(Isa 53.9) and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Neither my mind nor my heart can fathom the polemical collision that occurred when Jesus, in his holy humanity, suffered the ill treatment, abuse and fermented scorn of his executioners. There really are no earthly comparisons or illustrations to faithfully communicate the injustice incurred at the hands of evil men as they shrouded the perfect and honorable one with abuse and shame.
But as I sat an chewed on this passage the word deceit jumped out at me. As I think about deceit I immediately think of Jacob. Who himself was a cunning deceiver. He tricked Isaac, Esau, Laban & others. He is the type of Bible hero that portrays a need for a redeemer. Shamefully, I can relate to this Jewish Patriarch.
And this is one of the amazing facets of the cross. Not only did Jesus endure such injustice from sinners but he did it for sinners.
Here he is absolutely free from sin. But at the same time he is shrouded with sin. He is, as 2 Cor. 5.21 says, made to be sin on our behalf. He did this while maintaining the integrity of his holy humanity. However, he was shrouded in the sewer clothes of our iniquity.
Therefore we can rightly say that while there was no deceit in his mouth, there was indeed deceivers on his mind, deceit on his back! There were a billion Jacobs engraved on his breastplate as this high priest went in …
Conflict seems to be as common to human life as breathing. Whether in marriages, families, friendships, the church, or social settings—we have conflict. My concern is not so much how to prevent it, but how to mitigate its storm and lessen its wounding.
The Bible asks and answers a very appropriate question:
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.” (James 4:1-2)
What’s Who’s the Problem?
The primary source of our conflict is within us. We crave something often times from someone. When we do not get it then we get very upset. Our passions or desires are at war within us. We are not getting what we want (usually under the headings of honor, comfort, or control) so we lash out. We then try to manipulate the other person actively by doing things like yelling or even physical aggression or we do it passively by ignoring them with the silent treatment. Whatever extreme we are on we can be sure that it is our unmet cravings of our heart that are fueling this conflict.
I don’t know that I have ever seen an experience that could rival it. There was crying so loud that people could hear it from a far distance away. The crying was strange though, it was mixed with happiness and lament. It was 2,500 or so years ago in the land of Israel. The exiles had returned and had laid the foundation for the new temple. The older folks were wailing with lament because they had seen the previous temple in all of its glory. The younger folks who had grown up in exile were excited and full of joy as they looked ahead to this new temple.
The strange chorus of weeping and wailing punctuates the epic scene in Ezra 3 as the foundation for the new temple is laid.
At the same time we can read of the prophet Zechariah dealing with the attitudes of lament here as well as the forthcoming fear of man in chapters 4-5 of Ezra. One of the big prophetic hammers that Zechariah brings to this party is a statement about what God is doing and the fact that people are not to despise the day of small things.
“This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’ ”…For whoever has despised the day of …
We all know that women are very different then men. However, we don’t always appreciate it.
Over the last several years I have watched my wife prepare for birthday parties, holiday seasons, or other special events. She, like many women, gives considerable time and attention to the details. In particular she works to ensure that the colors, design, and even the most minute matters are covered. I’ve seen gum balls color-coded, paper cut outs, cup cakes and napkins match, balloons, sparkly soda, snow sprinkles on a red table cloth, swirly straws, and even a big metal bucket filled with ice to so people will feel “festive” when they get their drink. This is what women do. Men on the other hand, we think function. We reuse our forks, wipe our chin on our sleeves, and pass on the straws. We skim past the details without noticing.
In the past I have noticed the details and asked, “why?” My wife lovingly instructed me that it is an expression of creativity, joy, and love. It is festive.
While struggling to pull this type of thing off my self, I have come to appreciate it. What’s more, I’ve come to baptize it into the spiritual realm so as to love my wife more, appreciate our differentness, and marvel at God’s design.
If you were to comb through your Old Testament you would find that God is a God of detail. You have chapters and chapters of detail about the tabernacle in Exodus. We have dimensions, colors, types, …
Preachers love to preach. We love to dive down deep, mining God’s Word for glorious, eternal treasures and then to swim back up to the service, sharing them with our church each week. But sometimes we get a little preacher’s cramp in so far as what to preach next. After preaching through Ezra and Nehemiah, I am thoroughly convinced that pastors, in particular those who are in the work of church planting revitalization, should prayerfully consider preaching through these books.
