“Be Holy”, by Jason Garwood

Jason Garwood’s “Be Holy” is a book that is much needed for the church. He reminds us that part of our calling as Christians is to live holy lives. We truly are to be different than the world around us. Unfortunately as Garwood points out holiness is a forgotten part of discipleship.
He builds a good case for Christians to live holy lives, but along the way points out the wonderful truth that we only become truly holy through the blood of Jesus Christ and His righteousness being imputed to us. We are positionally holy because of the blood of Christ, which frees us up to pursue practical holiness in our lives. We pursue this holiness not to earn salvation but because we are thankful for it.
2 Corinthians 3:18 which I would say is the theme of the book, tells us that we are transformed into becoming more like Jesus as we behold His glory. Garwood’s premise is that we behold the glory of God in the Gospel, And as we make the truth of the Gospel our daily, moment by moment focus we will be changed.
Transformation is the work of God within us but it also requires effort on our part, Garwood presents this truth in a very balanced manner. Sanctification, us becoming like Jesus, is as one person said a “grace filled, gospel fueled effort.” Garwood does a great job of laying this truth out in “Be Holy”.
One of my favorite parts was the part on commitment. We are to commit ourselves to holiness but in reality this is a commitment to God. If we just commit to be better people then our commitment isn’t to God but to a system of morality, and holiness is much more than just mere morality.
This book is packed with Gospel truth, it will inform you, it will challenge you, and it will convict you all for the glory of God

Joy to the World, Now and Forevermore

Psalm 98:8-9 – “Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.”

Christmas 2014 has come and gone. Soon all of the trees will be taken down and put away, the candy will all be eaten or thrown out, and many of the presents will be largely forgotten about. December will turn to January and Christmas present will become Christmas past. This is always a sad occurrence for me because I miss the joy of Christmas. I miss the carols and the decorations. I miss the celebrations and the anticipation. I especially miss the time with family and friends before life gets “back to normal”.

And yet in reality life doesn’t have to get “back to normal” does it? Christmas is special because we set aside time for special things. We set aside time to spend with those that we love. Christmas is special because we tend to gaze upon Jesus a little more during this time of year. Truthfully however none of that has to change. We can still set aside time for those that we love. We can still focus on Jesus everyday, or as the writer of Hebrews tells us, we can still “fix our eyes on Jesus”. Everyday can be special because of Him and His love and His grace. Everyday can be special because of the people that He blesses our lives with.

In the late 1600s Isaac Watts wrote the song that we triumphantly sing at Christmas, “Joy to the World.” But that song was not written as a Christmas song. Watts began to write songs in response to the terrible music of the church at that time. One Sunday morning Watts remarked to one of the deacons of the church that the music was terrible that day, the deacon’s response “well then do something about it.” Watts did and that evening came to church with a hymn ready to sing. Shortly thereafter he produced “Joy to the World”, not as a Christmas song but as a song based on Psalm 98 to celebrate the sovereignty and majesty of God. A song to celebrate Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, not just at Christmas but everyday.

A song that beautifully proclaims how we ought to live: Joyfully, everyday. Joyful because we can spend time with those that we love, not just at Christmas but we can set aside time everyday. Joyful because we can slow down and reflect on Jesus, not just at Christmas but everyday. Another reason people are joyful at Christmas is because of the anticipation. We anticipate giving gifts and we anticipate getting gifts, and then suddenly its all over. We can however live everyday in anticipation. Anticipating the gifts of that day. Anticipating the gift of God’s grace and mercy, and knowing that His mercy is “new every morning.” Anticipating being able to spend time in His presence, because we are told to “come boldly before His throne of grace,” and that “in His presence there is fullness of joy.” And anticipating His return as King. Jesus is already King of Kings and Lord of Lords but one day He will return and fully set up His kingdom. We should live in anticipation of that day. And oh what a glorious day that will be, dare I say it will be a day of joy.

Joy to the world the Lord is come – He is presently here
Joy to the world the Lord has come – He came to this earth to redeem His people
Joy to the world the Lord is coming – to set up His kingdom.

Joy because of Jesus, so let us live in and bask in that joy every day.

Christmas Glory

John 1:14 – “and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

What a strange story this story of the birth of Jesus is, made stranger still when you realize it is not just as story but it is true and it it’s truth. God really was born in a manger in Bethlehem a little over 2000 years ago.  The immortal became mortal.  The Creator became part of creation. The infinite became a baby. The all powerful became helpless.  This story is too outrageous to have been dreamed up by a man, and in its outrageousness it forces us to ask a question, and that question is why? Why did Jesus come to earth? Why did He come in this way? And the answer is to reveal the glory of God.

We get a glimpse of that glory in His humility.  God humbled Himself and was born in a stable while the world was totally oblivious to His coming.  He was born surrounded by animals because as the Bible tells us “there was no room for them in the inn.”  This didn’t take God by surprise however, He knew these would be the circumstances surrounding His birth.  Yet that’s how He came, and He came to reveal to us the glory of God.  We see that glory through that humility.  Philippians 2 tells us “that He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  His humility was on display the night of His birth, it was how He lived His life, and it ultimately led Him to death.  To reveal to us the glory of God.

We get another glimpse of His glory in His majesty.  There was nothing majestic about how He was born but there is something majestic when the wise men come and bow before Him.  We see His majesty when they present to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Gold for a king, that’s majesty.  Frankincense for a high priest, that’s majesty.  And myrrh as a glimpse of anointing His body for burial, that too is majesty.

We get another glimpse of His glory in His mission.  Why did He come? The angel told the shepherds, that He was a “Savior”.  His mission was that He came to save.  The Savior of the world coming to seek and save the lost.  How does that happen? How does He save us? By dying on the cross in our place.  It was supposed to be us but He took our place and saved us from judgement, and from death.

