Saturday, June 30, 2012

There's Just Something About That Name

“The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, the oracle. The man declares to Ithiel, to Ithiel and Ucal: Surely I am more stupid than any man, and I do not have the understanding of a man. Neither have I learned wisdom, nor do I have the knowledge of the Holy One. Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son's name? Surely you know! Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him” (Proverbs 30:1-5).

Hear and believe:
  • Learn wisdom, understanding, and knowledge through a Person: “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, Who became to us wisdom from Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 2:2,3).
  • Learn of the One Who has descended and ascended: “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” (Ephesians 4:9,10).
  • Learn of the One Who controls the wind and sea: “They became very much afraid and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?’” (Mark 4:41).
  • Learn of the One Who is the tested Word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being...He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called ‘The Word of God’” (John 1:1-3; Revelation 19:13).

Know His name, called by His relationship to His Son (and by His Son His name describes His relationship to us through the Spirit): He is Father (Matthew 6:9; John 20:17; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). Know the name of His Son: Jesus.
  • “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
  • “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
  • “...if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved...” (Romans 10:9).
  • “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).

Be ignorant no longer.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Perspective on Justice

“Many seek the ruler's favor, but justice for man comes from the LORD” (Proverbs 29:26). Let’s keep our perspective, eh?

Remember that we are called to leave “room for the wrath of God” (Romans 12:19), which “is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (1:18). We who have “now been justified by [Christ’s] blood” and “shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (5:9), need to keep perspective about the Father’s sovereignty, justice, wrath, love, grace, and salvation through Jesus Christ alone by the power of the Holy Spirit. All else points to the Trinity and His great work, so “if possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (12:18). The line of “so far” which we will not cross is the holiness of God (Hebrews 12:14). “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Two roads before us:
  • “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD!” (Isaiah 31:1).
  • “Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God” (Proverbs 20:7).

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


“He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who cares for his master will be honored” (Proverbs 27:18).

“Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, ‘No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.’ And at once the fig tree withered. Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, ‘How did the fig tree wither all at once?’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away’” (Matthew 21:18-22; 24:32-35).

“And He began telling this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, “Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?” And he answered and said to him, “Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down”’” (Luke 13:6-9)

Our King, our God, and our Father, help us, Your Church in Christ the Son, to tend, enjoy, serve, nurture, and see fruit brought forth by the power of Your Spirit. Planter and owner of the fig tree, be glorified through us as we serve You!

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Mission of the Flagship

“But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God [the FATHER, see 1:7], to be a minister of Christ Jesus [the SON] to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the HOLY SPIRIT” (Romans 15:15,16).

The “why” behind the great flagship of Christian theology, the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans: the overwhelming, glorious weight of the Trinity pushed Paul to write in unfathomably deep boldness toward the unity of the Church – we are all equally lost apart from the love of the Father, grace of the Son, and fellowship of the Spirit, and we are all equally saved in the Trinity, regardless of race, gender, background, all that we were before Christ. As the Trinity is One, the Church, too, is one.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Expounding the Law

“...Moses spoke to the children of Israel, according to all that the LORD had commanded him to give to them...across the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to expound this law, saying, ‘The LORD our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and set your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites, and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negev and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. See, I have placed the land before you; go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to them and their descendants after them”’” (Deuteronomy 1:3,5-8).

The Law points to the Promise: “But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:22-24).

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Dividing Line: Unending Covenant Love

“Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The lovingkindness [חסד, covenant love] of God endures all day long. Your tongue devises destruction, like a sharp razor, O worker of deceit. You love evil more than good, falsehood more than speaking what is love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. But God will break you down forever; He will snatch you up and tear you away from your tent, and uproot you from the land of the living” (Psalm 52:1-5). What stands against tyranny of wicked, twisted, lying words both whispered and shouted? The unwavering eternal covenant-love of God for His people. Because of His love they will forever endure in the place of covenant, “the land of the living.” Those boasters outside the covenant will not.

“The righteous will see and for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever. I will give You thanks forever, because You have done it, and I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones” (Psalm 52:6,8,9). Judgment of those outside the covenant grows those inside in their “fear” of the LORD, their trust in the unending love of His covenant with His people, their thankfulness, and their waiting on His good name. The “land of the living,” the place of the covenant, is seen in greater beauty as the “house of God” and “the presence of [His] godly ones.”

The covenant love of God. In it is all. Outside of it is death. Boast not in yourself for your salvation this day, but “confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, saved” (Romans 10:9). Church, consider His love and judgment and draw nearer to Him (and each other) in your meditation on both.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Command of the Covenant: Give Thanks

“The Mighty One, God, the LORD, has spoken, and summoned the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth. May our God come and not keep silence; fire devours before Him, and it is very tempestuous around Him. He summons the heavens above, and the earth, to judge His people: ‘Gather My godly ones to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.’ And the heavens declare His righteousness, for God Himself is judge” (Psalm 50:1-6). Our God, brighter than the sun and much closer (feel His purifying fire in the air), summons His people. Who are His people? “Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” His people by relationship, yes, but a relationship with contract – boundaries, blessings for obedience, curses for disobedience. Sealed with blood, the blood of the sacrifice. He summons His people to judge them. Yes, judge them.

