Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christ in the Proverbs: 17:22

Proverbs 17:22:
A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Who gives us joy? How do we get a joyful heart, according to the Bible?

It is in the inside of our bones that our blood cells are produced. Our bone marrow for a 150 pound adult produces 500 billion blood cells a day. Yes, we are fearfully and wonderfully made! Just as healthy bone marrow and healthy blood is important for physical health, so a joyful heart is important for spiritual health. But who can give us the medicine of a joyful heart?

Jesus is the Great Physician. He came to give us forgiveness and life through his shed blood. In His shed blood we find spiritual life. As long as we resist Jesus and his gospel, and refuse to welcome him into our lives, our hearts will be depressed. We are always the losers if we resist God our Maker, who sent his Son to us in love.

Do you struggle with depression---a crushed spirit? Confess your sins and turn to Jesus each day. Die and rise with Jesus daily. Let his blood cleanse you and give you life. He is for us true food and drink and the medicine that gives us forgiveness and a joyful heart.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Incline Our Hearts to Christ

I read these words last night: "In our heart [which includes mind, emotions and will], there are two parts --- understanding and inclination. By inclination we mean that in every human heart there is an instinctive ability to like or dislike something, and to assess its worth. And so our hearts are like heat-seeking missiles, always looking to lock on to whatever they perceive to be excellent. The trouble is, of course, that fallen human hearts naturally lock on to things which are not excellent (such as self-glory) or on to things which are good in and of themselves, but not good if they become ultimate things (such as family or career or ministry). In other words, as John Calvin put it memorably, 'Man's nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.' What we need is to see the supreme worth of Jesus Christ, and for our hearts to lock on to Him."
With that in mind I wrote these words to the tune of the song, "May the Mind of Christ my Savior":
Seeing Christ we see the Father,
He makes known what God is like.
In our Lord there was no darkness, 
only love and light.
God is just and He is holy,
but He makes for us a way,
so that we can be forgiven,
ready for that Day.
Have no fear about your Father,
Christ has shown God's gracious heart.
Dying in the place of sinners,
grace and peace imparts.
Matchless is the name of Jesus,
what to Him can we compare?
He is One with God the Father,
and His glory shares.
All is loss compared with Jesus,
Maker of the heav'ns and earth.
And all creatures show, but falter,
His surpassing worth.
Jesus, how shall we not love You,
and Your beauty, not desire?
Take our cold and listless spirits,
breathe a holy fire.
With the gift of Your forgiveness,
teach us, Lord, Your name to fear.
Love and rev'rence in us mingling,
and Your presence near.
Triune God, in You no shadow,
Yours is all the exc'llency.
You're the fount of every blessing,
that will ever be.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Even Secular People are Religious

The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
they have eyes, but do not see;
they have ears, but do not hear,
nor is there any breath in their mouths.
Those who make them become like them,
so do all who trust in them. (Psalm 135:15-18)

Whatever we ultimately trust is our idol. Secular people are religious, even though they do not admit it. They worship their god or gods, which are the idols they trust in.

The consequences of the God or "god" we choose shows in our lives because of this spiritual principle: we become like the god we trust and worship.

The reason idolaters are spiritually blind, deaf, dumb, and dead is that this is what their idols are like. Only those who trust in the only true God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, see Christ's glory, hear his voice, live in fellowship with the Father and Son, and can speak to others of the the grace and peace that is offered to all who repent and believe.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Heart of Discipleship and Gospel Proclamation

The heart of discipleship and gospel ministry is the heart!  What or who do we love most of all?  Gospel proclamation and life are intimately connected.  Our task is to spread the message of the gospel to all people.  But if our hearts are not poured out as a drink offering to Jesus in love, how will the gospel be spread abroad?  Love for this world and its idols will betray the message that glories in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Love for this world and its lusts will betray the message of a God who showed his love in the self-giving love of his Son.  Love for this world and its passing pleasures and treasures will betray the message of immortality and life eternal found only in Jesus Christ, whom we love.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Be Cool or Be Faithful?

So often what happens in the Evangelical church is mirrored in our political life. Wanting to be cool is a bad motivation, but we see that motivation in the church, which corrupts worship by the desire to be cool. Interestingly, this seems to be the political motivation for being a Democrat rather than a Republican in so many people. When the truth becomes subordinate to being cool, and faithfulness to being hip, darkness ensues. Jesus put it like this, “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. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness" (Matthew 6:22-23).

