Saturday, December 31, 2011

Jesus' Ministry & Our Great Need

I'm considering Jesus' ministry this morning:
* Jesus pronounces "woe" over the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, & Capernaum for failing to repent in the face of His miracle-working: " will descend to the day of judgment..."
* Jesus praises His Father, supreme authority over all, not just for revealing truth to some, but also for hiding it from others! "Yes, Father, for this way was pleasing in Your sight." He then shares this praise as a teaching to those with Him: "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." Far from simple repetition of simple observations about what God has done for us, Jesus' praise is emotionally challenging (praising God for what we would consider ministerial failure) and leads to a teaching about the deep things of God's sovereignty and salvation. Utterly surrendered praise for all things leads to teaching about the absolutely sovereign plan of God for salvation through the second Person of the Trinity.
* Jesus tenderly invites those listening (the "crowds" of 11:7) to discipleship: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:20-30). "Rest" comes not just through coming to Jesus, but taking His "yoke" and learning from Him - discipleship! This is not a one-time "decision," but a following of Christ that takes on His burden and shows progress in learning from Him. I would further observe that this cannot happen apart from joining our lives to His Church, where He teaches through other disciples in His Word by His Spirit.

Pronouncing judgment for failure to repent, praising the all-ruling Father for everything in ministry - even for those from whom salvation is hidden - and gently extending an invitation to come to Him for rest & learning...Lord Jesus, work through Your Spirit in us that we can minister in such a way that doesn't waver from Your truth, praises the Father for everything, & never ceases to call people to rest in & learn from You. This is emotionally challenging (praising as we see folks walk away), stands in the face of our desire to be liked ("woe to you"), and maintains a continual standard of learning, imitative discipleship for ourselves and those to whom we extend the invitation. Apart from You, Christ, we freely confess this is impossible, for we prefer to praise You for the good things You give us, build ministry too often on the desire to be liked, and try to reduce following You to a simple - an unbiblical - "sinner's prayer."

We lift up this ministry to You and plead for Your gracious working through Your Spirit this day and every day.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I Should Be Glad of Another Death

Every Advent I am blissfully haunted by the story of the magi (Matthew 2:1-12). "Westward leading, still proceeding..." Prior to being met by the Christ, I myself was nothing more than a wandering pagan mystic. I love their story, and I love the testimony Eliot puts on their lips in this poem:

Journey of the Magi (1927)
"A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey;
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter."
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbert.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation,
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky.
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

- T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

* * * * * * *

The 8th century B.C. prophet Micah of Moresheth is one of the first to prophesy the coming destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (Micah 3:12; Jeremiah 26:18).

"Therefore, on account of you
Zion will be plowed as a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins,
And the mountain of the house will become high places of a forest."

The matchless Temple of Solomon had ceased to be the "house of Yahweh" and was now just "the house" because of how God's covenant people treated each other with gross injustice and regarded Him as little more than a tool for their own power. So they were to be destroyed along with their idol, "the house." But Micah never pronounces judgment without also speaking hope.

"And it will come about in the last days
That the mountain of the house of the LORD
will be established as the chief of the mountains.
It will be raised above the hills,
And the peoples will stream into it.
Many nations will come and say,
'Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD
And to the house of the God of Jacob,
That He may teach us about His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.'
For from Zion will go forth the law,
Even the word of the LORD from Jerusalem"

The "peoples" and the "nations," previously godless, will journey to die to their old lives and to find true life in the Word of the LORD. They return home, by the way, to "an alien people clutching their gods." They are never at home again "in the old dispensation," for they have been born again to the new dispensation, the new covenant sealed with the blood of the baby of Advent, the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Though all the peoples walk
Each in the name of his god,
as for us, we will walk
in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever"

They came as aliens to be "born again...through the living and enduring word of God" (1 Peter 1:23). They returned home as aliens, "not of the world," even as their Lord is "not of the world" (John 17:16). Their "citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). But is this death, the death Eliot's magi found in the Advent birth?

"Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God...therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead..." (Colossians 3:1-5). There is a longing after that journey to see the Word of the LORD incarnate, a nagging sense that leads the born-again magi to stare beyond the stars, knowing that real life is a step beyond the veil. It drives us powerfully and unstoppably, this "promise of life in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 1:1). In a land of people clutching their gods, it makes us glad of another death, a death that makes the leaving behind of everything in this world infinite gain compared to the inheritance of the Word of the LORD.

"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake" (Philippians 1:21-24). The attitude of the world-wanderer: my life is elsewhere, and it is everything - so while I here I live completely for the benefit of your faith in Christ. In the midst of "an alien people clutching their gods," may we "be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith," and may we "rejoice and share [our] joy" with each other (Philippians 2:17,18). May we be glad of a death unto a new birth, and sojourn unto a death filled with gladness for the joy set before us (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Monday, December 5, 2011

Don't Just Remember: Live.

The Spirit’s work at Advent:
Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother: “...filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed...blessed...blessed’” (Luke 1:41,42,45).
Zecharias, John the Baptist’s father: “...filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: ‘Blessed’” (Luke 1:67,68).
Simeon: “...the Holy Spirit was upon him...he...blessed God...and Simeon blessed [Mary and Joseph] (Luke 2:25,28,34).

The Spirit’s work at Pentecost:
“I will pour forth of My Spirit on...My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit, and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17,18).

May I suggest, Church, that the Spirit Who blessed through the saints at Advent and the Spirit poured out on all saints since Pentecost is the same? May I also suggest that same Spirit in us today seeks to bless, bless, bless others through our words just as He did at Advent? Bless today by prophesying the truth and glorious reality of salvation, of our adoption as sons and daughters of God in Christ, of the radiant and unmatched beauty of Christ’s Bride, of all the priceless gems found in our covenant with God in Christ...bless, Holy Spirit, through us today as You did 2,000 years ago!

* * * * * * *

Let me elaborate on the Spirit's filling of Elizabeth, the result, and the parallel in Paul's command to us as believers:
"...Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, 'Blessed...blessed...blessed...'
And Mary said: 'My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.'"
(Luke 1:41-47).
The Spirit fills, Elizabeth blesses Mary, and Mary praises God from the core of her being. This is what we see in Ephesians 5:18-20!
" filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father..."
The Spirit fills, we speak to one another, and we respond to one another with rejoicing in God from the core of our being.

What the Spirit did at Advent, He does today in the Church. Let us not only remember Advent, but live it in the power of the Spirit today.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


"The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it. For He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation" (Psalm 24:1-5).

I am thankful for this beautiful creation & possession of the LORD's.

I am thankful for His Church, purchased with His blood (by which I am secure as a citizen of this bright city on a hill), filled with His holy and never-departing presence, and radiant with His eternal glory.

I am thankful for the blessing of God the Father "Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3) - how could we ask for more than the blessed everything we have in Christ?

I am thankful for the "righteousness from the God of [our] salvation," "which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith" (Philippians 3:9).

"Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen" (Revelation 7:12). Happy thanksgiving.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Calvin and Baptism of the Believer

As a Reformed Baptist, I have always been grieved by the divide between pedobaptists and credobaptists in the beautiful and rich garden of Reformed theology. I readily admit that both branches of this family have good defences of their views based on numerous passages of Scripture. Not being much of a debater myself, I'd like to highlight this teaching by John Calvin concerning believer's baptism. By posting this selection from the "Catechism of the Church of Geneva" I'm not trying to argue that Calvin was a credobaptist. I would, however, like to suggest that in his wonderful elaboration of believer's baptism there is room for a peace in the garden of Reformed theology. May we boast only in the Lord and His cross in all things.

* * * * * * *

Scholar Baptism is a kind of entrance into the Church; for we have in it a testimony that we who are otherwise strangers and aliens, are received into the family of God, so as to be counted of His household...

* * * * * * *

Master ...what is the meaning of Baptism?

Scholar It consists of two parts. For, first, Forgiveness of sins, and secondly, Spiritual regeneration, is figured by it. (Ephesians 5:26; Romans 6:4).

Master What resemblance has water with these things, so as to represent them?

