Friday, September 25, 2009

The Wisdom of Considering: Death, Judgment, and the Life to Come---Search the Scriptures: Psalm 49

Psalm 49 (English Standard Version)

Why Should I Fear in Times of Trouble?
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

1 Hear this, all peoples!
Give ear, all inhabitants of the world,
2 both low and high,
rich and poor together!
3My mouth shall speak wisdom;
the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.
4I will incline my ear to a proverb;
I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre.

5 Why should I fear in times of trouble,
when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me,
6those who trust in their wealth
and boast of the abundance of their riches?
7Truly no man can ransom another,
or give to God the price of his life,
8for the ransom of their life is costly
and can never suffice,
9that he should live on forever
and never see the pit.

10For he sees that even the wise die;
the fool and the stupid alike must perish
and leave their wealth to others.
11Their graves are their homes forever,
their dwelling places to all generations,
though they called lands by their own names.
12Man in his pomp will not remain;
he is like the beasts that perish.

13This is the path of those who have foolish confidence;
yet after them people approve of their boasts.
Selah

14Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;
death shall be their shepherd,
and the upright shall rule over them in the morning.
Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell.
15But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me.
Selah

16Be not afraid when a man becomes rich,
when the glory of his house increases.
17 For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
his glory will not go down after him.
18For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed
—and though you get praise when you do well for yourself—
19his soul will go to the generation of his fathers,
who will never again see light.
20 Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

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Recently Bobbi (my wife) related to me a conversation with some of her younger colleagues at work. These 20-somethings were bemoaning the fact that they were now receiving many more baby shower invitations than wedding invitations. Bobbi told them, Just wait ‘til you’re my age and you go to more funerals than any other sort of function! Bobbi related how this comment stopped them speechless, for it appeared these young women rarely contemplate the fact of death and their own mortality! O how our culture avoids even the mention of death!

But death is not only unavoidable as we inexorably move toward that day, but from a Christian standpoint, death is not the end, but rather the beginning. Death is not the final shutting of the door of our existence, but the opening of the door to either eternal life of eternal damnation! (see Jesus’ words in John 5:25-29).

Put in this perspective, one can understand why Ecclesiastes 7:4 says, “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” The wise person considers the fact of death! That’s one of the messages of Psalm 49 when it says, “even the wise die; the fool and the stupid alike must perish.” Consideration of this fact is part of the call to wisdom and understanding made in this psalm (v. 3).

Death is inevitable, and this life compared to eternity is tremendously brief. We will live in the world to come, whether it be heaven or hell, for a much, much longer time than we will live in this life. Consider the average lifespan of 75 years, give or take a few years. 75 years seems like a long time. But eternity is much, much longer. Notice how small 75 seems when you start adding an endless string of zeroes behind it:
75
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75,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
Sometimes people say that the Old Testament had no concept of a life after this one. I respectfully disagree. While the age to come, and heaven and hell, were not as clearly articulated in the Old Testament as they are in the New Testament, there are still plenty of indications that point to God’s judgment, and a blessed or condemned future based on that judgment. Psalm 49 is one such place where we see the notion of a life to come for all people, and varying conditions for people in that life to come.

One such place where we see the truth of a life to come and either blessing or judgment in the life to come is verses 14-15:
14Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;
death shall be their shepherd,
and the upright shall rule over them in the morning.
Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell.
15But God will ransom my soul
from the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me.
The sheep who will have death as their shepherd in verse 14 are the rich --- not all the rich --- but the rich who trusted in their wealth and loved money and pomp more than the blessed Lord.

The problem with money is that it is powerless in the face of death! Money can’t ransom a soul. Money is powerful in this life. It gives people position and luxury and status --- in this life. But money has no ability to ransom a soul and bring a soul into the blessed presence of God in the life to come!

