Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Foundation of Evangelism & Righteousness

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge...through knowledge the righteous will be delivered” (Proverbs 1:7; 11:9).

“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences...for the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf...therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him Who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:11,14,15,17-21).

The fear of the Lord results in evangelism & righteousness in Christ.

* * * * * * *

“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’...and whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. As you enter the house, give it your greeting. If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city. Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father Who speaks in will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next...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 cent? 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 everyone 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 10:7,11-20,22,23,27-33).

“I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One Who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him. When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:4-12).

Ministry, evangelism, missions, preaching...the key is not fearlessness, but properly-placed fear.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


"And before the Sun had fallen far from the noon out of the East there came a great Eagle flying, and he bore tidings beyond hope from the Lords of the West, crying:

'Sing now, ye people of the Tower of Anor,
for the Realm of Sauron is ended for ever,
and the Dark Tower is thrown down.

Sing and rejoice, ye people of the Tower of the Guard,
for your watch hath not been in vain,
and the Black Gate is broken,
and your King hath passed through,
and he is victorious.

Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you,
all the days of your life.

And the Tree that was withered shall be renewed,
and he shall plant it in the high places,
and the City shall be blessed.

Sing all ye people!'"

- "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" by J.R.R. Tolkien

Speaking of the Kingdom We Seek

  • “To these [Jesus] also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
  • “And [Paul] entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God (Acts 19:8).

Forty days. Three months. The Kingdom was a regular part of the early Church’s preaching/teaching (Acts 8:12; 20:25; 28:23,31). How much do we have to say about it?

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Lord, may we seek Your Kingdom so that we have something to say about it to both reconciled citizens in Christ and rebels in need of the King’s clemency in Christ.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

We'll Hardly Notice the Weather

I camped out in the backyard with my oldest son as part of his birthday celebration. Before going to bed we read - at his request - a chapter from C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair (one of the most popular of the series to my children). A favorite character of ours, Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle, was introduced in the chapter we read. He agrees to help Jill and Eustace head north into hostile and unknown territory on an expedition given by Aslan the Lion to find the long-lost Rilian. I give you the following excerpt:

"The Marsh-wiggle sucked in his cheeks till they were hollower than you would have though possible. 'Well, I don't know that you'd call it help,' he said. 'I don't know that anyone can exactly help. It stands to reason we're not likely to get very far on this journey to the North, not at this time of year, with the winter coming on soon and all. And an early winter, too, by the look of things. But you musn't let that make you down-hearted. Very likely, what with enemies, and mountains, and rivers to cross, and losing our way, and next to nothing to eat, and sore feet, we'll hardly notice the weather. And if we don't get far enough to do any good, we may get far enough not to get back in a hurry.'"

As a lowly desert rat serving in a remote corner of the Kingdom, I do love Puddleglum for reasons I can't quite explain. Well, let's keep going. We'll very likely hardly notice the weather.

May We Never Lose Sight

Us: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to Whom be the glory forevermore. Amen” (Galatians 1:3-5).

Me: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).

Lord, as we debate “general and corporate” vs. “particular and individual,” let us not lose sight of the One Who gave Himself up...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Continue In It

Paul’s preaching, entrusted to the elders of the Ephesian Church, who also taught it – entrusted to us, that we, too, may teach it.
  • He testified “solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24; c.f. 14:3).
  • He “went about [among them] preaching the kingdom” (20:25).
  • He “did not shrink from declaring to [them] the whole purpose of God” (20:27).
  • He commended them “to God and to the word of His grace.” This word was “able to build...up and to give [to them] the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (20:32).
In both teaching and being taught in His Church, “continue in the grace of God” (13:43) found in the preaching of God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit. Monday morning does not mean Sunday’s teaching is to be left behind & forgotten. Continue in it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Spirit's Whole-Bible Word of Exhortation

