The Lord Is Coming to Purify His People

As we have been looking at the prophet Malachi, notice he does not say that the Messiah who was to come was going to come in and destroy their enemies or restore their national identity or power. Jesus’ primary mission in coming to earth was to purify His people.

“But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.” Malachi 3:2-3 (ESV)

Malachi uses two images to describe what the Messiah is going to do when He comes. First, he is going to cleanse His people using fuller’s soap.  I hope I’m not the only one who had to look that one up in the dictionary. A fuller is one who “cleans, shrinks, and thickens, or dyes cloth or newly shorn wool.” He would do this using strong lye soap, after which the clothes would be placed on rocks and beaten with sticks. I don’t know about you, but it does not strike me as a pleasant experience to be placed on a rock and beaten with sticks.

The second image Malachi uses is that of the refiner’s fire. What does it mean to pass through the refiner’s fire? In the refining process the blacksmith would take a precious metal and literally burn out all the impurities and imperfections. What does this tell us about Christmas, why Jesus was born? It means that when He came, to borrow from Gary Thomas, his purpose was not to make his people happy, but to make them holy.

What would Christmas look like if we allowed Christ to do His purifying work in our lives? Are we willing to go through that purifying process even though it may mean that it is going to be difficult and may cause pain as He burns away the sin that we have allowed to take root in our lives?

The Lord Is Coming

Malachi’s message, was a message of hope in a dark time. It had been thousands of years since the promised Messiah had been first prophesied. The people were starting to return from Exile, but Jerusalem and the Temple the exiles had erected were shadows of their former glory. Though they longed for the Messiah, it would be another 400 years before He would come.

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:1 (ESV)

Throughout history, God entered and reminded his people that He was going to keep His promise. Just when they thought the night could not get any darker, that is when the dawn broke. As we approach Christmas we remember the point at which Christ broke through from heaven to earth. Though it has been a long time since then, we can take heart, because Jesus is coming again!

From Around the Block: Free Books By John Piper

Desiring God has a few free downloads from John Piper:

Good News of Great Joy is a selection of devotional readings for the Advent season beginning December 2nd.

Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist is Piper’s best-known book. In Desiring God, Piper coined his famous (and controversial) phrase “Christian hedonism.” He argues that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. I had to read this book twice as an undergraduate student at Taylor University. I have to admit that when I read it as a wet-behind-the-ears freshman I disagreed with most of the book. It turned my world upside down. I came to realize that I saw myself at the center of “my” universe. I would read it again my senior year and I found that I agreed with Piper much more than I disagreed with him. Bottom-line, God gets all the glory.

When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy was written in 2004. Piper understands that sometimes we don’t feel like desiring God above everything and everyone else. Sometimes we don’t want to be “most satisfied” in God or enjoy him for a minute, let alone forever. Often, God’s glory is the furthest thing from our minds. If you ever feel that way, then this book is for you.


Preparing for Christmas

I don’t know about you but a lot goes in to preparing for Christmas. Before we left for Thanksgiving I made my annual trek out to storage and brought in the two artificial pre-lit trees, the christmas ornament organizer, and boxes and boxes of Amy’s various decorations that will soon take over the house. I also pulled out my strands of beautifully blue-hinted LED outdoor Christmas lights which are attached to a timer that automagically turns on the lights at dark and runs them for six hours. I like going to bed with the glow of Christmas coming in from the windows.
Before Jesus was born at Christmas over 2,000 years ago, his people had to get ready. God sent them the prophet Malachi who reminded them that God was going to keep His promise and one day would send His messenger to help them prepare.

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1 ESV)

When Malachi writes that God’s messenger will “prepare the way” it literally means “to clear a path.” In the ancient world, a herald would often go ahead of the king and announce his coming ahead of time-so that the people might make themselves ready. Can you hear the herald? “Make way! The King is Coming!” The prophecy of a messenger heralding the coming Messiah would be fulfilled 400 years later in John the Baptist, as Mark 1:3 describes as the voice of one crying in the wilderness who would herald: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,  make his paths straight,”

How did John the Baptist prepare the way for Jesus to come? I believe there were three ways in which John prepared the way for Christ:

1. He taught a message of repentance. When he preached he called the people to repent of their sins. If we are to ready our hearts or our homes for Christ, we must first repent of our sins.

2. He pointed people toward Christ, not himself. He could have easily been interested in building his own kingdom here, his own “ministry” or business. Though he did have his own disciples, he pointed people to the Messiah. Likewise, we can help prepare the way for Christmas by pointing people to Christ! We can make Christmas about so many other things, when He is the real reason that we celebrate.

3. He had an attitude of humility. John would so esteem Jesus that he would be quoted as saying, “the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” (Luke 3:16 ESV). The ancient practice of footwashing was performed by the lowest servant of member of the host family. John was in essence saying that he wasn’t even worthy enough to be the lowest servant of Jesus. In a world filled with arrogance, hubris, and pride, a healthy dose of humility is what sets our Savior apart. We can truly prepare for Christmas this year when we recognize that He is God and we are not. When we put Christ in the proper place in our lives–first, where He belongs, we will be ready and prepared to celebrate Christmas this year.

