Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Not Goods, but the Good

“Wherefore should I fear in the evil days, when iniquity shall compass me about, as at mine heels? They trust in their goods, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches. Yet a man can by no means redeem his brother: he cannot give his ransom to God, (so precious is the redemption of their souls, and the continuance forever) that he may live still forever, and not see the grave. For he seeth that wise men die: and also that the ignorant and foolish perish, and leave their riches for others. Yet they think their houses and their habitations shall continue forever, even from generation to generation, and call their lands by their names. But man shall not continue in honor; he is like the beasts that die. This their way uttereth their foolishness; yet their posterity delight in their sheep they lie in grave; death devoureth them; and the righteous shall have domination over them in the morning; for their beauty shall consume, when they shall go from their house to not thou afraid when one is made rich, and when the glory of his house is increased. For he shall take nothing away, when he dieth, neither shall his pomp descend after him. For while he lived, he rejoiced himself; and men will praise thee, when thou makest much of thyself. He shall enter into the generation of his fathers, and they shall not live forever. Man is in honor; and understandeth not; he is like to beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:5-20, Geneva Bible).

For a government (elected by the people for the people) to borrow $4,000,000 a minute, spending $2.06 for every $1.00 it takes in...these things cannot last forever (I’m starting to wonder if we’re seeing “Lord of the Flies” played out over a few centuries in this Republic). This is reason for despair if 49:15 (the only such verse in this Psalm) is not the solid confession of your faith in this world: “...God shall deliver my soul from the power of the grave; for He will receive me” (49:15).

As a dear brother of mine once said, “faith is faith only when Christ is all you have.” It seems the Father, in His disciplining love for His children (Hebrews 12:1-13), is bringing His Church to a place where this is our reality, to our ultimate and eternal joy. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and was made the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in His own order: the firstfruits is Christ, afterward, they that are of Christ, at His coming shall rise again. Then shall be the end, when He hath delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father, when He hath put down all rule, and all authority and power. For He must reign till He hath put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed, is death. For He hath put down all things under His feet. (And when He saith that all things are subdued to Him, it is manifest that He is excepted, which did put down all things under him.) And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him, that did subdue all things under Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:19-28). Our faith is not in political party, economic system, or earthly citizenship. He will make sure His children in Christ learn this lesson well. For our good and His glory.

My 5% Spandex Holiness

“Adiaphora” (αδιάφορα) is a word used to describe things that are “indifferent” to God’s commands or laws (or things not mentioned, not forbidden in Scripture). With how much of the surrounding unregenerate culture are believers permitted by God to participate? In certain areas this is definitely not an easy question (not as easy as some would make it seem, for sure). It does seem, however, that believers will expend much more emotional energy in defending their right to watch a “Twilight” movie, read “Harry Potter,” overindulge in poor (but socially acceptable) health choices, or engorging themselves in the cultural (and highly materialistic) expressions of Easter, Halloween, or Christmas, than they do in defending and delighting in the “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). Doctrine may divide, as the bumper-sticker-esque wisdom of today’s Church goes (and therefore should be eschewed), but “Walking Dead” or our costly and time-consuming hobbies are a far more reasonable basis for fellowship (and makes us look more normal to our lost friends)?! Are they "adiaphora," though? Well, we’ll sure make a lot of noise against those who would dare suggest they’re not.

I’m not an expert on the culture and am probably worthless as a social commentator (I’ve long suspected that I’m mentally/emotionally disabled and all my friends and family take care of me, laugh at my jokes, pretend what I’m saying is coherent, etc., out of their loving pity for my condition...of which I’m blissfully unaware!), but let me make a few observations.

I saw the trailer for “Promised Land” (Focus Features, 2012) recently on television. I noticed that it was rated “R” for “Language.” Wow. Given the kind of language that now is not only passable for a “PG” or “PG-13” rating (or for prime-time television), I could only point being that there’s little that is taboo in the language of the entertainment offered and consumed from the world’s culture by the Church. Is this adiaphora? Maybe not, since it’s increasingly popular for some of this language to find its way into our pulpits.

Read these two versions of Article VIII of the Baptist Faith & Message (one of two confessions that define the bounds of my personal conviction and Church membership):
  • “The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should be employed in exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private, and by refraining from worldly amusements, and resting from secular employments, work of necessity and mercy only being excepted” (1963).
  • “The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ” (2000).

Well, what happened? Did we get deeper in our study of the Scripture and meditation together on the doctrine contained therein? Or did our love for things (and the need to work more to pay for them and the need for more time to shop for them) move us to proclaim a major distinctive attitude of Christianity for centuries suddenly “adiaphora”? Would we have come to this conclusion apart from the influence of the world on the Church? I know that defining the continuity/discontinuity between the Fourth Commandment and new covenant Church practice is not easy, but can we really say what we do on the day dedicated to the Lord in a week is not governed by Scripture at all, but “should be commensurate with the Christian’s conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ” (I’ve seen Christians do a lot of very unscriptural things that they claimed were permissible to their “Christian conscience”)? Our theology seems to have been molded to accomodate, not shape as “a city set on a hill” (Matthew 5:14).

I, of course, am just as guilty in all these things, and do not claim a lofty place from which to make these judgments. I will, however, offer this passage for consideration which came to my attention a few days ago: “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together”’” (Leviticus 19:1,2,19, NASB). Non-believers and liberal Christians love this verse. When we argue against homosexuality or some other sin clearly defined by the whole of the Bible (though less and less is “clear” to some these days), those who oppose us (contrarians from a culture which doesn’t need their efforts to accomplish its purpose) love to then point out that we’re wearing a cotton-poly blend or some such thing. But is the point of this passage to be found in selective breeding or textile composition? No. The great point of this passage transcends its temporal/cultural context, and is definitely not “adiaphora.” God expects His people to reflect His holiness (separateness, uniqueness unto God) in everything, every aspect of our lives. Nothing, in other words, is “adiaphora” in God's will for His covenant people. Nothing.

Can we really say that Leviticus 19 is invalid for our consideration when its great refrain, “be holy for I am holy,” is quoted and applied to the Church by the Apostle Peter? “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY’” (1 Peter 1:14-16).

