Christ

THE SOCCER MIRACLE

soccer heart

by Debbie Huber

In 1983, in a small province in Algeria there were some tourists who were trying to set up their tents on a windy day. A group of Muslim locals watched as the wind blew over their tents so they offered their help. Expressing thanks to the locals the tourists asked if they would like to engage in a friendly soccer match. The locals were hesitant to play because their best player was very ill that day. The tourists, who were Christians, asked to see the sick young man so they could pray for him. This intrigued the Muslim locals as they did not know that God would be interested in a single individual.

Amazingly, the next morning the young man felt no signs of sickness and they played the game. This caused the Muslim locals to ask questions about this God who healed their friend. The visitors explained the gospel to the locals and then went on their way. Several of the men heard and believed in Christ that day. 

This one simple event, “the soccer miracle” changed Algeria and started a revival where many came to faith in Christ in that country. 

These tourists were not missionaries but men who loved God and sought to share the gospel with others. They were faithful with the opportunity God gave them and left not knowing how God would use their words and actions.

How are we using the seemingly small interactions in our day? Every interaction can be a gospel interaction.

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, – Philippians 1:27a

Do we show grace when someone is rude to us? Are we pursuing being a servant? Are your hearts filled with gratitude for what Christ has done for you that you seek to share Him with others? Are you asking God daily to keep you aware of gospel opportunities?

We will not often see the fruit of our faithfulness but God can and will use our gospel interactions for His glory. 

May our prayer be saturated with the joy of this verse:

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20

AMAZING LOVE, HOW CAN IT BE!

John 15:9 is one of my favorite be-amazed-passages-of-the-Bible

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

What a comparison! We are loved exactly as God the Father loves God the Son

How does the Father love the Son?

It is beyond our comprehension, but whatever it entails – only God is capable of it. This means we are loved constantly, inexhaustibly and beyond description.

If we are loved as the Father loves the Son, then it is impossible for us to be loved more

Why don’t we always feel this loved?

1.  We really don’t understand love all that well

We equate love with kindness which means we focus on how God is meeting our immediate comforts. God is concerned with more than just our present comforts; He is committed to working on our character and eternal good. 

If we equate love with kindness, we will doubt God’s love when life is hard. Don’t look for God to imitate our patterns of loving

2.  We tend to judge love by how we feel

We are not told pursue feeling loved.  That leads to craving emotional experiences instead of learning to trust God’s faithfulness.

We are commanded to believe God when He says that He loves us. God’s actions have proven the depth of His love for us

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” I John 3:1

 “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8 

 “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” I John 4:9 

3.  We need to separate God’s love for us from our unlovableness

If you think, ‘I can’t see why God would love me’, that’s good. Anyone who can see why God should love them – is deceived. God loves us out of his character, not because of ours

God loved YOU at your worst!

God loves YOU with His best!

Jesus tells us to “abide” in his love

To abide means to remain in a particular condition. Jesus is not saying it’s up to us to keep God’s love for us; he is urging us to keep living according to the reality of God’s love for us

 

FREE TO BE A SLAVE

A Slave-Pen at New Orleans Before the Auction

In reading “A Puritan Theology” by Joel Beeke, I came across this compelling story:

A wealthy Englishman went to California in the 1850s to enrich himself during the gold rush.  After much success, he left to go back to England.  He stopped at New Orleans on the way home, and, as all tourists did at that time, visited the infamous slave trading block. 

As he approached the place where people were sold for cash, he saw a beautiful, young, African woman standing on the block.  He overheard two men who were trying to outbid each other for the woman, talking about what they would do to her if they could buy her.  To their surprise, the Englishman joined in the bidding by offering twice the price.

The auctioneer was astonished. “No one has ever offered this much for a slave,” he said.

After purchasing her, the Englishman stepped forward to get her.  When he helped her down to his level, she spat I his face.  He wiped away the spit and led her to a building in another part of town.  There she watched uncomprehendingly as he filled out forms.  To her astonishment, he handed her some manumission papers and said, “There, now you are a free woman.”  She spat in his face again.

“Don’t you understand?” he asked, as he wiped her spit away again.  “You are free!  You are free!” 

She stared at him in disbelief a long while.  Then she fell at his feet and wept – and wept some more.  Finally, she looked up and asked, “Sir, is it really true that you paid more than anyone has ever paid to purchase me as a slave, only to set me free?”

“Yes,” he said, calmly.

She wept some more.  Finally, she spoke: “Sir, I have only one request.  Can I be your slave forever?”

This encounter is meant to illustrate what Christ has done for us, and –don’t miss it– what our response should be to his generous grace!

Christian, you know your own story of unexpected liberation from slavery and condemnation. Are you as willing to make yourself a slave of Christ?