“‘Hear, O My people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you; I am God, your God. I do not reprove you for your sacrifices, and your burnt offerings are continually before Me. I shall take no young bull out of your house nor male goats out of your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is Mine, and all it contains. Shall I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of male goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and pay your vows to the Most High; call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me’” (50:7-15). The blood of symbols has been poured out, but this isn’t enough for the righteous Judge of His people. Where are their “sacrifices of thanksgiving”? Where are your sacrifices of thanksgiving, dear Church, purchased with the blood of the covenant – the blood of God Himself (Acts 20:28; Revelation 5:9)? You proclaim the words of this blood-sealed relationship at the Table: “This cup is the new covenant in My blood” (1 Corinthians 11:25). How can we take the cup of the blood-bought covenant and not then offer “sacrifices of thanksgiving”?

“But to the wicked God says, ‘What right have you to tell of My statutes and to take My covenant in your mouth? For you hate discipline, and you cast My words behind you. When you see a thief, you are pleased with him, and you associate with adulterers. You let your mouth loose in evil and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done and I kept silence; you thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes. Now consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver. He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God’” (50:16-23). What a people we can sometimes be! We teach His commands and rest in covenant security but refuse to be corrected or actually live by the commands we ourselves teach! We are kinder to unbelievers than we are to those purchased with the blood of the Son of God! Grace, acceptance, unconditional love to those who refuse to confess and believe in Jesus, but judgment, anger, slander, disassociation with those with whom we have been bound eternally?! To do such things is to think God is just like us; to do such things is to “forget God” and enrage the Lion. Instead, repent, “order [your] way aright,” and offer the “sacrifice of thanksgiving”!
  • “ filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:18-21).
  • “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).
  • “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father(Colossians 3:15-17). In unity, teaching, and action, give thanks. This verse is the "holy, holy, holy" of thankfulness with its triple repetition of the command.
  • “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
  • “Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name (Hebrews 13:12-15). Even homeless pilgrims who are exiles from the City of Man gives thanks!

Revisit the blood of the covenant at the Table of the Lord, dear Church. There remember the boundaries of your relationship with the Father through the Son by the power of the Spirit: teach and obey His commandments, live in actual love with those who share your confession and faith, and offer the sacrifices of thanksgiving to Him Who alone is worthy!

“And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.’ And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him Who sits on the throne, to Him Who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him Who sits on the throne, and will worship Him Who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created’” (Revelation 4:8-11).

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God Who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.’ Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?’ I said to him, ‘My lord, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He Who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:9-17).

Thanksgiving is commanded (not invited or suggested) from God’s people, is deserved by God alone, is the creed and lifeblood of our fellowship as the Church, and is the joyous cry of eternity. Lift up your fallen faces, silence the complaints of your idolatrous self-centered hearts (the “sacrifice of thanksgiving” is a sign that you are actually in covenant – ungratefulness is a sign to the opposite), and train your lips to speak grace and thanks in the great Congregation! The righteous Judge has summoned you there and is present. So prepare for Meeting now and every moment this day by giving thanks, letting it build in your heart and mind and words until the Gathering of God’s blood-bought thankful ones in Christ!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Putting Pastor Humpty-Dumpty Back Together Again

“ me up again by Your Word...everything's falling apart on me, God; put me together again with Your Word...I wait for Your Word to renew me...following Your guidelines, revive me...rescue me on the terms of Your promise” (Psalm 119, the Message).

Sunday I woke up inexplicably heavy-hearted for, as I put it then, "the gathered Church and the un-gathered un-church." I worried throughout my coffee and devotional reading of the Psalms and Proverbs, then headed outside to watch the sunrise. I looked over our little garden, which at the moment has a handful of cucumbers and a single squash coming up. The small patches of green in the midst of the brown garden was a perfect illustration of my concerns and anxiety for the Lord's people under my watch. I considered these Scriptures:

  • “And He was saying, ‘The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows - how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come'’” (Mark 4:26-29).
  • “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God Who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).

"Lord," I prayed, "help me out of this. I feel like my heart's broken into pieces this morning. Put me back together again according to Your Word so that I can effectively minister to Your people. I only get one hour a week with some of them...that hour is so important! Please, Lord, please." Then I went in to help my bride get our household ready for the gathering.

Every Sunday I have two of our men alternate calling us to worship by reading one of the Psalms (I am convinced the Psalms should have a high place in the worship life of the Church - 1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). This morning Dr. Don called us to worship by reading from Psalm 107. The Spirit spoke through Don powerfully to my soul, starting His process of putting me back together according to His Word: “Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters; they have seen the works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep. For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; their soul melted away in their misery. They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet, so He guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people...” (107:23-32). May those who have experienced Him calming the storm find their way to the gathered Church to proclaim it!
Don calls us to worship with Psalm 107.

During the offertory my beautiful bride played and sang one of my favorite modern songs, "Let It Be Said of Us" (Steve Fry). She knew the weight on my heart, and knew how strongly I feel about these lyrics. I wept.

Let it be said of us that the Lord was our passion, that with gladness we bore every cross we were given; that we fought the good fight, and we finished the course; knowing within us the power of the risen Lord.
Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song! By mercy made holy, by the Spirit made strong. Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song! Till the likeness of Jesus be through us made known. Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song.
Let it be said of us, we were marked by forgiveness; we were known by our love and delighted in mercy; we were ruled by His peace, heeding unity’s call, joined as one body that Christ would be seen by all.

Our time of singing was sweet, as usual. We sang “Day by Day” (Karolina W. Sandell-Berg, 1865, translated from Swedish to English by Andrew L. Skoog) and I again found myself being ministered to by the songs of the gathered Church:
Day by day, and with each passing moment, strength I find, to meet my trials here; trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear. He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure gives unto each day what He deems best— lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure, mingling toil with peace and rest.
Every day, the Lord Himself is near me with a special mercy for each hour; all my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me, He Whose Name is Counselor and Power; the protection of His child and treasure is a charge that on Himself He laid; “As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,” this the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in every tribulation so to trust Thy promises, O Lord, that I lose not faith’s sweet consolation offered me within Thy holy Word. Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, ever to take, as from a father’s hand, one by one, the days, the moments fleeting, till I reach the promised land.
Were it not for the "faith's sweet consolation offered me within [His] holy Word," I would be without hope. But the Spirit answers the prayer of the one broken into pieces by putting Humpty-Dumpty back together again according to His Word.

