Pages

Friday, December 29, 2006

Immanuel

“It was a thing unheard of before, and unparalleled since, that a virgin should conceive and bear a Son,” quoth Spurgeon’s December 25th’s Morning and Evening. “When did angels indulge in midnight songs, or did God ever hang a new star in the sky before? To whose cradle did rich and poor make so willing a pilgrimage and offer such hearty and unsought obligations?” Obviously, such things never happened before in history, nor have since. The golden name, Immanuel, is inexpressibly delightful. God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave . . .”

I could not help but wonder what this Christmas would be like for us and am astounded at how my wonder was met by the unexpected providence of God during this time of celebration. God has been truly with us, but I did not expect to find it in the death of a family member. The keen ear of Spurgeon to the mouth of God heard the words of comfort and joy found in Immanuel, and we were directed to find these as wise men who follow a star . . .

The words of Isaiah’s prophecy to Ahaz concerning Immanuel are given in the context of trust. Do you trust God? Immanuel means that God is trustworthy and He demonstrates that trustworthiness in His very presence. Isaiah had to understand that as did Ahaz, and in the double fulfillment of prophecy, the whole world must face that question until Kingdom come.

Is God trustworthy? The question has been directed to me and to my wife, to our family and all our in’s and out-laws. The question was directed to Andrew. The question was directed to his wife. Each answers differently. My wife’s family is trying to find an answer and many cannot see it before their eyes, which are blinded by the god of this world. Some force an answer that does not fit and this easily cause more hurt than heal. Some who never cared in life fake an emotion and offer empty words of, what? I would rather they just go away.

Two truths: first, everyone has an appointment with death. I am convinced that no death is an accident. “And as it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Heb 9:27) Sooner or later everyone runs out time, so this is the “appointed” part. Second, death frees the soul. Nobody runs out of eternity, where each will be answering the question, “How did you trust God?” This is the “judgment” part. Obviously it make more sense to spend time preparing for that which will not end, rather than squandering time trying to hold on to that which will not last.

Those who do trust God have hope not found in any other. “ . . . and now we with Him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendour. The babe of Bethlehem appears to be manifestly with us in weakness.”

The clock of life is wound but once, and no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop at late or early hour.

To lose one's wealth is sad indeed.
To lose one's health is more.
To lose one's soul is such a loss
that no man can restore.

Thirty-nine people died while you read these words. Every hour 5,417 go to meet their Maker. You could have been among them. Sooner or later you will be.

Has God been with you? What have you done with His trustworthiness?

Are you ready?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Andrew J. Scoopmire (December 30, 1982 - December 24, 2006)

Memorial services for Andrew J. Scoopmire, 23, of Gallup, New Mexico will be held on Saturday-December 30, 2006-10:00 AM at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Gallup. Rev. Gary Bickner will officiate.


Mr. Scoopmire was born on December 30, 1982 in Gallup, New Mexico and died on December 24, 2006 in Gallup, New Mexico. He was a 2001 Graduate of Gallup High School.

He is survived by his wife: Laura Scoopmire of Gallup, New Mexico; Daughter: Joana Scoopmire of Gallup, New Mexico; Parents: John and Andrea Scoopmire of Gallup, New Mexico; Sisters: Amy Kluck of Minn., Leslie Wilson of South Carolina and Valerie Tsosie of Gallup, New Mexico.

Please pray for my wife as she is in New Mexico with her family. And please pray for her family as many need to know Christ.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Glad to be a Christian

I'm glad I am a Christian because I have a stable background . . .

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Drowning men

A Christian and a Pagan were carrying on a debate when both got their wits' end and felt that neither was going to get the upper hand in trying to convince the other of his position.

The Pagan blurted out, "I once had a dream that I was drowning in the ocean and the goddess came walking along and told me to swim. I realized I had to move my arms and kick my feet in a different way and learned how to hold my breath until I could get to where my feet touched the bottom and I walked out."

The Christian calmly replied, "I had a dream like that too, that I was drowning in the ocean. Jesus came walking along the beach, saw me drowning and jumped in and saved me."

Merry Christmas!

"you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

To: My wife, on Her Birthday

In 1723, 20 year-old Jonathan Edwards wrote the following paragraph in the leaf of one of his student books:


“They say there is a young lady in New Haven who is beloved of that Great Being who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which the Great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for any thing, except to meditate on him—that she expects after a while to be received up where he is, to be raised up out of the world and caught up into heaven; being assured that he loves her too well to let her remain at a distance from him always. There she is to dwell with him, and to be ravished with his love and delight for ever. Therefore, if you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards it and care not for it, and us unmindful of any pain or affliction. She has a strange sweetness in her mind, a singular purity in her affections; is most just and conscientious in all her conduct; and you could not persuade her to do anyting wrong or sinful, if you would give her al the world, lest she should offend this Great Being. She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind; specially after this great God has manifested himself to her mind. She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what. She loves to be alone, walking in the fields and groves, and seems to have some one invisible always conversing with her.”

This is how you are to me, my dear, my darling, my love. Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Solid Life of Trust

Psalm 125:1, “Those who trust in the Lord are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever.”[i]

One need not be a scholar of the Psalms to know how often the writers describe the strength and security he finds in the LORD God being illustrated in those pictures of mountains, rocks, even bulwarks and fortresses. Here is a peculiar occasion where the writer describes not the LORD as the Mount; rather, he likens the one who trusts in the LORD as Mount Zion, specifically.

Like skipping a stone on the surface of still water, we are apt to skip over these first few verses before delving into principles and applications that lead us toward Godliness. Let us instead pause to reflect on that surface and consider first what is meant by “trust” and how that understanding helps us know how this makes one like Mount Zion.

Trust is related to belief; that is, who (or what) is the object or authority and who is in subjection to that person or thing? Trust is another way of describing dependence fueled by an attitude of faith. Two young girls were playing and one tells the other she has 10 pennies, and she held out her hand showing only 5. She explained, “I have 5 now and my father told me he would give me 5 tonight. So I have 10.” She understood that her father’s promise was good and he was trustworthy. This shows what trust is about. This also shows God’s demonstration of trustworthiness in the past and by reviewing those things in the record of scripture, we know He is trustworthy now.

Think of three Hebrew boys who are preparing to enter a fiery furnace. How would you handle the situation? “Furnace of fire, now, let’s see. What Bible verse applies here? Hmmmmm.” How did the Hebrew boys respond? “The God whom we serve is able to deliver us and will deliver us.” Would God have been glorified had they panicked? [ii] Better yet, how did they show they trusted God but by throwing themselves on the trustworthiness of God?

If we do not trust God, then we are left with, well, mistrust of God which is directly related to unbelief. We are left with nothing but ourselves to trust in ourselves—and what is that? Martin Luther shows us what trust is, “I have had many things in my hands and lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I always possess.”

I get in my mind the picture of one climbing a mountain (which would be appropriate here, for this psalm was sung by pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem and probably sang this song as they climbed). The one who literally throws his entire being onto the LORD becomes unified with the LORD as one who drives his tent-pegs into a mountain, becoming unified with the rock. Certainly one does not “become” the rock, but has a relationship with that rock that gives him stability not found anywhere else.

Those who trust in the LORD become not just any mountain, but the very mountain associated with God Himself. Moreover, Mount Zion was considered to be the dwelling place of God. Mountains are many, but there is only one mountain called Zion. “For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.”[iii]

“Mount Zion is one of the promontories in the city of Jerusalem, and is sometimes used as a figure of speech for the city itself. Here it signifies the ultimate in stability and strength, a citadel that cannot be moved. The man of faith is like that. His life is built on the solid rock. When the rains fall, and the floods come, and the winds blow and beat upon his house, it does not fall, because it has been built on the rock (Matt. 7:25).”[iv]

One who trusts the LORD is made a citizen of the mountain of God. When later the entire earth is destroyed and the mountains melt, the one who trusts in the LORD will be a citizen of that city still. Talk about security! He cannot be moved but will abide forever! My youngest son challenged me not too long ago by telling me matter-of-factly that he could jump higher than a mountain. I was interested to see how an 8-year old could explain such a statement, so I gave him my full attention. He then smiled and proceeded to jump up and down, proclaiming, “mountains can’t jump!” And he bounced away. Mountains are a symbol of continuance and stability.

Mountains are not ordinary, but stand out from the rest of creation. A mountain does not make itself but is the result of outside influences. Orogeny (plate tectonics; or, great amount of rock reacting to force and lift) or isostany (the “floating” of lighter material in the mantel under the influence of gravity) are two ways mountains are made. Isolated mountains like Krakatow (which exploded in the 1800’s) or Tristan D’Achuna are the results of volcanic activity (orogeny). Block Mountains, such as the Rockies, are displacements of faults (isostany). Whatever the term, God uses cataclysmic means to create mountains. Mountain-building is not a gentle process.

