The Pruning

Archive for April, 2012|Monthly archive page

Walking with Jesus in Passion Week (Sunday)

In Uncategorized on April 8, 2012 at 7:45 pm

• Resurrection witnesses (Matt. 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12)

• Resurrection appearances (Matt. 28:9-20; Luke 24:13-53; John 20-21)

…So How Does the Resurrection Benefit Me?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember too many resurrection sermons that I’ve heard at church.  Christians know that Easter’s important.  That it’s supposed to be a day of celebration.  But when asked, “So what’s so great about the resurrection?” I daresay that not many people can answer in a coherent, biblical manner.  So, to save all of us some time here is how the Heidelberg Catechism, a statement of faith given in question and answer form, shares with us why the resurrection is important to us.

[Question] How does Christ’s resurrection benefit us?
] First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, that he might [a] make us partakers of that righteousness which he had purchased for us by his death; secondly, we are also by his power [b] raised up to a new life; an lastly, the resurrection of Christ is a [c] sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.

[a]: 1Cor. 15:16
[b]: Rom. 6:4; Col. 3:1ff
[c]: 1Cor. 15; Rom. 8:11

There you have it…a concise, scriptural answer to the question!  He is risen, and that’s good news us!  Hope you all had a wonderful Easter!  God bless!


Passion Week Reflections (by Joshua Lim and Tiffany Sung)

In Uncategorized on April 7, 2012 at 10:58 am

I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts up to this point.  Today, we’re going to do something a little different as I asked two of the NET teachers, Joshua Lim and Tiffany Sung, to write a reflection from their own QT’s on Passion Week.  I hope you enjoy these posts (I sure did!) and think of your own personal reflection from the rich time of fellowship you spent with Christ this week.  God bless!

Appreciative Commitment by Joshua Lim

I’ve been feeling the pangs of under-appreciation. Whether in the context of church or friendships or relationships or family, there has been an undercurrent of this sinful sense of ownership of appreciation. “I deserve to get recognized. I deserve to be thanked. Haven’t I shown my commitment to them/it? Where’s my pat on the back or my “thank you” Facebook wall post?” Throughout the course of this Passion Week, events came up that really brought out a nastiness in my own heart. I hoarded a sense of entitlement to appreciation because of my commitment to serving at church or sacrificing for friends. And in wrestling through these events, I was reminded of someone who was most entitled (and rightly so) to such ownership of appreciation, yet never laid claim to it – Jesus Christ.

There is a right and beautiful relationship between appreciation and commitment. In the events that occurred this past week, there was an estranged relationship between the two, namely because commitment became a means to appreciation. So then, with all this sobering introspection, what is the right and good relationship between appreciation and commitment? As in all things of spiritual importance, we must go to Jesus. Commitment must not be a means to gaining appreciation. Rather, commitment must be the appropriate and proper appreciation shown to the One who has made the far greater and ultimate commitment.  Just two thoughts:

(1) Appreciating Commitment

Look to the Cross and really appreciate the commitment Jesus made. If you really dwell there – on Calvary – appreciation will swell in every corner of your heart. The Son of God, who knew no sin, committed Himself to the Father’s plan to be sin for us, so that in Him, we might be the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). What a commitment! He subjected Himself to such humility, taking on the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7), to every temptation (Hebrews 4:15), to the jeers, to the blows on the back, to a crown of thorns, to nails impaling flesh, to the wooden beams set upon Golgotha, and to the Father’s full and holy wrath (Psalm 75:8, Isaiah 53:6). He committed. Appreciate the Commitment He made, once and for all on that day. And He is still committed today – ever pleading on our behalf and urging us on (Romans 8:34). Appreciate the commitment Christ makes every single day.

(2) Commitment to Appreciating

Look to the Cross and make a commitment to appreciating the One who committed His life for your reconciliation to the Father. And there is natural overflow from observing the commitment made by the Son. It is to first commit your life to Him. It is to lay aside your old ways, to repent, and to follow after Him. It is to say along with the Apostle Paul – “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me!” (Galatians 2:20) It is also to commit yourself to His people – especially in the context of a local church. To definitively and explicitly say to them, “Here I am for you. And I trust you are for me.” It is to demonstrate the Gospel in your relationships – to show mercy, grace, and love. And all this must stem from your view of Jesus Christ and his finished work on the cross.