Here are some reasons…
New Beginnings: Ezra starts out with the people of God in Babylon. Within a verse or two God is stirring the heart of a pagan King (Cyrus) to send his people back to Israel to rebuild the temple and reestablish the covenant community. It is time for a new day. In particular for a church plant or revitalization, this helps to show how God works in people and communities to build something new.
Idolatry: The books are replete with examples of what idolatry is. Everywhere from the negligence of the weak in Nehemiah 8 to the ignorance of the Sabbath in order to make wine in Nehemiah 13, God shows how the elevation of good things to ultimate things is actually a replacement of what is ultimate, namely the worship and adoration of the Lord God. This primes the pump for a crucial discussion on idolatry.
Two of the most heart-grabbing events in our human experience are death and birth. When a friend or loved one dies we attend the funeral, coming alongside of the family to grieve with them. When someone close to us has a baby we likewise come to rejoice with them. In both events the arrow that is shot through our hearts is life. Life intersects differently with our minds and emotions depending upon if it is birth or death; but it is life or the absence of it that brings the reaction.
The Bible uses both of these concepts to describe the Christian experience. Prior to conversion we were dead spiritually (Eph. 2.1). This spiritual death was characterized by separation from God and expressed in terms of evil deeds (Col. 1.21; Titus 3.3). Once converted, we are brought to life (Rom. 6.4, 13; Eph. 2.4-10). This life is characterized by communion with God and expressed in terms of obedience to God’s Word and loving loyalty to him (1 Jn. 3.1-10).
Roger and Luke were sitting down for coffee to discuss ministry. Roger was a missionary overseas and Luke was a pastor. At one point during the conversation Luke asked Roger what he found most discouraging about his ministry.
His answer was surprising and revealing. Roger told him that the most discouraging aspect of ministry in his area is the other missionaries.
He went on to describe in detail how so many western churches send people to their area for mission work but in reality they are just on a vacation. They collect a check, get the benefits, and relax at the beach. Their engagement with the locals is minimal and when they do—they engage them with a critical spirit. These “missionaries” take up space at church and are really not ready to serve.
What is the problem here?
If there is one thing we can be certain of when we read the news today it is that we should not be surprised. The staggering rate of the moral revolution has conditioned us this way. Each day’s headlines bring with it a sense of moral ascent (or descent, depending upon your perspective). And here I am not simply talking about so-called same-sex marriage and the erosion of religious liberty. Like dropping a line in the water, you often catch more than just a fish. We are pulling a lot into the boat that shapes our experience.
If one were inclined to be objective they might open their eyes and ears and try to pinpoint a root. Walk through the malls, the public square, flip through the TV, read the paper, listen to the chatter, and talk to strangers.
This is what I’ve been doing for quite some time. My conclusion: we have forgotten how to blush.
Why Would we Blush?
As a pastor my life is characterized by an incessant longing for people to taste and see the goodness of God’s grace in the gospel. I pray for it, plan for, organize events to promote it, and even dream about it. I want to see the gospel come to our city and our church. I want evident gospel renewal.
In Charles Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities, there is a memorable scene where a large cask of wine is dropped and broken in the street. The cask had burst like a walnut shell and gushing all over the stones in the street. Dickens goes on to write:
All the people within reach had suspended their business, or their idleness, to run to the spot and drink the wine. The rough, irregular stones of the street, pointing every way, and designed, one might have thought, expressly to lame all living creatures that approached them, had dammed it into little pools; these were surrounded, each by its own jostling group or crowd, according to its size. Some men kneeled down, made scoops of their two hands joined, and sipped, or tried to help women, who bent over their shoulders, to sip, before the wine had all run out between their fingers. Others, men and women, dipped in the puddles with little mugs of mutilated earthenware, or even with handkerchiefs from women’s heads, which were squeezed dry into infants’ mouths; others made small mud-embankments, to stern the wine as it ran; others, directed …
As a Dad there are many times that I see our children provide direct insight into the heart of humanity in a refreshing way. An example that most of us have seen is a child that does not want to be left alone. They may be sitting in their room playing with a toy and then all of a sudden start crying and yelling, “Dad! Dad! Where did you go?” Our daughter was in a store with my wife and, in plain sight of her mom, but mom was not in her plain sight. Suddenly she cried with desperation, “Moooom?! Moooooom!!” My wife answered, “Right here honey.” To which she grabbed her Mom by the leg, pressed her face against her and said, “I thought you had left me here. I thought I was alone.” My wife answered, “No, sweetie, Mommy would never do that. I was right here the whole time.”
Our Self-Sufficiency has a Leak