February 24, 2009

A Child Is Born

A child is born into the world,
And my heart fills with joy.
Love streams forth from fountains;
Fountains which I never knew existed.
Your precious child, O Lord,
Such a gracious gift to me.
With one act of kindness,
I glimpse into the wonders of Your love.
One act of mercy humbles me.
A gift deeper than the darkest sea.
Your precious Child, O Lord,
From Whom streams forth fountains;
Fountains of living water that revive my soul.
And my heart fills with joy -
A Child is born into the world.

February 20, 2009

The Purpose of Doctrine: Knowing God

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17:3

One of the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith is that those who believe in Jesus Christ will not come into condemnation but have eternal life. The essence of eternal life is this: to know God and to commune with him. The gospel is the means by which we are reconciled to God, and the end is that we can fellowship with him for eternity. At the heart of our Christian life should be a desire to come to an ever deeper knowledge of God as he reveals himself to us (since God is infinite, it can be said that we will never stop increasing in our knowledge of him).

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 2 Peter 1:2-3

Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD." Jeremiah 9:23-24

This is the point of theology ("study of God") and doctrine in their pure form. There are two dangers when approaching theology. On one side, you have those whose study of the Bible and theology is purely an intellectual pursuit. They know much in the way of doctrine, but little in the way of communion with God. On the other side, you have those who would prefer that the words theology and doctrine were never used, but that the focus stay solely on building a relationship with Jesus. The danger here is that without doctrine and theology, it becomes difficult to answer the question, "Which Jesus?"

We engage in study of God as he has revealed himself in the Bible, so that we may know who he is and worship him. We formulate (or adopt) doctrinal statements to flesh out and clarify what the Bible reveals about who he is. All of this is for the purpose of fellowship with him and with one another in truth. 

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—  that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:1-3

February 15, 2009

So We Do Not Lose Heart

There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He said, "I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away." And he said, "Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD." And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave… 1Ki 19:9-13a

Elijah was a prophet that God had used to accomplish awesome works among the people of Israel. God speaks to him and directs his paths, and Elijah has done what the LORD commanded of him. Yet, at this point he finds himself despairing and discouraged at the results. He has just come off a great victory over the worshippers of Baal. Through the power of God, he has made a public spectacle of their idolatry, demonstrating to one and all that the LORD alone is God (1Ki 18:21-40). However, when King Ahab’s wife Jezebel finds out about this, she swears that she will have him killed. So Elijah flees into the wilderness and pleads for God to just put him out of his misery, but God preserves him and provides him the strength to make it to Mount Horeb after 40 days (1Ki 19:1-8). His pleading is reminiscent of Moses’ despair with the people of Israel (Num 11:15), and Jonah’s despair after Nineveh’s repentance (Jon 4:3). It is here that Elijah expresses his despair, and God answers him.

What follows is a peculiar repetition, with the wind, earthquake, fire, and the small voice followed by:

… And behold, there came a voice to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He said, "I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away." And the LORD said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him." 1Ki 19:13b-18

In his Old Testament Theology, Bruce Waltke points out a significant pattern in this repetition:

A – “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
  B – “I only am left”
    C – “Go”
      D – Wind
        E – Earthquake
          F – Fire
      D – God was not in the wind
        E – God was not in the earthquake
          F – God was not in the fire
            G– Low whisper

A – “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
  B – “I only am left”
    C – “Go”
      D – Anoint Hazael
        E – Anoint Jehu
          F – Anoint Elisha
      D – Sword of Hazael
        E – Sword of Jehu
           F – Sword of Elisha
             G – Remnant of 7000

I would add to this following pattern stemming from Elijah’s complaint:

A – They have forsaken your covenant
  B – They have thrown down your altars
    C – They have killed your prophets
      D – I am the only one left
A – Wind
  B – Earthquake
    C – Fire
      D – Low whisper
A – Anoint Hazael
  B – Anoint Jehu
    C – Anoint Elisha
      D – Remnant of 7000

By comparing the two passages, we see the significance of God’s answer to Elijah. The people have forsaken the covenant, thrown down the altars, and killed the prophets. All of the things Elijah has done appear to have amounted to nothing. It appears as though the word of God has failed. However, God promises that, indeed, judgment will come upon the house of Israel, with the king of Syria bringing defeat to the covenant-breaking nation, Jehu defeating the worshippers of Baal, and Elisha prophesying against the people. Most significantly, however, is that the real work of God is found in the preservation of the remnant of 7000 men who have not worshipped Baal.

Indeed, the word of God has not failed, but will accomplish what he has purposed for it (Isa 55:11). Elijah has lost heart because he has lost sight of God’s faithfulness, and in his eagerness to see dramatic results from his work, he misses the work of God in the “low whisper”

The apostle Paul learns from Elijah’s experience, and when faced with the Jews rejecting salvation through faith in their promised Messiah, he must answer the question, “Has the word of God failed?” (Rom 3:3; Rom 9:6) Have God promises for Israel come to nothing? Has he rejected his people?