“...they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, ‘Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.’ Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, ‘Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen...’” (Acts 13:14-16). And Paul delivers this “word of exhortation,” or encouragement, from the Scriptures (13:17-41). After connecting Christ to their history and describing His work in the world, the apostle calls them to respond: “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things...therefore take heed, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you” (13:38-40). Paul’s idea of “exhortation,” or encouragement: knowledge/belief in Christ unto freedom from sin & salvation from the curse of the Law & Prophets upon sinners. We cannot excise God’s wrathful curse against sin from our “encouraging word” in the sermon!
  • Encouragement in a “word of exhortation” comes from the whole Scripture (Romans 15:4), including the threats against sin. Paul ends his sermon with a quote from Habakkuk 1:5, "Behold, you scoffers, and marvel, and perish; for I am accomplishing a work in your days, a work which you will never believe, though someone should describe it to you" (13:41). Wow! How different this is from what we would consider an "encouraging message"!
  • Such a “word of exhortation” is a work of the Holy Spirit in the Church, Who gives to some the gift of prophecy for this purpose (1 Corinthians 14:3). Being easily tempted to either tickled ears (2 Timothy 4:3) or crush them with a misguided love of power over the people (Matthew 23:6,7; 2 Corinthians 1:24), we need and require the help of God the Holy Spirit to speak through us, or the moment of the sermon is utterly in vain.
  • “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13).
Holy Spirit, give this “word of exhortation” through Your prophet-preachers today from “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27) from Your Scripture to Your Church.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

What Will Cause the World to Tremble?

When Israel went forth from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became His sanctuary, Israel, His dominion.
The sea looked and fled; the Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams, the hills, like lambs.
What ails you, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back?
O mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs?
Tremble, O earth, before the Lord, before the God of Jacob,
Who turned the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a fountain of water.
- Psalm 114

Will the world tremble and be moved by our buildings? By our entertainment? Our endless programs (we are a Swiss Army Knife, not a doubled-edged sword!)? Our money, celebrity, political power? Our open doors, open everything? Our willingness to water down everything to build bridges to nothing? Our habits and traditions? Our platitudes affirming what they already believe – that they are the center of the universe, little gods in their own right? What will cause the world to tremble and be moved before the Church? The presence of the Lord, and nothing else.

Keep His Word faithfully without editing or compromise, no matter how unappealing or unexciting this may seem to an unbelieving world that hates that Word and those who hold to it: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s Who sent Me’” (John 14:23,24).

Church, open the Word by the power and teaching of the Spirit and enter in; Spirit, open us with Your sword (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12,13) and enter in. And so, may we be ever in Your presence together now and forever as Your Church.

For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. How lovely are Your dwelling places, O LORD of hosts!
My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
The bird also has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even Your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.
How blessed are those who dwell in Your house! They are ever praising You. Selah.
How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion!
Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring; the early rain also covers it with blessings.
They go from strength to strength, every one of them appears before God in Zion.
O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah.
Behold our shield, O God, and look upon the face of Your anointed.
For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!
- Psalm 84

Friday, March 23, 2012

Apologetics: the Arena of the Trinity

“But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense (πολογίαν) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:14-16).
  • The arena of apologetics is “suffering,” “intimidation,” “slander,” and “reviling” – the believer is “blessed” just by being in this arena.
  • The root & foundation of apologetics is the holy of holies (“sanctify”) in the heart of the believer, where Christ rules all as the only Lord.
  • The method of apologetics is not just “a defense,” but “good behavior in Christ.”
  • The attitude of apologetics is “gentleness and reverence,” and not “troubled” or “fearing.”
  • The subject of apologetics is “hope that is in you.”
  • The rule of apologetics is “a good conscience.”
  • The result of apologetics is “shame” for the unbeliever.

It seems to me that, in the evangelistic encounter and/or debate with an unbeliever, the apologist stands before God being humbled and tested “to know what was in your heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2), just as the preacher (2 Corinthians 2:17; 4:2; 12:19).

“Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory...” (Romans 9:21-23). The “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” are allowed to continue so that God can “make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy.” The arena of apologetics is not for the purpose of scoring points, humiliating opponents with superior debate skills/logic, or the establishment of truth (for truth is not determined by the reasoning of man) – the arena of apologetics is the place where God calls the apologist to the blessedness deeper humility before Him in Christ to reveal the riches of His glory in the mercy He has poured out on the apologist.

And, I have to add, the arena of apologetics is a place where the all three Persons of the One true God glorifies Himself:
  • “Behold, I [the Son] send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father Who speaks in you” (Matthew 10:16-20).
  • “But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit (Mark 13:9-11).
  • “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I [the Son] will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute” (Luke 21:12-15).

In the debate, be humbled before the Trinity and His limitless eternal gracious mercy.

Monday, March 19, 2012

From Godly Wife to the Holy Trinity

“Does not wisdom call, and understanding lift up her voice? On top of the heights beside the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; beside the gates, at the opening to the city, at the entrance of the doors, she cries out: ‘ therefore, O sons, listen to me, for blessed are they who keep my ways. Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts. For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD’ (Proverbs 8:1-3,32-35).

