Saturday, February 27, 2010

Friday Luther Quote --- Honoring Father and Mother

"To fatherhood and motherhood God has given the special distinction, above all estates that are beneath it, that he commands us not simply to love our parents but also to honor them.  With respect to brothers, sisters, and neighbors in general he commands nothing higher than that we love them.  Thus he distinguishes father and mother above all other persons on earth, and places them next to himself.  For it is a much greater thing to honor than to love.  Honor includes not only love but also deference, humility, and modesty, directed (so to speak) toward a majesty hidden within them.  It requires us not only to address them affectionately and reverently, but above all to show by our actions, both or heart and of body, that we respect them very highly and that next to God we give them the very highest place.  For anyone whom we are whole-heartedly to honor, we must truly regard as high and great.

"Young people must therefore be taught to revere their parents as God's representatives, and to remember that, however lowly, poor, feeble, and eccentric they may be, they are their own father and mother, given them by God.  They are not to be deprived of their honor because of their failings.  Therefore, we are not to think of their persons, whatever they are, but of the will of God, who has created and ordained them to be our parents.  In other respects, indeed, we are all equal in the sight of God, but among ourselves there must be this sort of inequality and proper distinction."

   ---Martin Luther from The Large Catechism

The Briefing Library: John Wimber changes his mind

The Briefing Library: John Wimber changes his mind

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Friday, February 26, 2010

How Great Thou Art! --- Psalm 77, Part 2

Psalm 77

From every possible angle, the United States of America is in trouble in 2010. Economically we have over 112 trillion dollars in unpaid liabilities. Morally our nation is so corrupt that I hear words like b****, mother******, and f*** from elementary school children! We are so ethically confused that we equate the most heinous, sexual deviancies with civil rights. Politically we left the principles of our founding document decades ago, and many of our politicians seem more intent on consolidating their power than anything else.

The church is not faring much better. Last time we mentioned the health and wealth gospel, social gospel, and self-esteem gospels and the havoc they have brought to Protestant churches. We also mentioned the Roman Catholic usurpation of Christ’s rule through his Word by the church and tradition.

Where does this sad situation leave us? What can we do?

Psalm 77 asks this question in verse 13: “What god is great like our God?” The implied answer, of course, is that there is no God like the true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This God is the true God, and all other gods are human inventions.

The greatness of our God is seen in Psalm 77 primarily through his mighty work of redemption, the exodus. In this mighty act of the Lord, he brought his people out of Egyptian slavery. Millions of slaves were emancipated through the miraculous judgments the Lord sent on Pharaoh and his people. This judgment (on Egypt) and salvation (for Israel) culminated in the crossing of the sea. Verses 19 and 20 describe it:
19Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
20You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
In dividing the waters the Lord showed his mighty power over his creation. He defeated his enemies and gave them what they deserved, but graciously saved his people, giving them the mercy they don’t deserve. 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 tells us that when the people passed through the sea the “all were baptized into Moses.”

Through his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ accomplished an even greater deliverance than the deliverance out of Egypt. At the cross Jesus defeated our spiritual enemies, sin, death, the world, and the devil. Jesus pointed to his death as a judgment. Just a few days before his death he said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:31).

How was the world judged at the cross? By putting to death the Son of God the world took sides in the great cosmic trial of human history. It said, in effect, we do not want to be ruled by our Creator. We do not want God or his Son. We will be our own gods in terms of moral autonomy. We will live how we please.

But by taking this side in the great cosmic trial, the world actually brought judgment on itself. Three days later the Son of God rose from the grave, and thus, the Father handed down his verdict. By raising Jesus from the dead, the Father vindicated his Son and accepted his atoning work of the cross. God’s might was displayed in the resurrection, but so was his right(eousness), as he handed down the verdict that his Son was justified and the world was condemned.

Being a Christian is really choosing the right side of this cosmic trial. Being a Christian is siding with the Father in his verdict, rather than the world and its verdict. There is no neutral ground in this trial of all trials. One either sides with the world and its ruler, or with the Father who raised his beloved Son.

So how does any of this relate to the sad state of our nation and the Christian church? A few thoughts:

  1. Baptism. Just as the Israelites were baptized into Moses and the great exodus event, so millions of people in America have been baptized in Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection. While baptism does not work automatically, it is a claim and a promise that the triune God has made to millions of Americans. What is this claim and promise?

    First, baptism is a mark that God uses to make a claim on a person’s life. Baptism into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is God’s claim to ownership of a person’s life. He created you and he sent his Son to redeem you from the world, the devil, sin, and death.

    Second, baptism is a personal promise made to you by name that God will forgive you and give you eternal life if you trust in his Son as your Lord and Savior. We cannot receive this promise if we do not side with the Father and the Son in the cosmic trial of the cross. We cannot receive this promise if we refuse to let the Lord rule our lives. But, nevertheless, the promise is gracious and we receive it through faith and repentance.

    Think of what would happen if the millions of people in the United States who have been baptized would repent and begin to live out the meaning of their baptism? Would the same God who raised Jesus from the dead by his mighty power not begin to work mightily in our hearts, our churches, and maybe even our nation?
  2. Take the little you have and offer it Jesus. This second thought is predicated on a sincere acceptance of the promise of your baptism. This second step has to do with the little boy who brought what little he had to Jesus. In case you forgot the story, here it is:
    4Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?" 6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, "Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." 8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9"There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?" 10Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost." 13So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, "This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!"
    The fact is, the problems of America (the world too), and the churches are way too big for any of us to tackle. But they are not too big for the Son of God. We are all like little children, with little strength and power. But we can take the little we do have and give it to Jesus, with the prayer that he would use it and multiply it for the blessing of many. Let’s strive to be faithful in what we believe and what we do, humbly confessing our many sins and our sinful nature. Let’s take whatever we attempt to do and offer it to Jesus with prayer, asking him to do what only he can do in his mighty power.
Psalm 77 asks, “What god is great like our God?” and we answer, there is no one like our triune God! He has visited us in the person of his Son. He has performed a great redemption through his death and resurrection. We have been baptized into his name. He will work as he sees fit in this world, and one day he will return to bring everlasting righteousness to the earth. Amen.







I Thought I Was Past That Sin

I Thought I Was Past That Sin

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lamenting the Sad Situation in American Churches and American Society --- Psalm 77

Psalm 77 (English Standard Version)

In the Day of Trouble I Seek the Lord

To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph.

1I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
3When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints.
Selah

4You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
6I said, "Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart."
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
7"Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
8Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?"
Selah

10Then I said, "I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High."

11I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
13Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
14You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
15You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph.
Selah

16When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
indeed, the deep trembled.
17The clouds poured out water;
the skies gave forth thunder;
your arrows flashed on every side.
18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
19Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
20You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.


