Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking Back

I don't think 2008 was my best year, but it certainly had a few accomplishments in it. Off the top of my head:

  • I finished reading the Bible again and am planning on doing it twice more in 2009.
  • I went out running 185 times
  • I ran my first 5k and broke the 8:00/mile barrier
  • I remained gainfully employed
  • I managed to blog fairly regularly and with some meat
  • I finished my formal Greek education and began my Hebrew
  • I finally beat the game Thief 3
  • I learned the fundamentals of lockpicking
  • I taught Lily how to play chess
  • I finally got on Facebook and it helped me reconnect with a long-lost friend
These are all personal things. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that there were many big strides made regarding family or work. Work I don't care so much about, but as 2009 looms ahead I see the need to be more affectionate and more "present" with my family. It's great that I spend time with the kids at the grocery store and such, but I particularly need to meet Lily where she is rather than where I want for her to be. This is especially true with Amanda.

For all of you who read this I do pray that 2009 would be a year where you enjoy sweet fellowship with the Lord.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Enjoying Festivals

Zechariah 7:5-6
(5) "Say to all the people of the land and the priests, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted?
(6) And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves?

We're about to have our last and first festivals of the year. We plan on going to a friends' house for their bit New Years Eve family open house. Then on Thursday we're going to the McKenzies for our annual pork and sauerkraut meal. Both events should be fun.

I think that New Years is kind of an arbitrary time to celebrate. I do think that there is something about going from 12/31 to 1/1 on the calendar. I also think that there is something about taking some inventory on the past year. However, I also think that resolutions should be made throughout the year.

I also think that this time of celebration of 2008 and hope for 2009 needs to be Christ-centered. Was our Christmas celebration for us or for God? How about Thanksgiving? How about Easter? If there is one holiday that absolutely screams for Christ-centeredness it is Easter since that is a holiday unique to Christians.

The Jews had a calendar of feasts as well. Their problem is that they lost sight of the reason for them. I hope not to do that with ours.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

More Predictions

Zechariah 3:6-10
(6) And the angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua,
(7) "Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.
(8) Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch.
(9) For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day.
(10) In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree."

A bit earlier in this chapter we see that Joseph was clothed in filthy garments, but they were exchanged for clean. If you go back to Leviticus you see how important it is to be clean in the presence of the Lord. Unfortunately, we cannot clean ourselves up. The good news is that the Branch will clean us up. That Branch is Jesus.

Verse 10 contains a prophecy that I also take to be a command. Am I inviting my neighbor to come under the Branch? I'm trying to do that more and more, but it is still convicting. As Penn said in this video, we had better be telling people the good news.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Trusting God

Habakkuk 2:18-20
(18) "What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols!
(19) Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it.
(20) But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him."

God is God whether we like it or not. We may not always understand how He goes about His business. We may not always understand why things happen to us. However, in the end, God is God and we are not. Therefore, we must be careful not to fashion our own gods to replace the God who is.

In the church we like to emphasize how God is love. That is certainly true. However, the gospel is only glorious because God is also just and full of wrath. If He were merely loving then there would be no reason for Christ to die. There would be no wrath or justice that needed satisfaction. However, Christ became the perfect sacrifice for sin so that we might come into the presence of God and not fear His perfect justice.

The book of Habakkuk ends with a fairly famous and yet sobering passage:

Habakkuk 3:17-19
(17) Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
(18) yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
(19) GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.

We are to rejoice in Him no matter what is going on. Our response to Him must not depend on our circumstances. We all go through peaks and valleys in life. God is still God and still in control no matter what is happening. And, ultimately, He is still worthy of our praise and honor no matter what.

Psalms 146:1-2
(1) Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!
(2) I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

I love it when a complete gospel message comes out of just what I read as my daily reading. Read through the Bible in 2009!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Guess Who's Coming?

Micah 5:1-9
(1) Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek.
(2) But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
(3) Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel.
(4) And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.
(5) And he shall be their peace. When the Assyrian comes into our land and treads in our palaces, then we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight princes of men;
(6) they shall shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod at its entrances; and he shall deliver us from the Assyrian when he comes into our land and treads within our border.
(7) Then the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples like dew from the LORD, like showers on the grass, which delay not for a man nor wait for the children of man.
(8) And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among the flocks of sheep, which, when it goes through, treads down and tears in pieces, and there is none to deliver.
(9) Your hand shall be lifted up over your adversaries, and all your enemies shall be cut off.

I love seeing Jesus in the minor prophets. Here we see the prediction of His birth as well as His triumphant return in glory in the last days. Today is the last day of the Advent season and tomorrow we celebrate the Incarnation or "God with meat" as Mark Driscoll calls it.

This is definitely a busy and stressful time here. It looks like we have all the pieces in place except for the one gift I really want to give Amanda and it hasn't arrived yet. There's still hope for today...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Unable to Stand

Psalms 143:1-2
(1) A Psalm of David. Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
(2) Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.

David understood where he was before the Lord. Even though he was a man after God's own heart he knew that even he was not truly righteous before the Lord. David needed God's grace as much as I or anyone else does.

I think this is a vital truth as we think about our standing before the Almighty. Are we going to trust our feeble efforts at righteousness or are we going to trust the righteousness of Christ?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Keeping the Commands

1 John 5:1-3
(1) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.
(2) By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.
(3) For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

There is a ton to unpack in this short passage. I want to hit on a few highlights that struck me this morning. First, I think we need to keep the order straight in verse 1 and the grammar can help us. The phrase "has been born of God" is in the perfect passive tense. That means that it is a past action with present effect, but also that it is something that happens to the subject. In this case, the subject is "everyone." The word translated "who believes" is actually the present active participle, which means that it is an ongoing action. Basically, what this tells us is that we are born of God before we are able to believe in Him. Once again, Scripture speaks to the sovereignty of God in election.

Verses 2 and 3 step up the challenge. We are to keep His commandments. We do this not to merit our salvation since it is impossible to do that. However, we can see that the continual working out of our faith is proof that we are indeed born of Him. Of course, everyone has some dry periods where it feels like we couldn't do anything at all. I would maintain that simply remaining faithful is part of keeping His commandments.

I would sum up this passage by saying that God is the one who saves us since we cannot save ourselves. However, if we are truly saved we will not have a passive faith that does nothing. It will be continually evidenced by our works.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Comfort in the Psalms

Psalms 141:5
(5) Let a righteous man strike me--it is a kindness; let him rebuke me--it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.

Psalms 141:8
(8) But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!

My week of Facebook has been interesting, to say the least. For a long time I've had this sense that I really need to be sharing the gospel more openly with people. I just didn't know how I was going to do it. Facebook has definitely helped with that. I have no idea what kind of fruit these seeds will bear, but all I can do is scatter the seed. I can't control the soil.

So far, I've found an old friend who is an atheist, my brother-in-law's mom who went to a winter solstice party yesterday complete with drum and crystals, and a discussion on another friend's wall about Prop 8. On one hand I feel a certain sadness when I rub up against people whose beliefs are so wildly different than mine. It certainly has helped me to put less importance on some of the in-house debates we have as Christians.

On the other, I am excited to be able to share the hope of the gospel. I knew a fight was coming when I responded to the post on Prop 8. I got to the point where I could share the gospel, which was really what I wanted to do. Otherwise I'm just another "Christian" jerk who is trying to tell the world how great I am while the world is going to hell.

