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Life, hopefully to the full.

An insight to my mind

I feel that I only post up old hymns these days, but I feel that isn’t a bad thing when the words are so good. I hope that you find this as encouraging as I have the last week.

Above the voices of the world around me,
my hopes and dreams, my cares and loves and fears,
the long-awaited call of Christ has found me,
the voice of Jesus echoes in my ears:
`I gave my life to break the cords that bind you,
I rose from death to set your spirit free;
turn from your sins and put the past behind you,
take up your cross and come and follow me.’

What can I offer him who calls me to him?
Only the wastes of sin and self and shame;
a mind confused, a heart that never knew him,
a tongue unskilled at naming Jesus’ Name.
Yet at your call, and hungry for your blessing,
drawn by that cross which moves a heart of stone,
now Lord I come, my tale of sin confessing,
and in repentance turn to you alone.

Lord, I believe; help now my unbelieving;
I come in faith because your promise stands.
Your word of pardon and of peace receiving,
all that I am I place within your hands.
Let me become what you shall choose to make me,
freed from the guilt and burden of my sins.
Jesus is mine, who never shall forsake me,
and in his love my new-born life begins.

We sang this hymn the other day at the Tron, and I just felt that I needed to take note of it and think about it some more. I just love the second verse and how it contrasts Jesus’ heart being broken on the cross, as He bears our sin and shame and is separated from the Father, with the truth that this brings healing to our undeserving, rebellious hearts. I have had one of those weeks when I have just been struck by how outrageous grace truly is. So often we take it for granted, but God has gone to immeasurable lengths to redeem us. The God who breathed out the stars and flung the planets into motion who is sovereign over all things actually came to this earth and died on a cross. That is mind-blowing!

I hope this hymn blesses you as much as it has blessed me, enjoy:

I cannot tell why He, whom angels worship,
Should set His love upon the sons of men,
Or why, as Shepherd, He should seek the wand’rers,
To bring them back, they know not how or when.
But this I know, that He was born of Mary,
When Bethl’hem’s manger was His only home,
And that He lived at Nazareth and labored,
And so the Savior, Savior of the world, is come.

I cannot tell how silently He suffered,
As with His peace He graced this place of tears,
Or how His heart upon the Cross was broken,
The crown of pain to three and thirty years.
But this I know, He heals the broken-hearted,
And stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear,
And lifts the burden from the heavy laden,
For yet the Savior, Savior of the world, is here.

I cannot tell how He will win the nations,
How He will claim His earthly heritage,
How satisfy the needs and aspirations
Of east and west, of sinner and of sage.
But this I know, all flesh shall see His glory,
And He shall reap the harvest He has sown,
And some glad day His sun shall shine in splendor
When He the Savior, Savior of the world, is known.

I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,
When, at His bidding, every storm is stilled,
Or who can say how great the jubilation
When all the hearts of men with love are filled.
But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture,
And myriad, myriad human voices sing,
And earth to heaven, and heaven to earth, will answer:
At last the Savior, Savior of the world, is King.

I just came across this tonight and thought that it was brilliant. It really highlighted to me how often my intentions are corrupt and aimed at bringing myself glory rather than God. I hope it impacts you as much as it did me. It is written by a guy called Matt Chandler who is an absolute legend who has his heart set on bringing God glory:

I spend a good portion of my week in dialogue with pastors. They are from different denominations and tend to be different ages (although most of them are young). The conversations range from theology to philosophy, church growth to how to lead a staff. I enjoy them. I love robust discussion over things that matter. I like it when the unanswerable questions are asked and wrestled over; it somehow feeds my soul.

Lately though I have been somewhat disturbed by something I am hearing or maybe sensing in the questions and directions of the conversations in which I find myself. When I exited itinerant ministry to become a pastor, I left crowds that were in the thousands and finances that more than provided for my family to go to a small (160 people) church that cut my annual salary in half.

There wasn’t one person who thought that taking the position at The Village was a “smart” move. In fact, several actually sat me down and told me they thought I was being disobedient and a bad steward of the gifts that God had imparted to me. The truth is I didn’t become the pastor of a church in the suburbs of Dallas because I had a grand vision for growing a dynamic, life-transforming, church-planting, Gospel-preaching, God-centered church. I took the position because after a great deal of conversations, prayers and fasting, my wife and I felt it was the direction God, through the Holy Spirit, was leading us.

