The Pruning

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Passion Week (Saturday) | Volcano

In Josh Lim on March 30, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Throughout Passion Week, a post will be published each day to help us reflect on Jesus and the greatest historical event that has ever taken place – the Resurrection. All excerpts are taken from “Love to the Uttermost”, a devotional on Passion Week from Pastor John Piper (Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org).

“Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, ‘Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?’ And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.” (Luke 22:63-65, ESV)

“As I read these terrible words, I found myself saying to Jesus, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Jesus. Forgive me!’ I felt myself to be an actor here, not just a spectator. I was so much a part of that ugly gang that I knew I was as guilty as they were. I felt that if the rage of God should spill over onto those soldiers and sweep me away, too, justice would have been done. I wasn’t there, but their sin was my sin. It would not have been unjust for me to fall under their sentence.

Has it ever bothered you that sometimes in the Old Testament when one man sins, many get swept away in the punishment God brings?

An analogy came to my mind. The hearts of humanity are like a molten mantle beneath the surface of the whole earth. The molten lava beneath the earth is the universal wickedness of the human heart – the rebellion against God and the selfishness toward people. Here and there a volcano of rebellion bursts forth which God sees fit to judge immediately. He may do so by causing the scorching, destructive lava to flow not only down the mountain which erupted, but also across the valleys which did not erupt, but which have the same molten lava of sin beneath the surface. The reason I confess the sin of beating Jesus, even though I wasn’t there, is that the same lava of rebellion is in my own heart.”

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Growing up as a kid in church, whenever my Sunday school teacher or pastor would bring up Adam and Eve and how they brought the entire human race into sin (1 Cor. 15:22a), I would remember all the students (including me) saying in unison, “Oh, Adam and Eve, they’re so dumb! It’s all their fault!” And we would all look at each other with confidence, saying, “If I was in their shoes, I would never have disobeyed!” It’s funny to look back on that. And it’s funny that church kids today say the exact same thing. (Admit it, you thought it or said it as well! HAHA)

But what a sobering reminder, that I am not guilty simply by association (to Adam), but that I myself am guilty because of my own sin. Indeed, it is humbling to think that the same wickedness that was in Adam’s heart in his blatant disobedience against God is in my heart. The same wickedness in Judas Iscariot’s heart in his betrayal of Jesus is in my heart. The same wickedness in the Roman soldiers and Pharisees’ hearts as they spit at, laughed at, and mocked Jesus is in my heart. I am just as guilty. And I am just as deserving of condemnation.

But what beautiful words can be found in the Gospel: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) What sweet mercy we have received!

As we continue to reflect upon the death and resurrection of Jesus, and as we prepare our hearts to rejoice in Him, with His people, tomorrow, may we remember a few things:

(1) Our hearts were equally wicked. We were equally guilty. And it was for our sins that Jesus went to the cross.

(2) Jesus’ sacrifice was a perfect one. He has once and for all, bought forgiveness for those who put their faith and trust in Him.

(3) May we be more gracious to others who are in sin. May we be slow to judge, and quick to restore. May we be people who recognize our own massive sinfulness and His massive grace.

Happy Saturday! Sunday is ‘a coming!

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Passion Week (Friday) | Draw Near

In Josh Lim on March 29, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Throughout Passion Week, a post will be published each day to help us reflect on Jesus and the greatest historical event that has ever taken place – the Resurrection. All excerpts are taken from “Love to the Uttermost”, a devotional on Passion Week from Pastor John Piper (Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org).

“Consequently, Jesus is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25, ESV)

“This is the center of the gospel – this is what the Garden of Gethsemane and Good Friday are all about – that God has done astonishing and costly things to draw us near. He has sent His Son to suffer and to die so that through Him we might draw near. It’s all so that we might draw near. And all of this is for our joy and for his glory.