I don't claim to be facing anywhere near the persecution or reproach that David wrote about in Psalm 141. However, I am comforted by this truth (as well as by my reading in 1 John today) that there is a reward to being faithful in sharing the gospel.

If you're reading this and you don't know Jesus, I urge you to get off the throne of your life, repent of your sin, and put Jesus on that throne. Yes, your life will change and there will be a cost, but ultimately it will be worth it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Putting Down Roots

Mark 4:3-9
(3) "Listen! A sower went out to sow.
(4) And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.
(5) Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil.
(6) And when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away.
(7) Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.
(8) And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold."
(9) And he said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

I just read a chapter on this parable in the textbook for my upcoming parables class. I won't go into everything that the author wrote, but I love the last two sentences:
People think they can look like giant oaks without putting down deep roots. When they realize how much effort it takes to put down deep roots, they too often settle for being bramble bushes. (Snodgrass, Stories With Intent, 176.)

That, to me, summarizes the problem with the attraction-based model of church growth. It's great to get people in the door, but you end up with a lot of false professions of faith based on emotion alone. Or, just as bad are the professions of faith based on the plan to avoid hell. No, the kingdom of God is about having deep roots.

I like to think that my life is lived in such a way that I am putting down deep roots. However, it is easy to see the selfishness in my own heart that I must fight daily. It is easy to see the laziness that prevails all too often. This chapter was a good reminder of how badly I need to work to keep putting down those roots.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Geeking in Greek

I was going to write something pithy and challenging about Psalm 139, but I think this video just takes the cake. The rap interlude is hilarious. And they managed to keep the dancing girls fairly tasteful as well.

I remember never being quite part of the "in-crowd" in high school. I was in the right classes, but I never quite was able to run in those circles. Maybe the circles didn't even exist and they were just a figment of my imagination, but it sure seemed like all those attractive smart people got along awfully well. At any rate, the fact that I "get" this video tells me that there is indeed an "in-crowd" of which I am a part.

Is that good or bad? Maybe these guys wouldn't make fun of me for bringing my Greek New Testament to class.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Apologetics

It's been a great week of conversation with an old friend from high school who is perhaps a more devout atheist than I am Christian. It takes me back to my apologetics class and reminds me that there are a few ways to go about the business of talking about God. The three that I have in mind are:

  1. Argue from creation
  2. Cumulative case
  3. Presuppositionalism
When I had to do a paper on this I argued in favor of cumulative case. However, the more time I spend in the Word and the more time I spend chatting with my friend I think I am becoming more of a presuppositionalist. For example, I wrote this:
If I understand the materialist view correctly (please correct me if I don't) then through random chance some amino acids came together and become something that we call "life." This first single-cell organism somehow managed to do the things that living creatures do including reproduce itself, which it did when the conditions were right. Of course, if the conditions weren't right the first time then random chance had to bring more amino acids together again and so on. Now these organisms kept reproducing and of course the numbers get big very quickly when you multiply by 2. Over time some mutations of these organisms started forming multicell organisms and they were able to thrive in their environment. I think of sponges for example. Over time through random chance and mutation some of the cells started to differentiate and you have the earliest systems in animals (i.e flatworms). As time wore on this happened again and again. Eventually you end up with mammals. Through chance the species started to differentiate because of their environment. Over time members of these different species, which only exist through random chance, happened upon each other as male and female and were able to reproduce. This means that these random chances had to happen in duplicate, but with different sexes. Also, as those male and female animals happened to evolve in the same general area so they could find each other neither one managed to fall off a cliff, get eaten, etc before their first encounter.
And he wrote back saying that I pretty much had it right, though apparently there are ways to explain the problem of the male and female of the new species. He then went on to make the point that what I see as preposterous he sees as what must happen given enough time for it all to cook.

So clearly the argument from design isn't working. We've had some similar discussions about the problems of good and evil.

What this is boiling down to is our presuppositions. He admits that he does not have total knowledge, but chafes at the idea of a "black box" to explain anything. On the other hand, I know that I do not have total knowledge and I assume that there must be someone out there who does that I can trust. This is the fundamental key to faith, I believe. Either we are willing to take that step or not.

Personally, I think that the Christian worldview does have some problems to resolve such as the problem of evil. Playing the "God's will" card seems weak to the skeptic. However, I still think that is more plausible than dirt + water + time = everything.

At the very least, I am very glad to reconnect with an old friend even if we have to park this discussion at some point. I have sometimes wondered how to differentiate friendship from evangelism targets. Now I know.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I'm not going to post any specific passage, but I would commend this book to you when you get a chance. The book is all about Israel's spiritual adultery with the Lord. It's easy to read it and think that we are above that, but I think that it is as much for me as it was for Israel when it was written.

First, there is the obvious fact that every time I look at a woman with lust I am committing a form of adultery. That's a tough teaching, but Jesus made it pretty clear.

Second, there are the more subtle ways that I commit adultery toward the Lord every day. How often am I living just for myself and not for Him? Am I glorifying His name when I steal time from my employer to do my own thing? Am I always a good witness for Him? Do I treat my family the way He commands me? And so on.

The good news is that in Christ we can return from our lives of spiritual adultery back into the covenant relationship He intends for us. Are you running back to Him or are you whoring after your idols? You can't do both.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sins of Omission

James 4:17
(17) So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Husbands, this is one of my life verses for marriage. Yes, Ephesians 5:25-33 is also vital. However, I feel like this verse from James speaks more directly to my laziness. For example, if I see the toys all over the floor it is this verse that leads me to pick them up. If I notice that the dishwasher needs to be emptied this verse compels me to do it.

I think the church as a whole has the sins of commission down pretty well. We're quick to jump on things like drunkenness and overt adultery (though we still have a lot of work to do on porn). Yet we tend to forget to tie the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount to James 4:17. In general, we know the right thing to do in most situations. Let's be sure that we do it, amen?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Outside the Gate

As I wrote yesterday, I'm now on Facebook. This has been quite an experience so far. It's been great to at least connect with some old friends, though I haven't had any meaningful conversations beyond "it's great to hear from you" so far.

Obviously, a Facebook profile tells you a little bit about someone. I reconnected with an old friend from high school. He has a Douglas Adams quote on his homepage and belongs to two separate skeptics groups. Clearly he and I don't see eye-to-eye on spiritual matters, but that's OK. What this whole experience is showing me is just how much I run in my little evangelical circle and never get out of it. Conversely, I read this today:

Hebrews 13:12-14
(12) So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.
(13) Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.
(14) For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

This is in a passage that discusses how the old Levitical system was used to bear the reproach of the people. Jesus had to go outside the camp because He was unclean as He took on the sins of the world. The tough thing here is the challenge to go outside the camp.

I'm not sure if this is a valid interpretation or not, but to me it seems like I am challenged to go outside the camp. It's one thing to talk about this within my circle, but it's quite another to be thought stupid for my faith. I have no idea if my old friend would think me stupid for my faith or not, but there is always that possibility. And of course that is a very real possibility if I actually began having conversations with strangers.

It's time that I spend more time walking the walk, I think.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

More Ways to Network

Thanks to my wife and the pressure she received from her friends I am now on Facebook. Won't you be my friend?

Friday, December 12, 2008

No More Offering

Hebrews 10:18
(18) Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Do you believe this truth? I mean, do you really believe it? The reason I ask is because I don't think I really do. I keep trying to make offering for my sin. I think that I need to adjust the cosmic balance where God is weighing my good deeds against my bad. I feel like I need to "make up" for the times when I sin.