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Hymn Based on 2 Timothy 4:1-8

I wrote a hymn this morning, which is based on 2 Timothy 4:1-8:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

The hymn can be sung to Luther's familiar tune "Ein Feste Burg" or  "A Mighty Fortress is our God."  The hymn follows the shape of 2 Timothy 4:1-8, beginning as a prayer for pastors, but morphing into a prayer for ourselves (all disciples) as well:

Our Father, we for pastors pray,
please grant them faith and courage;
to boldly preach in these last days,
O may they be encouraged.
And may they heed the charge;
their hearts may You enlarge;
Christ's glory may they see,
and His authority,
for He is King forever.

Keep pastors faithful to the task,
that Christ the Lord has given.
And give the Spirit, this we ask,
that to this charge they listen.
The charge to preach the word,
about their risen Lord,
who for His people died,
and clothes His church and bride,
with power from the Spirit.
The time has come when few will hear,
the message of repentance.
For men have lost a godly fear,
from Christ they keep their distance.
But, Lord, it's You we love,
we long for You above.
Your Word, O help us keep,
and for lost sinners weep,
O hear the prayer we offer.

We praise You, Father, for our Lord,
whose love was shown in suff'ring.
Whose blood was shed and for us poured,
His death a fragrant off'ring.
May love be our reply,
to Christ our Lord who died.
And may His name we spread,
His will our daily bread,
till He returns from heaven.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Song/Prayer for Redirected Love

Jesus, in Your mercy free,
would You cleanse and pardon me?
Selfish is this heart of mine,
fill it with Your love divine.

When against me others sin,
and when vengeance wells within.
Please remind me of Your cross,
that You bore to save the lost.

For in love Your arms spread wide,
all in love to save Your bride.
For our sins You bled and died,
wondrous love: God crucified!

By Your blood that cleanses sin,
and Your Spirit breathed within,
in Your mercy redirect,
may my love on You be set.

Many loves have I pursued,
idols placed ahead of You.
Jesus, hear me as I pray,
from them would I turn away.

Father, You have sent in love,
Your Beloved from above.
Here's my heart, O God triune,
all its notes would You retune.
   ---William Weber, 2015

Monday, November 9, 2015

Let's Define Persecution Like Jesus

"This weekend, you may have been rudely interrupted by government officials barging into your home because they wanted to arrest you for Jesus fish on the back of your car in the driveway and the cross hanging on your front door. But that would require you to be persecuted, which if you're reading this, you probably aren't."  --Ed Stetzer

These words by Ed Stetzer begin an article in Christianity Today magazine. I had a difficult time reading the article after these opening words. The problem here is that Mr. Stetzer defines persecution differently than Jesus, who said in Matthew 5:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 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."

Persecution includes reviling and malicious speech. Not every prophet was jailed or put to death, but the fact that they were hated and insulted still meant they were persecuted, according to Jesus. The word "persecution" envelops the passage as an inclusio, and it envelops the way that persecution normally takes place, which is through reviling and evil speaking.

Luke 6 is even more telling, for "blessed are the persecuted" becomes "Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets."

Here there is no mention of jail or martyrdom, but only hatred, exclusion, reviling, and spurning. If Mr. Stetzer thinks that is not happening in America or any culture that has ever existed the last 2000 years, then he simply is not paying attention!

The truth is that Christians are always hated, insulted, excluded and spurned as evil if they live anything resembling a godly life, and this is why 2 Timothy 3:12 says that "ALL who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."

One of the things that will happen when Jesus returns is prophesied in Isaiah 25:8:

"He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken."

Reproach is what will be taken away from the God's people when Jesus returns. Not all of Christ's people will be jailed or put to death in this life, but all faithful Christians will be persecuted as the New Testament teaches, because the essence of persecution is reproach and malice, which results in evil speaking, exclusion and sometimes even jail or martyrdom. When that sort of persecution (jail and death) occur it is simply the acting out of the reproach and malice that is always in the hearts of unregenerate men, who are the seed of the serpent and hate the seed of the woman, who is Jesus Christ and his people (Genesis 3:15).