Scholar Forgiveness of sins is a kind of washing, by which our souls are cleansed from their defilements, just as bodily stains are washed away by water.

Master What do you say of Regeneration?

Scholar Since the mortification of our nature is its beginning, and our becoming new creatures its end, a figure of death is set before us when the water is poured upon the head, and the figure of a new life when instead of remaining immersed under water, we only enter it for a moment as a kind of grave, out of which we instantly emerge. [desert rat: notice that Calvin uses both language of affusion and immersion here.]

Master Do you think that the water is a washing of the soul?

Scholar By no means; for it were impious to snatch away this honor from the blood of Christ, which was shed in order to wipe away all our stains, and render us pure and unpolluted in the sight of God. (1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 1:7). And we receive the fruit of this cleansing when the Holy Spirit sprinkles our consciences with that sacred blood. Of this we have a seal in the Sacrament.

Master But do you attribute nothing more to the water than that it is a figure of ablution?

Scholar I understand it to be a figure, but still so that the reality is annexed to it; for God does not disappoint us when He promises us His gifts. Accordingly, it is certain that both pardon of sins and newness of life are offered to us in baptism, and received by us.

Master Is this grace bestowed on all indiscriminately?

Scholar Many precluding its entrance by their depravity, make it void to themselves. Hence the benefit extends to believers only, and yet the Sacrament loses nothing of its nature.

Master Whence is Regeneration derived?

Scholar From the Death and Resurrection of Christ taken together. His death hath this efficacy, that by means of it our old man is crucified, and the vitality of our nature in a manner buried, so as no more to be in vigor in us. Our reformation to a new life, so as to obey the righteousness of God, is the result of the resurrection.

Master How are these blessings bestowed upon us by Baptism?

Scholar If we do not render the promises there offered unfruitful by rejecting them, we are clothed with Christ, and presented with His Spirit.

Master What must we do in order to use Baptism duly?

Scholar The right use of Baptism consists in faith and repentance; that is, we must first hold with a firm heartfelt reliance that, being purified from all stains by the blood of Christ, we are pleasing to God: secondly, we must feel His Spirit dwelling in us, and declare this to others by our actions, and we must constantly exercise ourselves in aiming at the mortification of our flesh, and obedience to the righteousness of God.

Excerpts from the "Catechism of the Church of Geneva" taken from Treatises on the Sacraments (Christian Heritage, 2003), 86-87.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

And he died.

"This is the written account of the descendants of Adam.
Adam lived 930 years, and then he died.
Seth lived 912 years, and then he died.
Enosh lived 905 years, and then he died.
Kenan lived 910 years, and then he died.
Mahalalel lived 895 years, and then he died.
Jared lived 962 years, and then he died.
Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died.
Lamech lived 777 years, and then he died."
- Genesis 5:1-31 (New Living Translation)

Don't envy the centuries of life. They end just as our decades of life do today. Desire the short life span of Enoch for how his days were spent and how they ended.

"...Enoch lived in close fellowship with God...Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him" (5:22-24).

Find real life not in longer days, years, decades, but in Christ.

"Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God's right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, Who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all His glory" (Colossians 3:1-4). Beat the last heartbeat and die to this world now. Live for Christ and never die again.

Don't Forget.

"A great eagle with broad wings and long feathers, covered with many-colored plumage...seized the top of a cedar tree and plucked off its highest branch. He carried it away to a city filled with merchants. He planted it in a city of traders. He also took a seedling from the land and planted it in fertile soil. He placed it beside a broad river, where it could grow like a willow tree. It took root there and grew into a low, spreading vine. Its branches turned up toward the eagle, and its roots grew down into the ground. It produced strong branches and put out shoots. But then another great eagle came with broad wings and full plumage. So the vine now sent its roots and branches toward him for water, even though it was already planted in good soil and had plenty of water so it could grow into a splendid vine and produce rich leaves and luscious fruit" (Ezekiel 17:3-8, New Living Translation).

Don't forget Who planted you, Church. Look to no other.