Can you relate? Do you find yourself unconsciously doing that? It certainly isn't something I do intentionally, but it happens nonetheless.

This verse reminds us of how useless that is. We cannot ever make up for our mistakes. Christ paid it all for our sin. How do we react to that truth?

First, we must avoid licentiousness. Christ did not die so that we could live in wanton sin.

Second, we must still pursue holiness. To be content with our condition is just another form of licentiousness.

Let's reflect on what Christ's sacrifice really means to us. The next time I read Leviticus I plan to do it with Hebrews in mind. Compare that system to Christ's. There really is no comparison, is there?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Not Keeping a Record

Psalms 130:3-4
(3) If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
(4) But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.

I think about the bitterness I can have in my heart when I remember times that someone wronged me. Just imagine how it would be if the omniscient Almighty Creator kept a record of our wrongs against Him? Of course, an omniscient God cannot actually forget anything, but He chooses not to bring our sins up against us. This is only possible through the righteous sacrifice of Christ.

Why does He forgive us? It is so that He may be feared. This would seem to speak on at least two levels. One is that it is the beginning of wisdom for us. In other words, apart from forgiveness we cannot have any kind of true wisdom since we need to be forgiven that we may fear Him. Does that make sense?

The other level is of course His glory. Our reverent awe of Him glorifies His name.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Hebrews 6

As a Calvinist, this passage always gives me pause:

Hebrews 6:4-8
(4) For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,
(5) and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,
(6) if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
(7) For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.
(8) But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

What do we do with this? Is it possible to lose our salvation? Is salvation a matter of works? How can we possibly hold up to this?

I would say that a casual reading would suggest that we could lose our salvation. However, I think that it stands in odds with a passage like Ephesians 1:13-14. How can we be sealed by the Holy Spirit and yet live in constant fear of messing up? The rest of the chapter helps to clear this up:

Hebrews 6:17-20
(17) So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath,
(18) so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
(19) We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,
(20) where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Jesus is our righteousness! He is the one who has lived perfectly and we do not have to fear judgment for our sins. This does not give us a license for wanton sin, but it does mean that we do not have to worry about whether or not we measure up in the scales of God's justice. We can't possibly measure up, but Christ can. Isn't this is a wonderful promise?

If you are on the treadmill of chasing after God's pleasure through your works I encourage you to look to Christ for our righteousness. Of course, this does show that there is value in our works:

Hebrews 6:10-12
(10) For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.
(11) And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end,
(12) so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

However, our works don't save us.

So what to do with this passage that suggests that we can fall away forever? I would maintain that those who fall away like that were never sealed by the Holy Spirit as described in Ephesians 1:13-14. That seems to be the common Calvinistic interpretation.

What do you think?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Our Great High Priest

I'm in Hebrews now. I would say that this is the one New Testament book with which I am the least familiar. Every time I read it seems fresh to me. I only read chapters 1-3 today, but I'm already reminded of some amazing truths:

Hebrews 1:3-4
(3) He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
(4) having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

As we saw in Colossians, Jesus holds everything together by His power. Wow.

Hebrews 2:2-4
(2) For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution,
(3) how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard,
(4) while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Have you heard the good news of the Gospel? If so, don't ignore it. We have no escape if we neglect this free gift of grace.

Hebrews 2:14-18
(14) Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,
(15) and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
(16) For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.
(17) Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
(18) For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Jesus understands our pain. There are times when I try to minister to someone and, frankly, I can't understand what they're going through. However, Jesus can understand what it means when we are tempted. He knows our pain and He helps us.

Hebrews 3:7-10
(7) Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, "Today, if you hear his voice,
(8) do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness,
(9) where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works
(10) for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.'

This is directed to the Jews, but I think it is something for us Gentiles to think about as well. We didn't get that first chance like they did, but since we have heard the gospel we'd better not ignore it, amen?

Hebrews 3:12-13
(12) Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
(13) But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

I know that I have to deal with unbelief in my heart. I believe that my heart is regenerated so it is not completely unbelieving as it once was, but it is still prone to hardness and wandering. Therefore, I do not want to fall away. How do I protect against that? I enjoy fellowship with other believers for mutual exhortation. That is vital.

I'm really looking forward to what the rest of the week holds as I read through Hebrews again.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Master Builder

Psalms 127:1-5
(1) A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
(2) It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
(3) Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.
(4) Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.
(5) Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

This Psalm hit me right where I am today. The first two verses remind me of the point of all my toil. I can get up early and do my devotions, go jogging, etc, but it's all useless unless the Lord is in it. I can stay up late studying or doing some other good thing, but it's all meaningless unless the Lord is in it. He gives sleep to His beloved. Sleep is one thing I haven't had a problem getting lately. I may have been getting too much of it; however, I did get up with my alarm today.

Verse 3-5 are a great reminder for me now too. The kids can get a little frustrating. For some reason Noah was pushing our buttons yesterday. He's starting to get some boundaries. For example, the Christmas tree is putting the "NO" in Noah. He was just very demanding yesterday.

Yet He is a blessing from the Lord. I know that at the high level. However, I tend to forget that sometimes in the day-to-day goings on of life. Remember to cherish your children.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Hope in Being Lost

“How can you tell if he is working on you now? If you begin to sense your lostness and find yourself wanting to escape it, you should realize that that desire is not something you could have generated on your own. Such a process requires Help, and if it is happening it is a good indication that he is even now at your side.”

- Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 75.

I got this today as part of the RSS feed from the site called "Of First Importance." The stuff I get from them every day is usually helpful at some level. It never hurts to get a clearer picture of the gospel, right? However, today's really hit home.

I've had a hard time getting out of bed lately. The past two mornings I haven't made it up until 5:30 or so. I'm completely unfocused at work and frankly waste most of my days. I'm having a hard time staying focused and disciplined with my studies. I'm in a funk.

Today's quote encourages me because the funk bothers me. I've heard it said that you shouldn't be worried if you are worried that you've committed the unforgivable sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. The reason is because the fear you have of doing it indicates His presence in you. In the same way, today's quote reminds me that my thirst for holiness indicates that God is working in me. I am always encouraged by the glorious promise of Philippians 1:6. Basically, God always finishes His restoration projects.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Faithful Worker

I just finished reading 2 Timothy as part of my Bible in a year plan. The whole book serves as a manual for how to be a preacher. It is an encouragement for those of us who plan to be faithful to the Word and not worry so much about stepping on toes when necessary.

What impressed me is that Paul does not paint a particularly rosy picture. He writes of those who deserted him and those who caused him much harm. It is easy for me to think that I will simply have to be faithful and the Lord will take care of me. That is certainly true, but not necessarily in the sense that I want for it to be. I have no guarantee against the arguments and the backstabbing that come with being a pastor. I have no guarantee against the temptations that are sure to come. I have no guarantee against the pain in my gut when I do make a mistake and I need the Lord to fix it.

I have heard it said that you should not go into ministry if there is any way you can get out of it. Right now I don't see an alternative. Sure, I could pour myself into learning more about the stuff I do at work and quit seminary. However, I'm not sure that is such a good idea. I feel like I am doing what I am supposed to do. I can't imagine any better life than the one of ministry, despite the trouble that is sure to come. Therefore, I plan to stick it out with 2 Timothy as a guide.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Who is On Your Side?

