Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Were You There? by J.P. Kidd

Blood splashed on the floor
As the man who we call Lord
Bent down to pray
For His crucifying day.

He was then betrayed
By one who once obeyed
Then came the mobs angry roar
A noise to be abhorred.

It shook the disciples to their feet
Peter charged at a crowd that he couldn't beat
He sliced an ear and started a war
Which Jesus healed without leaving a scar.

Then Jesus went without a fight
A holy and crushing sight
He told Peter he would deny
Before the rooster crowed three times.

The disciples turned coat and fled
Leaving Jesus for dead
He was brought before the people
Given one chance to be free.

But because of His father's will
He was sent to be killed
They cracked and broke Him
Slicing and stabbing without compassion.

Then He carried
Up a gloomy hill
His cross of judgment
The price for sin sagging on His shoulder

Then the nails pounded in
His hand limp by His sides
They propped Him up
Next to two thieves, one which He would glorify.

After he was forsaken
By His Master from above
He gave up His spirit
And died on that tree.

Devastated and lonely
The disciples sat without hope
Until the third day came
And Jesus awoke.

Raised, He taught and loved them
Until He had to return
Leaving them with a gift
And a command to spread His word.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

GUILT, GRACE, AND EASTER

All sin comes with a price. And the price must be paid because God decreed that the "wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). This means that death is the final payment that every person must pay--there is no escape. Just as Tax Day (April 15) came again this year without fail, so too will Payment Day come for every person, for God says, "It is appointed for man to die once, and afterwards comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). We are all sinners, which means we are all guilty of crimes against our Creator, and death is His punishment.

One of the most frightening components about this predicament is that no one knows when he must pay the price. Death is that all-illusive reality that seems to come and go as it pleases. It hovers over our heads like a nagging bug just waiting to land on us. And no matter how hard we try to shoo it away, that nagging suspicion that it's still there remains. Guilt is relentless that way. Our consciences simply will not let us escape the feeling that we will soon have to pay for our sins. No one lives forever, right? We could wish that we were all innocent, and yet, the Scriptures, the history of man, and our alarming consciences conspire against such a naive notion. The fact of the matter is we all are guilty and judgment is coming. "Death is the end of every man, and the living should take it to heart," so warns King Solomon.

But Easter reminds us that the guilty are not hopeless. Mercifully, God has provided a way for guilty sinners to have their payment paid in full and escape death. This remarkable provision is called grace. It is the loving action of God expressed to undeserving sinners whereby He delivers them from the just penalty for their sins, namely death. The magnificent news of Easter is that, through Jesus Christ, God paid the price for everyone who would ever believe in Him by putting His own Son to death on the Cross. Sacred Scripture reads, "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust . . ." (1 Peter 3:18). God intervened in grace to help the helpless, free the imprisoned, and pardon the guilty. But the cost was great. It cost Jesus Christ His own life, for "by the grace of God Jesus tasted death for everyone" (Hebrews 2:9).

But that leaves an apparent dilemma--all men still die! So, what good did Jesus' death really do? Unspeakable good! Easter is the answer. The culmination of God's grace in action through Jesus Christ for us was demonstrated most powerfully in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus proved that His payment for our sins was accepted by God. Since He paid our debt in full, death has no more hold on Him, or on those who believe in Him. And that's why we celebrate Easter. That which once kept us in fear, namely death, no longer should be feared by the believer in Christ. The payment has been made. Grace has triumphed over guilt--"God raised Jesus up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power" (Acts 2:24). Therefore, now, death is for the believer in Jesus a passageway into the very presence of God. The resurrection of Jesus has made it so.

Easter is the celebration of Payment Day for the believer. Jesus Christ took away our guilt and paid our debt, and God's grace deserves all the glory. The ever-present foe of death has been beaten by the risen Christ. Let every believer rejoice this Easter and humbly say, "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting." Thanks be to God who has given us the victory in Christ Jesus risen from the dead.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Heart of Hospitality in the Dominican Republic

On my recent trip to the Dominican Republic I had a valuable lesson reinforced to my own heart, namely, that hospitality is a matter of the heart not a matter of the home. So often, this precious grace of Christian fellowship is neglected because many people don’t believe they have the right kind of home suitable to entertain others. Matters of adequate space, or appropriate furniture, or sufficient food have all been used as viable excuses not to open one’s home up to other Christians to the neglect of real relationship building and enriching fellowship. And it took a trip to a small barrio in the city of La Vega to remind me that none of those oft cited concerns have anything to do with genuine Christian hospitality.