He does not need us. If we stay away, he is not impoverished. He does not need us in order to be happy in the fellowship of the Trinity. But He magnifies His mercy by giving us free access through His Son, in spite of our sin, to the one Reality that can satisfy us completely and forever, namely, Himself. ‘You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.’ (Psalm 16:11)”

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A father and a son were walking through a prairie. It was a dry and hot summer day. The grass had grown tall and it was a sea of golden yellow, as far as the eye could see. The wind was just blowing into the waves of grain. But somewhere far off, a fire had been set. And to the terror of this father and son, hot and dry winds had been whipping up the flames, and the fire was fast approaching, burning everything in sight. They started to run for their lives. But the fire was spreading too quickly. The boy cried out, “Dad, what are we going to do?” The father stopped running, and his son was confused. The father put his son on his shoulders, he opened his backpack, and pulled out a lighter. And to the son’s horror, he flicked it on, and threw the lighter on the ground. And the flames rose instantly – burned everything in sight. The father said to the son, “Son, do not move. The fire will not come where the ground has already been burned.”

The fire will not come where the ground has already been burned. We stand where the ground has already been burned. We stand at the foot of the cross. We stand upon our Rock and our Redeemer – Jesus Christ, who took on the full wrath of God, who was burned on our behalf. There is now, no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We stand where the ground has already been burned.

Passion Week (Thursday) | A New Command

In Josh Lim on March 28, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Throughout Passion Week, a post will be published each day to help us reflect on Jesus and the greatest historical event that has ever taken place – the Resurrection. All excerpts are taken from “Love to the Uttermost”, a devotional on Passion Week from Pastor John Piper (Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org).

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34, ESV)

“This is the commandment: ‘love one another: just as I have loved you.’ But what about Galatians 5:14? ‘For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If the whole law is fulfilled in ‘Love your neighbor as yourself‘, what more can ‘Love one another as Christ loved you‘ add to the fulfillment of the whole law?

I would say that Jesus did not replace or change the commandment, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ He filled it out and gave it clear illustration. He is saying,

Here is what I mean by “as yourself”. Watch me. I mean: Just as you would want someone to set you free from certain death, so you should set them free from certain death. That is how I am now loving you. My suffering and death is what I mean by ‘as yourself’. You want life. Live to give others life. At any cost.

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May we give generously because we have received generously. Here is a beautiful picture of loving our neighbors as Jesus has loved us, with everything:

Passion Week (Wednesday) | Trustworthy

In Josh Lim on March 27, 2013 at 9:18 pm

Throughout Passion Week, a post will be published each day to help us reflect on Jesus and the greatest historical event that has ever taken place – the Resurrection. All excerpts are taken from “Love to the Uttermost”, a devotional on Passion Week from Pastor John Piper (Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org).

“I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am He.” (John 13:19, ESV)

“Jesus himself taught that all the prophecies about him would be fulfilled. In other words, we have a testimony, not only that the writers themselves saw Jesus’ life as fulfillment of prophecy, but that Jesus did, too…Jesus saw that the predictions of the Messiah and his sufferings would be fulfilled in himself…He makes all these predictions, according to John 13:19, so that we would believe He is God, that what He says about Himself is true.

In other words, Jesus is saying, ‘If you are struggling to believe that I am the promised Messiah, that I am the one who was in the beginning with God, and was God, that I am the divine Son of God, who can forgive all your sins and give you eternal life and guide you on the path to Heaven, then I want to help you believe. And one of the ways I am going to help you have well-grounded faith is by telling you what is going to happen to me before it happens, so that when it happens, you will have good reason to believe in me.”

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In Back to the Future, Marty McFly travels back in time using Doc Brown’s time machine (a modified 1981 DeLorean DMC-12). Not knowing how to use the time machine, Marty finds Doc Brown (in the past) and tries to convince him that he’s from the future. He tries showing Doc his driver’s license. He shows Doc a picture of his family. He tries telling Doc who the future President of the United States will be. But none of it works! It’s not until Marty tells Doc he knows how Doc got the bruise on his head, that Doc believes Marty is who he says he is. Marty’s words were proved true by history. And Marty himself was proved true by his words.

