Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Obey Instead of Manipulate, Parents

If you were to look through the journal I use to keep prayer requests for the congregations I serve, a common petition would be for children and grandchildren not following the Lord. We are – by practice, not by official polity – family-integrated congregations. Does this guarantee that our children will stay in the Lord? No. In fact, nothing will. Not AWANA. Not family worship. Not the latest program or curriculum. Nothing guarantees that the children of the covenant family will grow up to be faithful confessing members of the covenant family.

From the repeated prayer requests and my own heart’s desire, I can guarantee one thing: we would do anything if we could guarantee their future faith. But we can’t. How can we make sense of this frustrating state of affairs? I’ve been wrestling with it recently, and connected – by the Spirit’s light in His Gospel – the dots yesterday on a 5K struggle of a run (it gets harder when you don’t do it every day - both running and keeping the Gospel front-and-center of everything).

“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, NASB). “See?! See?!” We’re tempted to force the Sovereign’s hand by our consistent efforts to train them in the faith, thereby manipulating Him by our works to keep the next generation in the faith. This is my definition of magic, or witchcraft: doing things in the physical realm to influence the spiritual realm. This does not honor God. Proverbs 22:6 (or the rest of Proverbs, for that matter), is no cause-and-effect contract between God and His people.

“So I turned to consider wisdom, madness and folly; for what will the man do who will come after the king except what has already been done? And I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness. The wise man's eyes are in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I know that one fate befalls them both. Then I said to myself, ‘As is the fate of the fool, it will also befall me. Why then have I been extremely wise?’ So I said to myself, ‘This too is vanity.’ For there is no lasting remembrance of the wise man as with the fool, inasmuch as in the coming days all will be forgotten. And how the wise man and the fool alike die! So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after wind. Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 2:12-19). Wisdom (as in Proverbs) is better than folly, but it doesn’t make any promises. Despite what pop culture’s wisdom says, our destiny is not up to us. But, the Preacher of Ecclesiastes tells us, wisdom is still better. Why? If the results aren’t guaranteed, what’s the point of being wise in the rearing of future generations? All of our “labor under the sun,” be it in business or child-training, may be passed onto fools who will deny the existence of God. Is it time to hate this grievous life? Well, if we keep pursuing wisdom as a means of a religion of works (witchcraft), then yes, go ahead and start hating. That’s where you’ll end up in your bitter frustration. I know. I have longed to change the hearts and minds of those who leave the faith more times than I can tell. It does hurt.

But that’s not why we train up our children (and grandchildren) in the way they should go (the way of the Lord). We train our children because God has commanded us to, regardless of the results. Before we can expect our children to obey Him by faith, we must obey Him by faith (as opposed to evangelizing them in an effort to manipulate them or God).

"Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:1-9).

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Beloved, there are promises attached to obeying by faith, but we are not the executors of the estate! We teach them because we have been commanded to do so, not as a part of a religion of self-effort, but as a Gospel obedience to the King Who has saved us and given us commandments.

Back to the prayer-journal I keep for our little congregations (I just remembered getting a question about prodigal children from a mother at a Q&A in the Philippines – this is a universal heart-break). It is right to pray for the lost: “Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation” (Romans 10:1). At the same time, we proclaim the Gospel to them; both those who know it already (Romans 1:15) and those who don’t yet (Romans 10:8-15,17). Teach them every day of the Lord, His wise ways, and His gracious Gospel. Pray for them. Worship with them.

And trust that God is in charge, even when things aren’t as we wish they would be (or feel, in the works-religion that we must crucify every day in our hearts, that God must make them be because of our efforts).

Believe and obey, commanding others to do the same, starting with our families and going throughout the world. Train them because you’ve been commanded to by the One Who loves you and has saved you, not because you’re trying to force the King to obey your will. This is the Great Commission. It is built upon faithful obedience to the One Who is King over heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18-20).

Friday, January 18, 2013

Shieldmaidens of Zion

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the City of our God, even upon His holy Mountain. Mount the joy of the whole earth, and the City of the great king. In the palaces thereof God is known for a refuge. For lo, the kings were gathered, and went together. When they saw it, they marveled: they were...suddenly driven back. As we have heard, so have we seen in the City of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it forever...we wait for Thy loving-kindness, O God, in the midst of Thy Temple. O God, according to thy Name, so is Thy praise unto the world’s end: Thy right hand is full of righteousness. Let mount Zion rejoice, and the daughters of Judah be glad, because of Thy judgments. Compass about Zion, and go round about it, and tell the towers thereof. Mark well the wall thereof: behold her towers, that ye may tell your posterity. For this God is our God forever and ever, He shall be our guide unto the death” (Psalm 48, Geneva Bible).