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


In verses 7-9, the psalmist asks a series of questions:
7"Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
8Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?"
As we look at these questions through the lens of the New Testament, the answers are easy:

  • Will the Lord spurn forever,
    and never again be favorable?

    The answer is no. In his gracious favor the Lord sent his Son, so that we might have his favor and blessing forever. There is therefore no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). The Lord has been favorable to us once again!

  • Has his steadfast love forever ceased?

    No, for God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

  • Are his promises at an end for all time?

    No, for all of the promises of God find there yes in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20).

  • Has God forgotten to be gracious?

    No, it was his grace that caused him to give his Son to us, so that we might know his blessing and good will forever.

  • Has he in anger shut up his compassion?

    The anger of God toward our sin has been extinguished by the cross of Jesus Christ. In Christ we have a never ending fountain of grace and truth (John 1:16).

    The coming of Jesus Christ has changed the relationship of God’s people to himself. That change was promised under the new or everlasting covenant:
    “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul” (Jer. 32:40-41).

    What a tremendous promise the Father gives to us through his Son: “I will not turn away from doing good to them!” Through Jesus Christ, already by faith you and I are planted, not in the land of Israel, but with Christ above in heaven (Col. 3:3), and Jesus Christ breathes the fear of the Lord into our hearts by the Spirit.

And yet, as true as all of these things are, and as much as the situation has changed under the new covenant, I think we still, sometimes, are right in lamenting the terrible situation of our churches here on earth (cf. Rev. 2-3). For like the people of Israel, we live far below the blessings that have been given to us because of our sin.

I have a theory I have held for a long time, that every sin and error we see in Christian churches is mirrored in American society. This theory shines light on the sad situation, not only in many churches in our nation, but also on the nation itself. Here is a partial list of the errors of churches that are reflected in our political situation:

  • The health and wealth gospel. This is the error of promising too much. For a long time, among Pentecostals, there has been a false gospel taught known as the health and wealth gospel. The idea is that if you just have the right kind of faith, God will give you maximum health and wealth.

    This false gospel has been reflected in our nation as city, state, and federal governments have made unsustainable promises to its citizens, sometimes in the form of pensions to government workers. It is one of these reasons so many state and city governments are in serious financial trouble. The federal government has made the same mistake with social security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

  • The social gospel. This is the false gospel of Protestant Liberalism. Protestant Liberalism, and many mainline Protestant churches, long ago stopped believing in the historical truth of Jesus’ miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension, so they changed the gospel into a message about compassion and care for the poor.

    This false gospel of compassion is very tempting, since compassion and caring for the poor is a good thing. But remember that Judas opposed Jesus, out of his so-called compassion for the poor! The truth is, every huge government program is sold to us under the guise of care for the poor. But such programs often betray the purpose and powers mandated to the federal government under the constitution.

  • The self-esteem gospel. This has been the error among evangelicals for the last 30+ years. It was popularized at Willow Creek in suburban Chicago, and has been documented in a book about Willow Creek by G. A. Pritchard. In this false gospel you change the problem the gospel answers. Instead of sin, the problem becomes low self-esteem. Instead of the law and guilt before God, the problem is my current felt need, such as being a better parent or managing my money better. Since the problem is no longer sin, the cross of Jesus Christ is also no longer the answer. The self-esteem gospel turns Jesus into a therapist, not a crucified and risen Lord.

    This false gospel has been reflected in the reluctance of our politicians to tell us the bad news and face it. Just as the goal of the self-esteem gospel is to make everyone feel good, so the ever-present temptation of political leaders is to place the next election and their own political power ahead of governing well and making hard choices in the best interest of our society. Politicians and false ministers make everyone feel good bytelling people what they want to hear.

  • Burying the gospel and God’s Word under tradition. This is the Roman Catholic error. Instead of looking to God’s Word as the final arbiter of what to believe and how to live, Roman Catholicism looks to the church and its tradition. Soon one is so focused on the tradition and teaching of the church that the Bible becomes irrelevant and neglected.

    The political form of this error began about a hundred years ago when jurists moved away from looking at the constitution, and focused instead on case law. Everything became about legal precedent, and the original intent of the constitution became increasingly irrelevant. Now lawyers are even moving beyond American case law to global case law as they continue the move further and further from the constitution in its original meaning.

My main point in all of this: there is great reason to mourn over the sad situation in Christian churches and in our nation. We have deep and serious problems. Our nation is on the verge of bankruptcy. Our nation’s immorality has reached an all time low point of degradation. We are no longer a nation guided by the rule of law. But, sadly, the same situation prevails in our churches. Faithfulness to Scripture and the Lord is no longer our concern. Everything is about attracting people through clever methods. Jesus Christ’s Word no longer governs our lives or our churches. The churches are in as deep trouble as is our nation. In fact, it is possible that our nation’s decline is the result of the churches’ failure to be salt and light to the surrounding culture.

What do we do to recover our churches? What do we do to recover our nation? Could it be that the last question of Psalm 77 provides the answer? Here it is:
What god is great like our God? (v. 13)
Next time, we will give some thought to this question of Psalm 77 and a possible solution.







Monday, February 22, 2010

NewsNote: Tiger Woods' Buddhist Confession

NewsNote: Tiger Woods' Buddhist Confession

Interesting article. The woman at the well is an interesting case study from the Christian perspective. She has had 5 husbands and is living with her 6th, when Jesus Christ, the true bridegroom meets her. He is her seventh husband and the One who will truly satisfy her.  When she joins herself to Christ by faith, all her desires are now transformed by an all-consuming desire to please her new Husband, Jesus Christ, in all aspects of life. Instead of the Buddhist renouncing of desire which if successful leads one to be less than human, Christians have their lives in every aspect transformed and enhanced by a desire for their Maker and Redeemer.


The Sola Panel | Busting the myths about the Crusades

The Sola Panel | Busting the myths about the Crusades

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Shut Up and Listen --- Psalm 76

Psalm 76 (English Standard Version)

Who Can Stand Before You?

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song.

1In Judah God is known;
his name is great in Israel.
2His abode has been established in Salem,
his dwelling place in Zion.
3There he broke the flashing arrows,
the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war.
Selah

4Glorious are you, more majestic
than the mountains of prey.
5 The stouthearted were stripped of their spoil;
they sank into sleep;
all the men of war
were unable to use their hands.
6At your rebuke, O God of Jacob,
both rider and horse lay stunned.