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? "Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life." But what is God's reply to him? "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. Rom 11:1-5

Paul had gained the perspective which Elijah lacked. He learned that the gospel he preached, in so far as he preached it faithfully, was successful regardless of the apparent result (or lack thereof) (cf. 2Co 2:14-16; 2Co 4:1-6). He also learned that the afflictions he faced and the hardships he encountered were not an occasion for despair, but rather rejoicing (Rom 5:3-5). His apparent failures turn out to be God’s great victories, and through his weaknesses God is shown to be strong.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2Co 4:7-18 (also see 2Co 12:7-10)

This eternal perspective is the key to not losing heart. We, for whom these things were written (Rom 15:4), should take this to heart as well. Glorious eternal victories are being won through our failures, our weaknesses, our suffering, and our defeats. While we are busy looking at the wind, earthquake, and fire, let us not lose sight of God accomplishing the miraculous through the low whisper.

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Heb 13:20-21

February 12, 2009

The God Who Is There

D.A. Carson is giving a seminar next week at Bethlehem Baptist Church. Here is an excerpt from his invitation:

The apostle Paul faced these challenges in the first century. When he was preaching in a synagogue (for instance, in Pisidian Antioch, Acts 13), he was dealing with people who believed there is one God, that this God is creator of everything in heaven and earth, that he is sovereign and holy, that the problem with human beings is their rejection of their Maker, that salvation must first and foremost reconcile us to this God, that history is teleological (that is, that it is heading to a telos, an end, a climax), that there is a final judgment to be faced, that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, that God alone prescribes how people are saved, and so forth. Paul did not have to establish any of these points: He and his hearers held them in common. In such contexts, Paul focused most of his attention on who the promised Messiah must be: He must be not only the long-awaited Davidic king, but he must suffer and die, and rise again. That was the most disputed point between unconverted synagogue attendees and Christians.

But when Paul finds himself preaching to pagans in Athens (Acts 17:16-31), not one of the propositions I’ve listed above is shared by Paul and his hearers. As a result, he takes time to establish all these points, and a few others, before introducing Jesus. Otherwise the Jesus he wants to proclaim will be misunderstood, because Jesus will be placed by Paul’s hearers in the wrong context.

Learning to evangelize men and women who know nothing about the Bible and who are bringing their own “baggage” or “context” with them does not require a super intellect or a Ph.D. in biblical theology. What it requires is learning to get across a lot of things that we Christians simply presuppose

Read the whole thing here

February 5, 2009

He Is Exalted!

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.(Php 2:5-11)

When we note that “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess” is an allusion to Isaiah 45, this exhortation to humility leads the careful reader to a humbling moment of worship at the feet of the risen Lord:

Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: 'To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.' Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him. In the LORD all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and shall glory." (Isa 45:21-25)

Paul says that God has highly exalted Jesus and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. Here we have the Son of God humbling himself, not only by becoming a man, but by becoming obedient to the point of death on the cross. He took upon himself the just wrath of God due to us sinners, thereby vindicating God’s righteousness, so that he might just, while at the same time justifying wicked men (Pr 17:15). This is the heart of why Christ’s death saves us:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom 3:21-26)

He humbled himself in obedience, becoming the Lamb of God, whose sacrifice takes away the sin of the world (Jhn 1:29). For this reason, God has raised the God-Man Jesus from the dead and crowned him with glory and honor (Heb 2:9) and has given him all authority in heaven and on earth (Mat 28:18). This man, this last Adam (Rom 5:12-21; 1Co 15:45), ascends to heaven and sits at the right hand of God.

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, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Heb 1:3-4)

When we consider Christ, we should think of the crucified, risen, ascended, and exalted Lord of the Universe, who is sitting at the right hand of God the Father, interceding on our behalf (Rom. 8:34), and who will return in judgment and glory. He is worthy of all our honor and praise!

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals." And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth." Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!" And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped. (Rev 5:1-14)

February 3, 2009

Music from Geof Kimber

My brother told me about a little known artist that he likes named Geof Kimber and wanted me to let everyone know. You can listen online here:

http://www.indieheaven.com/artist_main.php?id=86986

Also check out his website here:


The song "Father Me" is particularly relevant to me:

FATHER ME
c Aiyura Music, www.geofkimber.com
V1
In a world that's filled with bitterness
and a way that some folks live
May this child rise above it
as we teach her to forgive
She could easily hold grudges
and let her own heart turn sour
But may she embrace your sweetnes
and be to you a fragrant flower

CHORUS
I am so aware we have her for a reason
To train her in your ways
and to guide her in your grace
I am so aware we have her for a season
Teach me to father her as you father me - at every turn
Teach me to father her as you father me

V2
In a church that's filled with compromise
even with those who believe
May this child here discern it
and choose to turn to you and cleave
May she give her life to Jesus
and never be torn in two
But may you always find her to be
consecrated, Lord, to you

V3
In a life that's filled with struggling
over her own sinfulness
May this child rise and conquer
through your power and nothing less
May she grow to know the blessing
of a burden that is light
And may you find she becomes
a victorious army in your sight