Tuesday, January 29, 2013

God With Us

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,and God himself will be with them as their God.  Revelation 21:3
The glorious and infinite God, who made the worlds, and upholds them by his word, who is praised continually by his heavenly hosts; this God, has sent to you a joyful message to raise you from the dust, and banish the terrors and troubles from your hearts, and help you to live like the sons of God.  He takes notice of your sorrows.  He stands close by when you do not see him and feel he has forsaken you.  He attends you with the greatest tenderness when you say he has forgotten you.  He numbers your sighs and bottles up your tears.  He feels the groans of your heart.  Providence heaps up mountains of daily mercies, but do you see and feel and taste his mercy and love?  Do you live wholly on it?  Do you doubt it, and so hardly acknowledge it?  The flesh plays a part in this and the remnants of our corruption.  The serpent will always be suggesting false thoughts of God.  But soon, our Redeemer will return to give you such a convincing demonstration of his love as to leave no room for one more doubt.  Your comforts are now a taste, but then, they shall be a feast.  How soon do our conquered fears return, and what inconstancy and unevenness is there in our peace!  Then, our peace will be perfect and permanent.  We shall then enjoy him continually.  O Christians, our comforts should be more abundant, but we do make a mistake by expecting too much on earth.  Our true rest in heaven will be our peace indeed.  Looking off to these yet unseen blessings is an eminent part of our faith.  It is in the apprehension and expectation of our yet unseen heavenly blessings that our earthly peace and safety depend.  O that Christians were careful to live with one eye on Christ crucified, and the other on his glory!

From "Voices from the Past" Edited By Richard Rushing, page 137, published by Banner of Truth Trust 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Memorization Monday - Hebrews 2:1

Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.

The writer of the book of Hebrews has just finished explaining that Jesus Christ is greater than the angels and if it was important to listen to them, how much more important it is to listen to Jesus Christ. And he is emphasizing the point that it is important to give earnest heed. That means to pay close attention with a lot of effort on our part. The danger is that if we don't pay close attention we may drift away. It's like being in a boat and just drifting along with the current without paying any attention as to where we are going. It is likely we will be in a place where we don't want to be.

So let's pay attention to all that Jesus Christ has said and prevent that drifting to which we are all vulnerable.

If you would like to see the entire list of recommended verses from Hebrews to memorize in 2013, check here.

We've also produced a Bible study guide on the book of Hebrews you may be interested in. You can find it here.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hymn of the Week - Holy, Holy, Holy

1. Holy, holy, holy!  Lord God Almighty!
 Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
 Holy, holy, holy!  Merciful and mighty,
 God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

2. Holy, holy, holy!  All the saints adore thee,
 casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
 cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
 which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

3. Holy, holy, holy!  Though the darkness hide thee,
 though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
 only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
 perfect in power, in love and purity.

4. Holy, holy, holy!  Lord God Almighty!
 All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.
 Holy, holy, holy!  Merciful and mighty,
 God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Redeemed from the Curse - A Puritan Devotional

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ”Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”.  Galatians 3:13
The curse of the law condemns the sinner to death in soul and body. Nothing can free the soul, but Christ.  The curse of the law is the most dreadful thing imaginable; it strikes at the eternal life of the soul, and when it has pronounced its verdict, it is immovable; no tears or reformation can free the guilty sinner.  It requires an infinite satisfaction that no mere creature can give.  Christ frees the believer form this curse.  He dissolves the obligation to punishment ad cancels all the bonds and chains of guilt.  This is done by the full price being paid in place of the sinner, making a complete and full satisfaction.  The ransom was paid in full and is sufficient.  Christ was made a curse for us.  It was an act of the God-man; no other was capable of giving satisfaction for an infinite wrong done to God.  Christ’s satisfaction for us was in obedience to God (Phil. 2:8) and his love to us in a most free and spontaneous act with respect to himself.  He was moved out of pity and love to us (Gal. 5:2).  Paul sweetly reflected on ‘the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Gal. 2:20).  Since God is just, he cannot condemn the believer, since Christ has satisfied his debts.  Does Satan or conscience set forth your sin in all of its discouraging circumstances?  God has set forth Christ as a propitiation.  O how comfortable a text is this!  It is real, proper, and full.  His blood is the blood of assurance.  The father with great severity exacted satisfaction for our sins upon his soul and body.  With the obedience of his Son he was fully pleased and satisfied.  Our faith in the satisfaction of Christ is built on the everlasting sealed truth of God.  We should humbly adore the grace of God in providing such an assurance for us.