Not only will the rich people, who trusted in their money instead of God, be shepherded by death in the age to come, but they will also experience a great reversal in the next life. Verse 14 says that the upright people, who trust in God rather than money, will have their souls ransomed. People who are poor in spirit, and who hope, not in money, but in God, will rule over the rich in the morning, that is, in the life to come. In other words, there will be a great reversal in the resurrection of all people that Jesus will bring about by the word of his command at his return from heaven. Trust in the Lord, not money, will be the thing that makes rich in the life to come!

So is there any reason, as Christians, to bemoan our poverty or lack of status and pomp in this life? Absolutely not! We should actually feel sorry for rich people who trust in their wealth---who are rich in this life but are poor with respect to the Lord and the next life. So many of the rich and important people are like beasts without understanding (v. 20). They never consider death, God’s judgment of all people, and the life to come. Instead, they live as though God were dead, therefore, it is fitting that in the life to come, death, rather than the blessed and living Lord himself, will be their shepherd.

Jesus is that shepherd! Have you come to him today? Are you ready for the life to come? Jesus says:
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Monday, September 21, 2009

Friends or Enemies? --- Search the Scriptures: Psalm 48

Psalm 48 (English Standard Version)

Zion, the City of Our God
A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

1 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised
in the city of our God!
His holy mountain, 2 beautiful in elevation,
is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
the city of the great King.
3Within her citadels God
has made himself known as a fortress.

4For behold, the kings assembled;
they came on together.
5As soon as they saw it, they were astounded;
they were in panic; they took to flight.
6 Trembling took hold of them there,
anguish as of a woman in labor.
7By the east wind you shattered
the ships of Tarshish.
8As we have heard, so have we seen
in the city of the LORD of hosts,
in the city of our God,
which God will establish forever.
Selah

9We have thought on your steadfast love, O God,
in the midst of your temple.
10As your name, O God,
so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.
Your right hand is filled with righteousness.
11Let Mount Zion be glad!
Let the daughters of Judah rejoice
because of your judgments!

12Walk about Zion, go around her,
number her towers,
13consider well her ramparts,
go through her citadels,
that you may tell the next generation
14that this is God,
our God forever and ever.
He will guide us forever.

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I’ve been to Jerusalem and overlooked the golden dome that now stands where the temple once stood in Jesus’ day. It is a beautiful sight.

But for all of Jerusalem’s beauty, Psalm 48 seems a bit over the top! Why should one city among so many cities be called “the joy of all the earth?” (v. 2). Why should kings be “astounded” and tremble when they see Jerusalem? (v. 4). And, most incredibly, why should anyone look at Jerusalem and say, “this is God, our God forever and ever?”

The answer is that the Lord who is revealed in the Old Testament, who is the creator of heaven and earth, chose to dwell in Jerusalem and in his temple. In the beginning, Eden was the place where the Lord dwelt with the human race. But after man’s rebellion, the first couple was driven out of the garden, and there was no dwelling place of God on earth. But the patriarchs began to build altars which became temporary dwelling places for the Lord on the earth. Eventually, these altars gave way to the tabernacle in the wilderness, and the tabernacle gave way to the temple. Already, in the Old Testament, the “Immanuel” (God with us) principle was present --- the Lord desired to dwell with his people.

When Jesus Christ came, God was now with us in a new way. God himself came to dwell with the human race in the person of his Son. John says of Jesus that “the Word became flesh and dwelt or tabernacled among us” (John 1:14). Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” giving voice to the truth that he is God’s true temple.

When the Israelites of old walked around Zion (v. 12) and looked at Jerusalem, in a sense they were looking at a representation of God. By looking at her towers and citadels, they could see the strength of their God (v. 12-14). By looking at the temple (v. 9) they could see the steadfast love of God as they considered its architecture, furniture, and sacrifices. Thus, when Jesus says to his own disciples, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” he is pointing to the fact that he is the new dwelling place of God, and that he is the “exact representation” of the Father, as it says in Hebrews 1:3. When we see Jesus by faith, we see the glory of God, full of grace and truth. In his sacrifice we see his love. In his resurrection life we see his strength. Such a view of God can change the hardest heart, even ours!

