Wednesday, August 28, 2013

God is Our Help

1Sam. 7:1   And the men of Kirjathjearim came, and fetched up the ark of the LORD, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill, and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the LORD. 
Eleazer means God is our help. Our God is our protector. When we worship God as we should and give Him the proper glory, He is our helper and not the one who fights against us. Both the Israelites and the Philistines learned this the hard way, refusing to give Yahweh glory and stubbornly persisting in idolatry and sin. Blessing comes only after confession and repentance.

Lament after Yahweh

1Sam. 7:2 And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjathjearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.
The ark remains in the house of Abinidab all the days of  Samuel and Saul until David brings it first to Obed-Edom and then to Jerusalem.
During this time, the Lord’s words were still not heavy with the people of Israel. They did what was right in their own eyes. They needed the Spirit of God to stir them up to a reverent adherence to Yahweh. They needed covenant renewal but they were so lost in their sins that they did not even know what they needed to do. Like the wicked Hophni and Phinehas they were dead in their trespasses and sins. Like the blind Eli, they were lost and did not know how to find blessing from Yahweh.  Their hearts were hard. Their eyes were blind and their ears could not hear. They needed a move of the Spirit to soften their hearts of stone, to take off the scales of blindness from their eyes and to give them ears to hear the Word of Yahweh.
Fortunately for them, the Spirit was moving. The glory of God was returning to the land and their was hope for their desperate condition. The Spirit gave them utterance, groaning in them words that were beyond speech. They lamented, they groaned for a word from Yahweh. They desired to know the Lord for blessing.
So, too, our wildernesses lead us to revival. Our hours and days in the dessert lead us to a place of lamentation of our own sins and a pining for the Spirit of God to restore us to fellowship and blessing. But we must be wise in the ways of the Lord. He does not desire empty service, devoid of heart humility. His desire is that we would honestly confess our sins, turn from our wicked ways and false gods and turn to the One true God through His Son Jesus Christ. When we do this, the glory of God for blessing returns to us and we can once again stand in the presence of Yahweh without fear of condemnation, expecting blessing from the hand of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Heavy Hand of God

This is quite a long section (Providence Church Sermons) and there is a lot going on. Keep in mind that the main theme about the glory of God is still in play here. God’s glory has been with Israel but Israel has sinned and is not repentant. Thus, God’s glory was beginning to depart. This was revealed in her leaders. Eli did not restrain his own sons or the people of God. The priests of Yahweh, Hophni, Phinehas and Eli all died and the ark of the covenant was captured and taken into the land of the Philistines.
         There is a long recapitulation theme here. The ark has gone down into Egypt, so to speak. While there, it defeats the Philistine (Egyptian) gods and devastates the land. This time, without the service of Moses, Yahweh delivers Himself and is driven into the wilderness. He enters into the promised land but is still required to sojourn in the wilderness, this time Kirjath-jearim for 40 years before there is renewal and the glory of the Lord returns in power under the oversight of King David.
         While in exile, God’s glory was revealed to the Philistines in various dramatic ways. Elsewhere in Scripture, we see God bless Gentiles, so the fact of God breaking out against the Philistines in judgment is not simply because they are Gentiles. It is because they are idolaters and unrepentant sinners, the same reason that Yahweh had brought judgment upon Israel.
         The Philistines think they can add Yahweh to their pantheon of gods, including Dagon, their chief idol. At Ashdod, Yahweh first attacks Dagon, knocking him down and then knocking him down again and cutting off his head and hands. Instead of repenting and worshipping Yahweh alone, the priests have a weird reverence for the wounds of Dagon. They are not repentant and so Yahweh breaks out against them.
         They take the ark to Gath, the land of the giants, hoping that their gods in Gath would be strong enough to contend with Yahweh. But Yahweh shows His glory there as well in a very great destruction, smiting the small and the great. The men of Gath frantically seek to send the ark away to Ekron.
         By the time the ark arrives at Ekron, the Ekronites are ready to give God the glory from the outset, saying “They have brought the ark of God among us to slay us and our people.” The hand of God was very heavy (glory) there.
         Finally, after seven months of terror, plague and disease and an infestation of mice, the Philistines determine that Yahweh is too strong for them and they must get rid of the ark. They have some sense of their guilt before Yahweh and determine to make an offering to Yahweh and to Israel. This is better than the Israelites had done but it is still not a full-fledged repentance and honest worship. The Philistines acknowledge the power of Israel’s God but do not take Him as their one and only God.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Lord's Table