One final note, it is important to see that the enmity goes only in one direction in Genesis 3:15, and that is from the seed of the serpent toward the seed of the woman. This is illustrated in Acts at the martyrdom of Stephen. The hatred and enmity of Stephen's persecutors, which was always there, came out in a murderous rage. But this does not move Stephen to a similar enmity in return, but to a loving prayer on behalf of those who were murdering him. We do have to be careful that we do not return the world's enmity and malice with an enmity and malice of our own! We evangelize and speak the gospel out of love in our desire to save a corrupt humanity from the wrath and righteous judgment of God.  That is a mark of love, not enmity.

Evangelical Worship: Celebrating Ourselves?

When I was a senior in high school I took a class that taught us how to do a term paper. For the term paper, we could choose any topic we wanted. For some odd, but providential reason, I chose to do a paper on the poetry of Walt Whitman. Whitman's most famous poem is probably "Song of Myself." In this poem Whitman exalts self. The narcissism of American culture is not a new thing, for Whitman was "the" American poet in the time of Abraham Lincoln!

I fear there is a tendency for the Evangelical church, like Whitman, to sing songs about ourselves. We fall into this error by making ourselves the subject of so many of our lines and sentences. While we may want to be God-centered and Christ-centered in our singing, it is hard to avoid singing about ourselves if we are the subject of our sentences!

Just as the Pharisee in the temple prayed about himself, so many of our song lyrics (which ought to fit the general category of prayer) become about ourselves because we make ourselves the subject of our words/lyrics. We pray/sing about ourselves as we sing about our devotion: "God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get." Notice, how "I" is the subject of his sentences: "I thank . . . I am not . . . I fast . . . [I] give . . ."

Now look at how we tend to make the same mistake in our songs in the Evangelical Church. Here is a song with somewhat decent lyrics:

My life flows on in endless song,
above earth's lamentation.
I hear the clear, though faroff hymn
that hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear that music ringing.
It finds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?
No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I'm clinging.
Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?

What though the tempest 'round me roar,
I hear the truth it liveth;
What though the darkness 'round me close,
songs in the night it giveth.

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,
And hear their death knells ringing;
when friends rejoice both far and near,
How can I keep from singing?
No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I'm clinging.
Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?

The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
a fountain ever springing.
All things are mine since I am his;
How can I keep from singing?
No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I'm clinging.
Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?

But notice how this song is a song about myself---a song about my devotion:

"My life flows on in endless song . . . I hear the real though far-off hymn . . . I hear . . . How can I keep from singing . . . I'm clinging . . . How can I keep . . . I hear . . . How can I keep . . . I'm clinging . . . How can I keep . . . How can I keep . . . I'm clinging . . . How can I keep . . . How can I keep . . . How can I keep . . . ."

Should our prayers, which are really what songs are supposed to be in congregational worship, be about our devotion? Are we not imitating one of the worst examples we could possibly find in Scripture when it comes to the prayers we sing? The present day song I picked out is pretty typical and is far from the most offensive example I could find. But it illustrates the danger, that even if what we are singing about is good: thanking, fasting and giving or hearing, singing and clinging, if we are the subjects of the lines we sing/pray, we run the risk of singing the Song of Ourselves this world sings, rather than the Song of the Lamb that heaven sings.

Below is my reworking of the song, How Can I keep from Singing that keeps us from singing about ourselves, while keeping some of the good themes in the song intact:

O Jesus, risen from the dead,
the Author of salvation,
The Lamb has conquered by His death,
and brought a new creation.

Though on the earth men fight against
Your rule and Your position,
They won't succeed, nor overturn,
Your reign and heav'nly session.
The Father has installed His King;
the wise kneel in submission.
To Him who loved and gave His life,
give reverent recognition.

Though storms will toss and shake our lives,
and sin and death cause weeping,
The Lamb has loved us unto death,
He reigns and is not sleeping.

In Christ is mercy, grace and peace,
a fountain ever springing.
His blood can cleanse, His Spirit give
a heart of joy and singing.
So turn from sin, repent, believe,
and Christ will give refreshment.
Our hearts were made for Jesus Christ,
He gives us true contentment.