"So now the Sovereign LORD asks: Will this vine grow and prosper? No! I will pull it up, roots and all! I will cut off its fruit and let its leaves wither and die. I will pull it up easily without a strong arm or a large army. But when the vine is transplanted, will it thrive? No, it will wither away when the east wind blows against it. It will die in the same good soil where it had grown so well" (17:9,10).

Friday, September 30, 2011

Missing the Visitation

I've been reading the prophet Joel today. God uses a foreign army to both judge His people (8th-6th century B.C. Judah) for a particular sin and to remedy the sin itself. What is the sin? They forgot that God was in their midst.

"Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and there is no other...then you will know that I am the LORD your God, dwelling in Zion" (2:27; 3:17).

God gets their attention through a foreign army of invaders (1:6), which He calls "His army" (2:11) and "My great army" (2:25). It's interesting that, without the words of the prophet, the people would have regarded the invaders as their biggest problem. In reality, their biggest problem was that they had forgotten the presence of God in their midst.

I started reading Joel today for the same reason I always read Joel: Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost. The apostle explains the Spirit's gift of tongues and the "speaking of the mighty deeds of God" by quoting Joel. "This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel" (Acts 2:1-16). The sin of Joel (forgetting the presence of God) is also the sin of Judea on the day of Pentecost.

"If you had known in this day, even you, the things which may for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another because you did not recognize the time of your visitation" (Luke 19:42-44).

After wandering in that spiritual wilderness 40 years that generation was destroyed for not knowing the God in their midst (40 years from Christ's ascension to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70).

Church, may we not get so distracted by the "enemies" in our culture and political systems that we forget the greater reality of the God in our midst. Saint, distraction is one of my greatest enemies - if it's yours, as well, let's pray for each other that we don't forget the greatest blessing imaginable that is ours now and forever in Christ: the presence of God Himself in the Person of the Holy Spirit!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Outer Darkness

The Gospel of Matthew has a lot of judgment announced against those who are not part of the New Covenant with God through Jesus Christ. While my understanding of the context of the New Testament finds these passages as references to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, I don't imagine that the King has changed His attitude or judgment against the spiritual children of those who are now weeping and gnashing their teeth in the outer darkness.

"Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 8:10-12).

"The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 13:41,42).

"So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righeous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 13:49,50).

"...when the king came into look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?' And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:11-14).

"Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that evil slave says in his heart, 'My master is not coming for a long time,' and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 24:45-51).

" everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 25:29,30).

So, be forewarned:
- It is a humbled ("Lord, I am not worthy," 8:8) faith in Jesus that will include you in the blessings and family of "Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," and nothing else.
- God takes "stumbling blocks" and "those who commit lawlessness" seriously. They will not be allowed to remain in "His kingdom" (13:41,42). And everywhere is under the authority of Christ's Kingdom: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (28:18).
- "The wicked" will be taken out "from among the righteous" (13:49). So much for that "carnal Christian" garbage. Fruitless professors of Christianity are false professors of Christianity.
- Those who show up at the "wedding hall" without "wedding clothes" will not be provided a complimentary necktie (22:11,12). John sheds some like on this parable later: "Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints" (Revelation 19:7,8).
- Those who do not feed the saints (saints only have one food) and abuse them will be surprised (24:45,48,49).
- The slave who bears fruit is "good and faithful," and will be welcomed into the Master's joy (25:23). The fruitless slave will lose whatever he has.

The outer darkness. I'm reminded of two passages that express the same reality.

"...Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness" (Leviticus 16:21,22). Outside the camp of God's people is to be away from the Source and Creator of life.

"Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying" (Revelation 22:14,15).

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The "Seed" in Genesis & Blessed Assurance

Following the “Seed” Through Genesis:

In the first hint of the Gospel – 3:15.

How God provided when the son of the earth (Cain) killed the faithful son of God (Abel) – 4:25.

God enters into covenant with Noah and his seed – 9:9.

The covenant promises between the LORD and Abraham/Abraham’s seed – 12:7; 13:15,16; 15:5,13,18; 16:10; 17:7-10,12,19; 21:12; 22:17,18; 24:7.

The covenant promises between the LORD and Isaac/Isaac’s seed – 26:3,4,24.