Alright, I suspect I’ll annoy folks on a few sides of this issue, but let me say: I’ve always thought our sisters in Christ make potentially great worship leaders. However, in light of the Scriptures, I wonder if the model for the sister-in-Christ-as-worship-leader should be the contemporary emoting dramatist or Tolkien’s Éowyn, shieldmaiden of Rohan.

  • “And Miriam the Prophetess, sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women came out after her with timbrels and dances [cf. Psalm 81:2; 149:3; 150:4]. And Miriam answered the men, ‘Sing ye unto the Lord: for He hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath He overthrown in the sea’” (Exodus 15:20,21).
  • “When they came again, and David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, the women came out of all cities of Israel singing and dancing to meet king Saul, with timbrels, with instruments of joy, and with rebecks. And the women sang by course in their play, and said, ‘Saul hath slain his thousand, and David his ten thousand’” (1 Samuel 18:6,7,).
  • “The Lord gave matter to the women to tell of the great army. ‘Kings of the armies did flee: they did flee, and she that remained in the house, divided the spoil’” (Psalm 68:11,12).

The context of the sisters’ song: God’s saving victory over His and His people’s enemies.

From the Baptist Catechism: Q30. How does Christ perform the office of a king? A. Christ performs the office of a king, in subduing us to Himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all His and our enemies.

Consider this, sisters, and lead us by proclaiming the victory of the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Back to Psalm 48.

  • Commission to the daughters of Zion: Let mount Zion rejoice, and the daughters of Judah be glad, because of Thy judgments.”
  • The dance of the daughters of Zion: “Compass about Zion, and go round about it, and tell the towers thereof. Mark well the wall thereof: behold her towers, that ye may tell your posterity.”
  • The song of the daughters of Zion: “For this God is our God forever and ever, He shall be our guide unto the death.”

No introspective pathos/schmaltz here. They sing of the victory and might of God in the midst of and on behalf of His people. Sing and dance among the battlements, shieldmaidens of Zion.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Wise Words

“A soft answer putteth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools babbleth out foolishness. The eyes of the Lord in every place behold the evil and the good. A wholesome tongue is as a tree of life: but the frowardness thereof is the breaking of the mind” (Proverbs 15:1-4, Geneva Bible). Verses 1,2, & 4 speak of how we use our words with others, but verse 3 seems to break the pattern, reminding us that God sees everything. Is verse 3 misplaced? Is Proverbs as random as it sometimes seems? Or does verse 3 get thrown into the mix to show us that a wise life here is not the final act, but that “it is appointed unto men that they shall once die, and after that cometh the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27)? As the Lord Jesus said, “a good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of an evil treasure, bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, that of every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof at the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:35-37).

Wise speech today and forever is the confession and proclamation of the risen Jesus as Lord and a life under the watchfulness of heaven that bears testimony to those words. “For if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart, that God raised Him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved: For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth man confesseth to salvation...for whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord, shall be saved. But how shall they call on Him, in Whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him, of Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:9,10,13,14).

Holy Spirit, consecrate our words today, for “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the holy Ghost” (1 Corinthians 12:3). May our words be the link between the new hearts You have given us in Christ, inscribed with Your Law (Jeremiah 31:33), and those around us whom You are drawing for the Father's great glory.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Gather with the Jealous, Wrathful, Sovereign, Holy God of Truth

“Again the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying, ‘Thus saith the Lord of hosts, “I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great wrath [cf. 1:14].” Thus saith the Lord, “I will return unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth, and the Mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy Mountain”’” (Zechariah 8:1-3, Geneva Bible).

-          Be zealous for the Gathering of His people. He is. Be jealous for a faithful dedication to Him alone. He is.
-          He does not gather us because we are perfect, but as a display of His forgiving grace and mercy to an unworthy people.
-          When He is present with His people in the Gathering, may we see Him in the fullness of Who He has revealed Himself to be in Scripture, including the attributes we are tempted to hide in our remaking Him into our image. You cannot have a true vision of the glory of the Gospel without a vision of His wrath (Romans 5:9; Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9).
-          The One present at the Gathering is the “Lord of hosts,” sole sovereign Commander of the armies of heaven and earth. Be humbled before Him yet strengthened before all who oppose Him and His people in this world.
-          May the Gathering be marked clearly and obviously by a dominating concern to make His truth and holiness known.

