Friday, July 29, 2011

The Necessity of Mourning

Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."  I wonder how many Christians in our country are regularly mourning over sin.  The culture we live in takes sin and ultimate issues very lightly, and for this reason Christians need to live counterculturally, especially with regard to the seriousness of sin, especially our own sin.

Jesus is not issuing a suggestion when he tells us that those who mourn are blessed.  Rather, he is conveying reality to us from God's point of view.  Mourning over our sin must be a regular part of our lives until we enter into the age to come.  If we don't mourn over our sin, can we really expect to receive gospel comfort?

Leon Morris writes, ". . . typically the worldly take a lighthearted attitude to the serious issues of life, a fact that is very evident in our modern pleasure-loving generation.  In their seeking after self-gratification and pleasure they do not grieve over sin or evil.  Because they do not grieve over what is wrong in themselves, they do not repent."

There is much more to this verse than grieving over our own sin.  We should also grieve over the the wrong values of this world---a world that radically undervalues God's Word, and God's incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.  But it seems to me a good start is to begin with ourselves, and then move outward to others in prayer.  All of this implies a need to spend time daily in the meditation upon Scripture.  We do not mourn over sin because we do not see ourselves or our world as our heavenly Father sees it. – Reparative Therapy, Homosexuality, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ – Reparative Therapy, Homosexuality, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Mohler faithfully sets out the biblical teaching about homosexuality.  If we understand sin at a deep level, we will understand that all of us are involved in a desperate struggle with sin that only justification by faith alone, God's patience, and the indwelling Spirit can overcome.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Persecution of a Pastor and the Christian Church in China

Jesus said, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you." Sadly, most churches in America are so much like the world and so compromised that they are not worthy of persecution, like the church in China. There is little to persecute or attack if you compromise the apostolic message.

Another attack upon Sydney Anglicanism : Anglican Church League, Sydney, Australia

Another attack upon Sydney Anglicanism : Anglican Church League, Sydney, Australia

Jesus sums up this article: "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hymn Based on Luke 4:1-13 --- The Two Adams

This hymn continues the contrast between Adam and the second Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is significant that the genealogy that ends with the mention of “Adam, the son of God,” is followed by the temptation of Jesus. A parallel is being drawn between Adam’s temptation and fall, and Jesus’ temptation and victory.

Some notes on the hymn:

Verse one contrasts the place of temptation. Adam was tempted in a beautiful temple garden. He was to guard the temple garden and serve God as a priest. The notion that Adam was a farmer is erroneous, for the two words used to describe Adam’s calling in Genesis 2:15 are later used in Scripture to describe the ministry of the priests in the temple. Because Adam did not guard the temple, and because he believed the lie of the tempter, he was cast out of beautiful garden temple into the barren desert. This is why Jesus had to be tempted in the desert, so that we might return to God’s presence.

Verse two speaks of the holy war Jesus fought against the devil. He defeated the devil by trusting his Father’s word. Just as in the garden the devil’s scheme involved distrust of God’s Word, so the devil tried to get Jesus to distrust the Father's word. But Jesus trusted his Father, and three times he answered Satan with the words, “It is written.” It is no wonder that Christianity is in trouble in America when we consider the widespread unbelief of the Bible as God’s infallible Word in mainline churches and seminaries! If the Son of God could trust the Old Testament Scriptures, then so should his people.

Verse 3 continues the Adam/new Adam contrast. Verse 4 is an appeal to come to the Father by believing the Son he sent for our salvation. Sin and unbelief is at the root of all human misery. We were created to live in the Father’s blessed presence---in perfect fellowship with the Father and Son by the Spirit. Sin truly is a desert for it separates us from the source of all blessing. How much better it is to live in a garden than a desert! Thankfully, Jesus Christ, our new Adam has opened the way for us to return to the Father (and stay with the Father) whom Adam left. Verse 4 invites us to come to the Father through the Son, for Jesus is the only way to the Father. Unbelief keeps us in Adam, but faith joins us to the new Adam and to his Father in heaven.

Adam Was Tempted in a Temple Garden

To the tune: HERZLIEBSTER JESU (click on Father, Most Holy, Merciful 240). Based on Luke 4:1-13. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
Adam was tempted in a temple garden,
losing the battle, from God’s presence driven.
Now in a desert, comes the Second Adam,
trusting what’s written.

v. 2
Jesus had come to bring back to His Father,
Adam’s race fallen, Jesus came to gather.
So with the devil, holy warfare entered,
praise Christ our Warrior.

v. 3
Adam had fallen, ate the tree forbidden,
evil accepted, from the garden driven.
But to the devil, Jesus would not hearken,
saved all God’s children.

v. 4
Come to the Father through the Son He sent us,
sin is a desert, far from God’s blessed presence.
Christ the new Adam opens heaven to us,
praise our Lord Jesus.

