The Plan

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

The verses following the declaration of new creation in 2 Corinthians 5:17 are full of the word “reconciliation”: us being reconciled to God and being given the ministry of reconciliation, God reconciling the world to himself and entrusting us with the message of reconciliation. Then comes this breathtaking sentence;

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.

And, as you’re reading it, you’ve barely digested that before you see this:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

It’s good to revisit God’s plan now and then. At first blush, it sounds a bit crazy. He desires to reconcile the world to himself, and to do that, he plans on using ambassadors to deliver his message of reconciliation. Based on the counsel of his own wisdom, with the goal of furthering his own glory, he decides to choose the most incompetent souls he can find to become his ambassadors, and, to make it even more astounding, he selects these souls from among his bitter enemies.

At the risk of sounding irreverent, this quote from Garth Algar comes to mind:

“First I’ll access the secret military spy satelite that is in geosynchronous orbit over the midwest. Then I’ll ID the limo by the vanity plate ‘MR. BIGGG’ and get his approximate position. Then I’ll reposition the transmission dish on the remote truck to 17.32 degrees east, hit WESTAR 4 over the Atlantic, bounce the signal back into the aerosphere up to COMSAT 6, beam it back to SATCOM 2 transmitter number 137 and down on the dish on the back of Mr. Big’s limo… It’s almost too easy.”

But he’s the Lord, and his ways are so much higher above my ways. His plan is working, and it is increasing his glory, and he has taken from among his enemies incompetent, misfit souls and has turned us into ambassadors. And, of course, it wasn’t easy. It took the blood of God’s beloved Son. But God believed it to be worth it!

The Plan. It’s not always pretty, but the end result will be beautiful.

As a corollary to all this, many of us need correction in our thinking. We think salvation is all about us. It’s not. Salvation is all about him reconciling, not just us, but the world to himself. Whether we like it or not – and hopefully we can see what a great honor this is! – we are ambassadors.

It is unfair for us to expect those who are not in Christ to live as if they were a new creation. However, it is not unfair to expect a changed life from people who say they are Christians! “I know no language, I believe there is none, that can express a greater or more thorough and more radical renewal, than that which is expressed in the term, ‘a new creature.’” (Spurgeon)

David Guzik, commenting on 2 Corinthians 5:17

Encouragement by text

Texted to me by an angel today. I needed it.

My Help Comes from the Lord
A Song of Ascents.

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121

More miscellany

The college and young singles home group last night was great – a whole lot of them came over (I think we had around 16 to 20 or thereabouts). I love those people! They were talkative, open, we ate, sang, studied, discussed, prayed and played games together. It was a good start.

Jill and I were talking last night, and I remarked that we’ll have ups and downs in this thing. Last night was an up, but my goal is to be flexible and persevere through the downs.

I spent the last few hours dragging seventeen years of stuff out of our attic. The garage now looks like a landfill, but the attic is completely cleaned out. Now to start rebuilding . . . the great Garage Renovation of 2010 is in progress. Slow progress, albeit.

No soccer this weekend. Which is a good thing.

I’m almost done with Bloo version 1.32. Will be deploying the 1.31 test version very soon (maybe today). In 2010, I’ll be doing a lot more (and more frequent) Bloo releases. This first one is more or less a maintenance release, with a few goodies thrown in. More later.

Soon will get my lesson prepared for tomorrow.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. – John 6:35

Have a great weekend!


Today I’ll finish preparing to teach a Bible study tomorrow, one that I don’t deserve to teach.

I almost always feel that way. My words and actions of the past week come back to me (and this isn’t false piety – I was a self-indulgent jerk this week at times).

But teach I shall, and I pray God speaks, in spite of me.

“I am has sent me to you”

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

– Exodus 3:13-14

I’m starting a teaching series in College and Young Singles this weekend on the seven “I Am” statements of Jesus in the book of John. I can’t wait and I hope it goes well. I’m going to start with the passage above, as an introduction, with it’s surrounding context.

There’s so much here. So much. Two things jump out at me on just a cursory re-reading of this passage.

1. The people of Israel are truly without a shepherd. They feel abandoned, and they have no foundation, They don’t really know the God of their fathers very well. Moses is concerned, and he needs a name.

