Sunday, August 30, 2015

Daily Walk: Lowliness of spirit and the Beatitudes

It was a cool and cloudy morning at Standing Bear Lake for my walk yesterday.  My meditation came from Proverbs 16:19:

It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor
    than to divide the spoil with the proud.

How do we obtain "a lowly spirit?"  It is only possible if we consider the Lord who is high and lifted up.  It is only in relationship with the triune God that we rightly see ourselves.  When we see Jesus, the exact representation of God, then we will see who we truly are.

I pondered the relation of a lowly spirit in comparison with the Beatitudes.  In some ways each beatitude teaches what it means to  be "of a lowly spirit" or poor in spirit in relation to particular subjects:

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted," teaches what it means to be lowly in spirit with regard to sin.  

"Blessed are the meek," teaches what it means to be lowly in spirit with regard to God's authoritative words, which are found in the Old and New Testament of the Bible.  

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness," teaches what it means to be dependent on the power and resurrection of Christ to live a new life in faith and love.  

"Blessed are the merciful" teaches what it means to be lowly in our relationship with others, forgiving as we have been forgiven.  

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God," shows the high privilege and treasure of knowing Jesus, those who choose the low place with Christ and his people ("the poor") and endure as seeing him who is not yet visible to their eyes.  

"Blessed are the peacemakers" teaches the love the lowly of spirit have for the lost and their willingness to speak the law and the gospel to others for their salvation.  

Finally, blessed are those who are reviled for Christ's sake, shows the love of the lowly of spirit for the Father and the Son, by the Spirit---a love that is willing to suffer for the sake of the One who is beloved.  A love that desires the approval of the Father and his Son more than the approval of a lost and rebellious world.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Reading the Bible to Become a Lover of God

I saw two deer on edge of sidewalk on my walk around Standing Bear Lake today.  A bicyclist came by and one of them left.  But this one let me walk right by it.  I took the picture from about 10 yards away, but when I walked by I was only about six feet away.

Part of my meditation came from Acts 1:1:

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach . . . .

The name Theophilus means God-lover.  How appropriate this name for the reader of God's Word, for the Scriptures enable us to get to know who God is, so that we might love him.  And, the Father's preeminent revelation of himself is in his Son, whom he sent to save the world.  As we learn about what Jesus did and taught, we learn about the triune God, and as in all relationships, it is only in getting to know someone that we can come to love him or her.  So when you read the Bible, remember it was written so that we might become Theophiluses, i.e., lovers of God!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Value of Wisdom and the Lord

Part of the scenery of the path of my walk.  I have walked 18 miles the last three days as I try to lose some weight.  On my walks I try to pray for people and meditate on God's Word, the Bible.  Today, my meditation was on Proverbs 16:16:  
How much better to get wisdom than gold!
To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
No great thoughts, but I wonder if even one person in a hundred would choose wisdom above Warren Buffett's wealth!  But wisdom is way more valuable than wealth according to Proverbs 16:16!  And if wisdom is that valuable, then how amazingly valuable must the source of all wisdom be, the Lord himself?!

How foolish people are to pursue wealth so fervently, even as they fail to seek the supremely valuable Lord.  If only our blind eyes could see the exceedingly great value of knowing the triune God through his Word, our priorities would change and we would choose understanding and wisdom.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Starck's Prayer Book p. 15-16

"I put on my clothes; Lord Jesus, clothe me with the robe of Your righteousness.  I wash my hands; Lord Jesus, wash me with Your holy blood from all my sins.  Guard me, that I may never walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor sin in the seat of the scornful.  For to be their friend means to be Your enemy.  If I would have the friendship of the world and would engage with the children of this age in their sinful and unholy ways, You would become my enemy.  O my God, impress on my heart the words: 'Walk before Me, and be blameless" (Genesis 17:1).  Oh, how many begin a new week, but do not live to see the end of it!  When the week is ended, they are sick or even in their graves!  Therefore, grant that I may always pursue holiness, without which no one will see You.  Make me zealous to be godly in my speech, blameless in my walk, and holy in my thoughts.  May I always be found in a state of grace and shelter in Your wounds, O Jesus.  May the grace of the Father keep me!  May the love of the Son sanctify me!  May the communion of the Holy Spirit make me fruitful in all good works!"  --from Starck's Prayer Book, Johann Starck (1680-1756)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Seriousness of Sin --- Quote from William Willimon

"In the Christian faith, an act or inclination, a passion or an emotion is sinful to the degree that it alienates us from God by offending God.  Sin is about God. . . . Thus we are not to seek the seriousness and significance of [sins] by uncovering their deleterious effects upon human life, but rather the way in which each, in its own way, and in concert, violates the nature of God.  Because it is of the nature of God in Christ to offer selfless, self-emptying love, lust is a sin.  Because the Son of God is the one who stoops and serves, pride is a sin.  Because God is the source of all that we have and all that we are, to envy someone else is to make envy more than an unattractive personality characteristic; envy is sin.  Because Jesus taught us to pray for no more than 'our daily bread,' lust for more bread, gluttony, is a sin."  --William Willimon. "Sinning Like a Christian: A New Look at the 7 Deadly Sins"

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sex and the Supper and the Abuse of Holy Sacraments

I had an insight today.  Not sure I can explain it, but here goes:  Man and woman were made in the image of God, thus we were made to reflect the character of God (Genesis 1:27).  One of the implications of this truth is that humanity as male and female is sacramental.  A sacrament is a visible sign that points to an invisible mystery.  The mystery, which our bodies as male and female points to, is the communion of persons in the trinity and the self-giving love we were created for.  This self-giving love found its culmination when the Son of God became man and gave his body for his bride the church.

Here is the insight:  If the sexual union is sacramental and points to the purpose/mystery of our creation, namely, fellowship with God and living in self-giving love, then the sexual union is sacred, just as the Lord's Supper which points to the self-giving love of the Bridegroom for his church and the fellowship that is ours with the Father and the Son is sacred.  Just as the abuse of the Supper, eating and drinking unworthily of the holy bread and wine brings about God's judgment, so abusing the holy sexual union which is the holy sacrament of marriage, also brings God's judgment.

Thus, there is a parallel between these two sacraments (I am using sacrament in the broad sense of the word as a sign that makes a higher reality visible).  The sacrament of creation is the marital union between husband and wife, and the sacrament of redemption is the body and blood of Jesus given for the life of his church.  Therefore, probably the two most holy things we partake of in this world are sex and the Supper!

Thus, the question, Why does God judge and punish the abuse of these two holy sacraments, sex and the Supper, above other sins? is answered.  Sex and the Lord's Supper are holy, pointing to deep mysteries.  Thus, the abuse of them is serious, as the New Testament tells us in many places:

"But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 5:3-6).

"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming" (Colossians 3:5-6).

"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world" (1 Corinthians 11:27-31).

O how we need to repent of our misuse of sex (and the church of its misuse of the Lord's Supper including its infrequency).  These words should bring us fear, but let that fear lead us to embrace the Husband who gave his life in love for us through repentance and faith.  He died so that we might be forgiven, justified, and live in the newness of life he will give to all who live in repentance and faith in him.

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