The Blessing of Divine Intrusion

New sermon video from last week is up! Share your thoughts, comments, and questions – I’d love to hear what’s on your mind!

 

The Blessing of Divine Intrusion
Ephesians 1:3-14
Part 2 of the series, Wondrous Mystery: Exploring the Depths of our Union with Christ

Sermon series through Ephesians at Christ Church Mansfield

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Great Reads and Good Deals on Kindle

lightstock_78067_small_user_3970569Some great Kindle Deals on these books right now.

Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People by Michael Frost

The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters by Sinclair B. Ferguson

The Gospel of Jesus Christ by Paul Washer

Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines by David Mathis

Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do by Paul David Tripp

New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Paul David Tripp

The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in Our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus by Zack Eswine

None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing) by Jen Wilkin

Family Worship: In the Bible, In History, and In Your Home by Donald S. Whitney

On Grace and Free Will by Augustine

Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof

Called Together: A Guide to Forming Missional Communities by Jonathan K. Dodson and Brad Watson

Multiply Together: A Guide to Sending and Coaching Missional Communities

by Brad Watson

Sent Together: How the Gospel Sends Leaders to Start Missional Communities by Brad Watson

Questions that Get to the Heart of Life

computer-tomography-62942_1920In his book, Seeing with New Eyes, David Powilson offers some very helpful diagnostic questions to uncover the ways we find life and significance apart from God.

On these questions, called “X-Ray Questions”,  Powilson writes

“The questions aim to help people identify the ungodly masters that occupy positions of authority in their heart. These questions reveal ‘functional gods,’ what or who actually controls their particular actions, thoughts, emotions, attitudes, memories, and anticipations.”

Consider these questions as a way to get to the bottom of your heart, to identify and confess the sin and “functional gods” you might be looking to for life, worth, and significance, but more than that, to be at the point where you come to the end of yourself and find the loving, grace-filled arms of God meeting you in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I would suggest using these as part of a daily, weekly, or monthly review of where you are in relationship to your goals and aspirations for your devotional life and walk with God.

1. What do you love? Hate?

2. What do you want, desire, crave, lust, and wish for? What desires do you serve and obey?

3. What do you seek, aim for, and pursue?

4. Where do you bank your hopes?

5. What do you fear? What do you not want? What do you tend to worry about?

6. What do you feel like doing?

7. What do you think you need? What are your ‘felt needs’?

8. What are your plans, agendas, strategies, and intentions designed to accomplish?

9. What makes you tick? What sun does your planet revolve around? What do you organize your life around?

10. Where do you find refuge, safety, comfort, escape, pleasure, security?

11. What or whom do you trust?

12. Whose performance matters? On whose shoulders does the well-being of your world rest? Who can make it better, make it work, make it safe, make it successful?

13. Whom must you please? Whose opinion of you counts? From whom do you desire approval and fear rejection? Whose value system do you measure yourself against? In whose eyes are you living? Whose love and approval do you need?

14. Who are your role models? What kind of person do you think you ought to be or want to be?

15. On your deathbed, what would sum up your life as worthwhile? What gives your life meaning?

16. How do you define and weigh success and failure, right or wrong, desirable or undesirable, in any particular situation?

17. What would make you feel rich, secure, prosperous? What must you get to make life sing?

18. What would bring you the greatest pleasure, happiness, and delight? The greatest pain or misery?

19. Whose coming into political power would make everything better?

20. Whose victory or success would make your life happy? How do you define victory and success?

21. What do you see as your rights? What do you feel entitled to?

22. In what situations do you feel pressured or tense? Confident and relaxed? When you are pressured, where do you turn? What do you think about? What are your escapes? What do you escape from?

23. What do you want to get out of life? What payoff do you seek out of the things you do?

24. What do you pray for?

25. What do you think about most often? What preoccupies or obsesses you? In the morning, to what does your mind drift instinctively?

26. What do you talk about? What is important to you? What attitudes do you communicate?

27. How do you spend your time? What are your priorities?

28. What are your characteristic fantasies, either pleasurable or fearful? Daydreams? What do your night dreams revolve around?

29. What are the functional beliefs that control how you interpret your life and determine how you act?

30. What are your idols and false gods? In what do you place your trust, or set your hopes? What do you turn to or seek? Where do you take refuge?

