In the knowledge of Christ, there is an excellency above all other knowledge. There is nothing so pleasing and comfortable, so animating and enlivening! Christ is the sum and centre of all revealed truths: we can preach nothing as the object of our faith, which doth no some way or other, either meet in Christ, or refer to him. Christ is the whole of man’s happiness: – the sun to enlighten him, the physician to heal him, the wall of fire to defend him, the friend to comfort him, the pearl to enrich him, the ark to shelter him, and the rock to sustain him under the heaviest of pressures. He is the ladder between earth and heaven, the mediator between God and man, a mystery which the angels desire to look into.
There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets ‘things’ with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns ‘my’ and ‘mine’ look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do… The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution……..Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and ‘things’ were allowed to enter. Within the human heart ‘things’ have taken over. Men have now by nature no peace within their heart, for [Christ] is crowned there no longer, but there in the moral dusk stubborn and aggressive usurpers fight among themselves for first place on the throne.
Almighty and most merciful Father, we are thankful that your mercy is higher than the heavens, wider than our wanderings, deeper than all our sin.
Forgive our careless attitudes toward your purposes,
Forgive our envy of those who have more than we have,
our obsession with lust and greed,
our indifference to the treasures of heaven,
our neglect of your wise and gracious law.
Grant us to never lose sight of
The exceeding rebellion of our sin,
The exceeding righteousness of salvation,
The exceeding glory of Christ,
The exceeding beauty of holiness,
The exceeding wonder of grace.
Holy and righteous and just and perfect God, we confess our sins and rely wholly on your grace to save us from your wrath. Make us to know and delight in your Triune perfections; help us to relish and savor the complete sufficiency of who you are. By the power of your Holy Spirit remove the scales from our eyes and the hard calloused from our hearts that we me behold the glorious excellencies of Christ Jesus. May we marvel at the at the riches found in him.
Instruct us and teach us in the way we should go; counsel us with your eye upon us. May your steadfast love surround us because we trust in your eternal Son; make us rejoice as the righteous, shouting for joy as the upright in heart. Fill us with your Holy Spirit that we might magnify you our God and King, and exalt your name together as your holy people.
Father, we pray for Michelle Horton – Give her wisdom as she counsels; help her apply the balm of the gospel to the wounds of others; sustain her by granting her much joy in Christ. We pray for Jim and Laurie Bruce – may their marriage be soaked with gospel displaying love for one another; may serve one another sacrificially and offer forgiveness to one another generously; use their marriage to paint a picture of your covenant love. We also pray for Preeta – give her a deep and abiding joy in Christ Jesus; cause her to hope in heaven, not the circumstances of this earth.
We pray not just for our own, but for other gospel congregations here in DC. Grant the pastors at Redeemer Arlington much grace and wisdom as they seek to shepherd their flock and lead them to maturity. Use the ministry of Church of the Advent and Church of the Resurrection to boldly proclaim Jesus. We pray for the pastors of these churches – that they would walk in integrity, pursue holiness and live lives above reproach all that you might graciously hallow your name in and through the churches they shepherd.
We pray that you would raise up faithful leaders around the world the make and mature disciples. For the country of Haiti, we plead with you to increasingly build up the pastors there that they might feed your people with strong food. For the pastors in Mongolia striving to train men and women in the truths of the gospel that they might send them to restricted areas – grant these people much grace and endurance with joy.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we praise you for you alone are worthy of our praise. Magnify your worth; exalt your name; great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. You are the fairest, greatest, first of all objects. When we think upon and converse with you, ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up; ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed; ten thousand refreshing joys spread over our hearts. O our God, increase our love for you, and increase our joy in you through time and eternity. Amen.
In Colossians 1:24 Paul talks about filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. What is lacking is NOT anything with Christ’s propitiation, but his bodily presence. So Paul rejoices in his sufferings that build the church, Christ’s body.
Romanian pastor Josef Tson, givesapresentdayexample of what it looks like to fill up Christ’s afflictions. While being interrogated by six men, here’s what he said:
What is taking place here is not an encounter between you and me. This is an encounter between my God and me. . . . My God is teaching me a lesson [through you]. I do not know what it is. Maybe he wants to teach me several lessons. I only know, sirs, that you will do to me only what God wants you to do—and you will not go one inch further—because you are only an instrument of my God. Every day I saw those six pompous men as nothing more than my Father’s puppets!