It is never easy to draw the lines between how we are to live together in Christ and how we are to live in this world. It requires a careful, humble, corporate consideration of the Scriptures. May God give us illumination of how we are to reflect His holiness. May God give us a willingness to die to the things for which we now argue so passionately, and, instead, just let them go, choosing to “err” (if that’s the right word) on the side of holiness rather than conformity.

For His glory, not our entertained assimilation.

Monday, December 17, 2012

God on Trial

It’s interesting that our society only invokes God to bring Him to trial following a tragedy.

Consider these three witnesses from the oldest book in the Bible:
  • “Then Job answered...‘He bruises me with a tempest and multiplies my wounds without it right for You indeed to oppress, to reject the labor of Your hands, and to look favorably on the schemes of the wicked...God has wronged me and has closed His net around God lives, Who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, Who has embittered my soul’” (Job 9:1,17; 10:3; 19:6; 27:2, NASB unless otherwise noted).
  • “Then Elihu continued and said, ‘Do you think this is according to justice? Do you say, “My righteousness is more than God’s”?’” (Job 35:1,2).
  • “Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm and said, ‘Now gird up your loins like a man; I will ask you, and you instruct Me. Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?’” (Job 40:6-8).
There is nothing new under the sun. God will not be brought to judgment in your tribunal of public discourse and vain opinion (especially when the result is a golden calf named “god” who is not god enough to stop the tragedy but is god enough to be judged culpable by you). The time to suddenly theologize is not in the aftermath of the nightmare; that is the time when we stand on the solid rock of our consistent confession and theology. The ones to consult to build this theology that will sustain us when our worlds are ripped to shreds are not those who disregard the Word He has given us for the full revelation of Himself; the place where true confession and theology is found is where His Word is lifted up, meditated upon, prayed, sung, taught, and lived together in the covenant community of faith in Jesus Christ, His Church (this is why the early Church had a regular diet of the Psalms [1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 5:19], where we learn to grieve and cry out to God from God the Holy Spirit Himself). The true Church alone is “the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), not the soapbox of human opinion and confused consensus.

Hear the message of every horrifying tragedy: repent, for a day is coming for every one of us. “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 13:1-5).

He will not be judged by us. We will be judged by Him in perfect righteousness through His Son Jesus Christ, Who is also the only Way to salvation from that judgment:
  • “Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them...‘the Father...has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life’” (John 5:19,22-24).
  • “Opening his mouth, Peter said: ‘I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One Who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins’” (Acts 10:34,35,38-43).
  • “So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens...the God Who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us...we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man...having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man Whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead’” (Acts 17:22,24-27,29-31).
I grieve with you, but am not surprised. I believe the Bible’s testimony about the wickedness in the human heart. I also believe in the only solution to this reality: “...this whole world lieth in wickedness. But we know that that Son of God is come, and hath given us a mind to know Him which is true, and we are in Him that is true, that is, in that His Son Jesus Christ, the same is that very God, and that eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:19b-21, Geneva Bible).

Let us learn the lesson with Job and share his final confession, the one that does not try to bring God before the court of human “fairness,” but recognizes Him as sole and only Sovereign in all things, not just in the aftermath of the unthinkable manifestation of the always-present human evil, but every day of our lives to His glory: “Then Job answered the LORD and said, ‘I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?” Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. “Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.” I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes’” (Job 42:1-6). Here, where we cease to claim before Him that we deserve better (this is a truly spiritual place, the last place we will go in our natural selves), is where we will find a lasting peace in the comfort given in Christ alone. "...the Helper, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful" (John 14:26,27). This is true life in His Church, where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, blessed Trinity, speaks His Word of supernatural and eternal peace to His people in the midst of a world where wickedness will not be defeated by human effort or law.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Our Guardianship

“Remember that we are the people You chose long ago, the tribe You redeemed as Your own special possession! And remember Jerusalem, Your home here on earth. Walk through the awful ruins of the city; see how the enemy has destroyed Your sanctuary. There Your enemies shouted their victorious battle cries; there they set up their battle standards. They swung their axes like woodcutters in a forest. With axes and picks, they smashed the carved paneling. They burned Your sanctuary to the ground. They defiled the place that bears Your name. Then they thought, ‘Let’s destroy everything!’ So they burned down all the places where God was worshiped” (Psalm 74:2-8, New Living Translation).

Reading this I am reminded of the New Testament’s continual warnings about our greatest threat as the gathered people of God. It is not as in the days of the Psalmist, for our deadliest enemies do not come from the outside with axes, war-cries, and fire.

  • “I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following” (Acts 20:29,30).
  • “These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
  • “Have I now become your enemy because I am telling you the truth? Those false teachers are so eager to win your favor, but their intentions are not good. They are trying to shut you off from me so that you will pay attention only to them” (Galatians 4:16,17).
  • “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
  • “Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead” (1 Timothy 4:1,2).
  • “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths” (2 Timothy 4:3,4).
  • “But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves. Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered” (2 Peter 2:1,2).
And there are dozens of other similar warnings

Sometimes they don’t burn the places of gathering from the outside. Keep your Bibles open before you, reading them alone and together, giving thanks in prayer and rejoicing for the great promise of the new covenant sealed with Christ’s blood: that God the Holy Spirit would write His Word on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). Guard the Church from its greatest enemy: false teaching. They may sound good, look good, make you feel good with their words. Be diligent in scriptural doctrine and practice that comes consistently and carefully from that scriptural doctrine. Stay together. In this way, be the Church that doesn't "tolerate evil people," examining "the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not" (Revelation 2:2). "Being the Church" (a popular phrase these days) means being "the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). Scripture is "the true center of Christian union" (Baptist Faith & Message 2000, 1).

“Behold! The ecclesiastical power which is given to pastors of the church (by whatever name they are called) is clearly declared! That is, by God’s word which they are established to administer, they boldly dare all things and constrain every glory, greatness, and power of this world to obey and submit to the divine Majesty. By this word they have command over the whole world; they build up Christ’s house and overturn Satan's kingdom; they feed the sheep and kill the wolves; they lead by teaching and exhortations those who are teachable; they constrain and correct the rebellious and obstinate; they bind, loose, thunder, and cast lightning - but all in the word of God.”
John Calvin, “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” 15 (1541 version)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Which House?