In Psalm 48 there are two responses to the city of God. In verses 4-7, the kings who come to Jerusalem with hostile intent are in a panic. This is because they realize that in attacking Jerusalem they are attacking God himself! The other response is the response of the Lord’s people, who are filled with joy and confidence as they see Jerusalem.

Do you remember what happened when the enemies of Jesus came to arrest him? Just like the kings in Psalm 48, they came to him with hostile intent. But John describes their reaction when for a moment they realized who it was they were fighting against. John says that the soldiers and officers of the chief priests “drew back and fell to the ground.” But another soldier also saw Jesus that same day, and the Lord in his mercy gave him the reaction that the Lord’s people have when they see Jesus. Mark 15:39: “And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!”

What reaction do you and I have when we look upon Jesus, who fulfills all the symbolism of city and temple that we see in Psalm 48? Just as there were two reactions to Jerusalem of old, so there are two reactions to Jesus today. Have you realized that when we see Jesus we see God himself? The right reaction is to love Jesus for he shows us the glory and grace of God, and God’s desire to live with us. The wrong reaction is to ignore Jesus or to be hostile toward him. Both apathy and hostility keep us away from God and cause us to continue to be his enemies.



Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Prayer Response to Psalm 47 --- Search the Scriptures

Psalm 47 (English Standard Version)

God Is King over All the Earth
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

1 Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
2For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared,
a great king over all the earth.
3He subdued peoples under us,
and nations under our feet.
4He chose our heritage for us,
the pride of Jacob whom he loves.
Selah

5God has gone up with a shout,
the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
6Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
7For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm!
8God reigns over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne.
9 The princes of the peoples gather
as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
he is highly exalted!

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Heavenly Father, You are worthy of praise --- exuberant and heartfelt praise --- praise with joy. This praise is to be mixed with fear and reverence, because you are the great king over all the earth. Therefore, I acknowledge you as LORD. You are my creator, sustainer, and king. My life is from you and my life should be to you, devoted to your praise.

Yet, I confess that from the moment of my conception when you knit me together in my mother’s womb, the poison of sin has infected your good creation. As David confessed, so I confess, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” From my earliest days I have been self-willed and turned in on myself. Instead of a right purpose of seeking you and your honor in all I feel, think, say, and do, I have sought something else.

In your mercy, Father, you baptized me into the name of your Son. You promised to forgive my sin and to bring me into union with your Son. You promised your good will and favor to me on account of Christ’s death and resurrection. I did not deserve this favor from you, for I am part of a rebellious race that has no regard for you. Yet, in your mercy you gave me the sign and seal of your gospel and promised to be my gracious God, and not my judge, who rightly gives me the penalty of sin.

But even with this promise made to me in baptism, in my early years I rebelled against you. I wanted to follow the lusts and the desires of my wicked heart. I did not seek you. I did not fear you. I rebelled against the reason for my existence, namely, to bring you honor and praise.

But you sought me by your Word and Spirit and you showed me the glory of your gospel. You taught me that forgiveness and justification could be mine if I would trust your Son and bow to him as my king. By your Spirit I called out to you, and I came to Jesus for cleansing.

But I have found, Father, that even as your child, my heart is still filled with the poison of self-will and self-love. So often I follow the devices and desires of my sinful nature, rather than your good and pleasing will. I find that I still distrust your will as wholly good. I find that I still fear human approval more than your approval. With Paul, I acknowledge that even as your child, I am a wretched man, who is dependent on the work of Jesus Christ for cleansing and justification at all times.

Father, you know my life with all of its sin and shame. How little I have loved you. How little I have sought you. How little I have sought your glory. How often I forget you. How often I shame you by my sin.

Would you, for Christ’s sake, and because of his cross:
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Father, Psalm 47 is a call to a sinful human race to be your joyful people and embrace you as our king. I come to you, through your Son, once again. I want to be your trusting and obedient son. I want to fulfill the purpose of my life to know you, love you, and honor you. Hear the needy prayer of your baptized child. I am sinful, so wash me. I deserve condemnation, so justify me. I am filled with sadness over a wasted life --- give me your joy. I am helpless to live for you, so send forth your Spirit and create in me a new heart according to the promise of your new covenant made to me in my baptism and the gospel. Amen.