Tson goes on:
During an early interrogation I had told an officer who was threatening to kill me, “Sir, let me explain how I see this issue. Your supreme weapon is killing. My supreme weapon is dying. Here is how it works. You know that my sermons on tape have spread all over the country. If you kill me, those sermons will be sprinkled with my blood. Everyone will know I died for my preaching. And everyone who has a tape will pick it up and say, ‘I’d better listen again to what this man preached, because he really meant it; he sealed it with his life.’ So, sir, my sermons will speak ten times louder than before. I will actually rejoice in this supreme victory if you kill me.” After I said this, the interrogator sent me home. Another officer who was interrogating a pastor friend of mind told him, “We know that Mr. Tson would love to be a martyr, but we are not that foolish to fulfill his wish.” I stopped to consider the meaning of that statement. I remembered how for many years, I had been afraid of dying. I had kept a low profile. Because I wanted badly to live, I had wasted my life in inactivity. But now that I had placed my life on the altar and decided I was ready to die for the Gospel, they were telling me they would not kill me! I could go wherever I wanted in the country and preach whatever I wanted, knowing I was safe. As long as I tried to save my life, I was losing it. Now that I was willing to lose it, I found it.
Quiet our hearts in your presence, most holy God.
We confess to you that by our thoughts, words, and deeds we have questioned your holiness and your majesty. We call you Lord, but too often we live without a thought for the holiness to which we, made by you and in your image, are called. Forgive us, merciful father, for being self-satisfied. May we instead worship you in the splendor of your holiness.
We confess that we do not always speak the truth. We bend and manipulate the truth; we outright lie, so that others will think we’re better students, children, parents, workers, friends, spouses, Christians than we are. You are the God of truth; make us who are your people to be a truthful people. Give us courage to own our faults and shortcomings. Make us to be more like you in this way, we pray.
We thank you Lord that you have called us out of darkness and into your light. That though we have committed these and many other sins, you have made us who repent from our sin and trust in you to be among your people. We praise you that you have chosen for yourself followers all through this world. And we pray specifically for the Christians being abused and killed for your sake in Nigeria. We pray that you would give these men and women relief from the threats they face. And if not, give them courage to continue to worship you in the grace they know through Jesus Christ. Give them peace and joy in your Holy Spirit.
We pray also for brothers and sisters nearer us. We ask that you would build up Drakes Branch Baptist Church in Drakes Branch, VA. May their pastor, Steven Carne, boldly proclaim the power your saving gospel in that little town and may his efforts build up the believers there in their faith and in their understanding of you and your word. Draw to yourself men and women who do not know you through the fervent witness of that congregation.
You instruct us to pray for those who rule over us and so we do. We pray that our elected leaders at every level would desire justice. We pray that you would give them wisdom in their decisions so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives, dignified in every way. We thank you for those who serve our community on police forces and pray that their work would be effective in protecting people, all of whom you have made in your image.
Finally, Lord, we pray for the many people in this city from other nations. Many are here for professional or educational opportunities, and we pray that their time here would be more transforming that they can imagine. May they hear your gospel, may it be from our lips even, and may they trust in you, becoming new creatures in Christ Jesus.
And we praise you that several other nations already are represented in this congregation; their presence reminding us of the day we await with eager anticipation; the day when all of your people will be gathered in your presence. Men and women from every tribe, tongue, and nation. May that day come quickly. In Christ’s name. Amen.
One of my professors recently accused me (as a collective part of the class, but I’ll admit, it applied to me directly) of being un-educated about the world – insulated by my elite status, economic privilege, and American identity, he said we were not well-travelled or well-read, nor did we demostrate comprehensive (much less exceptional) knowledge of the global community. Nobody in the room had ever travelled to a country which had US sanctions against it. Nobody in the room could name the capital of Cote d’Ivoire, or the famous leader of the Ogoni people who was executed by the Nigerian government in 1995. Nobody could adequately explain US actions against Cuba during the Cold War, or against Iraq during the First Gulf War.**
And it’s true. While I have travelled some, and I know where on the continent of Africa Cote d’Ivoire is and have a basic understanding of Ogoniland, Cuba, the Cold War, and late 20th century US foreign policy, I couldn’t answer any of these questions accurately or in great detail.
And that got me to thinking – he’s got a point. Why don’t I know more? There are people all over the world right now who are probably watching the debates leading up to the US presidential elections, but I couldn’t even tell you more than a couple state leaders, much less when they were elected (or took power), who they ran against (or killed), or what their platforms are (or who they hate). I probably can’t even tell you what form of government they have. In a globalized society, especially as someone who wants to work overseas, isn’t this an important thing for me to cultivate? Shouldn’t I be able to discuss these things?