Psalms 124:1-8
(1) A Song of Ascents. Of David. If it had not been the LORD who was on our side-- let Israel now say--
(2) if it had not been the LORD who was on our side when people rose up against us,
(3) then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;
(4) then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us;
(5) then over us would have gone the raging waters.
(6) Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth!
(7) We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped!
(8) Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

Today the nation of Israel always seems to be hanging by a thread. By all accounts it should not exist. It is relatively small. It's neighbors believe that its very existence is an abomination. Of course, it helps that it has the United States and our military to back it up. It also helps that we sell them our best warplanes. Nevertheless, it is still something of a miracle that they are there.

It was even more pronounced when they first took this land after their sojourn in the desert. They were a ragtag group of nomads who had no formal training in war. Yet they were able to conquer this land. How was this possible? The LORD won the battle for them.

Later, their very existence was only secured by the LORD. It doesn't take long when you read Kings to see what happened when they took their eyes off of Him. He withdrew His protection and sent in the Gentile nations to punish them for their idolatry.

I think the battle is the same for us today as Christians. Here in America we don't have to worry too much about being physically attacked by our foes, though that does sometimes happen. Rather, we need to worry about supernatural attacks from the enemy. I think of the second verse of the great hymn "A Mighty Fortress is Our God":

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing.
You ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He,
The Lord of Hosts His name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

He must win the battle. This is slightly unusual language to our ears, but I take it to mean that there is no other possible outcome than His victory. It isn't "He must win the battle or else" in the sense of a football team saying, "we need a first down here or we will lose the game." No, I take this to mean that He must win the battle in the sense that a rock must fall to the ground if it has no external support. It is just the way things are.

Do you have the right man on your side? If so, are you living like He must win the battle?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


We go to a church that does almost exclusively praise and worship music. Now the CCM praise and worship music does have a place. However, I find that it tends to lack theological depth. It tends to be all about how great it is that we know God and how happy that makes us. Unfortunately, there are seasons of life when that kind of leaves you empty.

I do appreciate some of the music of Chris Tomlin, though I think that his albums are becoming increasingly shallow as well. I do appreciate the songs on the Arriving CD as they remind us of God's greatness and majesty. There is a lot to commend that.

In the end, there is a reason why the great hymns are great. I think if you had to ask someone to name a favorite hymn the first one out of most people's mouths would be "Amazing Grace." Just about everyone knows the first verse, but read all of them when you get a chance. You'll see how the hymn takes us from justification to sanctification to glorification to eternity with the Lord. Any professing Christian who never gets at all choked up at the last verse needs to reexamine what he really believes. I'm not saying that you need to wail every time, but it should move you to some kind of feeling.

I am really enjoying this whole collection from Sovereign Grace music. The arrangements aren't particularly interesting, though I do like the bluegrass version of "How Firm a Foundation." The vocals tend toward the cheesy, particularly the woman who sings "Praise to the Lord." Nevertheless, it is a great collection of hymns that will hopefully move your soul. Check them out when you get a chance.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Can You Be Saved?

1 Timothy 1:15
(15) The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

Jesus did not come into the world to save the righteous. He came into the world to save sinners. That means that He cannot do anything with anyone who trusts his own righteousness to save Him. He can only work with those who realize that they are sinners.

I think of the men who have served on elder boards of churches but have never really grappled with their sin. I think of the millions in America who trust their "churchianity" to save them. I don't want to be one of those people.

It doesn't take me long to think of a sin I've committed. I really enjoy the mornings when I can walk and pray. I find that I have much sin to wrestle with. The good news is that God gives me grace to overcome. How is this possible? He came to earth to save sinners.

I don't think Paul was being modest in this verse. I think he was painfully aware of his former sin as well as his current sins. He had a zeal for holiness that few in the church today seem to demonstrate. Unfortunately, that often includes me.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Encouragement from Tozer

I may have posted this last year, but it fits in so well with all the Psalm 119 stuff that I feel like it's worth a repeat. Enjoy:

Trials and Pain: The Dark Night of the Soul

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide
Your face from me?
--Psalm 13:1

Some of you know something of that which has been called "the dark
night of the soul." Some of you have spiritual desire and deep
longing for victory but it seems to you that your efforts to go on
with God have only brought you more bumps and more testings and more
discouragement. You are tempted to ask, "How long can this go on?"...

Yes, there is a dark night of the soul. There are few Christians
willing to go into this dark night and that is why there are so few
who enter into the light. It is impossible for them ever to know the
morning because they will not endure the night. I Talk Back to the
Devil, 80-81.

"Lord, You know the dark night that I endured for a number of years--
and I know I'm not alone. I pray for any who are suffering today and
struggling. Bring Your deep-seated peace and the assurance that the
morning is coming. Thank You that Your grace is sufficient. Amen."

Sunday, November 30, 2008


2 Thessalonians 1:5-10
(5) This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering--
(6) since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you,
(7) and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels
(8) in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
(9) They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
(10) when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

This is one of those passages that reminds me how God's timeline is not always the same as mine. If someone wrongs me I want to see instant payback. I want to have the sense that God is right there ready to smite them for what they've done.

However, this passage shows us that it doesn't necessarily work like that. If we are in Christ we will eventually experience relief from our affliction, but it may not be until we die. We may not see the recompense for our enemies' sin, but it will happen when they die. A day of judgment is definitely coming. Are you ready for it?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thirsting for Righteousness

Psalms 119:169-176
(169) Taw. Let my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word!
(170) Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word.
(171) My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes.
(172) My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right.
(173) Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.
(174) I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight.
(175) Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me.
(176) I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.

I love how this prayer wraps up this Psalm, don't you? The Psalmist truly hungers and thirst for righteousness. He understands that do what he needs to do on his own so he prays for the strength to carry it out. To me, it looks like he chose God's way of doing things, but he understands his complete inability to do what he needs to do. Yet He trusts that God's zeal for His glory will motivate Him to help with doing what he needs to do.

This should give any Christian tremendous hope. This is truly what our lives in Christ are like. When we say that we want for Christ to be the Lord of our lives we are saying that we are choosing God's precepts. However, we still need to pursue righteousness and we can only do that through God's grace in our lives.

Doesn't verse 176 remind you of 1 Peter 2:25? Let's be glad for our Good Shepherd that brings us back to the fold, amen?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Exposed to the Light

Psalms 119:161-168
(161) Sin and Shin. Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words.
(162) I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.
(163) I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law.
(164) Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.
(165) Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.
(166) I hope for your salvation, O LORD, and I do your commandments.
(167) My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.
(168) I keep your precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before you.

We're almost there. Tomorrow is the last stanza in this psalm. I hope that you have enjoyed this as much as I have.

Verse 168 speaks to something that is difficult for me. The Psalmist confidently lays all his ways before the Lord. He is able to do that because his soul keeps the Lord's testimonies and he loves them exceedingly. He knows that he has great peace because of his love for the Law. He hates and abhors falsehood, so he has nothing to worry about as he lays himself bare before the Lord.

Can you do that? I can't. I rejoice at the blood of Christ that washes my sins away. I think of the second glances I give women sometimes. I think of the times when I eat just because I feel like eating. I think of the times when I am lazy. And so on.

Let's rejoice at the grace that makes us righteous before the throne of the Lord, amen?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Be Careful in Application

Psalms 119:153-160
(153) Resh. Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law.
(154) Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise!
(155) Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your statutes.
(156) Great is your mercy, O LORD; give me life according to your rules.
(157) Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from your testimonies.
(158) I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands.
(159) Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love.
(160) The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.

