Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Bigger Lesson

Ezekiel 29:13-16
(13) "For thus says the Lord GOD: At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the peoples among whom they were scattered,
(14) and I will restore the fortunes of Egypt and bring them back to the land of Pathros, the land of their origin, and there they shall be a lowly kingdom.
(15) It shall be the most lowly of the kingdoms, and never again exalt itself above the nations. And I will make them so small that they will never again rule over the nations.
(16) And it shall never again be the reliance of the house of Israel, recalling their iniquity, when they turn to them for aid. Then they will know that I am the Lord GOD."

This is the beginning of a long judgment passage against Egypt. What I find interesting is that Egypt has merited its own punishment for how it has acted. Yet verse 16 shows God's deeper reason for all of this. He wants to remind Israel that He is indeed Yahweh.

There are some like my friend who think that they have God's intentions all figured out from a human perspective. I admit that there are times when He seems random to us and even capricious. It's as if He is pulling the wings off of flies sometimes.

Yet this passage gives me some hope as to why God does what He does. Ultimately it is for the glory of His name and to teach His people. Let's never forget that when we are going through trials or when we see others going through them.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Recurring Theme

As I've been blogging through Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel I keep noticing a few things:

  1. God is in charge
  2. He takes His rules very seriously
  3. All three men were commanded to preach faithfully no matter what the response
It's easy to sometimes look at the Old Testament as, well, old. We think that it doesn't have any bearing on our lives today. I agree that it is often an abuse of the text when the Old Testament is used to give us a lot of direct applications, though there are times for that. But what can we get from the stories of these men?

The obvious one that I keep harping on is the call to preach faithfully. They had poor soil to scatter seed in, but they still had to keep scattering the seed. They understood their role and God's role and were faithful to their callings.

The first two are really compelling to me lately. I hate the idea of "Old Testament God" vs. "New Testament God." We know that God doesn't change. Yet we see a lot more wrath in these books than we see in 26 of the New Testament books. What changed?

I would maintain that the cross changed everything. God's wrath on Judah was so severe that people were cooking their children to get through the famine. That is the same wrath that was propitiated at the cross. God hasn't changed, but we now have the cross so that we do not have to suffer from His wrath because of our sin.

It's easy to look down our noses at those idolatrous fools, isn't it? We are no different in our hearts. Yet we have an all-sufficient Savior who took the punishment for us. I hope that gives you some joy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Christian Blogs

I don't do a whole lot of HTing especially now that I've made this blog into more of an online journal about what I'm reading every day. However, I can tell you that my Google Reader has quite a bit going on from Major League Baseball to a variety of blogs about Jesus to some blogs about Windows PowerShell. Historically, my two favorite places to learn about new blogs have been Justin Taylor's Between Two Worlds and Tim Challies' aptly named

I've never heard of aggregator sites, but they make sense. A new one has recently sprung up called My Christian Blogs. I took a look through his front page and I can tell you that I either regularly read, have read, or have at least heard of all of them. If you're interested in what is going on in the Christian blogosphere it is well worth your time to check out.

Who is He?

John 8:58
(58) Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."

It's almost impossible for us to see just how blasphemous this would have seemed to the Pharisees. Basically, He quoted this to them:

Exodus 3:13-14
(13) Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?"
(14) God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

Jesus was calling Himself God here. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. There are some "Christian" organizations who try to twist this verse to read "I have been." The Greek could not be any clearer. Jesus was claiming to be God.

Yes, Jesus was a good teacher. Yes, Jesus was kind and gentle. Yes, He was a healer as well. However, if He wasn't truly God then He was a complete nutjob or charlatan. It's the classic CS Lewis choice of Lord, Lunatic, or Liar. You have to choose one.

Which one is He for you?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Saved from Death

Ezekiel 16:6
(6) "And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, 'Live!' I said to you in your blood, 'Live!'

This is part of God's judgment on Israel for her disobedience. He starts by explaining how Israel had no birthright. He made Israel from an Amorite and a Hittite. Yet as she metaphorically lay there like a helpless infant He took her and made her prosper.