Be at peace now and rest in Christ and the work of His Spirit for:
         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.  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we await for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Rom. 8:23-29)
         Rejoice then saints, for you are born into Christ and the Father has gathered you as His people to give you Spiritual food and drink and bless you in the strength and perseverance of His Holy Spirit.

In the Name of Jesus

When we stand before the Lord, cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ, we are in a highly blessed place. We have entered the holy of holies. We have ascended to the right hand of the Father with Jesus. We are exalted with Christ, seated at His table, declared friends of Jesus and gladly welcomed by His Father, our Father, the Creator of the universe. Think on these things. They are marvelous.
I do not say these things merely to make you feel good about yourself. If we stand before the Lord as ourselves, by ourselves, we will not feel good. We will be fearful of what the Holy One of Israel might do to us. But we do not stand here as ourselves by ourselves. We are all in Christ and being in Christ means that the Father looks upon us the way that He looks upon His only beloved Son, the One in whom He is well pleased.
         For a host of reasons, you may not feel the welcome assurance of God, our Father. Life, health, emotions, doubts, all get in the way. But I exhort you to hear the Word of God from a minister of the good news in Jesus Christ. The Lord speaks peace to you. The Lord speaks a blessing to you. The Lord speaks to you as a kindhearted Father. Hear him and stand upon this truth in faith, resting not in your own feelings or even your own thoughts, but resting in Christ, who is faithful and true. He is always true to His Word. 
          The Lord is faithful and just to forgive sinners. Having heard these Words of Assurance, let us stand boldly in the presence of the Lord with hearts full of gratitude for His kindness to us in Christ.

Preparing for Glory

Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil. Let thy work appear unto thy servants and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of Yahweh, our God, be upon us and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it. Psalm 90:15-17

Preparing for glory is a cliche that is often uttered to mean that we should make sure we are ready to go to heaven when we die. That is a small glory compared to what God is doing on the Earth. The Lord Jesus is ruling heaven AND EARTH and He will continue to rule until all His enemies are subdued beneath His feet. His glory is being revealed here, as we live, and He is preparing us to be His vessels of this glory.

This Psalm speaks to us of God's glory that is revealed in the Earth through us, His saints. He brings us to glory through suffering and death. This is nothing less than learning to be like Jesus and we know that the Lord Jesus brought the Father glory.

I have always said that our joy is inversely related to our suffering. When God brings resurrection from death-like circumstances then the joy on the other side of that suffering is directly inverse or better than the amount of the suffering. No one wants to suffer but the more you suffer, the more joy there is when God reveals Himself as deliverer.

This Psalm speaks of something similar. God makes us glad according to our days of affliction. His work in this way will reveal glory to us and to our children. The Psalmist recognizes that this is beautiful. This is hard for us to grasp. The suffering does not seem beautiful. But the fact that God leads us through affliction to glory reveals His beautiful character. In this way, He establishes our work in joy in the Holy Ghost.

So, sufferers, take heart. God is doing a beautiful work in you.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Homo Sex- Like, Gag Me with a Spoon!

This is a great post from Thabiti Anyabwile.

Care for Depression

Just started Sinclair Ferguson's, Deserted by God?

In the first chapter he makes a fine observation worth passing on. He says that folks feeling deserted by God, those struggling with severe melancholy or depression, should not be doing 'devotional' reading of the Bible. I agree.