When one places his trust in the LORD, his life is cataclysmically changed. He is upheaved and shifted. The sinner who faces the Holy one discovers his need to be delivered from death to life, from sin to salvation, from filth to cleanliness. The one who places his trust in the LORD experiences upheaval: being moved from this world and kingdom of darkness and death into the realm of God, the kingdom of life and light.

Consider further: Mountains are not easily accessible; that is, one does not merely find one’s way to the summit. Climbing requires time, dedication, devotion, effort, direction, energy, support, resources. In the same way being changed through the process of sanctification requires all these same things. Understand that the way is not easy. The Puritans made their priority, “To know God, to serve him, to enjoy him . . . Instead of catching occasional glimpses of the Deity through an obscuring veil, they aspired to gaze full on the intolerable brightness, and to commune with him face to face.”[v]

Jonathan Edwards mentions the difficulty, “The way to heaven is ascending; we must be content to travel uphill, though it be hard and tiresome, and contrary to the natural bias of our flesh.” Edwards had no self-interest, but spent thirteen hours each day balancing prayer, Bible Study and ministry for the purpose of being God-saturated; that is, he trusted in the LORD. He wrote, “God is the highest good of the reasonable creature; and the enjoyment of him is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied.—To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops; but God is the ocean.—Therefore it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey towards heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end and proper good, the whole work of our lives; to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labour for, or set our hearts on, any thing else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness?”[vi]

Consider what a mountain truly is: They have different climate conditions at their peaks than at their base. There is just something different about a mountain. In the same way, those who trust in the LORD are sanctified, different from the world. This is the very heart of the will of God (1 Thess. 4:3) Sanctification is so mundane it is the “common business” of the religious. Brother Lawrence thought “it was lamentable to see how many people mistook the means for the end, addicting themselves to certain works which they performed very imperfectly because of their human or selfish regard.[vii] Thomas A’Kempis puts man in his place reflecting a similar thought as if Jesus Himself were speaking, saying, “You have need of Me. I do not need you. You do not come to sanctify Me but I come to sanctify you and make you better. You come to be sanctified and united with Me, to receive new grace and to be aroused anew to amend. Do not neglect this grace, but prepare your heart with all care, and bring into it your Beloved.”[viii]
Mountains force the flow of water and air. Mountains are the source of water, from which snows melt and springs flow. In the same way the one who trusts in the LORD should be influential in his place. He should make significant contribution among those with whom he lives and works. Jesus spoke of those being salt and light.

Thinking ahead some, Isaiah 4:3 and Ezekiel 47 are only two passages that describe the flow of water from Zion, from the throne of God in Jerusalem and the final kingdom and the healing of the nations. “A stream of water flows up from underneath the temple (cf. Joel 3:18), going E to the Jordan, then curving S through the Dead Sea area (vv. 7,8). Zechariah 14:8 refers to this stream as flowing from Jerusalem to the W (Mediterranean Sea) as well as to the E (Dead Sea). Its origin coincides with Christ’s Second Advent arrival on the Mt. of Olives (cf. Zech. 14:4; Acts 1:11), which will trigger a massive earthquake, thus creating a vast E-W valley running through Jerusalem and allowing for the water flow.”[ix]

Mountains provide area for growth. Whereas the base of a mountain may only cover a small number of miles from north to south, the surface area is much greater, thus allowing for more vegetation and sundry other life that could not exist anywhere else. Looking unto those myriad examples of those heroes of the faith who have gone before us, we are able to see through their trust how those individuals not only grew in their Christian walk, but how they affected others. One example: a number of years ago a Christian pastor was arrested for preaching the gospel and was forced to be imprisoned in a compound so overflowing with criminals that his containment was within a drained swimming pool. The pool was jammed with beds and meager belongings of other prisoners while the guards stood overhead. What did the pastor do but pray and meditate on scripture he hid in his heart and it was not long until God showed him his new congregation: those with whom he was interred! He preached the gospel and hundreds more came to Christ! What fertile ground in the cataclysmic situation! What growth came from his upheaval!

Do some study and discover how mountains are the places of theophanies, smoking in judgment and rejoicing in redemption.

One who puts his or her trust in Him makes an investment that He is able to carry out the charge, commitment or condition of the relationship. In the same way one drives his tent pegs into the rock; he is placing his being in the capability of that rock to hold him and provide protection. The traveler becomes unified with the rock for his safety. The cast-away clings to the rock in the pounding surf because it is the rock that does not move. Clinging to the rock, the survivor places all his being on the rock in order that he would not be swept away again.

Understand that the one who places his trust in the LORD becomes the dwelling place of the LORD! Zion is more than a mountain, but a place of confidence! Is there any wonder now how it is that those who place their trust in Him are immovable? What a note of finality! When the storm blows over, Mount Zion never moves! When God shakes the earth, the mountains may quiver, but Mount Zion never moves, but remains in His hands!

************
[i]New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ps 125:1.
[ii] MacArthur, John. “How to Glorify God.”
[iii]New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ps 132:13.
[iv]William MacDonald and Arthur Farstad, Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995), Ps 125:1.
[v] Murray, Iain. Jonathan Edwards, A New Biography. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2003
[vi] Edward, Jonathan. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume Two. P. 621
[vii] Brother Lawrence. The Practice of the Presence of God.
[viii] A’Kempis, Thomas. “The Communicant Should Prepare Himself for Christ with Great Care” The Imitation of Christ.
[ix]John Jr MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville: Word Pub., 1997, c1997), Eze 47:1.

Monday, December 18, 2006

“Oh for another Whitefield!”

”First, let a man so hunger and thirst after righteousness, that he'd be willing to almost fast and pray himself to death, as Whitefield did. Then, let a man be willing to be thought of as a fool by his own household, and a legalist by his own peers, as Whitefield was. Then, let a man be willing to preach the true gospel, so clear and so forcefully, that the religious world will not be able to tolerate him, but will force him to preach in the streets instead of the Churches, as Whitefield was. Then, let a man be willing to endure spittings, stonings, beatings, and mobs, all with the love of Christ burning in his heart, as Whitefield did. Then, if a man is willing to preach 40 hours a week, until he often vomits blood, being up early praying, and up late traveling, ONLY THEN, will we have another Whitefield.”

The Old Paths Newsletter, Dec. 2006.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Substitute

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” Is 53:5

The morning reading of March 31 concludes with Spurgeon planting a seed for the day, “We would fain go to our chambers and weep; but since our business calls us away, we will first pray our Beloved to print the image of his bleeding self upon the tablets of our hearts all the day, and at nightfall we will return to commune with him, and sorrow that our sin should have cost him so dear.” Let us here begin where Spurgeon ends.

See, from His Head, His Hands, His Feet
Sorrow and Love flow, mingled, down.

Overhearing a conversation between two men recently stirred up within me a level of great consternation. Certainly the conversation centered around Christmas, and I was within earshot to hear one confute the practice of some who observe the Lord’s Supper during Christmas services. He was upset with the seeming illogic of mixing the birth of our Savior with His death. He could not reconcile “This do in remembrance of Me” with “You shall call His Name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Understand how my unsettlement grew in the soil that these two men were not laymen of any kind; rather, they were men of leadership and teachers of the faith, and for the sake of small-talk were slaughtering the ramifications of theology over hors d’oeuvres. I nearly choked on my cheese.

What better time to celebrate the Lord’s Supper than at Christmas? If Jesus was not born to die then what does one do with Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”?

Perhaps if William Barclay were present the conversation would have touched on the question as to whether Jesus would have known from birth that purpose of His life and what His death would be; however, even Barclay would not have made such a light matter with even lighter conversation. Even Barclay cannot dispute those events in the life of Jesus that plainly point ahead to the cross—Jesus must have known, even as a child; but it would not be a matter of dismissive small-talk.

Some thoughts on the matter of “Substitution.” Defining the word, we quickly discover a wider range of meaning than our common usage remembers. First, “substitute” is a combination of “sub” (meaning “under”, “beneath” or “below”) and “statute” (a law or regulation set forth by government, related to “status”; specifically a position of state). Literally, the word means “under the law.” Second, “substitute” describes a replacement, an alteration whereby one person or thing stands in the place or function of another. This fully agrees with Galatians 4:4 in describing the purpose of the birth and death of our Savior (He was born in a sub-statuatory manner in order that He would stand in the place of those under the law, to make adoption effectual). This fully agrees with Isaiah 53:5. The work of substitution through Christ Jesus was not an afterthought in the plan of God.