7 But you, you are to be feared!
Who can stand before you
when once your anger is roused?
8From the heavens you uttered judgment;
the earth feared and was still,
9when God arose to establish judgment,
to save all the humble of the earth.
Selah

10Surely the wrath of man shall praise you;
the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt.
11 Make your vows to the LORD your God and perform them;
let all around him bring gifts
to him who is to be feared,
12who cuts off the spirit of princes,
who is to be feared by the kings of the earth.



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



When I first read Psalm 76, one of the first verses to jump out at me was verse 4:
4Glorious are you, more majestic
than the mountains of prey.
Mountains, because of their immensity and majesty, speak to us about the immensity and majesty of the God who formed them. Too often when we look at the beauty of the creation around us we merely see the beauty but fail to see the glory of the One to whom all creation testifies. When we see a beautiful sunrise or majestic mountains or a wild animal, all of these should turn our thoughts and our praise to the One who created all these things.

But as I considered verse 4 a second time and a bit more deeply, my mind was drawn to Jesus Christ and the glory which he shares with the Father. I remembered how in Matthew 17 three of his disciples saw his glory on a high mountain:
“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.”
The same glory attributed to the God of Jacob is attributed to Jesus Christ. The glory of God is the sum of all his attributes, and that glory is manifested by brilliant light.

But why was Jesus’ glory seen on a high mountain? If you look at the beginning of Psalm 76 we find an answer:
1In Judah God is known;
his name is great in Israel.
2His abode has been established in Salem,
his dwelling place in Zion.
In the Old Testament, the Lord’s dwelling place was on the mountain-temple of Mt. Zion. The Lord’s special presence could be found in Jerusalem (Salem) and in the temple. But the temple in Jerusalem was patterned after a temple in heaven---the true dwelling place of the God who fills all things.

So it was appropriate for Jesus Christ, who was God in the flesh, to be glorified on a “high mountain.” And not only was this mountain high, but it was located in Gentile territory, north of Caesarea Philippi (Mat. 16:13). More than likely, the place of Jesus’ transfiguration was Mt. Hermon. By his glorification on a high mountain in Gentile territory we learn that Jesus is the God and king of all people, not just Israel.

But as I continued to consider verse 4 it occurred to me that God’s glory in verse 4 is seen in the context of battle. Look at verses 5 and 6:
5 The stouthearted were stripped of their spoil;
they sank into sleep;
all the men of war
were unable to use their hands.
6At your rebuke, O God of Jacob,
both rider and horse lay stunned.
Not only that, but God’s glory is seen in his anger which aroused him to win a great victory for his people “the humble (or afflicted) of the earth” (v. 9):
7 But you, you are to be feared!
Who can stand before you
when once your anger is roused?
8From the heavens you uttered judgment;
the earth feared and was still,
9when God arose to establish judgment,
to save all the humble of the earth.In
these verses God is pictured as a mighty warrior winning a great victory for his people. In defeating those who resist his will, he wins a great victory for his humble people who belong to him.

But just as the glory of God is attributed to Jesus in the New Testament, so is God’s indignation and anger with his enemies. In John 11 Jesus confronts death and his reaction is a holy anger, in addition to sorrow:
“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.”
The words “moved in his spirit” translate a Greek verb that really means “to snort as an expression of anger.” As Jesus looked at what sin and death had done to his creation, a part of his reaction was a holy anger. And, as the divine warrior he determined to do something about it. Just a few moments later he raised Lazarus from the dead, but even more, he himself faced all his (and ours) spiritual enemies and defeated them through his death and resurrection.

As Christians we should thank the Lord that he was angry at sin, death, and the devil, for it was his holy anger and jealousy that moved him, at least in part, to save his afflicted, sinful, and needy people. Jesus is the glorious king, before whom, no one can stand (v. 7).

How shall we respond to the glory, majesty, and salvation of our great king, Jesus Christ? We should fear him---trusting and loving him with all our hearts. We need to learn the lesson that Peter learned on the Mt. of transfiguration:
“And Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah." 5He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him."”
While Peter was “still speaking” the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ingloriously interrupted Peter and said, “Listen to Him!” Jesus is Lord, we are not. Jesus’ opinion counts, ours does not. Jesus is to be feared, men are not. Let us join the ranks of God’s people by taking up the attitude of the saved, who are “the humble of the earth” (v. 9). Amen.








Friday, February 19, 2010

Koinonia: Michael E. Wittmer: Extreme Measures

Koinonia: Michael E. Wittmer: Extreme Measures

This is a brief, but powerful article about the cross of Jesus Christ. Worth reading.

The Sola Panel | Engaging the pews

The Sola Panel | Engaging the pews

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Friday Luther Quote


"It follows from this argument that there is no true, basic difference between laymen and priests, princes and bishops, between religious and secular, except for the sake of office and work, but not for the sake of status.  They are all of the spiritual estate, all are truly priests, bishops, and popes.  But they do not all have the same work to do. . . . This is the teaching of St. Paul in Romans 12:4-5 and 1 Corinthians 12:12 and in 1 Peter 2:9, as I have said above, namely, that we are all one body of Christ the Head, and all members one of another.  Christ does not have two different bodies, one temporal, the other spiritual.  There is one Head and one body.

"Therefore, just as those who are now called 'spiritual,' that is, priests, bishops, or popes, are neither different from other Christians nor superior to them, except that they are charged with the administration of the word of God and the sacraments, which is their work and office, so it is with the temporal authorities.  They bear the sword and rod in their hand to punish the wicked and protect the good.  A cobbler, a smith, a peasant---each has the work and office of his trade, and yet they are all alike consecrated priests and bishops.  Further, everyone must benefit and serve every other by means of his own work or office so that in this way many kinds of work may be done for the bodily and spiritual welfare of the community, just as all the members of the body serve one another [1 Cor. 12:14-26]." --Luther from Treasury of Daily Prayer, p. 628.

Falling on Deaf Ears? -- Why So Many Churches Hear So Little of the Bible

Falling on Deaf Ears? -- Why So Many Churches Hear So Little of the Bible

As someone who grew up in the Lutheran church and was profoundly affected by the Scripture reading in church, it is sad to hear how so many churches are abandoning the practice. As someone who has preached, I can testify firsthand to the lack of respect God's Word receives from many so-called Christians. People think nothing of watching TV for hours or a movie for two hours, but complain if preaching or teaching the Word of God surpasses 20 minutes.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Janeane Garofalo, Rosie O'Donnell, Sarah Palin, and Psalm 75

Psalm 75 (English Standard Version)

God Will Judge with Equity

To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song.