I'm going to be spending Thanksgiving with some people who are not believers. I'm not sure that I should apply verse 158 too literally today. However, what this stanza does tell me is that I need to be zealous for evangelism. Salvation is indeed far from those who do not know the Lord (remember -- we're all wicked apart from Christ); therefore, it is up to those of us who know Him to talk about Him.

If we go around talking about what we're thankful for I may just read Psalm 111:1-10.

As I read through this glorious Psalm I am also reminded of the need to guard against spiritual pride. The temptation is to see how the wicked live and then to ask God to give me my share because I love the Word. This has two main problems as I see it:
  • I don't think God works on a quid pro quo basis.
  • I don't love the Word as much as I think I do

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Quiet Time

Psalms 119:145-152
(145) Qoph. With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD! I will keep your statutes.
(146) I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies.
(147) I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.
(148) My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.
(149) Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O LORD, according to your justice give me life.
(150) They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose; they are far from your law.
(151) But you are near, O LORD, and all your commandments are true.
(152) Long have I known from your testimonies that you have founded them forever.

This passage reminds me of Mark 1:35. It looks to me like the Psalmist had a regular practice of being awake very early in the morning or very late at night so that he could seek the Lord and meditate on the Word.

What do you do when you are persecuted? You may not be getting chased through caves by a wicked king like Saul chasing David. You likely don't face the persecution that an Indonesian Christian might face. However, I am certain that there is something in your life that should drive you to your knees in pursuit of the Lord.

Let's be sure that we go to Him and His Word to meet our needs and get us through persecution. All of His commandments are true. Let's rejoice in the authority and trustworthiness of the Word, amen?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Being Righteous

Psalms 119:137-144
(137) Tsadhe. Righteous are you, O LORD, and right are your rules.
(138) You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness.
(139) My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words.
(140) Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it.
(141) I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your precepts.
(142) Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true.
(143) Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight.
(144) Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.

God is the standard for what is right. This may seem kind of obvious, but do we really live as if we believe that? This means that God's Word is the standard for what is right in our lives. It also means that everything He does is truly good, even if it doesn't seem that way at the time.

I envy the faith described by the Psalmist throughout this magnificent Psalm. Do I have a consuming zeal for God's Word? Do I remember His precepts at all times? Are His commandments my delight?

Unfortunately, the answer to all of those questions is a fairly resounding "no." However, this Psalm also encourages me to pray that God would shape me into someone for whom the answers are "yes," which is what I do daily.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Longing for the Law

Psalms 119:129-136
(129) Pe. Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.
(130) The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.
(131) I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments.
(132) Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name.
(133) Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.
(134) Redeem me from man's oppression, that I may keep your precepts.
(135) Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes.
(136) My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.

Look at how earnestly the Psalmist desires to know God's Word. His soul keeps God's testimonies because they are wonderful. He opens his mouth and pants because of his deep longing for God's commandments. He prays that he would be redeemed from man's oppression. Normally we pray that for our own sake, but he does it so that he might be able to keep God's precepts. Finally, he cries streams of tears because there are people who do not keep God's law.

As someone on the track to ministry, this is very convicting. While I do spend more time than most reading the Bible I think it is a stretch to say that my earnestness matches this Psalmist's. More time than most doesn't necessarily equal an adequate amount of time. Nor is the quality necessarily what it should be. Frankly, I just got through my reading today and I didn't really wrestle with the text, despite some serious questions that Ezekiel 18 brings out for me.

I like the promise of verse 130. I feel simple and in need of understanding. Isn't it great that we can talk to the Author about what He meant?

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Psalms 119:121-128
(121) Ayin. I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors.
(122) Give your servant a pledge of good; let not the insolent oppress me.
(123) My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.
(124) Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes.
(125) I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies!
(126) It is time for the LORD to act, for your law has been broken.
(127) Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.
(128) Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right; I hate every false way.

Verses 121-122 almost suggest a sort of prosperity theology. God, I've done what is right so please set me free from the oppression around me. If we take this stanza completely out of context we may reach that conclusion.

However, we've already established that there is value in affliction. I don't think that this stanza teaches us that we should expect complete deliverance from persecution if we are in Christ. So what does this stanza mean?

I think the end really shows us what this is all about. There is persecution coming from those who do not know the Word nor love it. As a result of this the Psalmist has seen the value of loving the Word more than anything else. Moreover, he also considers everything in the Word to be right. The correct attitude is fostered in verses 124-125. The Psalmist shows his complete submission to whatever God has in store for him. He prays for deliverance, but he also accepts that there are those who do not love the Word and will seek to do him harm.

In other words, I don't think that this stanza or any other passage taken in its context can support the "gospel" preached by men like Joel Osteen.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What Do You Hate?

Psalms 119:113-120
(113) Samekh. I hate the double-minded, but I love your law.
(114) You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.
(115) Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God.
(116) Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!
(117) Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually!
(118) You spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain.
(119) All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies.
(120) My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments.

It looks to me like the Psalmist does not want anyone to distract him from his love of God's Word. Now of course we are to be missional. We can't be salt and light to the world if we stay in the cupboard and never season anything. However, we also can't let the world distract us from the pursuit of God's Word.

This stanza makes it very clear that God is the one who gives us grace to walk with Him. We can't do it on our own. It also makes it clear that God will discard like dross those who do not love his testimonies.

Here's a question that I don't know enough Hebrew to answer yet -- does verse 118 imply that God spurns some people because they run away from His statutes or does it mean that they run away from His statutes because He spurned them? I think it is the former. This definitely sets up a tension with election. No one naturally wants to pursue God's statutes. Therefore, there must be some that He transforms to have that desire. In other words, he spurns those who run away from His statues, but He would have anyway because that is their natural bent.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Oath

Psalms 119:105-112
(105) Nun. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
(106) I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules.
(107) I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to your word!
(108) Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me your rules.
(109) I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law.
(110) The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts.
(111) Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.
(112) I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.

Just about anyone who has gone through some kind of Sunday school curriculum has heard Psalm 119:105 at some point. It's a great one for illustrations too with flashlights and long winding paths. The question is -- do we really believe that?

Do we really believe that God's Word guides us in everything we do? The world around us is very dark. It tempts us with many basic behavioral things like bad entertainment options or eating too much. It also tempts us with more fundamental things like dishonoring God with our finances and living for ourselves. If we truly delight in God's Word then this won't be a problem for us. It will show us what to do.

Of course, God's Word doesn't tell us who we should marry. It doesn't tell us where we should specifically work. It doesn't tell us whether we should have pizza or pork chops for dinner. However, it does provide a framework for us to make these decisions. The ultimate question becomes whether what we do brings greater glory to God.

I don't think that verse 106 is optional. If we are Christians then we have sworn that same oath. We are committed to following God's rules. We can't do that unless we know what they are. This is why it is so important to be regularly reading Scripture.

We can call ourselves whatever we want. However, if we choose to take a buffet approach to our faith where we take what we like and leave what we don't then we have to rename our faith. That is pagan, not Christian. I recognize that some will understand some things in Scripture differently than others will. Without getting into specifics, the point is that we need to let Scripture shape us rather than letting our own opinions shape how we read Scripture.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Being Hermione

Psalms 119:97-104
(97) Mem. Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
(98) Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.
(99) I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.
(100) I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.
(101) I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.
(102) I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me.
(103) How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
(104) Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.

Apparently it's OK to have a desire to have more wisdom than other people. I don't think that this is meant to be in a way that puffs up ourselves, but it looks to be like the Psalmist is glad for how the wisdom and understanding he enjoys surpasses that of others.

