Friday, April 29, 2016

all the nations God has made

All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
Psalm 86:9

David's vision of the worship of the LORD is global because God's vision of worship calls all the nations to Him. Israel was a chosen nation, but all the nations of the world are the creation of God, every person, every culture, every people group are loved by God, and called to worship the Lord. The nations are God's creation, made for His glory to be sharing in His worship. That is the vision of world missions, that all nations would come to bring glory to the name of their God.

And this is still the state of things thousands of years of world history later. God has made all the nations for His glory and blessing... not just the good ol' U. S. of A! All nations are made for His glory and purposes. Botswana and Belgium, Indonesia and India, Chile and China, any nation on this globe is made up of people that God created, loves, and for whom He sent His Son to die! When God loved the world by sending Jesus, He loved ALL the people of the world, not just parts of it. God loves ALL the nations, even ones like North Korea, or Sudan, or Iran, Libya or Yemen. And God is calling all people groups to Him. That includes people lost in sin and compensating with Buddhism, Islam, ancestor worship, animism, secularism or a host of other false beliefs. He will call them all to His worship.

And Christians are tasked to play a role in accomplishing this big picture of worship. Jesus charges us to make disciples of the nations. We preach the gospel, we baptize believers, we teach God's Word as Jesus commanded because this vision drives us. At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. And the nations God has made shall worship Him!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

dead men walking

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
Ephesians 2:1-2

Before I came to faith in Christ, even though I was a child, I was still spiritually a zombie. I was a dead man walking. That is what Paul teaches in this passage. I must believe what this scripture says. Nobody, not even me, is born good. We are born spiritually dead in sin. And we walk in that sin, marching mindlessly toward hell.

The passage says that the dead zombie souls of our unredeemed natures will mindlessly follow two things: 1) the path of this world, and 2) the spirit of this world, Satan. That ain't good! We are on a path away from God at the start of our lives. We are dead men walking.

We are set on a road to hell in our sin. It is the only course we know, the "course of this world". We are oriented in the direction away from God by our sin. This life is lived outside of Christ in what scripture calls our "present evil age" (see Galatians 1:4). We can't change that fact about ourselves by ourselves. Our only hope is through the regeneration Christ brings. He sets us free, makes us alive, and places us on His "path of life".

We will also follow Satan's bidding in our unredeemed state. Usually not overtly, since I have yet to meet any overt Satanists, but in covert operations, Satan is THE influence in the world system AND in the individual lives of walking dead sinners. Jesus said Satan is like a father to sinners. And in following sin, we ultimately follow Satan's evil, disruptive, destructive, disobedient schemes.

These two tendencies toward the world and toward the devil are why we desperately need to believe that Jesus died for our sins and gives us new life. It is why I am thankful that He saved me when I trusted in that truth. It is why I must be passionate to live and proclaim the gospel of His saving life! 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Psalm 84:1-2

When the holy work of Christ is at work in me, when I let the Spirit of God work in me using the Word of God to transform my inner person, I find my passions changing. I want to have a heart that longs to be with God. I yearn for His presence and power. I want my heart and my flesh not to be steeped in self-centered sinfulness. I want my heart and flesh to find joy and expression in God. I want to sing from the simple, pure, single-minded joy of knowing God.

I realize that as much as I have this desire, I am my own worst enemy when it comes to seeing it come to fruition. I want full devotion to God. I fight a stinking devotion to my self, my unrepented sin, and the muddy, worthless, earthly trinkets I tend to clench tightly in my heart as my dearest treasures. To truly know this longing for God, this desire to always be in God's presence, I must "put off" what is earthly in me (Colossians 3:5), considering it dead, so that I can "put on" this holy, joyful longing in a new worship-filled life.

