Tag Archives: Theology

Lent Day #33 | Grace

We will take a theological turn for the next couple of days. I hope it is helpful to you. It tends to be to me.

Theology is the discipline where we study God, who he is and what he is doing. There are a variety if different areas of study in theology. We won’t be looking at all of them here. What we will do is look at a few terms that are foundational to our growth as believers of Jesus. Each of these words are simple to learn and require patience to understand. It is through the process of understanding that we deepen our appreciation of God’s love for us.

Today’s word is Grace. One of the best definitions for grace is “unmerited favor.” The idea here is recognizing God’s gift as something we cannot earn. But, more importantly, it is something we do not deserve, even a little bit. There is nothing that we can do to merit God’s grace. As a matter of fact, we could spend an infinite number of lifetimes and we would never do enough.

The question that often times emerges is, “Why not?” The answer is not always satisfying. The reason we cannot earn and do not deserve grace is due to the fact we can never undo any mistake we have made. Our grade point average will never be a 100% ever again. Even if we only committed one sin in our lives, that would be enough for us to need God to send Jesus to earth to die on the cross.

When we talk about God’s grace we are saying something in particular about how God interacts with us. We are saying God does not line us up and grades on a curve. We each are being measured against the perfect standard of Jesus, not each other. When God offers and gives us grace he does so knowing full well who he is giving this precious gift to. This is both a reason to rejoice and be thankful.

God has never gone back on a promise and he does not intend to start today. I am thankful that God does not change, has not changed and will not change. The consistency of his character is the guarantee of his ability to accomplish what he proclaims to us.

Amen and amen!

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Sermon Sketch | “Love is the Support Structure for our Faith in Jesus”

Love is the Support Structure for our Faith in Jesus

1 Corinthians 13
(Esp. vv. 1-3)

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Three Consequences for Living without Love.

  1. Without Love our TALENTS are USELESS.
  2. Without love our FAITH is MEANINGLESS.
  3. Without love our SERVICE is POINTLESS.

Five Ways God’s Love Affects our lives.

  1. God’s love CLARIFIES the way we THINK.
  2. God’s love TRANSFORMS the way we LIVE.
  3. God’s love CHANGES the way we SEE.
  4. God’s love CONSTRAINS the way we BEHAVE.
  5. God’s love ALTERS the way we HEAR.

You Can Never Tame The Lion

Of-Whom-The-World

Hebrews 11:38

“…the world was not worthy of them.
They wandered in deserts and mountains,
living in caves and in holes in the ground.”

Hebrews 11 has been called the “Hall of Fame” of the faithful. It is an interesting collection of names and stories. For some only a name is given. For others various facts and events are related. Then at the end of passage we find the writer essentially give up on trying to record all those who had given so much. The writer of Hebrews reveals it would be impossible to capture or highlight the lives of so many. Rather, there is an attempt to help us, the readers, understand what has taken place.

Verse thirty-eight serves as the epilogue for the string of lives that are woven together to help future believers. The tapestry of faith is both majestic and common. And yet, we are told that these saints of the past were of a different sort. They were not cut from the same cloth as we might want to believe. It is interesting how they are described, isn’t it?

“…the world was not worthy of them.”

The question that this raises in my mind is this: Am I living a life that would be described not worthy of this world? Maybe this should be the driving motivation of our lives. We should strive to live counter-culturally, living out those realities that others would consider odd, strange or even crazy.

Would we even want it to be said of us that the world is not worthy of our labors? Do our lives reflect such piety of life, humility of heart and sincerity of service as to be deemed “too good for earth” (in a good way).

The persecution of the faithful has been a part of the life of the church from the beginning. Christians rounded up and thrown into the pit with lions for the sport of it was so common as to be expected. The church in the West has grown accustomed to being accommodated and it believes the lion has been tamed. The lions of culture, society and the world can not be tamed. We might be able to train them and give ourselves a sense of comfort. The truth of the matter is that given the opportunity a lion will only do what lions do.

We should not allow ourselves to believe that “we have things under control.” The second we do we have failed to stay alert and vigilant. We will have been mauled before we know it.

Advent Series 2012, Pt. 5 | Who’s your Daddy?

Advent 2012

I can’t think of any character more mysterious than the man who became the earthly father of the heavenly son. Of all the people in and surrounding the story of Jesus’ birth Joseph stands alone as the most awkward and underscored entity. He does not appear to have a role or a proper place in the story. Even the writers of the Gospels dismiss him and don’t even include him except for Matthews passing acknowledgement that he was informed of the coming of the birth and that he should not so quickly discard his betrothed.

At first glance we do not have a flattering picture of Jesus step-father. We are almost left with the impression that Joseph played an insignificant role in the grand scheme of things. This view of Joseph, however, would be terribly short-sighted and tragically uninformed. What we have in the limited information provided is the picture of a man who possessed attributes suited to nurture the young Jesus. (Even that last statement feels “wrong” somehow, but we have to maintain realness of the Jesus human nature.)

