the Gospels

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled: A Review

In 1951, a London pastor preached eight sermons on John 14:1-12 to his congregation. They had just endured two world wars and the threat of the Cold War loomed ahead. They were struggling with fear, discouragement, depression, unbelief, worry, and cultural confusion. This sermon series was counter-actively infused with hope, comfort, compassion, and strength. The pastor was Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and this sermon series has now been collected in a short, joyously encouraging book called Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled.

At eight chapters long, this book reflects the eight sermons that Lloyd-Jones preached. He patiently plods through the first twelve verses of John 14. The context of the passage is that Jesus is telling His disciples about His imminent death and they don't understand. They are confused and hurt by this, and Jesus addresses the tumult in their own hearts with compassion and encouragement. Lloyd-Jones breaks each sermon (and the editors, each chapter) into just a couple of verses.

This book has buckets of strengths, in my opinion. First off, it's richly encouraging. I read a lot of books, but this short work was like a breath of fresh air, a pure delight to read. While present day political circumstances are quite different from 1951, the core sins and discouragements that Martyn Lloyd-Jones addresses are starkly relevant. I was deeply encouraged by these sermons.

Secondly, it's immensely readable. If I wasn't well aware of the fact, I'd be surprised to find out these words were first spoken in the early fifties. Sure, in the grand scheme of things sixty years isn't that long, but it's long enough. Yet Lloyd-Jones speaks in a timeless manner, offering ageless encouragement. His style is conversational, and I could almost hear his voice (including the crisp British accent) as I read. All in all, it was very accessible.

Third, it's both theological and practical. Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled would be an excellent book for a new Christian, or even as a discussion springboard for an unbelieving friend. While this book is at its root simple exposition of Scripture lacking any sort of flashy or funny illustrations, it's engaging and extensively practical. It's rich with doctrine yet offers easy, practical encouragement.

Last, it's short. While this may not seem like much of a strength, its brevity would appeal to many. It is literally just like a breath of fresh air. It whooshes in, clearing cobwebs of doubt and fear and confusion and discouragement from one's mind, bringing sweet, fresh encouragement and joy instead.

This is a book to invest in for sure. If you are going through a particularly low point in your life or simply find yourself troubled by the world we live in, Martyn Lloyd-Jones has encouragement for you: Believe in Jesus. He has the answer to your questions, and He offers hope for your doubt.

“[Jesus said,] 'Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also'" (John 14:1-3).

*I received this book through Crossway's Beyond the Page review system. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

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The Simultaneous Beauty and Horror

The cross was an image of utter horror and, at the same time, a moment of blinding beauty. We see its ugliness in the sinless Man brutally beaten and mercilessly, painfully murdered for sin not His own. But we call it beautiful because we know what was accomplished - we see the perfect Lamb on the tree, sacrificing Himself to secure the redemption of His people.

The cross was the most vivid example of unjust brutality in all of history. Yet at the same time, Jesus became our curse willingly. He did it so that we wouldn't be eternally damned. And then in a stunning victory, He conquered sin and death and rose undefeated. That makes the cross wondrous. There is a happy ending. It truly fills our hearts with a thousand songs because "by our Savior's crimson flow, holy wrath has been removed."

Now we can sing the glories of Calvary.

Lord, You’re calling me to come
And behold the wondrous cross
To explore the depths of grace
That came to me at such a cost
Where Your boundless love
Conquered my boundless sin
And Mercy’s arms were opened wide

My heart is filled with a thousand songs
Proclaiming the glories of Calvary
With every breath, Lord, how I long
To sing of Jesus who died for me
Lord, take me deeper
Into the glories of Calvary

Sinners find eternal joy
In the triumph of Your wounds
By our Savior’s crimson flow
Holy wrath has been removed
And Your saints below
Join with your saints above
Rejoicing in the Risen Lamb

For all eternity we will sing worthy
Our God has set us free
To sing the glories of Calvary

When the King Came to Tell Stories: Part 3

This is the third and final post in my short series on three well-known parable of Jesus. If you missed them, you can check out Part 1 and Part 2.

The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)
Everything had to be lost to be found - a sheep, a coin, and a son. In that order we find three parables in Luke 15 all with one purpose - to demonstrate the glory and joy of God in salvation.

The first parable tells about a shepherd with one hundred sheep who, upon losing only one, goes and hunts down that sheep. Finding the lost sheep, he is overjoyed and gathers all of his neighbours and friends to celebrate.

The second parable tells about a woman with ten silver coins who, upon losing one, frantically sweeps and cleans and searches her house until she finds it. And when she does find it, she gathers all of her neighbours and friends to celebrate.

This brings us to the third parable, and if you've thought that the last two seemed alike, this one follows their pattern. But it's a little bit different.