O Lord,
Help me lead a funeral today for the wickedness in my heart. I say that I want You, and Your new creation in me does long for You, but I confess, there is so much in my "old man" that still forces my head down in an earthly stare. And like the prodigal I want to feed on pig slop. I repent of this. I fight against the weight of sin so that I may run, with all my longing, into the courts of the LORD, Your lovely dwelling place, there to live!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Jesus is throwing a party.

And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.
Luke 13:29-30

Jesus says three things about His kingdom that are wonderfully surprising. Jesus turns things upside down with His vision of the kingdom. It will be a delightfully different realm, unlike any kind of rule people in this world have ever known.

First on the surprise description: the kingdom of God is a pretty fun party. That's the image Jesus employed when talking about the kingdom as a table where people recline with Jesus to eat. It was the ancient middle eastern way of throwing a feast, a party, a social gathering with food, fun, and great interaction among the guests and host. Jesus let us know that the way to understand His kingdom is to see it as a great get together at a party.

Secondly, the party of the kingdom of God will not be an exclusive, stuffy, members-only country club affair. It's going to be packed tight with variety. Many will come from all directions (a reference to the breadth of the gospel message impacting all the globe and all people groups) to feast at the table Jesus prepares. All of these people will be honored guests reclining in joy with the Master of the feast. Yes, the kingdom of God will be diverse, and I will be glad that it looks nothing like an American evangelical church service! Lord knows, we've had enough of those. Let's look forward to that party that Jesus throws in His kingdom!

Finally, the usual social order is reversed at Jesus' table. I have a feeling the outcasts, the infirm, the minorities, the ridiculed, and the misfits will all be the first into the kingdom's table. The line guard angel with the clipboard will probably keep me outside looking in for a while, but I'm pretty sure I'll at least get a spot at the kid's table as Jesus favors the "least of these" and I heartily enjoy seeing them get the love of the Master showered on them. This vision from Jesus challenges me to have His heart for people and groups that our world ignores, ridicules, or hides from view. His kingdom party will celebrate the men and women that most people consider to be social losers. Get ready for everything to change! I can't wait for this day to come.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Jesus is an evidentialist.

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
John 10:37-38

When the leaders of the Jews confronted Jesus in their struggle to accept His claim to be God, Jesus asked them to match His claim to deity with the works that He did. His claim was preposterous unless His miracles were clearly the things that only God could do. And the miracles could become a back door of sorts to faith. Jesus said to evaluate His works, and then to look at His claims. He was inviting these people who repeatedly sought to kill Him, to stop in their tracks and reconsider not His claim, but His actions. This isn't confrontation as much as it is from Jesus an invitation. Jesus invited even His enemies to believe Him.

This would be a form of evidentialism, which is a defense of the gospel based on history, known present truth, and factual argumentation. By that I mean that Jesus asked people to believe based both on visible evidence of His divine power as well as His claims to be God. And that same line of reasoning is valid and true today. Christianity should be observed both by its works and its claims. Jesus truly lives in His followers. They demonstrate His love and power so that gospel truth can be both seen and known. Changed lives are a powerful, miraculous testimony to the truthfulness of Christian Faith and the transformation the gospel brings.

Contrary to prevailing cultural bias, truth is not relative. It is certain, propositional, and in the case of Christ's claims, verifiable in historical record. Jesus claimed that His actual deeds were undeniably divine in explanation. And His followers saw, and knew, this to be true. His disciples would die for this truth, so convinced were they of His deeds and claims. And they lived to proclaim His saving life. So should we.

Friday, April 22, 2016

listen and walk

Oh, that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!
Psalm 81:13

This song is written in God's voice as He pleads with Israel to be faithful in their commitment to Him. They did not listen or submit to God (vs11) and so God let them follow their own stubborn hearts to live by their own counsel (vs 12). But even in this sin, there is a call to repent as God offers deliverance (vs 14) and a return to His tender care (vs 16).