Gather, Church, to the glory of the Lord of hosts in His righteousness, truth, and holiness!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Be Encouraged to Ministry by the King-Priest

“Take even silver, and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak the high Priest, and speak unto him, saying, ‘Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, and saith, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch, and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the Temple of the Lord. Even he shall build the Temple of the Lord, and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne, and he shall be a Priest upon his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both”’” (Zechariah 6:11-13, Geneva Bible).

In the midst of a pretty discouraging time for God’s covenant people, He highlighted one of His faithful servants by the preaching of the prophet, using Jehozadak’s dedication to the Lord’s ministry as an illustration of the coming King-Priest Jesus Christ, the object of their faith, the hope of their confession, and their righteously-ruling Savior. “For this Melchizedek was King of Salem, the Priest of the most high God...after the similitude of Melchizedek, there is risen up another Priest, which is not made Priest after the Law of the carnal commandment, but after the power of the endless life. For He testifieth thus, ‘Thou art a Priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek’...this Man, because He endureth ever, hath a Priesthood, which cannot pass from one to another. Wherefore, He is able also perfectly to save them that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth, to make intercession for them. For such an high Priest it became us to have, which is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Hebrews 7:1,15-17,24-26).

Is He your Savior (Priest) and Lord (King) today?

May His rule and mediation/intercession/ministry be evident in your life to His glory! “Therefore give even all diligence thereunto: join moreover virtue with your faith: and with virtue, knowledge: And with knowledge, temperance: and with temperance, patience: and with patience, godliness: And with godliness, brotherly kindness: and with brotherly kindness, love. For if these things be among you, and abound, they will make you that ye neither shall be idle, nor unfruitful in the acknowledging of our Lord Jesus Christ...wherefore, brethren, give rather diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. For by this means an entering shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ...grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: to Him be glory both now and for evermore. Amen” (2 Peter 1:5-8,10,11; 3:18).

Our faithfulness to the King-Priest Jesus may not give us great victories clearly seen by the entire Christ-hating world, but He may use your service to point His people to His own glory. By ministering to His people, you minister to Him. We serve not ourselves, but His kingdom, when we grow in knowledge/imitation of His character in obedience to His commands over our lives. He is building His Temple through you, brothers and sisters. Get your eyes off the discouragements of the world and onto Him. See your King-Priest and allow Him to fill more and more of your vision, words, thoughts, motivations, actions, and purpose. Exalt Him with all you are by faith. May you be Jehozadak wherever He has illustration of His own eternal and powerful ministry in the midst of a dark and overwhelming world.

To Him be the glory both now and forevermore!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Both/And Ever

“He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything...His body, which is the church" (Colossians 1:18,24, NASB).

Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea” (4:15,16).

I know that in Church history there have been those who denied the reality of the universal Church (“...the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation,” Baptist Faith & Message 2000, VI), but in my experience it is much more common to encounter those who deny the reality of the local Church (“A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth,” BF&M2000, VI). May we take note of Paul, who has no problem speaking of both the universal Church while writing to a specific local Church (“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae,” 1:1,2), and by God’s grace stop separating what Scripture comfortably describes as a single vision of His Church. His Church is both local and universal. There is not one without the other in the Scripture.

“The universal Church, which may be called invisible (in respect of the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) consists of the entire number of the elect, all those who have been, who are, or who shall be gathered into one under Christ, Who is the Head. This universal Church is the wife, the body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in the exercise of the authority which has been entrusted to Him, the Lord Jesus calls to Himself from out of the world, through the ministry of His Word, by His Spirit, those who are given to Him by His Father, so that they may walk before Him in all the ways of obedience which He prescribes to them in His Word. Those who are thus called, He commands to walk together in particular societies or churches, for their mutual edification, and for the due performance of that public worship, which He requires of them in the world” (1689 Baptist Confession, 26.1,5).

