Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Prayer and Plows



The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. -- Psalms 34:18

The Lord, I want to say, is near to us all.  I look at a statement like this and think about how we are drawn to comfort a friend or family member who is physically ill, going through trials, or suffering in some other way.  Jesus called the One whom the Father would send the Paracletos -- our Comforter or our Helper (John 14:16).  Our God does comfort and sustain the afflicted. 

Yesterday, I talked about being broken through prayer that we might bring the Light of Christ into the world’s darkness.  I can’t say that brokenness must always precede blessings, but it certainly seems that way sometimes.  As long as I can handle things, God steps back and allows me to find my limits.  “God helps those who help themselves” is not a direct quote from the Bible though a similar concept may be found.  We can do what we know to do.  Pray for the Lord to bless your garden with rain and sun in season, but you are still going to need to plant the seeds and pull the weeds.

As Christians, we should cultivate brokenness:  For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.  Circumcise yourselves to the LORD; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem … (Jeremiah 4:3-4).  This is the opposite of resignation, lethargy, sloth, or apathy.  We are, if anything, hypersensitive about our own disobedience and stumblings, quick to admit our faults and careful to turn from anything that might grieve the Spirit.  Prayer is the plowshare for heart soil.

While it is essential that I remove the beam from my own eye first, when I can see clearly, with the humility that comes with the knowledge of my own imperfections, I also must be grieved by the sin around me in the world.  Revival ought to begin in my own heart, but it ought not end there.  Salvation is good news.  Christ is hope and deliverance, healing and wholeness, light and life and joy and peace.  Like the bread He multiplied when He broke it, He will always be more than enough to meet the need.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Jars



Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence— as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! – Isaiah 64:1-2


I am not happy with the path taken by America in the last hundred years, especially, perhaps the last thirty or so.  My opinion is that our political choices are a function of the state of our hearts, that the decline in our culture, our decadence, our degeneracy arise from a lack of personal righteousness, not only in the hearts of corrupt politicians and corporate CEOs but in the hearts of Americans as a whole. 

God is good, and He will give us what we want.  Unfortunately we have chosen to follow after wickedness and sow the seeds of destruction.  We will reap the same.  One might start to think that the fields are, indeed, these days, white unto harvest.  I tell you, though, even now, God will hear us if we cry out to Him.    

Isaiah cried out to the Lord, asking Him to … rend the heavens and come down.  I pray today that the Lord would come down.  I will not presume to tell Him how to do that, but my study of the Bible makes me think that it is unlikely (though not impossible) that He would rip a hole in the blue sky above me.    


And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.  And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. (Matthew 27:50-51)


The veil in the temple separated God from man.  Man’s sinful nature, what we call “the flesh” kept him isolated and unable to approach God.  When Christ, having taken on the nature of man in the Incarnation, suffered in our place and died a sacrificial, atoning death, that separation was ended.  Isaiah’s prayer found its ultimate fulfillment, its antitype.  God did come down, rending not the blue sky but the First Adam’s nature and bursting forth in the Last Adam. 

Why is there not revival in the Church today?  Why does it seem that evil triumphs at every turn, that we are ruled by the depraved and the godless?  For one, perhaps, we have not because we ask not.  Instead of praying for God to come down, we ask that we might go up.  Sometimes we pray for our leaders – as we should.  We pray that godly men and women will be elected to public office where they often become as corrupt as those around them, if they were not already.  We hope to escape in the Rapture because we believe in that things are just going to get worse and worse.  Maybe they are.  But that is not our call.  We are here.  And, from the Parable of the Talents, the Lord tells us, “Occupy till I come.”  (Luke 19:13)  Take care of business. 

We need to pray that God will come down.  So, you ask, O, wise guy, if the Lord isn’t going to rip the sky open, how is He going to come down?  I’m glad you asked.  He is going to rend something all right.  Consider this verse: But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

The power and presence of God resides in His people, in you and, ostensibly, in me.  He is right here, yet something is hindering Him, holding Him back.  That something must be broken.

Remember Gideon and his Three Hundred:

And he divided the 300 men into three companies and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with torches inside the jars. … So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch. And they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. (Judges 7:16-19)


What did Jesus tell us?  We are the salt He uses to preserve the earth.  We are the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16).  He says you don’t light a candle or a lamp and keep it hidden under a basket or in a jar because you can’t see it.