The outcome of repentance requires two changes: listening to God and walking in His ways. And if Israel would do so, God would reward their renewed commitment with the blessings of His presence and the good joys of the covenant. Those same two things also apply to Christians today as we repent of sin and trust in the saving work of Jesus for us. The gospel calls us to change by listening to God's Word and obeying it as we live in the new life that God reveals to us in His Word.

Those two aspects of growth can become barriers if we don't combine them with repentance of sin. For instance, I can put all my efforts upon knowing Bible doctrine and codify a set of teachings, having never actually let that truth change the way I live. I would not truly be listening. I can also put all my emphasis on the details of outward appearances (Christian subculture gives us plenty of ways to do this) and have no deep grounding in God's truth, becoming a shallow imitator of a faddish sense of style. That is just legalistic and was the problem that the Pharisees had.

May God continue to call His people to a proper balance of listening, obeying, and walking in His truth. May His Word lead us in His ways for His glory. May we repent, listen, and walk!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

hypocrisy never lasts

Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.
Luke 12:2

God has a way of shining light on hypocrisy. It doesn't pay to fake your way into an appearance of holiness. It will not succeed. Jesus exposed the Pharisee's hypocrisy when He walked with them, and He will bring the sins of His church in this generation into light. A smug, false righteousness always fails. It humiliates those deceived into thinking they can pull off holiness under their own power.

Sadly, nobody really "wins" when dark secrets are exposed in a scandal. I suppose God's justice prevails, and that is great, but among people, the church in hypocrisy is a losing situation. It hurts the church and it disappoints those outside the church, fueling opposition to the gospel. That is why we must call each other as Christians to gospel accountability and confessional community. We must fight our sin, and our sinful covering of our sins, by being quick to repent, to turn to our Savior, to confess our faults to each other as well as to God, and to encourage one another to holy change that refuses to allow superficial faith, shallow doctrine, and unexamined lives to be among us!

All of us who have trusted Jesus for eternal salvation will give an account to Jesus. And at His judgment seat he will shine His light on all we have done, both good and evil (2 Corinthians 5:10). That is a fearful moment to consider, because all of us will have forgotten His warnings that nothing is hidden. It forces me to look daily at my own heart filled with the "leaven" of hypocrisy, and to root it all out through the Word, conviction of the Holy Spirit, and repentance.

O Most Holy Lord,
May my hands NOT cover up my sin, but instead, when I know I have done wrong, perhaps sewing fig leaves of my own hypocrisy, may I run to my Savior, confess my sin, share confession with my brothers and sisters without criticism, and find in You and with Your people grace, mercy, and forgiveness! Burn away hypocrisy's mask so that Your face is shining on me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

God of storms and souls

He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”
Luke 8:25

Jesus showed His controlling authority over the raging storm. The disciples are afraid. Most of them were fishermen. They had spent a lot of time in boats on this same lake. They knew how to handle wind and rough water. They had seen storms. But this time they were very scared. The wind and waves were strong enough that despite their experience and best efforts, the boat was quickly filling with water. It was turning into a survival situation.

The disciples do the very best thing possible in that moment. They turn to Jesus in their crisis. They are helpless and admit their great need. And Jesus changes the situation in an instant. With one rebuke, the winds and swamping waves cease. An immediate, unexpected calm settles in. And in that calm Jesus asks one penetrating question that rocks the souls of His men: "Where is your faith?"

The impact of that statement in the miracle calm out of the chaos has the affect of wondering fear falling on His disciples. They had a faithless fear in the storm, but now a holy, bewildered fear filled them in the calm. They just witnessed a powerful miracle where Jesus rebuked a storm. And the same God over the storm, calmly turned His penetrating gaze on them and rebuked their lack of faith. That is why they were afraid. The God Who rebukes storms also rebukes souls.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

the treasure chest in our chests

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:45

Jesus is the best authority on human motivation and behavior. And Luke's account of Jesus teaching in His "sermon on the plain" shows the wisdom and convicting insights that Jesus gives us. Who better to know us than our Creator? Who better to point out our biggest flaws and deepest need than our Savior? Jesus knows why we do what we do. We live and love from our hearts.

