Thursday, September 30, 2010

Psalm 106 (Part 1) --- Learning Two Hard Lessons from Psalm 106

Psalm 106 is a long psalm that narrates the history of Israel. It teaches us a number of lessons, and I want to bring out four of them (two in this devotional and two in the next).

First, this psalm teaches us what our sinful hearts are like.

Often times the reaction of people to Israel’s history of repeated sin goes something like this: How could Israel be so stupid? How come Israel did not get it? Why did Israel keep repeating its cycle of sin and failure to obey the Lord?

While this reaction is understandable, it is inadequate. What we need to see about Israel in their repeated sin is not their uniqueness, but their commonality with us. Israel’s repeated sin shows us not only what their hearts were like, but also what our hearts are like! We are no better than Israel. Israel shows us what the fallen, sinful heart is like. When we look at Israel’s sin against the Lord, we are given a glimpse into our own sinful hearts!

Starting in verse 6, the psalmist recognizes the important truth that we are no better than the people who lived before us:
6 Both we and our fathers have sinned;
we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.
The psalmist does not look at the history of Israel with his nose in the air, somehow believing that he is morally superior to his ancestors. He understands that the children of Adam are all cut from the same sinful cloth. This is also the attitude we should have when we consider Israel’s sin. Apart from God’s grace, we would’ve done the exact same thing Israel did in their sin. And, even if God has regenerated our hearts and we are believers, original sin is not removed from our hearts in this life. Therefore, we must put off the old Adam in us each day, and clothe ourselves with the new man in Christ. When we look at Israel’s history of sin, we should see our own hearts.

Let’s look more closely at the sins in Israel’s history, narrated in Psalm 106. I will briefly catalogue their sins according to the verse:
• v. 7 --- thoughtless and forgetful toward the Lord and his deeds
• v. 7 --- rebellious
• v. 13 --- forgetful of the Lord and his works
• v. 13 --- self-will that refused the Lord’s word
• v. 14 --- followed their lustful heart
• v. 14 --- put themselves in God’s place as though they were his judge
• v. 16 --- rebellious toward the Lord’s authority and human authority
• v. 19 --- idolatry
• v. 19 --- ungodly behavior that flowed from their idolatry
• v. 21 --- forgetful of the Lord and his works
• v. 24 --- despised and discontented with what God had given (the land foreshadows Christ)
• v. 24 --- unbelief
• v. 25 --- complaining
• v. 25 --- disobedience
• v. 28 --- idolatry
• v. 32 --- persistent rebellion and complaining
• v. 34 --- unbelief and disobedience
• v. 34 --- lack of discernment
• v. 35 --- refusal to obey the Lord
• v. 36 --- idolatry
• v. 37 --- violence
• v. 39 --- unfaithful
• v. 43 --- rebellious
Here is the human heart! Here is your heart and mine! Even if you are a believer, this is what original sin in you is like. By nature we are thoughtless of the Lord, forgetful of his kindnesses, filled with sinful lusts, self-willed and rebellious, treating God as if he were on trial, when the truth is just the opposite! Our fallen hearts are naturally idolatrous and we despise his gifts, even the gift of Jesus Christ, who is the substance the land pointed toward. We are filled with unbelief, disobedience, violence, and we lack discernment of good and evil as those who are unwise.

Second, this psalm teaches us about God’s judgment of sin in our lives.

After each sinful incident, the Lord brought a judgment. Let’s look at these judgments:
  • In verses 7-12, the Lord graciously redeemed the sinful people by bringing judgment on Pharaoh and his people. This exodus judgment foreshadows the exodus Jesus underwent on the cross when he was judged in our place. This is the gospel, which was a judgment that God himself bore for us in the person of his Son at the cross!
  • In verses 13-15, the Lord judges by sending a disease upon his self-willed and lustful people.
  • In verses 16-18, the Lord judges by bringing a disaster on the rebels who would not respect Moses authority.
  • In verses 19-20, the people became like the object they worshiped, and this itself was a judgment on sin. The people worshiped a dumb animal and became as stupid and lustful as that creature in their thoughts and behavior.
  • In verses 24-27, in response to the unbelief and refusal to enter the land, the Lord caused that whole generation to die in the wilderness.
  • In verses 28-31, the Lord judged by sending a plague on the people in response to their idolatry and sexual immorality.
  • In verses 32-33, even Moses was judged and kept from entering the land because of his disobedience to the word of the Lord.
  • In verses 34-39, the Lord’s judgment on the people’s idolatry was to let them eat the bitter fruit of their sin. Enslavement to sin was one aspect of his judgment. Violence entered their society, and this was another aspect of his judgment, as the people sacrificed their children to their new masters/idols.
  • In verses 40-42, the Lord’s judgment was in terms of economics and political subjugation in response to the people’s sin. Most importantly, the people lost the favor of the Lord---his good will toward them.

What do the Lord’s judgments say to us as individuals and to our nation?

First, as individuals, we should realize that the Lord still judges sin. The coming of Jesus Christ does not change the fact that God is displeased with sin, and He brings judgment into the lives of people. These judgments are meant to bring us to repentance and belief in God’s Son.

There are two kinds of individuals, believers and unbelievers. God brings judgments on unbelievers, so that they might repent and turn to his beloved Son. God brings judgments on believers, which are transformed into his fatherly discipline to his children, so that they too might learn to follow him more closely. Just as a father disciplines his children for their good, so our heavenly Father is the vinedresser, who prunes us so that we might bear fruit for his glory.