This is what prayer will do.  It will break the jar.  The reason we do not have earth-shaking, nation-transforming revival is because the torch is still in the jar.  If we are concerned about the world, if we are earnest in desiring liberty and freedom for ourselves and our children and grandchildren, if our hearts have been touched and burdened by the unrighteousness we see around us, pray that God will break this jar of clay, these jars of clay and let there be light. 
    

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Getting Outside

Apparently somebody at work hit the fast-forward button the last 24 hours.  I'm glad I'm not flying anywhere because the bags under my eyes would have to be checked.  

I am going to be off the next couple of days just goofing and not thinking about code or looking at computer screens -- not counting the slick digital readout on my bike, so I will leave you with a bit of Spurgeon's wisdom.

Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, Behold your God! -- Isaiah 40:9

Our knowledge of Christ is somewhat like climbing one of our Welsh mountains. When you are at the base you see but little: the mountain itself appears to be but one-half as high as it really is. Confined in a little valley, you discover scarcely anything but the rippling brooks as they descend into the stream at the foot of the mountain.
Climb the first rising knoll, and the valley lengthens and widens beneath your feet. Go higher, and you see the country for four or five miles round, and you are delighted with the widening prospect. Mount still, and the scene enlarges; till at last, when you are on the summit, and look east, west, north, and south, you see almost all England lying before you.

Yonder is a forest in some distant county, perhaps two hundred miles away, and here the sea, and there a shining river and the smoking chimneys of a manufacturing town, or the masts of the ships in a busy port. All these things please and delight you, and you say, “I could not have imagined that so much could be seen at this elevation.”

Now, the Christian life is of the same order. When we first believe in Christ we see but little of him. The higher we climb the more we discover of his beauties. But who has ever gained the summit? Who has known all the heights and depths of the love of Christ which passes knowledge?

Paul, when grown old, sitting grey-haired, shivering in a dungeon in Rome, could say with greater emphasis than we can, “I know whom I have believed,” for each experience had been like the climbing of a hill, each trial had been like ascending another summit, and his death seemed like gaining the top of the mountain, from which he could see the whole of the faithfulness and the love of him to whom he had committed his soul. Get thee up, dear friend, into the high mountain. -- Charles Spurgeon

You all have a good weekend.  


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Future Redemption



And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. -- Romans 8:23


It is a wonderful thing to be a child of God, to be lifted from the muck and mire that pulls us down and be standing on the Solid Rock.  Let’s imagine for a moment, though, what it might be like to be a child brought from an abusive situation or from the sterile environment of an orphanage to a loving, two-parent foster home with attentive, even doting parents who work tirelessly to let the child know that he or she is wanted and that the child’s welfare is their chief concern.  The parents seek earnestly to adopt the child as their own.  As much as the child enjoys being in this foster home, the joy is much greater when the adoption is done and the chosen one is a son or a daughter forever.  At last they are truly a family.

What bride, however much she loves her fiancĂ©, would be content to be engaged with no prospect of marriage and the consummation of the relationship?  So we, as much as we appreciate all that God does for us in this life, still long in our spirits for the day when we are fully redeemed, when we step out before all creation as the sons of God, the rightful heirs and rulers of the cosmos. 

There will come a day when we will be able to move at the speed of thought, create and build in accordance with the will of our Father, pleasing to Him in every way.  We will know as we are known.  We will have tools, resources, and abilities of which we cannot now so much as dream.  The wisdom of God will fill us, and all creation will shout for joy as we bring renewal to the remotest corner under heaven.

I will not complain at all if the Lord gives me “a cabin in the corner of gloryland”.  I have done little for the kingdom and have no right to expect much in the way of rewards, but I will be happy to have some small part in setting all of creation free from futility and bondage and decay, perhaps by serving under some saint who is far more deserving of honor.    

So if one of you all ends up ruling over the remaking of some planet on the other side of the galaxy, and you need some unskilled labor who doesn’t mind getting sweat in his eyes, ask for me.  I’ll be happy to lend a hand.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Going to the Ground



But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: The Lord knows those who are his, and, Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.  -- 2 Timothy 2:19


All of Christian faith stands and turns upon one fact:  the historical and theological reality of the Incarnation -- of the life, death, burial, and resurrection of one Jesus the Christ.

We believe, quite literally, that One who was and is God laid aside His deity to the extent that He was able to take on our nature and our weaknesses, that He lived a perfect, sinless life and died a vicarious, atoning death in our place.  God in Christ identified with us and became our substitute.  In turn, He is able to offer us something that is beyond comprehension.  Because He stood in my place of shame, rejection, and death, He gives me the opportunity to stand in His place of righteousness, acceptance, and everlasting life. 

