Archive for March, 2009

Cross Examination

March 30, 2009

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14

This is the way some people examine the cross of Christ: Jesus’s death was a tragic ending to a beautiful life. Jealous and powerful people who were threatened by his popularity cut short his life. Jesus regularly squared-off against the Pharisees and his teaching inspired people more than theirs did. The conflict resulted in a power struggle and ended in a bloody but unnecessary execution.

Furthermore, Jesus was the greatest teacher of all times and we should model his principles. He loved his enemies, even those who crucified him. For that reason the example of his life is worth following.

These cross examiners go on to tell us Roman crucifixion was an inhumane way of dealing with criminals and insurrectionists. We are more enlightened today and do not practice such torture and cruelty. We shouldn‘t focus so much on the way Jesus died but that he died, and more importantly, that he lived an extraordinary life.

While these are nice, sentimental thoughts about Jesus and his cross, they miss the whole point of his death. Jesus’s death was not an accident. Jesus himself knew that his mission would take him all the way to the cross. The tragedy was not that Jesus was crucified against his will but that we willfully sinned against a holy God, necessitating a just penalty.

Jesus died on the cross for us. The Bible says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22), and we are “justified by His blood” (Rom. 5:8). A more humane way of execution like lethal injection would not have been enough to pay the price for our redemption and accomplish God’s eternal purposes. Like it or not, God required blood and he willingly sacrificed his own Son’s.

The cross is not something we should explain away, nor is it merely a symbol of a selfless life. There is no need to hide its grotesqueness, smooth over its rough hewn edges, or soften the way the nails split open Jesus’s hands and feet, shooting pain through his body as quick as lightening. The cross is ugly and wondrous at the same time. It is bloody and beautiful. It is all at once painful and the perfect plan of God.

That is why the apostle Paul boasted in the cross of Christ alone. What about you?

Wanted: A Generous, Servant-hearted Man

March 10, 2009

Imagine a woman placing a classified ad that reads, “Wanted: A Generous, Servant-hearted Man.” Would you have the qualifications to respond? The Bible’s Ruth contains a love story with a self-effacing guy named Boaz who would meet the requirements of such an advertisement. Let’s dip our thoughts into the middle of the emerging romance between Ruth and Boaz,

When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all that she wanted and had some left over (Ruth 2:14b).

Boaz honors Ruth by seating her with the harvesters at a noontime meal. Call it their first date. Like a real man, Boaz takes the initiative to invite her to lunch.

Then Boaz, the boss, does something not often seen in the Ancient Near East. He serves her a bowl of Jewish Grape Nuts or “roasted grain.” Think about it. He’s a man; she’s a woman. He’s an Israelite; she’s a Moabite. He’s in charge of the harvest operation; she’s not even close to being in charge. He’s the landowner and the employer; she an entry-level gleaner in the fields. But Boaz does something remarkable. He chooses to serve rather than be served. Does any of this sound familiar? Does it remind you of Jesus, our glorious Boaz, as Spurgeon used to call him?

Fast forward a few thousand years. The mother of Zebedee’s sons, James and John, came to see Jesus. She asked the Savior to give her two sons a favored position in the kingdom. Can you imagine a mother meddling in her boy’s business that way? With the two mama’s boys standing next to their mother, Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking!” and “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

The boys answered yes too quickly. The rest of the disciples became indignant with their aggressive grab for power. Jesus smelled a skunk.

Jesus took the opportunity to warn the disciples about practicing the kind of leadership found among the Gentiles where those in authority “lord it over” their subordinates. He made it clear this was not the way things work in the kingdom of God. Jesus wasn’t suggesting that leadership and lines of authority in an organization are wrong. Rather, he was elevating servant leadership as the ethic we must embrace if we want to rise higher in the kingdom. He then went on to say these memorable words,

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:20-28).

A leader is not a real leader until he learns to serve. The same is true of a man. A man is not a real man until he learns to serve the woman of his desire. Said another way, a self-centered slob who always puts himself first will never capture a woman’s heart completely. Never!

Boaz understood this instinctively. He was kind, tender and generous, a real servant-hearted man, the kind of man most women are looking for. He was not stingy with his food portions, even sending Ruth home with a doggy bag.

Wanted: A Generous, Servant-hearted Man. Do you qualify?

"Better Than I Deserve!"

March 2, 2009

At this she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me — a foreigner?” Ruth 2:10

Nancy Leigh DeMoss is the daughter of Arthur S. DeMoss, the wealthy business tycoon and namesake of the Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation. DeMoss made his fortune in the insurance business by mass marketing policies via television ads hosted by Art Linkletter. The Foundation named after DeMoss still contributes millions of dollars each year to worthy causes.

Nancy Leigh is host of a national radio program called Revive Our Hearts. She is coming to Immanuel this fall to lead a women’s conference. Her sister Deborah is part of our Immanuel family. This week Deborah sent me the radio transcripts from Nancy’s teaching on Ruth to help in my study of this fabulous book.

While teaching from chapter 2 and thinking about the favored status of Ruth, Nancy Leigh affectionately describes her dad this way. “He was a man who never got over the wonder of the fact that God would have saved him. It never ceased to amaze him. He knew his background, and he told us about it growing up.”

“My dad did not have a heart for God,” she goes on to say. “He was a rebel, a wild young man, very involved in gambling and in a lot of rebellion. On Friday, October 13, 1950, God opened his eyes, showed him Christ, and brought him to repentance and faith.”

“He was a young man in his mid-twenties at the time. He had not started our family at the time, but as we were growing up, he would tell us the story of where God had found him and what God had done for him. It would bring tears to his eyes.”

“I mean, it just amazed him, even years later, that God would do this for him. When you asked my dad, ‘How are you doing?’ he would often be heard to say, ‘Better than I deserve.’”

Like Ruth, Art DeMoss was surprised by God’s favor. What about you?

Ron Jones is a pastor whose greatest passion is to introduce people to Jesus Christ through anointed biblical preaching that transforms lives.

 

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