A Pharisee Encountering the Gospel

by Erik Irish

Here are some meditations of a Pharisee meeting Jesus. Specifically from Mark 7.1-23.

Sadly, as I grow as a Christian I feel more and more of a relation to the legalistic Pharisees. The assualt to this is always the gospel. But I am too often slow in breaking out the ammo that needs to be fired.

Give me something to do, something to contribute. I’m good at rules. I can make them and keep them too.
Or just let me watch others—I can keep track of their blunders

I know I’m weak, but so are they, but I am better, because I obey.
I have this list in my pocket. It keeps me safe it keeps me secure
I dare you to point out my failures, bring it to me! I keep score.

What I cannot stand is the religion of this Son of Man–he stands shaking his head every time I say ‘I can’.
He is so insensitive and repressive.
He talks of my heart like he sees right through me. He ignores my good works and can’t see my ability.
He says my heart is wicked. It is a reservoir of evil.

But I am better, than all of these people.
He leans in and presses further: your ‘good’ is your liability.
You have nothing of value nothing for me, your heart is an enemy, it’s full of deceit.

Oh, this one speaks with love, he speaks with authority.
He shows me a bigger list. There are a few commandments that I’ve missed.
I am undone. I am lost. The price of self-righteousness has a cost.
But with no means to pay and no ability to work—I’m undone before the court.

Now I have another request, instead of asking for a list or something to do, I need a Savior. I need to be rescued.
My request is clear: Give me one who has done! Someone who can give righteousness!

Now this Christ is honored and his blessed gospel valued.
If God would forgive this wretch then Christ alone would have to live and die too.

Now I weep and see my sin that pierced his Holy soul within.
I no longer carry a list, it would do me no good,
Plus, I don’t have it, it’s nailed to a piece of wood.

Defeating Arrogance

by C.J. Mahaney

His strategy is practical and deceptively simple.

  1. Reflect on the wonder of the cross
    Preach the truth of the gospel to yourself – EVERY Day! Quoting Carl Henry: “How can anyone be arrogant when he stands beside the cross?
  2. Acknowledge your need for God
    Humility is an expression of your need and dependence upon God.
  3. Express Gratitude to God
    God is opposed to the proud/arrogant. With a Yoda-like quip, Mahaney notes, “If I’m ungrateful, I’m arrogant. And if I’m arrogant, I need to remember God doesn’t sympathize with me in that arrogance“.
  4. Practice Spiritual Disciplines
    Prayer, study of scripture and worship are daily demonstrations of our dependence upon God. Regardless of my sense of God’s presence.
  5. Seize your commute
    Use your down time and “mundane moments” to meditate and memorize scripture.
  6. Cast your cares upon him
    God’s offer of grace to the humble is to those who cast their cares upon him and not try to arrogantly control everything themselves. Pride is the root of worry. Depending upon God brings grace, joy and peace.

~ Humility, True Greatness, Chapter 5

 

Our keeping Savior

by Mark Lauterbach

I have been thinking on Jesus present ministry at God’s right hand.   Sad to say, I have almost completely neglected this theme in all my years as a Christian.   Reading Hebrews has helped me see that the Gospel is about the PERSON and WORK of Christ — and the fruit of his death is his exaltation as the God-man, Savior, Messiah, and Lord.   My Savior stands at God’s right hand for me.   But what does that mean?

In Luke 22, there is a wonderful picture of the intercession of Jesus.   It is just after the Last Supper and Jesus has mediated a conflict over who is the greatest.   Then he turns to Peter and says:

Luke 22:31-34    31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,   32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”   33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.”   34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

Here we find the intercession of Jesus for his own. Look at how he is about to suffer and die for us — but his mind is devoted to his disciples.   He is not self-focused, he is serving.   His eye is upon us.   We have his full attention.

Note, first, that Jesus is engaged with issues invisible to Peter. There is a transaction between Satan and Jesus that has gone on.   And Peter is unaware of the deceit of his own sin — he thinks he is courageous and loyal.   In both cases we find the first element of the Savior’s eye upon his own — he sees dangers we are unaware of.   He does not expect us to see them.   We are stupid of heart.   But he keeps us as he sees them.

This means that at the end of life’s journey I will look back on the path I walked.   I will see the five or ten enemies I killed with the sword of the Spirit — and there will be ten thousand more my savior killed without my being aware of them.

Second, Jesus prays for Peter — NOT that he not be tested, but that his faith not fail.   To be sifted as wheat does not sound like a day at the spa.   It means being crushed and beaten.   But Jesus is no sentimentalist.   He knows what is good for our souls and such crushing is good for us.   he wants us holy and such sifting is part of that process.