1We give thanks to you, O God;
we give thanks, for your name is near.
We recount your wondrous deeds.
2"At the set time that I appoint
I will judge with equity.
3When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants,
it is I who keep steady its pillars.
Selah

4I say to the boastful, 'Do not boast,'
and to the wicked, 'Do not lift up your horn;
5do not lift up your horn on high,
or speak with haughty neck.'"
6For not from the east or from the west
and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
7but it is God who executes judgment,
putting down one and lifting up another.
8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup
with foaming wine, well mixed,
and he pours out from it,
and all the wicked of the earth
shall drain it down to the dregs.
9But I will declare it forever;
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
10 All the horns of the wicked I will cut off,
but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.


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


Recently Janeane Garofalo and Rosie O’Donnell were talking about Sara Palin on Rosie’s radio show. One of the demeaning things they said about Sarah Palin concerned her Christianity. I found it interesting that Garofalo described Palin as believing in “the punishing God.” Here is a part of the dialogue:
JANEANE GAROFALO, ACTRESS: It's clear to me that she is anti- intellectual. She is not a -- compassionate person. Sure she can cry if the person reminds her of herself.

ROSIE O'DONNELL, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Right.

GAROFALO: And her ridiculous take on religion which is not about being inclusive. Not about giving of one's self. You know she prefers the punishing God.
I found Garofalo’s disdain for “the punishing God” interesting, because I believe in the God of the Bible who punishes the wicked. He punishes the wicked because he is the Judge of all the earth. Asaph, the human author of Psalm 75, also believed in “the punishing God”:
7but it is God who executes judgment,
putting down one and lifting up another.
I wonder sometimes why people are so against having a God who executes judgment. As I was thinking about this question, my mind went back to the one time in my life in my early 20’s when I was arrested and spent a night in jail. The reaction of my heart was interesting. As I was being arrested, fingerprinted and so forth, my heart was angry at the police who arrested me. I was upset with those who were executing justice, in this case, the police.

I have a feeling something very similar to this is happening in the hearts of those who do not like “the punishing God,” for the simple fact is, criminals are never very fond of the police, and sinners in their rebellion are never very fond of the “God who executes judgment” (v. 7).

Whether we like it or not, the fact is, we are moral creatures, who were created by a morally pure and holy God. We were created to love him with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves. His rules---things like the Ten Commandments are to guide our moral lives. As our Maker, he has the right to demand an account of our lives. It is not unreasonable to think that the One who formed us for a purpose should judge us based on our fulfillment of that purpose. And, just as we applaud a judge on earth who punishes lawbreakers, so we should applaud the fact that the ultimate Judge will also punish lawbreakers.

Verse 8 speaks of God’s final judgment on lawbreakers, who are described as the wicked:
8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup
with foaming wine, well mixed,
and he pours out from it,
and all the wicked of the earth
shall drain it down to the dregs.
Who are “all the wicked of the earth,” and shall drink this cup of punishment at the day of judgment? Verses 4 and 5 would indicate that it is people just like Janeane Garofalo, who arrogantly speak against the God, who made her and is her judge. In these verses the Lord himself warns us about an arrogant, dismissive attitude toward him.

The cup that is mentioned in verse 8 should remind us of what our Lord Jesus Christ did for us. At the last supper, Jesus said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” The reason we can drink the cup of forgiveness and blessing the Lord offers us in the Supper is because he himself was willing to drink from the cup of God’s just punishment and wrath at the cross. As he neared the cross Jesus cried out in Gethsemane three times in great agony, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” This was a terrible cup to drink, but it was the only way a just God could save wicked sinners like you and me.

My heart doesn’t like to admit I have broken God’s law. It is easier for my wicked heart to get angry with the Judge who must punish my wrongdoing. But when I realize that the Judge himself took to himself my human nature, and took the punishment that I deserved, my heart begins to change. Instead of continuing to arrogantly speak against my Creator and Judge, I am able to say, “You are right when you judge (Ps. 51:4), and I deserve to be punished for my sins (Luke 23:40-42). But would you be merciful to me for the sake of your dear Son, who drank the cup of judgment to its very dregs, so that I might have your life and blessing to overflowing. Hear my prayer for Christ’s sake. Amen.”

Yes, the God of the Bible is “the punishing God,” because he is the holy Creator, King, and Judge of creatures created to reflect his image. Whether we like it or not, we live in a moral universe, and the Creator of the universe gets to set the rules. He will punish all sin and wickedness one way or another. The only question for us is who will bear that sin: Jesus Christ the Son of God or we ourselves? How arrogant and foolish to choose a path that continues in its guilty anger against the One “who executes judgment” on the human race.










Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Licking the earth

Licking the earth

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"I Am Therefore You Think!"


Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 9, Devotion 2

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

26 Q. What do you believe when you say, "I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth"?

A. That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them, who still upholds and rules them by his eternal counsel and providence, is my God and Father because of Christ his Son.

I trust him so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and he will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends me in this sad world.

He is able to do this because he is almighty God; he desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.

2) Scripture

Colossians 1:16-17: By him [the Son, Jesus Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Hebrews 1:3: He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high . . .

Hebrews 11:3: By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Comment

As you are sitting and reading these words, pause and do two things. First, take a look at your hands. Notice the design. Notice the intricate pattern that forms your fingerprint. Now take a moment to listen to your breathing. Feel the heartbeat of your pulse. What you are observing and experiencing is the power of almighty God, who created you and continues to sustain you!

The pantheists believe God and nature are one. Everything is god according to the pantheists. The deists believe God created the world like a giant machine that runs by itself. The deists’ god goes on vacation after his work of creation and lets the world take care of itself! But against both of these views, the Bible asserts God created the world and continues to sustain and rule all he created by his mighty power. The reason you are here is that God created you. The reason you continue to exist is that God preserves and sustains your life by his power.

Rene Descartes was a famous sixteenth century philosopher whose most famous line is “I think therefore I am.” The triune God would respond to Descartes, you have it exactly backwards: “I AM therefore you think!” Our next breath, thought, and touch are only possible because God created and sustains our life by his almighty power.

Physically, we are totally dependent on God. He made us. He sustains us. But if this is true physically, how much more true is it spiritually! God must create us anew spiritually, and he must sustain the new life we receive when we come to Christ by faith.

How does the Lord create this new spiritual life and sustain it? The Lord does it by his usual method, namely, his word! 1 Peter 1:23 teaches us that the new birth is the result of God’s gospel word: “You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” Matthew 4:4 teaches us that this new life is sustained by his word too: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Praise the Lord, for he is our creator and sustainer, both physically and spiritually!

Discussion: What do we mean when we say that God upholds or sustains the
universe? How dependent are we physically on the Lord? How dependent are we
spiritually on the Lord? What does the Lord use to create and sustain spiritual
life?