When we struggle to believe, may we hear the words of Christ and see history fall into place and understand that Jesus is who He says He is. Would His words give comfort to our hearts to know that He is indeed God. Would we see that history affirms that Jesus is the eternal God who stepped into human history to make a way for sinners to be forgiven of their sins. And then would we respond to Him in the only way that is appropriate – in worship.

Passion Week (Tuesday) | Depth

In Josh Lim on March 26, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Throughout Passion Week, a post will be published each day to help us reflect on Jesus and the greatest historical event that has ever taken place – the Resurrection. All excerpts are taken from “Love to the Uttermost”, a devotional on Passion Week from Pastor John Piper (Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org).

“While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person, one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8, ESV)

“As I have pondered the love of Christ for us, and the different ways that the Bible presents it to us, I have seen four ways that the depth of Christ’s love is revealed.

First, we know the depth of someone’s love for us by what it costs him. If he sacrifices his life for us, it assures us of deeper love than if he only sacrifices a few bruises. So we will see the depth of Christ’s love by the greatness of what it cost him.

Second, we know the depth of someone’s love for us by how little we deserve it. If we have treated him well all our life, and have done all that he expects of us, then when he loves us, it will not prove as much love as it would if he loved us when we had offended him, and shunned him, and disdained him. The more undeserving we are, the more amazing and deep is his love for us. So we will see the depth of Christ’s love in relation to how undeserving are the objects of his love.

Third, we know the depth of someone’s love for us by the greatness of the benefits we receive in being loved. If we are helped to pass an exam, we will feel loved in one way. If we are helped to get a job, we will feel loved another way. If we are helped to escape from an oppressive captivity and given freedom for the rest of our life, we will feel loved another way. And if we are rescued from eternal torment and given a place in the presence of God with fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore, we will know a depth of love that surpasses all others. So we will see the depth of Christ’s love by the greatness of the benefits we receive in being loved by him.

Fourth, we know the depth of someone’s love for us by the freedom with which they love us. If a person does good things for us because someone is making him, when he doesn’t really want to, then we don’t think the love is very deep…So if an insurance company pays you $40,000 because you lose your spouse, you don’t usually marvel at how much this company loves you…But if your Sunday School class makes all your meals for a month after you spouse dies, and someone calls you every day, and visits you very week, then you call it love, because  they don’t have to do this. It is free and willing. So we will see the depth of Christ’s love for us in his freedom.”

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‘How deep the Father’s love for us,

How vast beyond all measure

That He would give His only Son

To make a wretch His treasure’

(Stuart Townend, ‘How Deep the Father’s Love for Us’)

Passion Week (Monday) | Resolution

In Josh Lim on March 26, 2013 at 1:13 am

Throughout Passion Week, a post will be published each day to help us reflect on Jesus and the greatest historical event that has ever taken place – the Resurrection. All excerpts are taken from “Love to the Uttermost”, a devotional on Passion Week from Pastor John Piper (Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org).

 ‘When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.’ (Luke 9:51, ESV)

“If we were to look at Jesus’ death merely as a result of a betrayer’s deceit and the Sanhedrin’s envy and Pilate’s spinelessness and the soldier’s nails and spear, it might seem very involuntary. And the benefit of salvation that comes to us who believe might be viewed as God’s way of making a virtue out of necessity. But once you read Luke 9:51, all such thoughts vanish. Jesus was not accidentally entangled in a web of injustice. The saving benefits of his death for sinners were not an afterthought. God planned it all out of infinite love to sinners like us, and He appointed a time. Jesus, who was the very embodiment of his Father’s love for sinners, saw that the time had come and set his face to fulfill his mission: to die in Jerusalem for our sake. ‘No one takes my life from me,’ Jesus said, ‘I lay it down of my own accord’ (John 10:18).”

