Making Room for Christ

Making Room for Christ

This post was originally published December 22, 2017 on Christ Chapel Bible Church -Ology Blog.

Scripture: 1 Peter 3:15

“… but in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.”

1 Peter 3:15

“Christ” (Christos) in Greek means “the anointed one” or “chosen one.” In Hebrew it is translated “Messiah” (Mashiach).  In addition, “Christ” is not a name, but a title. “Jesus Christ” renders Jesus the chosen one/anointed one.

1 Peter 3:15 is not typically considered a Christmas verse per se. We find it in the context of suffering for Christ and leading up to Peter’s apologetic (apologia) for our faith in Jesus Christ. However, I think we can view this short passage through the lens of preparation for the incarnation of our Savior-King and Lord.

A few nights ago my daughter (6 years old) was frightened and could not fall asleep. She was scared and I know what that feels like. So, I joined her in her fear to validate her feelings and try to help her find a way out. I started talking about Jesus and His protection in times when I’ve been scared.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: Did you know that the Bible calls Jesus “the Lion of Judah”?

Lilly: No.

Me: He is. Jesus is like a mighty lion. Nobody messes with a lion, right?

Lilly: No.

Me: We are His children and He protects us like a lion. Did you know that Jesus has other nicknames?

Lilly: Yes, mommy plays a song called “The Lion And The Lamb.” What are His other nicknames?

Me: Yes, Jesus is also the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!”

Suddenly, fear left the room, the tears subsided and she began to relax and even smile a little.

We began to softly sing together the “King of kings, Lord of lords” portion of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah.” It wasn’t pretty.  However, I think I could hear the faint toe tap from the throne room of heaven. Lilly peacefully wandered off to sleep under the blanket of God’s protection with a mighty chorus echoing in her heart. My heart was full. We had set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts and fear fled the invading forces of peace.

The ancient prophet Isaiah said “A light has dawned…” (Isa. 9:2), I’m convinced he was seeing the incarnation, the coming Lord. “A child is born… a son is given”. Above all, we needed more than a child, we needed the Son. Only one son would do — a Savior. The Christ! From the annals of time, we hear the chorus, “King of kings, Lord of lords” like peals of thunder rolling through history.

In all matters of life, we should set apart Jesus Christ as Lord.

Our heart is our essence as moral creatures, as image-bearers and the seat of our will. It begins in our hearts. But, what does that look like at Christmastime?

When we set apart Christ in our hearts as Lord we are acknowledging His majesty and holiness. We are bending our knee and heart toward Him as a flower bends toward the sun. We are yielded to His lordship, His splendor and captivated by His power, beauty and love.

Christmas celebrated rightly with Christ set apart as Lord in our hearts should be a mighty procession that occurs every year. We wait and watch for its arrival. When Christmas arrives, we celebrate like no one else on earth. The rest of the world is in darkness, yet the light has in fact dawned. It is the perfect time to share the gospel of peace and invite others to come out of the darkness and join in the chorus acknowledging “Christ is the King of kings, Lord of lords!”

“Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere …” 

2 Cor. 2:14

The procession has arrived. Have you set apart Christ as Lord in your heart? Have you made room for the Christ?

Finally, in Revelation 22, Jesus Christ says repeatedly, “I am coming soon.” He says, “Surely, I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:20). He did come, He is here and He will come again! Christmas is a time to reflect, a time to wonder and celebrate the magnificent Savior.

Merry Christmas!


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It’s always an inside job

It’s always an inside job

I used to think that Facebook was my problem. 

Surfing the newsfeed experiencing a new emotion with every little swipe of my thumb, I’d get a little hit of dopamine.  It felt great in the moment.  

Over time I recognized that I had a problem. So, when I went overseas in August I deactivated my Facebook account and did not re-activate until nearly two months later.  At present, I rarely check the platform.  Yesterday, I logged in for the first time in a week to check messages and I decided to scroll the timeline.  Not much has changed.  I got bored after about 5 minutes and went on about my afternoon.  Addiction defeated, problem solved right?

Last night I was alone at the ranch while Kat and the kids were at her folk’s house. Usually, I’d be outside doing something but the weather was nasty.  So, I was stuck inside the house.   I had some choices to make.  I could watch a movie, I could catch up on news on my iPhone or I could sit down and try to finish a book called “Hearing the Spirit” by Christopher Ash.  All decent options.

I rarely watch TV, so I crossed watching a movie off my list easily, no problem.  I scrolled the news and read the paper earlier in the day.  No need to do that.  Reading a book was the most profitable activity I could do as the day drew to an end.  Simple enough.  Let’s read!  I prepared to sit and read for an hour before going to bed.

At some point between making a hot cup of Rooibos tea, sitting in my easy chair and opening my book, I picked up my iPhone to check on the weather. Then, I began reading the news. 

The battle was on! 

I realized that the instant gratification and the dopamine release of scanning news on my smartphone had won over the delayed gratification and long-term benefit of reading a book.  Like a naughty child, I took the culprit (my iPhone) to the other room and put it down.  Problem solved!

I went back to my comfy chair and picked up my book.  Then, I thought, “What if Kat calls with an emergency?”  My phone is in the other room, I’d miss the call.  I’d better keep it with me while I read.  I got up and retrieved my iPhone from timeout.  In the short walk from the other room where the phone had been to my chair, I decided to check the weather again.  After all the wind was howling and it may freeze tonight.  A few moments later, I was watching a news video on some media channel.  I had been ambushed!  It was an inside job!