Second, while no nation on earth is in covenant with the Lord as Israel was under the old covenant, still, all people are born with a responsibility toward God as creatures who bear his image. Some of the curses of the old covenant such as debt, raising up enemies, or poor, inept, and wicked leadership, the Lord still uses as he deals with nations under his rule. As we see the same sort of covenant curses that Israel experienced in America’s experience, there is no reason not to think that the Lord is judging our nation. The only antidote to God’s judgments in history is repentance. We should pray, not only for individual repentance, but for God’s mercy on a nation that deserves his righteous wrath, and is already experiencing it in many ways.

In the next devotional, I will make two more points about God’s grace as seen in Psalm 106 and our response to his grace.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hymn of Assurance and Prayer

I Am the Lord’s; the Lord Is Mine

To the tune: ACH GOTT UND HERR (found under Draw Us to Thee: http://www.lutheran-hymnal.com/online/aTLH_Hymns2.htm). Loosely based on John 6:41-59 (see also Q&A 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism. Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
I am the Lord’s;
the Lord is mine.
He is the bread of heaven.
O feed my soul;
O make me whole,
and to Your grace be driven.

v. 2
I am the Lord’s;
the Lord is mine.
He is the Lord and Savior.
I do believe,
I do receive,
the Son who earned God’s favor.

v. 3
I am the Lord’s;
the Lord is mine.
He is one with the Father.
I am a son;
adoption won.
O let me love my Father.

v. 4
I am the Lord’s;
the Lord is mine.
He is my true Redeemer.
I was condemned,
and doomed to die.
He freed me now, forever.

v. 5
I am the Lord’s;
the Lord is mine.
He will return and raise me.
My heart Your home,
come be enthroned.
O Lord do not forsake me.



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

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Repenting of Our Practical Atheism

I just started Craig Gay's book, The Way of the (Modern) World in which he discusses secularization and the deeply imbedded atheistic assumptions of our society's institutions. He tries to show how this outlook has led to a practical atheism among non-Christians, Christians, and Christian churches. In his introduction he says, "We ordinarily view the world 'naturalistically' as a closed, interlocking system of natural and material causes and effect. . . . such a view has become the norm within modern society and culture."

One area where many people, even Christians, are practical atheists is in their view of God's involvement in his own creation.  Here is a question to test yourself to see if you are a practical atheist when it comes to the area of God's preservation or providential involvement in his world.  What is your view of God's involvement in his creation:
a. I think the world is a closed, interlocking system that God does not take part in.
b. I think the world is a closed, interlocking system that God runs via laws (a deistic view of God as the watchmaker who puts his laws in place so that the world runs on its own).
c. I think the world is an interlocking system that can be described by laws because God faithfully works to preserve his creation by his word.
The first two positions are unbiblical and secular, and remove God from his own world. While I understand that scientists can and do work under the first two positions, they can do this only because God is so faithful that his working in the universe can be described by precise scientific laws.  But behind these laws is the word of the Creator, who by his power keeps little sparrows alive and great planets in their orbits.

While most scientists operate under positions a and b, and have success in their descriptions, the positions are still false, in conflict with reality because they do not factor in God's word, preservation and majesty.  In the political and individual spheres, there are even more conflicts with reality, because in these areas a closed, naturalistic worldview excludes God's judgments as a key factor in human life and the world.  God is ruler and judge of individuals both in history and at Christ's return.  God also is judge of nations in history.

Why is it important for us to understand the Lord's ways in his created world, namely, that he is creator, sustainer, ruler and judge of his world?

The health of our lives, our churches, and our witness to the world as salt and light is going to depend on getting rid of the worldliness of our own secular mindset among ourselves as professing Christians. Many, if not most, professing Christians live their lives as practical atheists, and a large part of the reason for this is our own secular mindset that tempts us to believe that God is not needed in our modern/postmodern world.  If we rule God out of his own world, then there is really no need for him, and the temptation to practical atheism will be too great for us to overcome.

The other area that causes us to become practical atheists is our failure to consider sin and its consequences.  Right now in our churches we rarely hear both the law and the gospel.  It is impossible to preach the gospel without also preaching the law, for the law shows us our sin and need of Jesus Christ and his salvation.

The law not only shows us our sin, but it also threatens us with God's judgment, including the ultimate judgment of hell.  By eliminating the law and its threats from our churches, we no longer have a need for the gospel, and so once again we become guilty of practical atheism.  People turn to sociology(1) and psychology(2) once sin and the law cease to be mentioned, for without the law there is no need of the gospel, and without sin, there is no need of Christ's cross.  Once sin, and the law that shows us our sin, are eliminated, the gospel is replaced by a therapeutic gospel or a gospel of relevance.

In your church, are you hearing about both sin and grace---both law and gospel?  If not, your church has succumbed to a form of practical atheism, and maybe you have too.  When you read God's Word on your own, are you looking for both the law and the gospel, letting the law convict you of sin, which shows you your need for Jesus and his cross?  Every day do you receive by faith the gospel and Jesus Christ whose salvation, wisdom, love, and power are enough for you as you live in his world?  Or, are you more interested in the insights of psychology and sociology as you follow what you think is best, and not what he thinks best, as found in his holy Word?

In summary, here are the two areas of our Christian faith we need to recover if we want to overcome our temptation to practical atheism:
  1. Creation and providence.
  2. Law and Gospel (or sin and grace).
(1) Evangelical interest in sociology (a discipline that is deeply atheistic in its foundations) is found mainly in church growth strategies.