In his work “Concerning the Necessity and Reasonableness of the Christian Doctrine of Satisfaction for Sin”, Jonathan Edwards expounds:

“Christ is often represented as bearing our sins for us: Isaiah liii. 4. ‘Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.’ Verse 11. ‘For he shall bear their iniquities.’ Verse 12. ‘He bare the sin of many.’ And with an evident reference to this last place, the apostle says, Heb. ix. 28. ‘So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many: and to them that look for him, he shall appear the second time, without sin unto salvation.’ And with a plain reference to verses 4, 5. of this 53d. chapter of Isaiah., the apostle Peter says, 1 Pet. ii. 24. ‘Who his ownself bare our sins in his own body on the tree.’”

The method of His death came about through those horrendous means: He was punished by whipping, pierced, crushed. We should return to Spurgeon, having this image printed “upon the tablets of our hearts all the day, and at nightfall we will return to commune with him, and sorrow that our sin should have cost him so dear.”

Richard Baxter reminds us of the reason we should keep this picture ever before us: “Consider well of the office, the bloodshed, and the holy life of Christ.—His office is to expiate sin, and to destroy it. His blood was shed for it: his life condemned it. Love Christ, and you will hate that which caused his death. Love him, and you will love to be made like him, and hate that which is so contrary to Christ. These two great lights will show the odiousness of darkness.”

I hold that we observe the Lord’s Supper during Christmas.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Solid Life of Righteousness; or, “Who” gets “what”?

Psalm 112

Have you ever wondered, “What do I get by being a Christian?”

Short answer: God.

Long answer: The Christian does not get a “what” but a “whom.” The person who puts God before his eyes, who reverences God in the highest way receives from God blessing and delight to do what pleases God. The righteous person makes a mark on those around him (this will be clear later) and those that follow this same uprightness receives blessing as well.

The righteous accumulates about him things of eternal significance. Things that matter to God matter most. Also, he sees clearly in the light of fellowship by walking with God, being cleansed from sin and made righteous by God’s provision. Furthermore, there are is tangible evidence of that walk that is distinctly different and certainly noticed. The one who fears God gets to show grace and compassion by sharing what God provides.

The one who fears God gets a solid foot-hold on an unmovable foundation. When he gets bad news, he gets to take it to God. “Other men have not your God to fly to; they have never proved his faithfulness as you have done, and it is no wonder if they are bowed down with alarm and cowed with fear: but you profess to be of another spirit; you have been begotten again unto a lively hope, and your heart lives in heaven and not on earthly things; now, if you are seen to be distracted as other men, what is the value of that grace which you profess to have received? Where is the dignity of that new nature which you claim to possess?”[i] The righteous have nothing to fear because their fear is in the one who removes fear.

The Christian receives freedom to do as his God is pleased to do.

Have you ever wondered, “What does GOD get by my being a Christian?”

Short answer: God.

Long answer: He gets the praise and honor and glory that is rightly His. He gets to bless the one who fears Him. He gets to fulfill the one who obeys His commands.

God gets to have a legacy that is evidenced in the lives of those who trust Him. God gets to pour out riches of eternal value and a righteousness that man cannot give himself.

God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. God provides a walk and a fellowship that allows man to understand grace and compassion that he really does not deserve; furthermore, He shows that same grace and compassion to others who need to know it through those who put their faith and trust in Him.

God gets to be trusted and will cause His name to be remembered forever. God gets to be the one to whom his children fly in times of trouble. God gets to build up, encourage and bolster his children, upholding them, causing them to stand in times of adversity as God Himself fights for His children. God gets to take care of the weak and the poor, providing righteousness and honor in His justice.

God even gets to take care of the wicked.

Have you ever wondered, “What about the person who is not a Christian? What do they get?”

Short answer: God.

Long answer: The non-Christian still gets to give God the praise and glory He rightly deserves. He gets to fear God because of His wrath as they completely miss God’s blessing. The delights of the wicked will all die as they reject His commandments.

The wicked leave no lasting legacy, but show the handiwork of God as He deals with them in justice. They may build barns and storehouses for their riches, but once their soul is required, nothing remains of eternal significance.

The unrighteous rejecters of God cloak themselves in darkness, thinking their deeds go unnoticed, unseen. They party in the darkness because they have no fellowship in the light. The wicked are insatiable, their need ever-present: nothing satisfies. They are shaken and run from fear to fear, becoming the adversary for the upright. They are without security. ““The remarkable thing about fearing God,” wrote Oswald Chambers, “is that, when you fear God, you fear nothing else; whereas, if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”[ii]

They get God who takes care of their wickedness, eternally impoverished, enduring the burning righteousness of God and are put down.

They look at God and they look at His children and complain. They sneer and grind their teeth as they get to melt away. They can only stand by and watch as their desires vanish from their grasp. The wicked live without strength.

Have you ever wondered if you were hungering and thirsting after righteousness?

“You can know if you’re hungering and thirsting for righteousness by asking yourself some simple questions. First, are you dissatisfied with your sin? Self-satisfaction is impossible if you are aware of your sin and if you grieve when you fall short of God’s holy standard. Second, do external things satisfy your longings? A hungry man isn’t satisfied until he eats. A thirsty man isn’t satisfied until he drinks. When you hunger and thirst after righteousness, only God’s righteousness can satisfy you. Third, do you have an appetite for God’s Word? Hungry people don’t need to be told to eat. It’s instinctive! Spiritual hunger will drive you to feed on the Word in order to learn what God says about increasing in righteousness. Fourth, are you content amid difficulties? A hungry soul is content despite the pain it goes through, because it sees every trial as a means by which God is teaching greater righteousness. If you react with anger or resentment when things go wrong, you’re seeking superficial happiness. Finally, are your hunger and thirst unconditional? The rich young ruler in Matthew 19 knew there was a void in his life but was unwilling to give up his possessions. His hunger was conditional. Christ will fully satisfy every longing of your heart, and yet you will also constantly desire more of His righteousness. That’s the blessed paradox of hungering and thirsting after righteousness.”[iii]

“No one understands like Jesus when the days are dark and grim;
no one is so near, so dear as Jesus—Cast your ev’ry care on Him.”[iv]

************

[i]C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), September 15 AM.
[ii]Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Satisfied (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1990), Ec 12:13.
[iii]John MacArthur, Drawing Near, Includes Indexes. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1993), April 12.
[iv]Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace : 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions, Includes Indexes. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990), 209.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The solid life of reverencing God

Psalm 34

1. God is the focus of praise (1-3).

I am firmly convinced that this very psalm was the content of David’s mutterings of madness. Remember the occasion when Br’er Rabbit (or Bro’ Rabbit) was once again in the clutches of Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear, who sought to pull out his ears and yank of his tail, to enjoy him for their dinner? One his Rabbit’s plans to escape including his convincing his captors to PLEASE eat him, and never to throw him into that most horrid and dreadful place, the briar patch. He begged and pleaded to be eaten—anything, just PLEASE don’t throw him into that briar patch. Fox and Bear thought the torture would be better if they did throw him into the briar patch instead of eating him and when Rabbit found out, he set to hollerin’ so. Finally, the Rabbit was launched through the air and plompt right smack into that ol’ briar patch, where instead of screaming and yelps of death, Bro’s Fox and Bear heard laughter. They quickly learnt that that ol’ briar patch was Rabbit’s home and he got plumb clean away.

Consider: David was on the run from Saul and was in the desperate position of needing a place to hide. I believe David’s hiding with Abimelech was a briar patch of sorts. As the saying goes, “"It's trouble that makes the monkey chew on hot peppers." Saul and Abimelech were not friends and the last thing Saul would do was chase David up to his own enemies’ doorstep. Problem was: Abimelech wasn’t exactly David’s friend either, so David pretended to be crazy. I think this is where this Psalm comes in—I believe David was inspired to compose and sing this psalm in the court of Abimelech! A leverage point I believe David had in using this psalm to enhance his madness is that this psalm is an acrostic; that is, each line begins with the next consecutive letter of the Hebrew alephbet, starting with “a”: in effect, a child-like song!

Well, what did David say in his song? He talked about how God was his deliverer and in these first verses, he calls on his hearers to bless the Lord with him! The nerve! The audacity! This guy must be crazy! How could he say God delivered him from his enemies when he was standing in the kingdom of his enemies, running from his enemies? Well, he wasn’t killed was he?