Friday, September 11, 2009

Albert Mohler: The Heavens (and the Hubble) Are Telling the Glory of God

The Heavens (and the Hubble) Are Telling the Glory of God

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Making Peace with the God who brings "desolations on the earth" --- Search the Scriptures: Psalm 46

Psalm 46 (English Standard Version)

God Is Our Fortress
To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song.


1God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
Selah


4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Selah


8 Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 "Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!"
11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Selah

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This just in --- God wins! That’s the truth that verse 10 tells us when the Lord says, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” In the end, the Lord will put an end to man’s rebellion against him, and he will be exalted as the just God who deals with his enemies in wrath and his people with grace and mercy.

This truth of the Lord’s future victory should bring a result in the present. Human beings should cease their rage and rebellion against him, and submit to him as their Lord. This is why in verse 10, the Lord says to his rebellious creatures, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Psalm 46 has as its main theme the truth of God as a refuge, thus the refrain in verses 7 and 11, "the God of Jacob is our fortress." Why do human beings need to have the Lord as a refuge? What do we need a refuge from?

The ultimate answer is from the Lord himself! It seems strange to say, but the truth is that the Lord saves us from himself. He saves us from his own holy and altogether just wrath against our sin. A holy God must bring about the desolation against sinners that verse 8 speaks about, when it tells how the Lord “has brought desolations on the earth.” Those desolations or judgments in history will culminate in the final judgment before the throne of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

So what should the human race do, given that we are rebellious vassals of a great king, who is too holy to overlook our failure to honor him with our lips, hands, and whole being? We were created for his honor and to spread his honor throughout the earth. But instead we have elevated ourselves, and paid no attention to the God we were created for. What should we do?

The same God who brings about desolations and wars on the earth as the just judgment for human sin, is also the God who “makes wars cease to the ends of the earth” (v. 9). In other words, it is the Lord who brings peace.

The Lord brought about peace in a remarkable way on the cross. There he himself suffered for his creatures’ sin. All of the dishonor and rebellion that human beings had heaped upon their Creator, he himself bore on the cross. Speaking of God’s Son, God incarnate, 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

God himself has found a way to bring us peace through his cross by bearing his own “desolation” or judgment himself. What kind of God is this who would bear his own creatures’ sin and shame? He is an exceedingly gracious and kind God --- a God who longs to bring his peace to the world. All he requires is that men cease their rebellion and turn back to him once more. All he requires is that we “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Let us come to Him through His Son. Let us cease our rebellion and submit to the yoke of Jesus Christ, who said:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mat. 11:28-30).



Something Worth Considering in Celebrating the Lord's Supper

I think David Strain is saying something we need to hear with regard to our practice of the Lord's Supper. --Bill

Why ‘going forward’ is Biblical after all

September 10, 2009 in worship and liturgy

Recently we made an adjustment to our practise of the Lord’s Supper. On alternate months we celebrate the Supper on the Lord’s Day evening, where we typically have a smaller congregation and a slightly more informal atmosphere.

Our practise was traditionally to remain in our seats as the elements were distributed among the congregation. Last Lord’s Day we had two elders stand at the front with bread and wine and the congregation came forward to receive the elements from them and return to their seats.

Now what drove the change? Was it a matter of aesthetics? Or the whim of the Elders perhaps?

Several convictions drove the change.

First, I am persuaded that the Lord’s Table is no place for a quiet time. It is not a hiatus in the corporate worship of the church in which we may pursue our private devotions in the silence.

We have somehow individualized the Supper in a way analogous to much else in our culture. We use individual disposable plastic cups for the wine, and pre-packaged, unleavened, squares of bread. It is the liturgical equivalent of a drive through restaurant where the ready-made value meal is prepared by a spotty teenager who ‘cooks’ a who-knows-what consisting of mechanically reclaimed meat. We have become accustomed to receiving the Lord’s Supper in much the same way we receive MacDonald’s. It’s entire focus is on the disposable convenience and indulgence of the individual.