I came to The Village because I thought that by doing so I would get to see more of Him, experience more of Him, sense more of Him, see more of me die, more of my flesh perish, the old man in me lose more power…He is the great end that I am after. He is why. In 1 Timothy 4:10 Paul writes “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.“ I love that verse. We toil, yes. We strive, yes, but where is our hope? What, or rather, who is the goal? I love preaching the Gospel and I love planting churches but I do those things because in them there is this unbearable weight of His presence. This crushing majesty that makes me want to cry, sing and scream all at the same time.

The thing that disturbs me lately is that it seems that the goal is something else all together. The goal is growing our churches to a certain size or our platforms (pulpits, blogs, books) to a certain fame. How hollow is that? And, how dangerous? Just because men love Jesus and follow Him doesn’t mean that they get to grow or reach a certain level of “success” (I use that word loosely).

Here are a few men who loved our great God and King and were obedient beyond the norm:

  • Moses spends his whole life with grumbling, whiners and dies without getting to walk into the promise land.
  • Samson suicide bombs the Philistines and when the dust settles he is dead and the Philistines still rule over Israel.
  • David’s son rapes his sister and leads a rebellion against David, dethroning him for a season.
  • Jeremiah ends up in exile with the rest of the country after repeatedly getting beaten for preaching what God commanded him to preach.
  • John the Baptist is beheaded by a pervert who gives his head to a 15-year-old stripper.
  • Peter is killed, reportedly crucified upside down.
  • Paul is killed in Rome but only after he spends his life (with thorn intact) being beaten, rejected, lost at sea, and consistently dealing with people coming in behind him and destroying what he built.

If your hope is set on anything other than Him, how do you survive when it goes bad? How do you remain passionate and vibrant when no one comes or the baptismal waters are still for long stretches? How do you maintain doctrinal integrity or teach hard things if He isn’t the treasure? How do you worship when your wife gets sick or your son goes for a ride in an ambulance? If He is the goal, the treasure, the pursuit, then those things are fuel that presses you into His goodness and grace all that much more. I am not saying they are pleasant or enjoyable but only that if He is your goal you will find your faith sustained. May God bless you and keep you. May you see that He is the treasure, He is the pursuit, He is the goal…and may you press on toward the goal for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Sovereign grace o’er sin abounding!
Ransomed souls, the tidings swell;
’Tis a deep that knows no sounding;
Who its breadth or length can tell?
On its glories,
Let my soul for ever dwell.

What from Christ that soul can sever,
Bound by everlasting bands?
Once in Him, in Him for ever;
Thus the eternal covenant stands.
None shall take Thee
From the Strength of Israel’s hands.

Heirs of God, joint-heirs with Jesus,
Long ere time its race begun;
To His name eternal praises;
O what wonders love has done!
One with Jesus,
By eternal union one.

On such love, my soul, still ponder,
Love so great, so rich, so free;
Say, while lost in holy wonder,
Why, O Lord, such love to me?
Hallelujah!
Grace shall reign

Someone really needs to write a contemporary version of this song because the words are just incredible. I absolutely love the second verse and thought that I should share this little gem.

You children of God,
by faith in His Son
Redeemed by His blood,
and with Him made one
This union with wonder
and rapture be seen
Which nothing shall sunder,
without or within

This pardon, this peace
which none can destroy
This treasure of grace
and heavenly joy
The worthless may crave it,
it always comes free
The vilest may have it,
it was given to me

Chorus: Free grace has paid for all my sin
Free grace, though it cost so much to Him
Free grace has freed even my will
Free grace to the end sustains me still

It’s not for good deeds,
good tempers nor frames
From grace it proceeds,
and all is the Lamb’s
No goodness, no fitness
expects He from us
This I can well witness,
for none could be worse

Bridge: Sick sinner, expect no
balm but Christ’s blood
Your own works reject,
the bad and the good
None ever regret it that on Him rely
Though guilty as Saul or Jonah or I

I have been reading a book for a while called ‘Ordinary Hero” by Tim Chester and it has a brilliant chapter in it that really challenged my views on what the resurrection means for us.

When Jesus rose from the dead a new age opened up, running alongside the old age. Christ died on the cross atoning for sin and when he rose from death to life he showed his victory over sin and death. Before this, sin and Satan had rule, but Jesus claims victory on the cross, crushing the serpent’s head and demonstrates this victory by rising from the dead.