He gave all the credit to God. He did not thank his enemies for the hiding place, nor did he pat himself on the back for coming up with such an ingenious plan. No, God was the focus of his praise and when the humble saw it, they would see where his boasting lay. He saw God as over and above him, his situation and his enemies. A.W. Tozer helps us understand:
"When he says magnify the Lord, he doesn't mean that you are to make God big, but you are to see Him big. When we take a telescope and look at a star, we don't make the star bigger, we only see it big. Likewise you cannot make God bigger, but you are only to see Him bigger.”[i]

2. God is the first of pursuits (4-7).

Look at what David brought to the table: the fact that he was sought God and the fact that he was scared. Look how God responded: He answered, He delivered. See what promise this holds for those who look to Him: radiance! Turning our face to God will not bring shame! See how the poor man brings his troubles and the Lord brings salvation! Catch the theme here: through fearing God, God delivers from fear! David, who was scared for his life, had the encampment of God, the rescue of God because his fear of God had priority.

“This poor man” did not wrestle with himself and master his fears; rather, he gives testimony to God who answers prayer. He dealt with the Lord and the Lord dealt with his fears. Spurgeon reminds us that seeking God is prayer; looking to God is prayer; crying out is prayer; even tasting God is prayer (v.8). Prayer is heard in heaven and is answered by God.

Honestly, I don’t like pain. I suppose you could say I have a fear of pain. Also, I don’t like to work on the “stuff” that clutters my life. It is hard, it is time consuming. It is imposing on those who I wrong and on those who can minister to me. I hate to face the things I fear most. But then I am made to realize that when I do this, I put myself and my own fears before God and that is sin. My pursuits are off and I must repent. I am reminded that when I set my face before God’s I have nothing but radiance and deliverance in exchange for my fears!

Making God the first of pursuits means that those who put you first in their pursuits have a sudden reckoning to face. He will talk about the end of the wicked later.

3. God is the profit of fear (8-14);

Did you have fun in school, you know, when the teacher left the room? What happens when the cat is away? The mice play, right? When the teacher left the room, everybody ran around and talked while she was gone. Of course you probably also remember the teacher getting mad upon his or her return because we could be heard way down the hall. Then we had to sit with our heads on our desks while he or she went back to the office. But then, when he or she left, everybody went wild again, and we had to miss recess time.

Why did we do that? Why did we keep out seats when the teacher was around? Because we feared the teacher. Fear is like a regulator, or a thermostat, a controlling device. It doesn’t just read the environment, but it controls the release of something else. This is the reason why Christians don't have to just go along with the crowd. In fact, instead of being swayed by unbelievers, Christians should be an example to them and influence them to do what's right. In Romans, it says we should 'overcome evil with good.' To do that, we need to be good examples in the things we say and the way we behave. Like in school.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

I should point out here: David’s personal fears get one mention; fear of the Lord gets four. Also, “evil” or “evildoers” gets four mentions (including “evil will slay the wicked”), and goodness is mentioned four times as well, specifically. The redemptive activity of God is mentioned 10 times.

I can see David playing the part of the (crazy?) Rabbi here, calling around him those who were listening, “Come here, let me teach you the fear of the Lord . . .” and he fires off three principles of long life (including his own): pay attention to your mouth (it betrays the heart); repent; grow in newness of life.

4. God is the fulfillment of purpose (15-18);

I have a family member who has been through the broad gate and journeyed far down the broad road and now this family member is with us under our roof. Nothing like going from party-town to prison to the parsonage, right? This family member has a lot of growing up to do despite the number of years already wasted. One lesson this family member is learning is the galaxy of difference that exists between praying for something and praying for something, trusting God to work it out and being content with the process and result. The attitude is the same as many church-goers, “I pray, so God should answer.”

God is not the DJ of some celestial radio station who gives prizes to the 104th caller. Nor are we to be like callers who try in said attitude to gain God’s attention and finally give up after trying. God hears the righteous and God answers the righteous.

At the beginning of this Psalm the humble hear what God is doing and rejoice. Toward the end of this Psalm, God hears, setting His face against the proud. Can you hear the echoes of Psalm 1 here, where the righteous and the wicked are distinctly contrasted?

Also, see how the Lord is near to the brokenhearted. There is a difference between one who is sorry for his sins and the one who gets caught for his sins. True repentance is more than saying words. Brokenheartedness is not desire, or want. It’s being sorry enough to turn away, to stop and make a cry of dependence to go the other way. The Lord saves the crushed in spirit.

5. God is the future of persons (19-22)

This is the world in which we live: the wicked and the righteous side by side. But there is more to reality than meets the eye. There is eternal destiny.

The righteous are promised only a fulfilled life, and that means a life to the full. It does not mean the life of the righteous is free from trouble. Though the righteous face many afflictions, he must be rooted and grounded in the reality that God delivers out of them all. When the righteous keep God’s praise in his mouth at all times (v.1) and remembers that God delivers from all fears (v.4) and is saved from all troubles (v.6) he has the surety that God delivers him out of them all (v.19). The soul of God’s servants are redeemed.

On the other hand, the end of the wicked is non-deliverance. They are turned over to evil. There is no dichotomy of balance here. There is condemnation for the unrighteous, for the one who does not surrender to the Lord. The unrighteous do not seek God at all.

David is preaching the gospel in the midst of his predicament while living an abundant life—a life of God-fearing! The soul that is redeemed by God stays where the mercy and grace of God is—this is heaven! The soul that is condemned by God stays where the wrath of God is—this is hell! Can you imagine what Abimelech must be feeling right now? Is it any wonder Abimelech wanted David cast out of his presence? “God is against them, and then they cannot but be miserable. Sad is the case of that man who by his sin has made his Maker his enemy, his destroyer.”[ii]

“All the afflictions of the righteous open out into something glorious. The prisoner is not merely delivered, but he finds an angel waiting for him at the door.” -G. Bowen.

************

[i] Tozer, A.W. Success and the Christian. Camp Hill: Christian Publications, 1994
[ii]Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, c1991), Ps 34:11.

How to Create a Debationist.

  1. Let Hedonism be your guide. Try anything once and do the fun things twice—just don’t hurt anyone in the process;
  2. Stand up for your rights. Nobody has the right to tell you what to do—and be loud about it. Stay away from intolerant people;
  3. Follow your heart, your feelings. Soothe the conscience by referring to Step 1;
  4. Discover your hidden potential;
  5. Truth is what you make it, so do what seems right to you. Believe in yourself;
  6. Whatever you desire, go for it. Let nothing get in your way. Give yourself permission to get whatever you want even though people are not going to simply give it to you. The world is there for the taking—after all, you deserve it. The sooner you get it, the better. ("Send me $95 and I’ll show you how!")

    “Quarrels are a part of life. We grow up understanding them, we are competitive, we are even taught to be competitive. Little children fight. The kids fight over the toys, they go to school and they fight over the games in the playground, they go to high school and they fight over the girls, they go to college and they fight over campus policies, they grow up and fight over their business dealings, they become politicians and fight over policies of a government. That’s war, and James says it’s because you have strong desires and those strong desires are generated by yourself. Man, because he is depraved, is selfish and egotistic; and that problem finds its way into the church, so we have fights in the church.” (John MacArthur, Sermon on 1 Cor. 1:10-17, “Splits and Quarrels in the Church.”)

    What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: 'He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us'? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, 'God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'” (James 4:1-6)


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The White Robes

This last week our church finished our annual Christmas pageantry, 5 performances in all. The first half is modern, upbeat and flashy. The set was a radio station, WLUV, playing the "Christmas hits" and asking what "listeners" loved about Christmas. An emphasis was placed on the hubbub and frustration that many associate with Christmas time--not really what people are looking for. The second half becomes an abbreviated "Passion", telling the life of Christ. The stage undergoes transformation into ancient times and the choir re-enter wearing traditional "Bible garb." After the crucifixion and resurrection, while the lights are still low, each choir member slowly rises to his or her feet and drop the head-wrappings and accoutrements and the entire stage is bathed in bright white, signifying the glorious transformation of the saints just under the feet of the resurrected and glorified Christ.

I've spent some time reflecting on Revelation 7:9-17.

God causes the saint to stand while elders and angels and living beasts fall at His feet. Someone once said, “A station on the feet in front of the throne in Heaven is the effect of being often on the knees before the throne on earth.”

Fighting off the depression of our present condition, where we live casting off the sins that so easily beset us, battling those entanglements of the flesh, we look forward to the day we can stand because of what He has done for us through the blood of the Lamb.

God’s praise is the declaration of only that which He does for us, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Notice the clothing of the saints: changed because of the blood of the Lamb.
Notice the cleanliness of the saints: white because of the blood of the Lamb.
Notice the courtyard of the saints: they are found at the throne of the Lamb.
Notice the conduct of the saints: they are in the service of the Lamb.
Notice the camp of the saints: they are in the country of the Lamb.
Notice the contentment of the saints: they are satisfied in the provision of the Lamb.