I find it's easy to read this passage and shake my head at Israel's foolishness. However, if I back up a step I realize that this applies to me just as much. I was dead in my trespasses and sins, yet God made me alive together with Christ. By grace I have been saved.

What am I doing with that salvation? How am I living? Am I turning to idols as Israel did? Or am I living faithfully for the Lord? Frankly, I'm somewhere in between, but I hope that I'm living for the Lord more than I'm chasing idols. How about you?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Prophecy with Care

Ezekiel 13:4-6
(4) Your prophets have been like jackals among ruins, O Israel.
(5) You have not gone up into the breaches, or built up a wall for the house of Israel, that it might stand in battle in the day of the LORD.
(6) They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, 'Declares the LORD,' when the LORD has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word.

I had a hard time deciding which part to quote. All of chapter 13 is worth reading, especially in the context of parts of today's "church." The Lord has very severe words for those who prophecy falsely in His name. Later on we see:

Ezekiel 13:10-14
(10) Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, 'Peace,' when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash,
(11) say to those who smear it with whitewash that it shall fall! There will be a deluge of rain, and you, O great hailstones, will fall, and a stormy wind break out.
(12) And when the wall falls, will it not be said to you, 'Where is the coating with which you smeared it?'
(13) Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: I will make a stormy wind break out in my wrath, and there shall be a deluge of rain in my anger, and great hailstones in wrath to make a full end.
(14) And I will break down the wall that you have smeared with whitewash, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you shall perish in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the LORD.

I can't help but think of all the prosperity preachers. I wonder how they're doing now that our country is in a recession? Are we in a recession because we lack faith? Well, we are in a recession and as a people we certainly lack faith. However, I don't think that necessarily implies causality.

My point is that the prosperity gospel is like the weak wall covered in whitewash. It looks good, but it is flimsy and will not withstand a storm. I'd rather base my faith on the Rock that will help me to weather any storm.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Preach Faithfully -- Ezekiel Style

Ezekiel 2:3-7
(3) And he said to me, "Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day.
(4) The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD.'
(5) And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.
(6) And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.
(7) And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.

I notice a recurring theme as I go through Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. There seems to be a common refrain that the prophet is to go and speak the Word of the Lord to the people though they are not likely to listen. His job is to preach. He puts them on the hook for what the Lord has to say and the rest is between them and the Lord.

This seems to me a clear teaching against any kind of preaching that has to apologize for the gospel. It is going to be offensive by its very nature. Therefore, we need to preach it faithfully and let God worry about the hearers' hearts. Of course, we don't want to go out of our way to be offensive either.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Source of Destruction

Lamentations 2:17
(17) The LORD has done what he purposed; he has carried out his word, which he commanded long ago; he has thrown down without pity; he has made the enemy rejoice over you and exalted the might of your foes.

One thing that the book of Lamentations teaches me is that I need to take God's promises very seriously. There is no way that the kings and people of Judah would have behaved as they did if they really believed God. It would be insane to rail against God if you really believe that He is who His Word claims that He is. Yet that is just what they did with their idolatry. Consequently, Jerusalem was sacked.

It is tempting to draw parallels from the situation in Jerusalem to the United States and 9/11. I don't think that is appropriate. However, I do think that the lesson to be learned here is that we need to take God seriously. He doesn't make idle threats nor does He bluff. How then shall we live?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How to Preach This

Song of Solomon 5:2-6
(2) I slept, but my heart was awake. A sound! My beloved is knocking. "Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one, for my head is wet with dew, my locks with the drops of the night."
(3) I had put off my garment; how could I put it on? I had bathed my feet; how could I soil them?
(4) My beloved put his hand to the latch, and my heart was thrilled within me.
(5) I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the bolt.
(6) I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned and gone. My soul failed me when he spoke. I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer.

So given all the controversy surrounding the handling of this book lately, what do you do with a passage like this? To me, it looks pretty racy. I won't get into describing what I think it means. Basically, I think of Nuke LaLoosh in his second day with the Durham Bulls, "Limpid jets of love...Crash -- does that mean what I think it means?"