It's clearly vital that we go to God's Word for the understanding we need. This is what will lead us to hate every false way. How can we hate those false ways unless we know what they look like? We also need to know what the correct ways look like too. That happens from meditating on God's Word.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

That Which Endures

Psalms 119:89-96
(89) Lamedh. Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.
(90) Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
(91) By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants.
(92) If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.
(93) I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.
(94) I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts.
(95) The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies.
(96) I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad.

Look at what lasts forever here. God's Word is firmly fixed forever. Verse 92 repeats a theme we've seen for the past few days -- God's Word is what gets us through affliction.

What do we know so far?
  • We can trust God's Word
  • We need to delight in God's Word
  • Affliction is good for us
  • The only way to get through affliction is by trusting in God's Word
We still have another week or so to go with this Psalm. I hope that you don't get too bored with this repeated theme, but if you stick with it I think that you will have no choice but to either acknowledge the supreme importance of Scripture or just toss the thing out altogether.

By the way, don't verses 90 and 91 remind you of:

Colossians 1:16-17
(16) For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him.
(17) And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

This shows us that God's common grace holds all things together. Make sure you know Him before everything falls apart.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hope in Trials

Psalms 119:81-88
(81) Kaph. My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.
(82) My eyes long for your promise; I ask, "When will you comfort me?"
(83) For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
(84) How long must your servant endure? When will you judge those who persecute me?
(85) The insolent have dug pitfalls for me; they do not live according to your law.
(86) All your commandments are sure; they persecute me with falsehood; help me!
(87) They have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts.
(88) In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.

Earlier we saw the value of affliction. However, that doesn't mean it is fun to go through the affliction. Here we see the Psalmist really wrestling with the pain in his life. He is dealing with persecution that most American Christians could never dream of. Yet through it all he does not forsake the Word of the Lord.

Why don't Americans deal with this kind of persecution? One reason is that our liberties are guarded by the Constitution. We may complain about how the ACLU is removing prayer from various places, etc, but we really don't know what true persecution is. How many American Christians have been burned at the stake for their faith lately? Not too many as far as I know. The media is certainly biased with a materialistic worldview, but I think that would still make headlines.

Another reason is because we try to live underground. Who even knows what we believe and why? What cause would there be to persecute us? What are we doing to speak of the truth of God's Word? Do we even know it well enough to talk about it?

I still wonder where the balance is with all of it though. I don't want to stand in the hall at my office thumping a Bible and yelling at people. However, I also want to share the truth of God's Word. I guess it's good that my coworkers respect what I believe. The problem is that most of them don't seem to really believe much when it comes to God's Word.

Remember -- being a Christian is not something we do just on Sunday mornings. It has to be something that permeates our lives. Does that happen in yours? It could certainly happen more in mine.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Fear of the Lord

Psalms 119:73-80
(73) Yodh. Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
(74) Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word.
(75) I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
(76) Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.
(77) Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.
(78) Let the insolent be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.
(79) Let those who fear you turn to me, that they may know your testimonies.
(80) May my heart be blameless in your statutes, that I may not be put to shame!

The repeated theme in yesterday's stanza was the value of affliction. Today it is the fear of the Lord. We know from Proverbs 1:7 that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Here we see that those who fear the Lord will go to the Psalmist for learning. It looks like the Psalmist is in something of a pastoral role here.

What undergirds all of this? God's Word. Fearing God may be the beginning of wisdom, but how do we acquire the wisdom once we have begun? The answer is in God's "testimonies." We need to go to Scripture to get the wisdom that begins with the proper fear of Him.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Value of Affliction

Psalms 119:65-72
(65) Teth. You have dealt well with your servant, O LORD, according to your word.
(66) Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.
(67) Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.
(68) You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
(69) The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;
(70) their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law.
(71) It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.
(72) The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

This stanza continues the theme of how the Psalmist delights in the Word of God. It is pretty clear so far that we are to do the same because there is tremendous value in this delight. We are commanded to delight, but fortunately God gives us the grace to do just that.

Notice the common theme of verses 67 and 71. The Psalmist speaks of the value of affliction. As someone who has worked in a ministry for people struggling with enslavement to sin I can attest to this. I also can attest to it as someone who has come out of some enslaving sin. Our natures seem to like things comfortable. It takes pain and affliction to shake us out of that. God's Word recognizes that as well. It speaks of the value of affliction to incline us toward obedience.

This was something that Josh Hamilton spoke about last night. He said that as he travels to various cities he meets lots of people that either want to talk to him or have him talk to someone else. He told a story about meeting a woman and explaining to her that she needs to hit rock-bottom. He did before he was able to see his utter helplessness. Now he is walking in victory and God is glorified in his ministry.

I also wonder what the various prosperity preachers do with this stanza. They speak of the victory that we are to have in Christ. While it is true that we are to have victory, do they address the need for affliction before we can enjoy that victory? Do they define victory as enjoying God's Word more than thousands of gold and silver pieces?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Is He Enough?

Psalms 119:57-64
(57) Heth. The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep your words.
(58) I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.
(59) When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies;
(60) I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.
(61) Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law.
(62) At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules.
(63) I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.
(64) The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes!

I think that there is a misunderstanding about the nature of joy in the Lord. We tend to think of our time as compartmentalized between "God stuff" and "our stuff." We think that we have to remove any expectation of fun when we are about the business of God. We certainly can't have fun when we read the Bible, pray, go to church, etc.

This Psalm tells us to change that attitude. The Lord is our portion. That means that He gives us what we need. Verse 62 seems particularly powerful to me. The Psalmist loves the Lord and His Word so much that he would rise in the middle of the night to praise Him. How often do we do that?

I know that personally I let myself get distracted too easily. I'm always on the lookout for some pursuit that might entertain me. Maybe it's a video game. Maybe it's a book. Maybe it's some hobby. Now I think that entertainment has its place, but I also think that this Psalm tells us that God truly does satisfy that longing in our hearts. Let's be sure to go to Him for that satisfaction.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dealing With Affliction

Psalms 119:49-56
(49) Zayin. Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.
(50) This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
(51) The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law.
(52) When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O LORD.
(53) Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law.
(54) Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.
(55) I remember your name in the night, O LORD, and keep your law.
(56) This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts.

Is verse 50 true for you? Does God's Word give you comfort in affliction? I remember sitting at the pharmacy waiting for a prescription after hearing the news of Amanda's molar pregnancy. I remember thinking that God's grace was sufficient for us. I also remember thinking of Romans 8:28 quite often. God's promises to see us through and the promise of His ultimate goodness helped to make sense of everything. Why did we have to wait an extra two years for Noah? I don't know. I'm not sure if I'll ever know on this side of heaven. However, I do know that God has a plan and a purpose which I need to trust.

Verse 53 used to be a rally cry for me. It still bothers me when I see flagrant sin. The protests in California about Prop 8 are a good example of this. How would these folks feel if there was equal fervor shown in marching against the election of President-Elect Obama? But I digress...

The point is that we should be upset by sin. The trick I've found is to be upset by sin but not in a self-righteous Pharisaical way. That has been hard for me and is perhaps one of the reasons why I don't get as upset about it as I once did. I don't subscribe to the AFA alerts anymore because I just don't think that is particularly effective. It shows the world that we are different, but it hardly makes Christ seem compelling to anyone.