It’s always an inside job!

My problem isn’t my iPhone or Facebook or Apple News.  My problem is my heart.  If I am honest, the dominant characteristics of my desires are worldly.  Yes, I have a few Godly desires.  But the shimmering allure and distractions of the world draw me away from God.  There is nothing wrong with smartphones, social media or reading the news.  However, when self-centered passions, instant gratification and ruling desires overshadow my desire to know God, my life becomes disordered and worldly in nature.

Worldliness is being devoted to affairs, activities and concerns of temporal existence over our spiritual lives.  A life rooted in worldliness leads to emptiness, frustration and sadness.

As I prepared to pray this morning, I was lead to James 4 (Warning Against Worldliness).  I read the passage and something changed.  A light clicked on in an old forgotten room of my heart.

Worldliness and disorder ooze their way into our prayer life like an infection.  We know the passage; “You have not because you ask not…”  I hear many Christians (myself included) throw it in conversation or prayer when a need arises.  In response, we say, “Amen and Amen!” 

Is that what James 4 is about?  We don’t have because we don’t ask? 

You ask and do not receive, because you ask WRONGLY, to spend it on your passions.” 

James 4:2b-3 ESV

We ask wrongly for the wrong things because we have yielded our hears to worldly passions.  Therefore, our disordered prayers are rooted in worldly desires deep in our hearts dressed up in a veneer of “Christian lingo” and out of context Bible passages.  God does not answer prayers that run counter to His nature and His revealed will in scripture.

Why do I pray for more stuff in my life to distract me from God?  Because I’ve allowed worldly desires to ambush my pursuit of God.

How worldly is your prayer life?


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I gotta fever and the only prescription is more JOY!

I gotta fever and the only prescription is more JOY!

The following originated from an email I sent to my fellow team members at Christ Chapel on January 8, 2018.

Good morning team,

On December 31st, I set about my morning bible reading asking the Lord to give me a passage of scripture for the new year. Up to this point, I had been journeying through the Psalms. At eventide of 2017, my foot set upon the golden shores of Psalm 16.

As I considered the entirety of this magnificent passage, I discovered a treasure I could hold in my heart at dawn of a new year…

 

“In your presence there is fullness of JOY.” (Psalm 16:11)

 

Unbeknownst to me, Pastor Ted Kitchens would announce on Sunday that the staff’s “theme” for 2018 would be ‘JOY’!

I too thirst for Joy! We all do. It’s been tough and trying year for many of us, and the only prescription is more Joy!

As I studied Psalm 16 again today, I couldn’t help but reflect on Jesus’s words in John 15: 1-11 (the True Vine). I encourage you to set both passages side by side and ponder them. One can’t help but be awe struck by how God has woven his word together. So, I pulled a couple threads I hope will encourage your heart as we embark on our voyage this new year.

Where do we begin?
Begin with the end in mind: Joy!

“in your presence there is fullness of Joy….” – Psalm 16
“that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full (or complete).” – John 15

How do we find this ‘Joy’?
Set the Lord before and abide in Him – the Vine

“I have set the Lord always before me…” – Psalm 16
“Abide in me (Christ)….” – John 15

By intentionally yielding our will in humble obedience, we enthrone Christ in our hearts to rule and reign. In turn, we yield fruit (which brings the believer Joy to the Father’s delight!). We are running to our Father shouting, “Father, father, look! Look at this beautiful fruit that you planted in my garden!” And the delight of the Father’s smile begets Joy in the hearts of his beloved children.

Can we find Joy apart from Christ?
The answer is ‘no’.

“I have no good apart from you.” – Psalm 16
“apart from me (Christ), you can do nothing” – John 15

So, Where do we end?
End with the beginning in mind: Joy!

Everyday – “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord’… in your presence there is fullness of JOY!” (Psalm 16)

Who’s Joy?
His Joy… our fullness of Joy!


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A man’s morning prayer – November 4, 2017

A man’s morning prayer – November 4, 2017

Lord,

I look to you today for guidance, contentment and strength. You are my only hope and comfort in this dark world. I am bound to you, Lord. Each moment brings me closer to meeting you face to face.

Your cross shakes me from my icy pride. You broke the shackles of sin and death.

Help me be a good husband, father and minister – a faithful servant, full of the joy of your spirit; a man of peace…..

Formidable yet good.

This is my prayer today.
In Jesus Name, Amen.

Meditation – Psalm 8:9


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A devotional for the day – June 16, 2016

A devotional for the day – June 16, 2016

The devotional below was distilled from Psalm 148:1 and Proverbs 16.

Father,
You alone are worthy of praise. I commit my work to you today, Lord, that my plans will be established. May my ways be pleasing to you, so that my enemies will be at peace with me. As my heart plans my way today, Lord please establish my steps.

I prefer your wisdom over wealth. Guide my path toward righteousness and away from evil. May I guard my words and path to preserve my life and witness.

Guard me from pride that leads to destruction. I trust in you alone Lord and humbly ask for blessing. I know that apart from your grace, I am dead. Amen

For those called into Gospel Ministry:
You received The Call to serve the Lord in ministry. That Call came from the same voice who called Abram (Abraham) our of the Ur of the Chaldeans. This is the same voice who Called Moses to lead his people out of Egypt, the Prophets, the Twelve Apostles and Paul. It is the same voice. What a blessing and honor….. What a fearful privilege and responsibility.

Called into His glorious Light!