The covenant promises between the LORD and Jacob/Jacob’s seed – 28:4,13,14; 32:12; 35:12; 48:4.

* * * * * * *

READ Luke 3:23-38 to see how God brought forth the “chosen seed,” Christ, throughout the history of humanity. Matthew 1:1-17 connects Christ to Abraham, the receiver of the promises.

READ Galatians 3:16 to see how Paul claims the true descendant of Abraham (and inheritor of the promises to him) is not the Jewish people, but Christ. Paul makes much of the singular “seed” in this argument.

* * * * * * *
If, throughout the Genesis narrative, God had Christ in view, despite the sin and challenges that faced every generation, can’t we trust that He will bring about His purpose in Christ today among believers?

If God was able to bring about the birth of Christ (which He planned from before the foundation of the world) despite the war, cataclysm, etc., in every generation, then can’t He faithfully birth Christ in us (Galatians 4:19) despite whatever’s happening in our lives?

If everything before the Incarnation of Christ was leading up to His coming into the world, then can’t God bring about His ultimate goal of “the summing up of all things in Christ” (Ephesians 1:10), no matter what happens in the world or in our individual lives?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sparrows & Mud

We found this fragment of a hymnal under a garage we were dismantling last week in Minot, North Dakota. The flood waters had lifted the garage and pushed it against the house at an awkward angle. We demolished the garage, carried the debris to the side of the road, and uncovered this testimony to God's goodness-in-difficulty:

"His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me." The author of the poem, Civilla D. Martin, gives this testimony to how she wrote the hymn: "Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle - true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheel chair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle's reply was simple: 'His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.' The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn 'His Eye Is on the Sparrow' was the outcome of that experience."

The Lord loves His servants dearly, and they are never out of His sight - even in difficulty and challenge.

"What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him Who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a sent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. Therefore every who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father Who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father Who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:27-33).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rejoice in the Table!

I love the Lord's Supper. When you consider that the New Testament is relatively silent on what we are to do in corporate worship (1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 5:19), we should pay special attention when the Lord of the Church Himself gives us an element that should be part of our gatherings. At the Table we proclaim with one accord the "gospel of the glory of Christ, Who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). What an awesome opportunity! "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He returns (1 Corinthians 11:26). How could we ever "proclaim the Lord's death" to much, since it is in this that we are brought back to the most perfect expression of love from Love Himself to us? "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). "God is this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins...we love, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:8,10,19). As John Owen said, "the love of the Father is the only rest of the soul." That love is found exclusively in Christ, expressed most brilliantly in the cross of Christ.

In the love of the Father, "which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39), we find the true foundation for our loving fellowship with each other. "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another...if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us" (1 John 4:11,12). So at the Table we are not only reminded of the focal point of the love of the Father, we are reminded that the response to that love is to be directed to those gathered at the Table with us. Beautiful.

I can't get enough of this Supper. We celebrate it every week in our congregation. Today I came across this early teaching and prayer concerning the Lord's Supper and wanted to share it with you:

"First, concerning the cup:

We give You thanks, our Father,
for the holy vine of David Your servant,
which You have made known to us
through Jesus, Your servant;
to You be the glory forever.

And concerning the broken bread:

We give You thanks, our Father,
for the life and knowledge
which You have made known to us
through Jesus, Your servant;
to You be the glory forever.
Just as this broken bread was scattered
upon the mountains and then was
gathered together and became one,
so may Your Church be gathered together
from the ends of the earth into Your Kingdom;
for Yours is the glory and the power
through Jesus Christ forever.

...give thanks as follows:

We give You thanks, Holy Father,
for Your holy Name which You
have caused to dwell in our hearts,
and for the knowledge and faith and immortality
which You have made known to us
through Jesus Your servant;
to You be the glory forever.
You, Almighty Master, created all things for Your Name's sake,
and gave food and drink to men to enjoy,
that they might give You thanks;
but to us You have graciously given spiritual food and drink,
and eternal life through Your servant.
Above all we give thanks because You are mighty;
to You be the glory forever.
Remember Your Church, Lord,
to deliver it from all evil
and to make it perfect in Your love;
and gather it, the one that has been sanctified,
from the four winds into Your Kingdom,
which You have prepared for it;
for Yours is the power and the glory forever.
May grace come, and may this world pass away.
'Save us now' to the God of David.
If anyone is holy, let him come.
If anyone is not, let him repent.
'Come quickly Lord.' Amen."
(from the Didache).