But the Supper is not about ‘me’ so much as it is about ‘us’ and about ‘Him’. Coming forward in response to the call and command of Christ breaks the reverent silence with happy shuffling and sacred chaos. People are forced to look up and around instead of down and in.

Secondly the Supper is a eucharistic meal. Now hold on! Steady! Take a breath and sit down. Let me say that again. The supper is a eucharist.

Eucharisteo is the verb used in 1 Corinthians 11:24 to describe the action of the Lord Jesus Christ. It means thanksgiving. So the Supper is quite rightly called a eucharist. It is a time for thanksgiving. Which means that we ought not to come to it mournfully, but with celebration. We ought not to come to it mindful of failure, but of Christ’s victory over our failure. There is a place for self examination, for repentance and mourning for sin, to be sure. But it is before the Supper celebration, not during it. “Let a man examine himself and then let him eat”.

When we come to the Supper we are called to look out and away from ourselves to Christ, who is not being recrucified, but who now lives and reigns at the right hand of the Father, from whence he feeds us with his flesh and blood by the mysterious efficacy of his Spirit.

Coming forward at Christ’s invitation to partake of the meal he gave us is one way we have found that helps drive home that emphasis in the meal. It does not allow much time for introspection, and it forces upon us an outward perspective. What had before run the risk of feeling funereal in the silence as heads are bowed, brows furrowed, and tears shed in silent prayer, now felt much more like a celebration, more corporate. We were more aware of each other as we shuffled forward and moved past one another. It felt like something a family should do.

I’m not saying this is how we will always do this, but it was useful last week.

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.


Bruce Waltke Discussing the Parallels between Elijah-Elisha and John the Baptist-Jesus --- from Ligonier Blog

Ligonier Ministries Ligonier Blog

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Love Song for our King: Psalm 45 --- Search the Scriptures

Psalm 45 (English Standard Version)

Your Throne, O God, Is Forever
To the choirmaster: according to Lilies. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah; a love song.

1My heart overflows with a pleasing theme;
I address my verses to the king;
my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.


2You are the most handsome of the sons of men;
grace is poured upon your lips;
therefore God has blessed you forever.
3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one,
in your splendor and majesty!
4In your majesty ride out victoriously
for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
5Your arrows are sharp
in the heart of the king’s enemies;
the peoples fall under you.
6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;

7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;

8your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.
From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;
9daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor;
at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.
10Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear:
forget your people and your father’s house,

11and the king will desire your beauty.
Since he is your lord, bow to him.
12The people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts,
the richest of the people.
13All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold.
14 In many-colored robes she is led to the king,
with her virgin companions following behind her.
15With joy and gladness they are led along
as they enter the palace of the king.
16In place of your fathers shall be your sons;
you will make them princes in all the earth.
17 I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations;
therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.


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Psalm 45 is a love song for the king of Israel. As Christians, we sing this love song to Jesus Christ, who is the true king of Israel, and of the entire world.

Verses 2-9 sing the praises of the Israelite king, which we can apply in their fullness to Jesus. We praise our king:

  1. For his perfect humanity (v. 2 “you are the most handsome of all men”). Jesus’ character was perfect, for he never sinned and always did what was pleasing to his God and Father.
  2. For his gracious words (v. 2 “grace is poured upon your lips”). Even Christ’s enemies had to admit, “No one ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46).
  3. For the eternal blessing he has received from the Father (v. 2 “God has blessed you forever”). In union with Jesus Christ, we too are blessed forever. This is the gospel, namely, that united to Christ by faith, sinners like us can receive the justified status of the Son of God.
  4. For his splendor and majesty (v. 3 “in your splendor and majesty”). Jesus shares the same splendor and majesty of the Father. At the transfiguration, three disciples caught a glimpse of his majesty and splendor that was veiled by his flesh during the years of his humiliation.
  5. For his conquering gospel (v. 5 “Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you”). In the ancient near east, evangelism took place as kings conquered other nations and brought them into submission to their gods, liberating them from the dominion of their own gods. The conquered nation became a vassal of the nation and gods that conquered them, and thus the gods received glory as more people worshipped them. Evangelism now takes place, not through swords, but by the sword of the Spirit. Through the gospel we are liberated from our false idols and married to the true God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This brings me to the final point I want to make from Psalm 45, and it comes in verses 10 and 11:

10Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear:
forget your people and your father’s house,

11and the king will desire your beauty.
Since he is your lord, bow to him.

Has Jesus Christ conquered you by his gospel of grace and love? Whenever a person hears the gospel, believes, and receives forgiveness, that person has been married to Jesus Christ. Believers enter into the new covenant, which Jesus established by his broken body and poured out blood. Now, as those who are married to Christ, we have an obligation to “forget our father’s house,” and to “bow to him” who is our “Lord.” We bow, not because we are forced to bow at sword’s edge, but because the grace and love of Christ has captured our hearts. Has that grace and love captured your heart and mine?

In Christ, we have been given an identity. It is not the old identity we had in Adam, when we belonged to the god of this world, i.e., the devil. It is a new identity in the second Adam, Jesus Christ. In Christ we have died and risen, so we should yield our bodies not to sin and the desires of our old nature, but to Jesus Christ and the will of God.

I want to close with these vows from the Book of Common Prayer that show us the meaning of our baptism and what it means to “forget your people and your father’s house”:

Celebrant Do you believe in God the Father?
People I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

Celebrant Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
People I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third
day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Celebrant Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
People I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

Celebrant Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
People I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
People I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
People I will, with God’s help.



Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Great Quote from J. I. Packer


“The holiest Christians are not those most concerned about holiness as such, but whose minds and hearts and goals and purposes and love and hope are most fully focussed on our Lord Jesus Christ.” – J.I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit.




Are You Willing to Suffer for the Sake of Jesus Christ? --- Search the Scriptures: Psalm 44

Psalm 44 (English Standard Version)

Come to Our Help
To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah.

1O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old:
2you with your own hand drove out the nations,
but them you planted;
you afflicted the peoples,
but them you set free;
3for not by their own sword did they win the land,
nor did their own arm save them,
but your right hand and your arm,
and the light of your face,
for you delighted in them.

4 You are my King, O God;
ordain salvation for Jacob!
5Through you we push down our foes;
through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
6For not in my bow do I trust,
nor can my sword save me.
7But you have saved us from our foes
and have put to shame those who hate us.
8 In God we have boasted continually,
and we will give thanks to your name forever.
Selah

9But you have rejected us and disgraced us
and have not gone out with our armies.
10You have made us turn back from the foe,
and those who hate us have gotten spoil.
11You have made us like sheep for slaughter
and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You have sold your people for a trifle,
demanding no high price for them.
13You have made us the taunt of our neighbors,
the derision and scorn of those around us.
14You have made us a byword among the nations,
a laughingstock among the peoples.
15All day long my disgrace is before me,
and shame has covered my face
16at the sound of the taunter and reviler,
at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.

17 All this has come upon us,
though we have not forgotten you,
and we have not been false to your covenant.
18Our heart has not turned back,
nor have our steps departed from your way;
19yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
and covered us with the shadow of death.
20If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21 would not God discover this?
For he knows the secrets of the heart.
22Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.

23 Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
24Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
25For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
our belly clings to the ground.
26Rise up; come to our help!
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!


----------------------------------------------------

How much would you be willing to suffer for the Lord’s sake? Because of your love for the Lord Jesus Christ, are you willing to endure insults or worse? For his sake, are you willing to deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow Him?

Psalm 44 is a strange psalm. It starts off in a fairly normal way. In the first three verses it recounts what the Lord did for Israel in bringing them out of slavery and into their land. In verses 4-8, it talks about more recent victories the Lord has accomplished.

