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Remembrance...

Even as Jesus sat in the upper room with his disciples eating what we now call the Lord's Supper which we eat in memory of his sacrifice which took away our sins, as many as three million Jews had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to sacrifice over a quarter of a million lambs (Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, p. 214). We read in Hebrews what was going on there. What was happening that night in Jerusalem was but a shadow of what Jesus was about to institute in the upper room with the disciples. As a quarter-million innocent lambs were killed and had their blood drain out, no forgiveness of sins was occurring, but the Jewish worshipers were being reminded of their sin:

10:1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Heb 10:1-4)

In the Jewish sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year. We find the Greek word which is translated here reminder used only three other places in the New Testament: All referring to what Jesus said in that upper room as he taught us to do remember him through the Lord's Supper. Imagine the futility and desperation that sacrifices would bring. Constantly being reminded of your sin but having no way to atone for it. The sacrifice is made and the sinner would have to return year after year making memory of his own sin, being reminded of how short he or she has fallen from Holy God; how the consequences for sin against God is death. The image of the lamb being slaughtered reminds the worshiper of what end he justly deserves because of his rebellion against God.

There is great similarity but an even great, more glorious difference between that sacrificial remembrance and the remembrance of the Lord's Supper. In contrast to the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of lambs each year, Hebrews says, "But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God...For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified" (Hebrews 10:12,14). No returning. Jesus' one sacrifice was sufficient to cover all of our sins.

So now we turn to Luke 22:19: "And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'" Let's notice two very profoundly simple truths in that phrase, "This is my body, which is given for you."

1. "Which is given for [us]." We have a need. If you have sinned - and the Bible assures us that there has not been one human being nor will there ever be one human being except Jesus Christ who has not - there is a debt to pay against the One and Only Just God. A body must be broken. As Jesus was speaking millions of Jews and the Gentiles watching were reminded of the reality of sin and the consequence of it. So in a sense, the remembrance that we do here is similar to the remembrance of sins that the Jews were doing at the Temple. But here is the profound, glorious, gracious difference that we must never forget:

2. "This is my body." Consider thoughtfully, carefully, thankfully and reverentially with me just who is saying these words, "This is my body which is given for you." The one whose body is given is the Sinless One (1 Peter 2:22), He is the Timeless One (John 1:1), He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, (1 Timothy 6:15), He is the Immortal One (1 Timothy 6:16), He Dwells in Unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16), He is the Creator (Colossians 1:16), All things were created for Him (Colossians 1:16), He holds all things together (Colossian 1:17), He is God (Hebrews 1:8). It is this One who says these words, "This is my body broken for you."

This sacrifice does not merely remind us of sin, the sacrifice Christ made utterly demolishes sin. Just before the author of Hebrews wrote the verse we began with, he penned these words describing why Christ's sacrifice was once and for all, "He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him." (Hebrews 9:26b-28)

With that in mind we take the Lord's Supper in remembrance of Him.

Theology Divides; Jesus Unites?

"Those who talk like this, 'Christ unites; doctrine divides' have simply replaced a proposition with a word and think they have done something profound and fresh when in fact they have done something old, and stale, and deadly."
John Piper
The Life and Ministry of Athanasius Sermon (I think)
Rediscovered at DesiringGod '06 conference promo

Upside-Down Leadership

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mt 20:25-28)

Jesus has just finished telling the disciples for the third time about the death that he would die (v. 18). He is describing the pivotal point around which all of history pivots, the Cross. The son of God, the King of the Universe, who had already stepped out of heaven - Creator become Creature - was describing how soon he would be unjustly murdered and then conquer death rising from the dead so that God could unjustly grant us grace. In the awkward and confused silence that followed, James, John, & their mother thought that it would be appropriate to request from Jesus a place of honor and a place of power in the kingdom.

Jesus has been humbly demonstrating what it is to be King. Jesus, the greatest in the kingdom, consistently demonstrates what it looks like to be greatest in the Kingdom: Service and humility. They don't get it.   