Having observed our Savior during this Passion Week, I have repented of those sinful inclinations in my heart and have been refreshed by the Gospel. May we stand amazed upon Calvary, beholding the commitment of our Lord and Savior, and responding in appreciative commitment to Him and to His people.

The Rose by Tiffany Sung
(inspired by Matt Chandler’s image of “the rose” no one wants.  It’s really powerful, and worth watching.)

“Who would want that rose?” they say,
“soiled, dirty, and thrown away.”
“Who would love a thing like her?”
Not family, not friends, no man she’s sure.

She sees the cross yet can’t draw near,
As pointed fingers bring her tears.
They mock, they laugh, they spit, they jeer,
Not knowing that the sin is theirs.

He sees the crowd and loves them all,
But only one receives the call.
He sees the dirt, the wounds, the pain
And says for her the lamb was slain.

His grace revealed in a sweet array,
He came to take her sins away.
To show the world that He wants the rose,
The hurt, the pain, and all it holds.

“I’m all you need, just look above.
My child, my love, my soiled dove,
My life I give so you may live,
And know in truth, that I forgive. “

Now at the cross of Christ she stands,
Her heart contrite, she understands,
The sacrifice that set her free,
Up on that cross at Calvary.

Her clothes are white, she’s been made clean,
He says, “your sins are no longer seen.
I love you with a love divine,
I’ve paid the price, and you are mine.”

Walking with Jesus in Passion Week (Friday)

In Uncategorized on April 6, 2012 at 9:41 am

Sometime perhaps after midnight:

• Betrayal and Arrest (Matt. 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-50)

• Jewish trial – Jesus appears in three phases in front of:

· Annas (John 18:13-24)

· Caiaphas and partial Sanhedrin (Matt. 26:57-75; Mark 14:53-65)

· Sanhedrin fully assembled (perhaps after sunrise) (Matt. 27:1-2; Mark 15:1)

• Roman trial – Jesus appears in three phases before:

· Pilate (Matt. 27:2-14; Mark 15:2-5)

· Herod Antipas (Luke 23:6-12)

· Pilate (Matt. 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-14)

• Crucifixion (approx. 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (Matt. 27:27-66; Mark 15:16-39)

The Curious Case of the Centurion (Mark 15:33-41)

The first person to profess that Jesus Christ was the “Son of God” in the Gospel of Mark was not the disciples, not the Jewish religious leaders, but was a Roman centurion who watched Jesus die.  This centurion, who stood guard at countless crucifixions, saw something different in the weakness and suffering of Jesus that led him to state, “Truly, this man was the Son of God!”  How could he have come to such a conclusion?

Some have stated that the centurion was thinking about the Roman notion of what a “son of god” looked like.  All of the Roman emperors were considered a “divine man” and so places Jesus in that same category as a supernaturally-charged divine man.  The obstacle to this theory, however, is that suffering-especially the shameful suffering of a crucifixion-was as unknown among ‘divine men’.  For the people of this day, suffering was not a sign of God’s presence or a way of redemption, but showed instead the absence of God.  Bible commentator Martin Hengel’s conclusion is verified by all available evidence: ‘A crucified messiah, son of God or God must have seemed a contradiction in terms to anyone, Jew, Greek, Roman or barbarian, asked to believe such a claim, and it will certainly have been thought offensive and foolish.’  The fact that the passion and death of Jesus on the cross evoke the confession of the centurion indicates that he, by divine revelation, has been granted the mystery of faith in Jesus as the Son of God.

When we remember Jesus’ death today we are all met with this question: “Who do you think Jesus is?”  Is he just a good moral teacher?  Maybe a religious insurrectionist?  Or, is he truly the Son of God?  There’s nothing particularly glorious about dying on a cross, but faith will make you see beyond what your physical eyes can see.  It will make you see Jesus dying that death for you.  Dying that death so that you won’t have to.  When you see that, you will be able to exclaim like the centurion, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”  when you look at the cross.

“Amazing love, how can it be?  That thou my God shouldst died for me.”

Questions to Ask:

1) Has the humiliation, suffering, and death of Christ led you to believe that He is the Son of God?