(2) Evangelical interest in psychology is found, for example, in our undiscerning acceptance of secular psychological theories that have self-actualization, not Christ-likeness, as the goal.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Lord's Day 32 of the Heidelberg Catechism Put to Music

Bless’d Are We to Be in Jesus

To the tune: HYFRYDOL. Based on Lord’s Day 32 of the Heidelberg Catechism (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 85). Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
Bless’d are we to be in Jesus,
saved from sin and death and hell.
Not by works of our own making,
but by faith are we made well.
At the time of God’s own choosing,
sent His Son to set us free.
On the cross He bore our judgment,
satisfied sin’s penalty.

v. 2
Now by faith I am in Jesus,
I believe in God’s dear Son.
Favor, blessing and forgiveness,
all for me my Savior won.
Now I live to bring Him honor,
Father, Son, to glorify.
For His Spirit works, renewing,
breathing in me Jesus’ life.

v. 3
We give thanks and praise to Jesus,
He redeemed us by His blood,
so that we in all our living
might be thankful to our God.
Father, make us more like Jesus,
in our lives may He be praised.
For Your Son is resurrected,
to Your throne has He been raised.

v. 4
God our Father, as Your children,
who receive Your precious Son.
Make us zealous to do good works,
showing thanks for all You’ve done.
Make us fruitful, make us useful,
doing good to ev’ryone.
Win our neighbors unto Jesus,
may Your will through us be done.

v. 5
Father, make us ever grateful,
living lives that honor You.
Give us hearts that are believing,
willing hearts by grace subdued.
For no man who’s unbelieving,
and for sin won’t mourn or grieve,
will inherit God’s bless’d kingdom,
for he walks in unbelief.

Lord's Day 32

Q &A 86

Q. We have been delivered
from our misery
by God's grace alone through Christ
and not because we have earned it:
why then must we still do good?

A. To be sure, Christ has redeemed us by his blood.
But we do good because
Christ by his Spirit is also renewing us to be like himself,
so that in all our living
we may show that we are thankful to God
for all he has done for us,^1
and so that he may be praised through us.^2

And we do good
so that we may be assured of our faith by its fruits,^3
and so that by our godly living
our neighbors may be won over to Christ.^4

^1 Rom. 6:13; 12:1-2; 1 Pet. 2:5-10
^2 Matt. 5:16; 1 Cor. 6:19-20
^3 Matt. 7:17-18; Gal. 5:22-24; 2 Pet. 1:10-11
^4 Matt. 5:14-16; Rom. 14:17-19; 1 Pet. 2:12; 3:1-2

Q &A 87

Q. Can those be saved
who do not turn to God
from their ungrateful
and impenitent ways?

A. By no means.
Scripture tells us that
no unchaste person,
no idolater, adulterer, thief,
no covetous person,
no drunkard, slanderer, robber,
or the like
is going to inherit the kingdom of God.^1

^1 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:1-20; 1 John 3:14


The Rule of Life and Fellowship with the Father and Son --- Psalm 105


Psalm 105

At the heart of Christian conversion is a change of lords---a change of ownership---a change of bosses. When human beings fell in Adam, their fall happened because they decided to be their own lord or boss. From now on human beings would decide for themselves what is good and evil, right and wrong.

Here was the temptation of the devil to which Adam yielded: “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Before the fall, good and evil were determined by God and His word. After the fall, good and evil were determined by what man thought was best. In the fall, man declared independence from God and his word. From now on man would decide what is best by himself and his own word.

This view of sin shows us how we are all sinners. How normal we think it is for a person to decide for himself what is good and what is bad. But this is the very essence of sin! People were made to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).

Psalm 105 shows us the change of lords that is needed in our lives and the radical new rule of God's Word. At the heart of Psalm 105 is God’s promise to give his people Israel the land of Canaan. In verse 11 this promise is spelled out: “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.” The rest of the Psalm shows how the Lord fulfilled this promise and gave the land to Israel. The history of Israel is narrated from the time of Abraham through Joseph, through the exodus, through the wilderness, and into the land the Lord promised.

But at the end of this fulfillment and the Lord’s gracious giving of the land to the people come these words:
44And he gave them the lands of the nations,
and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil,
45that they might keep his statutes
and observe his laws.
The purpose of this gracious salvation that brought the people into the land of Canaan was that the people might no longer be ruled by what they thought was best, but instead be ruled by what God thought was best as revealed in his Word! There was to be a change of ownership---a new boss---a new Lord. The people were to return to living by every word that came from the mouth of God.

As Christians we are to be radically Word-centered people. We are to be people of the Book. We are to pour over God’s Word, seeking its guidance in every area of our lives. If we continue to live by what we think is good and what we think is best, we are sinning and still living in accord with Satan’s advice to determine for ourselves good and evil. To live according to what we think is best (which fallen men think is normal!) is in actuality, demonic. In order to live a new life with Jesus Christ and God the Father requires from us a radical new commitment to His Word.

The Israelites of old were brought into a new land of Canaan through the exodus. But the new Israel of Christ’s church has been brought through the exodus of Jesus Christ into the heavenly realms with Him, and if we wish to live in fellowship with our risen and exalted Christ, then the new rule for us as Christ’s people is every word that proceeds from his mouth, as revealed in the Scriptures. How committed are we to this new rule of life with the Father and the Son?


Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Hymn Based on Mark 5:21-43

Praise to Jesus, Lord and Savior

To the tune: MAN OF SORROWS (http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/165). Based on Mark 5:21-43.  Words: Bill Weber, 2010. 

v. 1
I was born unclean in sin,
death my future without Him,
then He came to cleanse within.
Praise to Jesus, cleansing Savior.

v. 2
Once a woman suffering
came to Jesus, was unclean.
Touched His garments and was freed.
Praise to Jesus, freeing Savior.

v. 3
Sinners born are dead in sin,
desp’rate need the life of Him.
Jesus came to raise with Him.
Praise to Jesus, risen Savior.

v. 4
Jairus came to Jesus Christ,
little daughter needed life.
Jesus said get up and rise.
Praise to Jesus, living Savior.

v. 5
What the Savior did for these,
He desires to do for thee.
Do not fear but just believe.
Praise to Jesus, Lord and Savior.