Hymn Based on Luke 3:23-38---Jesus Christ, the New Adam

Luke 3:23-38 gives us the genealogy of Jesus Christ based on Mary’s ancestry, rather than Joseph’s. The unusual way that Joseph is referred to and the differences between this genealogy of Jesus and the one found in Matthew, point to Mary’s line, which was also royal leading back to David. Interestingly, confirmation of this comes from a Jewish document that lists Heli as the father of Mary (see v.23).

What is interesting about Luke's genealogy is that it takes us all the way back to Adam, whom Luke calls the son of God. Adam was created in the image of God as a son, but through his disobedience he lost his sonship and the image of God was effaced. No longer could Adam fulfill his God-given purpose of spreading God’s image throughout the earth, for all his descendants now bore his sinful image. A second Adam was needed to fulfill the Father’s purpose for human beings. Jesus Christ is the new or second Adam, the son of man and the Son of God.

Verse 1 contrasts Adam’s failure and the new Adam’s success. Jesus’ mission was a success, for he brings his people who believe in his name into God’s presence---within the veil (remember how the veil of the temple was torn at the time of Christ’s death, signifying that access to the Father through the Son was now available).

Verse 2 contrasts Adam’s sin and Christ’s obedience. Adam sought equality with God through eating to the tree of the knowledge and good and evil. But Jesus, even though he was equal with God, did not grasp this equality, but humbled himself even to the point of death. Living by the Word of God, he resisted evil even to the point of shedding his blood. It is interesting to note how in Eastern religions both good and evil are embraced within the circle of life, for all is one. But in biblical religion, sin and evil are judged, not accepted.

Verses 3 and 4 continue the contrast of the first and second Adams. The first Adam was created to be a prophet, priest and king to God, but he failed through his distrust of God’s Word. Jesus came as our prophet, priest and king, par excellence! As our prophet he teaches us the way to God. As our priest, he offered himself to the Father, giving his life for his sinful people. As our king he rules heaven and earth as resurrected Lord, and by his power and Spirit restores us to God’s image.

Verse 5 teaches us that Eve is the type of Jesus’ church. Just as Adam was given a helpmate, so Jesus is given a people. While we must be careful to remember the church’s absolute dependence on the power of Christ (“apart from Me you can do nothing” --- John 15:5), the church does have a role of teaching and discipling in obedience to, and dependence on our heavenly husband, Jesus Christ.

Second Adam, Jesus Christ

To the tune: SPANISH CHANT (click on Savior, When in Dust to Thee 166). Based on Luke 3:23-38. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
Second Adam, Jesus Christ,
came to give eternal life.
Adam failed to keep the law,
Satan’s tempting brought his fall.
Fallen now was Adam’s race,
mired in sin, in need of grace.
Christ succeeds where Adam fails,
brings His own within the veil.

v. 2
Adam sought equality
with the Father, God the King.
Good and evil he embraced,
so God’s image was effaced.
Then the Son eternal came,
shunning evil, He obeyed.
Jesus in humility,
did not seek equality.

v. 3
Adam made to praise God’s name,
through the earth to spread His fame.
Adam, prophet, priest and king,
to his Father meant to cling.
But he went his selfish way,
from his Father he did stray.
His descendants now like him,
far from God and dead in sin.

v. 4
But the Father sent in grace,
His Beloved for our race.
Jesus, Prophet, Priest and King,
to His Father He did cling.
He brought glory to God’s name,
bore our sins and bore our shame.
Died for us and then was raised,
give to Him the highest praise!

v. 5
Eve the picture of the church;
spread Christ’s glory through the earth!
The new Adam’s help and bride;
make disciples far and wide.
He’s your Lord, His Word obey,
teach the nations all His ways,
ask for fruit that will abide,
that His name be glorified.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hymn Lyrics for Luke 3:15-22---He is Worthy!

True Christianity involves history and doctrine, plus experience. History is involved because the Son entered into history. Jesus was conceived in the virgin’s womb, born in Bethlehem, announced by John, revealed the Father to his apostles during a three year ministry, died on the cross, was buried, and on the third day was raised. Doctrine is involved because Jesus explained the meaning and significance of all he did to his apostles. This apostolic testimony of the history and doctrine of Jesus has been given to us in the New Testament, and we are blessed if we believe it. Speaking to Thomas, Jesus pronounces a beatitude on all who believe the apostles’ witness to himself: "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
In these hymns based on the Gospels, I try to anchor our experience in the history and doctrine we are given in the Gospels. For if we divorce experience of Christ from the apostolic witness to the history and significance of Jesus, we end up with sheer mysticism---a mysticism no different from the mysticism practiced in other religions. This has been the mistake of the Liberal theology of mainline churches, which have rejected the apostolic witness to Jesus. We can trust the history the apostles give us in the Gospels and we can trust the meaning and significance (theology) the apostles give us as well, for they were reliable eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

Verse 1 is an attempt to root the praise (experience) in the history (John’s announcement) of Jesus. John recognized the supreme worth of Jesus Christ. So worthy is Jesus that John, who was the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, was not fit to serve Jesus even in the most menial way.

Verse 2 recognizes the impotence of John’s baptism compared to Christ’s. John’s baptism could not change the heart, but Jesus baptizes with the Spirit, and the Spirit can unite us to Jesus Christ, our life in heaven.