The godly wife is a picture of God’s gracious gift of wisdom:
  • “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22).
  • “House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD” (Proverbs 19:14).

Proverbs is written in the format of a drama: a father and mother are sending their adult son out into the world with a summation of godly advice and counsel. To make sure the young man really hears their words, the parents describe wisdom as something this young man naturally has at the top of his list: finding a wife. Wisdom, the perfect godly woman, is a regularly-reoccurring theme throughout Proverbs. She is set in opposition to the strange woman (“strange,” or adulterous, describing her place outside of the covenant with God), Foolishness.

The godly wife is an arrow pointing to God’s perfect wisdom for the man of God. That’s not the end of the meditation, though. God’s wisdom is not an abstract idea. He is a Person.
  • “The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42).
  • “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, Who became to us wisdom from that, just as it is written, ‘LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD’” (1 Corinthians 1:30,31).

Husband, as you love your wife in Christ, see her as the reflection of the Wisdom of the Father: God the Son, Jesus Christ. Husband, as you love your wife in Christ, see her as the gift of God, a reflection of the perfect gift of the Father, the “Spirit of wisdom” (Isaiah 11:2). May the Father's gift of the Spirit help us draw closer to the Son, the true and perfect wisdom of God, through the wisdom of our gracious and prudent wife of the covenant.

Love her, and may her wisdom draw your heart closer to the Wisdom of the Father (the Son, "Who became to us the wisdom of God"), and the Father's Gift, (the Spirit of Wisdom).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Prayerful Meditation on Speech

...teach us to shepherd with Your Word, and may we never “upset the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:18).
...teach us to shepherd with Your Word, and may we never “lead to further ungodliness” (2:16).
...teach us to shepherd with Your Word, never speaking things which lead “to the ruin of the hearers” (2:14).
...teach us to shepherd with Your Word, rather than artfully using rhetoric, logic, and oratory to wrestle in vain (2:14).
...teach us to shepherd Your Word, keeping us far from shame as we diligently present ourselves before You in our handling of Your Word (2:15).

“Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.’ Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2:19-21).

In a world of a billion unstoppable words each second in a seemingly unceasing succession of seconds, remind us that when Your Word is spoken there is significance as weighty as Your eternal and matchless glory. May our tongues be so weighted down with Your Word that we cannot lift them apart from Your strengthening.

“He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent” (Proverbs 17:27,28).

Monday, March 12, 2012

Don't Be Yourself

“So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness” (Ephesians 4:17-19).

Do not walk like Gentiles. Given Paul’s further description, this seems to be a good admonition to the saints. However, it also seems a little awkward and maybe even rude when we consider those to whom Paul is writing:
  • “, Gentiles in the flesh” (2:11).
  • “...I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles...” (3:1).

You Gentiles, don’t walk like Gentiles. In counterpoint to the advice we get from the world (especially our children in their media programming), Paul tells the Gentiles not to be themselves, not to be true to themselves, not to be who they really are, etc., ad nauseum, blah blah blah.

Who are they to be, then? The key is found in that phrase I’ve already cited, “Gentiles in the flesh.” Let’s look at the rest of that sentence: “Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands - remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:11,12). “Gentiles in the flesh” (compare with the similar phrase “Israel according to the flesh” in 1 Corinthians 10:18 in an older translation to get an accurate rendering of the Greek Ισραήλ κατά σάρκα) was what they were formerly. Have they been changed in the flesh? No, but they have been changed. One of my favorite words in Scripture is “but.” After the description of their former state, these Gentiles are told, “but now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).

Whereas they “were at that time separate from Christ,” they are now “in Christ Jesus.”
Whereas they were “strangers to the covenant of promise,” they are now “fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (3:6) and are “sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (1:13).
Whereas they had “no hope,” now they have been “called in one hope of [their] calling” (4:4).
Whereas they were “without God in the world,” now they can proclaim this beatitude over Him in Christ: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him” (1:3,4).

I left one out, didn’t I?