“And when the Lord thy God hath brought thee into the land, which He sware unto thy fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give to thee, with great and goodly cities which thou buildedst not, and houses full of all manner of goods which thou filledst not, and wells dug which thou dug not, vineyards and olive trees which thou plantedst not, and when thou hast eaten and art full, beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage [עבדים]: thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve [תעבד] Him, and shalt swear by His Name” (Deuteronomy 6:12,13, Geneva Bible).

“Know ye not, that to whomsoever ye give yourselves as servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether it be of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye have been the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart unto the form of the doctrine, whereunto ye were delivered. Being then made free from sin, ye are made the servants of righteousness...but now being freed from sin, and made servants unto God, ye have your fruit in holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death: but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:16-18,22,23).

You serve one house or another. There is no third option.

“This is the word of faith which we preach. For if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart, that God raised Him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved...He that is Lord over all, is rich unto all that call on Him. For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord, shall be is by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:8,9,12,13,17). Confess Him as Lord, and call upon Him as your Lord, and be saved from the house of slavery into the house of service to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Black Dwarf

Merry Christmas from the Black Dwarf.

“Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.

God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and made of the substance of His mother, born in the world.

Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.

Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.

One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the manhood into God.

One altogether, not by the confusion of substance, but by unity of person.

For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead; He ascended into heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.”

- Athanasian Creed, 28-39.

Countercultural in the Blessing of the Normal

“Blessed is everyone that feareth the Lord, and walketh in His ways. When thou eatest the labors of thine hands, thou shalt be blessed, and it shall be well with thee” (Psalm 128:1,2, Geneva Bible).

Carefully note that the blessings for “fearing the Lord” and “walking in His ways” are manifested in the most ordinary means: Work-paycheck-eat.

We give thanks, since we are working for, buying, and eating food “which God hath created to be received with giving thanks of them which believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:3).

Two observations:
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Those in Christ are to give all things a countercultural significance by pointing not to themselves, but to our Father Who is in heaven. This practice is not just doxological (an act focused on openly giving glory to God in a corporate setting), but should be doctrinal and catechetical (teaching): “Prayer, with thanksgiving...must be made in the name of the Son, by the help of the Spirit, and according to His will [it is trinitarian, thus uniquely Christian; see Ephesians 5:18,20]. It must be made with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance; and corporate prayer must be made in a known language” (Baptist Confession of Faith 1689, 22.3).

• Don’t let the convenience of quickly-acquired food so streamline the process of eating that this “blessing” (Psalm 128:1,2) just becomes a necessary process in our pointlessly over-busy schedules (where, in our efforts to cram more importance into our day, we marginalize heaven-pointing blessings like sitting down to eat with family in the celebration of the daily blessings of God).

Church, don't get dragged along in the current of the mundane with the world. Instead, may we be those who celebrate, teach, and bring the mundane into the context of heavenly glory even in the work-paycheck-eat cycle. This is blessing.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Santa Up, Church

Nicholas of Myra (a.k.a. St. Nicholas, Santa Claus) winds up for a little smackdown on Arius at the Council of Nicea, A.D. 325. This is my Santa: lie about my Jesus, and prepare for more than coal in your stocking!

On a serious note, Arius' false teaching about Jesus (He is not the eternal Son of God, but was a creation, a special man who became God) is regurgitated every generation. Church, if you've gotta "Santa," then "Santa up" for Jesus and "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (Jude 3).

Sunday, December 2, 2012

He Preserves Through Hearing in the Gathering

“When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge delighteth thy soul, then shall counsel preserve thee, and understanding shall keep thee...and it shall deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words. Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God. Surely her house tendeth to death, and her paths unto the dead. All they that go unto her, return not again, neither take they hold of the ways of life. Therefore walk thou in the way of good men, and keep the ways of the righteous” (Proverbs 2:10,11,16-20, Geneva Bible).

The connection between hearing (2:10,11) and doing (2:20) is found in the assembly of the saints in Christ: Wisdom, knowledge, counsel, and understanding are to be found in fellowship with “good men” and “the righteous.” Gather with the Church today, friends, and hear of Him Who alone saves you from the one(s) who will only lead you away from Him (2:16-19). He preserves and keeps you through hearing in the gathering.

* * * * * * *

“My son, if thou wilt...cause thine ears to hearken unto wisdom...then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom, out of His mouth cometh knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:1,2,5,6).

Discipline yourself to hear the Word of the Lord as it is proclaimed in the gathering of the saints. He speaks His wisdom in Christ through the Scriptures by the teachers He gives His Church: “My son, if thou wilt receive my words...” (2:1; cf. Acts 13:1; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 2:2,24). This is the only means of His grace by which we “understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.”

* * * * * * *

“...He preserveth the way of His Saints” (Proverbs 2:8). Notice that though there are many “Saints,” there is only one “way.” Walk together.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Snakes in the Christmas Decorations

“Then the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field: upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. I will also put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed. He shall break thine head, and thou shalt bruise His heel’ (Genesis 3:14,15, Geneva Bible).

“For thou hast said, The Lord is mine hope: thou hast set the most High for thy refuge. There shall none evil come unto thee, neither shall any plague come near thy tabernacle...the dragon shalt thou tread under feet (Psalm 91:9,10,13).

“For your obedience is come abroad among all: I am glad therefore of you: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. The God of peace shall tread Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (Romans 16:19,20).

Christmas: the Serpent-crusher is born of woman; He then continues to crush the Serpent through those who by faith and obedience are made one with Him. There is such an incredible and absolute victory behind the Christmas story over the great enemy of God and His people!

I wonder why there aren’t any snakes in our Christmas decorations?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

All My Springs Are in Thee

From today's Psalm reading: “...all my springs are in thee” (Psalm 87:7, Geneva Bible). "Thee" in this passage is Zion. How is Zion the source of "all our springs"?

He is “the Lord, the fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 17:13). He is the Holy Spirit, given to those who believe in Jesus, producing from those whom He indwells rivers of living water (John 7:37-39).

He is in the beginning the One Who causes living water to proceed from the place of covenant with His people: “And out of Eden went a river to water the garden, and from thence it was divided, and became into four heads. The name of one is Pishon: the same compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where is gold. And the gold of that land is good: there is Bdellium, and the Onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same compasseth the whole land of Cush. And the name of the [third] river is Hiddekel: this goeth toward the East side of Ashshur: and the fourth river is Parah)” (Genesis 2:10-14).

He is in the end the One Who causes living water to proceed from the place of the covenant with His people: “And He that sat upon the throne, said, ‘Behold, I make all things new,’ and He said unto me, ‘Write: for these things are faithful and true.’ And He said unto me, ‘It is done, I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end: I will give to him that is athirst, of the well of the water of life freely.’ And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and of either side of the river was the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and gave fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree served to heal the nations with” (Revelation 21:5,6; 22:1,2).

“O fountain of the gardens, O well of living waters,” all of our springs are in You alone Who dwells in us by the new covenant in Jesus (Song of songs 4:15). Pour forth from Your Church, Holy Spirit, and be living water to others through us this day.

Monday, November 26, 2012

7 Abominations on a Monday Morning

“He that hateth, will counterfeit with his lips, but in his heart he layeth up deceit. Though he speak favorably, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart. Hatred may be covered by deceit: but the malice thereof shall be discovered in the congregation” (Proverbs 26:24-26, Geneva Bible).

One of the results of being gathered into a group is that our inner nature is eventually brought out. In the Church we are shown to be servants or power-hungry, no matter what flattery or smiles we use. Our actions and motivations will be shown. This is one of the reasons God commands us to congregate with people who are different from us in race, socio-economic status, education, entertainment preference, etc., finding our unity in a common confession of the faith alone. God uses our differences in unity to expose us for what we really are as we interact with one another in the gathering of the Church. Those who cannot tolerate this nakedness will either be increasingly shamed in this nakedness (I’m still – after twenty years – reminded of Anne Rice’s description of vampires: they don’t change, they just become more of what they are) or will depart from the congregation of people different than themselves (the more we build a congregation on elements outside the confession – or refuse to be unified by confession – the less accountability there is as we build a group of people very much like ourselves by non-confessional standards).

God commands His children congregate in Him so that the non-Him elements in the members of the congregation are revealed for what they that we may grow past them together.

I am struggling in this area of discipleship this morning. I’m on my third night of sleep deprivation, taking care of little ones in their illness. My bride leads a ladies’ class on Monday mornings, so I prepared a healthy breakfast for the children. While they were eating, I mixed some green chile in with an egg and threw it on the griddle for myself. Just before I put the mixture on a tortilla, the youngest gagged and vomited forth his banana, apples, milk, and honey-bun mixture (okay, the breakfast was mostly healthy). I remained calm in this, but I confess it was a fake calmness. In my heart, I was yelling, “what?! I don’t get to sleep or eat?!” Mess cleaned quickly for the benefit of the other children. Little one bathed and re-dressed. I took out my inner anger on the now-unappealing meal, throwing it away with more aggression than necessary (out of sight of little ones). Grrrrrr...deep breath. Lord, I am an impatient man. I can fake it so many times, but I am impatient deep down...sometimes to the point of feeling pretty unloving toward folks who trigger that impatience. I am a sinner in need of a Savior at every moment, and being around people who aren’t as enlightened and perfect (read heavy sarcasm here) as I am shows this very clearly.

It may not be vomit, but being in the gathered Church means that people will do things around me and say things to me that trigger my inner un-Christlikeness very quickly. It’d be easy to leave them and identify with a group of people as awesome as myself, but I wouldn’t grow there...except in the area of my own self-worship and self-righteousness. I need you to show me to be what I am, that I may be thrown more and more upon God’s mercy and grace in Christ and molded by the Spirit into the image of the One Who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I cannot do that alone, and I cannot do that with those who are more or less clones of myself. What I am will be discovered in the congregation, that I may be conformed to the image of the Son.

On Monday mornings and many other times, there are seven abominations in me that I will never be rid of apart from the Spirit’s means of exposing them and excising them from my being: the gathered Church.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Loving Plea to Would-Be Sons of Issachar

“...the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times” (1 Chronicles 12:32).

With events in the news, Church, there are many who fancy themselves “sons of Issachar.” Let me plea for care with two points:

  • Don’t be a Harold Camping (or even a Hal Lindsey). When we link modern events in the world to Scripture and tomorrow the world hasn’t ended, what have we done to the veracity of Scripture in our pronouncements (until recently one of Camping’s damnable billboards was on the Interstate claiming he was right because “the Bible says so”)? You do realize that every generation since Jesus ascended to His throne has thought theirs was the last generation and that things couldn’t get any worse, right?
  • The Six-Day War (June, 1967). Things have escalated before in the Middle East (many, many times in the last 2,000 years, but especially in relatively recent history, with which the would-be “sons of Issachar” should familiarize themselves) and will again. I am not proclaiming “peace, peace,” when there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11; Ezekiel 13:10,16). I am saying tumult is the way of this Christ-hating world, even when the headlines are not aflame with rockets.

Can we stand as witnesses to the calm fearlessness, peace, hope, and joy found in Christ alone before the storms of the world?

Let me share some of my favorite verses in the Bible with you: “For thus the LORD spoke to me with mighty power and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, ‘You are not to say, “It is a conspiracy!” In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, and you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the LORD of hosts Whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread. Then He shall become a sanctuary’” (Isaiah 8:11-14).

God of History

“Thou hast redeemed Thy people with Thine arm, even the sons of Jacob and Joseph...Thou didst lead Thy people like sheep by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Psalm 77:15,20, Geneva Bible). God works among His people through history and real human beings...don’t miss Him while seeking a secret, individualistic mystical experience directly with an unbiblical god cut off from these things. Like our Psalmist, meditate on how the inspired Scripture describes God’s work in the history of redemption; may the Spirit guide us as we also hear those who’ve come before us in Church history and those through whom He teaches and applies His Word today. He is God of history (Who works in and through history) yesterday, today, and forever.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Study and Answer, Righteous Heart

“The heart of the righteous studieth to answer” (Proverbs 15:28a, Geneva Bible).