The heart, or inner man (or whatever you wish to call the immaterial part of us that is the sum of our thoughts, feelings, and will) is what drives our outward actions. The heart guides our speech. The heart moves our activity. In simple terms I see it this way... I do the things that I think about. And the evidence of that is in my life for all to see. Jesus says this with all confidence, declaring that good trees bring forth good fruit, implying that the impact of what each life produces will come directly from the outflow of the heart.

Jesus describes how the heart works with the compelling word "treasure". We hold our motivations as valued personal treasure deep within us. If we store up negative, sinful thoughts and feelings in the treasure box of the heart, sin will spill out as we speak and act. But if we fill up that same treasure chest in our chests with what is good, with God's truth and holy commitments, allowing Christ to remake us on the inside, our lives will show the good that Jesus is to the world.

I pause to place this valuable truth into my treasure chest today. May I let my mind ponder this simple but vital truth from Your lips so that I may treasure what is good. From that, would You by Your grace and Holy Spirit produce good in what I say and do today?

Monday, April 18, 2016

God and sleepless nights

I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
Psalm 77:6

Sometimes remembering God's grace and love is hard when life circumstances overwhelm us. Psalm 77 calls us to not let difficulties tempt us to run away from God, but rather to let the worries, pains, and cares force us to consciously remember God. It is written because of an anxious, sleepless night (Psalm 77:4). But even then, this scripture shows how remembering in that moment what God does can get us through such hard times.

It begins with an uncomfortable experience. Sometimes remembering hurts as God seems to be at a distance (Psalm 77:1-3). In those moments faith cries out from the soul as it seeks God (Psalm 77:1-2a), but then feelings confuse the soul leading to pain and confusion (Psalm 77:2b-3). The Psalmist (Asaph) lacks comfort, expresses sorrow, and feels weak, doing the best thing by telling God exactly how he feels.

Continuing in this process, the psalm tells us that remembering not only hurts, but haunts as unanswered questions shake our souls (Psalm 77:4-9). In a fitful, comfortless night there are a litany of questions fired at God in the sleeplessness: 1) Will You turn away forever and never again show favor? 2) Has Your grace ceased? 3) Are Your promises done? 4) Have You forgotten to show grace? 5) Has Your anger shut down Your love?

The questions are shot out without aiming, rapid fire toward God. But God can handle our troubled thoughts as shown in how the psalm then turns...

The psalm comforts us by showing how remembering heals, as we focus on God's wonders and works (Psalm 77:10-20). Asaph writes down a process where he chose to believe the facts about God, despite his feelings. He turned to the truth (Psalm 77:10). From there a growing stability took root, resulting in firm conviction based on the facts of Who God is and what God does (Psalm 77:11-20). It is all centered on five things God does that nobody else can do, and they match well against the five disturbing questions fired at God earlier. 1) The uniqueness of God's work in the world (Psalm 77:11-12). 2) The uniqueness of God's person in His holiness and power (Psalm 77:13). 3) The uniqueness of God's revelation (Psalm 77:14). 4) The uniqueness of God's salvation (Psalm 77:15). and 5) The uniqueness of God's relationship with His people (Psalm 77:16-20).

So when God seems distant, the best thing to do is to drill down by faith and choose to trust His faithful past. He will lead us again in trust, in praise, and to joy.

Friday, April 15, 2016

to know and be known

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
John 10:14-15

Jesus know His "sheep" (and one of them is me) like no other shepherd knows sheep. Jesus employed the terminology of shepherding to answer His enemies who wanted a very different Messiah than He was. He explained that unlike other parties who might be interested in sheep (thieves, hired hands, wolves), He alone was the good shepherd.