Whereas they were “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel,” they are do we end this construction? Well, I suppose we must complete it like we completed the others: Whereas they were “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel,” they are “no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens” (2:19). In Christ these Gentiles went from being “excluded from the commonwealth of Israelto being “fellow citizens” with Jews in Christ. Fellow citizens. Not second-class citizens. Not naturalized citizens as opposed to natural-born citizens. Fellow citizens. According to the flesh they are still Gentiles, unmarked in the flesh with the old covenant mark of covenant membership, but Paul calls them “citizens.” Did they receive this mark in the flesh making them part of the true Israel? No. Those that have the old covenant mark are “the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands” (2:11). The ones who are really citizens of the true Israel are those who have been marked not in the flesh, but in the spirit. The ones who are really citizens of the true Israel are those who have been marked not by human hands, but by God the Holy Spirit. These are true citizens of Israel (not the “Israel according to the flesh”). These are the ones who are truly Jews: “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:28,29).

I don’t think we appreciate how much Paul re-defines what was (and still is to many, many people) perceived as reality. In the Bible before Christ there were two categories of race or ethnicity in the world: Jew and Gentile. After Christ there are three: Jew, Gentile, and the Church. Those in Christ are neither Jew nor Gentile, but are “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15)...a new eternal race, a revealing of the true Israel of which the “Israel according to the flesh” was just a foreshadowing or symbol. (By the way, if the Gentiles in Christ are no longer Gentiles according to the flesh, then the Jews in Christ are no longer Jews according to the flesh – Jew and Gentile in Christ are both spiritual Jews, which should cause us to carefully consider how we insist the old covenant promises to the Jews/Israel are to be fulfilled.)

Hey Gentiles, don’t walk like Gentiles – because you may look like one in the flesh, but you are something so much different now. You are Israel in Christ. Don’t be yourself. Be in Him.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

He Alone Is Worthy

I've been reading Chuck Black's The Kingdom Series to my older two children, and came to the Knights' entry into the King's city yesterday (volume 6, "Kingdom's Reign"). Many of us were disappointed by Aslan's statement to Reepicheep in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (20th Century Fox, 2011) that the little hero could continue into Aslan's country because he (Reepicheep) was "worthy." Sigh. I enjoyed the movie (but loved and was moved by the book much more), but this is poor theology (we could say that Reepicheep was worthy only by the pronouncement and intercession of Aslan, but this is not apparent in the scene). How does Chuck Black handle the entry into the King's City and the question of the worthiness of the Knights?

"I am Micalem - keeper of the City of the King. Who is worthy to enter?" He asked the question with great authority. 
A second Silent Warrior came forward to stand beside him. "What deems a man worthy?" he asked for all to hear. 
Micalem responded with a shout. "He is worthy who has followed the Code without fault. He is worthy who has honored the King with his life and sworn allegiance to Him and Him only. He is worthy who has served the King in truth, justice, and honor. He is worthy who has offered compassion to the weak, the destitute, the widowed, and the poor. He is worthy who has lived for the King and served others without personal gain. He is worthy who has equipped, trained, and prepared for battle against the forces of the Dark Knight. He is worthy who has served the King and fainted not in the day of battle. He is worthy who has not used the sword to seek selfish gain but executed justice and the will of the King. He is worthy who has been merciful, loyal, courageous, faithful, and noble, but above all, who has been humble before the King and before men. He is worthy who words have always been spoken in truth." 
He paused and looked over the people in the courtyard. No one uttered a sound.  
"Who here has fulfilled every article of the Code and is worthy to enter the gate of the City of the King?" he asked again. 
No one dared moved, for we all had failed in some way and were not worthy. It was a solemn moment broken only by a stirring at the back of the courtyard furthest from the gate. Soon all eyes turned to behold what manner of man would dare come forward to meet such a challenge. The throne of people parted to give way for the man's approach to the gate. As the man passed by, people began to kneel, until He was before all and all were kneeling. He stood before the massive Silent Warrior, who suddenly did not look quite as noble with this man near him. 
Micalem opened his hands and spread them low before the Prince. "Only You are worthy, my Prince!" he exclaimed and knelt down before Him. 
The remaining Silent Warriors also knelt before the Prince and exclaimed in unison, "Only He is worthy!" 
The Prince, dressed in royal robes, turned to face us and lifted His hands in the air as if to enclose us in His embrace. "These are worthy, for I died for them and they believed in Me! Open the gates, and welcome them home!" 
The Silent Warriors stood, opened the gates, and blasted forth a song of triumph on their golden trumpets. The people all stood and cheered, for our joy was full and our hearts were home. We were delivered and redeemed, and the Prince had brought us home!