But in order to enter into heaven by faith, the obstacle of sin must be removed. But this is the very thing Jesus came to do. Jesus’ baptism showed his willingness to identify with sinners and take their place at the cross. Though Jesus had no need to be baptized, for he was sinless, he was willing to take our sin upon himself. This is the emphasis of verse 3.

Verse 4 emphasizes the wonderful truth that heaven is now open to us. Matthew Henry writes, “He that by his power parted the waters, to make a way through them to Canaan, now by his power parted the air, another fluid element, to open a correspondence with the heavenly Canaan. Thus was there opened to Christ, and by him to us, a new and living way into the holiest. . . .” Heaven has been torn open, so that fellowship with the Father and the Son is now the privilege of the believer. The Spirit, who can dwell both in our hearts and heaven, lifts us up to Jesus Christ, so that we might become partakers of his love and life.

Verses 5 and 6 show us that the words of the Father at Jesus’ baptism have an important application to us too, if we believe in Christ. Just as the Father expressed his approval of and love for his Son, so we too can experience that approval and love if we have welcomed Jesus Christ into our lives. Thus, what Jesus did in history, he also did for us on our behalf (doctrine), and that history and doctrine lead to the experience of the Father’s approval and love as we commune with the Father and the Son in an opened heaven.

Worthy of Eternal Praise

To the tune: REDHEAD 76 Go To Dark Gethsemane. Based on Luke 3:15-22. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
Worthy of eternal praise,
Son of God from endless days.
King of heaven, Son most wise,
Son whom all the angels prize.
John unworthy to untie,
sandals of our Lord and Christ.

v. 2
John with water did baptize,
could not give eternal life.
But our Lord the Spirit gives,
whom to heaven hearts can lift.
Jesus raised on the third day,
so that with Him we may stay.

v. 3
Spotless Lamb who came to die,
to forgive and justify.
With us He identified,
bore our sins a sacrifice.
God eternal took our place,
praise Him for amazing grace.

v. 4
Jesus opened heaven wide,
on the cross He was baptized.
Sin imputed to our Lord,
for our sake His blood was poured.
Spirit lifts by faith to Christ,
now we share His love and life.

v. 5
God the Father testified
to His Son our Lord and Christ.
With His Son the Father pleased,
and His Son can give us peace.
Jesus Christ beloved Son,
Father’s Gift to whom we come.

v. 6
Father, how we long to know,
as Your children here below,
Your approval and Your love,
granted to us in Your Son.
All who in Your Son believe,
cause to know that You are pleased.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Elusive Christ

Great quote from what is proving to be a great book entitled, Hearing the Spirit, by Christopher Ash.  After showing us the "elusive Christ" in John's Gospel, Ash summarizes the Gospel's teaching on this theme:

"Consistently, Jesus is in control.  He appears when and where He chooses, and He hides Himself whenever He chooses.  You cannot find Jesus; He finds you.  You cannot identify Jesus; He reveals Himself;  You cannot understand Jesus; He explains Himself.  This is deeply humbling.  At the conclusion of the healing of the man born blind, we read:
"Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”  Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”  Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains" (John 9:39-41). 

" . . . Claiming to see is the big mistake the Pharisees made.  If I think I am in control, that I can see, then I will utterly miss Jesus Christ.  Only those who confess their blindness, acknowledge their darkness, and cry out for sight have any hope.  The sad general picture in John 1-12 is that men and women think they 'see' and are therefore deeply blind to Jesus and therefore do not see the Father."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thoughts on Music in the Church

Allen P. Ross has written an excellent book on worship in the Bible.  He begins in Genesis and works his way through to Revelation.  I want to work through one of his paragraphs dealing with what we sing in church.  I will intersperse my comments about the paragraph at various points.

He begins:
"Even though churches have hymns and songs as a regular part of their services, praise through music needs constant if not urgent attention.  Music must meet the same requirements as other forms of praise: it is to be biblically accurate, spiritually uplifting, honoring to God, and edifying for the congregation."
First, I think it is important to see that the hymns and songs we sing are actually part of the service of the word.  Just because the words are sung, does not put the songs we sing into a special compartment where we are allowed a pass from biblical accuracy or faithfulness!  The words of our hymns and spiritual songs are sometimes God's words to us, sometimes our words to him and sometimes our words to one another.  The lyrics can function as praise, prayer, exhortation, proclamation, confession, or encouragement.  The musical accompaniment does not change the fact that our singing is a ministry of the Word.  Therefore, it needs to be biblically accurate and faithful.

The word music complicates our discussion of this part of the liturgy.  Sometimes when people use the word, they are referring to the musical sound.  But sometimes they use the word music to refer to the lyrics of the hymns and spiritual songs we sing.  This is probably how Ross is using the word music in the second sentence, although he may be referring to both the sound and the words.  The value of both the music and the poetry is to enhance our praise and worship of the triune God, who deserves our highest praise.