I was blessed on several occasions to enter homes a quarter of the size of the average American home. In comparison of what we’re accustomed to here in the States, these tiny dwellings would be shunned by most as subpar at best. But because of the hearts of those who resided within, these homes were some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. No, I didn’t marvel at the finest of China, or at the elegance of furniture, but instead, I was overwhelmed with the warmth of Christlike generosity and humility of service. Wherever we went, these dear brothers and sisters greeted us with the genuineness of, “Mi Casa Es Su Casa” – and boy did they mean it.

You see, these Dominican believers weren’t worried about d├ęcor or shallow appearances; they were concerned with making us feel welcomed and loved. They opened their hearts to us, and that transformed their humble dwellings into palatial palaces. They reminded me that it doesn’t take much to make people feel special, but it does take sincerity of heart. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” I wonder if in fact, it was I who was in the company of angels. O’ how much of the true experience of the “love of the brethren” do we forfeit because we don’t understand that our homes are simply an extension and expression of our hearts. Or maybe, that’s actually the problem—our homes are closed because our hearts are closed.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jesus: The Agent of Change

As a Pastor there are many experiences that bring my heart great joy; God's gift of a baby to a young family; the look on the faces of a couple as I lead them in their marital vows; and the praise offered to God for His mercy in healing a sick congregat to name a few. Hardly does a week go by that I am not thanking God for these and other privileges in my work, but there is nothing more exciting than to witness the dramatic change in a person's life who has met the risen Christ. In a word, that experience is simply amazing. And as many times as I've witnessed it, I still marvel at how Christ changes lives.

Honestly, that should come as no surprise to me because Jesus Christ is the deliverer. He delivers people from all that stands against them--their sin, their guilt, the devil, demonic influence, and most importantly, the wrath of God. So there should be no surprise that when people have a saving encounter with Jesus Christ that they are dramatically changed.

This reality was freshly driven home to my own heart this Sunday as I preached on Mark 5:1-20, where Jesus delivers a man who is possessed by a "legion" of demons. The nameless man was in bondage to these demons and lived a isolated, defiled, and destructive life. He was helpless and hopeless; a state of utter desperation and despair. But then he met Jesus, and all that changed.

In verses 13-20 of this passage, Mark records one of the most dramatic changes in all the Bible, illustrating for us the delivering power of Christ and the resultant change that accompanies it. The demon possessed man encounters Christ and everything in his life changes:
  • His Character Changed --> Before Christ he was running around naked in the desecrated tombs and caverns among the stinch and filth of rotting dead bodies. His mind was tortured as he constantly gashed himself with rocks. But after he experienced the delivering power of Christ, he was found sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind (v. 15)
  • His Company Changed --> Before Christ he was isolated from humanity, held captive by the host of demons. But after Christ delivered him, he was begging Jesus "to be with Him"; a sure posture of discipleship (v.18)

  • His Conversation Changed --> Before Christ he was screaming and howling like a wild beast and speaking the vile words of evil spirits. But after he experienced the power of Jesus, he went about proclaiming the great things that the Lord had done for him (v.20)

Yea, no doubt about his change. And that's what thrills my soul to witness. No, I've never known anyone who has been delivered from demon possession, but God does give me the privilege and joy to know people who have been delivered from their sins by the power of Jesus Christ, and the change they experience is still amazing.



Monday, October 12, 2009

Global Missions & the Heart of God

This past Sunday I kicked-off our church's Missions Emphasis month with a message entitled, "Jesus, the Gospel, and Global Missions." My aim in the message was to point out from the Word the overwhelming truth that God's activity in the world is about calling out a redeemed people from all the Nations. My focus was to exposit & connect three primary passages to show God's people that the Story-line of the Bible is really God glorifying Himself through a redeemed people who see and savor Jesus Christ in and through the gospel.