Let me explain. He argues that such people have a deep need for the Word of God and for the comfort of His Spirit. But his experience has shown, as has mine, that such people have stopped accurately reading their Bible and are thus not receiving the blessing of encouragement and peace from it. By devotional reading, I mean simply sitting down to read a chapter or two from the Bible without any intense study of those Scriptures. Such an exercise tends to focus not so much on what the Bible teaches as a whole but what those verses have for me today.

In the case of a depressed person, such reading tends to focus on all the negative things. For example, if that passage says something about God rescuing His people and destroying the wicked, they will self-identify with the wicked. This is the depressed person's tendency to be inwardly gazing and unable to look outside or directly to the Lord, the One who seems to have deserted them. So, they find in themselves all sorts of reasons why God has justly deserted them.

Instead, Ferguson, quoting Dr. John White in The Masks of Melancholy, suggests a more intense exegetical study of a passage or book of Scripture. Focus on pulling the meaning from the book. What is God saying in this book? Apply the historical/grammatical method. Look up the Hebrew or Greek words. Try to see what God was saying to them at that time and get a real sense of the understanding of that longer passage or entire book. When one does this, the focus is necessarily outward. In this difficult process, one comes to know the will of the Lord more clearly and thus makes room for God's Spirit of truth rather than succumbing to the temptation to listen to yourself speak lies. The accuser speaks lies and he does so, even using the Scriptures when he can. The devil tempted Jesus that way and we should expect that he will also tempt our weakened brothers and sisters in this way.

But if we dig into what the Bible is really saying, trying not to focus on what it is saying to me, right now in this depressing moment, we are much more apt to hear the Lord speak His comforting truths to us.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Effecacious Ceremony

I have been warning today about partaking in religious ceremony without the power of a changed life. If we insist on holding onto to our rebellious and idolatrous sins while at the same time professing faithfulness to Jesus, then we have a certain expectation of judgment rather than blessing.
However, I believe better things for you. You are come to Jesus Christ and Him crucified. In Him, you have entered into death and have been raised up to the right hand of the Father to reign with Jesus forever. In Jesus, you have been washed and cleansed, made holy by the Holy One of God. In Jesus, you have confidence, even though you continue to commit sins, because His Spirit abides with you and teaches you to love God and hate sins. Forsaking sins, you know that you have an Advocate with the Father for sins. By His Spirit, you receive the peace of Christ and humbly receive His invitation to sit and eat and to receive the blessing of the Father for all those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, being filled at this place at this Table, not only with this bread and with this wine but also with His Spirit. You eat at this place where there is no condemnation to you, only words of peace and comfort in Jesus.
So, come to Jesus, eat and be filled and give God the glory for His grace to you in the crucified and glorified Lord Jesus.

Necessary Confession

Confession of sin and repentance are absolutely necessary to holy Christian living for without holiness no man shall see the Lord. This is a scary saying if we are thinking about a holiness that we conjure. But the Scriptures are clear that we are made holy by the cleansing of sin through Jesus Christ. The holiness is given to us as a grace in Christ. But if we continue wantonly in sin, trampling under foot the blood of the covenant, despising the grace of Christ, then our hope is not for cleansing and holiness but rather an expectation of the judgment of the Lord.
         Thus, we are to walk in way that is consistent with being a child of God. Like Jesus, we must walk in holiness, no longer in the filth and mire of those who do not serve God. We must worship Him in spirit and in truth in the power of a changed life, a life saved by grace through faith to holy living. That is what we call sanctification.
         Looking to anything less than the Lord Jesus Christ for the hope of our salvation is religious superstition, which has the appearance of wisdom but lacks the power of God. Let us seek the power of God in Christ, who is our only hope for forgiveness and righteous living.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Pox on Visionaries

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others and by himself.

Dietrich Bonhoffer, Life Together

To You and to Your Children

One of the central responsibilities of the church and her ministers is to hold out the promises of Jesus Christ to you and to your children. Because many pastors, elders and deacons have not believed these promises themselves and have lost their own children to the world, the flesh and the devil, they are no longer in a position to declare these promises to their congregations.  But despite the failures of Christian leadership, God’s promises are to you and to your children.  