Well done. It is always difficult for me to read passages like this with strong voice. I should add that C.S. Lewis' account of Reepicheep's crossing in "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" (1952) does not address Reepicheep's worthiness. It does have a particularly sweet moment that has always stuck with me. The honorable little warrior who lived and fought for the Lion with his sword suddenly tosses the weapon aside: "Then he took off his sword ('I shall need it no more,' he said) and flung it far away across the lilied sea. Where it fell it stood upright with the hilt above the surface." Wonderful. Yet, as exciting as C.S. Lewis and Chuck Black's allegorical fantasies are, they cannot match the reality:

“I saw in the right hand of Him Who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me, ‘Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.’ And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.’ Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.’ And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him Who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen.’ And the elders fell down and worshiped” (Revelation 5:1-14). 
 “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).

He alone is worthy! Praise Him with great praise and confess with all that He alone is worthy!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Meditation & Prayer to Our Triune God from Proverbs 10

“The proverbs of Solomon” (Proverbs 10:1) is the header to a chapter filled with references to the blessings of those who are righteous:
  • “The LORD will not allow the righteous to hunger...” (10:3).
  • “Blessings are on the head of the righteous...” (10:6).
  • “The memory of the righteous is blessed...” (10:7).
  • “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life...” (10:11).
  • “The wages of the righteous is life...” (10:16).
  • “The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver...” (20:20).
  • “The lips of the righteous feed many...” (20:21).
  • “...the desire of the righteous will be granted” (10:24).
  •  “...the righteous has an everlasting foundation” (10:25).
  • “The hope of the righteous is gladness...” (10:28).
  • “The righteous will never be shaken...” (10:30).
  • “The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom...” (10:31).
  • “The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable...” (10:32).

“The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of receive instruction in...righteousness...” (1:1-3). If Solomon’s teaching instructs us in the righteousness that is blessed of the LORD, what of the Son of David (Matthew 1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30,31; 21:9,15; 22:42; Mark 10:47,48; 12:35; Luke 18:38,39; Romans 1:3) Who is greater than Solomon (Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31), Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
  • “...gospel of His the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes...for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH’” (Romans 1:9,16,17).
  • “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus...” (Romans 3:21-24).
  • “For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:19,21).
  • “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, Who became to us wisdom from God, and that, just as it is written, ‘LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD’” (1 Corinthians 1:30,31).
  • “He made Him Who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  • “...and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:9).
  • “ those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ...” (2 Peter 1:1).

Father, work Your perfect righteousness through those in Your Son this day through the power of the Spirit You have given Your precious Church (John 3:21; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:12,13; Hebrews 13:20,21)! Father, may we glorify You in the Son by the power of the Spirit through the commands and promises to the righteous in Proverbs 10.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fellowship & Joy = Proclaim What Is Written

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands [similar to the apostles’ defense before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:20 – 1 John doesn’t have to be dated late because it’s directed at hypothetical Gnostics!], concerning the Word of Life - and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us - what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete (1 John 1:1-14).

The purpose of proclamation: fellowship with each other and God the Father (and God the Son). Remember Jesus’ description of the only true Seeker: “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23,24). We cannot separate the Word and the Spirit Who Authors that Word:
  • “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
  • “It is the Spirit Who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth” (1 John 5:6).

The purpose of writing and, therefore, reading: complete and perfected joy. It should not surprise us that the Spirit Who Authors Scripture is the Spirit Whose presence manifests as joy (not the emotion of happiness that is dependent on circumstances, but the spiritual, unchanging reality of continually being in the presence of God the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of joy) when His Word (which is Truth) is read, taught, meditated upon, and becomes the binding force and foundation of our gathering as His Church:
  • “...the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52).
  • “...may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
  • “...the kingdom of God in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
  • “...the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22).
  • “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6).

The reading of the apostles’ writings and the application of the writings’ truth in proclamation is united in the 2,000 year-old practice of the gathered Church: “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13).

*Cast away, water down, or mature past the reading and preaching of Scripture to the gathered Church toward more relevant or culturally-sensitive expressions, meta-narrative sharing, Word-less “discussion,” voicing of authoritative experiences/emotions/opinions, or dramatic display of community significances* (asterisk-enclosed sarcasm), and God the Spirit will inevitably remove the eternal and Divine foundation of your fellowship, along with the supernatural and abiding joy that comes with it.

Gather as the Church. Fellowship in the Spirit through the Word He has Authored. Rejoice completely in the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together now and forever. May you be blessed deeply in this, most-beloved Church.

Riding with Him.

