Pay Attention!

I have discovered something recently as I was with a brother going over sermon prep: the most powerful of messages come from the areas in which the Lord is deeply, or has deeply, ministered to us in the past. It is from the areas we are being stretched, broken, and grown in that we are able to speak with the most passion and humility. This glorifies God because His sanctifying work is being displayed and it is evidenced that His power is made perfect in our weakness. So, when contemplating the topic of a message, or direction to encourage the people you are leading, it is often that Jesus will use the very lessons He is teaching us to, therefore, share with the flock. It is under the direction of the Great Shepherd that pastors have the ability to lead the flock. Not in a cold, vague way where truth is being shotgunned at the congregation, but being fed lovingly and personally to nourish God’s people.

Be aware of God’s work in your heart, leader, for the Lord does not bring us through things unintentionally. Our God is purposeful in the trials He shapes us by so that we may be ministers of the same comfort we have been given and point from personal testimony of God’s faithfulness to His Word. Pay attention, dear brothers and sisters! God is teaching you right now. Sit up straight, tune in, and get ready to be used to touch hearts for the glory of God!

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New Year, New Blog!

Dear friend(s),

I want to inform you of a new blog I am helping start. A few friends and I have decided to write on popular topics that interest us greatly: theology, culture, philosophy, religion, and other miscellaneous issues. We hope to inspire greater passion for Jesus and stir up healthy, edifying discussion. The blog is called “Reformed Ragamuffins” and you can check it out at reformedragamuffins.wordpress.com. To clarify, most of us contributing to the blog would consider ourselves reformed, but we mostly enjoy the fun of alliteration. 🙂

May 2013 be a blessed year as we learn to put Jesus first and long to fall deeper in love with our King! I look to continue blogging, hopefully more often on this account, but I would greatly appreciate you checking out, supporting, and praying for Reformed Ragamuffins as we begin our journey of blogging together for the Kingdom. God bless you all!

In Christ,

Derek

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No Greater Joy

There’s no greater joy than the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we’d only understand the power of the cross is to restore our hearts to God’s original design of eternal pleasure––worshiping and living in perfect relationship with Him––we would eagerly seek to center our lives around it.

The glory of God is most clearly seen through the cross, in which death became a ploy that He turned on its head. As the enemy and his demons laughed in mockery, Jesus rose victoriously and proved He reigns over darkness. What a marvelous feat! The King of kings, who humbled Himself as a human, stepped into the broken world, facing the pain of rejection, leaving His throne to rescue the very people who treasonously rebelled against Him. What king do you know that would go to an extent to not only associate with the lowly, but to humble himself in order to bring them a better life? Jesus is the King and He is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, who indeed left the comfort of perfect unity with the Father and Holy Spirit to redeem the creation He so jealously loves. His power and authority not only triumphed over the enemy and death, but He absorbed the sin of the world and the just wrath of the Father in order to declare these broken vessels righteous.

Get this––the unmitigated wrath of God was wholly poured out on Jesus. A furious judgment so great that no man could ever escape or avoid. The Father, who in His holiness could not be in the presence of sin, had to turn His back on His beloved Son––such excruciating pain from separation that caused our Lord to cry out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). The Son was forsaken on the cross for the sake of our reconciliation to the Father; an agonizing judgment on our behalf we will never taste as redeemed sinners. In exhaustion, our crushed Savior whaled out three of the most beautiful words in all of the Bible––”it is finished” (cf. John 19:30). The work of redemption was accomplished once and for all. Jesus, in the matter of three days, ransomed the world from an eternity of just wrath, separation, and indebtedness through His death and resurrection.

What a furious love, that God Incarnate would embody the penalty we deserved in order to restore our hearts to the Father! We now belong to Love Himself. Every expression of love outside of Christ is but a cheap imitation, but a shadow of its truest form. He has poured out His love in our hearts through His Spirit, uniting us in the same union that exists within the Trinity––an unbreakable bond.

Our union with Christ is a great reason for rejoicing. Jesus came not to give us joy, but joy to the full. Friends, relish in the gospel, the incomparable story of our God’s glorious grace. Are you empty? Feast on the riches of His love and you will be filled. Are you dry? Come to Jesus thirsty and let your hearts drown in the unending, overflowing Well of marvelous joy.

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Send us, Lord!

“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’” (John 20:21 ESV)

Many are familiar with the Great Commission ushered by Jesus at the end of Matthew’s gospel account. We are to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. However, we often treat it frivolously, or misunderstand Jesus’ powerful command was different for us than the apostles. When Jesus was commissioning the disciples, He wasn’t just referring to the 11 Jewish fishermen that left everything to follow Him, our Lord was speaking to us as well––and with the same magnitude.

In order for us to understand how we are sent out into the world on mission, we must have an idea of how Jesus modeled being on mission while in the flesh. According to the gospel, Jesus came “not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28 ESV) by caring for the hungry, healing the sick, casting out demons, submitting to the will of the Father, and throughout the gospel, we see that Jesus relied upon the power of the Spirit to do ministry. Why?

Jesus set the example for future generations––those after the Pentecost––when He is at the right hand of the Father and the Holy Spirit is dwelling within every Christ follower, as to how we reach the lost and spread the good news of Christ into the world.