Change your robes now. One does not get clean robes when he gets to heaven. Put off the old and put on the new in Christ Jesus now. Put off the rags of self-righteousness and put on the white robes of His righteousness. Horatius Bonar in a message to Sabbath School children in 1840 preached, “You are not to suppose that you will get them after you get to heaven. No, you must get them here before you go to heaven. It is here you must be washed, it is here that your robes must be made white in the blood of the Lamb. It must be done now!”[i]

Cleanse your heart now. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”[ii] This has nothing to do with being reformed. This has nothing to do with recovery. There are no leaves to turn over here. This has everything to do with being born again, of being washed in the blood of the Lamb!

Count your presence at His altar now. Gather at his throne in the praise of His salvation, and avoid at all costs being called to His throne at the judgment. The blood of the Lamb is provided for your salvation now. Do not be counted absent on the day of celebration!

Conduct yourself as the instrument of His glory now. What can I render to God for all He has done for me? What can we do for a God who is Lord over everything? Nothing else but to serve Him, but used by Him to the praise of His glory in loving obedience. Those cleansed by the blood of the Lamb represent Him.

Consider yourself a citizen of heaven now. Live on this earth as a stranger, an alien. True residence is under His tent. Those cleansed by the blood of the Lamb are citizens of heaven, dwelling where He dwells. Enjoy the presence of God without fear.

Content yourself in God now. Living in the joy of the Lord may bring tears of sadness for those who fail to repent and trust Him as Lord and Savior. There will come a day when He will wipe these tears away. Instead a day will come when tears of joy will flow, when God is celebrated by those saints who can only sing, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

************

[i] Bonar, Horatius. “The White Robes.”
[ii]New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Jas 4:8.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Thinking about: 1 Cor. 6:19-20

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.“ [i]

Walking through a pet store the other night, something unusual caught my eye and I had to look twice to make certain of what I was seeing. Now, I don’t get out much and this may be old news to you, but this was . . . different. Think: Hermit Crabs, those little guys with the crabby fronts and soft behinds that move into the shells of other sea creatures. As they grow, they simply find larger shells to back in to. Got it?

Somebody got the great idea of “designer shells” for these puppies, er, crabs. That’s right! Little plastic shells with designer paint-jobs. Hermies’ home is not a typical sea-shell anymore. He can now have a little pink house with a white picket fence painted along the sides. Or a jet black shell with flames or racing stripes. Or a Hawaiian sunset. How about a monkey face for a costume?

I am getting the impression that many today live with a Hermit Crab mind-set, changing the outer shell for something (literally) different. Consider the tattooing and piercing phenomenon today. Clearly people are not satisfied to be as they are, so they modify that which they’ve been given. Clearly folks are convinced that their bodies were not designed properly so they must accessorize. I have two tattoos that I deeply regret and my own set of piercings from way back that, for the most part, only gave me grief—those will never go away. Why did I do it? Because it was “bad” and it was “cool.” Now it’s neither.

John Angell James (1785—1859) in his sermon on this passage called “Self-Renunciation” reminds us:

“It is for you to recollect that the renunciation of SELF, as well as of SIN, was one of the solemn transactions of that scene, and that time, when you bowed by faith at the foot of the cross, received mercy through Jesus Christ, and yielded yourselves to God. You then abjured—not only self-righteousness, but self-seeking, self pleasing, self-living. Self, as a supreme object, was in every view of it renounced. Self, until then, had been your loftiest aim; self-love your highest affection; but then you transferred your aim and your affection to another object. The Christian has no right to ask what he will do with himself; or to what he will give himself; or how he will employ himself. He is no longer at liberty to inquire how he shall spend his energies, his time, his properly, his labor, and his influence; for he is not his own, he is bought with a price.”

The teaching of scripture is plain: your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own. In the spiritual sense, when we are made new creations, we have a new shell waiting for us. Putting racing stripes on it now does, well, nothing when it comes to eternal matters. We’ve slapped the creator in the face for doing an inadequate job, we’ve wasted time and money, perhaps spilled a little blood—for the sake of decorations? The truth of the matter is when we were born again, we have passed from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. We were made new creations! We have a new "inside" while we wait for the day we shed this old flesh on the outside! Our satisfaction should be in the creator, who creates anew, and not get hung up on this old flesh.

Certainly the passage is dealing with areas much different than those discussed here: fornication, idolatry, adultery, perversion, homosexuality, thievery, covetousness, drunkenness, reviling (verbal abuse), swindling, immorality. Where do you want to go from here? As Paul says, “all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.”

Listen to James again, “self is the most subtle, the most stubborn, the most tenacious foe with which grace has to contend, in the soul of the believer. Self lives, and works, and fights—when many other corruptions are moritified. Self is the last heart—which is reduced to the obedience of faith.”

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.” [ii]

Let’s return to the water a moment. Remember when early in His ministry the Lord Jesus told His disciples they would be fishers of men? This is not simply a hard task for those who do the fishing. Consider the fish. This imagery is not pleasant for the fish, for the fish is to be sought out, caught or gathered and removed from his element. If he is not netted, he is hooked. The fish fights, gasping for air, tossing about in attempts to be free. He is not anticipating being cleaned, stripped of his skin and put to uses other than those he had already planned for that day. He becomes the property of the fisherman. He is not his own, but removed from his school and re-enrolled in a new school where he no longer swims, but dies. He cannot live for himself.

I bought something once and someone thought they had to have what I had, so they broke in and stole it. A thief now has what I still own. Perhaps it has been sold again, but it is still mine. A Christian’s body belongs to God. It has been bought with a price. You are not your own, but God’s. Consider what a privilege it is that we who are worthless creatures and we are purchased for a price, so we are not our own!

James Denney wrote “what we may legitimately insist upon is the idea that the work of man’s salvation was a costly work, and that the cost, however we are to construe it, is represented by the death of Christ. ‘Ye were bought with a price,’ means, ‘Ye were not bought for nothing.’” Our salvation is a difficult, incredible, impossible thing; nevertheless, God took the necessary measures to ensure it’s transaction. Since the Christian becomes under new ownership, he must get out of the way.[iii] Consider 2 Timothy 3:2 (“people will be lovers of self”) and Richard Baxter, “Self is the most treacherous enemy, and the most insinuating deceiver in the world. Of all other vices, it is both the hardest to find out, and the hardest to cure.”

John Angell James again, “Self-love is the most active and reigning principle in fallen nature! SELF is the great idol which mankind are naturally disposed to worship; and selfishness the grand interest to which they are devotedly attached! Selfishness is contrary to the habitual temper of our Lord Jesus Christ. ‘For even Christ did not please Himself.’” [iv]

So in one sense the Christian is like the fish, having been caught by men-fishers. In another sense we are like the Hermit Crab when it comes to taking off the old and putting on the new. But we are no longer our own. We cannot live in the school. We were bought. A price was paid.
The Christian is not merely exposed to Jesus, exposed to God in that an intellectual consent seals his eternal happiness; rather the Christian is espoused to Christ, united with Him and the body becomes the dwelling of the Divine through the Holy Spirit. By right of creation, redemption, presentation and possession, the Christian belongs to God.

“But what is it that the Holy Spirit operates in the hearts of believers? Truly, He is not there as a dead and lifeless image. Let no one suppose so. Oh no! He continually works one gracious work after another. First, He reveals Jesus Christ in our hearts, according to the word of the Savior, “When the Holy Spirit is come, he shall glorify me” (John 16:14). But what is meant by the expression, “He shall glorify me?” I reply, He will give us to know and experience Jesus in our hearts, as a most inwardly present Savior, whilst making His love, His grace, and His treasures appear to us so great and glorious that we are as much astonished as rejoiced at the unsearchable riches of grace in Christ Jesus.”[v]

We have one purpose in life: glorify God. Final words from our great fore-blogger, Jonathan Edwards[vi]:

“Consider that what you have is not your own; i. e. you have only a subordinate right. Your goods are only lent to you of God, to be improved by you in such ways as he directs. You yourselves are not your own; 1 Cor. vi. 20. “Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price; your body and your spirit are God’s.” And if you yourselves are not your own, so then neither are your possessions your own. Many of you have by covenant given up yourselves and all you have to God. You have disowned and renounced any right in yourselves or in any thing that you have, and have given to God all the absolute right; and if you be true Christians, you have done it from the heart.

Your money and your goods are not your own; they are only committed to you as stewards, to be used for him who committed them to you; 1 Pet. iv. 9, 10. “Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” A steward has no business with his master’s goods, to use them any otherwise than for the benefit of his master and his family, or according to his master’s direction. He hath no business to use them, as if he were the proprietor of them; he hath nothing to do with them, only as he is to use them for his master. He is to give every one of his master’s family their portion of meat in due season.