At the Lord's Supper I was moved watching the elements being spread throughout the congregation. I love these people, I thought, in their youth, their age, their strength, their weakness (because I have it on good authority - Matthew 7:1-5 - that their weaknesses are smaller than the blind spots I have toward my own weaknesses...which means they're being graceful in loving me at all!), their different personalities and backgrounds. We are named to be one in Christ, His gathered congregation, and He is doing His will through His Spirit in our gathering. I am blessed to be at the Table with this imperfect-yet-saved people - my family in Christ.

We have been observing a weekly (Sunday morning) Lord's Supper for four years now in our congregation. I am a strong believer that it is vital to the life of the gathered Church. I cannot tell you how many times the Lord has used the Church's unified proclamation of the Gospel, "of the Lord's death until He returns" (1 Corinthians 11:26), at the Lord's Supper Table to prepare me by His grace to proclaim His Gospel from the Word at the pulpit (to my Reformed friends - I know that you guys usually observe the Supper after the sermon - there's a method behind my madness). I am blessed beyond measure to share this meal with this people at this Table.

I love preaching and teaching the Word, and an important part of that is because I also love the Word of God above all things in this world and because I love this people. I know them. God has given me fellowship with some of them in horrible tragedy. With some I have spent hours in deep discussion and study. With others there has been ministry and mission. For others there has been much prayer (we had many present this day who had been absent for some time). The sermon is worship in the Word by God's people to the Word's present Writer. The sermon is fellowship in the Word by the Spirit Who is its Author. The sermon is the heart of who we are as the gathered Church (1 Timothy 3:15), for the Word is the breathing-forth of the Spirit without which we do not truly live. God heals in His Word by re-creation in its reading and application to His meeting people. And, even as I preached His Word to His beloved people, I felt the healing.

I still give an invitation, though I've moved away from calling it that. The Lord never "invited" people to repent and believe. He, as Lord and King, commanded it - as is His right. We have a time of response. It's still a good practice because - just as the Table brought us to the Gospel before the message - this time of response is also a time to re-visit the truth of the Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, Who is King of kings and Lord of lords. It's not that I ignore the Gospel during the sermon between Table and Response, but any opportunity to integrate that "as of first importance" (1 Corinthians 15:3) into our liturgy, I'm going to observe it. The Gospel saves. The Gospel heals - it especially heals Pastor Humpty-Dumpty, who kept hearing this phrase in his head all morning before the gathering: "I feel like I am broken into so many pieces..."

I don't know much about the King's horses, but all the King's men, women, and children - my family in the Lord Jesus Christ - couldn't in themselves put Pastor Humpty-Dumpty back together again, but the Father used them by the power of the Spirit in the fellowship of His Word to do it. Don't neglect the assembly of the saints in the Beloved, dearest soul!

“ me up again by Your Word...everything's falling apart on me, God; put me together again with Your Word...I wait for Your Word to renew me...following Your guidelines, revive me...rescue me on the terms of Your promise” (Psalm 119, the Message).

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What God Has Joined Together...

I listened to Psalm 119 during my run yesterday. Reading Scripture out loud and/or hearing it is always an especially illuminating experience. Listening to the Psalm, I heard some words placed together that, in our typical understanding, do not belong together in apposition, but opposition. Scripture, the inspired Word of God the Holy Spirit, once again shows us that God’s ways are not our ways!
  • “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day...from Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way” (119:97,104). You may think that these two verses are so far apart that I shouldn't have included them in this list, but they are the first and last lines of this sub-poem (מ) in Psalm 119.
  • “I hate those who are double-minded, but I love Your law” (119:113).
  • “Therefore I love Your commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold. Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way” (119:127,128).
  • I hate and despise falsehood, but I love Your law” (119:163).
This is the Word of God, the perfect revelation of His heart, mind, and will. Spirit, teach us to love what You love and, yes, hate what You hate (Psalm 11:5; Proverbs 6:16; Isaiah 1:14; 61:8; Jeremiah 44:4; Amos 5:21; Zechariah 8:17; Malachi 2:16; Hebrews 1:9; Revelation 2:6). Lord, give us Your wisdom in this as we meditate on these far-apart words brought together in Your Word.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The First Petition, Our Great Need, & the Mediator

Last Thursday morning our Thursday Theology group was studying the holiness of God (we’ve been in the incommunicable attributes of God and were just starting the communicable attributes). Toward the end of class we spoke about the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father Who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name’” (Matthew 6:9).

The petition verb “hallowed” (αγιασθήτω) means to “make holy.” In the case of the Father’s name (note that the Son commands and teaches us to call Him “Father,” not the tetragrammaton), it is a request to exalt His name as unique and glorious above all things. In our discussion, we noted that the first petition of the prayer the Son commands and teaches us to pray concerns the Father’s absolute holiness; the Father is always manifesting His holiness, so the prayer is to re-orient ourselves to Him rather than to change His mind/actions. But then we noticed something amazing about this: the first petition has two seemingly contradictory ideas: He is Father and He is holy. How can these two exist together, and do so sinners' petition to Him?