31. How do you live for yourself?

32. How do you live as a slave of the devil?

33. How do you implicitly say , ‘If only…’ (to get what you want, avoid what you don’t want, keep what you have)?

34. What instinctively seems and feels right to you? What are your opinions, the things you feel true?

35. Where do you find your identity? How do you define who you are?

Sin as Vandalism of the Life We All Want

Quote

banksycosetteokBelow is one of my all-time favorite quotes, highlighting that what we experience is not life as we want it, nor as it was meant to be.  Something has gone wrong and hijacked God’s good intention for all of Creation.

“The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight — a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be….

In sum, shalom is God’s design for creation and redemption; sin is blamable human vandalism of these great realities and therefore an affront to their architect and builder.”

Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Not the Way Its Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, (Wm. B. Erdmans Publ. Co., 1995)

Jesus Brings a Deeper, More Comprehensive Fix (Mark 1:40-45)

christcleansingHere we have what seems to be a familiar enough story. As Jesus was going through all Galilee preaching in the synagogues and healing people, a man approaches Jesus with a particular need. Up to this point, we might expect Jesus to say a word and heal the man. After all, Jesus has places to go and people to see. He just told his disciples that He couldn’t stay put long enough to meet the requests of everyone who had needs (Mark 1:35-39). But Jesus surprises us (you would think we might get more comfortable with this, even this early in the Gospel of Mark).

Jesus touches the man and he is healed. Actually, he is “made clean.” What vexed this man was he suffered from leprosy. Today, we can distinguish between leprosy and other skin abnormalities, but in Jesus day, any skin related issue – deterioration, discoloration, deformity, etc. – would be labeled leprosy. According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “This disease in an especial manner rendered its victims unclean; even contact with a leper defiled whoever touched him, so while the cure of other diseases is called healing, that of leprosy is called cleansing.” According to Leviticus 13-14, anyone who suffered from the affliction was to be isolated and in effect quarantined in order to contain the spread of the disease. Likewise, if anyone came in contact with someone suffering in this way, they themselves became “unclean” – a term not necessarily denoting that they became leprous, but at least susceptible to it and thus needing to “purify” themselves to become clean. This man was not in that situation.

Most likely, he would have been living with the other “outcasts” – those who because of their unclean status were forced to live outside of the city walls. It was common for these people to dwell in caves with others in similar situations. If they had loved ones or deeply committed friends, they might have a visit occasionally with the visitor bringing some kind of food, often lowering it down into the cavern. This man had no basis for hope of escaping his stations whatsoever; at least not until Jesus shows up.

Imagine the obstacles he had to overcome to come to Jesus. Wading through crowds of people that Jesus tended to attract, venturing into the city’s perimeter, even daring to cross the six-foot perimeter he needed to maintain in order to approach this popular teacher and healer.

This man implores Jesus to heal him and make him clean. And Jesus is “moved with pity.” The phrase is translated from a single word in the Greek, its splanxna, and it means “the inward parts,’ specially the nobler entrails – the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys,” and eventually would come to denote “seat of the affections.” Jesus sees this man and is moved in his inmost being.

Remember, Jesus can heal with a word; he has just done so in the verses preceding our passage here. But here it says that Jesus “touches him,” and he is cleansed. Why this peculiar detail? Is it just a demonstrable flourish for Jesus?

To a man who has spent perhaps his entire life being isolated away from others, not able to participate in the community life, always making sure he kept his distance (or rather, feeling the awkwardness and emotional devastation of watching others adamantly avoid him), this man didn’t just need physical healing from the leprosy – he needed a more comprehensive healing.

He needed one that covered his physical (cleansing from leprosy), his emotional (the touch from another person) as well as his social and even spiritual needs. Jesus goes on and doesn’t tell him to go on about his new life. Instead, Jesus directs him to present himself to the “priest” and make the acceptable offering for his cleansing to him (Mark 1:44; cf. Leviticus 14:2-32). Why bother with this at this point? Jesus had healed him. More to the point, Jesus is doing something so new and qualitatively different from the priests of his day – why bother sending the man there?

This was the accepted practice to be restored to the community at large. Jesus was telling him to go through the official, proper channels, not in order to become clean, but in order to be seen as clean. For Jesus, this is proof enough that the kingdom of God is at hand, and a new thing is being done in their midst. There’s no need for the man to go out and make a big show of what happened. Just go do what is necessary to be welcomed back into the life of the community. But the man can’t help himself. His deepest longings and wildest hopes have been met by this different kind of teacher, a different kind of healer than even he had dared possible.

How could he not tell everyone about it?