Personally, I think that Song of Songs is best left for smaller settings. I'm not sure that I want to go into explaining what I think this means to Lily right now. I'm not sure that a lot of parents would want to have to explain that sermon to their kids on the way home.

Yet this is in Scripture. We know from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that this is profitable to learn about. Do you preach this text? If so, what do you do with it?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Christ in the Scriptures

John 5:39-40
(39) You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,
(40) yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

I was reading Jeremiah 47-49 and wondered if there was anything in there to write about. That passage contains the curses pronounced against various nations and cities. I figured that at the least I could write about God's justice. It may not always come at the time we think it should, but it will come eventually.

Then when I flipped over to John for my reading in the Gospels I came across these verses. Jesus makes the point that the Scriptures point to Him. This got me wondering how that passage in Jeremiah bears witness about Him.

What occurs to me is that the passage in Jeremiah speaks to our need for the cross. We don't really believe this in our hearts, but we deserve the same punishments that were pronounced against Moab, Edom, etc. Yet God's wrath was satisfied at the cross. What a wonderful gift He gave us at the cross!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Standards of Beauty

Song of Solomon 1:15-16
(15) Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves.
(16) Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly delightful. Our couch is green;

I thought I'd take a little break from Jeremiah to talk about this great book. There is a ton of controversy about the treatment of this book out in the blogosphere. Should it be preached? If so, how much should the pastor unpack the figurative language? What is appropriate for a congregation?

I don't really want to get into all that so much. I don't plan to discuss what the shoots of the garden represent, etc. In fact, I don't know if I'll write about this book every day as I go through it. However, this passage in chapter 1 is worth noting.

Earlier in the chapter the woman bemoaned the fact that her skin was dark because of the time she spent outside. Apparently the standard of beauty in that day was for women to be fair. On a side note, I'm sure that this woman would be mystified at the ubiquity of tanning beds in our culture.

In verses 15 and 16 Solomon reassures her that she is truly beautiful to him. Think about that for a minute. Is that the message you convey to your wife? Is your head on a swivel when you're at the mall or do you have eyes only for your wife? Are you able to resist the temptation of all that is on the internet partly because you are satisfied with your wife's beauty?

I acknowledge that we are 35 and that my wife takes good care of herself. However, that has not always been the case. Plus, going through 3 pregnancies changed her body significantly. Yet through it all I strove for her to be the gold standard of beauty.

Am I sometimes distracted? Of course. However, I am often reminded of just how fortunate I am to be married to my wife. She really is my standard of beauty and that is a work of God's grace in our lives.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Trusting the Promise

Jeremiah 32:13-15
(13) I charged Baruch in their presence, saying,
(14) 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware vessel, that they may last for a long time.
(15) For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.'

This passage comes at the end of what could only be seen as a bad business deal on Jeremiah's part. Why would you ever purchase land in a nation under siege with God's promise for its exile? This would be akin to buying property from the Confederate States of America just before the treaty was signed to end the war. The Babylonians were under no obligation to respect this purchase, so it would have seemed like Jeremiah threw away 17 perfectly good pieces of silver.

Yet Jeremiah trusted in the promise. I suppose that this may have pastoral application today in light of the fundraising that my church has to do. However, I see this as being even bigger. Do we trust God's promises enough to pour ourselves into them? Do we trust that His way of spending our time is better than the endless hobbies we can pursue? Do we trust His provision enough to give our money sacrificially? Do we trust that we will get more satisfaction from serving others than from using our talents for our own selfish pursuits?

Jeremiah trusted that someday the land would have value again. He put his money where his mouth was. Are we doing the same?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

More Preaching Faithfully

Jeremiah 26:7-16
(7) The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD.
(8) And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, "You shall die!
(9) Why have you prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, 'This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant'?" And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.
(10) When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king's house to the house of the LORD and took their seat in the entry of the New Gate of the house of the LORD.
(11) Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, "This man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears."
(12) Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, "The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard.
(13) Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the LORD your God, and the LORD will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you.
(14) But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you.
(15) Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the LORD sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears."
(16) Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, "This man does not deserve the sentence of death, for he has spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God."