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Eternal Christ

“...unto us a child is born, and unto us a Son is given: and the government is upon His shoulder, and He shall call His name, ‘...the mighty God, the everlasting Father’” (Isaiah 9:6, Geneva Bible). The “everlasting Father” had an everlasting Son.

“I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do. And now glorify Me, Thou Father, with Thine own Self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:4,5).

“But unto the Son He saith, ‘O God, Thy throne is forever and ever’” (Hebrews 1:8).

“...hath neither beginning of his days, neither end of life: but is likened unto the Son of God” (Hebrews 7:3).

“In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and the Holy Spirit. All are one in substance, power, and eternity; each having the whole divine essence, yet this essence being undivided...the Son is eternally begotten of the Father...all three are infinite, without beginning, and are therefore only one God” (1689 Baptist Confession, 2.3).

“Christ is the eternal Son of God” (Baptist Faith & Message 2000, IIB).

Is your view of Jesus big enough? Is your worship, devotion, proclamation, and loving fear of Him deep enough? Holy Spirit, grow us up in our comprehension of Christ, the Son of God and God the Son, that “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, unto the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11).

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Remembering the Promise and Warning

“The Lord hath said, ‘I will bring My people again from Bashan: I will bring them again from the depths of the Sea’” (Psalm 68:22, Geneva Bible). Paul calls the passage through the Red Sea a “baptism” (1 Corinthians 10:1,2).

The Lord does not forget His promise to those baptized; neither should we: “And did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink (for they drank of the spiritual Rock that followed them [in the wilderness before reaching the Promised Land]: and the Rock was Christ)...the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we that are many, are one bread and one body, because we all are partakers of one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:3,4,16,17).

The Lord does not forget His warning to the baptized; neither should we: “But with many of them God was not pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things are our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters as were some of them, as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.’ Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed fornication, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted Him, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things came unto them for examples, and were written to admonish us, upon whom the ends of the world are come...wherefore my beloved, flee from idolatry” (10:5-11,14).

Who Is This God?

“The chariots of God are twenty thousand thousand Angels, and the Lord is among them, as in the Sanctuary of Sinai. Thou art gone up on high: Thou hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men [see also vs. 29]: yea, even the rebellious hast Thou led, that the Lord God might dwell there. Praised be the Lord, even the God of our salvation, which ladeth us daily with benefits...O God, Thou art terrible out of Thine holy places: the God of Israel is He that giveth strength and power unto the people: praised be God” (Psalm 68:17-19,35, Geneva Bible). Who is this capturing God Who has taken us captive, Who receives the world in victory to give us benefits, strength, and power? Praise Him, for He is God in three Persons, blessed Trinity...

...He is Spirit, Father, Christ...three Persons and one God: “...walk worthy of the vocation whereunto ye are called, with all humbleness of mind, and meekness, with long suffering, supporting one another through love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your vocation. There is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism. One God and Father of all, which is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore He saith, ‘When He ascended upon high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men’” (Ephesians 4:1-8, quoting Psalm 68:18).

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Clay Pot's Sunrise Meditation on Gathering Day

“But as soon as they believed Philip, which preached the things that concerned the kingdom of God, and the Name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women” (Acts 8:12, Geneva Bible).

Bind us in our words and worship to these things this day, our God and King (1 Timothy 1:17; Revelation 15:3).

“For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God that commanded the light to shine out of darkness, is He which hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of that power might be of God, and not of us. We are afflicted on every side, yet are we not in distress: we are in doubt, but yet we despair not. We are persecuted, but not forsaken: cast down, but we perish not. Everywhere we bear about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus might also be made manifest in our bodies. For we which live, are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh...and because we have the same Spirit of faith, according as it is written, ‘I believed, and therefore have I spoken,’ we also believe, and therefore speak, knowing that He which hath raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise us up also by Jesus, and shall set us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that that most plenteous grace by the thanksgiving of many, may redound to the praise of God. Therefore we faint not, but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed daily. For our light affliction which is but for a moment, causeth unto us a far most excellent and an eternal weight of glory: While we look not on the things which are seen, but on the things which are not seen for the things which are seen, are temporal: but the things which are not seen, are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:5-11,13-18).

On these days of the Gathering when I’ve been feeling particularly “earthen” and aware of the slow perishing of the “outward man,” I remember the message of the Kingdom and the Name. I don’t have to be powerful, strong, and confident: it is powerful and strong and unstoppable. It’s not about me. The leadership of Christ’s Church does not require me to be the Charismatic Leader. It requires the message of Christ the King and Savior.

