Monday, April 30, 2012

Verse of the Week -- Romans 5:20

Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hymn of the Week -- All I Have is Christ

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You

© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Musings on Faith and Life -- 3

So far in my musings about the meaning and purpose of life, I have tried to show that there is a God who exists and that he is greater than all that we can imagine and he created and owns everything and doesn't need our advice and counsel to figure out how to run the world. The second thing we looked at is the Bible's teaching that God's purpose for all he does is for his glory. We were created by him in his image in order to reflect his glory and majesty and when we get side-tracked from that we lose our focus and then find ourselves without meaning and purpose.

Within ourselves we know that something is not right with the world, or even with ourselves for that matter. We have a sense of the kind of love that should pervade human society and yet that love is woefully missing. There are some glimmers of it, but there are an awful lot of dark places. This is true on a global scale and it is true within our own circle of family and friends. Things often seem pleasant and people seem happy, but there is a lot of friction, discontent, abuse, and anger around. We know this is true and we know it should be better than it is.

In addition to interpersonal and international frictions it seems as though nature is messed up. In many ways nature is beautiful, but even there we see death, violence and a sort of unsettledness both in the living world and in non-living aspects of the world such as weather and geological instability. How are we to explain this. Atheists and naturalists have their ways, but to me these are not satisfactory.

The Bible's explanation is that God gave one specific negative command. Human beings in the person of the first man Adam disobeyed God's command and rebelled against the creator and owner. As a result he brought the curse of death upon the whole human race and upon creation itself. The Bible says that the whole creation groans. (Romans 8:22) We as people groan because we are plagued with sickness and decaying bodies. We groan because making our living is not easy. Nature resists our attempts to grow food and to build a decent life for ourselves. We find rust and decay affecting virtually everything we make and it takes work to keep things in good repair and working order.

When God cursed us he told us that disobedience would cause death. And that is what we see all around us. As time went on God gave us more and more commandments in order to show us his character and to allow us to see just how far from his path we have wandered. Through the ten commandments and other moral instructions given in the Bible, God shows us where the line is and we can see clearly how far we've fallen and how impossible it is to live the way God designed us to live. Sometimes we look at commandments as overbearing and authoritarian, but God is the one who designed us and the rest of the world. He is the one who knows how these bodies, minds and spirits work best. His commands are to provide a way of living that works best. Ultimately we find that we can't live by those standards even if we try. We don't have it within us to comply. That too is part of the consequences of our fallen nature. We don't really want to live like God wants us to. We don't want God to be telling us what to do. We want our independence.

God tells us in Romans 1:18 and following that the crux of the problem is that even though we know God is there and that he is powerful, we naturally do not give him the glory that he is due and we are not thankful to him for all that he has provided. We just assume we have a right to everything. We end up worshipping and serving created things such as ourselves or the stuff we can own more than we worship God. This leads to sins of every kind that Paul lists for us in this passage. The chapter ends with these sobering words, “who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”

This is where many people jump ship. They say, “I just can't believe that being disobedient to my parents, or living in sexually immoral ways, or being selfish is worthy of the death penalty.” The neat thing about living in America is that we are free to believe anything we want and no one else can dictate our conscience to us. We can live in the ways described here and believe that we are just fine. We're allowed to do that. The thing we need to ask ourselves is whether all of this is OK with the God who is actually there. God is either like he is described in the Bible or he is not. At some point each of us has to come to grips with the possibility, and I would say reality, that God actually does have standards and that he actually does care how we live and that he actually does impose the death penalty on those who fall short of his standards.

Having said that, though, we need to resist the temptation to think that it is those other people who have that death penalty on them while we walk free. You see, the argument Paul is trying to make in the book of Romans is that every single person is guilty. In fact in the next verse after citing the death penalty, he makes this statement. “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.” Romans 2:1 I used to think this verse was not true of me. I would look at people who were doing terrible things and judge them and congratulate myself for not being like that. But this verse tells me quite clearly that I do the same things. Jesus for example tells us that to be angry is like murder in God's eyes. Lusting after a woman is like committing adultery. The standard is very high and I have fallen short. The death penalty looms.

Thus we end today's musings with the conundrum that God's standards are so high and so strict that we find everyone in the world is guilty before their creator and are under the just condemnation of God. Who then can be saved?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Musings on Faith and Life -- 2

 What am I doing here? That's the question many people struggle with. What is my purpose in life? Isn't there some overarching plan that would explain where I fit in?

The answer is yes. There is a plan, a design and purpose. The purpose and plan is that the Almighty God who created all things did so for his own enjoyment and glory. He wants us as rational creatures to also delight in that creation, to praise him for it and to enjoy it with him. He made us in his image and part of that image is that we ourselves are creative, thinking and enjoying individuals. God delights in relationship and he wants us to delight in it as well.

God has always existed in three persons and even before creation, the three persons of the God-head had fellowship, communication and love between them. When they said, “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26) they wanted to extend that love and fellowship with a particular part of the creation, namely human beings.