Verse 11 really hits me. Basically, they wanted to kill Jeremiah because they didn't like what he had to say. It didn't matter if he had a true word from the Lord or not. They just didn't like it, so they wanted to kill him.

While I don't think too many preachers face death in America today, they do face this kind of pressure. How many preachers today are afraid of saying something that might offend one of the families who give a lot to the church (I was going to write generously, but sometimes it isn't about generous)?

Of course, this is easy for me to write here in the comfort of my house with part of a MDiv completed. I do hope that I will be faithful to teach truth if I do get a pulpit. The Word of God is naturally offensive to us at places. Let's not avoid those.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Jeremiah's Complaint

Jeremiah 20:13
(13) Sing to the LORD; praise the LORD! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers.

Isn't that a great word of encouragement? Here Jeremiah reminds us that we are to sing to the Lord. We are to praise Him. I know that He certainly delivered my life. What else can I do?

What's interesting is that this verse happens approximately 2/3 the way through a general complaint. Here is how it ends:

Jeremiah 20:14-18
(14) Cursed be the day on which I was born! The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed!
(15) Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, "A son is born to you," making him very glad.
(16) Let that man be like the cities that the LORD overthrew without pity; let him hear a cry in the morning and an alarm at noon,
(17) because he did not kill me in the womb; so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb forever great.
(18) Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?

I'm afraid that in many Christian circles this kind of talk would lead to a quick intervention. Obviously Jeremiah was facing some pretty heavy persecution from those who did not want to hear the real Word of the Lord. However, there are certainly times in all of our lives when we feel like this. There have been mornings when I was out jogging and the thought of getting crushed by a passing truck didn't seem so bad for half a second. Then I remember the hope I have in Christ, the family I would leave, etc, and those thoughts quickly disappear.

My point is that there are times for real lament. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, especially someone who, say, preaches in an old basketball arena. Following Christ isn't necessarily easy. But what else can we do?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Preaching in Adversity

Jeremiah 15:16-21
(16) Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.
(17) I did not sit in the company of revelers, nor did I rejoice; I sat alone, because your hand was upon me, for you had filled me with indignation.
(18) Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail?
(19) Therefore thus says the LORD: "If you return, I will restore you, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth. They shall turn to you, but you shall not turn to them.
(20) And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the LORD.
(21) I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless."

I think that this passage has served as a balm for many a weary preacher. Jeremiah delighted in God's Word. Unlike the reaction of many, Scripture was sweet to Jeremiah.

However, he couldn't understand why his life turned out the way it did. Where were the blessings that came from faithfulness? Why were things so hard for him?

God reassures Him that He would protect Jeremiah. He would take care of him as he preached truth. I know that this certainly comforts and encourages me, assuming that I can claim the promise for me as well. I'm not sure if it applies or not. After all, this was God talking to Jeremiah. He wasn't necessarily giving this promise to all future preachers. Therefore, it may be a stretch to say that it applies to faithful men today.

However, I sure hope that it does. I do know that even if things don't go so well in this life God will take care of the faithful in the next.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dealing with Idols

Jeremiah 10:2-8
(2) Thus says the LORD: "Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them,
(3) for the customs of the peoples are vanity. A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman.
(4) They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move.
(5) Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good."
(6) There is none like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might.
(7) Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you.
(8) They are both stupid and foolish; the instruction of idols is but wood!

It's easy to skip past this, isn't it? After all, few Americans have actual idols in the house. Yet our lives are marked by idolatry. We have made an idol out of sex. We certainly have out of money. Power and prestige are idols to many. And so on. It's not hard to come up with a long list.

As Christians we are going to face pressure from these idols. It is easy to start thinking of sex as the world does. It is easy to think of money as the world does too. The current economic downturn affects my 401(k) and my daughter's 529 just like it does for the unbeliever. However, in the end I must not be too swayed by this. I must trust in the Lord whose name is great in might. He is my rock. He sustains me. He gets me through all of this. He will keep me walking in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.