  • Prerequisite: “...that which is through the faith of Christ, even the righteousness which is of God through faith” (Philippians 3:9).
  • Means: “Study to show thyself approved unto God a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, dividing the Word of truth aright” (2 Timothy 2:15).
  • Fruit: “A soft answer putteth away wrath...a wholesome tongue is as a tree of life...the lips of the wise do spread abroad knowledge...a joy cometh to a man by the answer of his mouth: and how good is a word in due season...the pure have pleasant words” (Proverbs 15:1a,4a,7a,23,26b).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Learning Devotion from a Non-Devotional Psalm

“But now Thou art far off, and puttest us to confusion, and goest not forth with our armies. Thou makest us to turn back from the adversary, and they which hate us, spoil for themselves. Thou givest us as sheep to be eaten, and dost scatter us among the nations. Thou sellest Thy people without gain, and dost not increase their price. Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbors, a jest and laughing stock to them that are round about us. Thou makest us a proverb among the nations, and a nodding of the head among the people. My confusion is daily before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me, for the voice of the slanderer and rebuker, for the enemy and avenger...Thou hast smitten us down into the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death... our soul is beaten down unto the dust: our belly cleaveth to the ground” (Psalm 44:9-16,19,25, Geneva Bible).

Passages like this don’t find their way into little devotional books or onto calendars. Our song writers don’t put Psalms like this to contemporary tunes. Still, Church, we know days when things seem like this, don’t we? How does the Psalmist approach the Lord on this day? “All this is come upon us, yet do we not forget Thee, neither deal we falsely concerning Thy covenant. Our heart is not turned back: neither our steps gone out of Thy paths” (44:17,18). Faithfulness, Church, come what may. Faithfulness to the One Who leads us toward the goal: the eternal joy of His Presence.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Meditations in Slander

“A righteous man hateth lying words: but the wicked causeth slander and shame” (Proverbs 13:5, Geneva Bible).

Praying with a brother today over slander hurting his heart:
  • “Lord, who shall dwell in Thy Tabernacle? Who shall rest in Thine holy Mountain...he that slandereth not with his tongue” (Psalm 15:1,3).
  • “My confusion is daily before me...for the voice of the slanderer...yet do we not forget Thee, neither deal we falsely concerning Thy covenant. Our heart is not turned back: neither our steps gone out of Thy paths” (Psalm 44:15-17).
  • “...he that inventeth slander, is a fool” (Proverbs 10:18).
  • “Then said Jesus, ‘...those things which proceed out of the mouth, come from the heart, and they defile the man. For out of the heart come...slanders. These are the things which defile the man’” (Matthew 15:18-20).

Lord, may Your Tabernacle (the Church), Your rest, Your covenant, and Your paths in Christ be balm for the slander-grieved heart.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Who Are You, Church?

“‘Behold, the days come,’ saith the Lord, ‘that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, the which My covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them,’ saith the Lord. ‘But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days,’ saith the Lord, ‘I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord”: for they shall all know Me from the least of them unto the greatest of them,’ saith the Lord: ‘for I will forgive their iniquity, and will remember their sins no more’” (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Geneva Bible).

With whom does “the Lord” make the New Covenant?

“But now our high Priest hath obtained a more excellent office, inasmuch as He is the Mediator of a better Testament, which is established upon better promises. For if that first Testament had been unblameable, no place should have been sought for the second. For in rebuking them He saith, ‘Behold, the days will come,’ saith the Lord, ‘when I shall make with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah a new Testament: Not like the Testament that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand, to lead them out of the land of Egypt: for they continued not in My Testament, and I regarded them not,’ saith the Lord. ‘For this is the Testament that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days,’ saith the Lord, ‘I will put my Laws in their mind, and in their heart I will write them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord”: for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and I will remember their sins and their iniquities no more’” (Hebrews 8:6-12).

Who is the sole Mediator of the New Covenant (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5,6; Hebrews 9:15; 12:24)? Given the context here, Who made the Old Covenant and led the recipients of it “out of the land of Egypt (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:4)? With whom does the Mediator make the New Covenant?

Again – be patient - who do these texts tell us are the recipients of the New Covenant?

Now, see yourself, beloved Church, at the Table. Hold the cup. Hear the words: “Likewise also after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is that new Testament in My blood, which is shed for you’” (Luke 22:20). “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ...after the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, ‘This cup is the New Testament in My blood: this do as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me’” (1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:25).

The cup we bless and drink together by faith is the New Covenant in the Mediator’s blood. Who partakes of this cup, beloved Church? With whom is the New Covenant made?

Who are you? Say it. This is the fullness of biblical theology, “the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not opened unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy Apostles and Prophets by the Spirit, that the Gentiles should be inheritors also, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the Gospel” (Ephesians 3:4-6).

Who are you? “Wherefore remember that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, and called uncircumcision of them, which are called circumcision in the flesh, made with hands, that ye were, I say, at that time without Christ, and were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and were strangers from the covenants of promise, and had no hope, and were without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, ye which once were far off, are made near by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, which hath made of both one, and hath broken the stop of the partition wall, in abrogating through His flesh the hatred, that is, the Law of commandments which standeth in ordinances, for to make of twain one new man in Himself, so making peace, and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by His cross, and slay hatred thereby, and came, and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were near. For through Him we both have an entrance unto the Father by one Spirit. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners: but citizens with the Saints, and of the household of God. And are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Cornerstone, in Whom all the building coupled together, groweth unto an holy Temple in the Lord. In Whom ye also are built together to be the habitation of God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:11-22).

Hold the cup of the New Covenant in His blood, hear the promise of the New Covenant to Israel, and know who you are in Christ, beloved Church: the true Israel.

Monday, November 5, 2012

As for Me and My House

The house of the world, Shift, where nothing is absolute: “She weigheth not the way of life: her paths are moveable: thou canst not know them...keep thy way far from her, and come not near the door of her house” (Proverbs 5:6,8, Geneva Bible).

The house of the unchangeable God (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17), the Church, where the truth of His Word is absolute: “...the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

To which house to you belong?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Gather, Hear, Walk

“...the way of the righteous shineth as the light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day...ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be ordered aright” (Proverbs 4:18,26, Geneva Bible).

To walk “the Way,” start by hearing: “HEAR, O ye children, the instruction of a father, and GIVE EAR to learn understanding. For I do give you a good doctrine: therefore forsake ye not my law. For I was my father’s son, tender and dear in the sight of my mother, when he taught me, and said unto me, ‘Let thine heart hold fast my words: keep my commandments, and thou shalt live. Get wisdom: get understanding: forget not, neither decline from the words of my mouth’...HEAR, my son: and receive my words, and the years of thy life shall be many. I have taught thee in the way of wisdom, and led thee in the paths of righteousness. When thou goest, thy gait shall not be strait, and when thou runnest, thou shalt not fall. Take hold of instruction, and leave son, HEARKEN unto my words, incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes, but keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them: and health unto all their flesh” (4:2-5,10-13,20-22).

