Blog Archives

A Good Name

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.

  (Othello 3.3.155-161)

Pastoral Prayer from Psalm 93

Father in heaven, We come today professing the great truth that our Lord reigns.
You are King and you are King alone.
You do not reign with Satan.
You do not reign with some other god.
You do not reign along with sin or sickness.
You alone reign.

Therefore we come today with an awareness that we must approach you with joyous fear.
Fear because you alone reign.
Fear because in your hands lie our life and our breath.
Fear because you are a consuming fire.
Fear because you dwell in inapproachable light.
But we come in joy as well.
Joy because though we were once far off we are now brought near by the blood of Christ.
Joy because though we are sinners we have a great high priest who always intercedes for us!
Joy because we come clothed in the righteousness of our Lord and our Savior.
Joy because we are forgiven of all our sin.
Joy because we shall live forevermore and shall dwell for all eternity in your glorious and mighty presence.
O Sovereign Lord, all around your throne the voices of man lifts his voice against you.
The nations roar like waves against the rocks.
The nations resist your presence.
They will not glorify you.
They will not humble themselves before you.
They will not be silent and know their God.
Yet you continue to reign and show forth your majesty and mercy.
Oh Father, be pleased today with our worship to you
as our Lord,
our King,
and our Father.
May we worship you in spirit and in truth.
May our mouths sing praises to the one who is High and lifted up in the heavens.
May our voices blend in with the eternal praises of the angels.
May our heart be attentive to your word.
May my mouth speak your word in the power of the Spirit.
And Father, would you be pleased this day to save sinners by the blood of Jesus Christ?
Be glorified today.

The Beauty of Weakness

I just finished a wonderful time of discussion with some others and the dominant theme was the reality of how we struggle and stumble in sin. The hard reality is that we are not as strong as we would like to admit and admitting it is very difficult for us. The reason is pride, we hate to look like we really are. But there is another aspect that came to my mind that factors into this whole thing, it is a failure to recognize that there is a reason we are weak.  Allow me to explain.

2 Corinthians 4:6-9   “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves;  we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Above is a fascinating passage that speaks much to the need of our day in America.  We are a people who have embraced victimhood and made it an art form.  One only needs to sit in the average prayer meeting to hear the pettiness of the prayers and the earthly nature of our concerns.  This passage challenges the very deadening thought that God must heal us, fix our problems, make our marriage happy, bring in a good income, and the such before we can effectively serve Him.

This passage tells us many things that need to be heard and heeded.  May this short message give the reader pause and perhaps may prayers of confession rise to our Father in heaven as we confess our love of health, comfort, and personal ability rather than the glory of being weak.

Verse 7 tells us we posses a treasure.  This is a fact for a believer, not a command.  What treasure do we possess right now?  Verse 6 tells us that it is the knowledge of God.  How is it seen?  It is found in His Son, who dwells in us.  And it is the Father who has placed this saving, justifying, sanctifying, soul-satisfying knowledge within us.  And if we were to stop right there and go no further, we could easily believe this is all really cool and have a nice praise gathering where we get excited about our Lord and then go on about our lives.  But this passage tells us much more.  And what it tells us can be quite uncomfortable for us to consider.

This treasure is in us, but we are earthen vessels.  Note that description, clay pots.  Not golden chalices, not silver vats, not massive oak chests—just specialized dirt. The imagery is one of weakness.  In that time, the clay pot was not a thing artsy people made to sit on a mantel to show off.  The clay pot was used for the day to day business of cooking, washing, holding flour, and yes, it was even  their night-time toilet.  It was, in other words, a very common tool.  And when one was broken, it was tossed aside and another one made or purchased.

Now, notice in verse 7 that there is a reason for this decision by God.  The word “that” speaks of the purpose of having us be simple clay pots.  It is so that the glory of God great power might be seen clearly.  Note that very carefully.  Paul makes is very clear that the reason this is done is so that we are not the focus.  Though we speak much about this idea of decreasing and God increasing; our prayers and actions often show the very opposite.

This is not saying that God makes us strong by pouring His strength into us, making us strong.  Instead, God keeps us weak and through that continued weakness He manifests His power through our continuing weakness.  This requires the preacher to embrace his weakness and by faith believe that God shall manifest his power as I remain weak.  If I am desiring the manifestation of God’s glory and power rather than my own, then I shall delight in this.  But if I really desire my own glory, then I shall always be resisting the weakness that is inherent in my life.