Let's never forget that as we feel the pressure from the idols around us.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Weeping for the Nation

Jeremiah 9:1-2
(1) Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!
(2) Oh that I had in the desert a travelers' lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men.

This is a very convicting passage for me. I'm not sure that the lostness of my nation really saddens me this much. Of course, America has broken no covenant with God like Israel did. Nevertheless, I think that someone who intends to proclaim the Gospel for a living should be able to relate to this passage at a very deep level.

I am not completely heartless when it comes to America, though. More and more I realize that my passion is to help people find some kind of footing for their faith. The messages I've posted at the Internet Congregation are part of that. It seems to me that honest questions about worldviews will lead to a sincere faith. After all, if the Bible is indeed true then spiritual roads will lead to it, right?

My prayer is to have more of a heart like Jeremiah. I just hope that any ministry I have is more fruitful than his.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Made for a Purpose

Jeremiah 1:4-10
(4) Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
(5) "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
(6) Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth."
(7) But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a youth'; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
(8) Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD."
(9) Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, "Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
(10) See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."

When did the Lord know Jeremiah? He knew him before he was even made in the womb. This tells me that God has a plan for everyone. He knows us before we are even born. As a side note, this also seems to speak to the sanctity of life in the womb.

Jeremiah knew that he was not equipped to carry out the task that the Lord gave him. However, the Lord reassured him and put the words in his mouth that he was to say. As we'll see through the coming days, Jeremiah was appointed to a very hard life. I'm not sure what Joel Osteen does with Jeremiah's life, but it would seem that Jeremiah had a deep faith and yet suffered greatly. Such is the lot of some in this world, though not in the next.

This dovetails with something I heard recently on Genesis 6. Children's bibles tend to get the story of Noah wrong. They tend to say that everyone in the world was wicked except Noah, and since he was righteous God liked him. This turns the gospel upside-down. Instead, it says that Noah found grace from the Lord. For some reason God chose Noah. Noah was declared "righteous," yet we know later on he got drunk and passed out naked in his tent. It would seem that he was hardly perfect. Therefore, I take "righteous" to mean that Noah was justified in the eyes of the Lord.

Chew on these truths. If you know Christ it is because God chose you. I don't know why other than it was for you to serve Him for His glory. That was true of Jeremiah and Noah. It's true for anyone who knows Jesus.

Monday, April 13, 2009

He Doesn't Change

Hebrews 13:8-9
(8) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
(9) Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.

Think on this for a minute. Jesus doesn't change. I think that there is sometimes a tendency to split God up into an Old Testament God and a New Testament God. When we do that we tend to overdo God's wrath on one hand and His mercy on the other. Yet here we see that Jesus doesn't change. We also see that:

James 1:16-17
(16) Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.
(17) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

To me, the implication of this is that we need to rejoice in the mercy that was displayed at the cross because He still gets angry about sin. The God who killed Nadab and Abihu for offering unauthorized fire is the same today. The God who killed Uzzah for touching the ark is still in charge of the universe. That is the God who sent His Son to die on the cross.

So let us not be distracted by any teaching which may distract us from what we know to be true about God. Let us not think that we can think or believe anything. God reveals Himself to us through Scripture. Let's be sure to learn what He has to say, amen?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He is Risen!

Luke 24:1-12
(1) But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.
(2) And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
(3) but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
(4) While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.
(5) And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?
(6) He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,
(7) that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise."
(8) And they remembered his words,
(9) and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.
(10) Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,
(11) but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
(12) But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

This was actually my reading for today and what I plan on reading before we have dinner. It's something that we need to remember. My pastor emphasizes the same point every year about the empty grave. Out of the myriad of world religions there are only 4 that are based on a person -- Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. And out of those only one of them has a founder who is alive today.