One of the things he said was about making time to watch things like 60 minutes, read the news beyond the front page, and explore other parts of the world. And then that got me to thinking – yea, right, in all my spare time, let me just pop on the news and take time to know the companies that own other companies that own other companies that are in bed with politicians that are making policy with other politicians that are threatening agriculture in America, and thus determine where I should or shouldn’t buy things. Because that’s what I have time for.
He’s right though, if I wanted to make time for it, I could. I could learn that.
But I started thinking about what I do use my time for, and it looks something like this: get adequate sleep, have good quiet time with God every day, have time to make food for yourself, serve your roomates, get all your schoolwork done, serve your church body, engage with your city, relax and spend time doing things you enjoy, get out of the city and slow down, get to know people well so that you can love them well, encourage them, speak truth to them, let them speak truth to you, laugh hard, love fiercely, make time to maintain relationships across many miles…. the list goes on. And I started thinking about what would get cut out to make me a “good world citizen”. And the first thing to go would be my sleep. And then my time with God. And then my relationships. And then my sanity. And none of those I’m willing to sacrifice.
So you’re right, Professor. I’m a lousy “world citizen”. I’m a lousy International Development student. I’m a lousy AU student. I can’t name capitals or policies or historic events or politicians. I can’t explain globalization, I can’t discuss the US hegemony and it’s consequences, and I don’t understand the implications of our business ties to other countries. I don’t know a detailed history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I don’t know the nuances of US foreign alliances, or the politics of the UN. So you probably shouldn’t elect me as president. But if you asked me to name all the members of my church, I bet I could do it. If you asked me to tell you about my friends – what they’re struggling with, what they’re loving, the way they talk, the things God has brought them through, the things they’re interested in, the books they’re reading, the things God is teaching them now – I could do it. If you asked me to tell you about how profoundly my own life has been affected by my brothers and sisters in Christ, you’d have me talking for hours. If you wanted to know the names and some of the stories of the homeless people who live in my ‘hood, I could tell you. If you asked me to tell you what I desire to see from the Church, what my theology is on globalization, and what my role in that is, I could tell you. If you asked me to tell you about the glories of God – you’d be amazed at how much I know.
In this city, it’s easy to get caught up in what you don’t know, and what you should know. It’s easy to find identity and power in being the supreme authority in the room on some global subject matter. I’ve fallen into that trap plenty of times myself. In one of the most powerful cities in the world, surrounded by powerful people, I have to remind myself what true power is. These people are only politicians and policy-makers by the will of God. They only have their position because God has deemed it fit for this time and these people. But I have the holy, perfect, overwhelming love of God – I have His spirit, the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead, the same spirit that raised me from death, into life – and I am to steward that with the gifts He has given me. And He has given me people.
So yes, I am insulated in ignorance simply by my relative position in the world. And yes, I probably ought to know more about the world I live in. But I would not spend one drop less of time glorifying God and loving people for all the knowledge in the world. I might be a crappy “world citizen”, but that’s not what I’m called to be. I’m called to be a disciple – a little imitation of Christ – and so that’s what I’ll strive for.
** For those of you who are curious like me and wondering, here are the (short) answers:
~Cote d’Ivoire’s capital is Yamoussoukro;
~The president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) executed in 1995 was Kenule “Ken” Beeson Saro Wiwa;
~The US sanctions against Cuba were initiated because Cuba nationalized all business, and expropriated that land owned by US businesses to the state;
~The sanctions against Iraq during the 1990-1991 period were initiated because Iraq invaded Kuwait and annexed and re-appropriated oil drilling on which the US was dependent. So there you have it.
Triune, holy, infinite God, you are immense beyond imagination. You measure the entire universe with merely a span of your hand. You are unimaginably awesome in all of your perfections, absolutely righteous, holy and just in all your ways. You have been unbelievably good and merciful to us as the Creator and Sustainer of our lives. Every breath, every heartbeat, every function of the organs in our body are a gift from you. Every legitimate pleasure we experience is a gift from your loving hand. All that we have and all that we have, we owe to you and your goodness. Our lives in every way are, and will continue to be, utterly dependent upon You. God, you are the most supremely worthy object of our adoration, honor and delight.
Yet we could not have failed you more miserably than we have. We hostile in our minds thinking more highly of ourselves than you; we are hostile in our minds thinking ourselves better than others. We are evil in our deeds willfully and purposefully doing the very things you forbid. We are evil in our deeds doing those things you require, but with selfish motives thinking we can prove ourselves to you. Because of this we are alienated from you – the Author and Give of Life.
Grant us repentance and faith that we might have life in your eternal Son, Jesus. Bring to mind specific instances of sin in our lives – reveal our greed, make aware us of the slightest forms of lust; give us a hatred of fornication, lying, bitterness, impatience; show us where we are un-teachable and arrogant ignoring the correction and rebuke of those who care about us; give us a distaste for laziness and dullness. Yes, by the indwelling power of your Holy Spirit, change us that we might behold the glory of Jesus and delight in his supremacy and savor his sufficiency.
May we live lives worthy of the gospel, bearing fruit in every good work. May our lips testify the to goodness of Christ as we share the gospel with friends, co-workers, and classmates. We plead with you Lord God to use the ministry of our church to see many more people transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of your beloved Son.
And we pray that happens not only here, but also in Columbia Heights. Bring us a bi-lingual man we can train, assess, and send out to plant a church for throngs of Hispanics in Columbia Heights. We plead with you do to this and give us wisdom as to how best to proceed.
We pray for the billions of people around the globe without access to the gospel. Raise people up, people from this very room to carry the good news of Christ to 3MM Megh people of India, and the 8MM Tulani people of Nigeria. Don’t allow us to live comfortable lives while people are dying without hearing the name of Jesus. Give us boldness and steadfastness in the gospel.
Help us not overlook the freedom we have here in this country to openly and publicly worship Jesus. We thank you for that, and pray for our government as they face endless difficulties. Give our president wisdom and a deepening sense of justice as he guides this nation. We pray for all the government officials from the small city mayors to state governors to Congress. May they understand the responsibility you have placed on them to rule with humility, wisdom and a sense of justice, for you are a just God.
As we continue to worship you tonight, fill us with the knowledge of your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding that we might walk in a manner worthy of our Lord and Savior, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of you our great God. We delight in Jesus in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell; who One made peace by the blood of his cross. Amen.
This past week, Nathan and myself (Joey) had the privilege of attending 9Marks @ Southeaster Baptist Theological Seminary. The time was refreshing, encouraging, and convicting. I would encourage you all to go listen to the messages - specifically, David Platt’s sermon from Ezekiel 36.
Below is a list of “one liners” from the conference:
- God saves his people because God loves his glory.
- God is passionate about his name being known and his glory being exalted.
- If it’s wrong for God to exalt himself, then who else would you have him exalt?
- As we walk out the word of God, empowered by the Spirit of God, all the glory goes to God.
- Christ in us, transforms everything about us.
- The reason God saved you and me as his people is for his glory among all peoples.
- Apart from Christ we are a symphony of sin dancing harmoniously to the conductor of our flesh.
- When you make light of sin, you make light of Christ.
- In Christ we have a river of grace, love and kindness rushing toward us.
- Ordinary people who do ordinary things with gospel intentionality yields extraordinary results.
- You can live rebelliously, religiously, or repentantly.
- Legalists hate grace – they want a payment plan, but God desires repentance not repayment.
- “Our pleasure and our duty, Though opposite before; Since we have seen his beauty, Are joined to part no more” (Newton)
- Satan’s strategies actually spread Christ’s church – persecution leads to proclamation.
- God buries the workers, but the work goes on.
- Don’t be held captive by fearful anxiety, but look forward to God with faithful anticipation.
- May the gospel be stuck to our lips like chap stick in winter.
- We may see fewer converts than we like because we share a “gospel” without words.
- Are we talking too much and saying too little?
- The more gifted you think yourself to be, the closer to others you should be.
- Good shepherds should smell like sheep and have lint from their wool on his clothing.
- Wield the truth of God’s word like a precise scalpel not a battering club.
- God does not force people to love him – he’s not that weak.
As mentioned in a previous blog post, I recently had the opportunity to visit a reintegration center in Ethiopia for female victims of human trafficking and abuse. While there, our team facilitated a number of activities such as jewelry making, flower planting, photography workshop, manicures, English lessons, and more. During this time, we got to hear some of the ladies’ stories, many of whom had moved abroad with great hopes and promises of earning a decent income as domestic workers so they could support their families back home. Sadly, many of those dreams went awry upon arriving in their host country. My heart grieved for them – for their disappointment, loss of innocence, pain, and shame. I was angered by the deception and abuse they had endured. And grateful their lives had been spared and led to Agar.