Walking with Jesus in Passion Week (Thursday)

In Uncategorized on April 5, 2012 at 8:30 am


• Preparations for Passover (Matt. 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16)

After sundown:

• Passover meal and Last Supper (Matt. 26:20-35; Mark 12:17-25)

• Upper room discourses (John 13—17)

• Prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42)

A Man of Many Sorrows (Mark 14:32-42)

There have been countless martyrs who have given up their lives for Jesus who faced death with unbending resolve.  The early church was filled with Christians who died gruesome deaths because they would rather die than deny their Lord.  If His followers were brave, unshakable in the face of death, shouldn’t this reflect in the leader as well?  Not exactly.

Nothing in all the Bible compares to Jesus’ agony and anguish in Gethsemane.  Luke 22:44 even speaks of Jesus’ “sweat falling to the ground like drops of blood”.  The very torment provides a sad clue to Jesus’ understanding of his impending death.  We all know individuals who face the prospect of their deaths with greater composure and courage than does Jesus.  Did not Socrates greet death as a friend and liberator to a better life?  Did not the Stoics preach serene resignation to fate?  Why does Jesus, who has foreseen his death and marched resolutely to Jerusalem to meet it, now shake before it?  The answer must be that Jesus is aware of facing something more than simply his own death.  It was the cup.

The cup was a symbol of God’s wrath being poured out on Jesus as He gave His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  Jesus knew this was His mission in life; to die on behalf of sinners.  In Gethsemane, Jesus must make the payment of that ransom by becoming the sin-bearer for humanity.  Jesus stands before the final consequence of being the Servant of God, “pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:4-5).  It was not death itself, but being the man who will identify with sinners so fully as to become the object of God’s wrath against sin – is what overwhelms Jesus’ soul “to the point of death”.  Jesus feared the death that no one else would ever need to or be able to experience.  He would experience God’s wrath in order that those who believe in him would not have to face it.  This was the anguish Jesus felt at Gethsemane.  One of my theology professors would always say, “Grace is free to us, but never comes cheap.”  At Gethsemane, we get a preview of the high cost of our salvation to God.

Questions to Ask

1)    How bad are my sins that even thinking about God’s wrath would bring Jesus to a state of overwhelming agony?

2)    How great is the love of God towards me if Jesus was willing to take take my place and bear God’s wrath?

Walking with Jesus in Passion Week (Wednesday)

In Uncategorized on April 4, 2012 at 9:02 am


• “Silent Wednesday” – Jesus and disciples remain in Bethany for last time of fellowship

• Judas returns alone to Jerusalem to make arrangements for the betrayal (Matt. 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11)

Judas, the Betrayer

There’s no recorded action for Jesus and his disciples during this day.  The only time that activity is recorded is by one of the twelve apostles named Judas Iscariot.  Judas followed Jesus around for 3 years in his ministry.  He heard the teachings.  He saw the miracles, yet none of these were able to “save” him.  Judas had the look of a disciple of Christ, but he lacked the one thing that separates Christians from non-Christians: faith.  Faith in Christ will change a person’s destiny forever.  It distinguishes sinners from saints.  Judas,one of the twelve, was lacking this faith.

If we measured Judas by our standard of faith, we would think that Judas was a pretty decent guy.  He knew the Christian lingo.  He comes to events.  Heck, he even serves!  What more proof do we need that he’s saved?  It goes to show that saving faith cannot be measured by such things, but rather is displayed by what a person chooses to do with Jesus Christ.  Judas had no qualms of giving Jesus over for 30 silver pieces (approx. 4 months wage).  Money was more important to him than Jesus Christ, and he was willing to betray his master for it.  We may never think that we could make the same mistake as Judas, but let’s face reality; there are many Judas’ inside of the church.  People who look good on the outside, but would throw away their Master if the world gave them what they most wanted in life.  We must not be so naive that we could never be like Judas.  Instead, let us examine our hearts today and see if there is anything in this world that we love more than Jesus.

Questions to Ask Yourself:

1) Do I value anything more than Jesus Christ in my life?

2) Judas had a pattern of stealing (John 12:6), which ultimately led up to his betrayal.  What sins do I need to repent of so that I don’t make the same mistake?