Ross continues:
"The music is supposed to lift the worshippers out of their mundane experience, focus their attention on Christ, and transport their spirits to realms of glory.  But if the music draws attention to the musicians rather than the Lord, centers on human experience instead of divine acts, mimics the style of entertainment that the world offers, or becomes routine and predictable so that the mind and soul are not engaged, then it fails to be an effective means of praising God."
Ross hits on a theme here that we rarely consider.  Just as God's Word teaches us that faith overcomes the world (1 John 5:4), so faith overcomes the worship of the world.  The goal in our worship is not to imitate the world, but to enter into a different world!  The Spirit lifts our hearts to heaven so that we worship by faith around the throne of Jesus Christ and through his shed blood.  For that reason, the church has its own culture.  Our music does not have to sound like the world's music.  In fact, it is better if it does not.

Ross hits a homerun when he urges songs that center on the Lord and his divine acts and not our own experience.  So much of contemporary "Christian" musical lyrics are individualistic and subjective.  It focuses more on our experience than it does on our glorious Lord.  Instead of helping us to see the glory of the Lord in his works of salvation and judgment, we sing about ourselves.  Instead of lifting us to Christ in heaven, the songs we sing are earthbound, as much about us as they are about our Lord.  It is a sickening trend.

The words we are singing today are way more individualistic than the hymns of the past.  It is almost as though we have forgotten the words Jesus taught us to say, which are communal, not individualistic:
"Our Father, who are in heaven . . . Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. . . ."
By the frequent use of me, my, and I, in public worship, we run the risk of turning the congregation into liars.  There is a certain safety in using plural pronouns.  It's part of the reason that catechisms were generally not written in the first person singular (for example the Westminster Shorter Catechism contains 39 Q&As with first person plural pronouns (we, us, our) and zero first person singular pronouns (I, me, my), and the Heidelberg Catechism which is a much more personal catechism  still contains a majority of "we" language: 37 Q&As with first person singular pronouns and 64 Q&As with first person plural pronouns).  Hughes Old has pointed out that almost all of the hymns of praise in the Psalter use first person plural pronouns.  Obviously there needs to be a place for individual praise and thanksgiving in our worship services, just as there was a place for individual sacrifices in the Old Testament.  But I wonder if our hymnody is the place for such individualism.  Maybe what we need to do is make space in our services for individual praise in a structured way, something Ross suggests in another part of his book.

Ross, then says:
"The desire today to be casual, informal, and relevant has in many cases made the music of praise shallow and superficial, which, unfortunately, goes hand-in-hand with the already weakened knowledge of biblical theology in the church."
Sadly, so many churches today have made it their goal in worship to be like the world!  Our churches aim at making the service feel like a concert!  What a misguided aim this is, when worship is about the Spirit lifting us up out of the world to our Lord Jesus Christ in heaven.  If ever there was a time not to be like the world, worship is that time!  Jesus warns us, "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness" (Mat. 6:22-23).  If we don't aim at the glory of God and pleasing Him in our worship, then our worship will be dark and worldly.  We won't overcome the kind of worship practiced in the world.

The goal of evangelism is the ostensible reason for the concert, performance feel of our worship services today.  But evangelism is not the goal of worship.  Evangelism can be a by product of the preaching of the Word in a worship service, but it still too small a goal for our worship services.  The goal is to see the glory of Jesus Christ and commune with him through word and sacrament.  The eye that aims to be like the world brings darkness to the entire worship service, and evangelism cannot be used to justify that darkness.

Finally, Ross concludes his paragraph:
"Our congregations must be guided in the use of music in worship by properly trained spiritual leaders who can develop the theology of music and use it in the organization of services." 
Pastors and elders have relinquished their duty and given musicians the task of choosing our hymns, psalms, and songs.  Unfortunately musicians should not be given the task of supervising the liturgy, which is a word ministry.  Our pastors and elders, our seminaries and theologians, have dropped the ball, and we are singing songs that are individualistic; songs about our experience rather than the Lord; and sometimes songs that are flat-out false.  We are not singing the faith once delivered for all.  Our singing often has much more in common with our culture's narcissism than with the revelation we find in the Word of our triune God, who created and redeemed us to the praise of his glory.

Ross has written a great book, but it hasn't received much of a reception in the Evangelical and Reformed world.  It should.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Basic Apologetics: How can Jesus be the only way? - White Horse Inn Blog

Basic Apologetics: How can Jesus be the only way? - White Horse Inn Blog

Hymn Lyrics for Luke 3:1-14---A Right Response to the King

John the Baptist’s message was essentially this: the King is coming, and you must get ready for his coming by repentance. This is the theme of the hymn below.

Verses one and two are a brief summary of John’s message. The King is coming, therefore, repentance is vital. But some were undergoing John’s baptism with no intention of turning away from their sins. These hypocrites wanted to be saved from God’s wrath without changing their ways. John warned them this was impossible and spoke to them forthrightly about God's wrath.

