proclaim the grace of God

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

What I Don't Deserve

Pretty much everything in my life would fall into the category of "things I don't deserve." Health. Provision. Love. Friendship. Respect. Safety. Freedom. Grace. Opportunity. Ability. And those are just the big ones. There are plenty of little things that happen every day which would also fall into that category. Free soda at work. My own office with a nice chair. A short commute. A sprinkler system at home. Hot water. Air conditioning. Ice cream. Friends with access to free Astros tickets. My cell phone.

But not everything falls into that category for I often get things I do deserve. For example, I tend to make more commitments than I have time for and that generally gets me in trouble. It brings a degree of stress. It brings feeling overwhelmed. It brings disappointment when I break my promises. Every one of those would fall into the "things I deserve" category. I'm also a "bull in a china cabinet." I've been known to break a dish when I rush to put the dishes away or gore my yard as I try to mow around a part that should be edged. So, broken dishes or a patchy lawn would also fall into the category of "things I deserve." But those aren't as fun to talk about or think about. Let me return to my first thought.

That is the category of "things I don't deserve." As this Tuesday comes to a close I was reminded of two of the greatest things I have that I don't deserve. I was reminded of the joy they bring me. I was reminded of the grace they extend. I was reminded of the acceptance they apply. I was reminded of the understanding they share. I was reminded that no matter what others say, think, or feel that I am received gladly for who I am.

What a joy to have these two in the "things I don't deserve" category!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This Week at Redeemer

I think it’s safe to say that most American Christians prefer a comfortable, familiar, and safe way of life. They want to belong to a church where they can easily relate and fit in. Most of their closest friends are people just like them. They live in similar neighborhoods and they drive similar cars. They probably listen to the same type of music and eat the same type of foods. Not that these things are wrong in and of themselves, but what if we see more than this in the pages of Scripture? What if we see radically different groups of people, with nothing in common apart from faith in Christ, fellowshipping with one another? There’s no doubt this interaction would be hard. There would be language barriers. Culture differences. Food distinctions. Yes, there would be many hurdles to overcome. But I submit to you that the church Jesus built was made to worship the God who shows no partiality, and should not be the culturally homogeneous organization in which we would feel comfortable.

Last week we saw God use separate visions to bring two men having little in common together for a purpose. An angel spoke to Cornelius in the first vision and instructed him to send for Peter. Thirty-five miles away and moments later Peter falls into a trance and sees a great sheet descending filled with all types of animals, reptiles, and birds. He recognizes the items in this sheet to be unclean. Things he confidently knew he was to abstain from. So imagine the confusion he felt when he hears, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” God had been at work in Peter for some time preparing to shatter his understanding of who’s acceptable to God. He had been living with a tanner and now he has seen an incredible vision and heads to the home of a Gentile centurion.

Have you ever considered the significance of being located near such crossroads as US 90A and the Sam Houston Toll Road? At Redeemer, we find ourselves with access to both the inner city and the suburbs, making possible interactions with diverse people groups not much different than what we find in our current study in Acts. Could God be up to something in this regard with Redeemer?

In this week’s sermon, I will be considering, “Barriers Shattered by the Gospel,” from Acts 10:23-43. As we continue on in the narrative we are going to see Peter understand more fully that God shows no partiality. It doesn’t matter what country you’re born in. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is. It doesn’t matter what type of food you eat or what type of clothes you wear. Friends, when you look at different ethnicities of people what standard do you use? Do you write off certain people thinking God wouldn’t save those types of people? What standard do you use as you relate to others? Do you extend the same forgiveness to others that God gives to us? Do you extend the same unconditional love that God lavishes on us? I urge you to consider all the people you are around and whom God might have placed on your sheet and declared, “Clean!” Join us this Sunday as we celebrate the gospel of Jesus Christ that makes seemingly impossible situations possible!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

This Week at Redeemer

In Derek Webb's song Lover he describes the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9) and the great delight the children of God will have eating and drinking in the presence of the King.

"Because I am My beloved's and My beloved's Mine;
So, you bring all your history and I'll bring the bread and wine,
Then we'll have us a party where all the drinks are on Me.
And as surely as the rising sun you will be set free."