But if instead of that, he hoards up his master’s goods for himself, and withholds them from those of the household, so that some of the family are pinched for want of food and clothing; he is therein guilty of robbing his master and embezzling his substance. And would any householder endure such a steward? If he discovered him in such a practice, would he not take his goods out of his hands, and commit them to the care of some other steward, who should give every one of his family his portion of meat in due season? Remember that all or us must give account of our stewardship, and how we have disposed of those goods which our Master has put into our hands. And if when our Master comes to reckon with us, it be found that we have denied some of his family their proper provision, while we have hoarded up for ourselves, as if we had been the proprietors of our Master’s goods, what account shall we give of this?”

**********************

[i]New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Co 6:19.

[ii]New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 16:24.

[iii] Denney, James. The Death of Christ. Paternoster: Cumbria, 1997.

[iv] John Angell James, "Christian Love" 1828. www.gracegems.org

[v] Tersteegen, Gerhard (1697-1769) “The Believer, The Temple of the Holy Ghost.”

[vi] Edwards, Jonathan. “Christian Charity: or, The Duty of Charity to the Poor, Explained and Enforced.” The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 2.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

New Year’s Resolutions.

Let them that love Him be like the sun when he goes forth in his might.” Judges 5:31

My prayer for this next year is that God would focus me. Right now I am too much a like a flashlight: a beam of variable brightness, sort of spread out, making some miniscule contribution to the sight of those who desire to see (self included). I would rather be a laser-beam. Focused. Intent. Piercing. To do this, I am asking God to focus me.

Before the technology, I suppose this was the same sort of thing on Nellie Talbot’s heart when she wrote that great Sunday School Song:

I will ask Jesus to help me
To keep my heart from sin,
Ever reflecting His goodness,
And always shine for Him.

A sunbeam, a sunbeam,
Jesus wants me for a sunbeam;
A sunbeam, a sunbeam,
I’ll be a sunbeam for Him.

Steven Sample’s book “The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership” contains a chapter called “You are what you read,” wherein he discusses the lasting influences of the “supertext.” Supertexts are important for both what they say and how they say it. These are texts that withstand the test of time. I like the axiom, “One truly original idea is worth a hundred regurgitations of conventional wisdom.” This next year I am asking God to help me focus as I immersing in five “supertexts,” resources I believe Andrew Murray would here refer to as “the curriculum in God’s School of Obedience”:

1. The Bible;
2. Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions. 70 in all to cover in 52 weeks plus various other writings;
3. Charles Spurgeon. “Morning and Evening” plus occasional sermons and various other writings;
4. Oswald Chambers: “Abandoned to God,” “My Utmost for His Highest”, “Biblical Psychology” and “Biblical Ethics”;
5. Eric Liddell’s “Disciplines of the Christian Life.”

Why the Bible? See Psalm 19.

Why Jonathan Edwards? God focused him like a laser-beam and punched through to the mind, showing the majesty of God in all things. This is a man who was more concerned about his love for God than anything else. I believe he lived out Prov. 3:5-6.

Why Charles Spurgeon? God focused him like a laser-beam and punched through churchianty. This is a man who had solid of faith.

Why Oswald Chambers? God focused him like a laser-beam and punched through the idolatry of self. Here is a man who addressed the conscience, showing that those things that bother a man the most are understood and answered in the context of God.

Why Eric Liddle? God focused him like a laser-beam and punched through the international barrier and complacency. Light from the cross made his grace appear small. The mission field got him to where he needed to be: concentration camp, where he died discipling teachers and students even in the most horrible conditions.

So this next year, I am resolved (!) to immerse myself in the scriptures and the writings and the lives of these men, to focus, that I may be more effectively used by God.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

We have no choice but to forgive him . . .

Thanks, Derek. You've been Baptist all along.

The Rainbow

Genesis 9:13: “I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.”

Today’s reading of Oswald Chambers includes the importance of right standing with God, which begins with participation with God in His covenant. Further, right standing with God continues as we let God carry out His covenant on His terms, in His timing. Chambers is careful to dissect out idolatrous thoughts in that we tend to wait on God to do something that we may say we have trusted God in that thing. We are wrong to suppose we are in right standing placing our trust in His action when His person, God Himself is the center of our right standing.

I was made to notice that God set the sign of His act and being in the vessel used to carry out punishment; in other words, placed within the clouds that consist of water through which the world was destroyed because of man’s sin, God placed a visible statement of His promise never to flood the earth with water again. His stamp says “what happened between Me and the earth will never happen again.” We can see this clearly in the cross: the vessel of punishment brought judgment, destruction and death; furthermore, the vessel of punishment bears a seal of promise, of restoration and life!

Matthew Henry seems to imply a question: has a rainbow ever been seen before this time? It is plausible being a natural phenomenon, but meaning is implanted by the judging/saving/covenant-giver. “The seal of this covenant of nature was natural enough; it was the rainbow, which, it is likely, was seen in the clouds before, when second causes concurred, but was never a seal of the covenant till now that it was made so by a divine institution.”[1] Consider, the seal serves as a perpetual reminder of covenant to appear when considerable wetness accumulates. The thicker the cloud, the brighter the seal appears in the clear part of the sky.

A few weeks ago we were driving to speak at an early-morning engagement. The sun was not yet up when we left and as we continued on our Westward journey, the dawn bloomed in the East, behind us. The darkness fled before us as we drove, and began to touch the clouds. We could see the horizon reflected on the clouds before us. Suddenly before us in the western sky, a rainbow seemed to waken with the dawn slight hints of color, but it was clearly visible. As the sun climbed higher behind us, the horizon’s shadow lowered on the clouds. When the light of the bridegroom flooded from his chamber and spilled over the rainbow, it lit up like a neon sign.

Henry, does the Eternal Mind need a memorandum? It’s laughable! The memo is for us!

Here’s another thought: when will the seal of the covenant not be seen? When there is no threat? While one is inclined to say so, why does Revelation 4:3 show a rainbow AROUND the throne of God? Ever see a whole rainbow? What about the angel with a rainbow AROUND his head (Rev. 10:1)?

And consider what causes a rainbow to be seen: water . . . and light. As of a fire . . .?

There will never be a time when man can do things his way. Well, he certainly could try, but his way will only bring judgment. There will always be a time when God will accomplish His own way, for His own glory. God who sits on the throne has promised never to destroy the earth with water, but a fiery day is coming for those who have not participated in His covenant! God provided a way out for Noah and his family. The rainbow reminds us of that horrible year. But God provided a way out for you and your family. The cross reminds us of that horrible hour.

How will you look on the rainbow?


[1]Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, c1991), Ge 9:12.

Remember that "Footprints" thing . . .?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Thinking about: Ephesians 3:14-17

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you . . . (v.14-16a)”

Who do you pray for? I keep asking myself this question and am stunned every time with my own answer. Try it. Ask yourself: who do you pray for? Do you pray for yourself? For others? What about God? Do you pray for God?

Ephesians 3:14-21 catches Paul in the middle of a thought, having already described the unity of believers in Christ Jesus and now because of that unity Paul reveals his prayer. At first glance it seems that Paul is praying for his readers. Looking again to his prayer we hear Paul praying for God, “that He would grant you. . .” Paul is praying for God to act on behalf of his audience. Inter-Varsity’s Charles Troutman is noted as saying: “The criterion for our intercessory prayer is not our earnestness, nor our faithfulness, nor even our faith in God, but simply God Himself. He has taken the initiative from the beginning, and has built our prayers into the structure of the universe. He then asks us to present these requests to Him that He may show His gracious hand.” This is precisely what Paul is doing.

The Father to whom Paul bows the knee is the same Father to whom Jesus instructed the disciples to pray: “Our Father.” This is Paul carrying out that prayer: “Father who art in heaven with the hallowed name and the coming kingdom and fulfilling will, YOU give . . .”

What is Paul trying to connect his readers to? Already we agree that God is our Father by virtue of his creative activity. Now Paul is bringing us closer to “home” in the believer’s position of being rooted in faith and love. Paul’s desire is that his readers be granted a gold-mine:

The riches of His glory.” The glory of God is the subject about which the heavens themselves pontificate. Just listen to the expanse, to the day and the night as they pour forth speech and knowledge. Certainly they don’t actually talk, but what they have to say runs like a laser-beam through everything. I think String Theory is onto something. This idea says that (basically) every particle in the Universe resonates with a submicroscopic sound, a tone. I believe it the sound of the word of the one who upholds all things by the word of His power.