And I suddenly remember (being so stupid – along with Agur in Proverbs 30:2 – that I repeatedly need to be reminded of it) that He does this...He often humbles me and burdens me in heart, mind, and body for days leading up to the Gathering of His Congregation. And I am reminded that they are His, I am His, and He is in charge of this thing, regardless of my self-doubt. I am earth, He is astounding glory, and He will shine through His vessels (the proclaimer and hearers both).

“As the providence of God in general reaches to all creatures, so, in a more special manner, it takes care of His church, and governs all things to the good of His church” (1689 Baptist Confession, 5.7). This governing to the good comes especially through His primary means of grace, the preaching of “the kingdom of God, and the Name of Jesus Christ” by a lowly, weak clay pot.

Bind us in our words and worship to these things this day, our God and King (1 Timothy 1:17; Revelation 15:3).

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Snowy Trail Run and Psalter Knots

My bride asked me a good question last night about the promises of safety to God's people in the Psalms (and many other Scriptures) and the seemingly contradictory reality we experience in this life. Last night I answered that the Scripture was true, regardless of our experience; sometimes this just isn't evident in the difficult moments of our lives. I was thinking about that question (and my answer) today on a very snowy trail run, and have something more to add to that answer.

It occurs to me that a lot of the Psalms that are quoted in the New Testament by Jesus (or applied to Jesus by others) are challenging in their interpretation and application. Consider these Psalms:

  • “I will declare the decree: that is, the Lord hath said unto Me, ‘Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten thee’” (Psalm 2:7, quoted in Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5; 5:5).
  • “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me” (Psalm 22:1, quoted in Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34).
  • “I have said, ‘Ye are gods’” (Psalm 82:6, quoted by Jesus in John 10:34).
  • “For He shall give His Angels charge over Thee to keep Thee in all thy ways. They shall bear Thee in their hands, that Thou hurt not Thy foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11,12, quoted by Satan to Jesus in Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:10,11).
  • “The Lord said unto my Lord, ‘Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool’” (Psalm 110:1, quoted in Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42,43; Acts 2:34,35; Hebrews 1:13).
  • “The Lord sware, and will not repent, ‘Thou art a Priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek’” (Psalm 110:4, quoted in Hebrews 5:6; 7:17).
  • “The stone, which the builders refused, is the head of the corner. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:22,23, quoted in Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10, 11; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:4,7).
Some for obvious reasons, and others for their implications, are difficult enough. If you or I were writing the New Testament, we'd probably pick easier or clearer Psalms to apply to Jesus. That just doesn't seem to be the pattern the Holy Spirit used in inspiring the New Testament. He seems to have caused the writers to record or apply rather knotty passages from the Psalter.

Today, running in the snow on cow trails, it occurred to me that this tendency of the Holy Spirit is actually illuminating for all the places where Scripture seems to have a difficult intersection with our experience in life. All of these challenging passages find their fulfillment in the Person and ministry of Jesus Christ, though this isn't immediately clear to us.

A few months ago I ran the Pass Mountain 50K. It was 11 miles further than I had ever run before. I had never even run a regular-length marathon before. I had no idea what was going to happen to my body on such a long run over difficult terrain. I had no idea how I would keep my mind from finding a very rational excuse for dropping out of the race. I'm a slow runner, but I knew that speed wasn't the issue. I had to - no matter what - keep putting one foot in front of the other for 31.1 miles. I was encouraged along by the beauty of the trails, the thrill of running with others, and the great support of my family, who drove to every aid station they could. I don't think I could have stayed on the trails for 31.1 miles if I were alone.

So, I guess when tragedy strikes that seems to contradict God's promises to His children, we need to hold fast to two things:
  • Though it's not always clear, Scripture will always lead us to Christ. “All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, Who is Himself the focus of divine revelation” (Baptist Faith & Message 2000, I). We hold to the promises and truth of Scripture by faith, and faith is not always sight. 
  • We stay in the Way the Scripture teaches us to go together. One foot in front of the other, even when we have no idea where that next step will bring us. We stay in it together, encouraging one another with the clearer truth of Scripture and humbly seeking the Spirit's wisdom on the knottier passages.
Jesus used some pretty odd passages in His teaching, and the Spirit applied some strange texts to Christ in the rest of the New Testament. By themselves, those passages would never have clearly made us think of Christ. But in the fullness of time and the completion of the revelation of Scripture, we begin to see how the pieces connect. I suspect the same is true in our lives in this world. Scripture and our experience don't always seem immediately in harmony. When this happens, though, we determine to hold to Scripture by faith, keep putting one foot in front of the other (together), and trust the Lord that one day our faith will become sight.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Doxology to the Trinity from Proverbs 3