Our cast of characters finds the Father, the Prodigal Son, and the Older Son, though we'll just focus mostly on the first two characters. And from the moment our story begins, we're thrust into a drama of sin and restoration. We begin with discontentment:

"There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living." (Luke 15:11-13)

This father was obviously wealthy, and though it was not customary for a son to have his inheritance before his father's death, this father (as we shall soon see more clearly) is not your average dad. He is deeply gracious and wise, and he gives his younger son the money. So off the young man goes, with stars in his eyes, adventure on the horizon, and his pockets lined with cash.

Such begins the "reckless living." Two words that attempt to convey such a hedonistic, selfish, sinful state wherein pleasure was the son's first priority. There was folly instead of wisdom, discontentment instead of gratitude, surface instead of substance, money and materialism, and a never-ending search for the next big thing.

And then the fun lurched to a rather abrupt stop.

And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

What a quick, desperate turn of events! What happened to the wealthy young adventurer? What happened to the money? What happened to the fun? Gone. All of it is gone (thanks to the reckless living), and in a great twist of events, the rich son of a rich father now feeds pigs for a living. And he can't even get someone to allow him to eat the pig slop! But once he gets a clear mind, he realizes there may be hope for him beyond starving with the pigs.

But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."' And he arose and came to his father.

This does not seem in any way like a false repentance, like he thought it would be a good scheme to charm some more money from his dad's wallet. It's not like he was writing his repentance speech on his hand, memorizing it, and working on a convincing delivery. Overcome with his sinfulness, he realizes that he must come to his father with full and authentic humility and repentance. So he goes back home.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

The imagery here is spectacular. Before the repentance was even out of the son's mouth, there was compassion from the father.  When most other fathers would turn away in disgust, this good, gracious father welcomes his wayward son with open arms, even running to him to embrace him. But the son still demonstrates true repentance. Then you have forgiveness. And finally you have joy. This is the imagery of salvation. The sinner who humbly, honestly, mournfully repents of his sin, abandons the old life, and comes to God, throwing himself at the mercy of the Father, will find forgiveness, compassion, and then joy. At the end of the first parable in Luke 15, Jesus said,

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:7)

The parable of the prodigal son shows the love of God for His children. It shows the necessity of true repentance, and also demonstrates the sin of pride. At the end of the parable, the Older Son (who never left home, never asked for his inheritance, and just worked for his dad all these years) grew proud and angry at the father for making such a big deal about the prodigal. The father replied,

"Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found."

There is joy and celebration to be found in humility and repentance, for in salvation God makes alive those dead. At the end of his lyrical poem, "The Prodigal's Sister," John Piper gave just a taste of this joy:

The weeping son said, “Father, can
Perhaps, you make a slave of me,
For I have sinned and cannot be
Your son?” To which the great old man
Replied, “I have a different plan.”
And then, to servants gathered by,
He said, “Bring me the ring, and my
Best robe, and leather shoes. And take
The fire and fatted calf, and make
For us the finest feast that we
Have ever made. For this, you see,
My dead son is alive and sound;
He once was lost, but now is found.”
And so the common labor ceased,
And ev'ry hand prepared the feast.
The colors flew at ev'ry gate!
And they began to celebrate.

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When the King Came to Tell Stories: Part 2

If you missed Part 1, check it out here.

“Once upon a time, a king came to earth to tell stories, and the stories contained the mystery of eternal life.” - Jared Wilson, in The Storytelling God

The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most (if not the most) culturally well-known stories that Jesus told. Pretty much everyone today thinks they know this story and its beloved morals. You've got a stellar cast of characters: the Traveler who gets robbed and beaten on his journey; our antagonists, the Priest and the Levite who, despite their seeming righteousness, don't bother to help the Traveler; and then the hero, the oh-so-good Samaritan, lowly and looked down upon, who stops and does help.

Yet we have plucked this story and its characters from its context, slapped it in thank-you cards and on soup kitchen walls, and missed the whole point.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's go back to the beginning. A lawyer had just come up to Jesus and asked Him how he could have eternal life. The question at first seems beautiful. You've got a humble lawyer throwing himself at Jesus' feet and asking how to be saved.

But unfortunately, that's not how it went.

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25)

This lawyer had no intention of humility. He wanted to test Jesus. And that is about the worst motive in the world. Jesus responds to him with a question,

“What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

To which the lawyer replies,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus, knowing the man's heart, tells him that he has answered correctly. "Do this and you will live." The lawyer knows he has not kept this command. Jesus knows that He has shown the man his sin. And so, "desiring to justify himself, [the lawyer] said to Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'" The ESV Student Study Bible said,

A deceitful question, because the lawyer was trying to eliminate responsibility for others by making some people "non-neighbors."

At this question, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan.

So Jesus is responding to a question of deceit and selfish justification. This parable is in the direct context of the gospel. Its purpose is to demonstrate that the gospel informs our practice. The fact that we love God means we must love others.

When Jesus ends the parable and asks the lawyer which of the characters was the true neighbor to the Traveler - the Levite, the priest, or the Samaritan - the ESV Student Study Bible later says:

Jesus' question corrects the lawyer's deceitful question (v. 29). The question is not "who is my neighbor?" but "how can I be a neighbor?"

As Christians we have a responsibility to love, to care, to show kindness and compassion - even when we don't feel like it. And the reason we do that is not because we're just good people. It's not because we're nice. It's not because we're in the mood. It's not because we've done good works. It's because of the gospel. Faith and practice go together. Faith without works is dead.

The Good Samaritan was not good because he helped someone. Anyone could do that. The Good Samaritan was good because he understood the gospel and instead of asking "who is my neighbor?" he asked "how can I be a neighbor?" The centerpiece of this parable is not the Samaritan. It's the gospel.

When the King Came to Tell Stories: Part 1

“Once upon a time, a king came to earth to tell stories, and the stories contained the mystery of eternal life.” - Jared Wilson, in The Storytelling God

Series Intro: Parables were a very important part of Jesus' teaching. These short, fictitious stories meant to illustrate a point and make an application were an integral aspect of Jesus' ministry. He used dozens of them. And the parables' purpose was simple: each of them was meant to proclaim the gospel and reveal the character of God. Yet these parables are perhaps the most misunderstood part of Jesus' teaching.

Today the danger is to make every story a moral lesson, teaching us to be nicer people, better money-managers, and good soil. And every parable does have a lesson, many distinctly applicable for us today. But the parables are first and foremost about who Christ is - the King - and what He's saying - the mystery of eternal life.

Over the next week I'm going to make reflections and draw applications from three well-known parables: 1) The Master and the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), 2) The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), and 3) The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). Since these passages are all fairly long, I will not include them in the posts. Instead I hope that you'll read them yourself or at least find yourself familiar with them.

The Master and the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)
An important place to begin with this parable is to identify the cast of characters we have. The Master is clearly Jesus, the wise servants who invested their money are followers of Jesus, and the servant who buried his money is someone who thought he was a follower of Jesus, but really wasn't.

This parable is not about money. There is an application about money, but that is not the direct theme. The theme is about Christ's authority and our stewardship. God is the final authority in a Christian's life and thus everything we have belongs to Him. Practically, this plays out in several ways:

Time. Are we being responsible with our time, knowing that every minute God has given us is to bring glory to Him?
Words. Are we showing grace and wisdom in our words? In Matthew 12:36-37, Jesus says, "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."
Relationships. Are we showing kindness and demonstrating good stewardship with the people we've been given to care for, or the people we have been granted friendship and familial bonds with?
Possessions. Are we using our houses, books, cars, pools, pianos, and everything we own to minister to God's people and promote the kingdom of God?
Money. Are we showing discernment and unwavering commitment to God above all else with the money we've been given?

This is a parable about the glory of God, and practically bringing glory to God through biblical stewardship. Don't get lost in the slippery slope of making this about morality. This story holds the mystery of eternal life. And it was taught by a King. It's about much more than just morality.

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The Beauty of God's Sovereign Will

Jesus was in the throes of the fakest trial that had ever taken place. The witnesses were liars. The accusers hypocrites. The audience deeply deceived. The judge a wishy-washy people-pleaser. And the criminal the Son of God. It was a sham, an attempt at a misguided stamp of legality on gruesome sin. The people wanted Jesus dead.

And the results seemed to land in the lap of a desperate Roman governor who wanted to keep on good terms with the Jews. This man was Pilate. And though, as Mike Andrus notes, "the Jews were granted a fair degree of liberty and self-government, and the Sanhedrin, composed of Jewish religious leaders, retained various judicial functions, ...death sentences could not be carried out without permission of the Roman governor." The Jews wanted Jesus dead. So they had to get civil government involved.

Enter Pilate. We know the story, don't we? Pilate gives in to the ultimate case of peer pressure, and he releases a criminal (as was the custom of the day) named Barabbas and condemns Jesus to death on the cross. But as I was reading this familiar story, I landed on a phrase in the HCSB translation that startled me a little. It was in Luke 23:24-25:

So Pilate decided to grant their demand and released the one they were asking for, who had been thrown into prison for rebellion and murder. But he handed Jesus over to their will.

Does the irony not strike you? Pilate thought he was washing his hands of responsibility and leaving it in the lap of the Jews. But what's craziest, is that he thought that Jesus' death now lay in the will of the Jews. How misguided Pilate was.

Immediately I thought of another instance where Pilate showed his ignorance at who God is. John 19:8-11 says,

[Pilate] entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.”

Pilate was so humanistic, so focused on the physical and the fleeting, he was blinded to Jesus' mission. Jesus, on the other hand, was cross-centred, God-centred. And He was this because of His unshakable trust in God's sovereign will.

Jesus knew His death lay no more in the hands of the Jews than His resurrection did. He could pray, "Not my will, but Yours be done" because He was eternally convinced that the Father is in control of everything, and is using everything for our good and His glory.

So sometimes God's sovereign will seems messy. Broken. Ugly, even. But it is always beautiful. For it's a reflection of a good and glorious King and Father who is caring for His children. And no matter what we think, nothing lies outside His will.

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When Gethsemane Bored Us

When did we lose the agony of Gethsemane? When was the first time we read Matthew 26, and we yawned? When was the first time we read, "and He began to be sorrowful and troubled," and felt nothing? The scene has been burned in Flannel-Gram on our memory - meek and weak Jesus sniffling in a sunny garden that resembles a Thomas Kincaid painting. And we have no more passion than for our beloved childhood copy of Peter Cottontail. The Easter Bunny sparks about as much excitement as the familiar "let this cup pass from me" passage. When was the first time we saw Gethsemane and we realized we were bored?

I don't know, but it is a horrifying reality. The video below is a song by Matt Papa called "The Crucible of God (Gethsemane)." It portrays no Flannel-Gram Jesus. This is agony. This is suffering. And it was our sin that put Him there. What happened in the garden of Gethsemane?

Ponders Rick Gamache:

(T)he Father held out the cup and Jesus looked in. What he saw there flung him into the throes of agony. ... Jesus lifted his head to the sky and cried out, “I will drink from this cup, Father. I will drink from this cup so that your glory may be vindicated and my name may be glorified. And so that the sheep that you have given me will see our glory and enjoy it forever. I will drink on behalf of our rescue mission.”
Just then, through blurry eyes, Jesus saw the line of torches slithering like a snake up the hill to the garden. The mob arrived. Judas kissed. Friends fled. Soldiers arrested. And Jesus’ world became a swirl of torment and mockery.

And we yawn. Gethsemane was a place of darkness, of wrestling, or horror and betrayal. Jesus bled. Jesus sweat. Jesus fell on His face and cried out to His Father. In a moment of both immense complexity and beauty, Jesus asked if there was another way. But He knew and, in joyful submission, He went.

Matt Papa's song, like few others, draws me to the depth of the agony of Gethsemane. Today, this Friday, this very Good Friday, don't let the familiarity harden you. Gethsemane was emotional and it was messy and it was awful. But it was good. Jesus Christ, the God-man, the One who knew no sin, became sin for us. And that is very good.

Kept in Suspense?

It was winter in Jersualem and the Jewish Feast of Dedication was taking place. Jesus had previously delivered His famous "I am the Good Shepherd" sermon. Today, though, Jesus wasn't looking for the people to preach to. He was just taking a walk through the temple. The people came to Him. Not His followers, but the Jews, presumably here for the Feast of Dedication and insanely curious about this man. A while ago, they had debated whether He was crazy or demon-posessed. But before that, when they listened to Him, their ears were closed and they didn't understand the gospel He was preaching. They hardened their hearts. Now, though, crowded around Jesus in the temple, they demand from Him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus' reply was simple yet filled with authority:

“I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:25-30)

First the enraged Jews picked up stones to stone Jesus, but a heated back and forth quickly broke out instead. Finally, the Jews laid aside their rocks and wanted to arrrest Jesus right then and there. But it was not yet His time and so He yet again demonstrated His divinity and simply "escaped." 

A lot of people today are like those zealous Jews. Sometimes I'm like those zealous Jews! They think they want to know the truth. They ask Jesus, "Stop with the veiled the clues! We want the mystery to be solved; no more suspense! Just tell us once and for all - are you the Messiah, God in flesh?" And Jesus says,

"I've told you many times. You've heard the gospel many times. You've even read My word. But you've rejected what's true. You have been hardened. I haven't been keeping you in suspense. You just don't want to know the truth."

Like sin and slavery, truth isn't a popular topic today. People believe in its relativity; they reject its absolutivity. They say what's true for you isn't necessarily true for me. But truth is not a wishy-washy, debatable thing. Truth is absolute, a foundation for life. And Jesus Christ is truth: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." 

Today, people (and Christians sometimes too) are blinded to the truth by pride and ignorance. We just don't want to know what is. We're just like those misguided Jews. But Jesus says to look to the gospel of Him and we'll discover truth once and for all. He hasn't kept us in suspense; sin has kept us in suspense.

77 Chances ... Or More

Once upon a time there was a very wealthy king who wanted to settle his accounts with his servants. So he sent for one of his servants who was greatly indebted to him, owing him 10,000 talents (equivalent roughly to a peasant's wages for 1,000,000,000 days). The servant could not pay the debt, so the king justly declared that he and all his family should be sold to make up for the payment. But the servant fell on his knees and with all of his heart, begged his master not to punish him. So the king had pity on his servant and mercifully declared the debt forgiven. The servant left with a happy heart. After leaving the king's presence, he headed straight for his friend's house, where he stormed in, seized his friend and began to choke him, demanding payment for a debt. His happiness was short-lived, for his friend owed him a debt, but a debt of just 100 denarii (about three months wages). His friend could not pay it, and falling down on his knees, he begged for mercy, promising to pay later. But the servant refused, and threw his friend in jail.

Now a few of the king's other servants found out about this and were, unsurprisingly, troubled. So they approached the king and told him what had happened. The king was furious and called the servant to his presence. "You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?" Then, enraged, he threw the servant in jail until his debt was paid.

This was a story told by Jesus in Matthew 18:21-35, right after Peter asked Him a question: "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" (Matt. 18:21) Peter thought his question was pretty good, and his suggested answer even better! "How many chances for forgiveness should I give people? As many as seven?" But Jesus' answer was radically different: "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times." (emphasis mine) And then He told the above story to illustrate His point.

Forgiveness was something Jesus was trying to hit home hard. By saying seventy-seven times, He was emphasizing that forgiveness was not something as shallow to just be done one or two or three or seven times, but as many as seventy-seven ... or more. Jesus was not saying that you only had to give those around you seventy-seven chances and then you could stop forgiving them! No, that's missing the point. He was simply pointing out that as many times as we think we ought to forgive someone, we really ought to forgive them way more.

Jesus finished His story with this, "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." (Matt. 18:35) Wow. If we don't choose to extend forgiveness to others, God will not extend forgiveness to us. That's pretty harsh. But it sure makes me want to forgive others a lot more!

It's easy to take offense and hold grudges but harder to forgive. But as Jesus tells us, we must forgive, giving people as many chances as they need. Because if we don't, the consequences are too great - God will not forgive us.

What Did Jesus Do When He was Sick?

Why is that when you're sick, you feel rather disagreeable? Disgruntled? Annoyed that the sun has the audacity to shine when you can't go outside and enjoy it? To be honest, I don't know. But what I do know is that you do feel it, because I feel it right now! I'm not terribly sick, but I have a cold. With so much sickness going around these days, I'm surprised I didn't catch it sooner. But better late than never, right? Wrong.

Anyway, in my clouded, illness-ridden mind I'll try not to run off on too many tangents here. Just one. And that is: what did Jesus do when He was sick? When we're lying in bed, cursing the sun and getting mad at the world, what did Jesus do? Our frustration in sickness and unjustified anger is sinful. Jesus did not sin, so He couldn't have been frustrated and disagreeable when He was sick. So what did He do? And what can we learn from Him?

First of all, there is no passage in Scripture that details a time in Jesus' life when He was ill. Now, He was human, so He most likely did get sick on occasion, just like everybody else. But based on the rest of His earthly life, here are a few things that Jesus did when He wasn't sick (but also maybe when He was) that we can certainly apply to when we're dealing with sickness:

  1. He prayed. (See Matthew 14:23 26:39-44; Mark 1:35, 6:46, 14:35-39; Luke 5:16, 6:12, 9:28, 11:1, 22:41-44) Jesus prayed to His Father a lot. He was constantly in communion with Him. When He was preparing for the most agonizing part of His earthly mission (the Cross and bearing the full wrath of God), He prayed. When we're going through stuff about a million times more trivial than that (e.g. colds and sickness), we too should humbly come before our Father in heaven.
  2. He served others. (Mark 10:45) The mighty King of kings lowered Himself to the form of a servant and served His creatures. He healed, He cared for, He loved, He treated with kindness so many people. We too can follow His example and, even though we feel badly, serve others in our sickness.
  3. He entrusted His weakness to the will of God. (Matthew 26:39) In His agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed that His Father would remove the cup of wrath that He was about to pour on Him, but He finished with "not as I will, but as you will." He was about to be broken for the transgressions of His chosen people, and He submitted Himself to the will of God. In our sickness, when we're weak, we should we must entrust ourselves to the will of God.
So whether you're sick or healthy or somewhere in between, let's try to apply these principles of Jesus our Lord, the ultimate Physician and Healer of the sick, to more glorify Him through all that we do, especially through sickness.

Daddy's Daughter: Insights on My Dad's Sermon

Yesterday my dad preached on Mark 8:11-21, in "Jesus: The Patient One." The two main things that played out in the text are that:
  1. The Pharisees Didn't Get a Sign, and
  2. The Disciples Didn't Get Two Signs
Let me explain. In the first half of the text (Mark 8:11-13) the Pharisees approach Jesus. As we've learned through past texts, these pious religious leaders weren't coming to encourage Jesus or invite Him over for a friendly cup of coffee. They came with one purpose in mind - to argue. But what did they want to argue about? A sign. They wanted Jesus to give them a sign. But not just any sign. They didn't want to see Him heal a lame man ... because they'd already seen that. They didn't want to see Him cast out a demon ... for they'd seen Him do that too. They didn't want to see a leper healed of leprosy or sight restored to a blind man because they'd seen it all before. They wanted something big and flashy ... to suit their desires and whims and wishes. So did Jesus comply? "And [Jesus] sighed deeply in his spirit and said, 'Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.'" So even though those nasty Pharisees wanted a sign, they didn't get one.

But in the second half of the text (Mark 8:14-21), our focus turns from the Pharisees to the disciples. The disciples and Jesus have just gotten in a boat, and it's nearing lunch time. But, what do you know, our crazy disciples have forgotten to bring food! Well, Jesus, ever the Wise Teacher, uses this as a teachable moment. He begins to warn them about the Pharisees and about wicked King Herod Antipas, feeding them spiritual food. But the disciples want physical food. Their growling stomachs seem to drown out Jesus' spiritual insights. Mark tells us Jesus was aware of this. So He turns to them and asks them, "Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up? ... And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up? ... Do you not yet understand?”" (Mark 8:17:21) You see the disciples didn't get two signs. They didn't understand their significance. 

But thank goodness that Jesus is the Patient One! He was patient with the disciples, and He's patient with us. Let's strive to model after Christ's pure and perfect example of patience. 

Daddy's Daughter: Insights on My Dad's Sermon

Today my dad preached on Mark 6:45-52, the fairly familiar story of Jesus walking on water. But something that wasn't familiar to me at all stuck out of the sermon like a nail on a wooden plank. It comes in Mark 6:46:
"And after he [that is, Jesus] had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray."
Have you ever wondered why Jesus prayed? In Mark, it records Jesus praying only twice, once in Mark 6:46, when Jesus had to leave the crowds and go and spend some time with the Father and once more at Gethsemane, right before His betrayal and crucifixion (Mark 14:32). So why did Jesus pray? Did He need to pray? On top of that, you may be thinking, "But I thought Jesus was God. Does God pray to God?" So what's up with this? The answer is simply that, yes, Jesus is fully God, but He is also fully man. Jesus needed to commune with the Father, just as we do. Why? Well, for one, He needed instruction, what to say and what to do. John sheds some light on this in John 12:49, when we hear Jesus say,
"For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak."
Jesus was led by the Father in what to do through His communion with Him, through His prayers. Jesus also prayed because, as a human, He needed rest and refreshment and encouragement, just like we do. Jesus got tired; He needed rest. Jesus even got discouraged; He needed encouragement from the Father, just like us.

So be encouraged in your prayer life! As you seek communion with the Father, remember Jesus and His perfect communion, His perfect prayer life, that we can never achieve, yet that we can strive with all our being to emulate.

Daddy's Daughter: Insights on My Dad's Sermon

I know - I've made myself rather scarce around the Garden the past little while. But as school and all my yearly activities draw to a close, I should have more time to blog. Here's some insights on my dad's sermon yesterday, called "On Mission with Jesus," preached from Mark 6:6b-13.

At the beginning of the sermon, my dad said, "Many times, people go home from a Sunday service and, when asked what the sermon was about, they don't have an answer. So for this sermon, I'm giving you that answer. When somebody asks you what the sermon was about today, you can say, 'We need to be on mission with Jesus.' That's it. Now let me explain what I mean.'"

Dad proceeded to explain that being on mission with Jesus meant that you are basically a Jesus missionary. And the world is your mission field. Being on mission with Jesus means living a life of worship to Jesus and sharing His gospel with the world. Let me share Dad's awesome alliterations on what Jesus wants you to know to be on mission with Him:
  1. You will receive provision from the Father. In Mark 6:8, Jesus sent out His disciples to be on mission with Him. He told the disciples basically not to take anything. Why? Because the Father was going to provide all their needs. So when we get on mission with Jesus, let's not worry about how much of this we have or if we need more of that. We don't need anything to be on mission with Jesus, except the willingness to go, for the Father will provide all we need.
  2. You will receive preparation from the Son. In Mark 6:11, Jesus prepares His disciples for rejection. And Jesus prepares us for rejection. The thing is that if we go out and tell people about Jesus and hand out gospel tracts and pray in public and preach the name of Christ, people aren't going to like us. In fact, they're going to reject us. That is why we must prepare for rejection and not let it destroy our faith.
  3. You will receive power from the Holy Spirit. When my dad said this, I instantly thought of Acts 1:8 - "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” When we get on mission with Jesus, the Spirit will indwell us. How else do you think that the disciples were able to heal the sick and cast out demons (Mark 6:13)? It was because the Holy Spirit gave them power.
So will you get on mission with Jesus? 

To listen to "On Mission with Jesus," click here.