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

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Father's Care of His Redeemed Children


If the Lord clothes a butterfly and a flower like this, then surely He will clothe and care for His grace-adopted children in Christ.



Leon Morris on Christ's Judgment

"Throughout the New Testament Jesus appears as our Savior. He came to earth expressly to put away our sins, which meant dying on the cross. This is our assurance that the final judgment will be a judgment of love. But it does not mean that judgment ceases to be a grim reality. The self-sacrificing love we see on Calvary is in itself the most damning judgment imaginable on the self-seeking life. Jesus Himself, immediately after saying 'I came not to judge the world, but to save the world,' went on 'He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day' (Jn. 12:47ff.). Though Jesus came with words of comfort and salvation, yet the man who turns away from them will find them words of condemnation at the last day. This is the reflex side of salvation."
  --Leon Morris from "The Biblical Doctrine of Judgment"

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Four Suggestions for Worship Services to Keep them from Devolving into Entertainment or Performances

Worship services are not supposed to be performances or entertainment.  But often times we do things in our worship services that can only be explained by our confusion of worship and entertainment.  Let me give four examples:
  1. When the musicians who lead worship are finished, why can't the minister wait for them to find their seats before he begins his prayer?  It seems that we can't wait because we don't want to have a lull in the performance.
  2. Why are prayers or short meditations accompanied by music lightly played in the background?  Why isn't the pianist or accompanist praying or listening also?  Why do we need this mood music?  It seems to me that this is another way we betray the fact that we view our worship services as performance and entertainment.
  3. Why do ministers feel they have to begin their sermons with cute or humorous stories or illustrations, which often times have little relation to the main point of their sermons?  Why are these initial illustrations rarely subservient to the point being taught from Scripture?  By starting off in these ways week after week, I wonder if an unintended message is sent, namely, that what follows is not all that serious or urgent.
  4. Why do our ministers often seem like orators or actors when they deliver their sermons?  Why the affected oratory?  Why not just sincerely teach and preach what the Lord has laid on the heart to say to his people, who long to hear their Shepherd's voice?
It is easy do do things because that's how the majority of churches do things or because this is how the "successful" churches do things.  But we need to think these things through in terms of the true nature of worship, the church, and preaching and teaching.  Worship is not a performance.  The church is not an audience.  Preaching is not an actor's oration.  Worship is the offering of ourselves to the Father through the Son and by the Spirit.  The church is a family gathered around our elder brother and heavenly Father above in the heavenly Zion.  Preaching is not about rhetorical flourish, but about feeding Christ's flock, who are fed and comforted only by the voice of their Shepherd.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Meditation on God's Judgments from Psalm 105: Are Contemporary Christians Faithful to the Apostolic Message?

This is a subject I have been thinking about for a while, and maybe the Lord has led me into a truth that our society, church, and we ourselves need to hear. If you have feedback, I would be interested in hearing it. --Bill

Selected Verses from Psalm 105:

7He is the LORD our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.

16When he summoned a famine on the land
and broke all supply of bread,
23Then Israel came to Egypt;
Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.
24And the LORD made his people very fruitful
and made them stronger than their foes.
25He turned their hearts to hate his people,
to deal craftily with his servants.
28He sent darkness, and made the land dark;
they did not rebel against his words.
29He turned their waters into blood
and caused their fish to die.
30Their land swarmed with frogs,
even in the chambers of their kings.
31He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
and gnats throughout their country.
32He gave them hail for rain,
and fiery lightning bolts through their land.
33He struck down their vines and fig trees,
and shattered the trees of their country.
34He spoke, and the locusts came,
young locusts without number,
35which devoured all the vegetation in their land
and ate up the fruit of their ground.
36He struck down all the firstborn in their land,
the firstfruits of all their strength.

40 They asked, and he brought quail,
and gave them bread from heaven in abundance.
41He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
it flowed through the desert like a river.

43So he brought his people out with joy,
his chosen ones with singing.
44And he gave them the lands of the nations,
and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil . . .

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

I’ve selected a few verses from Psalm 105 that speak of God’s mighty acts. Some of these acts were the Lord’s judgments. Most of these judgments were the obverse side of his salvation for Israel. The judgments on Egypt or the Canaanites led to the salvation of Israel. This is the typical Scriptural pattern, namely, that God brings salvation through judgment. Our salvation in Jesus is the preeminent example that serves as the pattern. Christ was judged for our sin so that we might be saved from judgment.

Here is a list of some the acts of God in Psalm 105:

  1. He sends judgments in all the earth (v. 7).
  2. He sent a famine (v. 16).
  3. He brought forth lots of Hebrew children (v. 24).
  4. He caused his people to be hated by the Egyptians (v. 25).
  5. He brought a number of judgments on the Egyptians, and it seems reasonable to surmise that these judgments were at least partially connected to the Egyptians’ mistreatment of God’s people in verse 25. The worst of these judgments were the deaths of Egypt’s firstborn sons (v. 36).
  6. The Lord brought forth quail for food, and supernaturally provided them with bread and water (v. 40-41).
  7. The Lord dispossessed through war the nations in Canaan, and gave their cities to Israel.

What can we learn from these acts of God?

First, we learn that the Lord is in control of the elements of nature. In order to send a famine, one has to be in charge of the weather and seasons. In order to make the Israelites, who greatly increased their numbers while in Egypt (from 70 to at least 3 million), One has to be in charge of the reproductive health and desires of men and women. Much the same can be said about the judgments sent on Egypt. In them the Lord displayed his control over the world he created.


Second, we learn that the Lord exercises control over the human heart, without violating man’s will. Verse 25 says that the Lord turned the hearts of the Egyptians to hate his people, the Israelites. We are entering into a labrynth at this point when we enter into the interaction between the divine will and human will. God is never the author of sin, but sin also doesn’t erase the Lord’s control of the human heart.