The Lord desires that our children grow up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and that they lovingly and cheerfully embrace the kindness of God in Jesus Christ.  But in order for this to happen in the normal way, we parents must believe God.  We must believe in such a way that it affects the way that we live and move and have our being in Christ.  Our belief must produce godly fruit.  Here is the great part; all true belief does produce godly fruit.  So, let us look at what God has in store for us as we raise our children to His glory.

Death by Living, N.D. Wilson****

N.D. Wilson's new book, Death by Living, is a great read. Wilson has a delightful way of saying things that make you rejoice in the world that God has made and give rise to an intense desire to experience His world in everydayness. This is a Chestertonian quality to Wilson's writing and is bountifully refreshing.

The Conviction to Lead- Albert Mohler****

Just finished Al Mohler's book, The  Conviction to Lead. This a great leadership book. It is convicting and convincing that the primary need for leaders is conviction. I highly recommend it.

Al Mohler was and is a highly accomplished man at a very young age. His wisdom is well beyond his years and the Lord has used him in mighty ways to advance His kingdom. In reading this book, my desire to advance Christ's Kingdom has grown.

Furthermore, Mohler does an excellent job of presenting the need that  leaders have to put themselves forward. This is not self-aggrandizing, per se. It can be and the leader should resist the desire to exalt himself. But the leader of any organization or church should have the conviction that his ideals and vision are important and his views need to be expressed in the world. The leader is often the visual and oral representation of that organization or church. It makes sense, then, for the leader to have as many touch points with the world as he can. These touch points include, among other things, speaking, writing, tweeting and blogging.

To this end, I have a renewed desire to get the word out about the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC) and Providence Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. I firmly believe that the Lord has placed these institutions in their respective places at this point in history for great purposes. I have lost sight of that from time to time and that is failure of the conviction to lead.

Thanks Al!

Raising Godly Children

Many parents today have their hands thrown up in the air or they are pulling out their hair or they are pulling out the hair of their young charges.  They seem completely in the dark when it comes to raising children to be cheerful and well disciplined.  The frustration level seems to be increasing around us and there are few answers, even from the Church.  While I like to think that the situation is somewhat better in Christian Churches and Christian homes, it is amazing to me how little Christian parents know about raising children to be godly, obedient, respectful and cheerful.  There was a time, not very long ago, when this was the cultural expectation for all children. 

We often see exasperated parents and exasperated children. In fact, this state of affairs is now so common that it is seen as the norm.  We often feel sorry for the mother of little Johnny who is having a conniption fit at Walmart.  Instead, we should lay the blame where it is due, on the mother and her abdicating husband. Our feelings should run in sympathy towards Johnny but out of control child behavior often causes us to despise the children.  Even the parents of Johnny end up not liking him very much even though they know that have to say that they love him dearly. 

If you are the mother or father of little Johnny, my purpose is not to make you feel bad.  On the contrary, my purpose is to give you hope and to begin to point you towards the biblical answers that can begin to change your situation.   God has great promises in store for you and your children.  In order to see them, you must begin to lay some foundational principles that will give you that hope. The Church, your church, should be helping you along this path.  

I will be making several posts in the coming days from our Joyful Home series. This is a series of teaching on Marriage and Family with an emphasis on raising godly children. The goal is the title, living before the Lord in a home full of joy. Joy requires hard work and discipline.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ebony and Ivory

Came out of Walmart yesterday to see a black lady crying and a middle aged white lady giving her a hug and kiss and consoling her. The black lady seemed like a nice lady in some degree of straits. She had an older car, was dressed decently and had a nice honest face. The white lady seemed from the old school, dignified and caring. I saw that she was writing the black lady a check and the black lady was extremely humbled and thankful with warm embraces and tears of appreciation.