Then again, is it our job to make Christ seem compelling? It is our job to bring glory to the Lord through our lives. I'm just not sure that protesting everything is the best way to do it. For the most part, I think that these people know what they are doing when they choose lives of sin. They want society to assuage their consciences, but they know what they are doing. Only the gospel will change them. To me, what AFA does is basically tell people that we have the gospel, they don't, and so we're two sides in a battle. I think a better approach would be to say that we have the gospel, they need it, and here is what it is all about. We should be friends in a sense and not combatants.

Nevertheless, we should not lose our indignation over sin. We certainly should not go to sin for entertainment.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Psalms 119:41-48
(41) Waw. Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise;
(42) then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word.
(43) And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules.
(44) I will keep your law continually, forever and ever,
(45) and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.
(46) I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame,
(47) for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.
(48) I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.

When I took apologetics at seminary it was my first course. I was wide-eyed and just blown away by what I was learning. We got into philosophy. We studied concepts that I couldn't quite grasp (something about infinite hotel rooms). At the core, we discussed theories of apologetics.

I won't go into all of them, but I will say that I settled on what is known as cumulative case apologetics. The idea is that no one thing is compelling enough to convince someone to be a person of faith, but the evidence eventually becomes so overwhelming that they have to concede the point.

I think this does a great job of bolstering my own faith, but I'm not sure that is the biblical approach when talking to someone. More and more I realize that my soteriology demands a presuppositionalist apologetic more than anything. That presumes that the Bible holds the answers and it is up to the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of the lost to give the Bible any credibility. At least that's the jist of it as I understand it.

This stanza of Psalm 119 would seem to support that as well. If we know our Bibles then we have everything we need. Now it is good to be armed with the philosophical and historical arguments. After all, it should be compelling to someone that the Bible has more manuscript evidence than any other ancient document. However, I find that nobody really cares about that because they know that by trusting the Bible they open themselves up to the conviction that they are sure it includes. They are right about that.

Verses 46-48 say it all to me. Am I delighting in His commandments? If so, I have nothing to fear from anyone. I don't care how many letters someone has after his name. If I trust Scripture as my defense then it is a matter of that person arguing with God and not with me. I much prefer that situation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Active Sanctification

Psalms 119:33-40
(33) He. Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
(34) Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
(35) Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.
(36) Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!
(37) Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
(38) Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.
(39) Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good.
(40) Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!

Look at the prayers of this Psalm. The Psalmist keeps asking for God to change his heart. He asks that the Lord teach him the way of His statutes. He asks that God give him understanding so that he can keep the law. Verses 36 and 37 are particularly powerful for me. He asks that God incline his heart to His testimonies and that God turn his eyes from looking at worthless things.

As we approach the holiday season I am struck by how badly I need verse 37. There is so much temptation for me to look at the worthless things of this world in the form of video games and other stuff. I'm glad not to have TV so I don't know what is out there for the coveting. I don't want much of the world and I need to keep reminding myself of that fact. Otherwise my eyes will begin to covet what I don't really want or need.

Let's remember that His rules are good and that He ultimately will satisfy us, amen?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Set Free

Psalms 119:25-32
(25) Daleth. My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!
(26) When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes!
(27) Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
(28) My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!
(29) Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!
(30) I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.
(31) I cling to your testimonies, O LORD; let me not be put to shame!
(32) I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!

This stanza reminds me of my journey into freedom from sexual sin. My soul was clinging to the dust, but when I confessed the Lord answered and began to teach me His statutes. I had some head knowledge of what the Bible says, but I didn't really have it in my heart.

Verse 27 is where it gets really exciting for me. The prayer is for God to make me understand Scripture. I can't do it on my own. I need the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Yes, I need to take time to work at it. If that wasn't true then I'd be really upset about the time I have spent on Hebrew and Greek! At the same time we are to meditate on God's wondrous works. Let's do that for just a minute:
  • He made the world in such a way that it would sustain us
  • He made this complex system in such a way that it keeps going
  • He holds creation together (Colossians 1:17)
  • He continually showed mercy to His people despite their disobedience
  • He sent Jesus to set us free
  • He set me free in particular
  • He blessed me with a great family, a great job, and a house in a place where I can freely worship Him
  • He set me free from pornography, self-gratification, gluttony, and laziness
  • He has blessed my family and me with good health
Obviously I could go on and on. These are just off the top of my head and they pertain to me and my situation. I encourage you to do this as a frequent exercise. It's so easy to focus on what we don't have that we lose sight of the immeasurable blessings we have received.

Verse 28 deals with true repentance. This goes along with 2 Corinthians 7:10. Have you experienced true godly sorrow for your sin? If not then you are on the road to death no matter how much you are doing for God.

The last 3 verses show us what sanctification looks like. Note the prominence of Scripture in this. It is all about Scripture, not our feelings. We need to form our lives based on Scripture. I like to say that I do that and I mean to, but I know that there are areas of my life that I hold on to. My prayer is that God would reveal those to me and transform me by His Spirit. It's not fun to pray for conviction, but I know that is what I must do. Will you join me?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Praying for Insight

Psalms 119:18-20
(18) Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
(19) I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me!
(20) My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.

This passage has profound insight on a number of levels. An obvious one is for devotions. Are we praying that the Holy Spirit would illuminate us in our understanding of Scripture? Are we asking God to open our eyes? The Bible makes a certain amount of sense to everyone, but to have the kind of insight about and love for God's Word described here takes an act of grace. Is this something that we pursue? Do we long for God's rules at all times?

One thing to note as you read through the Old Testament is that you can mentally substitute "Torah" for "law." The Torah is the first 5 books of Scripture, which is what David would have as his reference. It was all the Bible they had at the time. Now we are blessed with 61 additional books. Do we have a desire to delight in them as described in verse 20?

The other application is for our postmodern friends out there. It's great to ask questions and embrace mystery. However, God's Word promises us many answers. Let's not elevate mystery to a place where it doesn't belong. The Bible is silent on some matters, but on others it speaks very plainly. Even if we discount the ambiguous areas we have plenty to embrace as hard truth. Let's be sure to go to Scripture first for our answers and if we can't find a clear answer let's use Scripture as a basis for our answers.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

THE Psalm

I understand that Martin Luther referred to Romans as "the book." I would call Psalm 119 "the Psalm." I'm excited that I'm back to it in my reading plan. I read through it all in one sitting this morning and, as always, I found it to be a blessing. I plan to post some thoughts on it as I go through it stanza by stanza for the next few weeks. Here are some from the first two:

Psalms 119:4-5
(4) You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
(5) Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!

This is pretty much my prayer every morning. I know that I cannot keep all His statutes, but I also know that I have been commanded to keep them. I need grace to be steadfast in keeping them. In fact, as I prayed this morning I realized just how many times I go back to asking God for the grace to obey Him. I have seen what my own efforts bring and it isn't pretty.

Psalms 119:9-16
(9) Beth. How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
(10) With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
(11) I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
(12) Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!
(13) With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.
(14) In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
(15) I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
(16) I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

Sorry to post the whole stanza, but it is just so rich with application. This tells me that it is vital to spend regular time in the Word. We simply cannot live properly if we don't. It also tells me that we are to preach the Word. I am to declare "all the rules of your mouth" once I learn them.

Verses 14-16 are where it really gets heavy. Do I really delight in the way of His testimonies as much as I would in all riches? Do I really meditate on His precepts and fix my eyes on His ways? Do I delight in His statutes?

I do make it a point to memorize Scripture and I think that verse 16 is a ringing endorsement for that practice. Are we making a point to put God's Word in our hearts through memorizing it?

