Stephen’s Redemption

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It started back in 1856 when my great, great, great-grandfather was born in Palermo, on the island of Sicily. When I say, “it” I mean, “me.” At least that’s as far back as I can trace my heritage.

   

In 1919, Stephen Manqueso decided to come to America with his family. He didn’t make it, however; he died on the trip over.  His two sons (Frank and Giacomo), however, did make it, and landed in Galveston, Tx. Now, over 150 years after Stephen was born, here I am.

   

My family’s history is an interesting one. From what I’ve found, my mother’s line has: two professional baseball players, one professional golfer, an unknown number of divorces, jail time, money gained, money lost, and at least 250 Springer episodes. They have been Catholic, fruitful (with many kids), and have some of the coolest names I’ve ever heard (Giacomo, Heppie, August (my great-grandfather pictured above), and Octavius). But in all I’ve found, there is no evidence of what really matters.

   

Christ.

   

I used to joke with people that if they had met my family they would see the grace of God all over me, but now that I’m learning my history – I’m finding that the truth just isn’t as funny as it used to be. It’s strange to realize you have no ties to the people who made you. 

    

Only five generations separate Stephen Manqueso and I, and other than the year he was born and when he died, I don’t know much about him. But he and Maria have left a legacy that is seen throughout the twenty something people I now call my family, and it’s sad to see how badly I stick out. 

   

And how badly I fit in. 

   

Even though I am a believer and have been redeemed, Manqueso blood still runs through my veins. And it haunts me daily. The sins of the fathers are passed down to their sons. 

   

But God is gracious. Because ultimately I could trace my line all the way back to Adam – and his blood is still in me too. But Jesus, for some reason, decided to rescue me from my bloodstains. My Italian history is interesting, but my eternal destiny is matchless. My past is marred, but my future is secure…but oh how my past continues to pull me down.

   

So now the legacies of Stephen and Jesus are at war in me, but thank God I know who wins. Stephen’s past has been, is being, and will be redeemed. And as I look to start my family now, my prayer is that Christ’s legacy will endure where Stephen’s has failed, so that in five generations, my sons will find me and see only Christ.

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Notes from the first day

As mentioned this past Sunday, I am in Louisville this week for the Together for the Gospel conference. The days are wonderfully packed and I wanted to share a bit of what’s been going on and what God has impressed upon me so far.

CJ Mahaney spoke first from 2 Corinthians 4 on the sustaining power of the Gospel, and how we as ministers are not to lose heart. So many Christians struggle with the gravity of life and the Lord’s work, and there is the constant need to be reminded that it is God who works in us and through us. Particularly powerful were all the “but nots” he noted in 2 Corinthians 4:7-15. You can listen to or watch it here. http://t4g.org/media/2012/04/the-sustaining-power-of-the-gospel-2/

Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, preached from Romans 10 on the power of the articulated Gospel. In it he took the popular saying “Preach always, and if you must use word,” and showed how that idea, while well intentioned, is not biblical. Instead, the gospel is presented first and foremost by words. We, therefore, must take care on the words we use and strive to be articulate when we speak. You can listen to or watch it here. http://t4g.org/media/2012/04/the-power-of-the-articulated-gospel-2/

Finally, Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC, and author of books like 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, spoke on 1 Timothy 4:16. His message was on how “false conversions are the suicide of the church.” God used Mark in this talk in a very powerful way in me. I highly recommend you watch or listen to it. http://t4g.org/media/2012/04/false-conversions-the-suicide-of-the-church/
Here are a few quotes that stuck out to me:

“All of our time is spent with sinners, even when we are alone.”
“How many fruit of the Spirit can you show on a desert island? Community is necessary.”
“Avoiding the doctrine of hell is one step away from rejecting it all together.”
“All people have a natural indisposition to our message.”
“If we get this [the Gospel] right, we’l be offending and attracting all the right people.”
“False teachers create false converts, who then hire false teachers.”
To pastors: “If you want to ensure that you’re replacement will be a false teacher, then let anyone into membership.”
Regarding suffering: “No cross, no crown.”

That’s enough for now. They will be live-streaming the sessions today if you’d like to follow along. http://t4g.org/t4g-year/2012/?sessions=main

If you’re not able to do that, you can follow my twitter or facebook updates for other quotes/impressions.