Prayer Starter: Thank the Lord for his physical and spiritual care of you. Thank
Christ for his word of power that sustains you physically and for his gospel word
that sustains you spiritually.



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Despite Appearances, Jesus Christ is King

Psalm 74 (English Standard Version)

Arise, O God, Defend Your Cause

A Maskil of Asaph.

1O God, why do you cast us off forever?
Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?
2 Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old,
which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage!
Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt.
3Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins;
the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!
4Your foes have roared in the midst of your meeting place;
they set up their own signs for signs.
5They were like those who swing axes
in a forest of trees.
6And all its carved wood
they broke down with hatchets and hammers.
7They set your sanctuary on fire;
they profaned the dwelling place of your name,
bringing it down to the ground.
8They said to themselves, "We will utterly subdue them";
they burned all the meeting places of God in the land.
9We do not see our signs;
there is no longer any prophet,
and there is none among us who knows how long.
10How long, O God, is the foe to scoff?
Is the enemy to revile your name forever?
11Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
Take it from the fold of your garment and destroy them!

12Yet God my King is from of old,
working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13You divided the sea by your might;
you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.
14You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
15You split open springs and brooks;
you dried up ever-flowing streams.
16Yours is the day, yours also the night;
you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
17You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
you have made summer and winter.

18 Remember this, O LORD, how the enemy scoffs,
and a foolish people reviles your name.
19Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild beasts;
do not forget the life of your poor forever.
20Have regard for the covenant,
for the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence.
21Let not the downtrodden turn back in shame;
let the poor and needy praise your name.
22Arise, O God, defend your cause;
remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day!
23Do not forget the clamor of your foes,
the uproar of those who rise against you, which goes up continually!


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


At the heart of this psalm is verse 12:
12Yet God my King is from of old,
working salvation in the midst of the earth.
God is king. He is king because he is the creator:
16Yours is the day, yours also the night;
you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
17You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
you have made summer and winter.
God is king because he is the redeemer. Verses 13-15 are a poetic way of portraying his redemptive victory over Egypt in the exodus, playing upon the imagery of the ancient near east:
13You divided the sea by your might;
you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.
14You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
15You split open springs and brooks;
you dried up ever-flowing streams.
For us as Christians, the new exodus---the new redemptive event occurred when Jesus Christ accomplished the exodus of his death and resurrection:
And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:30-31).
The word departure is the Greek word exodos. The cross, resurrection, and ascension was a new exodus, and it showed that Jesus Christ is king, for now he reigns over heaven and earth and all his enemies.

But, O, how many enemies he has! Doesn’t it sometimes discourage you at how unwilling people are to be ruled by Jesus Christ and his Word?

Just today I learned that the secular university I graduated from (University of Nebraska at Omaha) was led by Presbyterian ministers at its inception. The first president of the school believed the Bible to be the most important book for his students. In our society, and certainly in our universities these days, the two most dangerous words are Jesus Christ, as a friend pointed out to me at lunch.

Just today I read about a new book by a popular minister, Brian Maclaren, in which he denies every tenet of the Christian faith and attacks the character of God in malicious ways. His books are widely popular.

Over the weekend some good friends visited us, whom we used to go to church with, and the memories came rushing back. We had an enjoyable time over the course of Saturday and Sunday, but I remembered how hard it was for that congregation to allow itself to be ruled by Christ’s Word, rather than its traditions and personal preferences.

You turn on the news, and no matter the station, the silence about God is deafening. The secular world long ago abandoned any thought that God is king. His kingship is so much in doubt that the whole world worries about the boundaries he has fixed for the land and sea, and for the climate to continue, summer and winter (v. 17).

The late night comics and our movies do refer to Jesus Christ, but only in humor or cursing. Listen to even our grade school children and their profane language, and their language makes the language of sailors sixty years ago look clean in comparison.

Then, I look at my own regular failures to live for Jesus Christ my king. Even though I trust him and know him, how often I fall short in honoring him with my desires, thoughts, words, and deeds.

And so, can we not relate to Psalm 74, a community lament that calls on the King to honor his own name once more?

Regardless of what we see all around us and in our own hearts, this truth stands firm forever: Jesus Christ died and rose, and he is the king. He rules as king in the midst of his enemies. Barak Obama or George Bush govern under his rule. We live under his rule, and he will return to set the world in a right order.

The world is a very unhappy place just because the true king of the earth is not acknowledged. But with the psalmist we can affirm the truth that God the Father is king, and Jesus Christ is at his right hand. He will bring a final salvation to this earth. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords, and my Lord whose Word I want to rule my life.





Monday, February 15, 2010

Koinonia: To Metaphor, or not to Metaphor? (Monday with Mounce 61)

Koinonia: To Metaphor, or not to Metaphor? (Monday with Mounce 61)

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

William Cunningham's advice to theology students on their use of the Sabbath - Reformation21 Blog

William Cunningham's advice to theology students on their use of the Sabbath - Reformation21 Blog

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A Christian Work Ethic – A Word For the Ambitious

A Christian Work Ethic – A Word For the Ambitious

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Only grace arouses love for God

Only grace arouses love for God

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Friday Luther Quote (a few days late!)


"It is unbelievable how the devil opposes and obstructs their [the first two petitions of the Lord's Prayer] fulfillment.  He cannot bear to have anyone teach or believe rightly.  It pains him beyond measure when his lies and abominations, honored under the most specious pretexts of God's name, are disclosed and exposed in all their shame, when he himself is driven out of men's hearts and a breach is made in his kingdom.  Therefore, like a furious foe, he raves and rages with all his power and might, marshaling all his subjects and even enlisting the world and our own flesh as his allies.  For our flesh is in itself vile and inclined to evil, even when we have accepted and believe God's Word.  The world, too, is perverse and wicked.  These he stirs up, fanning and feeding the flames, in order to hinder us, put us to flight, cut us down, and bring us once more under his power.  This is his only purpose, his desire and thought.  For this end he strives without rest day and night, using all the arts, tricks, ways and means that he can devise. 

"Therefore we who would be Christians must surely count on having the devil with all his angels and the world as our enemies and must count on their inflicting every possible misfortune and grief upon us.  For where God's Word is preached, accepted or believed, and bears fruit, there the blessed holy cross will not be far away.  Let nobody think that he will have peace; he must sacrifice all he has on earth---possessions, honor, house and home, wife and children, body and life.  Now, this grieves our flesh and the old Adam, for it means that we must remain steadfast, suffer patiently whatever befalls us, and let go whatever is taken from us."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Seeing the Glory and Grace of Jesus Christ in Psalm 73:1

Psalm 73:1 (English Standard Version)

A Psalm of Asaph.

1Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.


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


Before leaving Psalm 73, I wanted to share a few thoughts on verse one of this psalm.

As most of you know, if you consistently read these devotions, the chief characteristic of Hebrew poetry is parallelism. In English poetry, often times the main characteristic is rhyme. But Hebrew poetry was not concerned about rhyme at all, but the main concern was parallelism.

The key idea in parallelism is repetition or a pattern of repetition. Parallelism can be synonymous, antithetical, synthetic, or climactic. In parallelism the first line is repeated by the second line, so that both lines have the same pattern. In synonymous parallelism, of which Psalm 73:1 is an example, the first line’s message will be repeated in the second line, so that we have synonymous words or phrases. Notice the pattern in Psalm 73:1:
Line 1: A --- Truly God is good
            B --- to Israel

Line 2: A --- (truly God is good)
            B --- to those who are pure in heart
The “A” part of each line is identical. In the second line it is understood, even though it is not stated. Another feature of Hebrew poetry, and English poetry too, is its brevity or conservation of words, therefore “truly God is good” is not repeated in the second line.

In the “B” part of each line, “Israel” is paired with “those who are pure in heart.” These are synonymous terms for Asaph.

But the Hebrew writers did not use synonymous terms in their poetry just so they could show off their vocabulary. They used parallelism to give their readers understanding. Asaph, the author of Psalm 73, wanted us to really learn who a true Israelite is. A true Israelite is not someone who shares a common ancestry, but rather someone who shares a common heart --- a pure heart. To truly be a Jew is not about outward things like race, but about an inward disposition of heart.

Paul had obviously learned this lesson, and maybe he learned it in part from this psalm! Listen to how Paul also points to the heart as the key to being a true Israelite:
“For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God” (Rom. 2:28-29).
 Jesus also pointed to the same truth when he said of Nathanael: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”

But this lesson of a good and honest heart, purified by the Spirit of God is not the only thing we can learn from Psalm 73:1. We can also come to the realization that there is only one true Israelite, namely, Jesus Christ. How do we see this?

Well, if we simply consider the fact that no sinner is pure in God’s holy sight, we will see that ultimately only Jesus Christ was a true Jew, for only Jesus had a completely pure heart. Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73, did not have a completely pure heart. In fact, in this very psalm he is describing his envy of the wicked and his beastly thinking and behavior before the Lord:
2But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

21When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
22I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
Only Jesus had a completely pure heart. All of the great saints of the Old Testament showed themselves to be sinners. Moses was guilty of murder and disobedience toward the Lord that kept him from entering the promised land. Abraham lied, not just once, but twice about his wife Sarah in order to protect himself rather than his wife. David committed adultery, in his pride he numbered the people, and he murdered Uriah. If you and I will do just a brief examination of our hearts too, we will soon see that we do not have a pure heart either, nor a clean record before God.

But Jesus did, and Jesus is presented in the New Testament as the true Israelite, as the one who embodies Israel’s experience without Israel’s sin. For example, in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus:
  • Comes out of Egypt, just like Israel;
  • Is baptized in the Jordan, just like Israel was baptized in the reed sea;
  • Is tested in the desert for 40 days, just like Israel was tested for 40 years;
  • Comes to a mountain (Matthew 5), just like Israel came to Sinai;
  • Eventually bears the curse of the covenant when he is forsaken at the cross, just like Israel bore the covenant curse of exile away from the Lord;
  • Is raised from the dead and enters into paradise, just like Israel returned to the land when God raised the dry bones of Israel into a nation once more (Ezek. 37).
How thankful we should be that Jesus is the true Israel, and when we receive him by faith our hearts are purified by his blood and spirit! Yes, as Christians we have a pure heart because the blood and Spirit of Jesus are given to us. And yet, it is a pure heart still stained by sin, for original sin still clings to our human nature. Only when our original sin is removed from us completely will we be able to see our Lord Jesus Christ in all his glory. In the meantime, we behold the glorious face of Jesus Christ in the gospel, the gospel of grace that enables us to have a heart purified by his sacrifice on our behalf, and a heart that wants to live a life that pleases the one who has done so much for us.

Psalm 73:1 can teach us the gospel of Christ’s glory and grace, if we have eyes to see it. Do you see it?







Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Two Spiritual Realities, Plus a Third --- Psalm 73

Psalm 73 (English Standard Version)

BOOK THREE

God Is My Strength and Portion Forever
A Psalm of Asaph.

1Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
5They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
6Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
7Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
8They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
9They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
10Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them.
11And they say, "How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?"
12Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.

13All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
14For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.
15If I had said, "I will speak thus,"
I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
16But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.

18Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
19How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
20Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
21When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
22I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.

23Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.


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


Psalm 73 presents us with two bedrock spiritual realities. The first reality is this: To live in fellowship with God must bring blessing. We see this in verses like these:
1Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.

28But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.
The second reality is this: To live apart from God must bring a state of death. We see this reality in a verse like this:
27For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
So, the two fundamental truths of Psalm 73 are these:
  1. To live with God is blessing and life.
  2. To live apart from God is cursing and death.
This state of affairs is taught again and again in the Psalms. We learn it in the first psalm. Look at how blessed the person is who lives in fellowship with God:
1Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
But look at how cursed (the opposite of blessing) is the person who lives apart from God in Psalm 1:
4The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
These two truths are so certain they are practically spiritual equations:
  1. To live near God = blessing and life
  2. To live away from God = a state of death
The problem for Asaph was that this spiritual mathematics was not adding up in his experience. He looked at the wicked who lived apart from God and he saw them enjoying life without many troubles. He looked at the righteous, including himself, who lived with God, and he was filled with troubles day after day.

As Asaph considers this situation of the prosperity of the wicked and the constant troubles of the righteous it causes him to doubt these basic, bedrock truths of Scripture: Maybe blessing and life are not found in the Lord; maybe blessing and life can be found apart from the Lord. Verse 13 expresses his doubt:
13All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
So what was Asaph’s solution? Did Asaph throw out his two spiritual equations? Did he revise his view that to live near God meant abundant life and to be away from God meant a state of spiritual death?

No, Asaph did not throw out these two spiritual equations. These spiritual equations are absolutely true. But Asaph needed to add a third spiritual equation to the first two. Asaph learns of this third truth in God’s presence in verses 16-20:
16But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.
18Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
19How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
20Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
Do you see this third spiritual reality? The reality is that there is a judgment coming. God will bring about the destruction of his enemies in a future judgment. The apparent prosperity of the wicked in this life is like a dream. It is an illusion. It looks solid, but it is slippery. The real situation of the wicked is perilous. They are like an animal which will soon be taken to the butcher. They are already living in death, and their death/judgment could come at any time. As the New Testament puts it, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27).