As I have read and looked at what Matthew says about Joseph there are four identifiable attributes that emerge. Let’s look at Matthews retelling of Jesus’ birth narrative.

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Matthew lets us into the mystery of Joseph’s personality by revealing that Joseph was well suited to be Jesus’ step-father. In the gospel we find Joseph to be a Just, Honorable, Faithful and Gracious man. Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Joseph was…

…a Just man

The idea here is that a just man knows right from wrong. It is interesting how this is the word that Matthew uses to begin describing Joseph as he finds out that his soon-to-be wife is pregnant. This must have been horrible news. I do not know how he took it, but it would be safe to assume Joseph did not take it well. Being a just man his moral compass was properly calibrated. Joseph knew that he had been “wronged” and he made up his mind to do something about it.

The reality of this situation is that Joseph was doing all the right things for the right reasons. Given the predicament that he found himself in he did what any just man would do, he sought to rectify the situation by the means available to him. What we will see is he was not only just, he was also willing to do something unthinkable due to his love for Mary. This leads us to the second attribute in Joseph.

…an Honorable man.

Of all the actions that Joseph could have taken or should have taken, he probably picked the least likely and most perplexing. When we consider that in divorcing Mary while she was pregnant, after they were betrothed to him, Joseph was leaving the community with only one conclusion. Everyone in town would see Joseph in a negative light. They would think that Joseph had taken advantage of Mary. To “divorce her quietly” would be to assume all of the shame and guilt of the pregnancy even though he knew that the child was not his.

Consider the selflessness of this action. In the same way that Mary modeled and possibly spoke to Jesus about how to accept God’s will, Joseph modeled what it was like to take the shame of another out of a deep love for them. Joseph was a living example of propitiation. He took the shame of another and bore in upon himself. By doing this Joseph spared Mary the penalty of her alleged infidelity. Honor is something that emerges from within and sustains us through difficult circumstances. Joseph was an honorable man. He could have allowed the laws of the land to destroy Mary and the child that was growing in her womb. However, Joseph chose a different path. A difficult path. Joseph chose honor.

… a Faithful man.

Faith should be the defining characteristic of those who love God and obey his commands. Here we see the third attribute of Joseph’s life. He had so many competing and conflicting thoughts and emotions. I simply do not have the ability to understand what must have been going on in his heart, or what thoughts were running across his mind. How many tears must he have shed? How many longs walks to clear his head? How many nights lying awake in bed? There was only one truth that sustained him, it was his faith in God.

Only a faithful man would take the word of the Angel of the Lord and fulfill his vow to marry and live in peace with Mary. Only a faithful man could pick up the pieces of his broken heart and entrust them to God to mend. Only a faithful man could look into the eyes of his future wife and stay by her side as she gave birth to another’s child. Joseph was a faithful man. He heard the message and in the midst of his own sorrow and pain believed the word of the Lord. Faith will not always be easy, but it will always be the best path to choose.

… a Gracious man.

The final attribute that is demonstrated by Joseph is the one that we know the least about. However, it is there. Joseph was a gracious man. What does this mean, Joseph was gracious? It means that Joseph understood how to extend to others what was in their best interest. And, he did this out a genuine heart. I have drawn this conclusion from the fact of the previous three attributes that we have seen demonstrated. Joseph could have picked another path. he could have chosen another way, but he did not. Joseph married Mary and did not obligate Mary to consummate the marriage until after Jesus was born. This is just one example. The second is even more poignant.

Joseph did for Jesus what many men would not do. Joseph raised and loved Jesus as his own son. I think it would be foolish to think that the home life of Mary and Joseph was difficult or turbulent because of Jesus presence. God picked a man who had the capacity to love the son of another as his own. Jesus learned his “father’s” trade and became a carpenter as well. Of the many questions I would love to ask Jesus one of them will have to be about Joseph. “How was Joseph as a father as you walked on earth?” I just have this feeling that there will not be a negative recollection.

What About You?

As we continue our journey toward Advent allow me to ask you one question: What about you? Would God have considered you? The responsibility of representing the love the Heavenly Father to the Heavenly Son could have been overwhelming. I just don’t think that Joseph even worried about it. He had a young family to tend to. He lived out his faith each and everyday, trusting in God to get them through. What about you? Who are you trusting in?

Joseph’s life is largely veiled in mystery. What we know about him is limited. However, what we know about him reveals a man who was well equipped to raise Jesus and teach us about the kind of people we ought to be.

Praying that you have a blessed and happy Advent!

This is one of the few musical examples considering Joseph role in the life of Jesus. If you have others I would love to know. Enjoy!