It will be a marvelous celebration as all the redeemed from every tongue and tribe and people and nation join to worship the Lamb who was slain. We will gather with the Passover Lamb who lived a life of sinless obedience for 33 years under the Law. We will feast with the Suffering Servant who transferred His righteousness to our account. We will experience a meal like no other. And what makes this meal even more remarkable are the words of Jesus stating that he will not eat of the Passover meal until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God (Luke 22:16). So even though Jesus commands His disciples to continue this sacrament in remembrance of Him, our Savior will wait to eat the meal again until all His children have been ransomed. Every time we participate in the Lord's Supper we remember our Crime Bearer and the victory that He provided. And we look forward to one day joining our Lord for the greatest party imaginable.

This week Travis Cardwell will be considering, "Treasuring Christ at His Table," from 1 Corinthians 11:18-34. There is no hiding the fact that the Lord's Supper has prompted various questions and misunderstandings throughout history. What exactly takes place at the Lord's Supper? Who is allowed to participate in this sacrament? What does it mean to eat and drink in an unworthy manner? How often should we celebrate this meal? The Lord's Supper is a beautiful sacrament that is meant to remind Christians of what Christ accomplished on the cross. It is no light matter. Join us this week and we ponder this ordinance and celebrate the cross of Christ.

Monday, February 02, 2009

I love my wife so much I left her half a brownie

Okay – I know that is not the most compelling lead in on how one loves his wife, so give me a minute and I think you’ll understand.

But, before going on it will be helpful to have a couple of background details first. Anyone who knows even a small amount about me knows that I love sweets. Desserts are as important to me at the main course. Having a dessert isn’t necessarily a nice treat for me every now and then. It is a regular, the meal has ended, now what do I find to satisfy my craving for sweets sort of thing. Heck, when I go to Jason’s Deli I indulge in an ice cream cone prior to the arrival of my food and then one after the regular meal is finished. So hopefully I have been clear – I love desserts.

The other thing you need to know is Stephenie and I just began sticking to a budget at the start of the year. We haven’t been terrible spenders with mounting debt, but we do know we spend some money frivolously and we just want to be good stewards. Stephenie deserves most of the credit with this one and after finishing our first month I was pleasantly surprised with how things went. One of the areas that I have been seeking to improve on is spending money at lunch. It’s far too easy for me to blow through $20-25 per week on eating out only to have nothing to show for it. So, part of our new budget included me packing a lunch more. That area went really well in January, but I don’t want to pretend like it was super easy. I don’t enjoy a cold sandwich at my desk as much as I enjoy a deli sandwich or a burrito bowl. Packing a lunch takes more effort. More discipline. And since it’s more of a “sacrifice,” I probably even feel a slight sense of accomplishment by forgoing the restaurants for the brown bag option.

Now back to the brownie. As I began packing my lunch this morning I grabbed all of the usual things. Sandwich. Chips. Yogurt. Apple. Breakfast bar. I then began putting them in my lunch sack and all of a sudden it caught my eye. The pan of brownies. You see, last night we had a few friends over for the Super Bowl and Stephenie made this combination chocolate chip cookie/brownie thing and it was great. I didn’t know we had any left, but as I saw the pan I quickly went over to grab one, but as I pulled back the aluminum foil I realized there wasn’t a bunch left. It fact, all that was in the pan was what I would consider “less than one” brownie. I began grabbing a zip lock bag to haul off my prize possession, but then it hit me. I’m taking the last one. Sure, Stephenie probably wouldn’t care. She was glad I was taking my lunch. No big deal. But the more I thought about it the more I realized how selfish I was. I wanted Stephenie to be able to enjoy a little bit of a treat today so I grabbed a knife, cut it in half, and placed my two-bite brownie in the bag and joyfully drove to work.

I actually have a strong feeling that my mini half-brownie will taste better today than a whole one. Man, I love my wife.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Acceptable Murder?