Unfortunately, what a vast majority of the church doesn’t realize is that we weren’t given the Holy Spirit to sit comfortably in “our seat” in church and go to small group once a week. God chooses to give us His Spirit to empower us on a death-defying, God-glorifying, self-denying mission to spread the gospel at all costs.

We should be so in awe of God’s great mercy and love showered out upon us on the cross that we, being ignited by the fire of the Spirit, should desire nothing else than to see the lost world reconciled to the Father. That was Jesus’ goal. Shouldn’t it be ours?

Living radical, missional lives for God’s glory is difficult, tiring, and requires daily surrender; but the steadfast love of our gracious Savior and the power of the Holy Spirit is far greater than the trials we will face. We are never at the short end of the stick, but rather we have everything we could ever long for inherited through Christ’s death and resurrection. Not even death can keep us from the all-sufficient love of God through Jesus (read Romans 8 until you’re blue in the face).

Jesus didn’t call us to lives on mission to burden us with an unrewarding task, but He’s inviting us to take part in the most exciting life.

The glory of God alone should incite a response to live missional lives. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged by the weight of the call. However, until we realize we are on mission not only for Jesus, but that we are in every literal sense on mission with Jesus, we regard living for the glory of His name as mundane rather than insane. Instead, our mindset should be as so: “It’s insane that God would call me to be a witness of His omnipotence and glory, while seeing the Kingdom expand firsthand!” The beauty is that our splendorous King calls everyone to witness and be witnesses of His glory through the gospel, not just the “super Christians.” We need to rethink what a missional lifestyle actually looks like.

Being on mission doesn’t mean leaving on a plane to go to Africa first thing tomorrow. Living the “sent life” means recognizing your mission field is all around you––your work places, your schools, even your own homes.

(That’s not to say that many won’t be called to go overseas. God will burden hearts for various nations, but it starts with being aware of the unreached where we are now.)

How do we start? Just as Jesus depended on communication with the Father, so should we. Prayer is our fuel and our most powerful weapon as followers of Jesus. It’s what equips us to combat the enemy in this battle for souls. 

We are obligated to press into the power of prayer daily, pleading for the lost to be found, the spiritually blind to see, and for the church to rise up to go to the ends of the earth!

Just as the Father sent the Son, Christ is sending us to be with Him on mission by the Spirit’s power. May the cry of our hearts be, “Send us, Lord!”

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The Gospel (and) Idolatry

I’ve noticed a trend of Gospel-centrality in the past year, and I’m sure it has gone on for a lot longer, but it is becoming increasingly prevalent within the young Christian community. Although an adherent of greater Gospel awareness, it still alarms me how nonchalantly and sometimes frivolously the importance and power of the finished work of Christ is discussed. After seeing this in my life, it made me wonder, “Could this potentially be a subsequent effect of rising Gospel wakefulness?” While multitudes are beginning to grasp the importance of the Gospel for the first time, the danger of the propagators making the redemption story more of a buzz word is rising as well.

The Paradox

I’ve noticed myself almost half-heartedly tacking on “Gospel” before a spiritual discipline to satisfy some legalistic craving within me. The irony is that the very cure to what I’m abusing is exactly what I need to be reminded of in that moment––the Gospel. God’s abundant grace through the Gospel says I’m free because Jesus took every sin I would ever commit in exchange for His clean, spotless record. The Gospel reminds me that even when I forget its infinite importance and unknowingly attempt to dilute it, I’m still blameless in the eyes of the Father because I don’t own my sin. I bear the righteousness of Jesus, which frees me from wallowing in guilt and allows me to walk in freedom to continue proclaiming the Gospel, even though I often fail. I stand on the victory of Christ that will forever be greater than the failures of my “Gospel idolatry.” When I am faithless in actually employing the Gospel to my life and extending it from a pure heart to others, thankfully God remains faithful to shower me in grace. There is hope to move forward in confidence, not because spreading the Gospel is about me, but because it’s all about Jesus. And when my worth is in Jesus and not in how great I am at remembering the Gospel, I drink from the well of His never-ending grace, refreshing my soul and my memory to dwell upon the perfect performance of Christ rather than myself.

“What if I don’t struggle with that specific idolatry?”

The solution to the daily battle against idolatry–of any kind–is indeed the Gospel. We must remind ourselves of the Gospel daily, not for the sake of sating every tingling Reformed bone in our bodies (such as in my case), but in order to effectively combat the ploys of the enemy. Every day must be treated as if we are waking up with spiritual amnesia. Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit would give us a truer understanding of our identity in Christ through the Gospel and open our eyes to a deeper love for Jesus. By God’s grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are equipped to successfully kill idolatry in our lives. I want us to remember the words of Peter in 1 Peter 2:24, which remind us of our focus as we learn to die to ourselves and live to God:

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 

Jesus took every ounce of our sin, every bit of our idolatry, every amount of failure and wiped it away. Our sin died with Christ upon the cross, and because of His resurrection, we are likewise made “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11b). This is the hope we have because of the Gospel; no idolatry or sin can change what was permanently declared upon the cross: we are free! Remember the Gospel. Remember the Gospel. Remember the Gospel (I can’t stress it enough).

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