A Day will come when all will stand,
before our Lord in judgment;
and Christ the Judge will sift His world
in wisdom and discernment.
The unbeliever will depart
to weeping and bereavement,
but those who know and love the Lord,
will enter life abundant.
Top of Form

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Daily Walk/Meditation: Listening to Lies

Was a brisk 50 degrees for my walk this evening. My meditation was on Proverbs 17:4:
         An evildoer listens to wicked lips, 
         and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.

We usually think of liars as those who tell lies. But startlingly this verse tells us that liars are also those who listen to and believe lies!

Of course, all of humanity has fallen and believed various lies of the evil one. Therefore, all people are liars and need to be saved. But if listening to and believing lies makes one a liar, then it is also true that listening to and believing the gospel of truth will make one honest. Thus, Jesus speaks of those who listen to and receive the gospel as people with an honest heart: "As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience."

We are all liars by nature. Our only hope is to listen to the only man who never lied, told us the truth, and embodied that truth, Jesus Christ. When we listen to and believe him who is God incarnate, then we can move from lies to truth, from dishonesty to honesty, from wickedness to righteousness.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Rightly Relating to Our Owner

Commenting on these words, "Behold, all souls are mine," from Ezekiel 18:4, Christopher Wright says, "The claim of this text is . . . that all human persons, all human lives, belong to Yahweh. That in itself is a staggeringly universal affirmation. It is comparable in its massive implications to the opening claim of Psalm 24:1: 'The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it.' . . . It means, then, that human beings, far from living in the grip of fatalistic and impersonal laws, actually live in relation to the personal God Yahweh. to whom all lives belong. Human life is relational. History is relational. Yahweh is not the quasi-personal name of some distant and impersonal divine force. He is the personal owner of every human person who has ever lived, lives or will live on this planet. Literally, all lives, they belong to me.' What an enriching and affirming anthropology! All human life is related to the personal ownership of Yahweh, not abandoned to impersonal forces.
"This is a foundational and reassuring truth for all those engaged in the struggles and ambiguities of evangelistic and pastoral ministry. The lives of all those to whom we minister already belong ultimately to Yahweh, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our task is to help them to find, or return to, or relate to, their rightful owner."

Monday, October 19, 2015

Daily Walk/Meditation: Blending in for Protection

Met this fellow on my walk today. What a remarkable quality he has to blend in for protection. Sadly, human beings also have that quality, but it is one Christians must resist. As Christians we are to unashamedly acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and the only way to eternal life and a relationship with the heavenly Father. That confession causes us to stand out and not blend in, but the message of the gospel is too urgent a matter of spiritual life and death to do the cowardly and unloving thing of blending in.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Fear of God

"As we know from the Proverbs, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the soul of godliness (Prov. 1:7; 9:10; compare Job 28:28; Ps. 111:10). The fear of the Lord is the essence of true piety. Godly people fear God. Over 150 times, the Bible tells us so. When it describes the essence of Job's godliness as he withstands massive onslaughts of pain, loss and suffering, it says that he was a man who feared God (Job 1:1; 2:3). Strange, then, that it is the one characteristic that is very often missing from contemporary Christianity.

"The fear of God consists in a right appreciation of, and response to, who God is. It is the response of a believer to the nature and character of God as he has revealed himself. Principally, it is a response to that quality in God which we identify as his "god-ness' --- that is to say, his greatness and his majesty." --Derek Thomas

Friday, September 25, 2015

Hymn Based on Psalm 123

To Our Lord We Lift Our Eyes

Suggested tune: GOWER'S LITANY (http://www.opc.org/hymn.html?hymn_id=657).  Meter: 7776.  Based on Psalm 123.  Words: William Weber, 2015.

v. 1
To our Lord we lift our eyes,
to our Savior crucified,
now enthroned above the skies,
Jesus, Lord, have mercy.

v. 2
You command but also fill,
pour Your Holy Spirit till,
we delight to do Your will,
Jesus, Lord, have mercy.

v. 3
When from You we look away,
and no longer see Your face,
and are in a dismal place,
Jesus, Lord, have mercy.

v. 4
Father, turn us from our sin,
grant to us the Light within,
all are blessed who walk with Him,
Jesus, Lord, have mercy.
v. 5
Worldly men condemn, deride,
but with You we would abide,
You for us were crucified,
Jesus, Lord, have mercy.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Daily Walk/Meditation: Proverbs 16:25

A picture of part of my path today from near Bennington, Nebraska. My meditation was on this verse:

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 16:25)

Human beings were never meant to find their way, but rather to receive the way from the Lord. Apart from revelation---God communicating with us---we are lost. The essence of our sin is following what we think is best, rather than what God says is best. We were created to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). All philosophies, psychologies, and religions end in death whenever they depart from God's revelation, and his revelation is found in the Scriptures. Those Scriptures point to his Son, Jesus Christ, and in him alone is found life rather than death.