So Jesus makes it explicit, "You have been educated by the world. You see, in the world's system, you want to be a ruler or a leader because it is a position of great honor and power. When you are a leader, you get other people to do stuff for you. The higher you move up, the more people you can rule and therefore the better you. The greatest in the world's eyes are the ones that have authority over the greatest number of people. But that's not the way it is among us, in the Kingdom of God. It is a good thing to want to be great in God's Kingdom, but it will look upside-down to you and the world. The greatest is not the one who has the most servants but the one who is servant to the most. 'The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Mat 23:11).' The leader that My Father is looking for is the leader who looks like Me. Remember what I just told you: I came into the world as King of the world and I came to serve. I'm the one who, according to the way this world sees things, should be served by all, yet I have given my entire life up to serve you. In fact, this trip that we are taking to Jerusalem where I will be crucified, is just the ultimate expression of my greatness in the Kingdom, I am serving by giving up my entire life to ransom many from their sins so that they can be with Me forever in My Father's Kingdom."

So if we are to begin to study what it will look like to be a leader in the Church, we should guard ourselves very much from trying to model our leadership after the world's leadership. Church leadership is not expressed in board rooms. The character that God is looking for in a leader is not great intelligence or a charismatic personality; the great leader is not the one with the greatest self-esteem, internal drive, or who has self-actualized; the leader is not the one with vision; he is not the one with the greatest influence; the leader does not sit on a throne. The leader in the Kingdom is a servant. The leader in God's kingdom is "dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to wine, not greedy for dishnest gain. He hold the myster of the faith with a clear conscience (1 Tim 3:8-10)." The leader who God wants is a man of "good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom (Acts 6:3)." The leader in God's church will look like Christ (Matthew 20:28) Most of all, the leader in God's kingdom is a humble servant.

Therefore, one of the two official "offices" / "titles" for leaders in God's church, "which he obtained with his own blood (Acts 20:28)" is Deacon which literally means, "servant". That's the same word as is in Matthew 20:26: "It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant," your diakonos, your deacon. So we seek to learn to lead the church the same way Christ led the church, motivated and enabled by His leadership for the church: "[He gave himself up for her, that he might sancitfy her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, withou spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph 5:25-27)."

I Love My Wife...And It Made the News

Jacob & Kiki: A Love Story in the Arizona Republic
Kinda silly thing to be in the newspaper, don't you think? We're honored.

Water from the Rock

2 Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 And the people quarreled with Moses and said, Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord! 4 Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? 5 And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink. 6 Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them, 7 and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 8 Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle. 9 And Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he commanded him.


10 Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock? 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. 12 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them. 13 These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy. (Numbers 20:2-13)

 

Consider just how different Moses' response to the people and God's response to the people is. Moses' frustrated and angry and the rebellion of the people distrusts God, misrepresents God, and acts in anger saying, "Hear now, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock." God rather, in the face of Israel's rebellious grumbling and Moses and Aaron's rebellious and proud striking of the rock causes water to "abundantly" pour from the rock.

Moses and Aaron clearly missed God's grace and provision in the midst of the trial of waterless wanderings in the desert. They knew to go to the Lord, maybe how I do too often when I pray, not seeing God's graciousness in providing what I ask for. What an opportunity Moses and Aaron had to get the peoples' eyes off of themselves and toward God and his gracious provision in spite of their sin, and instead they focus on the people's sin and emphasize themselves rather than God. Water pouring out of the rock was an act of such God-glorifying grace that in 1 Corinthians 10:4 Paul points out that the Rock was Christ; just like our bread and wine remind us of God's greater provision in Christ on the cross, this rock would be an ever-flowing testimony to God's grace. But what did Moses and Aaron fixate on at this moment in which God was about to graciously give rebellious Israel water: Themselves.

God then said to Moses and Aaron, just as rebellious as the people they had chastized, "Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring htis assembly into the land that I have given them."

So what, how do these observations apply to me. Everything that I have is because of God's graciousness; nothing good that I have is because I deserve it or have earned it. Anytime that I bear with the sin of others or decide to love them inspite of their very imperfect love for me, it is nothing compared to God's graciousness to me. When I forgive somebody seven times for the same sin or grumbling and then continue to do it seventy times more than that, my sinful and proud tendency is to make much of my forgiving attitude and the sins against me. What that truly amounts to what God points out in Number 20:12, I have a disbelieving heart and have chosen not to uphold God as holy in the eyes of others. Each time I'm sinned against, I must see it as an opportunity to believe God, trust his grace, and uphold God as holy in my eyes and the eyes of others.