May we learn to rejoice in our weakness rather than rebel against it.  May we begin to serve in our weaknesses rather than waiting until we are strong.  May we long to have the power of God shine forth by being clay pots.

Suffering & Glory pt 2

I finish up my prior post on suffering.  As a pastor I spend much of my time talking to people who suffer in various ways.  Over a meal a few days ago I told one person that I am convinced that all Christians enter into eternity bearing many scars–both within and without. Thankfully God does not leave us without instruction on how to deal with suffering. Even more wonderful is how He uses suffering in wonderful ways for our good and His glory.  This second part is dealing with Romans 8.

Argument #2, The glory must be worth the suffering because all believers long for it (23-25).   By saying  “And not only this. . .”  Paul shows that there is a progression in his argumentation.  Not only is creation groaning, but we too!  The new creation and the glory that shall come must be amazing because even we, ourselves are groaning for that day.  In fact, I can say that a key mark of a true believer is that there is a desire to be finally free of this body that is dead through sin.  But the groaning that we do here is not a groaning under sin, but rather it is like creation in the pangs of childbirth.

It is also a groaning that comes because we have the Holy Spirit within us.  Note that phrase, “first fruits of the Spirit.”  The firstfruits refers to the Jewish custom of bringing the first of the harvest to the temple and offering it to God.  This consecrated the whole harvest, and it carries with it the thought that there will be later fruits.  But this is also different in that in the Old Testament the word ‘firstfruits’ referred to what we would give to God, with the understanding that God would give us the rest of the harvest.  But Paul is saying that God has given us the Spirit and it is a foretaste of what is to come.  It is similar to the idea in Ephesians 1:13-14 “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation– having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,  who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”

Paul closes up his argument in verses 24-25.  God has not let us enjoy these blessing right now.  Therefore, beloved, we need to be content with that reality.  We have, at times, little tastes of the glory to come, but it is never in its fulness.   We were saved (vs 24), past tense, but this salvation involves a forward looking aspect.  For though by faith we believe we are saved, the fulness is not ours to enjoy at this time.  We still suffer under the effects of a fallen world.  And therefore we live with an expectant hope in that day that is to come. It is only as we grow in looking toward the New Creation that we will endure well in the here and now.  May God enlarge our hearts and minds in anticipation to that day.

 

Suffering & Glory

The Christian is called to suffer.  That is simply a truth that must not be ignored, for suffering shall come upon all who call upon the name of the Lord.  But a while back I preached a sermon where I tried to help my congregation understand that though suffering is inevitable, it is not worthy to be compared to the coming glory to those who endure it.  What follows are two arguments that Paul gives us in Romans 8:19-25 as to why the glory that is to come outweighs the suffering that is now.

Argument #1, The glory must be worth the suffering because creation longs for it (19-22).  Notice the “for,” (not in the NIV) it means “for this reason.”  But the question that should be raised in your minds is what reason.  What is the argument that Paul will give us for embracing the insignificance of our suffering in comparison to the glory to come?  He doesn’t say, “For we must suffer to earn the glory.”  Nor does he say tell us to hang in there or keep on enduring.  He also does not tell us exactly what that glory that is ours to come actually is.  In fact, it is probably beyond our ability to really understand the glory.  So, what Paul does is show us that it must be truly a glorious thing by showing how even all of creation longs for this revealing of the glory.

Notice how he puts it in verse 19.  When Paul talks about creation here he is speaking of a specific aspect of creation.  Let me explain:  Creation could refer to everything created.  Meaning, anything and everything that is not God Himself.  But it is doubtful that this is what Paul is referring to here.  The answer to this is found in noticing what this creation is doing and what has happened to this creation.  It is eagerly waiting for our glory to be revealed.   And it has been subjected, meaning innocently subjected, to futility.  With those two points in mind we can then eliminate angels from this, because, though they look forward to the revelation of Christ and the glory to come, they are not subject to any futility.  We can eliminate demons because they are guilty of their sin and rebellion against God and they do not look forward to the end of time, for then they shall enter into eternal judgment.  The same for Satan himself.  We can eliminate believers, because Paul makes a distinction between us and the ‘creation’ in vss. 19, 21, and 23.  In fact we should eliminate mankind in general from this use of creation.  Mankind is not eagerly awaiting the revelation of Christ, nor does mankind delight in the Lord and His glory.  Therefore, we need to see creation here as referring to the nonrational creation.  The animals, the trees, the clouds and water, the planets and stars, the dirt and the bugs.