New Hymn Based on Acts 3

How Blessed the Man who Walks with God Each Day

Suggested tune: SINE NOMINE with alleluias (http://www.lutheran-hymnal.com/online/aTLH_Hymns3.htm click on For All the Saints 463).  Based on Acts 3.  Words: William Weber, 2015.

How blessed the man who walks with God each day,
rises with Christ who is the life and way;
looking to Jesus and from self away.
Alleluia, alleluia.

v. 2
For from our birth, our sin has made legs lame,
Jesus, we need the power of Your name.
So speak and act to spread Your grace and fame.
Alleluia, alleluia.

v. 3
To know You, Father, and to know Your Son,
this is the prize, for this the wisest run.
Daily renew, this walk that we've begun.
Alleluia, alleluia.

v. 4
Great is our joy, though this is not our home,
sins are forgiven, we are not alone.
We are His temple, He the cornerstone.
Alleluia, alleluia.

v. 5
Lord Jesus Christ, to You we look and wait,
weary we grow, and dire are our straits.
But by Your name we walk and will not faint.
Alleluia, alleluia.

v. 6
Come to us, Lord, be with us is our cry.
Times of refreshing come when You draw nigh.
Restore, return, be seen by every eye.
Alleluia, alleluia.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Legitimate Discontent over Congregational Singing

I talked with my daughter about her experience visiting a sound Evangelical church yesterday in Omaha. Both her and her friend liked the sermon and the supper, but disliked the singing for various reasons. I talked to a much older woman about her upcoming move to a new city and she was excited about the music at one of the churches she visited because they sang only to the accompaniment of a piano.

Why is there such discontent about congregational singing that crosses generational boundaries, so that both 20 somethings and 50 somethings are dissatisfied? I think the reason is simple: we do not know the liturgical function of congregational singing, and if you don't know the purpose of something it is impossible to get it right.

Biblically the purpose of congregational singing is quite simple: it is congregational prayer. But, sadly, congregational singing at this point in time does not resemble congregational prayer. Until the two are seen to be the same, legitimate, not illegitimate, discontent will continue among the faithful.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Daily Walk/Meditation: What Does it Mean to Fear the Lord?

I went on a 15 mile walk yesterday. Started at 6:30 and ended about 11:45. It is interesting to see how the scenes constantly change as the sun comes up. What a glorious artist is the Lord! His canvas constantly changes from moment to moment. Here is one moment during my walk.

My meditation for the walk was Psalm 128. Verse one says:
Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! 
The parallelism of Hebrew poetry invites us to compare "fear of the Lord" with "walks in his ways." That comparison tells us something very basic. Our walk or way of life tells us if we truly fear the Lord. If we do not walk in his ways, then we kid ourselves if we think we are his. As Jesus warns us, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).

Thankfully, a large part of walking in his ways (if not all of it!) is mourning over our sin, confessing it, and renewing our joyful trust in Jesus Christ. Daily repentance and faith, daily dying and rising with Christ, is the way to walk with the Lord. Let us not be content to ignorant of his ways or live in our sin, but instead let us cry out for mercy each day for forgiveness and the gift of the Spirit so that we may truly "walk in his ways."

Friday, September 11, 2015

Daily Walk/Mdeitation: O for a Contrite Heart!