Though I hope that you go all-out this year, with decorations, presents, parties, and food. I hope that while you are spending the next few weeks preparing for Christmas that you will take a moment and make sure that spiritually you are ready to worship the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Where Do We Go From Here: Thoughts for the Church

I sat down this morning and wrote down some thoughts reflecting on the outcome of yesterday’s election and its ramifications for the church.
First, Whoever sits on the throne in Washington, God is still king.

In Scripture, Daniel would tell the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar, ”the Most High is ruler over the kingdom of men, and He gives it to anyone He wants” (Daniel 4:25). The Psalmist writes, ”The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all” Psalm 103:19. Handel chose Psalm 2 for a section of his Messiah, ”Why do the nations rebel and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together against the Lord and His Anointed One: “Let us tear off their chains and free ourselves from their restraints.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord ridicules them. Then He speaks to them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath” (Psalm 2:1-5).

These passages and the message of Scripture teaches us that God is ultimately in control, even of pagan kings and empires.

Second, don’t let your disappointment turn to bitterness or bigotry.

No matter how we voted, we have a responsibility as Christians to pray for our President; 1 Timothy 2:1-4. When Paul wrote these words he meant the Roman Emperor, probably Nero-one cannot get much more reprobate than that. If we’re not careful we become bitter and begin to blame those who do not see things as we do; why should it surprise us that the Lost act like Lost people? Once we allow bitterness to take root, then bigotry is not far behind. Bigotry is when we blame someone of a different race or culture for our own problems. There is no room in God’s kingdom for racism.

But how did we get here? How did we elect someone to the highest office of the land that is so staunchly against God?Just as Romans 1 teaches that “God delivered them over to a worthless mind” as a nation we have forsaken God and He is allowing us the leader that we have asked for.

“And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong. . .Although they know full well God’s just sentence–that those who practice such things deserve to die–they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them.” Romans 1:28, 32

So Where Do We Go From Here?

One thing this election has showed us is that we no longer live in a Christian nation or even a Christian culture. Because of this we must be prepared as a church for greater persecution and the limiting of our religious freedom. We must learn to be as bold as Daniel took a strong stand for the Lord and prayed openly in Babylon. We must pray for our President and our leadership. We must pray for revival. Our hope is not political, but spiritual.

We must build a solid foundation from God’s Word – knowing what we believe and why.

“Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Peter 3:15. Most Christians don’t know what they believe or why. As we are now living in a culture that is starkly different, we are going to have to be able to defend why we believe that abortion is murder and that marriage is between a man and a woman.

We must teach our children God’s truth

4 “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. d 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. j 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9

We must do better planting churches in the cities, in the Northeast, and the West.

America used to be a rural country, we were a country of pioneers and farmers; we have shifted now to the cities. Many conservative churches abandoned the urban areas to the liberal mainline denominations and moved out to the suburbs. We must move back to the cities. In Camden, SC, we live in an area where there is 1 SBC church for every 800 residents. In some of the cities that need the gospel Miami = 1 SBC church >; 9,087 residents, Cleveland = 1 SBC church >; 42,500 residents, and New York = 1 SBC church >; 59,760 residents.

This election showed us that we must learn how to do multi-cultural ministry right here at home. If you were here for the trunk or treat, over 80% of our treaters were not members of our church, but more importantly, they reflected our community. Our church does not look like our community! We are going to have to reach across cultures in order to fulfill the Great Commission and survive as a church.

At the end of the day, God is in control. Let us rest in His sovereignty and focus on the mission until He comes back!

Audio: Where Do We Go From Here?

Linked: Post-Election Rundown

Before I share my own thoughts tonight, I thought I would share some recommended reading from around the web concerning the election:

Aftermath: Lessons from the 2012 Election by Dr. Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Briefing (Audio) by Al Mohler

The Loyal Opposition by Denny Burke, Professor of Biblical Studies, Boyce College

The People Have Spoken — What Should Christians Do Now by Ed Stetzer, VP LifeWay Research

Electoral post-mortem: Where do we go from here? by Matt Privett

Christians, Let’s Honor the President, by Dr. Russ Moore, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Postscript of a Presidential Election by Thom Rainer, President, Lifeway

25 Million Self-Described “Evangelicals” Voted for Obama, Why & What Else Do The Exit Polls Tell Us About How Christians Voted? by Joel Rosenberg

Historic Camden Revolutionary War Reenactment

I love history.

I sometimes think I was born in the wrong century, except I would miss my technology in about 5 minutes. We moved to Camden, SC, a little over 6 months ago, and since that time I’ve taken Eden and Caroline to the Historic Camden village about a half a dozen times. Today I was that Dad. Yes, I took my two little girls to see a revolutionary battle reenactment. We had “the talk” beforehand. I explained that it was going to be loud, that there were going to be guns and cannons, but they weren’t shooting real bullets. I told them that the soldiers were just going to pretend to be dead. In spite of it all, we went anyway. We went because they are fascinated with Historic Camden and how people used to live. We went because I love history and right now my girls love it too. We went because our nation is free because real men and women gave their very lives. When I stood out on that field and watched men dressed up as soldiers pretending to battle, I was reminded that we are in a real battle and we won’t just get up and walk off the field when this battle is over.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

I’m thankful to live in this country where men died that I might live free over 200 years later. I’m more thankful, however, that Christ died 2000 years ago and won the ultimate victory.