Although September 11, 2001 is over seven years behind us many of the images from that day remain fresh on my mind. The fact that so many lives were lost through the terrorist strikes seemed unreal. Over 3,000 Americans lost their lives that day. I remember how astonished I was over the total loss. Newspapers, newscasts, magazines, and internet articles all gasped over the massive loss of life. Millions grieved the human casualties. The government knew it must act fast. We needed to wage war on these terrorists. These lives were unfairly taken.

What's even more astonishing than the loss of lives on September 11 is the fact that 3,753 abortions occur in America every day. More deaths due to abortion occur in the United States each day than all those who died on 9-11. There are 1.37 million abortions in the United States every year. Why is the media not in a frenzy over this? Have our hearts and minds become dull to this atrocity? Do people really believe that the unborn are just a "fetus" and not a human? What does God's Word have to say in regards to abortion? David proclaims, "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." (Psalm 139:13-14) The Bible is clear. God is the Author of creation and life begins upon conception. Those who take the lives of the unborn are not merely having an "abortion" they are murdering a human without a voice.

Join us this Sunday as we consider "Acceptable Murder?", as I preach on Psalm 139:13-16 along with other texts. From the moment of conception a unique strand of DNA that has never existed is formed. Friends, do you see what is at stake here? Thousands of lives are being taken away each day. How can we respond and love the unborn and their mothers? How can we help rescue those who are being taken away to death? We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. We can honor this command by opening our mouths for the mute and seeking to teach others the truth about the unborn. Even though it may appear that our government is swaying further away from protecting the unborn we serve a God who can do more in one minute than all the legislation of a lifetime.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Acts 7 Preview

From those at the Tower of Babel to Napoleon Bonaparte to Adolf Hitler, people from each generation have risen up and sought to make a name for themselves. Individual agendas and plans are plotted and then ushered forth. Some of these dreams might even appear to be successful for a period of time. After all, the French appeared invincible as Napoleon dominated central Europe. But things changed dramatically as Napoleon tried to invade Russia and then he was finally defeated in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. His plan had failed. His dream was over. He would spend the next six years of his life under British supervision until he died. Every time man seeks to establish his own plan it always fails.

God, however, and His plans never fail. God's purposes are unstoppable and no one can stay His hand. His counsel always stands. There is never a time when He doesn't accomplish His purpose. C.H. Spurgeon describes those who attempt to thwart God's purposes by saying: "Their persecutions, slanders, falsehoods, are like puff-balls flung against a granite wall." At the time Moses was born the king of Egypt sought to murder him along with all the Hebrew infants. The one that God would use to deliver a nation was at risk of losing his life before he was able to crawl! Later Moses would be rejected by the very men that he was called to deliver. Is this beginning to sound familiar? God eventually uses Moses to deliver his people from the hands of the Pharaoh and His plans prevail!

Join us this week as we consider "Israel's Rescue" as Travis Cardwell preaches from Acts 7:17-34. As we continue our series, The Church Unstoppable, we witness Stephen's continued defense before the council of Jerusalem. He has brilliantly countered their false charges against him related to God and now he moves on to deal with their charges related to Moses. Stephen continues to prove to them that they are the ones who are rejecting God. God's church will not be stopped! Friends, the economy may look bleak, nations may rise up against us, or your health might falter, but don't allow any crisis in life to deter you from the rock that is the providence of God. He will accomplish His purpose and He will sustain us. He is our Deliverer!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Piper Quote

Here is a quote from a Romans 8:1-4 sermon that I was listening to from John Piper that greatly encouraged me. He is giving a picture of the last judgment and what it means for Christians who now have no condemnation because of Jesus Christ.

"Who's going to bring any successful case? Who's going to be a successful prosecuting attorney against you at the last judgment? Answer - NOBODY! Why? Because you haven't committed any crimes? . . . Wrong. Because there was a Crime Bearer . . . a Sin Bearer . . . Jesus Christ, the Righteous who took it all. And that prosecuting attorney - whether it be your own conscience or the devil or the record of your sins will fail! Because the blood of Jesus will be brought forward and the righteousness of Christ will be presented in that courtroom and a verdict will be delivered . . . NOT GUILTY, Righteous!"

Thankful for our Crime Bearer!