between America and Communist Russia.
That’s what was troubling then. What troubles you today in your life?
Do you believe that the same ascended King Jesus who was ruling and reigning then, is doing the same today? Hear again his words of what to do with your anxiety for today and for all your tomorrows:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6:25-34).
I doubt that grandpa Sears is anxious about atomic bombs today; reading through his sermon notes and knowing the witness of his grandchildren, how can you be fretful standing by the One who held all your days in his hand? One day, whatever troubles you today and tomorrow will be used to show-off just how powerful the Risen Lord is – he can even old atoms in his hand (Heb. 1:1-3).
I really do enjoy living about an hour away from one of the mega-cities on the planet. The food and entertainment, the traffic, the sports, and the outrageous parking fees makes for a wonderful evening. The windy city has much to offer – especially to the big spender (which is not me). But why does it exist? I’ve picked my words carefully. I know how it came to be, and how transportation on water sparked a migration frenzy to this part of the great lakes, and how it survived a fire, and how its massive train and cattle yards are part of its history. But why?
Because sometimes God sends missionaries to people groups across the world to proclaim the gospel and sometimes God brings people groups across the world to hear the gospel proclaimed. Paul said it this way,
And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. (Acts 17:26-27)
Chicago Exists because God determined that multiple ethnic groups would exist there in a certain time in history and with a certain boundary and location in that city. Also, one cannot speak of a perimeter of existence without implying the total number of that people. God determined that a massive amount of Jewish, Polish, Russian, ect., kinds of people would migrate here but with a limit so that the boundary of their existence would be established. And the reason God did it this way is so that they might hear the truth and seek him and come to know him, him who made them for his own glory.
Six thoughts about your heart and the big city:
1. Don’t despise the big cities of the earth. Yes – they promote massive materialism, self-centeredness, and more corruption than one can stomach. But this is God’s plan to get people near the gospel.
2. Remember that big cities are filled with lost souls, not just millionaires and pan-handlers. The millionaire and the beggar both need the gospel. Both are empty and both matter to God.
3. Give a dollar to a beggar once in a while and thank God that you were able to contribute to God’s common grace. “But he’ll just use it to buy whiskey or drugs or cigarettes.” Yes he just might. So? Have you always used the good gifts and graces of life that have come your way to the “Glory of God”? Jesus once healed nine lepers, easing their pain temporarily, giving them healthy bodies for who knows what they did that evening with their new-found freedom. But he did it anyway. It is good to give to those who have reached their zenith of joy, for when they die, it is an eternity of unfathomable misery. Have some pity! This is as good as its going to get for them.
4. Pray for the churches in the big cities that they will live and proclaim the gospel. “Lord, we ask that you would continue to equip Tim Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian Church and Erwin Lutzer at Moody Church with a vision, determination, and a passion to reach the lost of New York City and Chicago (respectively). Raise up men and women in these churches with various language skills to move into new areas of the city where the gospel is not proclaimed in the native language of a particular people group.”
5. Visit a big city and stop and think about what you are seeing. Then let God’s Spirit move over you with compassion as Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Turn to scripture in your mind and then pray for the people of the city. Ask God to be merciful as Abraham pleaded for the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
6. Finally, don’t besmirch the migration of people groups whether they move into your city or your back yard. God is moving people around so that they will come under the sound of the gospel. Be ready to speak and love. Be watchful for broken and lonely and homeless people. Be thankful that God put you in the path of people on the move. This is what God did with Philip in Acts 8. The sovereign Lord of immigration put an Ethiopian in his path. Philip explained the gospel of Jesus Christ from Isaiah 53, the black man repented and turned to Christ, was baptized, and went back to Africa a new man.
Remember: Immigration might be an American problem, but it is not a Church problem, or at least, it shouldn’t be.
Proverbs 5:18ff commends enjoyment with the girl you married when you were young. Yesterday, I enjoyed spending the day with her. I’m not in the dark about how this was made possible – much grace in many ways made the day. Contributors to our life together: loving family, skilled doctors and nurses, good eating and exercise habits, world-class hospitals, and an exceptional godly church family, all put together make one’s life a display of grace. For it is pure undiluted grace that explains the richness of life.
Now I’m not tell’n how old she is, I’m just say’n that . . .
. . . she’s thrifty, enjoying some German cuisine at Prost with a $15 coupon that she found on the internet. I had pork belly and she had veal.
. . . she’s nifty, which means she’s an enjoyable person to spend time with. She loves good tasting tea.
. . . she’s frisky, as long as she gets her chocolates at The Fudge Pot!
. . . she’s shifty, because no matter how hard I try to steer clear of things that grow in gardens, she suckers me in to stopping at these spots.
. . . and she’s pithy. (that’s a synonym for “short” as clearly seen above standing beside a security guard). Visiting Hershey’s in Chicago is always a must. BTY, I just love how cinnanyms give us other options so we don’t use the same word twice – especially on sweet rolls – don’t you!?