Rejoice in the Table, proclaiming Christ with one voice. Rejoice in the Table, remember the absolute center of all Love in the death of the given Christ. Rejoice in the Table, remembering that we do not come to it alone, but come together with those we love with a supernatural and eternal love.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Rat Steps Out of His Standard Practice

Michele Bachmann (Pella, Iowa - April 11, 2011)

I usually don't bother posting much on politics, since it's all a boring reality show, but Representative Bachmann's speech in Iowa caught my attention. While some seeking the Republican nomination for 2012 are minimizing "social conservatism," Representative Bachmann asserts that it is the social issues that are at the heart of a future where the United States of America survives. She speaks of a more genuine Christian experience than anyone I have heard in while, and many aspects of her conversion and growth as a disciple resonate with my own story. Give her a listen. We're not looking for salvation from a candidate who will fix our financial mess or keep us secure - a believer knows the problem is that human beings are sinners and need Christ. I think Representative Bachmann has that firmly in view and operates from that foundational understanding more than anyone I've seen at this political level in my lifetime.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What I told the barber.

I walked into the barber shop the other day and immediately the barber called my name. "What's God saying in all that's going on in the world?" It's a question I've gotten a few times lately. My answer is not original to me (nothing really is).

What's God saying? "Repent."

On the good days when everything is nice and we enjoy the beauty of creation, the joy of friends and food, and the love of family, God is saying, "repent."

" you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?" (Romans 2:4).

On the good days God is saying, "repent."

On the tragic days when troubling things happen in our world or in the world delivered to us on the news channel (as it was on the barber shop television), God is saying, "repent."

"Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, 'Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:1-4).

This is what God desires of His people (or those who would be His people): a humble, contrite, repentant heart. No justifying ungodly lifestyles, worldviews, behaviors, decisions, etc. Acknowledging sin and sinfulness and humbly confessing them. He desires this when "all is well." God desires this when the doctor's news is bad, the waves crash, the earth trembles, the sky is filled with smoke, and when our loved ones break our hearts.


This means we turn away from the ways and thoughts of faithless humanity, since the way that seems right to humanity leads to death (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25), and God doesn't think like we do (Isaiah 55:6-9). He offers forgiveness to the repentant in Christ alone: "This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:5-9).


Last night when I came home Jupiter and Mercury were together low on the western horizon. The Greco-Roman king of the gods and his messenger. Tomorrow night we'll be observing a full moon that is at its closest approach to Earth - called a "super-moon." What does it mean?


Jupiter (lower left) and Mercury (upper right) after sunset.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Giving Up Our Children to a Chocolate-Chip Cookie Ethic

I won't keep you long this time.

I was out on a dirt road jogging yesterday (my new tool of self-torture), praying for individuals within my little ministry sphere. While praying for two particular individuals and measuring my life by the distance between soaptree yucca plants, the words "Christian dating" came into my head.

Can I ask a question? Where is this thing in the Bible? When I read household codes like the one found in Ephesians 5:22-6:9 (though, since Paul is writing to believers, this is not a "household" code, but an ethic for Christian covenant members - a "home mission church" ethic, if you will), I find two things:
  • An ethic for Christian covenant members who are married to one another: "Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord [yes, I know the verb here builds off of the mutual submission COMMAND for the ENTIRE CHURCH in 5:21, which in turn is the inevitable outworking of the COMMAND to be "filled with the Spirit" in 5:18]. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is also the head of the Church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the Church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, that He might present to Himself the Church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the Church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh [a quote from Genesis 2:24]. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the Church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband" (Ephesians 5:22-33). The foundational unit - a Creation ordinance, according to Jesus (Matthew 19:4-6) - of the Church (not society, for that's not what Paul is addressing here) is the married couple (one man and one woman covenanted as one in a Spirit-filled relationship with the God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ). This is the starting point.
  • Secondly, we see an ethic for the fruit of this physical and spiritual union: the children of the household of Christian covenant members (being Baptist I am refraining from calling them "covenant children," all due respect given to my sincerely beloved Reformed brothers and sisters). "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth [a quote from Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16]" (6:1-3). I believe Paul purposefully quotes from the Law of Moses at this point in reference to how we raise our children in a home parented by married members of the covenant in Christ: "...the Law [becomes] our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24). Until in the marriage relationship, children are to be regarded as part of the household of the parent. This is to be done with a wisdom beyond this desert rat (hence the need for the filling of the Spirit commanded in 5:18): "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (6:4). When there are two believing, married parents involved, the child should obey their wisdom - particularly in matters of relationship.