Remember Isaiah’s extreme unraveling when made aware of the holiness of God: “In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts’” (Isaiah 6:1-5). Isaiah received faithful and righteousness (and fiery) cleansing from the Lord for this accurate confession of his own sinfulness before the holiness of God. The prophet did not call “the King, the LORD of hosts” Father when made aware of His holiness!

Intimacy is impossible between the sinner and the Holy One. Impossible. O, but sinner, God does the impossible – even the most impossible! “When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ And looking at them Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’” (Matthew 19:25,26).

How does God accomplish this impossibility? How is it that Jesus can possible command and teach us to pray God exalts His own holiness even as we sinners call on Him intimately as “Father”?

In this first petition we should be immediately made aware, as sinners before this Holy One Who is our Father, that we must have a Mediator. Someone must bear God’s righteous and just wrath against our sin for Him to be Father to us. Someone must lift us up and shroud us in an impossible holiness for us to call the Holy One “our Father.”

The first petition reminds us we must have Jesus the Son as Mediator between us sinful children and our Father Who is in heaven.

Someone must bear God’s righteous and just wrath against our sin for Him to be Father to us...and the petition is answered: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:8-10).

Someone must lift us up and shroud us in an impossible holiness for us to call the Holy One “our Father”...and the prayer is answered: “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, Who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification [αγιασμός, the being-made-holy], and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD’” (1 Corinthians 1:30,31).

As you pray as commanded and taught by the Son, asking Your Father in heaven that He exalt His own name as holy, may you be drawn closer to exalt the Mediator and praise Him above all things for what He has done – the impossible – to bring you to His Father and your Father:
  • “Christ Jesus is He Who died, yes, rather Who was raised, Who is at the right hand of God, Who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34).
  • “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus...” (1 Timothy 2:5).
  • “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens...” (Hebrews 7:25,26).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Seeing the Trinity Through Psalm 16

Our Psalm reading for today (Psalm 16) takes us to the day of Pentecost and to our one God in three Persons, blessed Trinity. David “‘looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay [from Psalm 16:10]. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the FATHER the promise of the HOLY SPIRIT, He [the SON] has poured forth this which you both see and hear...let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ - this Jesus Whom you crucified.’ Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ [the SON] for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the HOLY SPIRIT. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God [the FATHER] will call to Himself’” (Acts 2:31-33,36-39). The purpose of the Trinity in the resurrection of Jesus: to issue the command to be blessed in covenant with the Trinity.

My Flesh Also Will Dwell Securely

“I will bless the LORD Who has counseled me; indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. I have set the LORD continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:7-11).

Quoted by Peter in Acts 2:25-28. Just before this, the apostle preached of Jesus, “delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (2:23,24). The God Who planned His death was the Source of His counsel, instruction, gladness, glory, life, joy, and unending pleasure. Even in the grave (“Sheol”) He is able to say “my flesh also will dwell securely.” Let us consider three more examples of this kind of faith in the face of death:
  • Just yesterday I was listening to one of my favorite Fernando Ortega songs, “I Will Wait for My Change” (on “This Bright Hour,” Sony 1998), from Job 14, where he says, “oh that You would hide me in Sheol. If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my struggle I will wait until my change comes. You will call, and I will answer You; You will long for the work of Your hands” (vss. 13-15). The righteous man of suffering is stretched in his faith and faithfulness to God to the place of the grave.
  • “The LORD is my shepherd...even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me” (Psalm 23:1,4). The Shepherd Who leads is the One Who guides into the valley and is with the sheep who sings this Psalm (king David).
  • After Job and David, we return to our Lord: “In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety....fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 5:7; 12:2). He prayed to “the One [Who was] able to save Him from death, and He was heard,” even though He died. Looking at His own death, He saw beyond it and saw the “joy” in the Presence “of the throne of God,” even the God Who willed His death.

The God Who knows our moments and days unto the end of them in this earthly life is the God Who, through Christ, is the Source of our counsel, instruction, gladness, glory, life, joy, and unending pleasure.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Prayers to the Creator of the Seeing Eye

“The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the LORD has made both of them” (Proverbs 20:12).

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5). Lord, even as I pray that others in Your service take this teaching to heart, I realize that I need You to open my plank-filled eyes to apply these verses to my life. None of us see ourselves as You do; give us eyes to see that we may be driven to our knees before You in brokenness. Give us wisdom to judge in Your Church (1 Corinthians 5:10-13) according to Your revealed will for Your people in the Word, but may we be willing to stand under the same judgment and subject ourselves to that judgment first that we may proceed with a cleansed conscience.
“To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted…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 [Isaiah 6:9,10].’ But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Matthew 13:13-17). Lord, Creator of the seeing eye, salvation belongs to You alone and to You alone belongs the glory and praise for doing the impossible: saving the elect of humanity in Christ (Matthew 19:26).
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:18-23). Lord, give us eyes to see what words can barely contain: saints’ inheritance, Your resurrection power, Your absolute Sovereignty, and how valuable and important Your Church really is in Your sight.
“The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the LORD has made both of them” (Proverbs 20:12).

Soaptree Yucca & Sunrise Prayer to the Trinity

“...since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made...the Creator, Who is blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 1:20,25).

“One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple” (Psalm 27:4).

A flowering soaptree yucca (New Mexico’s State flower) was my companion this morning as I enjoyed the sunrise in the backyard...a reflection of the beauty of the Trinity as I prayed to the Father in the name of the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 45, the King, and the Trinity

From today’s Psalms reading: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of joy above Your fellows” (Psalm 45:6,7).

