A Beloved Son

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.” -Matthew 12:18

This verse describes God the Father’s feelings for Jesus. The Father wants the Son because He chose Him. He is His Father’s beloved. And the Father is well pleased with His Son.

There is an incredible truth taught in the Bible known as the doctrine of Union with Christ. The Apostle Paul was obsessed about it. Over 160 times in the New Testament Paul used the phrase “in Christ”  or “in Him.” It means, when our faith is in Jesus, and His Spirit is in us, God the Father feels the same way about us as He does about Jesus. Meaning, for Christians….though we are a huge habitual failures, Jesus was not…and He paid for ALL our failures on the cross. So no matter how bad a day you’re having, if you are trusting in Jesus’ life and death in your place, God treats you like He treats His son …chosen …beloved …well pleased.

As I meditated on this truth this morning I thought, “How can I understand what that must feel like to have God love me like this?” “What can I relate that to?” Then I remembered a phone call I received first thing this morning. My father called to check on me. He had been concerned about my well being. He wanted to express his love for me and for my family. I felt his love. I was very glad to hear from my dad.

Then it came to me…”That’s what it feels like! It should make me feel the way I felt when my dad called me this morning out of the blue! Only, as much love as my earthly dad has shown me in this life, God’s love for me is infinitely greater.” God used my dad’s call this morning both to bring encouragement to a son from his father, and to give me a small illustration of how God’s love for His Son should affect me.

So, I wrote my dad and shared that with him. He has shown great love for me throughout my life. And God has used all the good he has given me as my father to show me just a little bit of what its like to have a heavenly Father.

The greatest thing a person can have these days is a relationship with their Heavenly Father that resembles the relationship Jesus has with His Father. Any suffering we face, all the trials, and even the triumphs, do not compare to what God has given us when we are united to Christ. It helps to put all of this in perspective. When we are in union with Christ, we have access to all the resources accessible to Jesus. And in the way God treats Jesus, he treats Jesus’ followers the same.

Though it may not have the exact same implications for us as it does for Jesus our Redeemer, if your hope is in Jesus today, God is saying these very same words of you right this moment: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.” You’re His beloved child. That is an incredible reality!

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When the World Stopped for Jack

This is a touching story of a little boy’s tragic accident, a parent’s worst nightmare, the church worldwide uniting, and God’s mercy and grace to answer the prayers of His people. This is the story of Jack Budensiek’s last four weeks in the word’s of his aunt and uncle, Jon and Jessica Duren:

Sometimes, something happens that is too wonderful to keep quiet.  While I usually do not share personal stories, I feel this one is appropriate to share with you, my newsletter readers.   I asked my wife, Jessica to share with you this story of my sister’s son, my nephew, who is currently at St. Mary’s Intensive Care Unit.  This traumatic event has blessed my life and helped me to better focus on what is most important.   I trust it will encourage you to do the same.  Here is my wife, Jessica, telling you the story that I title: “When the World Stopped for Jack.”  

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Speaking the Truth, A Pastor’s Challenge

The temptation to keep silent about important matters that I’m convinced are true to avoid offending or losing a friend is real. I’m not talking about matters which are of secondary importance to a person. I’m referring to topics of first importance, like those that concern one’s soul.

As a pastor, you should have a desire to be friends with people and be kind to them. But, If you choose to remain silent about something that concerns a person’s soul simply for fear of losing their friendship, or even their church membership, would be shameful. However, I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that it still causes conflict in me every time. That’s why when I read the following in a message by Charles H. Spurgeon while he was about to discuss a difficult topic with his church, God used it to encourage me:

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A Call for Balanced Pastors

Church Planter by Darrin Patrick

In reading Darrin Patrick’s book, Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission, I read a passage that I found to be great wisdom for pastors. This is a great reminder for me, and counsel I have often hoped my pastor friends would hear and put into practice. Darrin writes,

Pastors tend to stay in their strengths and avoid their weaknesses. “Theology guys” to tend spend a lot of time reading and discussing dead theologians. “Missional guys” tend to spend a lot of time analyzing culture and drinking lattes. “Shepherding guys” tend to spend a lot of time hanging out with people and counseling them. But rarely do we see pastors step out of their strengths into their areas of weakness. Why is this? Because it is uncomfortable. It is difficult. It is flesh-starving. (p.59)

This is a good challenge for anyone who is passionate about serving Jesus. It is dangerous to give too much time and attention to your strengths and personal interests to the neglect of your weakness. Be challenged to spend more time growing outside of your comfort zones.

We do not need anymore theological bobble-heads (thanks Johnny Grimes for teaching me this term) who are puffed-up angry Calvinists and have little to do with church growth or the Great Commission. Neither do we need anymore flaky Arminian pragmatists consumed by church growth methods, but are shallow when it comes to gospel and theology. We need our practices to be driven by thoughtful theology, and our theology to be fleshed out by thoughtful methods. We need this call for pastors to pursue balance in their ministries.

You Can Be Fake & Not Be on Facebook

My most twitter-savvy friend @timmybrister just posted on his blog a helpful reminder about the dangers of Twitter entitled Twitter Is Not Real. His post reminded me: don’t judge a twit by his twitter. King David might have been the least likely candidate to be retweeted. Reading Tim’s helpful post reminded me, however, of comments I’ve heard over the past year prompting me to write.

As Tim warned, and we should be reminded, Twitter is not real. Yet, there are some who occasionally send “Facebook and Twitter are the Devil” messages (well sort of–at least they come across anti social-networking) suggesting these sites cause many in the church to be fake. Facebook and Twitter are fluttered with self-promotion, this is undeniable. But the problem is not with Facebook and Twitter.

For what its worth, Status Updates were not invented by Facebook. People have always and will continue to publicly post very selective status updates about their lives every week, even in churches–updates that do not tell a person’s whole story. When is the last time you approached someone in the halls of your church, and when you asked “How’s it going?,” they proceeded to lament to you their struggles much like David does in the Psalms?

Certainly it happens. But the chances are, if you’re not intentional about having authentic relationships, especially in your family and in your church through community and/or accountability groups, you’re probably broadcasting selective status updates every Sunday when you meet with your church for worship.

Yes, Twitter and Facebook are new temptations for us to go on being inauthentic, in the same way going to church on Sundays can provide ample opportunities to post “its all good,” while leaving out all our life’s baggage. I am not suggesting church and Twitter are equal. They’re NOT! But both provide for relationships that can promote the gospel. And both are susceptible to people promoting themselves artificially.

The problem ultimately is not online, or the devil, but in your heart…and mine. Thankfully, the gospel is the proven solution for our hearts and frees us so that we do not have to live this way. But, just because you are not tweeting and facebooking, does not mean you’re not posting status updates each day. You can be fake without Facebook….or Twitter. #thinkaboutit