So, what is this creation doing?  It anxiously longs, it yearns for this revelation of glory that is to come.  That word, “anxious,” is a word that literally means to ‘stretch the head forward.’  We have all seen this, it is most easily seen in children when they are straining to watch something.  So here is creation, standing on tiptoe, craning its neck forward, seeking to capture a glimpse of the fulfillment of this long awaited promise.  Paul, then, is personifying creation, making dirt and trees be like they can think and reason.

What is it that creation longs to see?  The “revealing of the sons of God.”  It looks to the day that is to come when we are all changed and made into the likeness of our Lord and Savior.  For on that day the Father shall lift the curse from this creation and it shall finally have peace again. When is this to come?  I believe that this is not speaking only of eternity, but of the earthly reign of Jesus Christ. That He shall come and He shall reign and there shall be justice and peace upon the whole of the world.  This will then expand itself into eternity when the new heavens and the new earth are created and we enter into eternity where death and sin and Satan are all banished.

Now, consider verse 20 and notice the next ‘for.’  Again, the word “for” means “for this reason.”  In other words, Paul now explains in verses 20-22 why it is that creation is longing for the revelation of us in our glory.   First, when we are revealed in our glory then creation shall be relieved from its enslavement (20).  That phrase, “was subjected to futility,” or as the NIV puts it better, “frustration,” describes the very real burden that Creation is under.  Creation has been prevented from fulfilling its real purpose.  This all came about through no fault of Creation.  It was happily obeying the Lord until the sin of Adam.  And at that point in time it became subjected, enslaved to a lesser ability of service. And for all these thousands of years it has been groaning and aching under the pressure and burden of OUR sin.  Therefore, when a lion takes down its prey, there is a groaning.  When an orca whale takes a seal, or a frog eats even a fly, creation groans.  For this was not its purpose, rather, it was its curse.

Creation was designed by God to perfectly display His glory.  But since the Fall, this has not happened.  And there is a real sense of frustration in all of this.  We can understand this ourselves as Christians.  We know that we are called to glorify God in all ways, but so often we fall short.  And there is a yearning and ache in our inability.  But when this happened, when God subjected all of creation it was done “in hope.” (20c).  There was the promise of the day that the Lord would redeem us.   When the great enemy, Satan would be destroyed and that moment began to dawn upon creation the day when the Son of God became man.

Consider how He impacted Creation by His presence, when  He entered creation and  He walked upon His earth.  Wherever He went creation leaped for joy.  Bread would multiply.  Water would become hard under his feet.  Storms would obey His commands.   Fish would give up gold coins.   When He went to the Cross, creation wept with the earthquake and the great darkness.   And then the great words of our Lord came forth, “it is finished.”  And He gave up His spirit and died.  And at that moment creation began to yearn all the more!  For great enemy of sin was destroyed at that time.  Imagine all the more how much creation began to hope when on the 3rd day He arose!   And now, it waits, with a fervent expectation for the return of its Lord.  For on that day we shall be changed and we too shall be revealed in our eternal glory with the Lord and creation shall finally be free!

Verses 21 and 22 pick up on this and develop it even more.  Notice how verse 21 speaks to this freedom.  At the time of Christ’s second coming Creation shall be set free from the decay that sin brought into its existence.  It shall be brought back into the fulness of the glory that it was designed by God to fulfill.  Now you think about that for a moment:   Think of the most glorious thing in all of creation that you have even witnessed. Think of the fact that all of creation all day and night is constantly declaring the glory of God.  And realize that this is not even to the level that it was designed.   On that day, finally the shackles that it has been bound in are released and all of creation shall exult and pour forth the great praise and glory that it was always designed to do.  Words escape me to describe this sufficiently.  But it is the very point of Paul that this yearning of creation is a key piece of evidence that tells us that we should be looking forward to that day of our glory.

Verse 22 describes this in the terms of childbirth.  And in doing so gives us all something we can grab hold of as we try to see the glories of what is to come, even though right now there are sufferings.  There is a huge difference between the cries of pain in the emergency room of a hospital as compared to the maternity ward, isn’t there?  As Calvin said it, these are not death pangs, but birth pangs.  And oh what a difference that makes to the one suffering.   And this is the groans that Creation finds itself in.  It aches and hurts, yet there is hope, for in the end there shall be the birth of freedom and glory.  And therefore it endures and continues to look to that day.  And in the same way we are to be yearning and aching for that day, which leads us to the second and final argument that Paul makes.

Argument #2 to come…

%d bloggers like this: