Cleansing: Inward and Outward (Part 4)

Cleansing: Inward and Outward (Part 4)

We have moved from the need for cleansing of the inner and outer self…to the reality of the cleansing work of Christ…to the results of the cleansing work in creating a new self which is a temple for God to live within. So what are the implications of the new self belonging to God as His sanctified space (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Well, most of Paul’s epistles contribute answers to this question when he reaches the ethical and practical sections (often in the 2nd half of the letters - passages like 1 Thessalonians 4, Galatians 5, 1 Corinthians 6, 2 Corinthians 6, Colossians 3, and Ephesians 4-5). Each of these sections of Scripture provide an angle of how the new-creation-holy-temple-of-God-life should look. But I ask you to consider some thoughts from another of these passages - Romans 6...

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Cleansing: Inward and Outward (Part 3)

Cleansing: Inward and Outward (Part 3)

All of us have poisons within and stains without. So the first part of Isaiah 4 is about God taking “survivors” (a remnant who are willing to surrender their brokenness to Him), cleansing them inwardly, cleansing them outwardly, thus making them holy, and bringing them home from exile. The use of “Branch of the LORD” (4:2) points to the ultimate meaning of this passage reaching beyond Israel’s geographical return from Babylonian/Persian Exile…to a fuller sense of return and restoration only realized in Jesus. 

So the chapter ends with God’s subsequent action...

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Cleansing: Inward and Outward (Part 2)

Cleansing: Inward and Outward (Part 2)

Last week we established how cleansing must start within. The heart is in need of re-creation (Psalm 51:10) and a new redemptive story written upon it (Jeremiah 31:33-34), replacing the record of sin which was engraved with a diamond-pointed iron stylus on the old heart (Jeremiah 17:1). Since “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9), the cure cannot be merely a topical treatment of the outside. It must be a fundamental, surgical change from within - a circumcision of the heart (Deuteronomy 30:6; Romans 2:29)

Let’s go back to where we were in the early chapters of Isaiah last week. Between 2 judgment sections (2:12-3:26 and 5:1-30), the 6 verses of Chapter 4 interweave the hopeful threads of remnant, return from exile, cleansing, and re-creation.

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Cleansing: Inward and Outward (Part 1)

Cleansing: Inward and Outward (Part 1)

When Peter says baptism is not just a cleansing of the flesh but is an appeal to God for a clean conscience (1 Peter 3:21), he is connecting the experience of baptism into Christ with a strong biblical theme - the need for both inward and outward cleansing. In Matthew 23, Jesus chides the Pharisaic “hypocrites” for their attention to detail on outside cleanliness while leaving leaving filth inside a seemingly well-polished cup and rotting flesh inside a white-washed tomb. Even the purpose of 2 goats being involved in the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16) has connection to the need for both inward and outward cleansing. The blood of the slain goat was sprinkled where no one save the high priest and God Himself would witness - a private, inward cleansing. The live goat was sent into the wilderness with confessed sins laid upon it as a public witness to all - an outward removal of the filth...

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Singing as Faith Confession

Singing as Faith Confession

To make a confession of faith in Jesus as my Lord, as Christ, and as the Son of God (Matthew 16:15-16; Romans 10:9-10) is an essential component of becoming a Christian. But our confession of Jesus continues in multiple forms as our walk in the light proceeds. One of the avenues in which we continue to confess Jesus before fellow humans (Matthew 10:32) is in our congregational singing. Consider this powerful thought from Hebrews...

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Robbing a Bully

Robbing a Bully

As part of my personal reading time, I’m trying to mix in some children’s and young adult books, especially now that I have children and want to have a wider variety of books to read to them and recommend to them as they get older. Upon recommendation from a friend, I recently read Jerry Spinelli’s book Loser. The story traces the early life of a kid named Zinkoff and some of the challenges he faces. 

An early scene in the book captures an all too real occurrence among children in a school setting. Proud of his "giraffe hat” he recently received as part of a zoo visit with his family, the first-grader Zinkoff brings his unique hat to recess only to have it snatched by some older kids...

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How Would Jesus Handle North Korea?

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He Wouldn’t.

"Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place."" John 18:36

If your kingdom of identification is with Jesus, let me encourage you to redirect your anxiety and your energy to the well-being of the imperishable and immortal kingdom of the Christ. This is not to say that God is unconcerned about the situation or that we shouldn't be prayerful towards it. This is to say that we should not live in fear about it.  Our priority is a kingdom much greater than this one.

"When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." 1 Corinthians 15:54

Peace and Love, Daniel

 

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Evangelism, Narcissism, and Mission (Pt 2)

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 Disobedience and Repentance in Jonah

When we left Jonah last week, he had boarded a ship in a feeble and hopeless attempt to run away from God and his calling. We often talk about people hitting rock bottom – Jonah has epitomized this metaphor. After receiving the word from God, he has gone nowhere but down. He went down to Joppa, down into the ship, down into the sea, and his redemption has carried him down to the bottom of the deepest sea. Jonah can go no lower. The voice of God has left the prophet, but the presence of God remains. In Jonah’s prayer, we find his repentant heart and have an opportunity to learn something very rich about what it means to repent of our disobedience to God’s will.

Accept God’s discipline. In business, in relationships, and in finances, we know this to be true. Take your medicine. When we see that we have made a mistake, we know that consequences will come. But this time, unlike times before, maybe those consequences can be outrun. It doesn’t work. It never works. And trying to outrun what is coming has only shown to make things worse. But we run. We turn tail and run away from the discipline we cannot avoid. Spiritual matters are no different. Discipline will come when we disobey God’s call. We will be better served and more quickly able to move on when we acknowledge our disobedience, repent of our sin, and accept the discipline that comes from what we have done. Only then can true healing begin.

Trust God’s promises. The path of least resistance is skepticism. It is the most comfortable and most chosen path. Trusting in God’s promises requires a great measure of faith. It is most difficult to act on what we know, because the promise has not yet been fulfilled when we are called to action. But God’s promises are rich and glorious. Read through Jonah’s prayer in Jonah chapter 2. It is littered with remorse and repentance. However, mingled in the despair is the acknowledgment of a faithful God who keeps his promises. Jonah goes all the way back to Solomon’s dedication of the temple to call on God’s faithfulness and mercy.

Yield to God’s will. Ultimately, we have to do what we should have done in the first place. The call didn’t change for Jonah, and it probably won’t change for you either. But, like Jonah, you will always be offered another chance to act on your repentance and yield to God’s will. If we have truly trusted in God’s promises, we will likely see no other choice but to do just this.

Embrace God’s redemption. This may be the most difficult part of the whole process of repentance. It can seem impossible to understand how far God has come for us. It is difficult to wrap our minds around God’s redemption. We find it inconceivable that God, as good, holy, and majestic as we know he is, would be able to look beyond our own failures and even our rebellion against him, and find us worthy of his love. But he does exactly that. It is the promise of a faithful God that when we have yielded to his will and repented of our disobedience, we receive redemption from our Creator. If he does not hold this against us, why should we then hold ourselves hostage to sin that has already been put aside.

Read Jonah’s prayer again. Write it in your heart. Learn how to pray an earnest prayer of repentance. Trust in God’s promises and act on his faithfulness. Yield to the will of the Father and embrace – truly embrace – the redemption the Almighty God.

Joshua Fowler

Joshua is the preaching minister at the Goodwood Church of Christ in Baton Rouge, LA

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Evangelism, Narcissism, and Mission (Pt 1)

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 God’s Love For the Lost in Jonah

Jonah is one of those prophets we know little about. We really only know of one major episode in his life as a prophet. We know his father and his hometown, Ammitai of Gath-Hepher, but of his prophetic message to Israel, we are unenlightened. However, the one narrative we have of his life is deep and rich with application and character.

God loves all humanity and pursues the lost. Not that this is really earth-shattering news. However in the story of Jonah, the fact that God pursues ALL humanity becomes a striking reality. He is not, in this case, looking after a lost sheep or a straying child. He is pursuing a sworn enemy, the vilest offender of human decency, and the most wicked people known to man at the time. And he is asking Jonah to be his ambassador.

We are called to share our faith even when we don’t want to. My gut instinct is to resist all inclinations that my response to God’s command could ever rival Jonah’s. I would like to think I am better than that. But, while I have never boarded a ship and set sail in the opposite direction of the urging of the Spirit, I have certainly acknowledged what God was asking me to do yet kept my mouth shut. And isn’t that really the same thing? When we are faced with situations where God is calling us to do something so brazen, so bold, and so counter to our desire, we too frequently choose rebellion.

In our rebellion, we ignore God’s call. We may think we are better than Jonah because we aren’t literally running away from God, but our offense in ignoring the call is equally as sinful. Maybe it would be better if we had run away. At least then we wouldn’t have fooled ourselves into thinking everything was okay. We convince ourselves that no harm is done when we overlook a divine opportunity to impart the knowledge of a Savior and the grace of The Creator to those who are lost and in need of such. In our refusal, we endorse their condemnation and participate in the advancement of the reign of evil.

In our rebellion, we become a curse rather than a blessing. From the time of Abraham’s covenant, the people of God are a promised blessing to the world at large. It is a shame when children of God who have been offered entry into the presence of God by the mercy and sacrifice of Jesus Christ become messengers of destruction and condemnation instead of forgiveness and acceptance. The Gospel is a blessing, not a curse, to all of humanity. It is a blessing to our neighbors and to our family. It is a blessing to those we agree with and those with whom we differ. It is a blessing to those whom our culture embraces and also to those who are despised. And we are called to take the Gospel even to those whom we might call enemies.

May we have the maturity to discern the voice of the Spirit of the Almighty God when it calls us out into the world to bring the message of salvation and purpose. May we have the courage to shun the temptation and emotion of our fleshly desires. And may we have the boldness stay near to the will of God especially when the road we are called to travel looks most difficult.

Joshua Fowler

Joshua is the preaching minister at the Goodwood Church of Christ in Baton Rouge, LA

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Restless

Restless

Cain has committed great sin - a betrayal of family…an act of rage out of jealousy…the first time in the Scriptures when we see one human take the life a fellow divine image bearer. And while God spares Cain’s life, his punishment involves a geographical displacement. He is banished, just as his parents were from the Garden of Eden when they sinned. But his exile is to the land of Nod, even farther to the east of Eden (Genesis 4:16). Movement eastward in the Bible often captures a movement away from God. Many generations later, the remnant of the descendants of Abraham would make a similar trek eastward in exile, far away from the intended land of rest and sanctuary for God’s presence. Cain was displaced a great distance from Eden, Israel a great distance from Canaan. The sins of each had led to the respective curses, and one of God’s descriptions of Cain’s exilic journey was that he would be “a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth” (4:12, 14). The message is clear. Life outside of God’s intended space is, in a word, RESTLESS. 

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Guests Are Present (and do you really want them back?)

Guests Are Present (and do you really want them back?)

"My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, 'You sit here in a good place,' and you say to the poor man, 'You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,' have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?” (James 2:1-4) 

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Hacking at the Branches

Hacking at the Branches

f you’ve ever tried to get rid of an invasive plant from your yard, you know the strategies. Obviously, the most effective method of annihilation is to catch it early and pull it up by the roots before they become too entrenched. If you are not able to pull up all the roots, you may then resort to poison. But for certain vines, herbicides will never penetrate far enough into the stems (above the surface) or the roots of the main trunk (beneath the surface) to kill the plant. Then your strategy probably moves to controlling the vine’s spread by hacking away at the branches wherever you see them crop up. And if you are successful in your hacking, you will at least strip the vine of some of its “fruit.” 

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The God Who Became a Curse

The God Who Became a Curse

Deuteronomy 28:30 falls in the midst of conditional curses upon the people of Israel if they are unfaithful to their covenant with God. Another way of expressing unfaithfulness biblically is repeated disobedience to the stated expectations of the relationship. In this one verse, God expresses 3 forms of devastation in the pattern of Investment followed by Empty Return. What’s remarkable about these 3 particular curses is that these experiences God is forecasting for His people are not foreign to Him. They are part of His own experience when His teachings are met with rebellion. He knows what it is like to Invest and then see the investment squandered. Briefly consider each of these curses. 

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Sheldon Cooper, Lucy Ricardo, Social Work, and Hermeneutics

Sheldon Cooper, Lucy Ricardo, Social Work, and Hermeneutics

I love Sheldon Cooper. The way he approaches the world creates some of the most hilarious comedy you will find anywhere these days. For those unfamiliar with the star of The Big Bang Theory, he is the polar opposite of Lucy Ricardo but just as hilarious. To Sheldon, the whole world can be understood by applying a scientific theory to every situation. Relationships, workplace etiquette, entertainment, and many other things all are put into a formula and the end result is so awkward it’s hilarious. Lucy Ricardo was known for having absolutely no boundaries, she thought very little through. The world was a canvas and she was painting it with Lucy all the time.

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Casual Sex or Sex Casualties?

Casual Sex or Sex Casualties?

Just a cursory glance at social media reveals our ever increasing attention to issues surrounding sexuality. Daily, Facebook newsfeeds are flooded with disturbing articles calling attention to sexual harassment, human trafficking, rape, and STDs. At the same time, articles about how girls in school ought not be forced to follow a dress code and articles about how women ought to have more sexual freedom by means of funded birth control and legal abortions continually trend on the same Facebook feed. While I wholeheartedly believe that most people who advocate for“sexual freedom”(meaning the ability to have mutually consensual sexual relations with whomever in a manner that is free from bodily or emotional harm) do not condone acts such as harassment, rape, or human trafficking, I do not believe the vast majority of this population sees the casualties their “sexual freedom” creates outside of a monogamous marriage. 

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