Tag Archives: Christ

galatians 1.1-10

1 Paul, an apostle— not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father,who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—  not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

 
The greeting of Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia stands out.  Simply stated, that’s what it does.  
 
It is different.  
 
Of all his thirteen letters, Galatians is unique in that it lacks many traditional elements while it includes additional.  For example, in virtually ever Pauline epistle, there is the naming of Paul, a greeting, a naming of the recipients, and an immediate thanksgiving.  In Galatians, however, we find that Paul names himself and then adds a defense of his apostolic credentials.  Similarly, he extends his greeting with a theological confession and doxology (in v.3-5 he says more than “grace and peace”), even as he replaces the traditional thanksgiving with a shocking word of rebuke.  
 
Perhaps the uniqueness of the Galatians intro could lie in the fact that this was Paul’s first letter and he would develop his “traditional” form in time.  Maybe but doubtful.  More than likely,  the reason for the differentness of Galatians was the provenance of his writing.  Paul had something to share with an attitude of urgency – so his greeting launched with a personal defense, theological underpinning and tenor of astonishing rebuke (why not just skip the thanksgiving when you have something like that to say!)
 
What did Paul have to say?  What is his point in the first 10 verses?
 
What is his point? His point is that anything different than the gospel is not good news!  No, its more than that.  Anything even slightly different than the gospel (as defined in v.4-5 about what Christ gave up for us, not about what we give up for him)… it is no good news at all.  Paul is amped up from the beginning of this letter.  In this section he gets to the point.  He curses (calls anathema twice) anyone who has preached to the Galatians anything other than the gospel of Christ and his righteousness.  He declares that to distort the gospel or to turn to something beyond Christ is to desert God in full (v.6-8).  And all this he says immediately after a bizarre greeting in which he does not thank the Galatians for their faith, but mainly defines the gospel (v.3-5) and defends his authority (v.1-2).
 
There is no fear of man in Paul… only fear of the God of the gospel.  What he says must be said, regardless what his detractors may say of him… not that it matters – for if I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (v.10)
Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

still here

We are still here… no blogs of late.  My apologies.  Too many hours away from home as it is.

God is doing an amazing work in my heart, in the lives my children, in the eyes of my wife, and in the congregation that God has called us to serve.  Times they are a changing and they are a crazy.

Sunday we had more folks at WVPC than ever before, and we are praying for wisdom.  We are cramming people into a space that doesn’t fit us.  We are seeking wisdom on facility mayhem.  We are praying for small groups that are forming, for discipleship relationships that are beginning, for broken people who are hurting, and for both the comforting and exposing AFFECT of the saturating Word of God -in all whom we engage!  I am preaching through Colossians.   We are having membership classes.  We have transitioned into year numero two – budgeting, leadership training, etc.  We are out hosting community events.  I think the buzz is contageous.  Acts 2 tells us so!

O God have mercy.  We are in over our head.

As I told our congregation at our annual meeting on Sunday – I believe they are crazy for following a 31 year old.  Someone said: Jesus was only 33.  To which I replied: no one here actually knows how badly I need Jesus.

I do.  Jesus Christ, thank you for rescuing me from sin.  Covering me with righteousness.  Giving me your Word.  Implanting your Spirit.  Being my Wisdom from God that appears foolish to the world.  For letting me fail time and again so that I can meet my need for you face to face.  thought to thought. 

O God, draw people into your midst in all churches that declare your gospel for the glory of Christ.  Do it at West Valley.  Bring your kingdom to earth as it is in heaven – by your people declaring your Word and embodying your resurrection power in a spirit of humility and weakness.  The powerful work, then, is all yours for your namesake.  Amen.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Jesus my King

This morning – for multiple reasons – is quiet.  I am quiet. 

Anyway, I was going through the Children’s Catechism with Lina – and question 75 beautifully engaged my quiet consternation:

Q: Why do you need Jesus as your King?

A: Because I am weak and helpless.

There you have it.  I am often asked – or pressed – as to why I am content proposing that we be weak Christians.  Why not rather call people to be strong and righteous Christians?!  My answer is simple – I am calling us to be who we are.  Weak.  Helpless. In need of a King that will be our strength (because we are not); who will be our righteousness (because we are not). 

I need to meet my King in my unrighteous and helpless weakness all the time.  It seems so obvious and clear and almost easy when I am quiet…  Why am I not quieted all the time?  This is where I find gospel peace.  If Christ is truly King – then it is a hopeful quietness.  Thank you Jesus my King.

 

Tagged , , , ,

O you strong man… who me?

Recently I have been asked: How’s the book coming? 

Answer: I am on an unintentional indefinite hiatus. 

Life is more busy than I thought possible.  Churchplanting proposals are more complicated and real than I thought likely. (It was all supposed to be fun ministry-thinking-stuff, right?  Wrong.  There’s a little more to it than that.)  Cornerstone’s almost-live new website has been time consuming, though I have learned much.   I am reading more and more books that I might learn how to write just one.  Actually, the more I have read, the more I experience God’s reading to me about my heart even as he seems to be writing his new story on it.   Most importantly, I have been too busy learning about my weaknesses to write about them.  That is an understatement.

Most of you know that I am working on Why I don’t want to be a strong Christian: living the gospel in weakness.  Two months ago I gave the first 80 pages to some readers.  I haven’t written a word since. 

But I may pick it up again, and here’s why:  I was reading from the Book of Isaiah yesterday morning, ch. 22.   It is a ghastly chapter about God’s vindictive righteousness toward his own people… in the valley of vision (of all places).  In 22:17, he speaks of his people in the same way he has spoken about the nations from the first word of the book. 