Lord, give us ears to hear, that we may walk by Your Way.

Church, gather and hear His Word together, that we may walk together in His Way.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Displaying the Cross of Christ

“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

How is the cross to be displayed in the gathering of the Church? In most congregations, it is part of the architecture, furniture, art, music, jewelry, etc.

There are two ways God uses to display the cross of His Son in the Scripture.

First, the cross is to be displayed in the preaching of the Gospel.
“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-3; cf. Acts 2:23; 5:30; 10:39; 13:29).

Second, the cross is to be displayed in fellowship of the Lord’s Supper.
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

We should ask whether the large wooden crosses, dramatic re-enactments, and cross-songs are distractions from the means God has described in His Word for the portrayal of the cross. While it is true that He does not forbid other presentations of the cross apart from the Word and Table, it seems that in the modern Church we have placed our emphasis on these other non-scriptural means to the detriment of those means explicitly given in the Scripture. I myself have found myself in Church auditoriums disappointed to find there is no large cross prominently displayed. A friend of mine thought that “The Passion of the Christ” (2004, Newmarket Films) was going to spark a world-wide revival. Neither furniture nor film, however, should supplant the God-given means of showing forth the cross: the Word and the Table. In the hymnal of my denomination (the Southern Baptist Convention) there are many, many more songs about the cross than the resurrection (sadly, there aren’t enough good resurrection-meditating songs in any Christian tradition). As wonderful as these cross-songs – old and new – are, music is not the means of cross-telling explicitly described in Scripture. Few Churches regularly observe the Lord’s Supper, but no congregation goes without music for a meeting. Which was given by Christ? Similarly, most congregants would quickly choose 40 minutes of music to 40 minutes of cross-centered Bible exposition from the pulpit.

Paul even goes so far as to say that he refuses to “preach the cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void” (1 Corinthians 1:17). Would dramatic re-enactments, emotional music, or inspiring architecture/furniture be the equivalent to “cleverness of speech”? Perhaps we, like Paul, should consider preaching the Word without manipulation, trusting God’s power in the Gospel (1 Corinthians 1:18) rather than our abilities to make it powerful on our own.

Let’s prayerfully consider how the Bible tells us the cross is primarily portrayed: the Word and Table. I’m not arguing that we strip our meeting-places of crosses or quit singing songs about the cross (especially since some Bible scholars suggest Philippians 2:5-11 is actually an early Church hymn!). I would, however, suggest that we repent of minimizing and even choosing against the God-given means of displaying the cross of Jesus Christ.

Pray for a passion and dedication to the Word and Table, the simple, yet God-empowered, means of displaying the cross. May all the other things we do frame and serve these central elements rather than compete with them or even replace them!

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Religion of Heaven

“If we would learn what true religion is, we must go where there is true religion, and nothing but true religion, and in its highest perfection, without any defect or mixture. All who are truly religious are not of this world, they are strangers here, and belong to heaven; they are born from above, heaven is their native country, and the nature which they receive by this heavenly birth, is a heavenly nature, they receive an anointing from above; that principle of true religion which is in them, is a communication of the religion of heaven; their grace is the dawn of glory; and God fits them for that world by conforming them to it. This appears from the nature and design of the ordinances and duties, which God hath appointed, as means and expressions of true religion.”
- Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), “Religious Affections”

Edwards’ appeal to “the ordinances and duties, which God hath appointed” as the legitimate practice of “the religion of heaven” should make us reverent and sober both in the formation of the liturgy of the gathering of the Church and in our daily lives of worshipful devotion to our Savior-God and King.

“...the acceptable way of worshipping the true God has been instituted by Himself, and therefore our method of worship is limited by His own revealed will. He may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men...He may not be any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.”
- 1689 London Confession of Faith, 22.1

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Don't Blame Love

  • "...put on love, which is the bond of perfectness" (Colossians 3:14, Geneva Bible).
  • "...let us which are of the day...[be] putting" (1 Thessalonians 5:8).

True love is an act of the will, and is not to be blamed for the self-will that breaks covenant.We do not helplessly fall in or out, but either put it on in covenant commitment or unrepentantly masquerade for temporary convenience.

I recognize that all humans (even Christians and especially myself) sin, but there is no biblical justification for an appeal to God's mercy, forgiveness, and love apart from a repentant confession of sin (as defined by the Scripture). The entry-point for the eternal enjoyment and consolation of the benefits of Christ is humbly and freely confessing that sin is sin as defined by the Scripture.

So, breaking covenant in the name of love and then - either in open or tacit unrepentant rebellion - appealing to the fact that "God is love," "forgiving," or "merciful" is further evidence from your own lips that you want the benefits of ideas like love, forgiveness, or mercy without committing to the covenant in which they are solely found.

Don't blame love.

The Covenant that Teaches

“All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep His Covenant and His testimonies...the secret of the Lord is revealed to them that fear Him: and His Covenant to give them understanding” (Psalm 25:10,14, Geneva Bible).

The new covenant in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7:22; 8:6; 9:15; 12:24) is a covenant that teaches: “‘Behold, the days come,’ saith the Lord, ‘that I will make a new covenant...this shall be the covenant that I will make...I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord”: for they shall all know Me [who are in this covenant] from the least of them unto the greatest of them...’” (Jeremiah 31:31-34; cf. Hebrews 8:6-12; 10:15-25).

Come learn from the Mediator of the new Covenant: “At that time Jesus answered and said, ‘I give Thee thanks, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise, and men of understanding, and hast opened them unto babes. It is so, O Father, because Thy good pleasure was such. All things are given unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father: neither knoweth any man the Father, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him. Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and laden, and I will ease you. Take My yoke on you, and learn of Me that I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden light’” (Matthew 11:25-30).

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Last Debate, Foreign Policy, & the Word

I offer a little perspective for the Church following the final Presidential debate of the 2012 election season.