“...let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; yes, let them rejoice with gladness. Sing to God, sing praises to His name; lift up a song for Him WHO RIDES THROUGH THE DESERTS, Whose name is the LORD, and exult before Him. A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity...O God, when You went forth before Your people...You marched through the wilderness” (Psalm 68:3-7). See also Deuteronomy 32:13; Isaiah 58:14 for this metaphor.

“Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth, sing praises to the Lord, Selah. To Him WHO RIDES UPON THE HIGHEST HEAVENS, which are from ancient times; behold, He speaks forth with His voice, a mighty voice. Ascribe strength to God; His majesty is over Israel and His strength is in the skies. O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God!” (68:32-35).

Praise the Desert Rider Who gives salvation.
Praise the Rider of the Heavens Who gives strength. 

  • “The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them as at Sinai, in holiness. You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; You have received gifts among men, even among the rebellious also, that the LORD God may dwell there” (68:17,18).
  • “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, ‘WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.’ (Now this expression, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7-13).

Give thanks to Him, beloved conquered by the Rider, Who gathers us up in His chariots as they ride the deserts and the highest heavens, taking us up to the place of His dwelling: the Church, the fullness of Christ!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Be Psalm 96 to Us Today!

“Sing to the LORD, bless His name; proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens...ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength...worship the LORD in holy attire; tremble before Him, all the earth. Say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns; indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity’...He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His faithfulness” (Psalm 96:2-5,7,9,10,13).

The glorious mission of worshipful warning; thankfully we never do it alone: “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs - we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God’ (Acts 2:1-11).

Holy Spirit, God of the heavenly and violent rushing wind,
God Who fills the gathering of the disciples of Jesus Christ, God the Son and Son of God,
God Who distributes tongues of fire to the witnesses as You will (1 Corinthians 12:11),
God the Master of Every Tongue for the proclamation of worship, salvation, and judgment,
God Who gives eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand that people may repent and be healed:
Bless Yourself, Triune God, through us this day to the peoples of the world,
proclaim through us the vanity, futility, and folly of the billions of false gods all around,
issue the command to praise God through us to those worshiping themselves,
warn them of unstoppable judgment through us,
announce Your perfect justice and righteousness by our descriptions of Your matchless character,
and – in their own tongues – speak of the might deeds of our glorious Triune One-God-in-Three-Persons
that You may fill and be all in all unto Your infinite and eternal glory forever and ever!
Speak the final, highest, most absolute truth through Your elect this day: "Jesus is Lord"
for apart from You they cannot say it at all (1 Corinthians 12:3)!
Proclaim, proclaim, proclaim as that mighty Wind and roaring Fire!
Be Psalm 96 through us today! Amen.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Eyes, Ears, a Heart Unto God.

The voice and heart of the godly teacher: “My son, give attention to my wisdom, incline your ear to my understanding; that you may observe discretion and your lips may reserve then, my sons, listen to me and do not depart from the words of my mouth” (5:1,2,7). 

The voice and heart of the one outside the covenant of God (2:17): “For the lips of an adulteress drip honey and smoother than oil is her speech; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, her steps take hold of Sheol. She does not ponder the path of life; her ways are unstable, she does not know it. Keep your way far from her and do not go near the door of her house, or you will give your vigor to others and your years to the cruel one; and strangers will be filled with your strength and your hard-earned goods will go to the house of an alien” (5:3-6,8-10).

The testimony of the unhearing student: “And you groan at your final end, when your flesh and your body are consumed; and you say, ‘How I have hated instruction! And my heart spurned reproof! I have not listened to the voice of my teachers, Nor inclined my ear to my instructors! I was almost in utter ruin in the midst of the assembly and congregation’” (5:11-14). “For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD, and He watches all his paths. His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin. He will die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he will go astray” (5:11-14,21,22).

“The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the LORD has made both of them” (Proverbs 20:12). LORD, give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand the words of Your covenant with Your people in Christ; make us blind, deaf, and unconcerned with the tempting words of those outside our covenant with You in Christ. Give us a love for instruction and – yes – even correction (such a love is supernatural!). Thank You for gifting us with teachers and companions on the Way who – through Your enabling, Holy Spirit – apply Your Word to our lives as Your Church. 

Praise the Revealer Who is Our Father in Christ by the Spirit:
  • “At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 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’” (Matthew 11:25-27).
  • “Jesus answered them, ‘To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’ But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear” (Matthew 13:11-16).

Be blessed and glorified this day through the seeing eyes, hearing ears, and knowing hearts You give to Your Church!