Let's rejoice in our risen Savior!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wounded for Us

Isaiah 53:3-6
(3) He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
(4) Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
(5) But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.
(6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

It worked out well that this was in my reading for today. This is one of the classic OT prophecies about the coming of Christ. Let's think about how this looks today:

Verse 3 -- It doesn't take too much looking around to see how little esteem the world has for Christ.

Verse 4 -- He came and bore the sorrows for us. Sin no longer has mastery over us because of what He did on the cross. To me, this verse offers great hope for the downtrodden and depressed. It certainly helps me when I'm down.

Verses 5 & 6 -- We all deserve the punishment He received. Yet He took it on for us. I know that I am a sheep who desperately needs the Good Shepherd to keep steering me back to the right course. There are a lot of wolves out there and sometimes I get too close to them. Christ keeps me close where it is safe.

I hope that you marvel at what this passage means as we observe the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ this weekend.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Final Sacrifice

Hebrews 10:4-10
(4) For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
(5) Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me;
(6) in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.
(7) Then I said, 'Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.'"
(8) When he said above, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law),
(9) then he added, "Behold, I have come to do your will." He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.
(10) And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Christ came to do His Father's will. As we observe Good Friday today I think it is especially important to contemplate the cross. We should contemplate the cross every day, but on Good Friday it is particularly poignant.

Our sin separates us from God. This was true from the first sin of our father Adam. God then made the first sacrifice for sin when he killed animals to clothe Adam and Eve. Ever since then God has demanded blood in exchange for sin. Through Moses He created a system of sacrifices that the people had to observe. Jews today still observe Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement.

But if we are in Christ we no longer have to go through the sacrificial system. Christ died to atone for our sins. He died as a once and for all sacrifice for sin.

Think about that today. Really chew on it. You might consider fasting from food so as to get a deeper sense of your dependence on God for life. Think about the complete faithfulness of Christ in His death on the cross. This has incredible implications for what we believe and how we live.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

For Whose Sake?

Isaiah 43:25-28
(25) "I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
(26) Put me in remembrance; let us argue together; set forth your case, that you may be proved right.
(27) Your first father sinned, and your mediators transgressed against me.
(28) Therefore I will profane the princes of the sanctuary, and deliver Jacob to utter destruction and Israel to reviling.

I think we tend to think of Easter as focused on us. I suspect many churches will preach the gospel this weekend with a focus on what Christ's sacrifice means to individuals. Of course, that is definitely a factor. Our fallen nature wonders what is in it for us.

However, this passage shows us why God wiped out sin. He did it for His own sake. This would be incredibly arrogant and narcissistic by human standards, but He alone is worthy of the praise and glory that come from blotting out sins.

As we go into the Easter weekend let's remember that Christ died so that God would be glorified. Yes, it is out of love for His people and it was indeed to redeem us; however, it was foremost for God's sake.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Dangers of the Prostitute

Proverbs 23:22-28
(22) Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.
(23) Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.
(24) The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.
(25) Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.
(26) My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.
(27) For a prostitute is a deep pit; an adulteress is a narrow well.
(28) She lies in wait like a robber and increases the traitors among mankind.

This is a timely word for me. Lately I keep having these nightmares that I am dabbling in porn. I know that part of this comes from the times when I see more than I should online. I'm not as careful as I once was. I don't go looking for porn, but I don't need to read the Fox News story about how the two stars of "Peepshow" were hanging out by a pool in Vegas either.

Verse 28 really hit home with me today. Let's face it -- the many of the models today are effectively like the prostitute in these proverbs. She leads men astray. Some of these ladies have been at it for a long time. Obviously they like having the money that comes from the modeling. Maybe their intentions are not to lead more men astray. However, that is invariably what happens.

It is so easy to go down the wrong roads. I pray for a clearer vision of the cross and the freedom that He bought for me there. It's great that I don't have to give in to the flesh anymore no matter how strongly it cries out. I thank God for a renewed vigor in this fight.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Waiting on the Lord

Isaiah 26:7-11
(7) The path of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous.
(8) In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul.
(9) My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
(10) If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD.
(11) O LORD, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed. Let the fire for your adversaries consume them.