The Lord gave me an interesting day, today. I was in a bit of a hurry in the morning and had to back a bus to get to mine and I nudged the door and thought I might have slightly broke a mirror. It turns out I didn't break the mirror and the door was fine. But all through the route I was upset about that mirror. And then it dawned on me that I was more upset with a bus mirror than I usually am about my sin!
Then, I went on a two hour walk at Standing Bear Lake. When I got back to my car I found that the passenger side window had been smashed and my wallet stolen. I was just shocked and mad that anyone would do such a thing! But then it dawned on me again that over the course of my whole life I have stolen the honor, glory and love the Lord deserves, and it rarely shocks me or makes me mad or sad.
And then I remembered the two verses the Lord brought to my attention yesterday:
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isaiah 57:15)

But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:2)
May the Lord give me (and us) a contrite and lowly heart that loves Him and His instruction.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Daily Walk/Meditation: Idolatry and Power to Live a Godly Life

From my walk tonight after the difficult Husker loss (American football).  Glad football is just a game and in the whole scheme of things, not too important.  The last couple of weeks these verses from 2 Timothy 3:1-5 have been on my mind.  Notice how the phrase "lovers of" occurs four times.  Three of these loves are idolatrous, and one is not:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

Sadly, the context makes it clear that these sorts of people will be found in the professing Christian church, for they have "the appearance of godliness" but deny its power!  These people make idols of "self," "money," and "pleasure,"  

While the world may worship at the shrine of self, money and pleasure, and those who compromise with the world join them in their idolatry, may Christ's true disciples live in their Lord's dying and rising.  For only in his death and resurrection can we live in the Father's love and the Spirit's power for the blessing of others and the glory of him, who brought about the new creation.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Musical Prayer Before Daily Devotions

I penned these lines as a preface for personal Bible reading. Could be sung to the tune for Amazing Grace.

Your Glory, Father, in Your Word
Suggested tune: AMAZING GRACE (http://www.opc.org/hymn.html?hymn_id=37).  Meter: CM.  Based on Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-2.  Words: William Weber, 2015.

v. 1
Your glory, Father, in Your Word,
please show me as I read.
That glory shines in Christ, my Lord,
in all His words and deeds.

v. 2                  
And may I love You as I ought,
and Jesus Christ Your Son.
I humbly listen to be taught,
for You my heart have won.

v. 3
O Father, certain is Your Word,
Your testimonies true.
And for the gospel I have heard,
I thank and honor You.

v. 4
And though near Christ I long to stay,
I stray, a wand'ring sheep.
So bind by cords of love and faith,
my soul, my Shepherd, keep.

v. 5

The Son who died and rose again,
to Him all praise is due!
O may His gospel fall like rain,
to make parched sinners new.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Daily Walk: Lowliness of spirit and the Beatitudes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Reading the Bible to Become a Lover of God

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

Part of my meditation came from Acts 1:1:

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

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Value of Wisdom and the Lord

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

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

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Starck's Prayer Book p. 15-16

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

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Seriousness of Sin --- Quote from William Willimon

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

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sex and the Supper and the Abuse of Holy Sacraments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Seeing Christ in the Proverbs: Proverbs 15:31

Proverbs 15:31
The ear that listens to life-giving reproof
    will dwell among the wise.

We live in a society where many people equate reproof with lack of love.  And, while it is true that reproof can be given in an unloving manner or given through the wrong medium, one gets the feeling that with some people, no matter how winsome or wise the reproof, it will always be rejected, because they have come to falsely believe that reproof by its very nature is negative and unloving.

Certainly, we should reject false reproof that is not in line with God's Word, but there is a true and life-giving reproof that should be received.  In fact, one cannot be a child of the heavenly Father, and not receive and accept reproof.  Our heavenly Father instructs us through the Word, and his words necessarily teach us to turn from sin (reproof) and turn to his Son who is the way, the truth and the life.

The beneficial result of listening to reproof from our heavenly Father, or reproof from men that coincides with the reproof of our Father, is that we find a home with the Father and the Son through the working of the Spirit.  We dwell by faith in the heavenly home of incarnate Wisdom and with those who have also listened to the life-giving, love-giving, and joy-giving reproof that comes from listening to the voice of our Shepherd, who gave his life in love for us, and whose wisdom/reproof is utterly trustworthy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Johann Starck on Keeping the Spiritual Sabbath Daily

"The Sabbath of the Jews was a shadow, a type, of the true spiritual Sabbath that Christians keep every day.  It does not consist in ceasing from work and giving one's self over to idleness, but it is rather a person's ceasing from sin.  This means that, as the Jews by God's commandment rested from their manual labor, so a Christian by God's command ceases every day from impiety and malice.  A Christian is careful not to speak evil against God or neighbor, not to do evil either alone or in other's company, not to be misled by others, but to keep the soul unspotted from the world.