Third, God hears his prayer.   Peter sins and repents.   He runs to the Savior with his sin.   Judas sins and falls into remorse.   He kills himself.   Judas sin is not worse.   His repentance is lacking.   Jesus kept his own — Peter.   Left to ourselves, we would all be Judas.

Fourth, Jesus advocates for Peter. He is forgiven.   More than that he is restored and he becomes more useful after the stinging pain of failure.

Here is the intercession of Jesus.   He sees all our dangers.   He keeps us in them and through them.   He forgives the sin we commit in them.   He takes the sin and uses it for good and his glory.

 

Learning to be intentional without an agenda

by  Quincy at Christ the Center blog (He attends a non-traditional church group)

Lately the word “intentional” has been burning though my mind and spirit. I’ve been wanting to do things on purpose rather than than sit back passively and wait for things to happen. There is without a doubt times and seasons to simply sit and rest in Christ. Those times are necessary, in fact I believe that we should have some sort of rest in Christ at all times. I also don’t believe that there is a single thing I can do on my own apart from the life of Christ. I’ve learned many times that the only good that can come out of me is completely Christ without a trace of myself. While on this journey that my wife and I are on with a few other brothers and sisters we have completely done away with agendas. We have had countless conversations about the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit when Christ is the head. I still believe this 100% but I also believe that God has taken us another step deeper in this line of thought. We can still be spontaneous even while being intentional. I’m finally realizing that there is a difference between having a set agenda and simply being intentional.

What are we being intentional about? Knowing and sharing Christ together in community. At least that’s the goal, the process is tough at times though. It’s also important to remember that it is a process rather than an overnight change. Heck, rather than a quick year or two change in many cases, including ours. There is a detox from former practices, orders and programs that we have all been going through together. I completely believe that God is continuing to grow and mold us into one body, one living organism.

How can I be sure that God is doing this work? Because when our schedules get busy and we don’t hang out we all notice it. We recognize the difference between times of building each other up and times of not building each other up. Simply put, we recognize our need for each other. We have been shown that the Christian life isn’t one of independence but of interdependence. The Christian life is a shared life rather than a bunch of individuals trying to live life on their own. Rather than scattered bricks we’re being into one building, each brick relying on the other for support and completion. This entire building is then held together by the mortar, which is Christ.

So what is it that we need to be intentional about if Christ is our head? Actively seeking Christ and walking in Him daily. Not that we need to create rules for ourselves, but to simply be mindful of Christ and allow him to to live through us at all times in our homes, coffee shops and work. Being mindful of His life in us.

We also need to be intentional about getting together and sharing our lives with each other. Not that we need set times throughout the week the we rigorously follow. Rather that we intentionally make time for each other. Through the life of Christ living in us we naturally want to spend more time together. Of course spending time praying, reading and learning together, but also sharing meals, cleaning the yard and playing games. Authentic shared life is intentional. I believe that this is something that has become more real than ever to all of us. It encourages me to step back and take a look in at what God is really doing and how He’s making Himself known to us where life happens. We’re such an incredible and at times difficult journey, but I wanted trade it for any other way.

 

The church is failing in evangelism and mission

by Richard Halverson

The church is failing in evangelism and mission today not because she does not know what she ought to do or even how to do it, not because she does not have the tools for such a worldwide propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—but because there is no incentive. And there is no incentive because the conditions of the body which produces that incentive are missing. You cannot legislate evangelism and mission. No amount of organizing and planning, programming, training or exhorting will replace the spontaneous expansion of the church when the Spirit of God reigns in the hearts of believers and they are in fellowship with one another as well as with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.

~ How I Changed My Thinking About the Church, 1972, p. 66-67

Church gatherings in Acts

by Robert Girard

… by the standards of Christian modernity, there weren’t any “good services” in the Book of Acts. Nearly every time a meeting is described something disturbing, stretching, or donfronting is going on.

~ Brethern, Hang Together, p. 96

The agape feast of the church

by Robert Girard

When the church gathers, as the New Testament tells it, it is the happy gathering of a loving family at the super table. Its ministry when gathered is described in Scripture like smorgasbord, a potluck supper, what the church used to call a “love feat” or “agape.” It is not one expert cook preparing one dish for everyone. It is each person bringing to the supper what he or she has prepared — the thing each does best. All who have something to share bring it as an offering to God and the others. Those who have abundance to share make up for those who can bring little. All share, all eat, all are fed. It is not all filet mignon and pecan pie, and we don’t expect it to be. Some of it tastes better than the rest. Some is better prepared, more nourishing, more enjoyable. Some are just learning how to cook.

Brethern, Hang Together, p. 133