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Resolution. Not the kind you make on January 1st and then break two weeks later. Real, raw, unrestrainable resolution. Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem. And to Him, Jerusalem didn’t mean the glitz and the glam of a major city, or a nice vacation to the metropolis. But it meant death. It meant the cross. And yet, His face was resolute. His gaze was steady. And His mind was set. And such was His resolution since the very beginning.

The concluding words on the first day of Creation are astonishing. ‘And there was evening and there was morning, the first day’ (Genesis 1:5b). Surely the omniscient, triune God knew of the Fall. Surely, He knew of the rebellion His creation would embark upon, against Him. Surely, He knew of the sacrifice that would be needed to purchase reconciliation. Surely, He knew of the cross and of Jerusalem. And yet the morning came. The arrival of day is an astonishing testimony to the Son’s resolution. Scenes of pain and agony flitted through the mind of the Omniscient, yet all the while, His face was resolute.

Oh, that you would behold the resolution of your Savior! Since eternity past to eternity future, He has been resolutely for you!

On the Thoughtfulness of God

In Josh Lim on July 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm

by Josh Lim

I remember as a Sunday school student sitting in the NET room on the 3rd floor listening to the story of the Exodus (back then the NET room was actually used for elementary students and it didn’t look like a prison!). The Israelites were made to suffer under the rule of Pharaoh. So God sends Moses to deliver His people out of slavery and bondage. He brings about a series of plagues – an entire assortment of crazy things. There’s a lot of back and forth between Pharaoh and Moses. Then the really cool event of the Passover happens, during which the people of God would mark their doorposts with the blood of a lamb and their household would be spared from experiencing the death of their firstborns. And finally, Pharaoh relents and the people are set free.

And this was where my favorite part of the story occurred. It wasn’t the parting of the Red Sea. It wasn’t the complete ownage of Pharaoh’s army who went back on their word to let the people go and instead chased after the Israelites. But it was the sheer awesomeness of the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire. Can you imagine being there? In the morning, there’s this huge column of cloud leading you. It’s just massive, stretching almost endlessly into the skies above. And at night, there is this blazing cylinder of fire (think Charizard’s Fire Spin x 10,000) – almost like a tornado of flames. And this became a regular sight for the Israelites as they were led by God through the Wilderness for 40 years. And I thought to myself, “That is so cool!” And yet it never occurred to me why God would take up these forms. He could He have chosen anything else – a pillar of lightning or a pillar of cheese. But why a pillar of cloud for the mornings and a pillar of fire for the evenings?

We must remember that the Israelites were travelling through desert climate. The sun beat down without remorse during the day. Its unrelenting rays dried the ground into a cracked mosaic. And the nights were marked by cold darkness as winds ripped through the huddled encampment. It was not an easy place to be in.

So why a pillar of cloud for the mornings and a pillar of fire for the evenings?

Psalm 105:39 says this: “He spread a cloud for covering, and fire to give light by night.”

A pillar of cloud in the morning to cover the people and shield them from the devastating effects of constant, unprotected exposure to the sun. To keep them from fatigue and dehydration. To provide shade and relief in the heat.

And a pillar of fire in the evenings to provide light to see in the thick darkness. To offer warmth during bone-chilling nights. To provide protection from wild beasts, drawn back by the flames.

God is so exceedingly thoughtful. He is utterly intentional in all his dealings. Every detail is carefully calculated and deliberately decided upon. He doesn’t just go off of whims. But he is so purposeful in all that He does. In all His working for your good, He does with measured meaningfulness.

As we walk through the wilderness of life, before we arrive at last in the Promise Land, see how the Lord leads you with pillar of cloud and pillar of fire in the smallest of details. From the college you will be going to in the Fall to the job or internship opportunity that you didn’t get. All the events that took place from the time you woke up today until now, where you are sitting reading this blog post. All these, God has arranged in accordance to his thoughtful wisdom and love.

Let us think upon the thoughtfulness of God.

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