Everything God does is ultimately for his glory. In Psalms 4:2 God asks, “How long, O you sons of men, Will you turn my glory to shame? How long will you love worthlessness And seek falsehood?”

Isaiah 42:8 I am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images.

Isaiah 43:7 Everyone who is called by My name, Whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.”

All the way through the Bible God does things for the sake of his glory and for his great name's sake.

At this point some may think, “That's what I don't like about God. He is focused on himself and seems to go around trying to prove how great he is.”

The problem with this kind of thinking is that if it were a man making these claims it would definitely be egotistical and self-serving. But here's the point. God was and is all in all. Before he created, there was nothing but him. He made creation for himself. We show a small part of God's image when we create something for our enjoyment. And when we make something like a piece of artwork, it is for us to enjoy and for others to enjoy with us. Now suppose this piece of artwork somehow had a mind of its own and said that it didn't want to look as it does or it doesn't want to be hung where you decided to hang it or it didn't want to be sold for the price you had agreed to. Wouldn't it be ludicrous for a man-made project to try to dictate its own characteristics and value? This is exactly what God thinks about our reasoning.

In Romans 9:20, God asks, “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, 'Why have you made me like this?”'”

So my point today is that we need to remember that all of this is not about us. When we're asking the question as to why we are here or what is the meaning of life, we need to remember that the meaning at its core is that we are here for God's glory and everything we do and say is meant to exalt him and make him look good to others. If we're running around looking for ways to have the focus shift to ourselves, we will be sorely disappointed and find life to be ultimately meaningless. But if we look for ways to exalt him and demonstrate his greatness to others, we will find meaning and fulfillment in life.

Advice from Solomon

"Better what the eyes see than wandering desire." Ecclesiastes 6:9  I'm not sure what these means except to say that sometimes we live in the unreal world of what we wish would be true all the while missing the blessing of the actual people and things right around us today. We develop fantasies of a more perfect setting or more perfect relationships wishing that people or things were different from what they are. Paul reminded the Philippian Christians to think about the things that are true. I think that would be a wise way to approach today.

Lord, help me to live today in the reality of what is, and not waste time, energy and emotion on fantasies that don't and won't exist.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Musings on Faith and Life -- 1

I'm in the process of reading the book, The Explicit Gospel, by Matt Chandler. Matt is a young pastor of a large church in the Dallas area. I first heard of him at Together For The Gospel in 2010 (T4G) At the time he was dealing with a very serious cancer that now seems to be in remission. I had the opportunity to hear him speak at this year's T4G conference. He is very passionate about the gospel and is able to clearly explain it to today's generation.

One of the things that I appreciate about his book is that he starts where we always need to start and that is with God. That is where the Bible starts – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” I believe that we won't have a true perspective of who we are as people and what our predicament is until we consider who God is and what he is like. The Bible presents that for us throughout its pages. So let's look at that a little bit. What is God like?

In Job chapter 38, God responds to Job's questioning by basically asking, “Who are you to try to counsel me?” God goes on to ask Job where he was when God laid the foundations of the earth. He wonders if Job knows how the planets work or how the sea stays within its bounds or how light and darkness work and on and on it goes. God created everything there is and he owns it all. In the poetic language of Isaiah 40, God says that he has measured the waters of the earth in the hollow of his hand. He says that the nations to him are like a drop in the bucket.

So throughout the Bible we have God presented to us as an all-powerful, all-knowing spirit who has always existed. He is the one who created all that we see around us. He is described as a being who is actually a person in the sense that he thinks, creates, knows, and communicates. In other words he has a personality and is not just a force.

This God does not need our counsel or advice. We live at his discretion. Paul told the Athenians that God has given us life and breath and all things. He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not dwell in temples made with hands. He doesn't need anything since he is the one who has provided everything we have. He is the one who has made all people from one blood and has determined their preappointed times and boundaries for their existence on the earth. See Acts 17 beginning with verse 24 for the complete account of this discussion.

The thing I want us to think about today is the fact that we often go around defining everything the way we want it to be and flaunt our opinions as though they were significant in the whole scheme of things. Bring up any topic related to religion or morality and you will get countless opinions. Sentences start something like this, “My God would never ….. !” “It wouldn't be loving for God to....” “God would never forbid such-n-such because he wants us to be happy and to be self fulfilled.

I think it would be wise for us to take our many thoughts and opinions and submit them to evaluation by God's own statements of the way things are. We can wish all we want to have the God of our own creation, but that's actually not possible. We need to live in the real universe with the God who is really there, not in some imaginary place where there is a god of our own invention.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Verse of the Week -- Romans 5:19

Romans 5:19  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hymn of the Week -- A Mighty Fortress

1. A mighty fortress is our God, 
 a bulwark never failing; 
 our helper he amid the flood 
 of mortal ills prevaling.  
 For still our ancient foe 
 doth seek to work us woe; 
 his craft and power are great, 
 and armed with cruel hate, 
 on earth is not his equal.