From "Voices from the Past" Edited By Richard Rushing, page 135, published by Banner of Truth Trust 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Are There Few Who Will Be Saved?

Are there few who will be saved?  This is a question someone asked Jesus as recorded in Luke 13:22.
This article is part of a series on questions recorded in the Bible.

So what is the answer?  Are there few who will be saved?  Jesus' answer is as follows: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able." Jesus spoke about this issue in His sermon on the mount in Matthew 7. There He says this:“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."

So here is what Jesus teaches us in these two passages:
 1) There are two gates and two paths that are available.
 2) One gate is wide and the path behind it is wide.
3) The other gate is narrow, constricted and difficult and the corresponding path is also narrow.
4) The wide gate and path lead ultimately to destruction; to eternal punishment separated from God.
5) The narrow gate and path lead ultimately to life; to eternal life with God.
6) Many people go through the wide gate and take the wide path.
7) Few go in the narrow gate because there are few who find it. Many seek it but are not able. I assume they aren't able because it is difficult to find and difficult to enter.

Jesus' challenge is to strive or agonize to enter the narrow gate. He wants people to realize that there is a way to eternal life and although it is a narrow and difficult path it is worth pursuing so make every effort to enter the narrow gate.

Now why is it that so many people miss it. Here's what I think. Paul, in Romans 10:3 says about his Jewish brothers, "For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God."  I think what we all try to do is to find a way to earn our way to God. We believe that God will weigh our good and bad deeds against each other and if we have earned enough points, we will be allowed into heaven. The problem of this is that this is not what God is like. God cannot make deals like that. He can't just ignore the fact that we are guilty of many crimes against His reign. Doing so would not be just. So we've invented a God of our own design. Most people are ignorant of God's righteousness, as Romans 10 says, and are trying to establish their own. But God is worthy of nothing less than perfection, and who can achieve that!?

The Bible presents us with a God we could have never thought up. The God of the Bible, in order to satisfy justice and at the same time demonstrate love, came here and took the punishment Himself. Then He offered His perfect righteousness as a gift in exchange for our sinfulness and imperfection. He took the sin and imperfection on Himself. He is simply offering that exchange to anyone who would humble himself or herself and admit that reaching God through our own goodness or effort will not work. We are completely at His mercy.

This last part is the stumbling block for most people. We so desperately want our salvation to be on our own terms. We cannot admit that we are hopelessly lost and have to submit to God's way of doing things.   That's why so few people find that narrow door. How about you?  Have you found it?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Praying while Abiding

There are many conditions for answered prayer given in the New Testament. I'm not going to pretend that we will cover them all in this series. But hopefully the ones we do cover will be an encouragement to you in your prayer life.

John 15:7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.

This is an interesting condition for prayer. In John 15 Jesus tells us that just like a branch abides in a vine in order to bear fruit, we as Jesus' followers should abide in Him.  He is the source of our life. As He said in this passage, "Without me you can do nothing."

So in this verse He is telling us that in order for our prayers to be answered, we need to be abiding in Him. Our life and His life need to be vitally connected. Without that connection we are not truly in Him. Secondly He tells us that His words need to abide in us. That means that we need to be taking in the Word of God and paying attention to what it says. We must believe what He said and let His words be the foundation of our thinking and our behavior. If we are just doing our own thing, we are not really letting His words abide in us.

Now notice in this promise as in many of the other promises I mention in this series, there is the key word it. If we do such and such then it will be done or given. I am far from an expert on prayer, but I do understand language. Often times I don't get what I ask for in prayer. I am convinced that it is not because God is fudging on His promises or that He didn't really say what He means. I think we don't see answers because we don't meet the conditions.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Praying - In Jesus Name

There are many conditions for answered prayer given in the New Testament. I'm not going to pretend that we will cover them all in this series. But hopefully the ones we do cover will be an encouragement to you in your prayer life.

Jesus tells us that we should pray in His name.

 John 16:24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

What does it mean to pray in Jesus' name?  It doesn't mean that we just tack on "In Jesus Name amen" at the end of our prayers. When a representative of our government visits a foreign leader and makes some request in the name of the President, it's as good and means as much as if the President were there actually making the request. So when we pray in Jesus' Name, we are saying to God that we are speaking on Jesus' authority. We are coming with His permission and what we are asking for is what He would be asking for if He were there. To me this means that I need to be more careful what I ask for. God wants us to come boldly before His throne so that we may find grace to help in time of need, but we need to be careful of making demands and having expectations that are not in line at all with what Jesus Himself would want. This means we need to be faithful in getting to know Jesus better and better by our personal reading, study and meditation on His Word.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Praying - Agreement

There are many conditions for answered prayer given in the New Testament. I'm not going to pretend that we will cover them all in this series. But hopefully the ones we do cover will be an encouragement to you in your prayer life.