Make the Most of Bible Reading for 2015

lightstock_35312_small_user_179504

It’s a New Year, and I’m willing to bet many of us have made it a goal (or a resolution) to read more. For those of us who call ourselves Christians, at least one of these books is probably the Bible.

This is good, and important. The great 20th century theologian, J.C. Ryle said, “‘True Christians delight to read the Scriptures, because they tell them about their beloved Savior.”

We should read the Bible to be able to know and delight in our Savior, Jesus Christ. We also need to read it to know how to live as God’s people in God’s world.

And if you’re like me, and have tried to read through the Bible, you probably have more examples of failures and frustrations than successes. Now over the years, I have read through the Bible. I have taken time to study it, on my own and at seminary. But it is still a challenge to make my way through a regular and disciplined approach to reading the Bible.

This year, I have created a system to help get myself, and our church – Christ Presbyterian Church in Mansfield, TX – along with anyone from our wider community – both online and in Mansfield, TX – to hit the New Year strong with a quick “win”.

We are reading through the entire Bible in 32 days. Think we’re crazy? Probably. But here’s what this means.

We have taken the most significant chapters and episodes throughout the Bible, and singled them out in a 32 Day Reading Plan, so that in just over one month, we can not only create the habit of regular Bible reading and meditation, but also cover the entirety of the storyline of Scripture, from beginning to end.

Below you can find the links to the resources we are using to helps us get through this goal. Once we finish, we will then look at other ways to continue the new habit of reading Scripture – whether it’s utilizing a “Read through the Bible – Old Testament and New Testament in a Year” type plan, or simple “Read the Bible Book by Book” (both available through the Bible App from Youversion).

Let me also encourage you to find some partners in your goal of reading through the Bible. Whether it’s available through your church home, or simply done with some friends, get with one or two others and share what you are reading, learning and how you are applying the Word of God in your life? If you need help with this, and you are in the area, we’d love to help you at Christ Presbyterian Church (email us at info@cpcmansfield.org).

You can also do this online, by using the hashtag #grow2015 and our @cpcmansfield address on Twitter and Facebook, and we’d love to interact with you, engaging your thoughts, insights and questions as you read with the rest of us.

Let’s read the Bible to know, see and savor our Savior, Jesus Christ, and grow in what it means to live as His people in His world, together.

For the 32 Day Bible Reading and Prayer Guide, and Questions to Ask resources, go to http://cpcmansfield.org/#/resources.

To see my example of putting the questions into practice, click https://www.evernote.com/l/AAOfENoBpAhGBZKhaHWjYyDLsDlNDg2U86c

Great deal on ESV Study Bible – Best Single Volume Resource on Understanding the Bible!

If you are looking for a one-stop, single best resource, I recommend the ESV Study Bible. It is overall, the best study bible on the market, with helpful contextual notes on the passages, pertinent articles and commentaries, and it’s introductions to each book of the Bible alone is worth more than the price of the book itself.

Oh, and it’s 50% right now (most versions at least).

So if you haven’t already, pick up a copy today! And maybe buy one or two for those in your life who are looking, or wanting, to be able to read and understand the Bible for themselves.

Living in the Gaps

I am always fascinated by the “gaps” in the Bible. The span of time between recorded episodes. The ones where we are left to guess or imagine what was going on.

This is not to say that what we have in the Bible (i.e., special revelation) is insufficient or not enough. It’s thoroughly sufficient for everything that we need.

But it’s the gaps as well as the explicitly stated that interest me.

For example, when reading through the narrative of Abraham in Genesis 12-25, we really only are privy to a few episodes, even just conversations, of the patriarch and his dealings with God. There’s a lot left unspoken in-between.

We are introduced to him in Genesis 12 as at that point a relatively elderly man, living with his wife in his father’s household. When he goes the way of the departed in Genesis 25, we are told that he died in a “good old age” surrounded by his children over the years.

And in Genesis 24, when he sends his servant out to find a wife for his son Isaac, we are told that the servant is sent out with ten camels, a remarkable display of Abraham’s wealth.

Now, for those reading the story, we are allowed to see a few episodes of how Abraham accrued such wealth. But there are decades left blank in between those few recorded aspects of Abraham’s life.

What was going on in the gaps?

I’ll tell you.

Abraham was living an ordinary, mundane, but striving for faithfulness kind of life.