Daddy's Daughter: Insights on My Dad's Sermon

Today my dad preached on Mark 5:1-20, when Jesus casts at least 2,000 demons out of one man and into a herd of pigs. As this is not a post on a recap of my dad's message, but my insights on it, I won't give you the full story, though. But I'd strongly encourage you to check it out! So here are my insights:

In today's text, there was a demon-possessed man, tormented by at least 2,000 demons! One clear characteristic about this man was that he was obsessed with death. He lived in a graveyard for goodness' sake! (Mark 5:3) He wasn't comfortable living with the living; he had to be around the dead. He was so obsessed with death.

Our culture today isn't much different. Have you ever looked at clothing or accessories in most any local Wal-Mart or mall? You can buy clothes, purses, backpacks, hair supplies, keychains, and about a million other little trinkets with skulls on them. Or how about this new obsession with vampires and the "undead"? With the Twilight saga sweeping over North America, teenagers, kids, and adults invest hours and hours of their lives poring over books and watching movies about the dead and death. What about video games where you fight demons? Or books about spirits coming back from the grave to haunt you? These may seem like innocent fun at first, but you can get in big trouble if you decide to continue down this dangerous road.

But let's turn our eyes away from death. Let's instead focus on life! Though we were once dead in our sin, we are now alive in the Lord, because of Christ's shed blood for us! This demon-possessed man was obsessed with death for a long time, but the day he met Jesus, everything changed. When the demons were cast out of him, he fell on his knees praising God that he was now alive in Him! So let's turn away from death and darkness and, just like this man, rejoice that we, who have repented of our sin and trusted in Christ, are now light in the Lord!

"And you, who were dead in your trespasses ... God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses." Colossians 2:13

Daddy's Daughter: Insights on My Dad's Sermon

So my dad was getting a little worried at the lack of Daddy's Daughter posts appearing at the garden. But not to worry, Dad! I'm back with some insights from this morning's sermon, on Mark 4:35-41, called "Jesus: The One Who is God."

The text this morning covered the storm on the Sea of Galilee, and the disciples' worry and fear. This story was pretty applicable, because I bet that I can safely say that every single one of you have experienced a time in your life when fear, worry, and doubts crowded your mind. You've probably, at one time or another, responded to these fears the same way the disciples did: "Lord! Don't you care that we're perishing?"

So how do we get rid of our fear and worry? Here's three practical ways to overcome and combat the lies and deception our fears and worries feed us:
  1. Confess your sin. Sometimes we don't realize that worry and fear are sins, but they are, and, like all other sin, they need to be repented of.
  2. Ask for God's help. Without Him, overcoming fear and worry is hopeless, pointless, and impossible.
  3. Focus on Who God is. Dwell on His goodness, His sovereignty, and the fact that He is in control. Block out your problems and focus on Who He really is. Focus on Jesus' sacrifice of His life to cover your sin of worry, fear, and doubt with His precious blood.

Daddy's Daughter: Insights on My Dad's Sermon

Today's sermon was part two of "Jesus: The Master Teacher." The text that this two-week series focused on was Mark 4:1-20, better known as the Parable of the Seeds or of the Sowers, or as the Parable of the Soils like my dad calls it. Let's remind ourselves that a parable is a story with a lesson.

Jesus is teaching by the sea to a large crowd in this text. He begins His parable by talking about a farmer. Listen to the words of Jesus, the Master Teacher, Himself:
"A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold."
The point of this parable is that there are four soils. They are like this:
  1. The first bit of seed falls along the path and is soon eaten by the birds. These are that Satan has snatched away. They've turned their back on God, refused to believe in Him and have become, as the term today deems them, atheists (people who do not believe that God exists).
  2. Some more seed falls on rocky soil. These are the people that "get saved" either at a revival meeting or maybe at Vacation Bible School and they're told that 'with Jesus, you're life will be wonderful!' They become a "Christian," but their salvation was shallow. Suddenly troubled times come along. Maybe a family member gets sick or they lose their job, and that's it. They thought that being a "Christian" would be fun and easy. But they never expected trials and tribulation, though God promises that they will come. (Matthew 24:9)
  3. The next bit of seed falls on thorny soil. This is the person who accepts Jesus, but then the lure of the world and the deceit of riches and other things pull them away. The world chokes their "faith" out of them.
  4. But the last seed falls on much different soil. This is the good soil. These are the people that truly understand what salvation is and repent of their sins and trust their lives to Jesus. Then, they get out there and they become the sower. They sow seeds, and reap thirtyfold and sixtyfold and one hundredfold.
So which are you?