In Hebrews 1:8,9, it is God the Father (see 1:5). Who speaks these words about another Person Whom He calls “God.” He identifies Himself as “God, Your God,” yet says He anoints another One called “God...with the oil of joy.” Who could this be?
Blooming soaptree yucca (New Mexico's
State flower) with Cookes Peak
in the background.

“Of the Son He says...” The writer of Hebrews tells us that God the Father is saying these words to God the Son. It is the Son the Father calls “God.” It is the Son Who is “anointed...with the oil of joy” by the Father. Both are called God. Yet both Old (Deuteronomy 4:35,39; 6:4; Isaiah 45:5,6,21,22; 46:9; Joel 2:27) and New (1 Corinthians 8:4,6; Galatians 3:20; Ephesians 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; James 2:19) Testaments affirm that there is only one true God. This is the most blessed treasure of the Church: the belief in the Scripture’s teaching of one eternal, true, living God our Creator and Savior Who is three Persons, blessed Trinity. These three are not three gods, but one God. The Father is not the Son or the Spirit. The Son is not the Father or the Spirit. The Spirit is not the Father or the Son. But these three are one.

I would suggest that the “oil of joy” is God the Holy Spirit. We know that joy is an aspect of this Person of the Trinity (Romans 14:17; Galatians 5:22,23). We know that the Son’s anointing as Christ the King by the Father (“begotten” language is enthronement language – see Psalm 89:27) is marked by the presence of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16,17). In fact, the verb “anointed” is used of the Holy Spirit 3 times in the New Testament (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38; 2 Corinthians 1:21).

Glory in the Trinity – the Father eternally anointing the righteousness-loving, iniquity-hating Son as absolute King with the joyful Holy Spirit.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Meditation & Blessing to the Trinity Who is Creator

“O LORD, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all...You send forth Your Spirit, they are created...let the glory of the LORD endure forever; let the LORD be glad in His works...I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; as for me, I shall be glad in the LORD...bless the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 104:24,30,31,33-35).

God the Father, Creator: “Fear God [the Father, see 1:6], and give Him glory...worship Him Who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters” (Revelation 14:7).

God the Son, Creator: “...His Son, Whom He appointed heir of all things, through Whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:2,3; see also John 1:3; Colossians 1:16).

God the Holy Spirit, Creator: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:1,2).

There are not three gods, three creators: there is one God, one Creator. These three Persons are the one true God, the Creator. Meditate on His glory in the creation this day, bless Him in your soul!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

He Is So Good to Us

I visited an elder blind brother and his wife at one of our city’s retirement centers this afternoon. I read the Psalms for the day (13,43,73,103,133) with them. The Spirit visited us with sweet fellowship in His Word in Psalm 103.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him...the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children's children, to those who keep His covenant and remember His precepts to do them” (103:11-13,17,18).

Such precious promises! Even the ability to know His commands in His Word and obey them is grace, for Christ has removed the barrier of the accounting of our sin between us and our heavenly Father. It is a blessing to know and obey such a beautiful and wonderful Savior-God (my brother’s favorite hymn is “How Great Thou Art”).

We read about God’s gracious forgiveness and love in the covenant relationship He has with His people in Christ: “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (103:8-10).

This reminded both of us – at the same time – of a dear brother who died several years ago. If you ever asked him how he was doing, he would say in a raspy voice, “He’s good to me...far better than I deserve.”

“For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer” (103:14-16).

I told my brother about how, at the beginning of last year, I’d gone to the cemetery here in town and read 1 Corinthians 15 (Paul’s teaching on the resurrection of those asleep in Christ) over the graves of those I’d buried there (including the brother about whom we’d just reminisced). Reading about the resurrection there prepared my heart for that pre-Resurrection Day sermon series in a deep - and heartbreaking - way. “Someday,” I said. My brother nodded, a tear rolling down his cheek and my cheek. "I'm glad you did that," he said.

Some moments are too bittersweet, too potent to leave unwritten. I love the fellowship of the Holy Spirit in His Word among the covenant people of God, either in a classroom...or a retirement center room. He is good to us. Far better than we deserve.

Fellowship of the Beard

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon coming down upon the mountains of Zion; for there the LORD commanded the blessing - life forever” (Psalm 133:1-3).

The gathered Church – or, as I like to think of it: the Fellowship of the Beard.

Just joking (sort of).

But notice: it is in the gathering place of the family of God that He commands the blessing of life forever. Eternal life is not commanded outside of the gathered covenant people of God.

Last night in family worship we read through the Ten Commandments. When we got to the command to “honor father and mother” (Exodus 20:12//Deuteronomy 5:16; Ephesians 6:1-3), we discussed the promise attached to it. I read the commandment and asked what the promise was. My eldest daughter answered: “eternal life.” I was surprised. I read, “that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you,” and she doesn’t focus on the land. She focuses on the life. So did the Psalmist. Gathered together in the most glorious place in the Promised Land (Zion), he focused not on the land, but the blessed life commanded by the Lord of the covenant people.

Dear Church, love the dwelling together in unity. Love it as the beautiful Fellowship of the Beard in the anointing of the High Priest (Aaron was a shadow of the Anointed One, the Christ): “...Jesus...because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:24-26). Love the command of the Lord among His covenant people in Christ, the Anointed One - that we live forever in Him.

Love our eternal life together, dearly Beloved Church!

The Confession & Correction of Asaph

Why the Psalmist Asaph holds to God’s justice & wrath against sinners: faithfulness to God’s covenant people. “If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children” (Psalm 73:15).

Where the Psalmist Asaph found re-affirmation in biblical truth against the temptation (73:2) of the false belief of the world (that God ignores sin just like we do, see 73:11): the gathering of God’s covenant people. “When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end” (73:16,17).