Does that speak to you? How alone are you in the universe when God is such a stranger to you? But even in their loneliness and desperation the Hebrews have cried out to the God they barely knew, and He has heard them.

2. In answer to the “What’s your name?” question, God answers “I am who I am”. I don’t have anything very profound to say here, other than just to say that God is cool. And I don’t mean cool in the acid-washed, frosted tips, ipod buds in your ears, shirt untucked, tat with a gotee way. I mean it in the “when I read that, my jaw drops and I say ‘wow . . . that’s cool'” way. God said “I AM”, because what better way is there to describe the eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, creator-God, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End? He is. And because He is, we are.

And the sooner we acknowledge that, the better.

I’m looking forward to this.

Seeking first

My notes on Matthew 6:19-34 are here. I was privileged to teach on this today.

Being a fully integrated citizen of God’s kingdom frees us from the rat-race that the human race has been frantically running since the Fall. Here Jesus offers a beautiful promise: if we will be about God’s work and Kingdom living, and will make those things our focus, we will be free from anxiety. The Lord will provide.

So true, though it’s tough to live like it.


“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” – C.S. Lewis

Can we get this?

In my observation, one of the most deadening poisons to a Christian soul is the inability, or rather unwillingness, to forgive. Hurts and wounds, that are often (but not always) very real, can be nursed, nourished, watered, and tended for years.

We’ve been working through the Sermon on the Mount in the College and Young Singles class for the past few months. Last week I got to teach on Matthew 6:1-18 (my notes here). It contains this jarring statement from Jesus:

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Jesus makes a point in this passage to reiterate that aspect of the Model Prayer (Matthew 6:8-13) that deals with forgiveness.

I’ve learned, when teaching on Jesus, to pay close attention to the things He chooses to repeat in His teaching.

I’ve discovered that forgiveness is a favorite topic of repetition for Jesus. For example, consider Matthew 18:21-22, which is followed by the devastating parable of the unforgiving servant starting in verse 23.

Jesus wants us to forgive. He knows how much forgiveness costs. He knows the agony of the whips and the nails. But that was His mission. Thank God He didn’t consider forgiving us to be impossible.

Why do we so often feel that forgiving others is an out-of-the-question non-starter?


Continuing the Sermon on the Mount

I’ve been privileged to be in the teaching rotation in our College and Young Singles class as we’ve been exploring the Sermon on the mount. Today we were on Matthew 6:1-18. My notes, if you’re interested, are here. An excerpt:

6:1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

This statement sets up the rest of this section. The key phrase is “to be seen by them”. This passage is not to be mistaken as a contradiction to the “let your light shine before men” command in chapter five. Both have as their aim the same thing – glory to God, rather than to us.

In context, this follows directly after the holy life described by Christ in chapter five. Jesus knows our hearts; the first sin we commit once we’ve achieved any measure of righteousness is pride. This passage offers a corrective to our pride.

Continue reading . . .

Romans 12:1

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

– Romans 12:1 (ESV)

Romans 12:1 follows Romans chapters 1 through 11, in which Paul has systematically expounded on God’s great mercies toward us. Paul’s audience, which included converted Roman pagans, no doubt caught his stunning reversal of the concept of sacrifice when compared to the millennia-long practice of sacrifice that they knew well.

For a pagan (and, sadly, for many of us that call ourselves Christians), sacrifice is something we do to gain the favor of the gods. Love and mercy are foreign concepts to normal modes of sacrifice. Sacrifice to a pagan is a transaction, a trade. And sacrifice usually involves blood and death.

But by the mercies of God, this is not the sacrifice that we are called to. Rather than spill blood in order to satiate and gain favor from the gods, we have had the Lord’s favor bestowed on us through his grace alone. Dwell on his mercy, gain a small understanding of his overwhelming love, and we find ourselves bowed before him in worship, awed by his great gifts to us.

And it is in this desire to worship, which goes so far beyond (and often has nothing to do with) singing to him, that Paul urges us to the beautiful righting of an upside down pagan vision: not a dead sacrifice caked with blood and flames, but rather a living sacrifice. joyfully and freely given to the Lord who has no need for anything, and who indeed has already given his all to us.

It’s the moment by moment sacrifice of a life fully yielded; a beautiful work of art offered to the master Craftsman who made it.

Holy and acceptable.

That’s worship.

Update: here’s eldest son’s take on this verse.