"While, on the one hand, Christians avoid these things, Christians are also zealous, on the other hand, to remember God frequently as they go about their vocations.  They earnestly beg God to grant them His Holy Spirit to govern and comfort them.  That is the spiritual and daily Sabbath the children of God keep all the time.

"Those who are eager to keep this daily Sabbath can rest assured that they will keep the eternal Sabbath in the life everlasting, which consist in this: that the believers and the chosen children of God are delivered from all bodily labor, from all crosses, tribulations, and from all sins; that they behold God face-to-face, are occupied with Him and praise and worship Him without end.  Oh, what a holy and glorious Sabbath!  This Sabbath will never be disturbed.  However, it will only be obtained by those who continue in faith and in the love of Jesus unto death."

--Johann Starck (1680-1756)

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Theology of the Body and the Lost Condition of Bruce Jenner and the Human Race

I have found a lot of insight into the meaning of human sexuality from reading Christopher West's book, entitled, "The Theology of the BodyExplained." This book explains John Paul II's teaching on sexuality and its deep meaning. He shows how our creation as male and female points to the meaning of life, for our bodies are sacramental, making visible invisible realities. Thus, the very bodies the triune God has given us reflect the communion of persons that exists between the Father, Son and Spirit. This communion is made visible in our bodies.

Before sin, the man and woman were naked, but not ashamed. They were not ashamed because they did not look at each other in lust, but rather in self-giving love. This self-giving love is how we were meant to live, but when sin entered the world, so too did lust and this caused the first couple to hide from God and one another. Through the redemption that comes in Christ, we begin to learn again to live in self-giving love rather than selfish lust.

While it is hard to summarize the deep teaching of the theology of the body, suffice it to say that God has inscribed in our bodies our purpose in life, which is to live in the triune love and reflect that loving communion in the world. We were created to image the triune God, and this mystery of our purpose is stamped on our physical bodies as male and female---bodies which make what is invisible visible. The human body is sacramental and points to something amazing. Not accepting the beauty of God's design is part of our fallenness, which Christ came to heal.

Thus, when we see someone like Bruce Jenner trying to change his gender, what we are seeing is something hideous, because instead of accepting God's design and its beauty and mystery, the human race rebels against that design. Scientifically, it is impossible to change the DNA of the cells, so Jenner is still a man. Theologically, Jenner is lost, not knowing the meaning of life, refusing the Lord's instruction, and caught in a rebellion as bound to fail as his transformation to a woman. We should mourn our sinfulness that brings our race to this sad condition.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Love Versus Lust

"Original sin is the mystery of man turning his back on the Father. 'Original sin attempts, then, to abolish fatherhood, destroying its rays which permeate the created world, placing in doubt the truth about God who is love.' Through original sin, man casts God out of his heart, detaching himself from what is 'of the Father' so that all that remains in him is what is 'of the world.' In this way, we witness the birth of human lust. As the apostle John tells us, lust 'is not of the Father but is of the world' (1 John 2:16). However . . . marriage, including the sexual love proper to spouses, is not 'of the world' but 'of the Father.' Deep in the human heart a battle rages for dominance between the two---between that which is 'of the Father' and that which is 'of the world.' A battle rages between love and lust, between hope and despondency, between life and all that opposes life." --Christopher West

The Ultimate Evil and Ultimate Good

The ultimate evil is sin, because it drags one away from the ultimate Good.  As much as you approach God, that much you draw away from sin.  As much as you approach sin, that much you draw away from God.  How beneficial then is repentance, which draws one away from sin and returns him to God.
  --Johann Gerhard

Seeing Christ in the Proverbs: Proverbs 15:29

The Lord is far from the wicked,
    but he hears the prayer of the righteous. (Proverbs 15:29

The parallelism of Hebrew poetry produces many fruitful insights.  In the antithetical proverb above there is a contrast.  One of the contrasts is easy and straight forward: the wicked and the righteous. But the other contrast is imprecise: far from and hears the prayer.  It is this comparison that yields insight as we meditate on this verse.