What the Psalmist Asaph confesses after remembering his place among God’s covenant people: the presence, protection, and testimony of the works of God (including His judgment against sin, see 73:18-20,27). “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works” (73:28).

Saint, do not forget your place & responsibility among the gathering of the covenant people of God. Do not pridefully and ignorantly (73:21,22) reject how God uses them to correct your vision of Who He is and the fullness of His work and character, including the first truths we reject when imbibing of a worldly, Scripture-less view of God: His just wrath and judgment against sin.

Don't neglect the gathering, beloved Church!

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Noon-Day Devil Doesn't Just Tempt at Noon

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, My God, in Whom I trust!’...He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. You will not be afraid...of the destruction that lays waste at noon. For you have made the LORD, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place” (Psalm 91:1,2,4-6,9).

“...the destruction that lays waste at noon.” The Latin Vulgate renders this phrase daemonio meridiano, or “noon devil,” that temptation that comes in the middle of the day to throw spiritual discipline away. Called “a dangerous and frequent foe to dwellers in the desert” (John Cassian, ca. A.D. 360 – 435), for the Desert Fathers of the A.D. 4th century in Egypt it was a temptation to do anything but observe mid-day prayer (there would always seem to be something more pressing or important to do than pray). The same thing happens to us in our lives, as well. In our lives as disciples, the Word is abundant in its description of the fruit the Spirit bears in the lives of those in Christ. However, in living a life of discipleship, we are constantly bombarded from the outside with a million distractions, some of which seem very legitimate. These things team up with our own lust (James 1:14) and keep us from living the Christ-life to the Father's glory.

As I said, sometimes these noon-day devils seem very reasonable and legitimate. For example, Jesus warns against making money our the guiding god of our lives: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:19-21,24). Perhaps you read this and say, "no problem!" You're not wealthy and don't even want to be wealthy, so Jesus' warning against violating the commandments against idolatry and covetousness (Exodus 20:3,17//Deuteronomy 5:7,21; Colossians 3:5) doesn't really apply to you. However, notice how Jesus goes on to describe the temptation to "serve God and wealth" in our lives: “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (6:25-32). For the disciple of Jesus Christ, even the normal, basic needs of being a human being can be a temptation to idolatry and covetousness. Is this your noon-day devil, tempting you to put these "basics" on a higher priority than faithfulness to the calling of God on your life as a disciple of Jesus Christ? “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (6:33). The noon-day devil of spiritual distraction is sneakier than you think! But we are not left alone to fight him in all his forms and temptations.

We have been taught the path by faith into the protection of the Lord through the relational discipline of prayer:

  • “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:13).
  • “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41).

As you follow the Son this day in the power of the Spirit to the glory of the Father, watch and pray, for the “noon devil” doesn’t wait until noon to distract you from the disciple’s life, that way of the LORD walked by the direction of the Scripture. “You will not be afraid...of the destruction that lays waste at noon. For you have made the LORD, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place.”

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Righteousness of Christ, Foundation of Wisdom

Proverbs 10 begins a new section (1-9 being introductory). It’s easy to see the LORD’s foundation or priority in teaching wisdom: “The proverbs of Solomon...ill-gotten gains do not profit, but RIGHTEOUSNESS delivers from death. The LORD will not allow the RIGHTEOUS to hunger [see Matthew 5:6], but He will reject the craving of the wicked...blessings are on the head of the RIGHTEOUS, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. The memory of the RIGHTEOUS is blessed, but the name of the wicked will rot...the mouth of the RIGHTEOUS is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence...the wages of the RIGHTEOUS is life, the income of the wicked, punishment...the tongue of the RIGHTEOUS is as choice silver, the heart of the wicked is worth little. The lips of the RIGHTEOUS feed many, but fools die for lack of understanding...what the wicked fears will come upon him, but the desire of the RIGHTEOUS will be granted. When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more, but the RIGHTEOUS has an everlasting foundation...the hope of the RIGHTEOUS is gladness, but the expectation of the wicked perishes...the RIGHTEOUS will never be shaken, but the wicked will not dwell in the land. The mouth of the RIGHTEOUS flows with wisdom, but the perverted tongue will be cut out. The lips of the RIGHTEOUS bring forth what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked what is perverted” (Proverbs 10:1-3,6,7,11,16,20,21,24,25,28,30-32).

Let us gather this day, Church, learning from our Lord and Master, Who is the fullness of the righteousness taught in the wisdom of Solomon (Matthew 12:42):
  • “When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying...‘But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you’” (Matthew 5:1,2; 6:33).
  • “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).

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Running from the Trinity into the Land of Slavery

In Isaiah 30:1-14 we see a rejection by the people of the one true God in three Persons, the Trinity, in sinful preference for the land of slavery, Egypt. May we be warned!

The people grieve the Spirit, and so reject the Father: “‘Woe to the rebellious children,’ declares the LORD, ‘Who execute a plan, but not Mine, and make an alliance, but not of My Spirit, in order to add sin to sin; who proceed down to Egypt without consulting Me, to take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore the safety of Pharaoh will be your shame and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt, your humiliation. For their princes are at Zoan and their ambassadors arrive at Hanes. Everyone will be ashamed because of a people who cannot profit them, who are not for help or profit, but for shame and also for reproach’” (Isaiah 30:1-5). Isaiah reveals a great pneumatology (theology of the Holy Spirit) to us (11:2; 32:15; 34:16; 40:13; 42:1; 44:3; 48:16; 59:21; 61:1; 63:10,11,14). One of these verses in particular is important for our Trinitarian consideration of 30:1-5.