Third, we learn that the Lord sends judgments in the earth. Famine is a judgment, even if it is used of God for the ultimate blessing of Jacob and his family. Egypt was judged, at least in part, for their mistreatment of God’s people. The judgments God sent to Egypt also seemed to be directed toward the idolatry (gods) of Egypt and the pride of her king. The sending of quail, while it was a provision of God, actually led to a judgment on Israel. Finally, the Canaanite nations were judged because of their idolatry and immorality, as we are told elsewhere in Scripture, and their judgment by the Lord resulted in Israel’s salvation.

Now, let’s consider how we might apply this Scriptural truth to our situation today.

First, God continues to send judgments in all the earth. Famines, wars, earthquakes, and natural disasters are acts of God. Unless the sovereign God has somehow lost control of the world, then famines, earthquakes, hurricanes and oil spills are not outside of his control. The Lord sends these things, and they are his judgments.

Second, God also sends good things to all the people on the earth. When the Lord gives children to people, whether they are Israelites or Americans or Iranians --- when he provides us with food, when he gives us land and homes --- this is his provision and blessing.

Third, the findings of science do not negate the acts of God. Just because a scientist can describe the movement that takes place in the earth that brings forth an earthquake, does not rule out God’s hand in that event. Just because God uses means to bring about a hurricane or a famine or an earthquake doesn’t disprove God as the ultimate cause of such events. The scientists’ descriptions of such visible acts of God in no way disprove the working of the invisible God.

Fourth, our culture, and sadly, many Christians are averse to the biblical truth that “his judgments are in all the earth.” While we may acknowledge the birth of a child as an act of God, we are reluctant to face the truth that wars and disasters are also acts of God, and certainly not outside his control. If you get to know your Bible well enough, eventually, you have to choose between our culture’s denial of God’s working in the world or the biblical truth that both God’s acts of judgment and blessing come from his sovereign hand.

Fifth, both judgments and blessings from God’s hand are meant to lead us to repentance and a close walk with him. Romans 2:4 teaches us that God’s kindnesses are meant to bring us to himself:
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
But if the Lord’s kindness is meant to bring us to himself, then how much more are his judgments. Nations and individuals should use such judgments as opportunities to repent and believe the gospel.

Sixth, while we cannot always know the specific cause or causes of God’s judgments, the causes of God’s judgments are enumerated in Scripture, and we should search God’s will made known in Scripture to find out what is pleasing to him as a guide to our repentance. For example, was the earthquake the Lord sent to Haiti in January of this year sent because of the idolatry and voodoo Haiti is known for? It is possible that was the reason, but we will probably never know for sure apart from a direct word from God. But those who are involved in witchcraft and idolatry in Haiti ought to repent of such things that are so displeasing to God. The judgment of an earthquake should cause people to search the Scriptures and their hearts, so that they turn from the things that bring God’s wrath.

What about global warming? Is global warming a judgment from God? Personally, I am not convinced that global warming is occurring. I think our temperature records for the last 100 years are not terribly accurate. I’m also not so sure that even if it were true, global warming might not be a bad thing for certain parts of the globe, if it was occurring.

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that global warming is true and it is a very bad thing for the survival of human beings on this planet. If that is true, then if we believe the Bible, it is God’s judgment. Temperature on the earth is not outside his control. The actions of human beings are not outside his control. And, if this is his judgment, then we need to be on our knees, repenting of our unbelief, idolatry, and rejection of God’s Son.

One final thought: the natural, sinful inclination of the human heart is to avoid God’s judgment at all costs, even denying its reality (for example, how often have you heard the well meaning phrase that death is a “natural” part of life, when in reality it is one of God’s general judgments on sin?). Christian ministers and apologists these days avoid the subject of judgment, because they know it is not likely to be accepted. But by avoiding the subject of God’s judgments, we become false witnesses. We become ambassadors who refuse to tell the nations the whole truth we have heard from our home nation and King, Jesus Christ. By leaving this key truth out, we not only distort the message and disobey our King, but more than likely, a number of our hearers know we are leaving out the part about God's judgment, which leads to their justified skepticism that comes from knowing that they are listening to a sales pitch. 

Notice how judgment is a key component in the apostolic faith Peter (and all Christians) are commanded to preach and teach by Jesus himself:
“And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
The One who died to bear our judgment is going to judge all people. Before that great day when he comes to judge all people, he exercises his Lordship by ruling and judging nations and individuals in history. As the Heidelberg Catechism puts it, the Lord judges “both in this life and in the life to come” (Q&A 84). We cannot be faithful to our Lord if we deny his command to tell others that He is the “judge of the living (those alive right now!) and the dead” (Acts 10:42).



Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A New Hymn Based on Q&A 84 of the Heidelberg Catechism

The Word of God Did Form the World

To the tune: GERMANY. Based on Lord’s Day 31 of the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 84 (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 88-90). Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
The word of God did form the world,
and it sustains all things He made.
His word is filled with pow’r and might,
He speaks and all things must obey.

v. 2
The gospel word of Jesus Christ
contains the pow’r to bring new birth;
proclaims the grace that Jesus earned,
proclaims Him Savior of the earth.

v. 3
The Lord is judge of all our race,
He judges nations and our lives.
His judgments sends in time and space.
The judge who comes is Jesus Christ.

v. 4
What will you do with Jesus Christ?
Will you believe and walk His path?
The word believed will give new life,
the word refused will leave in wrath.

v. 5
We praise the Christ who made all things,
sustaining, ruling, ev’rywhere.
In grace You came to die for us,
and on the cross our judgment bear.