There are believers who occasionally say they are thankful, and there are believers who daily demonstrate they are thankful. Which best defines you?

GETTING THE JOB DONE

Jason is an 8-year-old boy coming home sweaty and filthy after a day playing outside. His mom asks him to clean up for dinner.

Jason obediently goes to the sink to wash up in order to be presentable for the dinner table. His mom calls from the kitchen, “Jason, are you cleaning up?” To which he cheerfully answers “Yeah”, and proceeds to take his seat at the table confident that he has fulfilled what his mother asked.

But what do you think are the odds that Jason arrived at the table truly clean?

It’s not that Jason was trying to be disobedient. In his 8-year-old perspective he had done a fine enough job. But his idea of clean is different than his mom’s, and his attention to detail is incomplete.

When it comes to cleansing ourselves from sin, we are like Jason and every other 8-year-old boy!

We ignore parts, miss parts, and then scrub some spots sore, but in the end we are still grungy.

How wonderful that God has stepped in to take over the job of making us clean! He carefully cleanses our soul with a thoroughness that leaves us eternally spotless!

 “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18)

God knows we are incapable of making ourselves clean to his standards, so he sent his Son to step into our place to take the punishment our sin deserves and at the same time wash us of the filth that had stubbornly clung to us.

If you are trying to make yourself presentable to God, it is not only an impossible task, it is also a task already accomplished by Christ when we repent and submit our lives to him.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)

As Christians, it’s essential that we keep ourselves from any sin that pursues us; and that we quickly brush off every sin that splatters us. But take joy in the wondrous reality that Christ has made our soul clean and that is how our God sees us.

If we only look at the job we do in cleansing ourselves, discouragement will quickly overshadow our hearts.

Instead keep your eyes on the job that Christ has done to cleanse you. And in faith rejoice, for the day is coming when we will sit at our Heavenly Father’s banquet table flawlessly, spotlessly, and forever clean!

 

KNOWING CHRIST

knowing-christ

This month I am strongly

vigorously

heartily

robustly

stoutly

decidedly

and joyfully recommending the book “Knowing Christ” by Mark Jones.

I first heard about the book through watching a conversation between the author and J.I. Packer on the importance of this book and its topic.

After that I saw many recommendations of “Knowing Christ” by highly respected church leaders. It became a ‘must read’ for me.

After reading the first chapter, I bought more copies to give away.

I like that Mark Jones combines challenging depth with approachable clarity. Mark wants to honor Christ by having the reader think more deeply about Christ.

However, the book does not overwhelm the reader. The 27 chapters are short (under 10 pages), so the book can be read as a daily devotional. In fact, I recommend that you not read more than one chapter at a time. These are rich truths that deserve careful attention.

No subject will reward us more richly than to learn more about Christ. The Apostle Paul has this to say about Christ in Colossians 1:15-19

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell

Every one of us has the need to love and honor Jesus more. A necessary part of doing so, is to know more about him.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 5.02.16

“Contentment is in Christ”

 

Philippians 4:10-13

Although grateful for financial support from the Philippian Church, Paul wants them to know he remains content regardless of help sent to him

 

1.  Paul is not bringing up a new subject as much as a new application

Throughout this letter Paul has exalted the surpassing value of life in Christ (1:21, 2:3, 2:14, 2:17, 3:8, 4:2, 4:4-6)

The common principle in these passages is that what we have in Christ is always a greater reality than our circumstances and struggles

2.  Paul applies our having Christ to our having contentment

Paul seems to be saying he didn’t need their financial help (v11a).

He does not mean he didn’t have good use for it

He wants to share a profound truth – that he is content regardless of need

We may have shortages in the things we would like and can use, but our soul should be filled to satisfaction by Jesus

Paul says this satisfaction can sustain us in “any and every circumstance” (v12)

Being content while still having legitimate needs doesn’t mean we are indifferent or unaffected

It means what we have in Christ is always of far greater value

To say it another way Christ and his gospel are always enough

Paul indicates contentment even applies when we have plenty.

Why does he need to say that?

Prosperity is a dangerous condition, because it easily becomes addictive

It breeds entitlement (I should have this) and discontent (I want something better)

Contentment in plenty means we are thankful, satisfied and recognize God’s right to what we have

3.  Contentment this pervasive, needs to be learned (vs 11-12)

How do we learn contentment in “any and every circumstance”?

Paul knows how to be content from what he knows about Christ!