The audience to whom Jesus spoke knew all about shepherding, probably much better than must of us do today. And they knew sheep required constant care... that shepherds got to know their flocks well as they tended to them. The sheep were comfortable only with their own shepherd and would not follow strangers.

Jesus builds on this to explain that the way He knows His sheep, the relationship He builds with us, is stronger. He brings an intimate friendship to His flock. It is a relationship just like the one that He enjoys with the Father. That's what makes Him the "Great Shepherd".

Several times in John 10 Jesus emphasizes that as the "Great Shepherd", He will lay down His life for His Sheep. What's more, He will die and rise again for us. Unlike any earthly shepherd who might risk life but would not die for a flock (after all, if the shepherd dies, the sheep will scatter and the predator will win) Jesus would die, rise again, and bring His flock together, obeying His Father by so doing.

As one of Jesus' flock, I am known and I know Him. I am led by my Great Shepherd. I know Jesus, and in seeking to know Him, I know the Father. I am comforted by His Shepherd's staff, the cross that He bore for me. Because He willingly laid down His life and took it up again I can have life and have it to the fullest! That is why I will follow Jesus.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

sin = death

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
Ephesians 2:1

The gospel is a slap in the face to my self-centered ego. To believe the gospel is to accept my own inability and gross condition. I am by nature a dead man. I was born spiritually dead in my sin. I was in need of real life. Dead people can do nothing but rot as death controls them. And spiritually, before I came to Jesus, I was in that helpless, decaying, stinking state.

So I ask myself a simple question today: Do I see sin as death? I mean, do I view it from its spiritual reality? I have to confess that when I sin (which is all too much), I am not seeing real sin for what it is -- a rotten stench on me as a corpse. I dress up anger, or pride, or sensuality, or any of their limitless variations. I apply heavy makeup to the zombie's dried skin and act like the skeleton of a corpse of sin is outrageously fun and attractive. But if I really own what sin is, I must see it as death.

There's a huge mental advantage for me in this reality of embracing the equation here of (sin = death). Honestly, I don't want to physically die. I naturally am reluctant to deal with my own death. And that's exactly what advantages me to see sin as death. If I believe that sin is indeed death, I'll stay clear from it for the same reasons I don't want to consume rat poison! I don't want death... I want life.

Thank God that even as I was once a dead man, He sent His Son to die and to rise again, so that by faith I might be made alive again by trusting in what Jesus has done. In Jesus I am a living man once again, not dead in sin, regret, guilt, and shame, but resurrected to walk a whole new life... fresh skin on live bones. I was dead. Now Jesus lives and gives me life.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

When God seems silent

We do not see our signs;
there is no longer any prophet,
and there is none among us who knows how long.
Psalm 74:9

Asaph mourns for a nation that is without any light. Written in the situation of the destruction of the temple, probably during Babylon's invasion of Jerusalem, the viewpoint of this psalm is bleak. It is a lament. It is a song of weeping sung to the music of tears.

In verse nine Asaph laments not just the loss of the temple building itself, but the loss of any communication from the Lord. God has gone silent. And this was the hardest part of the situation to understand. The nation did not see God at work (there were no signs), did not hear from God (no prophet), and had no knowledge from God to understand their present pain (no one knows how long). It was an awful place to be... aware of sin and judgment and feeling so distant from God.

Yet, I notice that even as God seemed to give only silence toward them, they were not silent in respect to God. The judgment of God brought them back, in pain and with unanswered heartache, but back nonetheless in prayer to the Lord. And that may be the best strategy for dealing with the silence of God. If God seems far away (though really He is not) go after Him in prayer and pursuit of Him. Seek the Lord. Cry out to Him. Let Him know you are longing to see His hand at work, hear His voice in His Word, and know His will in the circumstances of your life. You will worship, and will find He answers such prayer!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

near to God despite frustration

But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.
Psalm 73:28

Asaph wrote about the vital importance of cultivating a heart close to the Lord. He needed to do so in worship because life can easily skew the believer's perspective. The psalmist begins the 73rd Psalm with a theological assurance: God is good to the nation of Israel and to sincerely worshipful and obedient individuals (Psalm 73:1). The author then interjects his own confession in verse 2: he came close to stumbling because of his sinful envy of the prosperity of the wicked. He questioned his faith commitments in the light of what seemed to be contradictory evidence. Wicked people seem to live more prosperous lives than the godly. This is a bold journal entry of Asaph's... one I could echo in the age of social media and easy access to what's on display in the lives of all people.