To John’s message of repentance, the Christian message adds the vital element of turning to Jesus for salvation and life. The only way to avoid hypocrisy and bear fruit pleasing to the Father is to turn to his beloved Son. Fruit is borne in our lives when we abide in Jesus Christ, the Vine, and this is the teaching of verse 3.

Verses 4-6 are based on the three examples of repentance in daily life John gives the people in Luke 3:10-14. The habits of the old nature must be replaced by the habits of our new nature in Christ. Stinginess must be replaced with generosity; greed with worship, and dishonest gain with the true gain of knowing Jesus Christ. The replacement of greed with worship is based on Colossians 3:5 where God equates greed or covetousness with idolatry. The last verse concludes with praise to Jesus and prayer to him for a repentant, believing heart.

Christ the Lord is Coming, John Proclaimed, Announced

To the tune: WEM IN LEIDENSTAGEN (click on Glory Be to Jesus 158). Based on Luke 3:1-14. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
Christ the Lord is coming,
John proclaimed, announced:
soon the King is coming,
sin must be renounced.

v. 2
Sin must be forsaken,
lives must bear their fruit.
Hypocrites who bear not,
cut off at the root.

v. 3
Find your life in Jesus,
in the Righteous Vine.
Let your soul lean on Him,
near His heart recline.

v. 4
Let the stingy share with
those who do not have.
Live in Christ the Righteous,
not as wicked chaff.

v. 5
Let the greedy worship,
Jesus Christ the King.
Find contentment in Him,
not in worthless things.

v. 6
Let the false, dishonest,
turn away from gain.
Seek the Lamb who suffered,
who in heaven reigns.

v. 7
Praise to You, O Jesus,
whom the Father sent.
By Your Spirit grant us,
to believe, repent.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hymn Lyrics for Luke 2:40-52 and Singing the Word of God

More and more I am convinced of the value of combining the reading of God's Word and singing an interpretive summary of the same Word we have read. This, for example, is the function of the songs that we find in both Isaiah and Revelation. The hymns in these books serve as an interpretive summary of the preceding sections.  As G. K. Beale says in his commentary on Revelation:
"Carnegie has offered a most interesting study on the function of hymns in the Old Testament and their reuse in Revelation.  He shows that the various songs in Isaiah 40-55 come at the ends of subsections and round them off, not only by offering a concluding thanksgiving, but also by giving an interpretive summary of the theme of the whole previous section (cf. Is. 48:2ff.; 52:9, etc.).  The series of hymns in Revelation are seen to have the same function under the inspiration of the Isaianic songs (Rev. 4:11; 5:13ff.; 7:9-12; 11:15-18; 19:1-8)."
Now, granted, the hymns below are not inspired like the hymns in Revelation and Isaiah! But neither are the sermons we listen to inspired, and yet the Reformation believed that faithful sermons were not just about God's Word, but were God's Word to us! Reformation teaching believed that not just the minister, but every Christian could speak the word of God to one another as it says in 1 Peter 4:10-11: ". . . serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God." So the question about the lyrics we sing, just as it is the question for the sermons we hear, is this: Are the words faithful to the text? If they are, then we can sing the words of faithful hymns as the very "oracles of God," just as the Reformation taught.

This hymn focuses on Jesus’ words, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Some English versions translate this as “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” In the original Greek, a literal translation would read, “Did you not know I must be in the things of my Father?” Together, both English translations capture the original’s sense that Jesus always lived in close union and communion with his Father and was always doing his Father’s will.

Luke 2:40-52 brings us face to face with two mysteries: the incarnation and the trinity. When we see Jesus as a boy learning in the temple we are looking at his true human nature. But when Jesus speaks to Mary and Joseph, using the words, “my Father,” we are looking at his unique relationship to the Father as the eternal Son of God who assumed our nature, not just bodily, but intellectually, emotionally, and volitionally.

We will never be the eternal Son of God, but when we receive Christ by faith and welcome him into our hearts and lives, we do receive adoption into the Father’s family. We too become sons of God, not in the sense that we become divine, but with full access to the heavenly Father to live with him in his heavenly house and to be about his business. Jesus Christ has opened heaven to us. The sin that separated us from God has been done away with through Christ’s broken body and shed blood. Intimate, heavenly fellowship with the Father and Son is now open to us. We can live our lives in such a way that we are involved in our Father’s business. With our Lord Jesus we too can learn to “be in the things of [our] Father.”

Jesus Fully God and Man

To the tune: NUN KOMM DER HEIDEN HEILAND (click on Savior of the Nations Come 95). Based on Luke 2:40-52. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
Jesus fully God and man,
came to do the Father’s plan;
came to bring us back to God,
by His cross and precious blood.

v. 2
In our nature free from spot,
wisdom as a boy He sought,
though from all eternity,
member of the trinity.

v. 3
Joseph, Mary looked for Him,
holy Son who never sinned,
Did not know where He must be,
nor the holy Mystery.

v. 4
In the Father He must be,
at His business willingly.
In His Father found delight,
always living near His side.

v. 5
Blessed are those in Jesus Christ,
faith the hand that makes Him mine.
To His Father, mighty, strong,
Christians priv’leged to belong.

v. 6
Jesus’ soul was satisfied,
near His Father to abide.
Spirit, lift my earthbound heart,
Jesus’ life to me impart.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hymn Lyrics for Luke 2:21-39---The Great Divide of All People

Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Luke 2:21-24 emphasize how Jesus was born under the law and was consecrated to God for the purpose of obeying that law, as were all the first-born males of Israel. But unlike the rest of Israel, Jesus kept God’s law perfectly, fulfilling all righteousness. This righteousness is imputed to those who come to him by faith. Thus, it is not just the death of Jesus that saves us, but also his perfect obedience to the Father all his life. He is the second Adam and the true Israel, and through his righteousness we are justified, i.e., declared righteous in God’s sight.