That’s it.  

If that is taken away, no matter what else we might have, no matter what else we believe or what we are able to do, we cannot be Christians, we cannot experience salvation, we cannot belong to the Lord. 

Did Jesus live?  Certainly there was such a man who lived.  The historical record is sound and solid and constantly being reinforced by new discoveries.  Was Jesus God as He and His followers claimed?  That one is harder.  I believe it.  I can present rational and logic arguments as to why I believe it is true.  For example, there are His miracles, the fact that His disciples suffered persecution and death rather than deny Him, the impact His life has had on history, the fulfillment of prophecies, and more.  Yet, any rational argument I make is based on some axioms, e.g., that there is a God, that God is good, that He wants us to know Him, that the universe itself is part of His revelation and makes sense.

For those who reject those axioms, none of the logical arguments apologists present will be sufficient.  In the end, I am left with my faith and the fact that my faith has altered my life so completely and dramatically that it is not the same as the one with which I was born the first time.  Yet the foundation is firm, and it still stands and will stand forever. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Wardrobe Malfunctions



[A]nd to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness -- Ephesians 4:23-24


This has been a busy week, not a particularly bad one, but it seems as though it went by too fast.  I did not get everything done that I would like.  We have had non-stop rain here for the last six days.  Now we have the remnants of tropical storm (or depression or whatever) Bill pouring torrential amounts of water out of the sky.  Therefore my grass is going to be a foot high before I get a chance to cut it.  (Saturday is no good for other reasons.)  So I got some things done that are not part of my usual weekly routine.  For example, I got a haircut.  I guess it had been a while.  My wife got me started going to this shop at the mall, and this was probably my third haircut since February.  I went in and asked if they would have time to work me in that evening (Tuesday, I think).  The girl – not the usual 40ish woman – said to give her twenty minutes. 

While I was waiting -- it's the mall, right? -- I went looking for a summer sport coat to wear to church.  I found one in my size in a lightweight, kind of tan material that should work with brown, black, gray and probably navy pants.  I tried it on, paid for it, took it out and hung it up in my car, and came back in to finish waiting for my haircut.  I got my money’s worth on the haircut.  I said, “Just make it high and tight.”  She did.  There is nothing left to mat down under my helmet.  I’m probably good for the rest of the summer.  I gave her a generous gratuity despite the fact that she was talkative. 

Then tonight I took some stuff to Goodwill.  I’m going to take more -- none of Vickie’s stuff.  I can’t do that.  Her shoes are still where she left them on the steps up out of the garage.  Another pair of her shoes, her coat, and some other clothes are still in the laundry room.  I don’t know when I’ll even be able to move them back to her closet.  Anyway, I’m cleaning out some of my things that are just taking up space.  I’ll get rid of some old suits and other clothes that I don’t wear any more this fall probably.  I bought that new sport coat because the ones I’m going to take to Goodwill are out of style and have funky colors.  Some of them I think I got from Goodwill, and they were cheap but they never fit me well. 

I suppose I could take one of those old jackets to a tailor and have it let out in the chest and taken in the waist, have some of that padding pulled out of the shoulders, etc.  One time I was talking to a contractor about how he got started.  He said he learned a little about a lot of trades as a kid because his dad was always working on their old house.  He said it seemed like they were always adding and remodeling and refinishing one room or another.  He chuckled a little and asked, “You know what we had when we were done?”  I shook my head.  He said, “An old house.” 

Some of us try to fix up the old self.  We try to reform it and clean it up.  We work and work to make the old self more presentable and attractive and acceptable, to get it to conform to God’s law and His standards.  When we are done we have the old self.  The leopard has not changed his spots. 

God doesn’t call us to reform.  He has a better way.  He says all a person has to do is take the old self off and toss it, pitch it, throw it away.  We don’t need it.  He offers us this glorious new self that does not need reform.  It is already in the likeness of God in righteousness and holiness.  We don’t need to work and worry to get righteous because we have put on Christ, and we are clothed in His righteousness.   

It’s amazing.  Look at it again:  put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  That’s it.

I really wish I could be a good person.  I’d like to live in a way that’s pleasing to God.  I’m all messed, though.  I have all these stains, cigarette burns, and tears and holes in awkward places.  I can’t go before God like this.  But I can … put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14).