President Obama: “America remains the one indispensable nation.”
The Truth: “ have tasted that the Lord is bountiful. To Whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed of men, but chosen of God and precious, ye also as lively stones, be made a spiritual house, an holy Priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I put in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect and precious, and he that believeth therein, shall not be ashamed.’ Unto you therefore which believe, it is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone to stumble at, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the Word, being disobedient, unto the which thing they were even ordained. But ye [the "spiritual house" and "Priesthood" of believers] are a chosen generation, a royal Priesthood, an holy nation, a people set at liberty, that ye should show forth the virtues of Him that hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light, which in time past were not a people, yet are now the people of God: which in time past were not under mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:3-10, Geneva Bible).

Governor Romney: “This nation is the hope of the earth.”
The Truth: “And if ye call Him Father, which without respect of person judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your dwelling here in fear. Knowing that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation, received by the traditions of the fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb undefiled, and without spot. Which was ordained before the foundation of the world, but was declared in the last times for your sakes, which by His means do believe in God that raised Him from the dead, and gave Him glory, that your [the "redeemed"faith and hope might be in God. Having purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit, to love brotherly without feigning, love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born anew, not of mortal seed, but of immortal, by the Word of God, Who liveth and endureth forever. ‘For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man is as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower falleth away.’ But the Word of the Lord endureth forever: and this is the Word which is preached among you” (1:17-25).

Preparing for Sunday’s message to the Church, my mind’s on foreign policy, too: “Peter an Apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers that dwell here and there...elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father unto sanctification of the Spirit, through obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you...dearly beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which fight against the soul” (1:1,2; 2:11).

Keep your perspective rooted in the Word, Church.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Beauty of Naming Sin in Zion

“Out of Zion, which is the perfection of beauty, hath God shined” (Psalm 50:2, Geneva Bible).

“He shall call the heaven above, and the earth to judge His people. Gather My Saints together unto me, those that make a covenant with Me with sacrifice.’ And the heavens shall declare His righteousness: for God is Judge Himself...‘Hear, O my people and I will speak: hear, O Israel, and I will testify unto thee: for I am God, even thy God’...unto the wicked said God, ‘What hast thou to do to declare Mine ordinances, that thou shouldest take My covenant in thy mouth, seeing thou hatest to be reformed, and hast cast My words behind thee? For when thou seest a thief, thou runnest with him, and thou art partaker with the adulterers. Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and with thy tongue thou forgest deceit. Thou sittest, and speakest against thy brother, and slanderest thy mother’s son. These things hast thou done, and I held my tongue: therefore thou thoughtest that I was like thee: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thee’” (50:4-7,16-21).

God’s beauty, His shining glory, is not diminished when sin is called sin according to His Word in the gathering of His people. It is perfected. See and desire the perfect beauty of the Judge in the gathering. Our idolatrous remaking of Him into our image (50:21) is broken, and His sanctifying remaking of us into His image is beautiful in Zion.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

No Gods Before Him

From last night’s family devotion: “Even the Philistines took the Ark of God, and brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. And when they of Ashdod rose the next day in the morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face on the ground before the Ark of the Lord, and they took up Dagon, and set him in his place again. Also they rose up early in the morning the next day, and behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face on the ground before the Ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and the two palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold: only the stump of Dagon was left to him. Therefore the Priests of Dagon, and all that come into Dagon’s house, tread not on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod, unto this day” (1 Samuel 5:2-5, Geneva Bible).

To put something/someone in a place of equal importance with the one true God of the Bible in your life, heart, or mind is dangerous (Exodus 20:1-5//Deuteronomy 5:6-10).

Give God the Son “the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18)! “...Christ Jesus, Who being in the form of God, thought it no robbery to be equal with God...made Himself of no reputation, and took on Him the form of a servant, and was made like unto men, and was found in shape as a man. He humbled himself, and became obedient unto the death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God hath also highly exalted Him, and given Him a name above every name. That at the Name of Jesus should every knee bow, both of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth. And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, unto the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).

Friday, October 12, 2012


“Yea, all kings shall worship Him: all nations shall serve Him...His name shall be forever: His name shall endure as long as the Sun: all nations shall bless Him, and be blessed in Him. Blessed be the Lord God, even the God of Israel which only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be His glorious Name forever: and let all the earth be filled with His glory. So be it, even so be it” (Psalm 72:11,17-19, Geneva Bible).

There is one Power: “And Jesus came, and spake unto them, saying, ‘All power is given unto Me, in heaven, and in earth’” (Matthew 28:18).

There is one King: “...Jesus Prince of the Kings of the earth...made us Kings and Priests unto God even His Father...He is Lord of Lords, and King of Kings: and they that are on His side, called, and chosen, and faithful...and I saw heaven open, and behold a white horse, and He that sat upon Him was called faithful and true, and He judgeth and fighteth righteously. And His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns: and He had a name written, that no man knew but Himself. And He was clothed with a garment dipped in blood, and His name is called, THE WORD OF GOD. And the hosts which were in heaven, followed Him upon white horses, clothed with fine linen white and pure. And out of His mouth went out a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the heathen: for He shall rule them with a rod of iron, for He it is that treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He hath upon His garment, and upon His thigh, a name written, THE KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 1:5,6; 17:14; 19:11-16).

Let all the earth be filled with His glory.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Remedy to Idolizing Your Job

“The Lord is known by executing judgment: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands” (Psalm 9:16, Geneva Bible). What a thing, to be ensnared by the god you had worshiped in the judgment of the one true God! “And the remnant of the men...repented not of the works of their hands that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood, which neither can see, neither hear, nor go” (Revelation 9:20; cf. 2 Kings 19:18 [//Isaiah 37:19]; 22:17; Psalm 115:4; Isaiah 2:8).

Remedy. “These now are the commandments, ordinances, and laws, which the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: That thou mightest fear the Lord thy God, and keep all His ordinances, and His commandments which I command thee...these words which I command thee this day...thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand” (Deuteronomy 6:1,2,6,8). Guard the workings of your hands today from the tendency of your heart to worship them by meditating on the Word of the one true God while you work.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

From the Chair and the Psalm to the Hill and Him

“The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth them, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near unto them that are of a contrite heart, and will save such as be afflicted in spirit. Great are the troubles of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken. But malice shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous, shall perish. The Lord redeemeth the souls of His servants: and none that trust in Him, shall perish” (Psalm 34:17-22, Geneva Bible).