So why if Christ has conquered sin and death do we see it still causing so much destruction in the world? I think the answer is that the new age of life, freedom and joy has come but is hidden, it comes in two stages. The first stage came when Christ rose from the dead, and the second will come when Christ comes back and brings in the new creation fully. However, when Christ comes back he will bring judgment with him on all sin which causes a problem for us. But by bringing in his hidden kingdom now, he allows us to repent and become part of his kingdom and are spared from His wrath. We can enjoy some of the fullness of the new age but not all of it because the old age is still running strong in this world. We have a foretaste of what is to come, we are the first fruits after all, but do not have it in its fullness.

I guess that is the base for what I want to talk about, but I have the feeling that I haven’t explained myself very well. I want to challenge thoughts on why we have been given power through Jesus’ resurrection. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to dwell within all believers who confess Jesus as Lord, and thus, we have part of the Trinity living within us. So we have the same power within us as that which rose Christ from the dead, woah!

But what does this mean we can expect to do through the power of the Spirit. I read a quote from Joel Olsteen saying that we can have full victory in our life. We may be healthy but struggle financially, but God doesn’t want that, and he wants to do something about it (paraphrased). Well, I don’t completely agree, although I do agree that God does care and wants those circumstances to change.

I think it is good to point out that I do think that God heals people and intervenes for His glory, and as members of this new kingdom the church can expect to see people healed. However, I don’t think this is the main reason we have been given power. I think that we are empowered to be weak.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” Philippians 3:10

Paul wants to know the power of Chirst’s resurrection not so that he can be rich or healthy, but because he wants to share in Christs suffering. Jesus was in very nature God, but did not consider it something to be grasped so humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on the cross.

I think so often in the church today we want resurrection power but with out the cross first. The bible is full of verses speaking of suffering before glory, it is the pattern throughout. There will be glory to come, but for now, I am more convinced that we are empowered to be weak in the eyes of the world. We are to self-abase, to be the servants of all and to endure and persevere in hope of Christ’s second coming.

There is a cool story about a woman who lost everything, she became really ill in her late teens, her fiance died the day before their wedding, and she lives in agonizing pain to the point where she can’t sleep most nights. However, she spends all the time that she would be awake restless at night sending messages to missionaries over the world encouraging them to persevere and continue their work for Christ.

Does God enjoy seeing her in pain? No. Does he want to see her healed? Yes. But what brings him the most glory? I would like to say that it is seeing her, despite her awful circumstances, relying on his strength to persevere, to carry on doing what she can for His Kingdom. And after all, He will heal her, there will be a day when there is no more pain, sickness or death.

These are just some thoughts, and I am open for people to say that I am wrong, because the likelihood is that I have said something that I haven’t intended or may have completely overlooked something.

As rainy morning wore into afternoon and the fighting bogged down, the marines continued to take casualties. Often it was the corpsmen themselves who dies as they tried to preserve life. William Hoopes of Chattanooga was crouching beside a medic names Kelly, who put his head above a protective ridge and placed binoculars to his eyes – just for an instant – to spot a sniper who was peppering his area. In that instant the sniper shot him through the Adam’s apple. Hoopes, a pharmacist’s mate himself, struggled frantically to save his friend. “I took my forceps and reached into his neck to grasp the artery to pinch it off,” Hoopes recalled. “His blood was spurting. He had no speech but his eyes were on me. He knew I was trying to save his life. I tried everything in the world. I couldn’t do it. I tried. The blood was so slippery. I couldn’t get the artery. I was trying so hard. And all the while he just looked at me. He looked directly into my face. The last thing he did as the blood spurts became less and less was to pat me on the arm as if to say, “That’s all right.” Then he died.

My heart cries out when I read this, I want to be like Hoopes. I want to be able to say that I tried my best to save the perishing. I want to say with all honesty, “I tried so hard.”

I am in exactly the same position as Hoopes, with friends and family, even complete strangers who I walk past in the street each day. But can I honestly say that I have tried everything? I want people to have every opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel, I want to plead with them. I want to cry over them and beg for them to turn and repent.  But instead of delving into their wounds, trying to stop the fatal bleeding, I am trying to make their dying breaths more comfortable.

Why is it that my actions do not reflect my heart?

God… break me… take everything that I value over you away. I don’t desire popularity, acclaim or comfort. I desire you. I want to please you, to follow in your footsteps, those footsteps that follow the calvary road, bearing a cross.