At the end of Psalm 73, Asaph is back in his right mind. He has reaffirmed his faith in these foundational spiritual realities:
  1. To live with God is blessing and life.
  2. To live apart from Him is a state of death.

    But to these two spiritual realities he has added a third:
  3. Those who live apart from God will face a terrible judgment.
Ultimately, the first two spiritual truths hold firm. Abundant life comes from living in fellowship with the triune God. Those who live apart from Him are already in a state of spiritual death despite their seeming prosperity, and they are in a desperately perilous situation, for at any time they could leave this earth to meet their Maker and their Judge. We should not envy the wicked (v. 3), but rather pity them, warn them, and share the gospel of grace with them.

If any are reading this, and do not know how to get right with God, so that you might have fellowship with him, the answer is Jesus Christ, God’s only Son. By placing your faith in him as your Lord, you can be forgiven and freed from the coming judgment. Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins, and he rose triumphantly as Lord over all. Come and bow before him, and he will not turn you away. You can live in a state of blessing and life rather than a state of death. You can be freed from God’s holy judgment, through Jesus, who bore that judgment in our place.



1517: The Moral Insanity of NOW

1517: The Moral Insanity of NOW

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Our Motivation in Life --- Psalm 72


Psalm 72 (English Standard Version)

Give the King Your Justice

Of Solomon.

1Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
2May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!
3Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
4May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor!
5May they fear you while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
6May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth!
7In his days may the righteous flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!

8May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!
9May desert tribes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust!
10May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
bring gifts!
11May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him!

12For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
13He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
14From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
and precious is their blood in his sight.

15Long may he live;
may gold of Sheba be given to him!
May prayer be made for him continually,
and blessings invoked for him all the day!
16May there be abundance of grain in the land;
on the tops of the mountains may it wave;
may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
like the grass of the field!
17 May his name endure forever,
his fame continue as long as the sun!
May people be blessed in him,
all nations call him blessed!

18 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
19Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!

Amen and Amen!
20 The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.

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

In verse 19 we read:
"Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!"
This verse gives us the purpose of human existence. Adam and Eve were created in a temple/garden called Eden. From this temple garden they were to spread God’s glory throughout the whole earth as God’s priests.

In Genesis 2 we read, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” The words work and keep are the same Hebrew words later used to refer to the duties of the priests. There are many allusions to the garden of Eden in the later temple architecture that also point to the identification of Eden as a temple/garden. From this temple/garden, humanity was created to fill the whole earth with God’s glory.

But, sadly, the human race has not done this. The tower of Babel incident in Genesis 11 shows that fallen man has substituted a different purpose for himself:
“Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
Instead of the motivation of filling the earth with the glory of the Lord, our fallen tendency is now just the opposite. We seek to honor our own name, rather than God’s “glorious name” (v. 19). In seeking the honor of our own name rather than God’s, in actuality, we bring shame to ourselves. For we are now creatures in full scale rebellion against God.

Think about your own heart. When you got up today, was your motivation for the day to bring the name of God glory? Is this the driving force of your life and mine? If it is not, then it shows our rebellion and our need to repent and believe on God’s Son on a daily basis.

But into this earthly scene where his glorious name was so dishonored and his purpose for the human race so twisted, God sent his beloved Son. Unlike us, Jesus perfectly honored his God and Father in our flesh. As the true Son of David (not Solomon), Jesus is God’s king who perfectly honored the Lord and has filled, and is filling, the whole earth with God’s glory.

When you and I receive God’s heaven-sent Son into our hearts and lives, by our trust in Christ and his work on the cross, we bring God glory once again. As we offer ourselves in response to his mercy to us in Christ (cf. v. 15, what more expensive offering could we make than ourselves?), we bring God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son, glory once more.

So the question for each of us is this: Are we fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives? Has verse 19 been written on our hearts in a life-changing way? May the Holy Spirit inscribe this verse deeply on our hearts, so that our very motivation in life might be changed:
"Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!"



The Sola Panel | Environmentalism (a WordWatch)

This post is insightful.  There is a misguided morality in the environmental movement and I think it does falsely assuage and desensitize the conscience.

The Sola Panel | Environmentalism (a WordWatch)

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Assessing Reality Rightly

How true is this paragraph from my old seminary professor, D. A. Carson!

Assessing Reality Rightly

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday Luther Quote

"We have no reason to worry; for we have Him as our Father and Manager who has all things in His hands, also those people, together with all their possessions, who deprive us of things and injure us.  Therefore we should be happy in Him and gentle toward all people, certain that we shall have enough for body and soul and certain above all that we have a gracious God.  Those who do not have Him must indeed worry.  Therefore our only care should be not to be full of care on any account."  (What Luther Says, p. 1544)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Sola Panel | Be careful what you promise

The Sola Panel | Be careful what you promise

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"My Father and Your Father . . . My God and Your God" --- Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 10, Devotion #1

I have written a daily devotional based on the Heidelberg Catechism.  I have posted these devotions through Lord's Day 9.  I am going to continue these posts starting today on Lord's Day 10.  For each Lord's Day, I've written 6 devotions.

Learning Christian doctrine is an important need in Evangelical and Reformed churches today.  Christian devotion is fueled by Christian theology.  A fruitful Christian is a Christian who knows Jesus Christ and walks with him.  It is doubtful if one can do this without sound doctrine.  There is no need that the average Christian needs to slog his way through Louis Berkhof's systematic theology, when we have wonderful catechisms like the Heidelberg available to us.

With that said, here is devotion #1 on Lord's Day 10:

Lord's Day 10, Devotion #1

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

26 Q. What do you believe when you say, "I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth"?

A. That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them, who still upholds and rules them by his eternal counsel and providence, is my God and Father because of Christ his Son.

I trust him so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and he will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends me in this sad world.

He is able to do this because he is almighty God; he desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.

2) Scripture

John 14:1: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”

John 20:17b: “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Comment:

Many people believe that behind all the great religions of the world, the same “god” is worshipped. The god of Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, and other religions are thought to be just different paths to the same God.

The Bible resists this sort of thinking. Scripture insists that the true God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The true God is triune: Father, Son, and Spirit. In the Old Testament this true God was known as Jahweh or the Lord. He was different and separate from the so-called “gods” of the nations around Israel. These "gods" were really just idols, with no real existence, invented by human beings.

In the New Testament, Jesus comes to us as Yahweh, the Lord, in human flesh! With the coming of Jesus the glory of the triune God comes to light and sight! We learn that God exists in eternal, loving relationship: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. No wonder relationships are so important for creatures who bear God’s image! Fellowship and relationship are at the heart of ultimate reality, and we were created to reflect that reality.