This passage seems to balance the blind pacifism that some would say the gospel demands. Here we see the need to wait on the Lord. He will ultimately make the way of the righteous level. That means that things will go better for the righteous than the unrighteous.

Verse 9 is a bit convicting, isn't it? Does your soul yearn for the Lord in the night? Does your spirit earnestly seek the Lord? Mine has more lately than other times. I've been plagued with some dreams I haven't had for a long time. It's very frightening to find myself surfing porn in a dream, but it's quite a relief to wake up and find that it was just a dream. I don't want to go back to that old life and I realize that more earnest pursuit of the Lord is in order.

I find verse 10 to be rather compelling. God's glory is not revealed to the wicked when favor is continually shown to them. Rather, they need to see God's people acting rightly and be convicted about it. That seems particularly important in America right now. There is so much immorality that is justified under relativism that living as witnesses for truth seems particularly important right now.

There is a lot in Isaiah that doesn't really sink in much with me. However, passages like this hit me squarely between the eyes.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Be Prepared

Proverbs 21:31
(31) The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.

I think this verse flies in the face of the "let go and let God" mentality. Of course, that old maxim is true to a point. However, this verse also tells us that we need to prepare the horse for the day of battle as well. We can't just sit back and expect that God is going to do all the lifting for us. There seems to be a partnership here.

I think of this in terms of evangelism too. I am certainly committed to praying for folks who don't know Jesus because I know that no one gets argued into the Kingdom. However, I also know that it is my job to preach the gospel to them. The ultimate victory belongs to the Lord.

I also think that this verse puts the glory in the proper place. God gets all the glory for any victories in battle. If we think that it is just because of our own brilliance, determination, or hard work then we will try to take the glory for ourselves. That is always a mistake.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Day of Salvation

Isaiah 12:1-6
(1) You will say in that day: "I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.
(2) "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation."
(3) With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
(4) And you will say in that day: "Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.
(5) "Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.
(6) Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel."

There is a lot of work done these days to save the world. Some think that we are ruining it with our carbon emissions. Some think that we really need to tear down industry and simplify so as to stop spoiling it. I am all for preserving nature when possible, but I don't think that turning back the clock makes much sense.

This passage tells us what real salvation looks like. There will be a day when Christ rules on the earth. I'm not going to get into any millenial debates, but I do know that Christ will reign victoriously someday. That will be a glorious day for those who love Him.

The question is -- are you one of those people? If you don't want for Him to be your Lord now why would you want for Him to be your Lord for eternity? He alone is worthy of all our praise and honor. Let's give Him what He is due now.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Call to Preach

Isaiah 6:8-10
(8) And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."
(9) And he said, "Go, and say to this people: "'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.'
(10) Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed."

I just heard a lecture on this and it came up in my reading, so I thought I'd comment. A lot of folks like to quote this chapter. It shows us how we go from being in sin to the command to preach. We see Isaiah's willingness to go out and preach.

However, what often does not get mentioned is how God tells Isaiah the people will react. The people are not going to embrace his message, but he has to go and preach it. That's what he signed up for.

I think this should serve as something of an encouragement in what would otherwise be discouraging circumstances. It is God who opens the ears and hearts of the people. All we can do is preach. We can't let numbers be the measure of our effectiveness. Instead, we need to look at how faithful we are to the call to preach.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Reason for Education

Proverbs 19:2
(2) Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.

Someone from my small group decided to go out on his own and start his own Internet Congregation. He invited me to join this group, so I'm trying to be a voice for orthodoxy while there. What I'm seeing is a group that is hungry for some kind of spiritual connection to God, but they don't like the authority that comes from a church. Therefore, they're going to try to do it their own way.

This reminds me of Ignorant in Pilgrim's Progress who made his way to the Celestial City on his own by following his own path. However, when he tried to enter he was surprised to find that he was not admitted and was sent into hell. That's a pretty terrifying thought.

Maybe I'm biased about this proverb because I'm finishing my third year of seminary. All I know is that I don't want to be like Ignorant.