The first two verses of the hymn focus on Jesus’ active obedience for our justification. Verse 3 focuses on Simeon’s words in verses 30-32. The salvation Jesus accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection was not just for Israel, but also for the whole world.  Simeon was privileged to announce this world-wide salvation. But this salvation Jesus accomplished must be received and accepted. Simeon’s words to Mary in Luke 2:34-35 point to Jesus as the divider of the human race. Those who receive Jesus by faith find in him salvation and eternal life. But apart from him, human beings remain in their sin and under God’s judgment. Verse 5 of the hymn points to the reality of the conflict between the seed of the woman and the serpent---a conflict that continues to play out as men either receive or reject God’s Son. Jesus is still a sign that is everywhere opposed, and that opposition itself reveals the sinfulness of the human heart opposed to God and his beloved Son.

Jesus, Glory of His People

To the tune: NEANDER. Based on Luke 2:21-39. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
Jesus, glory of His people,
worthy of our rev’rent awe.
Circumcised the Son of David,
born in Israel under law.
Adam failed the law to keep,
Jesus kept it for His sheep.

v. 2
Second Adam, our law keeper,
righteousness He earned for us.
Doing all the law commanded,
holiness imputes to us.
From our sin He justifies,
all our merit found in Christ.

v. 3
Jesus light of all the nations,
died for sins and then was raised.
Curse of broken law upon us,
wrath of God upon us weighed.
Jesus bore our death and hell,
righteous wrath of God to quell.

v. 4
Great Divide of ev’ry person,
Christ the Judge of ev’ry man.
Some receive Him for salvation,
some refuse salvation’s plan.
Only one way unto life,
just one Savior, Jesus Christ.

v. 5
Men oppose and speak against Him,
hearts revealing spite and hate.
For they hate the Son beloved,
and their father imitate.
But the Son is on His throne,
He protects us as His own.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Review of the Book "Humilitas" by John Dickson

I just finished John Dickson's book entitled Humilitas.  Although Dickson is a good writer, this book was disappointing for a number of reasons.  It didn't get to the essence of humility, in my opinion.  The problems begin with his definition of humility:
"Humility is the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself.  More simply, you could say the humble person is marked by a willingness to hold power in the service of others."
The main problem with this definition is that it is horizontal and not vertical.  From a Christian standpoint, I don't see how one can define humility apart from Jesus Christ and our relationship with the God who created us.

Another problem with his definition is the assumption that one has to "hold power" in order to be humble or "forgo status."  This may explain why so many of his examples of humility throughout the book are examples from the rich and famous---CEOs and world leaders.  His definition of humility requires you to have status or power in order to exercise humility.  Dickson might argue that all human beings have status as creatures made in the image of God, but I don't think this gets around the problem.

For example, what status did Mary have as a young peasant girl in Palestine when the angel addressed her with the news that she would bear God's Son without the aid of a husband?  She had no status, but her humility in receiving the promise of God through the angel was great.  The example of Mary shows the faultiness of a definition that does not reckon with our Creator and Redeemer.

Two good things about the book were Dickson's explanation of "competency extrapolation" and  "epistemic humility."  Competency extrapolation is the tendency we have as human beings to believe that because we are an expert in one field, we are, therefore, an expert in every field.  Dickson rightly points to our need for humility in areas where we don't know much.

Epistemic humility is a false humility that is too modest to take a stand for truth.  Dickson explains:
"The argument for epistemic humility---runs something like this: observing diversity of beliefs ought to make me reflect on why I believe what I do; such reflection can reveal weakness in the justification for my beliefs or a realization that my reasons for belief are no better than someone else's; all of this leads me to hold my views tentatively and so be tolerant to all other viewpoints."
Dickson goes on to show that this sort of relativism will not do.  All beliefs are not all equally true, despite the Hindu notion (widely accepted in American culture) that all paths lead to one truth.  At this point, Dickson brings in this great quote from G. K. Chesterton.
"What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself but undoubting about the truth. This has been exactly reversed . . . We are on the road of producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table."
Dickson, then, rightly says, "When I talk about humility applied to conviction, I do not mean believing things less.  I am advocating that we hold our convictions firmly but do so with a soft heart toward those who hold contrary convictions."  From a Christian standpoint, I think Dickson is on pretty solid ground here.  We are to hold to the truth God has revealed to us in his Word without compromise, but we must put on the compassion of Christ toward the lost, without a denial of their lostness.