“My son, forget not thou my Law, but let thine heart keep my commandments. For they shall increase the length of thy days and the years of life, and thy prosperity. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them on thy neck, and write them upon the table of thine heart. So shalt thou find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own wisdom. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy ways. Be not wise in thine own eyes: but fear the Lord, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:1-7, Geneva Bible).

This is the new covenant, that the Son, from the right hand of the Father, writes God’s Law on our hearts by the Holy Spirit: “But this Man after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, sitteth forever at the right hand of God...for with one offering hath He consecrated forever them that are sanctified. For the Holy Ghost also beareth us record: for...He...said...‘This is the Testament that I will make unto them after those days,’ saith the Lord, ‘I will put My Laws in their heart, and in their minds I will write them’” (Hebrews 10:12-16, quoting from Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Father, we thank you for revealing Your Word.
Son, we thank You for being that Word-in-flesh.
Holy Spirit, we thank you for writing that Word on our hearts and minds.

We rejoice, great God, in this new covenant promised by the Father, inaugurated by the blood of the Son, and sealed by the Holy Spirit.

One God in three Persons, blessed Trinity, draw us to Your Word and write it on our whole being to Your glory this day!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Seeing Joy Through Hatred

“Why do the heathen rage, and the people murmur in vain. The kings of the earth band themselves, and the Princes are assembled together against the Lord, and against His Christ. ‘Let us break their bands, and cast their cords from us’” (Psalm 2:1-3, Geneva Bible).

Remember: every word and action against the Church is not about you, but about your Redeemer, the King of kings and Lord of lords Jesus Christ.

“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, ‘The servant is not greater than His master.’ If they have persecuted Me, they will persecute you also...but all these things will they do unto you for My Name’s sake, because they have not known Him that sent Me” (John 15:18-21).

The rejection and hatred of God's chosen King of the heavens and earth is not a surprise to the Father; how the world treats you, Church, is a visible image of this unseen superior reality. If you didn’t merit the hatred of the world, there is nothing you can do to ameliorate it. What is the Lord’s response to this rebellion? “But He that dwelleth in the heaven shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure, saying, ‘Even I have set my King upon Zion Mine holy mountain.’ I will declare the decree: that is, the Lord hath said unto Me, ‘Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Thy possession. Thou shalt crush them with a scepter of iron, and break them in pieces like a potter’s vessel’” (2:4-9). In the face of the world’s treason, the Father’s focus is on the Son and His rule. How can our focus, then, be anywhere else?

“Be wise now therefore, ye kings: be learned ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord in fear, and rejoice in trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish in the way, when His wrath shall suddenly burn” (2:10-12). This is not an “invitation.” This is command. The Son Who is the very expression of the Father’s love is also His means of wrath against those who reject His reign. Repent.

“Blessed are all that trust in Him” (2:12). As the circumstances providentially change around us in this world, Church, may our faith be strengthened as we look to Him more and more.

“...cast away everything that presseth down, and the sin that hangeth so fast on: let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, and despised the shame, and is set at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider therefore Him that endureth such speaking against of sinners, lest ye should be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the consolation, which speaketh unto you as unto children, ‘My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, neither faint when thou art rebuked of Him. For whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth: and He scourgeth every son that He receiveth’” (Hebrews 12:1-6).

The scourging is not the final word, of course. “For He that overcometh and keepeth My words unto the end, to Him will I give power over nations. And He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and as the vessels of a potter, shall they be broken: Even as I received of My Father, so will I give him the morning Star. Let him that hath an ear, hear what the Spirit saith to the Churches” (Revelation 2:26-29). In this quote from Psalm 2, the reign of the King is entrusted to His loyal subjects because they had ears to hear the Spirit. We do not take this rule upon ourselves. It is our place to overcome through endurance and keep His Word. What He gives and when is up to Him.

Today, endure in His Word. That is your calling in the face of all the world will do.