Q &A 84

Q. How does preaching the gospel
open and close the kingdom of heaven?

A. According to the command of Christ:

The kingdom of heaven is opened
by proclaiming and publicly declaring
to all believers, each and every one, that,
as often as they accept the gospel promise in true faith,
God, because of what Christ has done,
truly forgives all their sins.

The kingdom of heaven is closed, however,
by proclaiming and publicly declaring
to unbelievers and hypocrites that,
as long as they do not repent,
the anger of God and eternal condemnation
rest on them.

God's judgment, both in this life and in the life to come,
is based on this gospel testimony.^1

^1 Matt. 16:19; John 3:31-36; 20:21-23

Sheer Prejudice against the Christian Faith

Metro/Region - Omaha.com

In my opinion, this is sheer prejudice against the Christian faith. Public schools are places where children learn to read, write, and think. Children are exposed to lots of ideas and lots of worldviews, but it seems that the only worldview no longer allowed to even be heard is the Christian faith. Long ago in the history of our nation, our school primers included catechisms and the day began with prayer.

The irony is that human beings are incurably religious, and if you get rid of the true religion, a false religion will come in to take its place. The false religions of secularism or environmentalism or money or power or paganism come into replace the truth of the true God and his Son. This is the kind of thing that leads to the home school movement in our nation.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The "I Wills" of the Psalms --- Psalm 104:33

Psalm 104:33:

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.

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

Have you ever noticed all of the I wills in the Psalms? It seems like the psalmists again and again make holy resolves with the words, I will.

The use of the first person is very important in our relationship with God. True faith goes beyond mere knowledge about God and his Son to a personal commitment. This personal faith and assurance go beyond a mere understanding of the truth. Notice how in verse 33 the psalmist says, “I will sing praise to my God.” The psalmist has a personal faith that takes hold of the Lord and owns him as my God.

One of the reasons I believe the psalmists use this first person language is to invite us to imitate their faith! When we read the I wills of the Psalms and its first person language, many times, it’s an invitation to follow the psalmists in their faith and holy resolve to follow the Lord.

If you are looking to memorize Scripture and to profit from it, then I urge you to keep an eye out for these I will passages in the psalms. Follow the psalmists, who by true faith receive the Lord, calling him, my Lord and my God. Follow the psalmists in their holy resolutions to live a holy life that praises God. With them, by faith, say, “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.”

Monday, September 13, 2010

This Is My Father's House --- A Meditation on Psalm 104

Psalm 104

Psalm 104 forms a pair with Psalm 103. In both psalms, the psalmist begins and ends with the unusual sentence: “Bless the LORD, O my soul,” urging himself to praise the Lord. In Psalm 103 the praise is directed to the Lord as Redeemer. In Psalm 104 the praise is directed to the Lord as Creator.

One of the things Psalm 104 can do for us is to give us a whole new way of looking at the world around us. Psalm 104 teaches us to view the universe as the house of God (note the building analogies in the opening verses)! As Vern Poythress says, commenting on Psalm 104:2-3, “The whole universe has been created in a manner like constructing a house. God fills it all (Jeremiah 23:24) and in this sense it is His dwelling place.”

All of us live in houses. I grew up in my father’s home, just as you probably did. My parents’ home was a wonderful, secure, loving place. If we are children of God who have been redeemed (Psalm 103), then we should look at this world around us as the home of our heavenly Father. We live in our Father’s house. Think of how such a view of the world around us could change our outlook on life in this world!

Growing up in secular America I imbibed the worldview of our culture. I viewed the universe, not as a house built my heavenly Father, but as place ruled by scientific laws. Everything came into being through the working of blind, evolutionary chance. The universe was impersonal, and made up of food chains that human beings could potentially mess up. There was no God to commune with, and certainly no Father in whose house you were living. If there was a god, he was a force or a power, but not a personal God.

If one asked how all this overwhelming design got here, the answer was evolution. But all evolution really was, was blind chance. Sometimes nature was personified as “mother nature,” but still, in secular thinking there is no such thing as a personal, triune God whose nature is loving because of the eternal relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit. And, most secularists who look for something spiritual try to find it in a mystical oneness that turns the creation into "God" (pantheism).

Not only do I find the account of creation in the Bible true and more compelling than the magic of evolutionary chance, I also find it more satisfying. How wonderful it is to wake up every day in your heavenly Father’s home in a marvelous world that He created and sustains, and that gives thousands upon thousands of reasons for praise because of his majesty (v. 1), wisdom (v. 24), and glory (v. 31).

Last week as I was preparing a Bible study, I came across the fact that the human body has 75,000 miles of blood vessels! The fact was so astounding that my son did not believe me and had to look it up on the internet. He confirmed the fact (give or take a few thousand miles), but then came across an even more amazing one. He found this fact: if our DNA was stretched out and put in a line, that line would go to the moon back and forth 80,000 times!

Dear friends, we are fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who created and sustains the world, which He created as His dwelling place and ours! This house He created with all of its astounding variety, order, and complexity gives us great reason to praise our Maker for his majesty, wisdom, and glory. And, when we consider Psalm 104 in connection with Psalm 103, this marvelous Creator can also be our Father, because His Son has redeemed us from the sin and death that mar this beautiful world that He has made.

Psalm 104 with its building analogy in its opening verses gives us a better, truer way to look at the universe than the myth of evolutionary chance. And, when we combine the truth of Psalm 103 with Psalm 104, our eyes are opened to see the world in a new way, and to live in a new way, namely, for the praise of our Father, who redeemed us by sending His Son and gives us the privilege of living in his house. While it is true that this present earth is marred by sin (v. 35), so that there is need of a new house to be built, we can be assured in Christ that we will dwell in that new house of our Father as children who have been redeemed by the cross of His dear Son. As children who have trusted in God’s Son, with David, we can confidently say, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Ps. 23:6).


Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Hymn about the Key that Opens the Kingdom

The Kingdom of our Lord

To the tune: ST. THOMAS. Based on Lord’s Day 31, Q&A 83-84 of the Heidelberg Catechism (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 88-90). Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
The kingdom of our Lord
is of the highest worth,
and all who do belong to it
have known the heav’nly birth.

v. 2
The preaching of God’s word---
the kingdom’s only key,
that opens wide the kingdom’s door
to all who will believe.

v. 3
The gospel word does tell
of Jesus and His work,
of Him who died and rose again
that we might be His church.

v. 4
How bless’d we are to be
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
His kingdom members just by faith
in Christ our God and Lord.

v. 5
So let us live our lives,
as worthy of our Christ.
His kingdom full of joy and peace,
in Him we find true life.

A Hymn Based on Mark 5:1-20

How Much the Father’s Done for You

To the tune: MINERVA. Based on Mark 5:1-20. Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
How much the Father’s done for you
if you belong to Christ;
forgives your sins and grants good will,
He gives eternal life.
O praise the Lord our Savior, God,
who takes away our sin,
and on the cross our judgment bore,
so we might live with Him.

v. 2
How much the Father’s done for us
as people born in sin,
as members of a fallen race,
our hearts were dead in sin.
But when the Spirit of the Lord
is breathed into a life,
He joins us to our Lord above,
our resurrected Christ.

v. 3
How much the Father’s done for us,
who from our guilt does free,
for sin defiles and makes unclean,
if keeps us far from Thee.
But in Your grace You sent Your Son,
who died upon the tree.
His blood can make the foulest clean,
and cleanses even me.

v. 4
How much the Father’s done for me
in joining me to Christ,
for Jesus is the mighty King,
whose power gives new life.
For sin enslaves and rules the heart
‘til Jesus enters in,
with resurrection life and pow’r,
subdues our hearts to Him.

v. 5
O go and tell your fam’ly, friends,
how much He’s done for you;
how he has saved from death and hell,
our precious Substitute.
O go and tell how He is near,
and how He lives with you.
Invite your friends to taste and see
His promises are true.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Johann Starck on the Holy Spirit

From Starck's Prayer Book:
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. --Psalm 51:10-11

"There is no more necessary and blessed petition than to ask for the Holy Spirit. In this present life we need a guide, a teacher, a comforter. All this, the Holy Spirit is! He guides us into all truth. He teaches us to know Jesus Christ, explaining His teaching to us. He comforts us in every affliction and trouble, and most especially in the hour of death. Everyone should pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit, whether old or young, great or small. Parents should ask for this gift for themselves and their children, since the Holy Spirit is the gift of our inheritance. Whoever does not have the Holy Spirit in the heart in this life cannot hope to be saved in the life to come. And so the most unfortunate people of all are those who do not have the Holy Spirit. They cannot become godly or lead God-pleasing lives. They fall and sin because they do not have the Holy Spirit to guide and govern them. And who can comfort them on their dying bed or cheer them in their last anguish? However when God has given us His Holy Spirit, we must not drive Him away from us by willful sins or an ungodly life. We must pray daily: 'Take not Your Holy Spirit from me!' Those who pray thus are truly in union with God and in a state of grace, as St. Paul testifies: 'For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God' (Romans 8:14)."

Calming the Ultimate, Perfect Storm

Mark 4:35-41 (English Standard Version)

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." 36And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" 39And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" 41And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

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

What an amazing passage this is! Jesus stills the wind and the waves with a mere word! The disciples were in the process of learning that Jesus is the God-man, the eternal Son of the Father, sent into the world for the salvation of sinners, whose sin had estranged them from a good and loving God.

But sinners still question the goodness and love of God. That’s the import of the disciples’ question in verse 38, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"

In this passage the Lord wants to teach us that He does care for his people, and therefore, we can trust Him with our lives.

Let’s think about the question of the disciples once again. "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"

The disciples ask this of Jesus Christ, whom the Father sent into the world for our salvation. The disciples direct this question to the One Mark has described as the Son of God, the Lord who is coming, the One so worthy that not even the greatest prophet is qualified to take off his sandals, the One who gives the Holy Spirit to whom He will. It is to this eternal One, this worthy One, this Divine One, that the disciples ask, “Don’t you care?”

It’s an odd question, don’t you think, coming from sinners? It’s an odd question, isn’t it, coming from Adam’s fallen race?

The human race declared its independence from God in the garden. The human race said in the garden, No longer will we listen to you, Lord. From now on we will be our own lords---we will be our own gods. We will determine for ourselves what is right and wrong. No longer will your Word guide our lives.

It’s an odd question that sinners pose of God in human flesh, when they ask, “Don’t you care that we are perishing?”

It seems to me that the Lord is very patient in even hearing such a question from a rebellious human race! Would the Lord not be justified in saying, “It is not that I don’t care. The problem is that you don’t care! The real problem is that sinners no longer care and love their Creator. The problem is that sinners have gone their own way, and want nothing to do with the God who created them in love, and for fellowship with Him.

How about you and me? Do we love the Lord our God who made us and knit us together in our mother’s wombs with intricate care and wisdom and love. Do you love the Lord, your Maker and Redeemer?

But does this passage teach us that the Lord cares? Yes, it does. For the Lord responds to their question by stilling the storm. The Lord shows His great love for his disciples by calming the wind and the waves that were threatening their lives.

But may I suggest to you that our Lord’s calming of this storm that threatened the disciples with death, is a mere picture of a much larger storm that Jesus stilled at the cross. You see, storms in Scripture are pictures of God’s coming in judgment. But the greatest storm of all comes at the last judgment when we all will stand before our Maker, our King, our Judge. And that day of judgment will be a storm that sweeps sinners away unto an everlasting judgment, unless they turn to the One who can calm that ultimate, perfect storm.