One problem, however, arises at this point.  It seems to me that Dickson has fallen into a certain view of human nature that is naive and ignores Jesus' teaching.  For example he would appear to urge "humble Buddhists," "humble liberal(s)," and other non-Christians to disagree with Christians "without descending into name-calling, smugness and public bully tactics." 

First, it is a question whether anyone can truly be called humble if they have rejected their Creator and the Son he sent for their salvation!  But, even if we grant that non-Christians can do humble things (what the Reformers called civic good), Dickson seems to forget this basic truth about the non-Christian heart, from the lips of Jesus: "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him" (John 8:44).  Or, again, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:18-19). 

We are naive if we believe non-Christians are ever going to love Christians!  This doesn't mean that we should give non-Christians reason to hate us by bad behavior.  But we should realize that the children of the serpent are never going to love the children of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus came to expose hearts via his cross.  As Simeon prophesied of Jesus, so it is even today: "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed . . . so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34-35).  The unbelieving world is opposed to Jesus and his cross, and just as it opposes Jesus, so it will oppose Jesus' people.  The hatred of the devil is transmitted to those who belong to the devil.  This is a reality Christians must reckon with.

Dickson is right to counsel us to have a soft heart toward non-Christians who are trapped in the net of Satan.  But let us not expect good treatment from those so trapped!  Serpents beget serpents, therefore, as Romans 16:19-20 tell us, let us "be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.  The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Humility in the Wrong Place!"

G. K. Chesterton
"What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place.  Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition.  Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be.  A man was meant to be doubtful about himself but undoubting about the truth.  This has been exactly reversed . . . We are on the road of producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table." --G. K. Chesterton

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hymn Lyrics for Luke 2:8-20---The Incarnation!

The Son of God came to this earth and there was no room for his coming. There was no great celebration. There was no room for him in the inn. The incarnate Lord was born in a cattle stall, and his bed was a rough feeding trough for livestock.

But the event of all the ages had to be celebrated! The most momentous event in history had to be praised and lauded. God had to be glorified for such stunning and wondrous grace shown to sinful, rebellious man. And so, the angels, who had always glorified the Son in heaven, poured on to an earthly field in Bethlehem to sing praise to God for the gift of His Son given unto men. What a performance that had to be! Thousands of angels all reflecting the glory of God singing in a new venue---a field just outside of Bethlehem!

This hymn tries to capture something of the greatness of what God has done in giving us His Son. The second person of the glorious trinity came to us in our own flesh! Jesus is God incarnate! And the Father’s Son is now offered to us personally as a Gift, just as he was offered personally to the shepherds. The angels said to the shepherds, “for unto you is born,” in other words, Christ is given to you personally for your blessing and peace and happiness. Jesus Christ is the Father’s present given with a name tag addressed to the shepherds, but not only to the shepherds, but also to all of us who will receive him by faith. Let us receive the Father’s Gift and give him the same glory and praise he received that night from angels and shepherds!

Event of All the Ages

To the tune: LANCASHIRE. Based on Luke 2:8-20. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
Event of all the ages,
to you this day is born,
you’ll find in David’s city,
the Savior, Christ the Lord.
Give glory with the angels,
for God’s most gracious plan:
the Son is given to us,
is born to us a man.

v. 2
By sin we had forfeited
our peace with God most high.
His laws by us were broken,
we fell for Satan’s lie.
We lived for our own glory,
God’s Word we disobeyed,
deserving wrath, dishonor,
in guilt and death we lay.

v. 3
But God who’s rich in mercy,
devised a rescue plan.
His Son would enter hist’ry,
the Son of God and man.
And bear all our transgressions,
and righteous wrath of God,
to give us peace and pardon,
through Jesus’ precious blood.

v. 4
We glorify our Father,
we glorify His Son,
we glorify the Spirit,
the bless-ed Three in One.
For such a great salvation,
we join the angels’ praise,
the wondrous incarnation,
we’ll sing of all our days.

v. 5
What wondrous Gift the Father
has given unto us:
the Son the Father’s rad-iance,
and Object of His love.
What more could He give to us,
the Gift of His own Son,
who earned for us salvation,
through all that He has done.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hymn Lyrics for Luke 2:1-7---Giving the Son of God a Right Reception

This hymn sings of the humility of the Son of God. When we consider who it is that entered the womb of the virgin and was made man, we see the infinite of condescension of God. We also see a hint of even further condescension which will take place at the cross. We see in his lack of welcome in Bethlehem a sign of the lack of welcome many still give Jesus in the present. As Norval Geldenhuys wrote, “What the inhabitants of Bethlehem did in their ignorance is done by many today in willful indifference---in their feelings, their affections, their thoughts, their views of life, their wishes, their decisions, their actions, or their daily conduct.” This hymn tries to stir our minds and hearts to give the Son of God the welcome he truly deserves in our lives.

Who Is This Child Who Came to Us?