 

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I Stopped My Daughter from Praying

The other night I had to stop my four year old from praying.

Every night I gather at the head of her bed, just as I do with her sisters, and we pray together. I let her go first, as usual, and listen to her four year old pleas to God. Normally they revolve around the same things: thank you for this day, thank you that you’re big and strong, thank you for our food, help us love you, etc. But that night she prayed something different.

“Father God, help us to be good so that Jesus won’t be angry with us, because we know that if we make Jesus angry then he won’t love us anymore.”

What? Where did she hear that from?

In truth, she didn’t hear it from anyone, but it came from her own heart. All of us, by nature, see God this way. We think that his love for us is based on us behaving a certain way. If we’re good God loves us, but if we’re bad then he doesn’t.

What a damnable heresy.

I stopped Ellie, grabbed her hand, and told her firmly, lovingly, joyfully, “Ellie, what you just said is not true. It’s a lie. Jesus doesn’t love you because you’re good. In fact, the Bible tells us that while we were sinners – while we were bad, Jesus loved us and died for us. The reason Jesus loves you is because he wants to – it’s based on his desire, not your being good. If you really believe that Jesus is God, and that he was raised from the dead, then you can’t make him angry with you. You’re his daughter and there’s nothing you can do to change that.”

I dont’ know if she “got it” that night. She didn’t say anything else, just started praying again, more in line with her usual prayers, which she punctuated by rubbing my face and pinching my nose.

I went to bed that night thinking about how many people within the church feel the same way Ellie felt. They live their lives in fear and doubt, wondering if God is really pleased with them. But we can be sure. We do not have to live in fear or doubt because God’s love for us is not based on what we do – at all. Not one bit.

That’s why the Gospel is such great news!

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3-4

That day I also ran across this short video, in which Matt Chandler sums up this truth perfectly. Watch it. Read Romans 8. Believe.

 

 

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Together for the Gospel

I am on my way to Louisville, KY, for the Together for the Gospel conference. This will be my fourth time attending this gathering and it has been one of the most beneficial things for my spiritual life. However, it’s not just for pastors.

In light of that, they will be posting the audio and video from each session on their website this week. Let me encourage you to take time and listen to one or more of the sessions. This year’s line up of preachers includes: Al Mohler, John Piper, Mark Dever, David Platt, Matt Chandler, Ligon Duncan, CJ Mahaney, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Kevin DeYoung.

Lord willing, I will be sharing thoughts and impressions throughout the conference, but you can also follow updates directly from the T4G folks on Facebook and Twitter.

See you next Sunday,

Pastor Nick

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Maundy Thursday

Christians all over the world will celebrate Maundy Thursday tonight. With solemn joy and reverential gladness, they will gather together in worship to share the Lord’s Supper.

The word “maundy” comes from the Latin “mandatum” and means “mandate.” In short, it speaks of the command Jesus gave his disciples the night before he died:

“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.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” John 13:34-35.

This command comes right after two great acts. It begins with the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Communion is an everlasting picture, a perpetual reminder of Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus gave us this ordinance so that we would regularly have his death before our eyes and in our bodies. It’s a reminder of love. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” 1 John 3:16.

In the middle of teaching his disciples what Communion is, he takes off his outer garments and starts washing their feet (John 13:3-15). In doing so he shows them the basic element of love: service. Wherever there is a lack of service, there is a lack of true love. Jesus says, clearly, “ If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” John 13:14-15.

So see the complete picture: Jesus says, here is a way to remember the depths my love – the breaking of bread and the pouring of wine, that’s my body given for you. Then, he bends down and washes their feet, saying, here is an example of what love looks like: service. I want you to do these things. I want you to remember my love, and to love one another.

That is why many Christians gather on Maundy Thursday. They recall Christ’s command, they follow his example, and they remember his love for his people.

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What happened on Thursday?

Here is a great recap from Justin Taylor on what happened on Jesus last full day before his crucifixion. Check it out here.

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What Happened Wednesday

Again, Justin Taylor provides a great look into what happened on Jesus’ last Wednesday before Good Friday. Check it out here.

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