I hope that you enjoy walking through this precious psalm with me. Psalm 119 is one of those touchstones for me. I go there when I need reminders of assurance. It points me back to Scripture by using Scripture. I guess that could be seen as a circular argument, but it works for me. I hope that we are all greatly challenged and transformed by this Psalm as it entreats us to take in the whole counsel of God.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Prop 8

Proverbs 29:2
(2) When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.

I understand the arguments against Prop 8 in California. Who are we to decide someone else's morality? Just because we think an act is sinful shouldn't stop others from doing it, right?

There are problems with this argument on a couple of levels. One is that marriage is something God created, not man. Same-sex couples are welcome to have civil unions, but don't cheapen the "one flesh" relationship described by Scripture.

What I notice in reading the Old Testament is that wicked, idolatrous nations get their punishment. It happened to the nations that the Israelites eradicated in Joshua. It happened to Israel and Judah as they turned from the Lord and pursued their own idols. I realize that we do not live in a theocracy, but I don't think that God's rules have changed about sin. He must take it pretty seriously or else He would not have sent His son to die for it, right?

Let's not compromise biblical values for the sake of "tolerance," amen?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Worth Pondering

Psalms 117:1-2
(1) Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!
(2) For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!

A lot of people are doing verse 1 because of our new President-Elect. A fair number are having trouble believing verse 2 right now.

The Lord is faithful to His people. Sometimes it is hard to see in times like this. Scripture tells us to take the long view of things. I think that applies to the administration that is coming in. The bar is now set quite high. It will be interesting to watch.

No matter what happens, the Lord is faithful to His people forever. His steadfast love (hesed) is great. Let's remember that, amen?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obeying Instruction

I was struck by this today:

Jeremiah 35:13-19
(13) "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Go and say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will you not receive instruction and listen to my words? declares the LORD.
(14) The command that Jonadab the son of Rechab gave to his sons, to drink no wine, has been kept, and they drink none to this day, for they have obeyed their father's command. I have spoken to you persistently, but you have not listened to me.
(15) I have sent to you all my servants the prophets, sending them persistently, saying, 'Turn now every one of you from his evil way, and amend your deeds, and do not go after other gods to serve them, and then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to you and your fathers.' But you did not incline your ear or listen to me.
(16) The sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have kept the command that their father gave them, but this people has not obeyed me.
(17) Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, because I have spoken to them and they have not listened, I have called to them and they have not answered."
(18) But to the house of the Rechabites Jeremiah said, "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Because you have obeyed the command of Jonadab your father and kept all his precepts and done all that he commanded you,
(19) therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Jonadab the son of Rechab shall never lack a man to stand before me."

Earlier in this chapter Jeremiah had offered the sons of Rechab wine to drink and they refused because of their father's command. The Lord used them as an object lesson for the people. They had obeyed their father's command, but they did not obey His.

I think of this as we stand post-election awaiting the inauguration of President-elect Obama. I wonder if we listen to the words of the Lord? From my way of thinking I don't understand how anyone can say they believe the words of Scripture and vote for him, but I realize that good people differ on that. My complaint is that the exit polls showed that America's primary concern in this election was the economy. Their concern is not for the righteousness of our nation.

I guess I'm developing more of a pastoral heart about this. I want to see people really believe the truth of God's Word. That's my goal in whatever ministry the Lord puts me. Is it possible to vote for Obama and really believe the Bible? I'm sure that some who did vote for him do. However, I sure hope that no Christians say that the economy is their primary concern. That shows me a misplaced focus away from what the Lord tells us in His Word.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

My Die is Cast

I just got back from voting. We were talking this morning about what a blessing it is to be able to vote. Even if our man doesn't win we will witness the peaceful transfer of power next January. We have a say in who will occupy the Oval Office for the next four years. This is incredible.

I had something very strange happen to me today. As I got to my little stall with my pen and looked down at my ballot I actually got a bit choked up when I saw the little oval next to "John McCain/Sarah Palin." It's not that I love John McCain because I certainly don't. However, the gravity of an Obama win just hit home to me all at once. I realized how significant it is regarding the continued genocide of black babies in America, in addition to the 27 million other babies who have been aborted. I realized that the two sides could not be any more different, even going beyond the abortion issue.

I feel good about making my small voice heard in the process. I will be happily surprised if I am not disappointed tomorrow morning, but I am not without hope. After all, isn't this all about hope and change?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Lesson from Jeremiah

I'm in Jeremiah as part of my reading plan. There is a repeated theme that helps bring me comfort as we prepare for tomorrow's election. God is in charge of kings and kingdoms. You see this very clearly in Daniel and the minor prophets as well.

This means that we should vote if we're able, but that we don't have to feel like the future of the world hinges on this election. God is still in control. If he wants Obama in the White House then that is who will go. And if he wants McCain then that is who will be there. How this works in concert with man's will is beyond me, but I do know that it somehow works together.

Our pastor preached on this passage yesterday:

Romans 13:1-7 ESV
(1) Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
(2) Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
(3) For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,
(4) for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.
(5) Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
(6) For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.
(7) Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

He brought out something really interesting from verse 7. We are to give honor to our leaders. Who was the leader of Paul? Nero.

Yes, the Nero who would use Christians as tiki torches in his garden. The Nero who would wrap Christians in wet animal skins and then watch them suffocate as the skins dried. That Nero.

I don't think either McCain or Obama will be that bad, do you?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Weight off the Shoulders

I just emailed my paper to my professor. It always feels so good to finish a paper. I was living under the constant feeling of the need to get it done and turned in. Now I can concentrate on just keeping up in my classes. It's quite a liberating feeling.

In case you're wondering, it's on the text-critical issues surrounding John 7:53-8:11. You may have noticed that your bible has it set off in square brackets. My paper explains why and what you should do with it. In short, I don't think it belongs as John 7:53-8:11, but it should be put somewhere and it should still be taught.

I thought that it would share happily with Google Docs, but it looks like I have to add people individually to see it. Let me know if you'd like to read it.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

God's Common Grace

John Piper puts this very well, as always.

Matthew 5:44-45 ESV
(44) But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
(45) so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Preach Faithfully

Jeremiah 23:13-15 ESV
(13) In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray.
(14) But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah."
(15) Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets: "Behold, I will feed them with bitter food and give them poisoned water to drink, for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone out into all the land."

God seems to take the faithfulness of His priests very seriously, doesn't he? The way this is structured seems to imply that what the prophets in Jerusalem did was even worse than those in Samaria. Their conduct was such that no one turned from evil.

I've been camped out on the pastoral epistles for my Greek reading because that is what we will be doing in my Greek elective class. It's pretty clear in those that Paul sets the bar very high for elders in the church. It is our job to live in a way that points people to truth. I certainly don't want to be compared to Soddom and Gomorrah!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Regarding Israel

Romans 11:28-36 ESV
(28) As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.
(29) For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
(30) Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience,
(31) so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy.
(32) For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
(33) Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
(34) "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?"
(35) "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?"
(36) For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

As I read through Romans I can't quite put my finger on what Paul is getting at with regards to Israel. Some passages seem to speak to a replacement theology which states that the current church is now spiritual Israel and that the Jews now are in the same boat as the rest of us -- believe in Christ to be saved. On the other hand, there are passages like this one. Verse 32 really confuses me. Who is the "all?" Is it all of Israel? Is it just His elect within Israel? Who will it be?

I have a hard time imagining salvation for someone who is a Jew in his ethnicity, but has no desire to know the Lord. So who is the "all?" Any ideas?

I wonder if this would be a good paper topic for next semester...