To the tune: ALLEIN GOTT IN DER HOH (click on Across the Sky the Shades of Night, 110). Based on Luke 2:1-7. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
Who is this child who came to us,
the babe, the Son of Mary?
The first the last, unchanging God,
the babe the virgin carried.
The Maker of the heav’ns and earth,
to God the Son did she give birth,
all praise the Son of Mary.

v. 2
How great and glor-ious is the Son
who came for our salvation.
The King of kings, the Lord of lords,
the Ruler of the nations.
Who all in heaven ever praise,
the Infinite of endless days,
O give Him adoration.

v. 3
But though the King had come to earth,
there was no great reception.
No place was found in Bethlehem,
received no acclamation.
A hint of what was soon to come,
rejection, suff’ring of the Son,
and fin’lly crucifixion.

v. 4
For God the Son had come to die,
to bear our condemnation.
For sin is loathsome in God’s sight,
and worthy of damnation.
In grace and love Christ bore our sin,
iniquity was laid on Him,
for sin made expiation.

v. 5
What infinite humility,
that bore humiliation.
For God the Son did come to us,
astounding incarnation.
Our human nature He assumed,
from heav’n to earth, from womb to tomb,
from cross to exaltation.

v. 6
So in your heart, O make Him room,
He’s worthy of all honor.
And cherish Him with all your heart,
for He’s your Lord and Savior.
We cannot worship Him enough,
for condescending, wondrous love,
who earned for us God’s favor.

Friday, July 1, 2011

God, like all good fathers, disciplines his children. Sometimes the discipline comes as a result of our sin (see 1 Cor. 11 and Rev. 2-3) and sometimes it does not (John 9). But regardless of the reason it comes, the key is to learn from it and draw closer in trust and love to our heavenly Father and Jesus our Lord.

Zechariah was disciplined for nine long months for his unbelief of God’s word to him through the angel, Gabriel. The discipline imposed was the inability to speak, and apparently hear, since the people had to speak to him with signs. But God had been working in Zechariah’s heart through his discipline, and Zechariah had learned how foolish and sinful it was not to believe God’s Word. As soon as Zechariah in faith and obedience wrote the words, “his name is John,” the Lord graciously returned his speech.

And, what a speech it was: pure, exuberant worship and praise came flowing from the lips of Zechariah! Zechariah had learned his lesson, and belief led to worship, which is the very reason for our salvation! For God saves us so that we might serve and worship him all our lives. Worship is the antidote to the problem of the tyranny of sin in our lives, for in our worship we commune with the God of life and love and we are transformed into his likeness.

The story of Zechariah hits home with me after recently being diagnosed with cancer. Although no one wants to be sick, how wonderful it has been to repent, believe, and draw closer to our Father and his Son, Jesus Christ! God is so very good!

One more note on the hymn: verses 6 and 7 are intimately related.  As Romans 4:25 says, Jesus "was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification."  By raising Christ from the dead the Father showed he was pleased with his sacrificial work and with Jesus himself.  But all who have faith in Christ are now also well pleasing to the Father, for in union with Christ all that Jesus earned for us by his death and now resurrection in now ours as well!  He is our representative.

The Barren Woman Now Gave Birth

To the tune: LOBT GOTT IHR CHRISTEN (click on Praise God the Lord, Ye Sons of Men 105). Based on Luke 1:57-80.

v. 1
The barren woman now gave birth,
Elizabeth’s dear son.
And Zechariah mute and deaf,
he wrote his name is John,
he wrote his name is John.

v. 2
The Father’s discipline complete,
the priest had learned to trust.
He learned God’s Word is ever true,
fulfillment is a must,
fulfillment is a must.

v. 3
In words of faith his silence broke,
the song of joyful praise.
He praised the God of Israel,
for these salvific days,
for these salvific days.

v. 4
For God in tender mercy sent
His Son to us from high.
The world in darkness, sin and death,
beheld the brilliant light,
beheld the brilliant light.

v. 5
Forgiveness is our crying need
before the holy God.
And this is what the Son achieved
by shedding His own blood,
by shedding His own blood.

v. 6
So let us walk in holiness
before Christ all our days.
And serve and worship free from fear,
for Jesus has been raised,
for Jesus has been raised.

v. 7
In Him forgiven, justified,
from condemnation free.
The Father is well pleased with Christ,
and all who will believe,
and all who will believe.

The Spilling Over of the Conflict in the Spiritual Realm into the Political Realm

There is a conflict of worldviews in our world. The seed of the woman is always in conflict with the seed of the serpent (Genesis 3). Many times this conflict is reflected in the political realm. This is the reason that most Christians who believe the Scriptures tend to side with the Republicans, whose views are more in tune with the Christian worldview (but definitely not identical!). The challenge, however, for the Christian is to seek God's kingdom above all else, and to give honor to those in political leadership, even when there is much disagreement with the current leadership. This is a difficult thing to do, especially if our greatest desire is not to serve Christ and bring him glory. Because it is so difficult, I think we should very forgiving toward our fellow Christians who err much in this area. I know I have.

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