One thing we see is that the righteous (those who belong to Christ Jesus) are in an intimate relationship with the triune God.  Believers are those who have drawn near to the Father through the Son.  Just as a father hears his children, so the heavenly Father hears the words of his children who have come to him through his Son.

Prayer is a privilege that only the children of God have.  This intimacy is unknown to those who are outside of Christ.  Just as children are always asking their parents for this and that, so we too should be asking our heavenly Father for the things we need and want.  But the wicked are far from the true God, the triune God.

Can the wicked become the righteous?  Yes, but they must confess and turn from their sins and accept Jesus Christ, God's Son.  Then, they too can live in the intimacy we as image bearers were made for, but lost through the sin of our first parents.  The very purpose of the cross was to bring us who were "far from" the Lord into a oneness with him.  At the cross, our Lord was far from the Father so that we might be near to him forever.  O the sweet intimacy we enjoy with the triune God!  We are children of the Father, through the Son, who pours his faith and love into our hearts through the Spirit he gives us generously.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Secular Blindness and Nature: A Poem by Donald T. Williams


There was a time when men could see the sky,
   A grand cathedral vaulted and ablaze
   With myriad candles lifted up on high
   By nights for vespers; in the brighter days,
The great rose window eastward shed its rays
   For morning prayer, and each and every flame
   Burned elegant in litanies of praise,
   In fugues and canons to extol the Name.
But now the sky, though larger, is more tame,
   And modern man sees what he's taught to see:
   Though multiplied toward infinity;
And quarks and quasars cannot speak to us
   Except as agitated forms of dust.
Except as agitated forms of dust,
   We don't know how to know the thing we are:
   The biochemistry of love is lust
   As an atomic furnace is a star,
And all that's known is particles at war.
   And yet we do know love, and yet we know
   That it and lust are infinitely far
   Apart.  We know the stars and how they glow,
Though they know nothing of us here below.
   So, even while we're slogging through the mire,
   We cannot help ourselves, but as we go,
   We cock our heads to listen for the choir.
We know that half the truth is half a lie:
   There was a time when men could see the sky.

---Donald T. Williams

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Seeing Christ in the Proverbs: Proverbs 15:24

Proverbs 15:24 (ESV)

The path of life leads upward for the prudent,
that he may turn away from Sheol beneath.


Two paths in life. One path leads upward to heaven above. The other path leads to hell below. One path brings eternal life. The other eternal death.

The word "Sheol" cannot merely mean the grave in this verse. If that was the case, then the proverb is untrue, for the prudent or wise, though they avoid an untimely death, still end up in the grave. No, the idea is that they avoid hell and the second death, which is forever, and walk on the path of life, which is a path of eternal life.

The good path is one of eternal life, because it is walked with Jesus Christ, who first walked this upward path on our behalf. In Luke 9:51, our Lord's path to heaven above is described: "When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem." His path to be "taken up" to heaven went through the suffering of the cross on our behalf. Jesus Christ is the path finder, who alone can guide us to heaven. In the development of the United States, the Oregon Trail was a route that took families to the west. The man who found this trail through the mountains was Kit Carson, who was known as the "path finder." But Jesus Christ is the true Path Finder, who alone can bring us to our heavenly destination.

Jesus is also our Husband and the Lover of our souls. Walking with him in love is a delight. The second line in our proverb alludes to earlier proverbs and the downward path. This downward path is a path of idolatry, symbolized by adultery and the woman of folly:

for her house sinks down to death,and her paths to the departed; (2:18)
Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; (5:5)
Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death. (7:27)

Why is woman folly and idolatry associated with this downward path to hell? The answer is given in Proverbs 2:17 and 7:19 as woman folly is described:

who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God;
For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey;

The woman of folly in Proverbs has left her true husband, the Lord. Metaphorically, her true husband, the Lord, is not home and away on a long journey.

The path downward is a path away from the presence of Jesus Christ, humanity's true Husband. It is an estrangement from him, rather than a walking with him. It is a trust in and love for the gifts of life, rather than the Giver of the gifts and life. It is a path where we follow our lusts and feelings, rather than following Jesus and his words in love.

Two paths. Which path will we choose? Proverbs, the book that teaches us about wisdom, is clear that the wise choice that leads to eternal life and avoids hell, is the path walked with Jesus Christ, the Path Finder and our Husband, the Lover of our souls.

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