The 3 texts I chose were Genesis 12:1-3, Matthew 28:18-20, and Revelation 5:9-10. Taking a bird's-eye view, these passages show three important elements of God's plan to be glorified through the Nations by Jesus Christ and the gospel:

God's Promise
In Genesis 12, we find God's sovereign covenant with Abram. Here, God intervenes in human history with the promise that "in you all the families of the earth will be blessed" (v.3). The astonishing point about this passage is that in one sentence, God reveals, in short-hand form, His plan for the world. Notice that "in you" is a reference to Christ (cf. Gal. 3:16), "shall be blessed" is a reference to the gospel (cf. Gal. 3:8), and "all the families of the earth" is an obvious reference to global missions. So it is clear that the subsequent unfolding of redemptive history as it relates to this Abrahamic Covenant is about Christ, the gospel, and global missions.

Our Performance
That led us to Matthew 28, where the risen Jesus commissions His disciples to carry out God's promise of Global Missions by going into all the world to make disciples of the Nations. Having accomplished redemption through His life and death on the Cross, Jesus has now received resurrected authority over every square inch of the universe, enabling Him as the King to send out His subjects to providentially perform God's plan to call a people unto Himself in connection with faith in Christ as preached through the gospel. What a privilege to be able to participate in the unfolding of God's plan for the world.

Heaven's Picture
And lest God's people become overwhelmed with the task of reaching the world for Christ's sake, we've been given the marvelous picture of the finished product in the book of Revelation chapter 5. Here is the great company of redeemed saints, which no man can number, taken from "every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (v. 9, cf. 7:9-10). The picture is clear. God's promise will be fulfilled. His people will perform the task. There will be a new humanity from every Nation that will worship God and Jesus Christ throughout eternity having believed the gospel and tasted of the goodness of the Lord.

And so, I challenged our congregation to wholeheartedly embrace what God is doing in this world. His heart is Global Missions, and as biblical Christians our hearts must beat with the same passion to reach the Nations with the saving gospel of the risen Christ so that God will be glorified forever. Every Christian, every local church, big or small, should be praying regularly, giving sacrificially, and planning strategically in order to maximize our joy in seeing the heart of God envelop the Nations through His Son Jesus Christ as freely offered in the gospel.

Friday, September 25, 2009

This is really Hard

Blogging is really hard. "So why do it?" you ask. Well, because it's hard. And because I will not be defeated. At any rate, I'm off to my books for some inspiration!!! I will return and attempt to actually post something worth reading.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day Sadness

Father’s Day is always a highlight for me. I am overwhelmed with the reality that God is so gracious as to allow me to shepherd the hearts of five precious souls. And to think that they actually enjoy being my kids is something that never ceases to amaze me. I am sure I’m not the only father that feels this way.

But as wonderful as my Father’s Day was on yesterday, it was sprinkled with a bit of sadness. Interestingly, the sadness snuck up on me as I was driving with my kids in route to pick up my father for an afternoon of pizza and bowling. The cause of my sadness was the visible silence that spoke so clearly of the state of fatherhood, particularly in the African-American community.

As I drove down Crenshaw Blvd. I became acutely aware of the absence of any corner vendors selling gifts for fathers. Why did that make me sad? Because just a month ago that same stretch of road was strewn with hundreds of vendors selling various gifts for Mother’s Day, and folks were crowded around them like bees on honey. But nothing for fathers! Absolutely nothing! Now, granted there are far more gifts that are appropriate for mothers; but no vendors at all? Not even someone selling ties, hats or socks. Surely some of us fathers like coffee mugs and T-shirts that say #1 Dad. But nothing! And that made me sad.

But it made me sad at a deeper level – a level that pains me to talk about. For what I saw, or did not see, was simply a metaphor in my mind for the horrid state of fatherhood in my community. It said to me that fathers don’t really matter. The absence of the vendors on the corner signified to me the absence of fathers in the home. To our own demise, we have learned how to live without fathers, which is not living at all. For God designed the home to have a head, and that head is the father (Eph. 6:4). But if the father is not there, with all do respect to God-fearing praying mothers, that family is headless. And headless things can’t survive for long, if at all.

So my Father’s Day was good, but it reminded me of the great need of the gospel of Jesus Christ for my community, particularly in the area of family life. For only Jesus Christ can “restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Mal. 3:6). I pray that if the Lord tarries and I live to see another Father’s Day that Crenshaw Blvd. will be filled with corner vendors selling their goods in recognition of the essential nature and role of fathers.