It was clear from what little talk I overheard that they had not previously known each other. The black lady had been sitting in her car crying and the white lady approached her to see if she could help. As a result of their conversation, the older lady wrote her a check, gave her a hug and kiss and made her day. As I left, they were still chatting and seemed to be making great headway on their friendship.

Love is kind.

Hands of Peace

Today’s sermon may have struck a chord of guilt or shame or even fear. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. As we remember the things that He has done, we are reminded that He is holy and His holiness is something that causes us fear. 

But we are now come to the Table of Thanksgiving and peace. You cannot fix all your relationships from the end of the sermon to the beginning of the Lord’s Table. Relationships take time. But you can hear the Word of the Lord and determine to do that which is right, being fully at peace with God and men, so much as it is up to you to do so. 

The world is a messy place and we are prone to continually mess this up, giving and taking offense until the Lord Jesus returns. Thus, we must rest in His grace, humble ourselves, confess our faults, not take offense and as much as the peace is in our hands, hold that peace up to Jesus as a return offering of His grace to us. Like Samuel, we should lie down in peace and wait upon the Word of Yahweh. Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. And when He speaks peace to us in Christ, we simply give Him thanks.

Right Relationships

         We must be willing to hear God speak to us. But we must come to a better understanding of what hearing means. We think we hear when we hear the words and nod our assent. But that is not really hearing. I’ll bet you do not let your children get away with that and call it hearing. You check on their progress and see if the hearing resulted in doing. Your expectation is that to hear is to obey. And anything less is a failure to hear.
         Thus, it is for us as we stand before the Lord. When we say, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth,” we take for granted the fact that servants do, servants serve, servants follow up on the spoken words.
         I have mentioned from this pulpit some areas where some of you are negligent in doing what the Lord says, things like tithing and more regular attendance at the Lord’s service. Things that hurt you but you do them, or fail to do them anyway. But we know that people can tithe and go to church every Sunday and still be a mess. One area that makes it clear whether we are faithful is in our relationships.
         How are your relationships? Is there ongoing and unsettled strife between husband and wife? Brother and sister? Father and son? Mother and daughter? Is there a lack of restraint? Are you too harsh on a faithful son, like Samuel, or too soft on potential Hophni’s? Children, are you like Samuel, ready to hear and heed the word of your father, even if it comes to you in the middle of your most selfish times? Relationships measure how we are doing in this gospel of peace. How are yours?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Exalted in Thanksgiving

Samuel was one who was favored of the Lord. So was Hannah, his mother. Like those saints, we are also favored of the Lord. He has called us into His presence and has spoken words of peace and blessing to us. At this table we are face to face with God. While we maintain a holy reverence for the Lord, we do not come to this place in craven fear. On the contrary, we come to our Father in the name of Jesus, His highly favored Son. In this name, the Father gladly receives us and lifts us up with Jesus to His own right hand.
         We know that this is all of grace and so we do not claim any of this favor as our just dessert. Rather, we ascribe all glory to our God and respond in the only way that we can, with thanksgiving. And this thanksgiving is the reality that keeps our hearts from being exalted. In fact, true thanksgiving keeps us low in our own esteem so that we are candidates for the Lord to continually lift us up.

Speak Lord

The Lord is very gracious to us. As we come into His presence, He speaks to us, declaring the Word of the Lord. Like Samuel, our response should be, “Speak Lord, for Thy servant heareth.” As God speaks, we should be eagerly willing to do all that He says.
         Our standard for this Word of the Lord is the Scripture. From them the Lord teaches us how we must live. We must hear and heed the Word so that we are not like Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who were sons of Belial, worthless ones.
         And the training for this kind of obedience starts here. As the Spirit of God convicts us of sin, we should be willing to humble ourselves before the Lord so that when He speaks in His Word to us, we can rise up and hear Him. But if we will not hear the rebuke of the Lord, neither will we hear Him declare forgiveness, restoration and healing. So, let us confess our sins, repent of them and receive the blessing from God.