Back to my original question: where is the room for "Christian dating"? Is there an implied parenthesis between 5:22-33 and 6:1-4 where the parents release the bodies and spirits of their children to others their age, hoping that eventually - after much trial, error, and "experience" - the children stumble from 6:1-4 into 5:22-33? Or does Paul give us only these two categories, back-to-back, all under the command to be "filled with the Spirit," on purpose?

"The Bible doesn't mention chocolate-chip cookies, either, but you'll eat them, won't you?" I've heard the question before. The Bible does mention chocolate-chip cookies: "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer" (1 Timothy 4:4,5 - in context Paul is referring to both marriage and chocolate-chip cookies). Despite that, do want your chocolate-chip cookie ethic to create a category wedged in-between 5:22-33 and 6:1-4? Really? If you see a lot between the lines of your Bible and readily admit that, then I suppose that's up to your conscience.

Then there's the argument that my experience as a father doesn't really permit me to make such statements. "Just wait, rat, until we see how your tween daughter is doing in 10 years." This reasoning, in which I almost hear challengers cursing my daughter with wishes for her failure (imagine a red-eyed, sharp-fanged ugly desert rat snarling at this point), reminds me of an illustration (since we're basing our child-rearing on a chocolate-chip cookie ethic, I'm sure there won't be too many objections).

When teaching our children to drive, we don't send them off in a recently-new beat-up car driven by a careless 16-year-old who's only had his license for a year (during most of which he was grounded from the car because of tickets, wrecks, other irresponsible behavior). No. Responsible parents make their children study the drivers' manual and take the potential driver's education upon themselves. Parents hopefully model preferred driving habits, remind the young driver of the rules, and guide them through teaching in a wide-open parking lot.

And that's just driving. How much more important is the command of Scripture for how we relate to one another in Christ in the most basic units of the Church?

All that jogging yesterday and all this typing this morning is making me hungry. Luckily there aren't any chocolate-chip cookies in reach. They're good for a moment, but mess up my blood sugar and add more pounds to this short frame...and I don't want anything to slow me down as I go down the road later.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I read this on the Baptist Press site, describing the lamentable (and statistically verified) neglect of the Word of God in my denomination (the Southern Baptist Convention).

Note this connection in the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
Q2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him? A. The Word of God which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him.

Bible illiteracy among believers means that they cannot "glorify and enjoy" God. Therefore, they cannot fulfill their purpose in life, which is singular and common to all humanity. No amount of searching outside of the Word for a "Purpose-Filled Life" will accomplish this task. As the Reformer said, "the human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols" (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.11.8). Following our feelings, opinions, experiences (and those promoted to us by our friends or people we trust), we will seek a million other ways to find purpose. Our purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, and the direction on how to do that is found only in the Word of God.

Biblical literacy is critical to the life of the individual believer and - more importantly - the Church (where the identity of the believer should be found). Most grievously, the only One Who is worthy of glory does not receive it from a biblically ignorant people, no matter how genuine their intentions, how "spiritual" they are, or how big, "relevant," or multi-faceted the ministry offerings of the congregation are. Apart from biblical literacy, we are a grief to the God to Whom the Church belongs (as Acts 20:28 says, "the church of God which He purchased with His own blood").

Read the Book. Take advantage of the opportunities your congregation gives for increasing biblical literacy. If these don't exist, find a congregation where it does.

Read the Book.