2. Did we in our own strength confide, 
 our striving would be losing, 
 were not the right man on our side, 
 the man of God's own choosing.
 Dost ask who that may be?  
 Christ Jesus, it is he; 
 Lord Sabaoth, his name, 
 from age to age the same, 
 and he must win the battle.

3. And though this world, with devils filled, 
 should threaten to undo us, 
 we will not fear, for God hath willed 
 his truth to triumph through us.  
 The Prince of Darkness grim, 
 we tremble not for him; 
 his rage we can endure, 
 for lo, his doom is sure; 
 one little word shall fell him.

4. That word above all earthly powers, 
 no thanks to them, abideth; 
 the Spirit and the gifts are ours, 
 thru him who with us sideth.  
 Let goods and kindred go, 
 this mortal life also; 
 the body they may kill; 
 God's truth abideth still; 
 his kingdom is forever.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Verse of the Week - Romans 5:18

Romans 5:18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Song of the Week -- Behold Our God

We sang this song at T4G this week. Wonderful song!
Behold Our God
Verse 1
Who has held the oceans in His hands?
Who has numbered every grain of sand?
Kings and nations tremble at His voice
All creation rises to rejoice

Behold our God seated on His throne
Come, let us adore Him
Behold our King—nothing can compare
Come, let us adore Him

Verse 2
Who has given counsel to the Lord?
Who can question any of His words?
Who can teach the One who knows all things?
Who can fathom all His wondrous deeds?

Verse 3
Who has felt the nails upon His hands?
Bearing all the guilt of sinful man
God eternal, humbled to the grave
Jesus, Savior, risen now to reign

You will reign forever
Let Your glory fill the earth


from Risen, released 22 March 2011
Jonathan Baird, Meghan Baird, Ryan Baird, and Stephen Altrogge
© 2011 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)/Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

Monday, April 09, 2012

Verse of the Week - Romans 5:8

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Christ is Risen by Matt Maher

Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
We fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to Him who showed great love

And bled for us
Freely You've bled for us

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Beneath the weight of all our sin
You bowed to none but Heaven's will
No scheme of Hell, no scoffer's crown
No burden great can hold You down

In strength You reign
Forever let Your church proclaim

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
O church, come stand in the light
The glory of God has defeated the night

Sing it, o death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
O church, come stand in the light
Our God is not dead, He's alive, He's alive

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave
Rise up from the grave

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Love Lustres at Calvary -- from Valley of Vision

My Father,

Enlarge my heart, warm my affections,
open my lips,
supply words that proclaim ‘Love Lustres at Calvary.’
There grace removes my burdens
and heaps them on thy Son,
made a transgressor, a curse, and sin for me;
There the sword of thy justice smote the man,
thy fellow;
There thy infinite attributes were magnified,
and infinite atonement was made;
There infinite punishment was due,
and infinite punishment was endured.

Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,
cast off that I might be brought in,
trodden down as an enemy
that I might be welcomed as a friend,
surrendered to hell’s worst
that I might attain heaven’s best,
stripped that I might be clothed,
wounded that I might be healed,
athirst that I might drink,
tormented that I might be comforted,
made a shame that I might inherit glory,
entered darkness that I might have eternal light.

My Savior wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,
groaned that I might have endless song,
endured all pain that I might have unfading health,
bore a thorny crown that I might have a glory-diadem,
bowed his head that I might uplift mine,
experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,
closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclothed brightness,
expired that I might forever live.

O Father, who spared not thine own Son
that thou mightest spare me,
All this transfer thy love designed and accomplished;
Help me to adore thee by lips and life.
O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise,
my every step buoyant with delight,
as I see my enemies crushed,
Satan baffled, defeated, destroyed,
sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood,
hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portal open.
Go forth, O conquering God, and show me
the cross, mighty to subdue, comfort and save.

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Precious Blood

For Good Friday, a prayer from the Puritan book "The Valley of Vision"

Blessed Lord Jesus,
Before thy cross I kneel and see
     the heinousness of my sin,
     my iniquity that caused thee to be 'made a curse',
     the evil that excites the severity of divine wrath.
Show me the enormity of my guilt by
     te crown of thorns,
     the pierced hands and feet,
     the bruised body,
     the dying cries.
Thy blood is the blood of incarnate God,
     its worth infinite, its value beyond all thought.
Infinite must be the evil and guilt that demands such a price.
Sin is my malady, my monster, my foe, my viper,
     born in my birth,
     alive in my life,
     strong in my character,
     dominating my faculties,
     following me as a shadow,
     intermingling with my every thought,
     my chain that holds me captive in the empire of my soul.
Sinner that I am, why should the sun give me light,
     the air supply breath,
     the earth bear my tread,
     its fruits nourish me,
     its creatures subserve my ends?
Yet thy compassions yearn over me,
     thy hear hastens to my rescue,
     thy love endured my curse,
    thy mercy bore my deserved stripes.
Let me walk humbly in the lowest depths of humiliation,
     bathed in thy blood,
     tender of conscience,
     triumphing gloriously as an heir of salvation.

From Valley of Vision, compiled by Arthur Bennett, published by Banner of Truth.  Page 41