“I shall make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has granted them according to His compassion and according to the abundance of His lovingkindnesses. For He said, ‘Surely, they are My people, sons who will not deal falsely.’ So He became their Savior. In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them. Then His people remembered the days of old, of Moses. Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of His flock? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit in the midst of them, Who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, Who divided the waters before them to make for Himself an everlasting name, who led them through the depths? Like the horse in the wilderness, they did not stumble; as the cattle which go down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. So You led Your people, to make for Yourself a glorious name. Look down from heaven and see from Your holy and glorious habitation; where are Your zeal and Your mighty deeds? The stirrings of Your heart and Your compassion are restrained toward me. For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not recognize us. You, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is Your name” (63:1-16).

When the sons of Israel were faithless toward the LORD in the Exodus, it was the Person of the Holy Spirit Whom they were rejecting. When, during the pressures of the Babylonian Empire upon Judah, the peoples sought first alliance then escape to Egypt, the LORD similarly described it as a rejection of the Person of the Holy Spirit. In the Exodus and in the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon, the people showed a trust in the land of slavery (Egypt) as opposed to the Holy Spirit Who was the LORD’s presence and salvation to them. Paul also will take this theme and use it as a warning to the Ephesians: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by Whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). Remember that the events of the Exodus occurred to be a warning to the Church in the new covenant (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:1-14). The rejection of the Person of the Holy Spirit (and therefore the LORD Who is God the Father) is not the only faithlessness to the Trinity displayed in Isaiah 30. The prophet goes on to reveal a rejection of the Person of the Son (Who is also called the Word) by the people.

The people reject the Word (the Son), and so reject the Father: “The oracle concerning the beasts of the Negev. Through a land of distress and anguish, from where come lioness and lion, viper and flying serpent, they carry their riches on the backs of young donkeys and their treasures on camels’ humps, to a people who cannot profit them; even Egypt, whose help is vain and empty. Therefore, I have called her ‘Rahab who has been exterminated.’ Now go, write it on a tablet before them and inscribe it on a scroll, that it may serve in the time to come as a witness forever. For this is a rebellious people, false sons, sons who refuse to listen to the instruction of the LORD; who say to the seers, ‘You must not see visions’; And to the prophets, ‘You must not prophesy to us what is right, speak to us pleasant words, prophesy illusions. Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.’ Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, ‘Since you have rejected this Word and have put your trust in oppression and guile, and have relied on them, therefore this iniquity will be to you like a breach about to fall, a bulge in a high wall, whose collapse comes suddenly in an instant, whose collapse is like the smashing of a potter’s jar, so ruthlessly shattered that a sherd will not be found among its pieces to take fire from a hearth or to scoop water from a cistern’” (Isaiah 30:6-14).

God the Son is the Word (John 1:1-3; 1 John 1:1,2; Hebrew 1:2,3; Revelation 19:13). In our passage in Isaiah, the inability of the people to hear, understand, or receive the spoken and written Word of the Father is a rejection of the Person of the Son. To reject the Son is to reject the Father (John 8:28; 12:49,50; 14:10).

May we learn, then, the lesson of these former generations, who chose against Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the one true God Who is three Persons, by fleeing to the land of slavery when difficulties arose against the people of God. Remember that these difficulties arise to convict and correct the people of their idolatry, their preference for the gods of their own hands (career, desires, hobbies, entertainments, ungodly relationships, etc.) – gods who are made in their own image in rejection of the Trinity Who calls us to holiness in Himself. Hold to the Trinity, beloved Church!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Angel of the LORD Teaches Us a Lesson About Intercession

Zechariah’s vision in 519 B.C.: “Then the angel of the LORD said, ‘O LORD of hosts, how long will You have no compassion for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which You have been indignant these seventy years?’” (1:12). The “angel of the LORD” is certainly interceding for God’s covenant people here, but it would be a mistake to assume that the role of mediator or intercessor is one of trying to convince God to do something against His will (or to change His mind). The “angel of the LORD” surely is not ignorant of the LORD’s revealed plan some 86 years earlier, since the Mediator quotes its specific timeline! In the LORD’s sermon through Jeremiah in 605 B.C., He promises “...these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years” (25:11). “Seventy years.” The Mediator is not trying to change God’s mind or convince Him to do what He has promised to do (as if God is resistant to fulfilling His promises). Rather, it is God Who is – as part of His plan – using the intercession of the Mediator to reveal His promissory faithfulness!
  • “Christ Jesus is He Who died, yes, rather Who was raised, Who is at the right hand of God, Who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34).
  • “...there mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus...” (1 Timothy 2:5).
  • Jesus “is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

How does our only Mediator intercede for us before God? Does He represent our interests before a God Who must be convinced to do what we desire? NO! The example of Zechariah 1:12 and Jeremiah 25:11 shows us that God’s plan is to use the intercession of the Mediator to enact His revealed will and plan, not to be convinced by the Mediator to change His mind about His plans!
  • “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him Who sent Me and to accomplish His work’” (John 4:34).
  • “Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner’” (John 5:19).
  • For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38).
  • “So Jesus said, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He Who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him’” (John 8:28,29).
  • For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself Who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me” (John 12:49,50).

Consider the third Person of the Trinity Who intercedes for us as the “Spirit of Christ” (John 3:34; Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6) perfectly unified in the will of the Mediator Jesus: “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He Who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26,27).