Throughout this letter Christ is the reason for Paul’s perspectives (1:6, 2:10, 3:10, 3:12, 3:14, 3:20-21, 4:5-6)

These passages magnify: Who Christ is . . What he has done . . What he is doing . . What he has waiting for us

All this can be summed up by 3:8

“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”

4.  Let’s dig into “contentment in Christ” more deeply

Christ saves us to make us complete so we can spend eternity with him

            We will become like Jesus in his perfect humanity (1 John 3:2)

            And even now, we are gradually being transformed to be more like him (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Both passages describe seeing Christ as part of this process

This is not simply physical sight, it is a work of the Holy Spirit who enables our heart to see Christ

The more clearly our heart sees Christ “as he is”, the more like him we become  

This ‘seeing’ will not be perfect until we shed our sinful nature, then when our heart fully sees him, everything in us will want to be like him

Do you want to be content (satisfied) in Christ?

Then look at Christ more!

Read his word, talk to him, talk with others about him, praise him, and meditate on him

5.  We can do this through Christ! (v13)

We can “do all things” that he asks of us

This is not a blank check for us to use how we want

“This and every declaration in the Bible can only be understood by making them God-centered. Meaning all things are meant to serve him” (Matt Chandler)

 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” is God’s commitment to fully enable us to live for him – including our being content!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 12.21.15

The Depth of the Christmas Story

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14)

 

This is a Theological Version of the Christmas Story

In vs 1-5 we are introduced to someone call “the Word”

He is creator of everything and he is God

The one God is a Triune being: he has eternally existed in three equal persons

In v 14 it becomes obvious, this person is God the Son, Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity

Why is Christ called the Word?

In Genesis 1, each step of creation came into existence by God’s spoken word

In the Old Testament, when God communicated or interacted with his people we are often told “the word of Lord came”

In John 1, Christ being the Word means he is God’s self-disclosure; Jesus is God’s clearest expression of himself

The Christmas Story is God displaying himself with a clarity never seen before

Now God comes to dwell in the world he created

If Jesus had been merely God in a visible form that would still have been wondrous

But the fact that the Word became part of humanity, this is more than we can take in

We rejected God’s rule: the Bible says we “suppressed the truth” . .  “we are dead in sin” . . our “hearts were darkened”

The Word became human, so he could take humanity’s place on the cross

The Christmas Story is God entering humanity to save us!

 

John Goes On To Say “We Have Seen His Glory”

We are not capable of seeing the full glory of God (Exodus 33:18-20)

God will always be transcendent; he can never be less glorious

Yet, to his people, God’s glory is also experienced and transforming

Christ is a fuller disclosure of God; he is all that God is (Hebrews 1:3)

Christ reveals a muted glory

This is what Philippians 2 means when it describes Jesus as God who “emptied” himself

And yet, there is still much of God’s glory that we see in Jesus

(1)  We see glory in his Authority and power over nature

One who came to save us, truly is King of kings

(2)  We see glory in his healing Miracles

These are a foretaste of the wholeness we will all experience in his kingdom

(3)  We see glory in his Character

Jesus demonstrated love, patience, care and humility in their fullest form

Jesus never sinned and shows us total ‘Great Commandment Living’

(4)  We see glory in the Cross

God in flesh became sin, so we might become the righteousness of God

(5)  We see glory in his Resurrection

Jesus shattered death’s chains, he is now the ‘the firstfruits’ of our resurrection (1 Corinthians 1)

The Christmas Story is God has brought his glory into humanity

 

The Glory of Christ Is Full of Grace and Truth

Jesus glory is “full” of truth

Everything Jesus did was led by a perfect expression of truth

His life is the perfect example of behavior, priorities and focus

Jesus’ life and teaching is a treasury of truthfulness

To live by Jesus’ words is to feast on God’s goodness

It is impossible to go wrong or to lose, when we live by the Word

Jesus glory is “full” of grace

Christ’s labor and love for us doesn’t just have grace, it is full of grace

Ephesians 1:7-8 describes it this way, we are saved “according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us”

The Christmas Story is full of unsinkable hope

The entirety of our salvation and hope rests on what Christ does, not on what we do

And we remain in this hope through Grace

 

We Have Received From This Glory 

from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace v16

The Word became flesh, so we can have God’s absolute best for us

Jesus came so we can be like him forever (1 John 3:2)

Jesus came so we can be with him forever (John 17:24)

This fullness of grace never stops flowing

v16 describes it as “grace upon grace”

The grace of Christ is ever flowing so we are ever filled

The Christmas Story does require something from us: all that we are!

And there is nothing unreasonable about it

CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS WITH ETERNITY IN MIND

 

by Debbie Huber

You shall teach (the Scriptures) to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise (Deuteronomy 11:19).

Recently I asked my daughter, Elyse, what is the most memorable part of Christmas for her. She responded that it is the traditions that are the most memorable and meaningful. From decorating the tree together, the visits with family and friends, the Christmas Eve service at church, to the family reading of the Biblical account of Christmas on Christmas morning, the traditions stand out more than the presents.