Verse 9 marks a change. Starting in verse 9 we read how the Lord has rejected his people, and given them over to defeat. But for those who know Old Testament (OT) history, there is nothing too surprising about this. The Lord rejected Israel because Israel had first rejected the Lord. So it comes as a shock when we read, in verse 17, not a confession of sin from Israel, but a protestation of innocence. In this psalm Israel claims that they have stayed true to the Lord, but the Lord has rejected them despite their covenant faithfulness! This is a very strange psalm!

Geoffrey Grogan writes, “God apparently forsook them when they had kept his covenant, walked in his ways, and been true to his sole worship, all true also of Job, so this was a Job-like experience.” Grogan rightly points to verse 22 as the psalm’s key verse---a verse quoted in Romans 8:36. He writes, “The phrase ‘for your sake’ shows that, especially in OT times, a heavy price had sometimes to be paid for loyalty to God. Here then the OT anticipates Christ’s teaching about bearing the cross for his sake (Luke 9:23).”

Verse 22 says:
Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
Let me give you some examples of people in the New Testament who were willing to put verse 22 into practice:
  • John the Baptist

    Mark 6:17-18: For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife."
  • Stephen

    Acts 7:54-60: 54Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." 57But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
  • Ordinary Christians

    Hebrews 10:32-34: But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.

These are just a few examples of people who were willing to suffer for the God who loved them and who came in the person of Jesus Christ to suffer for them so that they might return to the heavenly Father. Our God and King loved us so much that He suffered and died in our place. What are you and I willing to endure for His sake?


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Where Do We Find God? --- Search the Scriptures: Psalms 42-43

Psalm 42-43 (English Standard Version)

Psalm 42

BOOK TWO

Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?
To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah.

1 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
"Where is your God?"
4These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation 6and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
7Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
8By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
9I say to God, my rock:
"Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?"
10As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
"Where is your God?"
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

Psalm 43

Send Out Your Light and Your Truth
1 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
deliver me!
2For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?
3 Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!
4Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

----------------------------------------------------


Twice the question is asked in Psalm 42: “Where is your God?” Where do we find God? How can human beings live in his presence?

This is a vital question, because we need the living God the way a panting deer needs water. Human beings were created for the presence of God. Where can we go to drink of God, so that we might satisfy our souls?

Someone has said with great insight that “you can’t get enough of what you don’t really want.” In other words, only the living God can quench the thirst of the human soul, and cause us to find true joy in those lesser good things in life, which we tend to turn into idols.

Where do people find God? Do we go to India like the Beatles did in the 1960’s and sit under some Maharishi? Do we sit and say “Ommm” and try to empty our minds of all thoughts? Do we seek to find God in a church filled with elaborate rituals that please our aesthetic senses? Where do we go to find God?

The psalmist gives us the answer in Psalm 43:3-4: 3
Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me
to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!
4Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.
Contrary to popular opinion, we cannot approach God any way we choose. We can find Him only on his terms. Verses 3-4 give us those terms that will enable us to come to God’s holy hill and dwelling place.

In the Old Testament, Israel found God in the temple, which was on his holy hill. But Israel’s temple was a shadow of the things to come. The substance came when Jesus Christ came. Jesus is the light of the world that leads us into the presence of God. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, who enables us to come into the presence of his heavenly Father. Jesus is the One who made his altar the cross, so that we can come into the holy Father’s presence cleansed, acceptable, and justified to live near to Him all our days.

In Psalms 42 and 43, the psalmist is dealing with the common human emotions of depression and dissatisfaction. Three times he says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” The ultimate reason our souls are discouraged and dissatisfied is that we cannot find God, and so our souls are dry like that panting deer on the verge of death because of a lack of water. In Psalms 42 and 43 we learn how to find God. The Lord provided a way to find him in the Old Testament, and brought that way to fulfillment when he sent his Son into the world. You and I can now live in his presence, if we will humble ourselves to come to Him through Christ. Will you come?



Psalm 93 Sung by the Sons of Korah



Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

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