Happy Birthday Cheryl. It was a great day in Chicago with you.
Not only did it cost us our physical and spiritual lives to seek God-like status instead of enjoying our God who made us (see previous post), but God killed an animal and clothed Adam and Eve with a covering not of their effort, work, insight, will-power, self-determination, or wits (Gen. 3:21). Why did he do this? Because they, and all of us along with them, wanted to be God. Since we all wanted to Live apart from the Giver of Life, God chose to put to death a substitute so that death would lose its full sting: Death is going to hurt but it will not totally destroy us (1 Cor. 15:56-57). Why not? Enter a lamb. Enter Jesus – he was crucified on a cross in Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago. But why is death both the judgment upon man and the means of his salvation at the same time?
This is the mystery revealed at the cross. This is what God had planned before the world began: Christ upon the Cross would both absorb my judgment as my substitute and also become the means to eternal life (Acts 2:23, 4:28; Rev. 13:8). The one and only God-Man would suffer my death and then grant an eternal pardon by faith.
When I attend funerals, or think about people that have died in days gone by, I think about what it cost an innocent man to set me free. I’m also mystified beyond words that the Triune God would put into action this duel truth displayed in death before the world began: Judgement and Mercy at the same time, at the same junction of time upon a cross. Behold Our God and Worship!
I once was a monitor-tech, reading and interpreting heart arrhythmias in a cardiac unit. To prepare for the tests to get certified, one of the text-books raised the question: “What is life?” This was the question after a long chapter on how the electricity is conducted through the heart, explaining that the beginning place is a self-conducting sinus atrial node (SA Node) in the top part of the right atrium; this is where the electricity begins. “And what sends electricity to the SA Node?” This was the next question in a standard text-book on cardiology. The answer to this two-part question: “Only God knows.” There was no text-book explanation for what starts the electrical stimulus in the heart to beat. The electricity is just there. “That’s Life” as one doctor put it.
Now, to look upon a dead person and observe such lifeless existence rattles the brain. And it should. Intuitively, we know that death is not right. Something is wrong. We accept it – we have to, but at the same time our insides scream: STOP – This is not the way it’s supposed to be!!
This raises a query: Why do we want death to stop if it is a normal part of human existence? Did you catch the operative word in that last question? Though evolutionary theory wants us to believe that death is a “normal” part of the upward path to higher living, we just can’t bring ourselves to accept it no matter how many elementary teachers and high school teachers and college teachers told us otherwise. I hate death and you can’t make me feel good about death no matter how many sympathy cards you send me. Death will never feel normal!
This brings us to what I believe is the hardest confession known to man to pay homage to: Man refuses to acknowledge that he can’t be God and be Man at the same time. It was a delicious offer, but it was a lie then and it still is now.
The devil ghoulishly proposed to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4-5). Though the woman had some fortitude to speak up and tell the truth, that God said we will die if we disobey, Adam was too passive to make the truth stick and protect their lives. They rebelled. They ate. They tried to live without God. They died. Now we all die. The tantalizing offer to be like God was a sham.
When God warned with death that if you commit mutiny against all of his joy, his love, his gifts, his eternal life, his protection for your life – when you throw all this away and attempt to live forever on your own strength and self-preservation, you will surely die.
I think about these things every time I attend a funeral:
1. Death is an appropriate opposite experience compared to what we could have had. For God to show us what we lost it took more than a time out, or an “off to your room with no supper” discipline. How else is God to demonstrate the level of exquisite Life with God that we could have had if he does not respond with the most painful and mind-numbing experience that man could know? God uses death to show us what we lost with him. Death is a universal megaphone that shouts in agony, “What have we done???”
2. Death is an appropriate response to our mutiny against God. What we did in the garden and what Man still does with unregenerated heart is treason against God. Our refusal to turn to Jesus Christ who rose from the dead to give life to all who will come to him, is STILL, an all-out assault upon the God who created the heavens and the earth. In his and her rebellion to turn to the Giver of Life, men and women believe the old putrid lie that Man can live as God on his own terms. I believe if God sent his Son Jesus to earth today, with unmistakable glorious identity and presence, and offered mankind eternal life with joy and peace and no death, IF – he would love Jesus with all his heart, Man would attempt to kill him again by his own hands, if he could. (Rev. 17:14).
3. Death is unquestionable proof that I am not God. And that’s the point, for now. One day even Death itself will be put to death (Rev. 20:14). In the presence of Christ in the new heavens and new earth, nothing contrary to the person of the Triune God will ever again insult his Majesty. Never again will there be a just response from a Holy God that will demonstrate how horrible it is to “go it alone” without God. Man cannot live without God. There is no self-generating Life in Man. One day, the selfishness will stop.
Death is all around us. It’s even in our bones. But if you are reading this it means you’re alive – God is being merciful to you! Today is a good day to be alive – it’s a day to say no to the lie and believe the truth, that only in Christ there is hope for Eternal Life (John 3:16). You cannot be God. But you can live with him forever. Won’t you join me?