We get another glimpse of His glory through His love.  Why did He come? Why leave the glories of heaven for the frailties of earth? Why live a perfect, sinless life? Why go to a cross and suffer a horrific death?  Because of love, the love that He has for us.  He did all of that (and more)because He loves us.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  That is the love of God.  That is the glory of God.

My prayer this Christmas is that you know that love.  That you behold that glory.  That you treasure that glory and that it’s grace and truth transforms your very life. Merry Christmas.  To God be the glory!

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen!?

Isaiah 40:31 – “Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength…… ”

One of the things that I really enjoy about the Christmas season is the Christmas carols.  I love the songs of the season, “Frosty”, “Rudolph”, and “Jingle Bells” all put a smile on my face.  My favorite songs however are the songs that proclaim the birth of Jesus.  “Joy to the World” has always been and will probably always be my favorite song of the season (in fact I think we should sing it year round), but recently I have really come to appreciate “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. ”
“God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy”

Beautiful words but let’s be honest something gets lost in the translation doesn’t it? Why would a merry gentlemen need rest? It doesn’t seem to make sense.  In reality this song is almost 600 years old so our language has changed a lot in those years.  The word for rest actually means keep, and merry actually means strong.   So what we are singing is God keep you strong gentlemen!

That still doesn’t make a lot of sense does it? This song was written during a time of depression and fear.  It was written during a time when the church had almost lost the truth of who Jesus was, and when you lose that truth everything else falls apart.  This anonymous person however wrote this song to remind people of who Jesus was and not only that to remind them of what life is all about.

God keep you strong gentlemen? Remember this was written to people who felt hopeless, like they had no strength at all. So what the writer is saying is this, you may feel weak and hopeless but God is all powerful and He gives us strength when we trust in Him.   That is what Isaiah says isn’t it? “Those who wait upon (trust in) the Lord shall renew their strength.”    God gives us strength so let nothing “you dismay.”

God gives strength because He is “Christ our Savior,  born on Christmas Day.” He, this one born in a Manger that the world didn’t have room for, He gives us salvation.

And (this is the line that I dearly love) He has come to “save us all from Satan’s power.  He saves us from our sins, from the power of sin, and from a place called hell.  Jesus even saves us from the wrath of God the Father against sin.   How? Because He went to the cross as our substitute and took the wrath of the Father in our place.

He saves us from all of that, not because of our goodness but because of His.  He saves us and delivers us even when “we have gone astray.”  We don’t deserve it but the Bible says He lavishes His love and His grace on us.

And that grace keeps us, in fact I would say that we can even find rest in that grace.   Certainly His grace gives us strength.  Where do we find salvation? Jesus! Where do we find strength?  Jesus! Where do we find rest and peace? Jesus!

Oh tidings of comfort and joy! To God be the glory, that is what Christmas is all about and beyond that, that is what life is all about.

Seeing Jesus Through the Eyes of a Toy (Toy Story)

Seeing Jesus Through the Eyes of a Toy

Isaiah 25:1 – “O Lord, You are my God, I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.”

I only got to see a part of the new Toy Story television special tonight but I found it interesting on many levels. Apparently the main child character has a multitude of toys, but never plays with any of them. He is only interested in video games.

Because of this his toys have to find ways of entertaining themselves, which leads to all sorts of mischief and mayhem. One scene even shows one of the toys torturing the beloved Buzz and Woody by holding them over a moving fan. They scream in fear but fortunately the other toy doesn’t drop them.

It is at this time that one of the new toy characters that we are introduced to accidentally steps on the on button on the surge protector, which of course turns the power off to the electronic device that the little boy is playing. He is in a state of shock and appears to not know what to do. He has to face reality instead of the virtual reality that consumes his life. He gets up out of his gaming chair to go and assess the situation. When he looks at the surge protector he of course discovers this wonderful dinosaur toy. He has had it for a while I am sure but it is only then that he really sees it. He puts it down, turns the power back on and gets ready to go back to business as usual.

Suddenly he stops, and he looks at his little sister as she is playing with a toy. She seems to be having fun, so he does something amazing, he puts down his controller and decides to join her. They then begin a great adventure involving all of these newfound toys. When the adventure is finally over and the lights are turned out, the dinosaur character says something to the effect of “this is the most wonderful, exhilarating day of my life.”

In many ways this story is a parable of our world. Children have so many things to play with but seem to be consumed with the virtual reality of all of the electronics around them. Because of this many kids no longer play, and toys are forgotten about. When that happens the wonder of childhood can be diminished.

However the story struck me on a deeper level, the main toy character, “the dinosaur”, only found real joy when he was doing what he was created to do. When he wasn’t being played with, he walked around aimlessly. Life had no real purpose or joy, but when he began to do what he was created to do, life all of a sudden was “exhilarating and wonderful.”

We as humans have a lot in common with that dinosaur toy. It is only when we are doing what we are created to do that we find true joy and purpose in life. When we don’t have that sense of purpose our lives become aimless and filled with all kinds of mischief and mayhem (dare I say sin). It is then that we harm one another and that life doesn’t make sense. When we find our purpose however we find joy.

So what is our purpose? It is really quite simple. Isaiah says, “I will exalt you, O God.” The word exalt means to lift up to glorify. Our purpose is to glorify God, and the only way that we can do that is through having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” In other words we were created to rejoice, to pray, and to give thanks to God. That is our pupose. We were made to glorify God. How do we do that? Only in Christ Jesus. Only by following Him and living for Him. When we do that we find our purpose in life and even though there will be hard times and difficulties in life, it is then that we find true joy, and perhaps we can say with a dinosaur, “that life is exhilarating and wonderful.” To God be the glory!