A people of arrogance.  “Behold, the Lord will hurl you away violently, O you strong man.”

I wonder if the past 2 months have been for me the recognition that (though I claim to relate to God in my weakness, and though I constantly angle my gospel-preaching and teaching and counsel toward weakness) I, in reality, have been the condemnable strong man.   I have been the proverbial member of the people of God who finds arrogance in others… so I intentionally angle my ministry toward their latent weaknesses for the sake of gospel self-discovery.  But I failed to notice that I viewed myself as “too weak to be arrogant.”  I failed to realize that my transparent philosophy of ministry was about me the strong man helping others discover Christ in weakness.  No wonder I stopped writing.  No wonder my stomach has hurt due to stress (I have pretended I was strong enough to hold myself together, no matter what I said about weakness).

So yesterday the question was posed to me through Isaiah: 

Am I the strong man whom the Lord could hurl away (22:17) or am I the bruised reed who rests gently in Christ’s perfect grasp (42:2-3)? 

Obviously, I have been both.  I hate becoming weak and dependent (it requires addressing arrogance), but I like being here.  Yeah… that’s how I feel.  I don’t want to be a strong Christian.  I mean that today.

Tagged , , , , ,

resolving to rest and quit resolving

This new year, may our gospel-centered lives be evidenced by our RESTING in the finished work of Christ our Redeemer… which means recognizing our continual weakness and brokenness and need to be held by him who will not bruise even the weakest reed.  May THIS new year actually be about NEWNESS, as we seek to REST in our graciously given new-creation-identity, and not just RESOLVE to do more… to be stronger… to learn more… to be better. 

Yes, may we be vigorously attentive to our weaknesses and not our perceived and often deceived strengths, such that we might live more dependently (and very newly) on Christ.  

Make your resolutions if you must, but may the first resolution be to not resolve to find strength in anything other than the Strong One whom you and I can only see in his glorious fullness when we observe him through our weakness and need! 

May your new year be Christ-dependent and new and risky and secure as you resolve to REST on him alone and to quit resolving to be a better you (which subliminally often becomes resting in self-progress)!  Rather, resolve to rest on the perfect you through his righteousness and the gospel given to you last year, this year, and for eternity to come.

Grace.  Jim

Tagged , , , ,

Blue Like Jazz

I mean not to make this blog into “Book-Review Central”… I think the 3 books I have thrown at you recently are The Wounded Healer (Henri Nouwen), Metamorpha (Kyle Strobel), and The Bruised Reed (Puritan Richard Sibbes).  Well, surely some of you have read Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz – Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality.  I started it yesterday and am 140 pages into it after only two sittings. 

 Here’s the thing: Donald Miller is an amazing writer.  I appreciate his ability to enjoyably engage our post-modern very spiritual culture with the relevance of Christ.  Now, I’m not sure where Miller stands with regard to “postmodernizing the gospel” in our attempt to reach our postmodern culture… but he is refreshing, interesting, and intelligible nonetheless and, so far, I have only read his affirmation of the centrality and truth of Christ.  I am thankful for the words God has gifted him with.  Let me give you an example of his work and why it is effective for our postmodern culture (and why many of us should tap into his words for reference sake, at a bare minimum).

Rather than declaratively stating that the Bible teaches us that God has written a story about a King redeeming a people broken and in need (which it does tell us in epic fashion)… instead, Mr. Trendy Writer (which he doesn’t want to be called) uses the fourfold elements of story that are consistent throughout good literature (appreciated asthetically by our artsy culture): setting, conflict, climax and resolution.  What he says is that the reason why we naturally resonate with stories or movies – is because the best of them have a setting that is realistic, a conflict that is all-encompassing (subliminally reminds us of our lives), a climax where the conflict is addressed, and a resolution of some sort (even if not what we expect – most of us still assume life will resolve in some way).  Why does that fourfold ‘package’ continue to be defined as good literature (proven by books purchased and movies watched)?  Why do these elements make sense?

Miller says it is because they reflect the cosmic story where the setting is our struggle in this broken world, the conflict is realizing that the dark struggle is not just in the world but inside our very souls, the climax is when belief in salvation through Christ “happens to us” and the resolution is the kingdom transformation that will come presently and in the future.  In his own words:

There it was: setting, conflict, climax, and resolution.  As silly as it seemed, it met the requirements of the heart and it matched the facts of reality.  It felt more than true, it felt meaningful.  I was starting to believe that I was a character in the greater story, which is why the elements of story [all stories] made sense in the first place.  The magical proposition of the gospel, once free from the clasps of fairy tale, was very adult to me, very gritty like something from Hemingway or Steinbeck…  Christian spirituality was not a children’s story.  It wasn’t cute or neat.  It was mystical and odd and clean, and it was reaching into the dirty. 

Now, I am not in favor of a postmodern gospel, just as I could do without a modernist gospel.  The gospel is trans-cultural.  It transforms the postmodern spiritual individual into a socially active Kingdom-minded follower of Christ, even as it transforms the modern intellectual individual into a Truth-defending but gracious believer.  We don’t modernize or post-modernize the gospel (we don’t enculturate it), but we MUST take the gospel in an intelligible way to the culture we are in – be it postmodern or modern, be it rural or urban, be it homogonous or heterogonous (we DO trans-culturate it).

So far, Blue Like Jazz is like a window into such a philosophy of ministry.  Thank you Donald Miller.  After reading a book with absolutely NO Scripture quotes or references… I come away wanting to know the God of grace who has/can touch my world in Christ.  I come away repenting of my self-obsession.   And I come away excited about the relevant truth that is just that… TRUTH.

Tagged , , , , , , ,