Well nigh half the Psalm is then spent on describing this contradiction (Psalm 73:4-15). Like a well-filtered Instagram album, what Asaph sees in the lives of wicked people has him more than theologically puzzled, it just doesn't seem to make sense that they should be so stinking happy while showing off their sin. He is considering his faith to be fruitless. He sees all his investment in worship and obedience to the Law as wasted (Psalm 73:13). Yet he cannot himself fully resign himself to this contradiction as a sound reason to abandon God. He wisely cautions himself with the reality that a generation will be lost if he does so (Psalm 73:15).

Asaph turns the corner on his doubts and frustrations with one act of worship. His questions drive him to worship and there in God's sanctuary in the nearness of God he saw the end of the wicked. He saw the way in which even the most prosperous wicked person will be judged quickly. And the author repents of the sins of doubt and frustration. Don't think those two things are sins? Asaph said his soul was bitter, he was brutish, ignorant, and beast-like in his attitude. He repented of sinful emotions... yes, sinful emotions. Our feelings can be sinful and must be repented of before God. This psalm leads the way for us in this understanding.

Thankfully, even in Asaph's worst struggle, God is always present. The psalmist is always before the Lord, guided by God's counsel. Even though his heart and flesh failed, God was his strength (Psalm 73:23-26). And in that awareness and with his repentance, he rejoiced to be near God. God was there all along, Asaph is just recognizing it again. And so should I. I need to guard my heart from letting feelings feed contradictions and doubt. I need to be quick to repent of my envy of the wicked and to throw myself into the nearness of my God. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

It ain't easy.

But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's rebellion.
Jude 10-11

The thrust of Jude's little letter is to persuade the church to reject false teachers. The brief description of false teachers and their resultant blasphemy is a reminder that should still warn us today. False teachers buy into and also sell swarmily an easy, intuitive theology. They want things easy, as is evidenced by Jude deriding them as "unreasoning animals". They are destroyed by their lack of thinking.

When Jude says they blaspheme by following their instincts, he is making it clear that by do doing, their doctrines are rooted in sin and error. It is our sinful natures that are instinctive to us. God calls us to apply ourselves to thoughtful belief and actions based on His revelation that comes from outside us, not from within. But false teachers always claim to have an easier route to salvation and a happy life. They will twist God's revelation, but always with an instinctive bend towards sin. They are unreasoning animals. They thus avoid biblical theology altogether.

These practices lead false teachers to emulate three of the Old Testament's really bad blasphemers. They are like Cain, who disobeyed God by not offering his best sacrifice, and when confronted chose to rebel against the revealed truth by killing his own brother. They are like money-hungry Balaam who sold his prophetic talents to the highest bidder with no regard for God's holiness or the truth. They are like Korah who defied Moses and God's leadership and led a portion of Israel into his rebellion, only to have the whole lot of them be swallowed up alive in a sinkhole that bottomed out straight to hell.

So Christians need to be on guard. False teaching is so easy, and often so attractive. Biblical theology is rewarding but requires diligence and sometimes mental effort. Always be cautious of the broad and easy road, of any "Christian" teacher who claims to have found something nobody has every seen or taught before. Beware of sermons that contain "secrets" for living. Jesus said this easy road leads to destruction, and his half-brother Jude agrees with Him, reminding us that their are on-ramps to that broad and dangerous road even from the church.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Bright City

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.
Revelation 21:23-25

I journey to the City of Light
  where the Holy Lamb of God is bright
    and in His glory there is no night
I journey to the City of Light

There in one eternal day
  awaiting me there on my way
    I believe what my Savior did say
there is one eternal day

I will live in the light of the Lamb
  eternal God, Savior, great I Am
    singing again backed by an angel band
I will live in the light of the Lamb

A City of Light is my final home
  with kings and angels and loved ones I'll roam
    lovely streets of crystal gold
a City of Light is my final home

There is no more darkness there
  in the home my Savior did prepare
    just joy and light and springtime air
there is no more darkness there

My journey leads to a good end
  Jerusalem reborn, around life's bend
    with my Savior there, eternal friend
my journey leads to a good end

Thursday, April 7, 2016

can't buy me love

Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.
If a man offered for love
all the wealth of his house,
he would be utterly despised.
Song of Solomon 8:7

So it appears that the Beatles were only echoing Solomon when they sang, "Can't Buy Me Love". Here at the end of the epic love song that Solomon penned romancing his Shulammite bride, he acknowledges both the power and the rare value of true love. It is a priceless part of human experience. It has a sustaining power unmatched by other human relational commitments. We are right to extol the joys of love and romance as we do as long as we are careful not to worship human love.

True love is an abiding, warm fire that cannot be easily extinguished. It is how I know love with my bride. It felt that way as we prepared to marry so long ago, and now, almost thirty years later that fire has not burned out. All it takes is some time with her to know the comforting warmth of love's blaze. Even when floods of tears and hard times have seemed to overwhelm us, the fire never dies. It burns on, lifted above the flood line by the grace God has given us to wholly commit holy to each other.

I can't place a value on that. Literally all I am and all I have in my life is tied to my precious wife. There is no way to describe what profoundly "is" for us. But I know what we are achieving. It is "oneness". It is what God made marriage between one man and one woman to be... two as one flesh. Those who know it are the wealthiest and strongest people they can be.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

praise and sword

Let the high praises of God be in their throats
and two-edged swords in their hands,
Psalm 149:6

Now here is a quite manly portion of Old Testament poetry! It calls for men of God to be both shouters of God's praise and instruments of God's justice. I think it is hasty and an immature hermeneutics that sees the "two-edged sword" of Hebrews 4:12 (the Word of God) as the focus of this psalm. Instead, the literal reading is preferred. The two-edged sword is a weapon of war. It forces God's vengeance and punishment (Psalm 149:7), it helps take prisoners captive (Psalm 149:8), and it is used to bring God's decreed judgment upon His enemies (Psalm 149:9).

David was a warrior King and if he is the author of this psalm, then this image makes perfect sense. God had called him to praise Him by leading well and judging wrongdoing as the king and commander in chief of Israel. God gave David and Israel victory by military conquest over the enemies of the nation. God called the king to capture foes and bring vengeance on those who hated Israel or threatened the throne. And he did all these vital tasks of governing and protecting the nation with the praises of God on his lips.

For David, a commitment to the worship of Yahweh was also a commitment to protect the nation. And the way to protect and lead Israel involved not only power and military authority, but most importantly, wielding those things while worshiping the Lord. He would fail as a leader if he did not do both. Spiritual integrity had to be matched with civil authority.

I may not literally go into my day with a weapon on my hip (though many good people do so as members of law enforcement or the military), but I do take away from this psalm the necessity of heartfelt praise to go with me in whatever I do today. May the high praises of God be in my throat as my battle cry today!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

remember and celebrate

And Mordecai recorded these things and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same, year by year,
Esther 9:20-21

God turned a threat of death into a feast of celebration. The big celebration at the end of the book of Esther is a victory feast. The Jews were saved by God's sovereign placing of wise Mordecai and gracious, obedient Esther in the right positions of power to courageously end the threat of genocide against the Jews that Haman had elaborately plotted. And at the Persian King's own command the Jews were able to destroy all their enemies over two days. And thus was born the feast of Purim.