Daddy's Daughter: Insights on My Dad's Sermon

Over the past few months, my dad's sermon titles have consisted of Jesus: The One Sent to Forgive, Jesus: The One Sent to Heal Sickness, Jesus: The One Who Broke the Mold, Jesus: The One Who Called the Apostles, Jesus: Crazy, Corrupt or King, and today was Jesus: Who Is His Family? This question (who is Jesus' family?) puzzled people back in Jesus' day and continues to puzzle people here in our day and age. But Jesus answers this question as simply as pie in today's text - Mark 3:31-35.

"And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you." And he answered them, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.'" (Mark 3:31-35)
The answer to today's question was simple. If you do the will of God, then you're in Jesus' family. But what is the will of God? It's what He wants you to do! It's first repenting of your sins and trusting in Him, and then doing what He wants and commands. For example ...
  • Evangelizing to nonbelievers (Mark 16:15)
  • Being kind to everyone (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Loving each other (Leviticus 19:18)
  • Making God first in our lives (Exodus 20:3)
  • Giving the best of our everything to God (Exodus 34:26) 
So are you in God's family?

Daddy's Daughter: Insights on My Dad's Sermon

Today the sermon was summed up in the title: Jesus - Crazy, Corrupt or King. The text was Mark 3:20-30. What was discovered this morning's was that there are three groups of people in this text - the crowds who were surrounding Jesus, Jesus' family who thought He was crazy, and the scribes who thought Jesus was corrupt. The message of the sermon (and this post) is simple. There are many issues you can remain neutral on today, but this isn't one of them.

Who is Jesus to you? Is He crazy? Definitely not. Is He corrupt? Of course not! Then all that's left is that He must be King.

Daddy's Daughter: Insights on My Dad's Sermon/Praying Without Ceasing Review

Something that stuck out to me in my dad's sermon today was kind of a review of my praying without ceasing series. What stuck out to me was revealed to us in the first half of the first verse. The text this morning was Mark 3:13-19. The verse that stuck out to me was verse 13: "And he [Jesus] went up on the mountain." Now this may not sound too important at a first glance, but it leads to a few questions (at least for me). My first question is - why did Jesus go up on the mountain? And though Mark doesn't deem fit to tell us why, good, old Luke does, in Luke 6:12: "In these days he went out to the mountain to pray." Aha! Jesus went up to the mountain to pray. How interesting.This story in this passage is Jesus' call of the 12 apostles. But before He calls them, He prays. Another interesting thing that Luke provides in this story is included in the second half of verse twelve. It reads, "And all night He [that is, Jesus] continued in prayer to God." This was not a bang off a quick list, do a pray-and-run. This was all night. This was a good ten hours on His knees. My dad mentioned this, and it really convicted me. How often do we find it hard to spend ten minutes in prayer, let alone ten hours? We get so caught up in our busy lives that we find it difficult to make time for God. How convicting!

But let's let Jesus be our example that we shouldn't just rush through prayer, and only pray when we have a problem or a request, but everyday, all day. We need to make sure we're reviewing the command to pray without ceasing often and re-apply it to our lives.

Daddy's Daughter: Insights on My Dad's Sermon

Today's sermon was on Mark 3:1-6, about the Pharisees and Jesus' battle for the Sabbath. Now you see, the Pharisees (pious religious leaders back in Jesus' day) had some rules for Jews for the Sabbath (which back then was Friday night until Saturday night). The rules all went back to one basis statement: No work was to be done. That meant that a woman could not look in the mirror on the Sabbath for fear she might spot a grey hair and try to pluck it, which was work. No one could use water for fear a drop of water might splash on the floor, constituting washing the floor. As well, no one was allowed to: climb a tree, tie a knot, pick up a rock, sew a thread, wear jewelry, or even boil water.

How far they had come from, "On six days you are to work and on the seventh day, rest."

But it's not so much different from today. We can say, "Oh, we'd never be like those sticklers," but is that really true? Does this sound familiar: You made it a personal rule not to go to a store on the Sabbath (Sunday). But one Sunday after church you realize you're having company over and you desperately need milk. Well you could zip over to Wal-Mart, but then you think about all the other things you'd get at there that you don't need if you go. So you change your mind. No Wal-Mart. Then it comes to you. You can go to the gas station and get one necessity while filling up on another necessity (gas). So you come to think that it's okay to shop on Sundays - only to get the necessities, though. And before you know it, you're looking down on Sally, your neighbour, who goes to your church, because she went to Wal-Mart on Sunday.

How far we've come from, "On six days you are to work and on the seventh day, rest."

This rule-driven faith is a lie called legalism. Legalism basically means that you lose sight of Who God really is. Now I'm not saying that God doesn't have certain rules that we must follow, but tying a knot or going to Wal-Mart on Sunday is not forbidden in the Bible. When God says "rest," He wants you to ... wait for it ... rest. That may mean spending time with your family, or discussing the morning's sermon. It may mean going for a walk or watching a movie or reading a godly book. But let's not get caught up in the lie of legalism. Instead let's focus our eyes on Who God really is.