On the cross, Jesus stilled the storm of God’s just judgment against sinners. On the cross, Jesus bore all of the righteous wrath we deserved because of our rebellion against God. On the cross, all of our sin and lack of reverence and trust and love for God was placed on Jesus Christ, the God-man. And that God-man, Jesus Christ, stilled the storm of God righteous judgment against us.

And now, the Lord comes to you and me right now, and He says, You can be free from condemnation. The wages of sin is death. Our sin deserves not only death, but the second death of hell. But you can be freed from that condemnation---you can be freed from that death---you can be freed from hell, because my Son bore the judgment of hell for you, in your place.

God himself is speaking to you and me and pleading for us to save ourselves from the storm that is coming. He sent His Son to save us from that storm. Won’t you place your trust in the God who sent His Son in love to save you from your sin and the stormy judgment it deserves?

Dear friends, if the cross of Jesus Christ does not show us the goodness of God, then what does?! God himself took to Himself our human nature, and went in that nature to bear our judgment. And now, if we place our trust in Jesus as the Christ and God’s Son, then the storm has been stilled. We now have peace with God. There is now therefore, no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

How thankful we can now be if we belong to Jesus through faith, that the storm is past. Our sins are all forgiven. God’s righteous wrath has been satisfied and stilled through the cross of His beloved Son. Come to Him. Trust Him, and be at peace. Amen.



Thursday, September 2, 2010

Psalm 103:2-3 and the Battle Against Our Sin

I’m just going to comment on a two verses of Psalm 103 before turning to 104 next time:

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases . . .

We see a connection between sin and disease in verse 3, where iniquity is in synonymous parallelism with diseases. What is the connection between sin and disease?

One connection is this: Disease is in the world because of sin. If there was no sin, then there would be no disease.

One thing we can learn from this is to hate sin. When we look at disease, in a certain sense, we are looking at sin. Just as looking at the cross shows us the true nature of our self-will and sin, so to a lesser degree, looking at the ravages of a disease can also show us the heinousness of our sin.

Another thing we can learn as we consider the connection between sin and disease is that we live in an already, but not yet situation. Already, the Lord has forgiven all our sin. The Lord’s forgiveness is comprehensive. He doesn’t forgive some sins, but not forgive others. The good news in Christ is that all of our sins are forgiven.

The Lord also heals all our diseases. Every disease that has ever been healed, from our colds, to our flues, to our cancers, is a disease the Lord has healed.

And yet, we all die. There will be a disease that gets us. There will be a disease or diseases that cause our deaths. So is it true, that the Lord heals all our diseases?

Yes, for the believer who fears the Lord Jesus Christ, yes indeed, the Lord heals all our diseases, but the final healing will come when we see Jesus Christ and enjoy new resurrected bodies. Then we will be entirely healed of all our diseases.

The same situation holds true with regard to our sins. Yes, we are completely forgiven of all our sins now. We already are justified, which is the righteous declaration of the last day given already to those who believe.

But the presence of sin still plagues us. We still are dogged by outbreaks of sin and self-will. These outbreaks of sin produce new fits of guilt, and sometimes a lack of assurance. We are not yet completely free of the power of sin. Jesus taught us that though we have been washed completely through our regeneration, yet he also taught us that we still need to wash our feet each day---that we need daily forgiveness from God just as much as we need daily bread.

Until we die and enter glory, our sinful nature remains. The presence and power of sin plagues us, and even guilt and a lack of assurance is often our situation because of the sin and unbelief in our lives as believers. Is it any wonder that even an apostle said of himself, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).

How, then, should we live as people who are forgiven, but who still struggle with the enemy within, namely, our own sin and self-will? There are no easy answers. There are no quick fixes. Sin is far more powerful and deceitful an enemy than we realize. The truth is we are in a war with the enemy of sin, and that enemy never takes a day off.

I think this section of the Book of Common Prayer is appropriate as we contemplate the battle against sin. You will notice that the answer lies in living by the Word of God, union with Jesus in his death and resurrection, faith in the Lord and his saving work and his life-giving Word, the indwelling and life-giving Spirit, the near presence of God and fellowship with the Father and the Son, fellowship with believers, sharing in God’s mission to the world, and prayer. Here is that section:

Question Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces
of wickedness that rebel against God?
Answer I renounce them.

Question Do you renounce the evil powers of this world
which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Answer I renounce them.

Question Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you
from the love of God?
Answer I renounce them.

Question Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your
Savior?
Answer I do.

Question Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
Answer I do.


Question Do you promise to follow and obey him as your
Lord?
Answer I do.

The Baptismal Covenant

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.

Celebrant Will you strive for justice and peace among all
people, and respect the dignity of every human
being?
People I will, with God’s help.

Prayers for the Candidates

The Celebrant then says to the congregation
Let us now pray for these persons who are to receive the
Sacrament of new birth [and for those (this person) who
have renewed their commitment to Christ.]

Leader Deliver them, O Lord, from the way of sin and
death.
People Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader Open their hearts to your grace and truth.
People Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader Fill them with your holy and life-giving Spirit.
People Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader Keep them in the faith and communion of your holy
Church.
People Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader Teach them to love others in the power of the Spirit.
People Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader Send them into the world in witness to your love.
People Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader Bring them to the fullness of your peace and glory.
People Lord, hear our prayer.

The Celebrant says
Grant, O Lord, that all who are baptized into the death
of Jesus Christ your Son may live in the power of his
resurrection and look for him to come again in glory; who
lives and reigns now and for ever. Amen.

The Lord be with you.
People And also with you.

Celebrant Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People It is right to give him thanks and praise.




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