In her book, “Treasuring God in our Traditions”, Noel Piper emphasizes that our traditions should reflect our hearts’ delight in God. These traditions don’t just happen; they happen because we live our lives everyday dependent on God and His Word. And then we plan to include our children in this lifestyle of dependency on God.

When we read and meditate on the Nativity, we cannot help but to be overcome with joy knowing that God Himself chose to be born as one of us…To live as one of us, yet without sin…and to die in our place for our sins. As this Gospel impacts us it overflows into the big and small moments of our lives.

There are many and varied traditions for our families at Christmas time. Some are more meaningful to us, drawing us to contemplate Jesus’ incarnation. Sometimes we have certain traditions because we have always done them that way or because everyone else seems to be doing it.

But in all of our traditions, do we reflect a gratitude to God for His amazing gift of His Son to us at Christmas? That because of Christ’s incarnation we have more than the fun of the moment, we have an incomparable hope! Jesus has rescued us from the punishment we deserve for our sins.

Do we delight in this, enthusiastically demonstrating it as we sit with our family in our houses, when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up? This is teaching God’s word to our families through the impact that His word has on our lives. And this is what our children will remember about Christmas.

Noel Piper says it so well: “How will our home look if our celebration is a picture of anticipation and waiting for God’s plan to be completed, a picture of our joy, in the salvation he has begun for us? What visible things will fill our house as we celebrate what God has done through Jesus?”

 

ENOUGH?

Resource-Graphic_Never-Enough

 

Why does a man with a beautiful wife, pursue other women?

Why does the person with 2 billion dollars, want 3 billion?

Why does a king who rules over a vast empire still desire more land?

Why does a coach or athlete never have enough championships?

Why do the wealthy who live in beautiful mansions need still more homes in new places?

Why does the woman with closets stuffed with more fashion than she could ever wear, keep shopping for more?

Why does the celebrity who receives praise, awards and adulation, never get enough of it?

Why are we never fully satisfied?

Imagine an eternity filled with beauty, endless joys and wonderful experiences. Further imagine that this eternity had no pain, no worries, no troubles, no enemies and no sorrows. We would still end up dissatisfied and unhappy – if there was no Christ.

For we have been created by him, to know him and dwell in communion with him. We can only find true, full and lasting contentment when we are with Christ.

Hell, among other sorrows, will contain the endless gnawing pain of never being satisfied.

And so Heaven itself would become an eternal burden of emptiness without Christ being the center of it. All its glories would eventually become jaded and wearisome

The joy and glory of the Heavenly realm is the presence of Christ with us.

The presence we have now

The relationship we can grow in now

The Christ who loves us now

The Christ we can rest in now

If heaven would be empty without our Jesus, how absurd, foolish and wasteful it is to ignore him as we walk through this bruising world.

 

JOHNNY’S BLOOD

I was recently reminded of the story in this article I posted a few years ago. It is well worth reading again

We owe Christ everything! 

Yet we can still be casual toward about our possession of the gospel, just as we can be negligent in how we serve the One who gave so much for us.

Philip Ryken’s shared this story which he had read elsewhere. It speaks to having a willingness to give our life fully to Christ.

A boy had a sister who was suffering from the same disease that the he had survived two years earlier. The doctor explained that she needed a blood transfusion from someone else who had conquered the same disease. Her brother was the ideal donor.

“Would you give your blood to your sister?” the doctor asked. Johnny hesitated at first, but with his lower lip trembling he finally said, “Sure, for my sister.”

Soon the children were wheeled into the hospital room. Neither one of them spoke, but when their eyes met, Johnny grinned. His smile faded as the nurse inserted the needle into his arm and he watched the blood flow through the tube. After several minutes, Johnny’s shaky voice finally broke the silence. “Doctor,” he said, “when do I die?”

Only then did the doctor realize why Johnny had hesitated and why his lip had trembled when he agreed to donate his blood: he thought the doctor was asking for all of it! Yet out of love for his sister, he was willing to give it.

Christ not only poured out his blood for us, our guilt and the Father’s wrath was poured out on him! All this He did for those who had pushed Him aside to serve themselves.

The Apostle Paul understood what it meant to live in response to what Christ had done for him. In 2 Timothy 4:6 he writes,

“I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come”.

At first thought the idea of “pouring out our life” seems drastic. But what else are we doing with our life? Every day another 24 hours of our existence is being poured out for something – what a wonderful thing, if the that ‘something’ is the kingdom of Christ

How well do we appreciate the sacrifice Christ poured out for us? And what sacrifice are we willing to make for Him?