What are these things saying? What is being heard in that place where the sun runs it’s course? What is being said are the very things that the conscience already knows, the glory of God. That perfect law, that sure testimony, those right precepts, those pure commandments, that clean fear, those true judgments. That’s what they are saying. It is by the light of these things that nothing stays in the dark. It is by the light of these things that nothing stays hidden. It is by the light of these things that the standard is set for all things good. It is by these things that the servant of the Lord is warned and rewarded. After all, who can really tell what goes on in a man than that which runs throughout the entire Universe and points to God as perfection? What else is there in the Universe that keeps a man back from high-handed sin?

The riches of God’s glory are found in the Lordship of Christ, making a man clean. The riches of God’s glory are without limit in Him. This is what Paul would love for His readers to grasp of the gold-mine of God.

to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” Let’s face it. We need strength to be Christians. Don’t believe me? Just look around at the so-called “Christians” who make life difficult for other believers—and non-believers. We need strength and Paul wants his readers to be strong, so he prays not that those believers would find strength, but that God would grant them strength! Strength with POWER! Power does not just sit by and exist, taking up space and time, breathing air and clocking out at the end of the day. Rather, power moves. Power makes unity occur. Power carries out “spiritual abilities for discharging duty, resisting temptations, enduring persecutions, etc.[1]” And how does it happen? Through His Spirit. God through His Spirit makes the Christian BE and makes the Christian DO.

These things Paul is asking God to do, to move on His behalf to the praise of His glory through these readers, is to be accomplished with Spirit power! For some reason, we like to have the inner man strengthened and powered up for ourselves, so we work at it out of ourselves. This is just another proof that man does the impossible. He cannot be powered apart from the power-source! The inner man must be plugged in, rooted, grounded.

Why? “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” That’s why. “Every believer is indwelt by Christ at the moment of salvation (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 12:13), but He is “at home,” finding comfort and satisfaction, only where hearts are cleansed of sin and filled with His Spirit (cf. John 14:23).”[2] A.B. Simpson relates this insight: “There is a very singular shrub which grows abundantly in the west and is to be found in all parts of Texas. The mesquite, sometimes called the "mosquito tree," is a very slim and willowy looking shrub and would seem to be of little use for any industrial purposes; but it has extraordinary roots growing like great timbers underground and possessing such qualities of endurance in all situations that it was once valued as pavement material. It is said that the city of San Antonio was once paved with these roots. The mosquito tree reminds us of those Christians who make little show externally, but their growth is chiefly underground-out of sight in the depth of God. These are the men and women that God uses for the foundations of things, and for the pavements of that city of God which will stand when all earthly things have crumbled into ruin and dissolved into oblivion.”

Dwell in your hearts! The indwelling of Jesus and the power of the Spirit are ever-connected! Listen to Spurgeon:

“But to have Jesus ever near, the heart must be full of him, welling up with his love, even to overrunning; hence the apostle prays “that Christ may dwell in your hearts.” See how near he would have Jesus to be! You cannot get a subject closer to you than to have it in the heart itself. “That he may dwell”; not that he may call upon you sometimes, as a casual visitor enters into a house and tarries for a night, but that he may dwell; that Jesus may become the Lord and Tenant of your inmost being, never more to go out. Observe the words—that he may dwell in your heart, that best room of the house of manhood; not in your thoughts alone, but in your affections; not merely in the mind’s meditations, but in the heart’s emotions. We should pant after love to Christ of a most abiding character, not a love that flames up and then dies out into the darkness of a few embers, but a constant flame, fed by sacred fuel, like the fire upon the altar which never went out. This cannot be accomplished except by faith. Faith must be strong, or love will not be fervent; the root of the flower must be healthy, or we cannot expect the bloom to be sweet. Faith is the lily’s root, and love is the lily’s bloom.” [3]

*************

[1]Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, c1991), Eph 3:14.
[2]John Jr MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville: Word Pub., 1997, c1997), Eph 3:17.
[3]C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), August 23 PM.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Semi-Pelagian Narrower Catechism

(Thank you for sending this, Derek.
For: our Rick Warren Fans)

1. Q: What is the chief end of each individual Christian?
A: Each individual Christian's chief end is to get saved. This is the first and great commandment.

2. Q: And what is the second great commandment?
A: The second, which is like unto it, is to get as many others saved as he can.

3. Q: What one work is required of thee for thy salvation?
A: It is required of me for my salvation that I make a Decision for Christ, which meaneth to accept Him into my heart to be my personal lord'n'saviour

4. Q: At what time must thou perform this work?
A: I must perform this work at such time as I have reached the Age of Accountability.

5. Q: At what time wilt thou have reached this Age?
A: That is a trick question. In order to determine this time, my mind must needs be sharper than any two-edged sword, able to pierce even to the division of bone and marrow; for, alas, the Age of Accountability is different for each individual, and is thus unknowable.

6. Q: By what means is a Decision for Christ made?
A: A Decision for Christ is made, not according to His own purpose and grace which was given to me in Christ Jesus before the world began, but according to the exercise of my own Free Will in saying the Sinner's Prayer in my own words.

7. Q: If it be true then that man is responsible for this Decision, how then can God be sovereign?
A: He cannot be. God sovereignly chose not to be sovereign, and is therefore dependent upon me to come to Him for salvation. He standeth outside the door of my heart, forlornly knocking, until such time as I Decide to let Him in.

8. Q: How then can we make such a Decision, seeing that the Scripture saith, we are dead in our trespasses and sins?
A: By this the Scripture meaneth, not that we are dead, but only that we are sick or injured in them.

9. Q: What is the assurance of thy salvation?
A: The assurance of thy salvation is, that I know the date on which I prayed the Sinner's Prayer, and have duly written this date on an official Decision card.

10. Q: What is thy story? What is thy song?
A: Praising my Savior all the day long.

11. Q: You ask me how I know he lives?
A: He lives within my heart.

12. Q: And what else hast thou got in thine heart?
A: I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.

13. Q: Where??
A: Down in my heart!

14. Q: Where???
A: Down in my heart!!

15. Q: What witness aid hath been given us as a technique by which we may win souls?
A: The tract known commonly as the Four Spiritual Laws, is the chief aid whereby we may win souls.

16. Q: What doth this tract principally teach?
A: The Four Spiritual Laws principally teach, that God's entire plan for history and the universe centereth on me, and that I am powerful enough to thwart His divine purpose if I refuse to let Him pursue His Wonderful Plan for my life.

17. Q: What supplementary technique is given by which we may win souls?
A: The technique of giving our own Personal Testimony, in the which we must always be ready to give an answer concerning the years we spent in vanity and pride, and the wretched vices in which we wallowed all our lives until the day we got saved.

18. Q: I'm so happy, what's the reason why?
A: Jesus took my burden all away!

19. Q: What are the means given whereby we may save large crowds of souls in a spectacular manner?
A: Such a spectacle is accomplished by means of well-publicized Crusades and Revivals which (in order that none may be loath to attend) are best conducted anywhere else but in a Church.

20. Q: Am I a soldier of the Cross?
A: I am a soldier of the Cross if I join Campus Crusade, Boys' Brigade, the Salvation Army, or the Wheaton Crusaders; of if I put on the helmet of Dispensationalism, the breastplate of Pietism, the shield of Tribulationism, and the sword of Zionism, having my feet shod with the gospel of Arminianism.

21. Q: Who is your boss?
A: My boss is a Jewish carpenter.

22. Q: Hath God predestined vessels of wrath to Hell?
A: God hath never performed such an omnipotent act, for any such thing would not reflect His primary attribute, which is Niceness.

23. Q: What is sanctification?
A: Sanctification is the work of my free Will, whereby I am renewed by having my Daily Quiet Time.

24. Q: What rule hath God for our direction in prayer?
A: The rule that we must bow our hands, close our heads, and fold our eyes.

25. Q: What doth the Lord's Prayer teach us?
A: The Lord's Prayer teacheth us that we must never memorize a prayer, or use one that hath been written down.

26. Q: What's the book for thee?
A: The B-I-B-L-E.

27. Q: Which are among the first books which a Christian should read to his soul's health?
A: Among the first books which a Christian should read are the books of Daniel and Revelation, and The Late Great Planet Earth.

28. Q: Who is on the Lord's side?
A: He who doth support whatsoever is done by the nation of Israel, and who doth renounce the world, the flesh, and the Catholic Church.

29. Q: What are the seven deadly sins?
A: The seven deadly sins are smoking, drinking, dancing, card-playing, movie-going, baptizing babies, and having any creed but Christ.

30. Q: What is a sacrament?
A: A sacrament is an insidious invention devised by the Catholic Church whereby men are drawn into idolatry.

31. Q: What is the Lord's Supper?
A: The Lord's Supper is a dispensing of saltines and grape juice, in the which we remember Christ's command to pretend that they are His body and blood.