Walking with Jesus in Passion Week (Tuesday)

In Uncategorized on April 3, 2012 at 11:02 am


• Reaction to cursing the fig tree on the way back to Jerusalem (Matt. 21:20-22; Mark 11:20-21)

• Debates with religious leaders in Jerusalem and teaching in the temple (Matt. 21:23—23:39; Mark 11:27—12:44)

• Eschatological Discourse on the Mount of Olives on the return to Bethany (Matt. 24:1—25:46; Mark 13:1-37)

The Answers in the Back of the Book (Matt. 24:1-25:46)

Jesus gives us the answers in the back of the book about what’s going to happen in the future (and we don’t even have to show our work!).  In his final discourse recorded in the book of Matthew, Jesus teaches his disciples about what will happen in the near and distant future.  Jesus looks down the long corridor of time and prophesies to his disciples of his return, the end of the age, and the establishment of his messianic throne.  But what do you think is the purpose of Jesus disclosing what will happen in the end?  Is it so that we could watch CNN and interpret every world catastrophe as a sign of the end times?  Nope. 

Jesus’ intent isn’t primarily to give a timetable or “signs” of the future; but rather, He focuses especially on the attitudes and character qualities that guide their discipleship to him for the days and years ahead when he would no longer be with them physically.  Jesus is preparing his disciples for life in the present by showing them what’s going to happen in the future.  Here’s a truism for your life: your view of the future shapes your life in the present.  Let me give you an example. 

Suppose you won the Mega Million lottery and was going to receive $65 million dollars the next day.  However, on the same day, an armed robber comes into your house and demands that you give him all the money you have in the house, which is around $500.  If you knew you had $65 million waiting for you in the future, you would happily give him the $500 and maybe even some of your fine jewelry as well!  You would only do that because you knew you have greater rewards in the future.  $500 is nothing compared to $65 million!  But what if $500 was all that you had?  You would react very differently to the armed robber who came into your house.  Your view of the future shapes the way that you live in the present.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must walk in a way where our view of the future shapes our life in the present.  We must live with the future in mind, which will teach us how to live with Christ in the present.  But how do we live with the future in mind?  Jesus gives us a couple ways in chapter 25; which are, always being sober-minded, sharing the gospel to the world diligently, and helping the needy.  These are practical ways one can ready themselves for the future coming of Jesus Christ.

Questions to Ask:

1) What beliefs and values should I have in the present with the knowledge that Jesus will come back and reign on His throne forever?

2) What beliefs and values should I NOT have in the present because I know that those things have no future when Jesus will come back and reign on His throne forever?


Walking with Jesus in Passion Week (Monday)

In Uncategorized on April 2, 2012 at 10:45 pm

This blog will be updated daily so that we together as a church can “walk” with Jesus through the week of His death and resurrection.  Each day we will look at some of the events that transpired throughout Jesus’ tumultuous week in Jerusalem and see how it fits into the greater picture of who He was and what He’s done for us.  This kind of discipline has been practiced by Christians throughout history to commemorate, celebrate, commiserate, and contemplate these events with Jesus, and to enter into a profound understanding of what Jesus accomplished for us :]  Happy reading!


As Jesus enters Jerusalem for his final week, everything about his person and mission come to a climactic focus for the culmination of his earthly assignment.  All of the miracles, the tender acts of kindness, and prophetic teaching will find their ultimate meaning in this final week.  This is because Jesus’ work of establishing the new covenant will be bought with His blood (Matt. 26:26-29).  With his sacrifice on the cross, the forgiveness for those who accept Jesus into their lives will be accomplished.


• Cursing fig tree on the way to Jerusalem (Matt. 21:18-22; cf. Mark 11:12-14)

• Clearing the Temple (Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17)

• Miracles and challenges in the Temple (Matt. 21:14-16; Mark 1:18)

• Return to Bethany (Matt. 21:17; Mark 11:19)

Fruit for Thought (Mark 11:12-17)

Out of all the drama that happens in this week, Matthew and Mark highlight Jesus’ interaction with a fruitless fig tree.  Why do these two gospels bring attention to this inane event?  Was it condemning one lazy gardener in Jerusalem?

Jesus is not interested in giving gardening tips, but he’s making an observation of the religious people during these times.  They had the markers of being right with God by their showy actions and mannerisms, but these leaders lacked real, significant fruit in their lives.  They had no relationship with God and were totally incapable of bearing fruit.  Sure, they could say the right things, pray the right prayers, and give sacrificially for His sake.  However, all these exterior acts could only produce more leaves.  Only a true relationship with God could ever bring fruit.  What these religious leaders were lacking was a relationship with God because they did not have a relationship with Jesus the Messiah.

Ask yourself today:

1) Am I like the religious leaders, who did all the right things, but am lacking a true, fruitful relationship with God through Christ?

2) If I am already in Christ, what kind of fruits from my relationship with Him do I display to my school, friends, and family?

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