To find the “righteous” One Whose bones are not broken, we must leave the soft chair and cup of coffee where we’re reading our Psalms for the day...we must travel to Golgotha to find this righteous One.

“Now when Jesus had received of the vinegar, He said, ‘It is finished,’ and bowed His head, and gave up the ghost. The Jews then (because it was the Preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day: for that Sabbath was an high day) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken down. Then came the soldiers and brake the legs of the first, and of the other, which was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs. But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it, bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe it. For these things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled, ‘Not a bone of him shall be broken [Psalm 34:20]’” (John 19:30-36).

On Golgotha, darkness. On Golgotha, blood. On Golgotha, enemies. On Golgotha, death. Yet, God hears this One Whose bones are not broken. Through the darkness, through the blood, through the enemies, and yes, through the death, there is this promise: “...none that trust in Him, shall perish.” See the empty tomb. See the righteous One glorified and alive. Do you see yourself with Him?

Read John 6:53-58 (esp. vs. 56); 14:8-21 (esp. vs. 20); 15:1-10; 16:33; 17:1-26 (esp. vs. 21).

Friday, September 28, 2012

Judgment in the Water and at the Table

God takes the ordinances and sacraments of the Church seriously.

Baptism: “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.’ Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:1-14).

The Egyptians tried to go through the same waters and were utterly destroyed. The unbelievers (Hebrews 3:19; 4:2) among the sons of Israel went through to find death in the wilderness. Take heed, those of you who have passed through the waters, that they not be waters of judgment for you.

The Table: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep” (1 Corinthians 11:23-30).

Humble yourself at the Table, bringing only a repentant heart freely confessing sin and faith in the saving work of Christ. May the body and blood bring strengthening grace, not judgment.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Find the Fount of Love

“For Thy lovingkindness [חסד, or covenantal love] is before mine eyes: therefore have I walked in Thy truth” (Psalm 26:3, Geneva Bible). His motivating power for walking in the truth of God’s Word is a blood-bound relationship secure in the unbreakable promise of God’s love. The love is expressed in its cost and oath, not primarily in momentary moods – as Rich Mullins once said, “there’s a loyalty that’s deeper than mere sentiment.” Loyal-love, covenant-love, love of the unbreakable promise...that’s what motivates the Psalmist to walk in the truth of God’s Word, a love alien to our commitment-allergic age. “Herein was that love of God made manifest amongst us, because God sent that His only begotten Son into this world, that we might live through Him. Herein is that love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be a reconciliation for our sins” (1 John 4:9,10). If that covenant-love doesn’t move you to a continual desire to walk in the truth of His Word, return to the gathering where that place of love – the Cross – is the theme of the songs, the promise of the Table, and the only thing the man in the pulpit knows (1 Corinthians 2:2). It’s love that strips you down to the soul to reveal every sin and then covers you in blood-bought perfect white, fills you with the very Presence of love (Romans 5:5), and never lets you go. It’s love that sets you on the Way – not the cheap imitation passed off as love from the feelings and flesh of self-centered humanity. Find the Fount.

“I will...compass Thine altar, that I may declare with the voice of thanksgiving, and set forth all Thy wondrous works...I will praise Thee, O Lord, in the Congregations” (26:6,7,12).

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Treasure of His Name

A good name is to be chosen above great riches, and loving favor is above silver and above gold” (Proverbs 22:1, Geneva Bible).

  • “But while he thought these things, behold, the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, the son of David, fear not to take Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her, is of the holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save his people from their sins.’ And all this was done that it might be fulfilled, which is spoken of the Lord by the Prophet, saying, ‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which is by interpretation, “God with us.”’ But he knew her not, till she had brought forth her first born son, and he called His name JESUS (Matthew 1:20-25).
  • “But beware of 1men, for they will deliver you up to the Councils, and will scourge you in their Synagogues. And ye shall be brought to the governors and kings for my sake, in witness to them, and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that hour, what ye shall say. For it is not ye that speak, but the spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son, and the children shall rise against their parents, and shall cause them to die. And ye shall be hated of all men for My Name: but he that endureth to the end, he shall be saved...the disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his Lord. It is enough for the disciple to be as his master is, and the servant as his Lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household? Fear them not therefore...” (Matthew 10:17-26).
  • “Then the Pharisees went out, and consulted against Him, how they might destroy Him. But when Jesus knew it, He departed thence, and great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all, and charged them in threatening wise, that they should not make Him known, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the Prophet, saying, ‘Behold my Servant Whom I have chosen, My Beloved in Whom my soul delighteth: I will put my Spirit on Him, and He shall show judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry, neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench, till He bring forth judgment unto victory. And in His Name shall the Gentiles trust’ (Matthew 12:14-21).
  • “The same time the disciples came unto Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whosoever shall receive one such little child [the disciple humbled like a child] in My Name, receiveth me’ (Matthew 18:1-5).
  • “Moreover, if thy brother trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast won thy brother. But if he hear thee not, take yet with thee one or two, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be confirmed. And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the Church: and if he refuse to hear the Church also, let him be unto thee as an heathen man, and a Publican. Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven. Again, verily I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree in earth upon anything, whatsoever they shall desire, it shall be given them of My Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them (Matthew 18:15-20).
  • “Then answered Peter, and said to him, ‘Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee: what therefore shall we have?’ And Jesus said unto them, ‘Verily I say to you, that when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His Majesty, ye which followed me in the regeneration, shall sit also upon twelve thrones, and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. And whosoever shall forsake houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My Name’s sake, he shall receive an hundredfold more, and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first, shall be last, and the last shall be first’” (Matthew 19:27-30).
  • “And Jesus answered, and said unto them, ‘Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my Name, saying, “I am Christ,” and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and realm against realm, and there shall be famine, and pestilence, and earthquakes in divers places. All these are but the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you, and ye shall be hated of all nations for My Name’s sake’” (Matthew 24:4-9)
  • “And Jesus came, and spake unto them, saying, ‘All power is given unto me, in heaven, and in earth. Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, until the end of the world, Amen’” (Matthew 28:18-20).

His Name, the greatest of treasures, is not owned without trial, but is great to eternal life – unlike the temporary treasures of this world.