32. Q: What is baptism?
A: Baptism is the act whereby, by the performance of something that seems quite silly in front of everyone, I prove that I really, really mean it.

33. Q: What is the Church?
A: The Church is the tiny minority of individuals living at this time who have Jesus in their hearts, and who come together once a week for a sermon, fellowship and donuts.

34. Q: What is the office of the keys?
A: The office of the keys is that office held by the custodian.

35. Q: What meaneth "The Priesthood Of All Believers"?
A: The Priesthood Of All Believers meaneth that there exists no authority in the Church, as that falsely thought to be held by elders, presbyters, deacons, and bishops, but that each individual Christian acts as his own authority in all matters pertaining to the faith.

36. Q: Who is the Holy Spirit?
A: The Holy Spirit is a gentleman Who would never barge in.

37. Q: How long hath the Holy Spirit been at work?
A: The Holy Spirit hath been at work for more than a century: expressly, since the nineteenth-century Revitalization brought about by traveling Evangelists carrying tents across America.

38. Q: When will be the "Last Days" of which the Bible speaketh?
A: The "Last Days" are these days in which we are now living, in which the Antichrist, the Beast, and the Thief in the Night shall most certainly appear.

39. Q: What is the name of the event by which Christians will escape these dreadful entities?
A: The event commonly known as the Rapture, in the which it is our Blessed Hope that all cars driven by Christians will suddenly have no drivers.

40. Q: When is Jesus coming again?
A: Maybe morning, maybe noon, maybe evening, and maybe soon.

41. Q: When the roll, roll, roll, is called up yonder, where will you be?
A: There.

42. Q: Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah!
A: Praise ye the Lord!

43. Q: Praise ye the Lord!
A: Hallelujah!

44. Q: Where will we meet again?
A: Here, there, or in the air.

45. Q: Can I hear an Ay-men?
A: Ay-men.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Don't you know it's Christ-mas-time at all?

I’m the kind of person who waits for movies to come out on video instead of rushing out during premier week to see it. The only time I’ve ever bought music the same week it was released was when Christopher Cross came out with “Sailing” and GTR made their one-hit wonder "When the Heart Rules the Mind." Books? Don’t even get me started.

Today I finally saw the DVD many have been “all the rave” about since August: Bill Hybel’s interview with Bono. Honestly, I prayed very hard about this because 1) I just don’t get that excited about the rock music scene anymore; 2) Bill Hybels and Willow Creek don’t exactly “drop my anchor;” 3) I had to. It was shown in our Chapel service.

Before going in, I prayed that God would give me discernment. The sequence was introduced with the encouragement to “engage the mind” and “listen critically.” Right away I could not help but think, “obviously there are some elements contained herein the school does NOT endorse. Why carry on?” Nevertheless, carry on we did.

Historically, Bono and I go way back. About two years before GTR made their ripple in the pond of music, U2 was dropped in my lap by a friend who told me, “Check this Irish band out. They’re Christian!” I listened. I listened again. And again. “Ok, I think I hear something Christian,” I remember thinking; but, I wasn’t able to decipher the politics and the nationalism from the religion in their music then. Years go by and I see U2 and Bono surface here and there—LiveAid and whatnot. I read in the papers and heard on the news of his vulgarisms (F*** the Revolution) and the tight-fisted defiance in the face of authority, not to forget his stage persona (“the devil”) and involvements with the IRA. I wrote them off as another former-Christian band. But Bono kept surfacing.

I was gravely concerned when I heard that Bono was going to be interviewed by Hybels for The Summit conference this last year and that our students were going to be exposed to . . . whatever was on his mind. I wrote a letter to our president expressing some concerns, and included my doubts as to what Christian leadership had to learn from this man. My letter was well received, but the answers mostly fell on me: “did you see the interview?” Well, today I have the answer.

Today I heard a concerned man (who doesn’t seem to offend anyone) share his heart. I heard him say the church is behind and is not doing a good job taking care of people. I agree. Matter of fact, I’ve said for years that if the western church was doing its’ job the welfare system would be obsolete. I heard him say we need to be proactive in health-care. I agree as well! The complete work of Christ has far-reaching implications.

But that’s about all I could agree with.

I heard him say that all people are the same. Yes, we are. But we are not. People of the world do not have the same Father. Jesus made that clear. I cannot agree with Bono and the video clip they did NOT show of him chanting “Muhammed, Buddah, Jesus!” Why not? I mean, this is the voice of Bono Vox (“good voice!”), right?

I heard him say we live under the principle of Karma: what you give out, you get back. I also heard him say that he did not like that concept, but he could not get away from it.

I heard him say we live in a dualistic world and that grace is that “area in-between” that helps dualism make sense. Those pages in my Bible must be stuck together . . .

I heard him say that eternal judgment is not a game and should be taken very seriously. But is judgment averted and salvation achieved through our good works, like feeding the hungry and healing the sick? I heard him put his hope in God’s grace. Franciscan? Yes. Biblical? Hardly. It doesn’t take much to realize that the salvation he is concerned about is selfish—help others in their plight, find God and get into heaven. Is that what its’ all about? What about getting them into heaven?

In another interview he waxed religious and talked about how God saves us from our s**t (why he can’t say “sin” is beyond me—actually I think I know). Nothing about repentance today. Nothing about the atonement of Christ today. Nothing about the glorious appearing.

He talked about getting to know Christ through getting closer to the poor, where one finds God in the silence and suffering. What about the Bible? What about prayer? What about fellowship of the church? I heard him say he did not like the church, but then he does . . . ? I heard him say that heaven is on earth and it is our responsibility to bring the kingdom.

Speaking of Christ, he admitted Jesus as the Son of God, but said nothing of His Lordship. Said nothing of his power. Said nothing of what is to come.

I’ll be blunt. I believe a day will come (we may not live to see it) when this nation will be reduced to 3rd world conditions due to natural disaster that will be exploited by international terrorists. Guess who will be hurting the most? Those who are not accustomed to living in those conditions. And who will be ahead of the game? Those who are already living in those conditions.

What about those Biblical passages that show us the end times? Everyone will NOT eat, food will be not only scarce, but of such high value it is almost unattainable. What about the currency and the trade and the mark of the beast and the mark of God? What about the anti-Christ who brings peace and prosperity and unity . . .

Someone wanted to know if I enjoyed chapel. The chapel was thought-provoking.

Before you get on my case about anything, you need to know that I have 8 people under my roof that live on the income of a family of 3. I’ve been homeless before. I know what’s out there. I’ve been “stupid poor.”

Join me on a bench downtown and let’s talk to the folks who walk by . . . people who know where to get free food, free clothes, have lots of time on their hands to develop bad theology . . . people who need the system and those who know how to see the world for free . . .

My wife and I manage a food bank, an agency of America’s Second Harvest. The agency is volunteer driven and operates on donations. We moved over 45,000 pounds of food since this time last year. We know about hunger. We know about debt. We know about poverty. And we also know what charitable giving is like. And we’ve seen what God can do.

But Bono can’t fix the world. He would sooner give his sunglasses to the Pope than sell a pair to buy food, or relieve someone’s debt. He basically said so when he admitted he was “living high” and was not about to let it go . . . and the Pope does have a pair of his shades.

So I have to ask: “Christian leader, what did I learn?”

I learned that Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision is also Nelson Mandela’s and somehow they both join God where He is already at work. What kind of work? Hard to say, but He is at work and He is where I am, if I am in the middle of it all.

I learned that one can be creative with language, depending on the audience. I must try harder to be culturally relevant. I just have to cut “hell” out of my ministry-talk to be less offensive and say that instead of Jesus dying for my sins He died for my . . . Sorry. I can’t do it.

I learned that I need to move my assets to a tax shelter in the Netherlands to keep other people from getting to my money . . .

I learned that I can hope I am doing enough to escape judgment. Are you? We could use some help down at the food bank . . . Maybe I’ll change the name from “Koinonia Food Bank” to “Judgment House.”

I also learned from Bill Hybels that I can smile and nod my head in silent amens while listening to a newly ordained preacher of a churchless church, being motivated with good ideas and no gospel at all.

Oswald Chambers wrote, "The type of Christian experience in the New Testament is that of personal passionate devotion to the Person of Jesus Christ. Every other type of Christian experience, so called, is detached from the Person of Jesus. There is no regeneration, no being born again into the Kingdom in which Christ lives, but only the idea that He is our Pattern. In the New Testament Jesus Christ is Saviour long before He is Pattern. To-day He is being despatched as the Figurehead of a Religion, a mere Example. He is that, but He is infinitely more; He is salvation itself, He is the Gospel of God. "

Popular Posts