God turns the table on sin and death. And that is something worth really partying about! It is what Christians do every time we worship. We are celebrating the victory of Jesus over sin and death with each new convert we baptize, with each time we meet in the Word and worship, with each time we break bread at His table. We are celebrating our Savior and our salvation when we worship.

True worship celebrates salvation. And that is what Purim did for these Jews. I'll remember that when I am gathered with the saints for Lord's Day worship and when I come to my Lord for daily worship in His Word and prayer.

Monday, April 4, 2016

the last song of Moses

The Rock, his work is perfect,
for all his ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity,
just and upright is he.
Deuteronomy 32:4

A last song from Moses to the nation of Israel before his last look at the Promised Land and death upon Pisgah is given to Israel in the last book of the Law. It is a song of warning. It extols the perfect worthiness of God to be worshiped, yet spends most of its meter and rhyme warning the nation of the dangers of disobedience and chiding them for past rejections of God despite His continual faithfulness to them. It is a song of warning.

As such, it is a prophetic epic poem. For Israel was entering into one of her most faithful epochs under Joshua as he followed Moses as leader. Israel would enter the Promised Land and receive blessing as they destroyed the various peoples of Canaan at God's direct command. But they would also fail to obey God completely, setting themselves up for a low point in their history under the rule of judges. There a cycle of sin, suffering, supplication, & salvation would mark them as Moses' song echoed over several generations

From there God would lead them under a monarchy, and again a cycle of unfaithfulness would mark the nation until the prophecy of Moses' song would be most vividly realized when the nation rejected God at His temple and was taken from the land into captivity in Babylon. Even after that, Israel would return to the land and continue cycling into unfaithfulness.

Finally, they would rigidly dig into self-gratifying legalism and largely reject God whose "ways are justice" when Jesus came to them "without iniquity, just and upright", only to be crucified by a crowd of screaming Israelites calling for the death of their God. Moses' last song was a vivid warning of what would be, but even in that warning, salvation has come to those who believe.

Friday, April 1, 2016

when in Rome

And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him.
Acts 28:16

Paul's ministry dream has come true. He longed to preach the gospel in Rome, the seat of the Roman Empire and the center of Paul's culture. Paul had been to a lot of big Mediterranean cities. From Jerusalem, he had brought the gospel to places like Antioch, Ephesus, and even Athens. But Rome was the top of the world in terms of strategic importance as a city. And Paul is there, unhindered to boldly proclaim the gospel while awaiting his appointment with Caesar under house arrest (see Acts 28:30-31).

The journey to Rome was arduous, pushing endurance as it involved arrest, beating, long imprisonment, ping pong trials before a variety of officials, and an eventual appeal to Caesar by Paul who as a Roman citizen was able to thus procure a free journey by sea to the center of the empire. Aboard ship Paul endured storm and shipwreck, all the adventure any Mediterranean sailor of ancient times could have imagined. But once in Rome, he was able to relax, still a prisoner, but in a rented room, under minimum security with a Roman guard, fully allowed for two years to preach the gospel as his case slowly ground through the system, moving up the docket to Caesar.

Reading the last two chapters in Acts, I notice that there are seasons of ministry frenzy punctuated by rest. There are storms and wrecks, fears and unknown difficulties. There are also fires on the beach, and personal prayer times. There are new islands onto which God washes people ashore. There are miracle healings and snake bites. There are new believers and stoic soldiers like Paul's Roman guard who just keep witnessing the gospel and its power firsthand, but seem unfazed by it. It's a lot of life that is true to our own experiences today.

Paul in Rome, though allowed to finally rest, doesn't seem to want to do so. Instead, even under the terms of a house arrest, brings a stream of visitors in to his home in order to proclaim the gospel and advance Christ's kingdom. The gospel never takes a vacation!