Interestingly, I also found their stories to be quite analogous to many of our spiritual journeys. How many of us can identify with falling for the enemy’s empty promises for fulfillment, joy, peace, and satisfaction in things apart from God? Humbly and sadly I confess that I can identify all too well. Cognitively I know the end product of such pursuits, for it’s always the same – disappointment. And yet, I sometimes forget and once again turn to broken cisterns hoping for a different outcome. The outcome will never be different though. We were made for God and nothing else will satisfy. Until we properly value Him, all the things we improperly value will leave us disappointed and frustrated.
Jeremiah reminds us that there is only One fountain of living water, all else is an illusion, a counterfeit, a vehicle for disappointment.
“…for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” ~ Jer. 2:13
Notice the two evils identified here: 1. Turning away from God 2. Turning towards anything other than Him for satisfaction and fulfillment. Broken cisterns come in all shapes and sizes – careers, relationships, possessions, status, adventures, savings accounts, approval of man, comfort, diversions and pleasures, and the list goes on. These things in and of themselves may not be evil, but when they become the well from which we seek contentment and rest for our souls they can also quickly become the demise of our souls.
Praise God for His patience, grace, and love. Praise God that He is not a God of empty promises. He is the fountain of living water, the bread of life, and the giver of true rest and peace. He satisfies the longing soul and the hungry soul he fills with good things (Ps. 107:9).
Lord, forgive us for our wandering hearts and help our souls find rest in Thee.
O Lord our God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent. You set the earth on its foundations; you covered the deep as with a garment; you make springs gush forth in the valleys; you cause grass to grow and plants to spring forth; you cause the rain the fall and the tide to come in and out. You made the mood and the sun, and know the time for it setting. O Lord, how manifold are your works! May we sing to you, our great God and King, as long as we live; may the words of our mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer.
We pray that we would find your word more precious than gold and sweeter than honey, even drippings from the honeycomb. Take your word and make it a light unto our feet and a lamp unto our path. Fill us with your Holy Spirit and open our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of your law. Consume our souls with longing for you and your Word at all times. Make us understand the way of your word and cause us to meditate on your wondrous works, that our hearts and lives might be filled with delight. Yes, Lord God, we fix our eyes upon your ways and delight in your statutes; we will not forget your word.
And where we have – where we have forgot your word or outright rejected it – we come and ask for forgiveness. We know that in Christ Jesus there is forgiveness as far as the east is from the west; as high as the heavens are above the earth. We confess our greed, our pride, our lust, our unforgiving hearts, our worry, our laziness, our unrighteous anger, our dull hearts toward you. Take a moment and by the power of your Spirit convict us of specific areas of sin in our lives that we might turn from that and turn to Christ Jesus. [Pause]
“Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things.” We give you praise Triune God for who you are and what you have done. You have done everything necessary to reconcile us back to yourself that we might find ourselves in the presence of the fullness of joy. Yes, we give you praise that you deliver those who confess Christ as Lord and Savior, you deliver them from the domain of darkness and transfer them into the kingdom of your beloved Son, Jesus.
May this message permeate the lives of those here are Restoration Church. May this gospel message bring balm to hurting souls and excitement to rejoicing hearts. May we as a body, weep with those who are weeping, and rejoice with those who are rejoicing. Build up our body, we pray. Increase our knowledge and cause us to bear gospel fruit that you might receive the worship you are rightly due.
We also pray for other local churches in DC. We pray for 4th Presbyterian – grant them grace to continue faithfully proclaiming the excellencies of Jesus. We pray for pastor Aaron Graham and District Church. Grant them favor and use them to make and mature disciples in Columbia Heights.
We pray for those around the globe that have no access to this gospel message. We pray for the Tihami people of Yemen. Nearly 5MM with no gospel witness. We pray for the 169,000 Garre people of Somalia, and the 4MM Mazanderani people of Iran. All these people that 0.00% Christian. Raise up men and women to herald your gospel in these parched lands. We know faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ, so we plead with you to hallow your holy name amongst these people groups by bringing them the word of God.
And as we ready ourselves to hear your word, build our faith we pray. Birth faith in Christ where there is none; build faith in Christ for those who already believe. May your Spirit be active in this place tonight as your word is proclaimed. Convict us of sin; comfort us in Christ; change us for the glories of your name that we might have utmost joy in life. We ask all of this in the name of Jesus, Amen.