God's Truly Amazing Grace

This morning as I read the account of Jesus on the cross in Luke 23, I am amazed at God's amazing grace. So often I sing of his amazing grace or speak the phrase amazing grace without being actually conscious at that instant of what in his grace is so amazing. To almost the same degree that I am captivated by God's amazing grace demonstrated through Christ on the cross, I am humiliated by my own sinfulness - my pride, my hate toward God, my hypocrisy - and then my heart is lifted even higher in praise for God's truly amazing grace. The sum of my thoughts this morning as I seek to draw near the cross can be summed up in Luke 23, verse 34:

"And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And they cast lots to divide his garments."

Jesus, on the cross, in agony, absorbing the furious wrath of His Father, the Trinity of perfect unity from eternity past being ripped in two as God in the form of man hung humiliated, suffering. As he hung, he paid the price for my sins. Each time I've sinned I've said to God through my actions that I wish I were God, I've said to God that I find more pleasure in myself than I do in Him, I've said that there is something more important in this universe than Him, namely me. A puritan wrote that if I were as powerful as I am sinful, God would cease to exist. I've taken my heart which God is jealous for and whored myself out to others and God's wrath justly burns against me and my sins. But there on that cross the payment for each and every one of my sins, and not just mine but for all those in the world who would turn to him in repentance and faith, were paid. So at the cross I find myself shuttering, seeing the hatred of God for my sins and the love of God in Christ to pay for those sins, and I praise Him; I thank Him. I recognize my inadequacy to even feel in my heart the weight of what I see was I read and the inadequacy to express even what i feel.

But then in the second half of verse 34 I see what I truly am apart from God's grace to give me a new heart: "And they cast lots to divide his garments." That's me. Above my head, the greatest moment in all of history is taking place. At the foot of the cross, I have my eyes not trained on God but on myself gambling for some scraps of clothes. Apart from God changing my heart, the death of Christ and God's love for the world mean nothing to me. I would rather gamble for his garments as I thrust one more spear into his side taking pleasure in his grief. Oh how sinful I am! Why would God not just leave me and the rest of my rebellious race to suffer as we deserve in Hell?

Then I hear, 'Father, forgive them." Jesus, looking at the crowd that called for his crucifixion, at the soldiers who pounded the nails that ripped through His flesh and pinned Him to the wood, and at me as I would choose sin time and time again says, "Father, forgive them." Jesus was looking out at worse sin than a husband cheating on a wife, worse sin than a parent abusing a child, worse sin than the holocaust and every genocide and attempted genocide together: Jesus was looking at attempted Deicide: Mankind, killing the Son of God. And he said, "Father forgive them."

I on the other hand get bitter and angry for the littlest things. I am unable to forgive from the heart for tiniest of offense somebody commits against me. I see now at the foot of the cross just how horrid my hypocrisy is. I see Jesus interceding at the Father's right hand, pointing to the holes in his hands, feet and side, saying in reference to my sin "Father! Forgive Him! I paid the price!" And I feel the love of God the Father, looking on me as a child, looking on me with the love that he has for his Son, seeing me not as the one that murdered his Son, but seeing me with the love a father has for a son. Because of what Jesus did on the cross I am His son; all those who have been saved are His children. And because of the change that he wrought in my heart I look to him and cry out as a child, "Abba, Daddy, Father." Knowing that Christ's love moved him to beg God for forgiveness in the face of the greatest sinfulness even frees me from guilt that constrains and motivates me to greater to devotion to this God of truly amazing grace.

Oh how deep the Father's love for us, how vast beyond all measure that he should give his only Son to make a wretch his treasure. How great the pain of searing loss, the Father turns His face away, as wounds which mar the Chosen One bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon the cross, my sin upon his shoulders. Ashamed I hear my mocking voice, call out among the scoffers. It was my sin that held him there until it was accomplished. His dying breath has brought me life. I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything: No gifts, no power, no wisdom. But I will boast in Jesus Christ; his death and resurrection. Why should I gain from his reward? I cannot give an answer. But this I know with all my heart: His wounds have paid my ransom.

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