But we will miss our reason for living if we fail to enter into the relationship that is of utmost importance --- our relationship with the triune God. How do we come to the place where we can truly call God our Father, just as the Son calls God his Father?

The answer is that we must come to Jesus Christ in faith. By faith we must embrace Jesus Christ as both our Lord and Savior. When we do, then, and only then, can we truly say with the catechism: “The eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . is my God and Father because of Christ his Son.”

Discussion: According to the Bible and catechism, are all religions paths to the true God? Why are relationships so important to us as God’s image bearers? How do we truly come into a personal relationship with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Prayer Starter: Heavenly Father, thank you for the privilege I have to call you Father.  You have given me this privilege because your beloved Son took to himself my human nature and went in that nature to the cross.  Help me to live a life that is in accord with the truth that you are my Father because of Christ; through him we pray who is praised forever together with you and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Comfort Christ Won For Us In the Midst of Our Troubles --- Psalm 71

Psalm 71 (English Standard Version)

Forsake Me Not When My Strength Is Spent

1 In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame!
2In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me, and save me!
3Be to me a rock of refuge,
to which I may continually come;
you have given the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.

4 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
5For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
6Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.

7I have been as a portent to many,
but you are my strong refuge.
8My mouth is filled with your praise,
and with your glory all the day.
9 Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
forsake me not when my strength is spent.
10For my enemies speak concerning me;
those who watch for my life consult together
11and say, "God has forsaken him;
pursue and seize him,
for there is none to deliver him."

12O God, be not far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!
13May my accusers be put to shame and consumed;
with scorn and disgrace may they be covered
who seek my hurt.
14But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
15My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
16With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.

17O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.
19Your righteousness, O God,
reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
O God, who is like you?
20You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
you will bring me up again.
21You will increase my greatness
and comfort me again.

22I will also praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praises to you with the lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.
23My lips will shout for joy,
when I sing praises to you;
my soul also, which you have redeemed.
24And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long,
for they have been put to shame and disappointed
who sought to do me hurt.

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

Although Psalm 71 is not attributed to David, there are so many similarities of words and phrases with Psalm 70, a Davidic psalm, that it is reasonable to assume David wrote Psalm 71. Most of the psalms in book two (Psalms 42-72) of the Psalter are penned by David. The final psalm of book two, Psalm 72, comes from David’s son, Solomon. Based on this fact and the references to old age in Psalm 71, it seems quite possible that this was a psalm David wrote while in the very last part of his life.

A big concern of David in this psalm is that he not be put to shame. He begins with this theme of shame, when in verse 1 he prays:
In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame!
He ends with this theme when he says:
And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long,
for they have been put to shame and disappointed
who sought to do me hurt.
David was concerned about the shame of falling to his enemies. If his enemies triumphed over him, then he would be put to shame. Such a judgment from the Lord would bring him shame and dishonor. Instead, David wanted to be vindicated by the Lord.

As a type of Christ, David’s enemies were flesh and blood. In his old age, his chief enemy was his own son, Absalom. Absalom usurped David’s throne, so that David was forced to flee into the wilderness. But Christ’s enemies, and ours, are not just flesh and blood, but also sin, death, and the devil. These are the enemies that threatened Jesus, and threaten us.

How did Jesus defeat our enemies for us? He took refuge in his Father. As a human being, Jesus lived by faith. Jesus lived in trustful dependence upon his God. Throughout Psalm 71 David speaks of the Lord as his refuge, whom he trusts and relies upon. This was true to an even greater degree of our Lord Jesus. As a man, Jesus placed his faith in God.

The greatest test of our Lord’s faith was at the cross. There he was surrounded by his enemies, who sought his death. Would Jesus be put to shame at the cross? Would the Father answer his prayers for deliverance?

It certainly did not look like it on Good Friday. It appeared that his enemies had triumphed over him. They surrounded him and put him to death. But look closely at verses 20 and 21:
20You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
you will bring me up again.
21You will increase my greatness
and comfort me again.
The Father raised his Son up from the depths of the earth. On the third day Jesus rose triumphant. He was not put to shame. He was vindicated by the Father. He triumphed over his enemies, and ours!

If you and I take refuge in Jesus Christ, we too will never be put to shame. As Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” You and I can live in the eternal “comfort” (v. 21) Jesus has won for us.

Does this mean that we will not see “troubles and calamities” in our lives? Does God promise us a trouble-free life? No, like David and Jesus, we too will experience troubles and calamities. We are not promised health and wealth and popularity when we belong to Jesus Christ. What we are promised is that we will never be put to shame; that the comfort of knowing God’s favor is ours forever; that nothing can separate us from our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ; that he will be with us in this wilderness of troubles and calamities, and he will safely guide us to the place where such troubles will be gone forever.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Why Did I Have Trouble Singing this Song?


Today, we sang this song in church:
Lyrics to Wrap Me In Your Arms:
There is a God who loves me
Who wraps me in His arms
And that is the place where I'm changed
And that's where I belong


Take me to that place Lord
To that secret place where
I can be with You
You can make me like You
Wrap me in Your arms
Wrap me in Your arms
Wrap me in Your arms

Ooh, Ooh
I am safe, I am safe
I am safe, In Your arms
(Repeat)
Today we sang this song in church. I found it very hard to sing.

I don’t think I found it hard to sing because I don’t love Jesus Christ. I don’t think I found it hard to sing because I don’t belong to him through faith in his atoning death for me and his resurrection to the highest place of authority. I think I find it hard to sing this song because it is so unbiblical.

Where do we find words like this in Scripture? These are gooey words. These are sappy words. These are syrupy, romantic, feminized words. These words are not how the apostle Paul or Peter or John expressed Christian spirituality. These words are not at all like the Psalms.

There is no sound theology in these words---nothing that really tells me about God, his Son, his mighty acts on my behalf, or what constitutes his love. There is no gospel in these words. I can’t hear Christ’s voice in these words. Jesus promised that his sheep would hear his voice, but these words represent a different Jesus than the Jesus of Scripture. Why does my church put these kinds of words in my mouth when I gather together with my fellow believers?

I believe that Jesus spread his arms on the cross, so that I might be his forever. I believe that by faith and the Spirit I dwell with him in heaven, and he with me in my heart. I believe he is changing me into his likeness through the glorious gospel of grace. I believe I am safe from the guilt of my sin and the accusations of the evil one through Christ’s blood and righteousness. But I don’t learn any of this from this song. I don’t really sing about God’s love in this song. Instead, I just regurgitate the gooey, sentimentalism of a feminized culture. I would rather sing songs that reflect the culture of the kingdom to which I belong, the kingdom of God.



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