Too often, we fixate on just the episodes that are “revealed” when teaching the Bible. And what can happen is that someone identifies with that particular story, and hears the call of God to go and leave his particular situation and follows God not knowing where exactly (think overseas missionaries responding to a sermon on Genesis 12 after a missions conference), and others don’t (think about a school teacher, or doctor, hearing the same sermon at the same event).

All Scripture is tied and connected to Jesus as the true and proper fulfillment of it’s meaning. But God’s Word also speaks to how we respond to that particular aspect of His revelation and Christ’s fulfillment.

Perhaps we need to take some time, and with a sanctified imagination, allow some of the “gaps” to speak just as clearly as that which is clearly revealed in Scripture.

Maybe the takeaway isn’t always – “leave and go” (Genesis 12)

Maybe there are times and season where it’s – “stay and remain faithful to the One who is faithful to you!” (the gaps between Genesis 12-25).

Are there any Non-Biblical witnesses to the events claiming to be historical found within the Bible? Recommended Resources

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United St...

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United States Library of Congress, demonstrating printed pages as a storage medium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have the joy and honor of leading a weekly bible study with a great group of men.  Often there are other questions that don’t quite fit into the scope of our topic/passage for the day.  I received such a question today:

“Are there any other non-Biblical sources that help support the historical claims found in the Bible?”

Below is my response with several links to websites and books dealing with this question! Enjoy!

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Hey guys,

Here are some resources I either use, or found and might use in the future, dealing with your question: “Are there any other non-Biblical sources that help support the historical claims found in the Bible?”
Click on the links and check them out for yourself.  And tell me what you think of these if you end up getting your hands on them and start reading through them!
Always a pleasure guys!
Chris Gensheer

Website/blog: 
http://michaeljkruger.com/ – this guys is a NT Textual Critical Scholar and I value his perspective on all questions pertaining to “canon” (what books should be considered Scripture) and how it was formed (compiled, agreed upon) and various historical resurfacing of apologetic questions.  Good go-to site for specific questions.
http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2011/02/extra-canonical-sources.html – overall, a great apologetic website.  This link in particular will take you to a good answer to your question to me earlier today!
Books:
Backgrounds of Early Christianity by Everett Ferguson – this is my #1 go-to source for general, broad-stroke background information about things referenced in the Bible.  Great as an encyclopedia for helping to reconstruct what the original audience of the books in the Bible/NT might have thought or realized.
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel – I read this early on in my Christian walk.  Great resource for apologetics in general, but more along the lines of the historical validity of Christ, not just the philosophical justification for belief. Great book.
Understanding Scripture ed. by Wayne Grudem, C. John Collins, and Thomas Schreiner.  I used this book in preparation for my Ordination exams and found it very useful and helpful.  It is an edited volume of multiple contributors, tackling various aspects of the Canon/Bible.  Great to actually read through, while also a good reference work.
Can I Trust the Bible? by Darell Bock – I used this in preparation for my Ordination exams and found it (and the R.C. Sproul book below) very helpful.  Disseminates a lot of information in compact form.  I liked it.
Canon Revistited by Michael Kruger – a more recent, very popular book.  He has a way of explaining really complex things simply on his blog, and while I haven’t read this particular work, I would expect that same trend to continue here.
The Evidence for Jesus by R.T. France – a book I have not read, but saw the Stand to Reason blog reference it as a good source.  Also, it seems to deal with your principle question of, “Are there any other non-Biblical sources that help support the historical claims found in the Bible?”  May be worth checking out.
Jesus Outside the New Testament by Robert E. Van Voorst – another book I have not read, but saw the Stand to Reason blog reference it as a good source.  Also, it seems to deal with your principle question of, “Are there any other non-Biblical sources that help support the historical claims found in the Bible?”  May be worth checking out.

Sin Can’t Have a Green Card

ImageAs I’m working through the book of Romans with a group of great guys at Christ Church Santa Fe, I am struck by how often the questions of the role of sin in the Christian life come up.  This question makes sense and comes up in the book of Romans in chapter 6, but it’s at least in the background throughout the whole book.  We are utilizing a study guide put together by Tim Keller and Redeemer Church New York, and it is a great tool for our study, but still, this question lingers.

One way I have found helpful in answering this question is by using a “green card” analogy.  Here’s what I mean:

Because of your union with Christ, sin can’t have a green card in your life. It can’t claim citizenship (status), nor should it apply for permanent residence (progress).  In union with Christ, what is true of Him, is true (justification) and will be true (glorification) of you as well.