The Mediator between God and man doesn’t change God’s will to make God favor God’s people; it is God’s will that He reveals His favor toward His people through the intercession of the Mediator. The Son is not representing us before the Father against the Father’s intention or will for us! Never forget the most basic truth about love and its Source:
  • “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16,17).
  • “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9,10).

The Mediator (the Son) intercedes for us as a perfect expression of the will of the Father!

There is a lesson here for us, as well, concerning how we pray. Our goal should not be to try to “change God’s mind” or convince Him to share our intentions or plans. Just as the Mediator between God and man intercedes as an expression of the Father’s will for His covenant people in Christ, so we should make it our goal to pray as an expression of His will. I am convinced that this is the most basic meaning of “praying in the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit’s primary identity is that He is the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; 1 John 4:6), and is, in fact “the truth” (1 John 5:6). As the breathing-forth, inspiring Author of Scripture, it seems to me that to “worship in Spirit and truth” (John 4:21-24) is to worship in line with the revealed Word of God. As the breathing-forth, inspiring Author of Scripture, it seems to me that to “pray in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20) is to pray God’s Word back to Him. Just as the Mediator reveals God’s will perfectly in His intercession, may we learn to reveal God’s will (His Word) perfectly in our prayer life.
  • “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13,14).
  • “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).
  • “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you” (John 15:16).
  • In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full” (John 16:23,24).
  • “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:21,22).
  • “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (1 John 5:14,15).

It would be easy to isolate these verses from the rest of the “red letter” in John 14-17, but Jesus makes it clear that He is the Lord Who issues commandments and makes obedience to those commandments the necessary proof of our love for Him (John 14:15; 15:10; 1 John 2:3,4; Revelation 12:17; 14:12). Asking of the Father in the name of the Son means to ask in the name of the One Who “glorified [the Father] on the earth” by “having accomplished the work which” the Father gave the Son to do (John 17:4). Learn from the Mediator, for He is our Master and Lord, as well! The LORD commanded 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11), and willed that it be revealed and reminded to God’s people through the intercession of the Mediator, the messenger/angel of the LORD (Zechariah 1:12). In the same way, the only Mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ, intercedes for us the same way He does everything: in perfect volitional union with His Father. May we, in our Spirit-led meditation and study of the Word, then pray the Word of the Spirit back to the Father in the name of the Son!

* * * * * * *

From the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith:

VIII. Christ the Mediator
  1. It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son, in accordance with the covenant made between them both, to be the Mediator between God and man; to be Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head and Saviour of His Church, the Heir of all things, and the Judge of all the world. To the Lord Jesus He gave, from all eternity, a people to be His seed. These, in time, would be redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified by the Lord Jesus.
  2. The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being true and eternal God, the brightness of the Father's glory, of the same substance and equal with Him;
- Who made the world, and Who upholds and governs all things which He has made,
- did, when the fullness of time had come, take upon Himself man's nature, with all its essential properties and common infirmities, with the exception of sin.
- He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her and the power of the Most High overshadowing her, so that He was born to a woman from the tribe of Judah, a descendant of Abraham and David, in accordance with the Scriptures.
- Thus two whole, perfect and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion;
- So that the Lord Jesus Christ is truly God and truly man, yet He is one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.
  1. The Lord Jesus, His human nature thus united to the divine, once in the person of the Son, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure, having in Himself all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. It pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell in Him so that, being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, He might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a Mediator and Surety, a position and duty which He did not take upon Himself, but was called to perform by His Father. And the Father also put all power and judgement in His hand, and gave Him commandment to exercise the same.
  2. This office and duty of Mediator and Surety the Lord Jesus undertook most willingly. To discharge it, He was made under the law, and perfectly fulfilled it, and He underwent the punishment due to us, which we should have borne and suffered. He was made sin and was made a curse for us; enduring the most grevous sorrows in His Soul with the most painful sufferings in His duty. He was crucified, and died, and remained in the state of the dead, but His body did not undergo any decomposition. On the third day He rose from the dead with the same body in which He had suffered, with which He also ascended into Heaven, and there sits at the right hand of His Father making intercession, and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.
  3. The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience and sacrifice of Himself which He, through the eternal Spirit, once offered up to God, has fully satisfied the justice of God, has procured reconciliation, and has purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of Heaven for all those whom the Father has given to Him.
  4. Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ until after His incarnation yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit arising from His payment were communicated to the elect in all ages from the beginning of the world through those promises, types, and sacrifices in which He was revealed and signified as the seed which should bruise the serpent's head, and also the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, for He is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.
  5. Christ, in His work of Mediator, acts according to both natures, each nature doing that which is proper to itself. Yet, because of the unity of His person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.
  6. To all those for whom Christ has obtained eternal redemption, He certainly and effectually applies and communicates this redemption, making intercession for them, uniting them to Himself by His Spirit, revealing to them in the Word and by the Word the mystery of salvation. He persuades them to believe and obey, governing their hearts by His Word and Spirit, and overcome all their enemies by His almighty power and wisdom. This is achieved in such a manner and by such ways as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation, and it is all by free and absolute grace, without any condition foreseen in them to procure it.
  7. This office of Mediator between God and man is proper only to Christ, Who is the Prophet, Priest, and King of the Church. Free Will of God, and this office may not be transferred from Him to any other, either in whole or in part.
  8. This number and order of offices is essential. Because of our ignorance we need His prophetic office. Because of our alienation from God and the imperfection of the best of our service, we need His priestly office to reconcile us and present us to God as acceptable. Because of our aversion to, and utter inability to return to God, and for our rescue and keeping from spiritual enemies, we need His kingly office to convince, subdue, draw, uphold, deliver, and preserve us until we reach His heavenly kingdom.