Today we are thinking about the condition of agreement.

 Mt 18:19 “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.

This verse occurs in the context of church discipline so the primary emphasis here is on two agreeing about the discipline of a brother in Christ. But there is the broader concept that it pleases God for Christian brothers to be in agreement in prayer. There is definitely a benefit for Christians to gather together for prayer. The New Testament believers "continue steadfastly in ... prayer" (Acts 2:42)

So let me encourage you to look at your life routine and make sure that you are sharing prayer needs with others and praying with others for God to accomplish His glory in your life.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Memorization Monday - Hebrews 1:3

Heb 1:3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

This passage is telling us that Jesus is the brightness of God's glory and more interestingly the very impress or stamp of the image of God. It is Jesus Christ who upholds everything by His powerful word and it is He who purged our sins and removed them from all of those who trust in Him.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hymn of the Week - Come Thou Almighty King

1. Come, thou almighty King,
 help us thy name to sing,
 help us to praise!
 Father all glorious,
 o'er all victorious,
 come and reign over us, Ancient of Days!

2. Come, thou incarnate Word,
 gird on thy mighty sword,
 our prayer attend!
 Come, and thy people bless,
 and give thy word success,
 Spirit of holiness, on us descend!

3. Come, holy Comforter,
 thy sacred witness bear
 in this glad hour.
 Thou who almighty art,
 now rule in every heart,
 and ne'er from us depart, Spirit of power!

4. To thee, great One in Three,
 eternal praises be,
 hence, evermore.
 Thy sovereign majesty
 may we in glory see,
 and to eternity love and adore!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Praying - Believe

There are many conditions for answered prayer given in the New Testament. I'm not going to pretend that we will cover them all in this series. But hopefully the ones we do cover will be an encouragement to you in your prayer life.

Today we are looking at the condition of believing.

Mk 11:24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

 When we pray we need to believe that we will receive what we ask. Now you might be thinking, "That's too much of a blank check." Remember, there are many conditions to answered prayer. This is one of them.

 Remember what James writes about asking for wisdom:
Jas 1:4-8 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Notice the emphasis on believing. We must trust God and believe that He is faithful to His promises.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Praying -- Be Persistent

There are many conditions for answered prayer given in the New Testament. I'm not going to pretend that we will cover them all in this series. But hopefully the ones we do cover will be an encouragement to you in your prayer life.

The first condition is persistence.

Mt 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

The words "ask", "seek", and "knock" are written in such a way as to mean "keep asking", "keep on seeking" and "keep on knocking."  God expects us to keep at it and not give up.

So keep it up. I presume God wants to know that we are serious. But, remember, there are other conditions as well, so make sure you're being faithful in each area as you pray.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mars Hill Audio Journal -- A Great Resource

Quite a while ago I discovered a wonderful resource for people who want to think a little more deeply about culture and its relationship to the Christian faith. By culture I'm speaking of music, the arts, literature, the media, and so forth. About 20 years ago a man by the name of Ken Myers started an audio magazine called Mars Hill Audio Journal. In these bi-monthly CDs or mp3s, Ken interviews writers, artists and professors and discusses their work in an intellectual but easy-to-understand approach.

I subscribed some time ago and it's been a great help in my thinking about the way God works in the world through the creativity of people. It's a simple way to fill in some of the gaps of college courses you may not have taken... or have forgotten.  Myer's efforts were recently highlighted in article in the Weekly Standard. Because I'm not a particularly good reviewer, I'm quoting a couple of paragraphs from that article that I think summarize my take on this audio journal. The entire Weekly Standard Article can be found here.

The Mars Hill Audio Journal and the resources they provide can be found here.

Here then are excerpts from the Weekly Standard article:

The Journal demonstrates how closely the interests and worries of a conservative Christian intellectual overlap those of any curious traditionalist or cultural conservative, believing or non. Myers’s own curiosity is inexhaustible. On the website’s topic index​—​choosing a letter at random​—​you’ll find under “M” segments on Mondrian (Piet) and Moore (Michael), memory and money, Mendelssohn and Marsalis, masculinity and materialism. I popped in Issue 102 the other day and heard Myers’s pleasant tenor saying, by way of preface: “Is creation meaningful, and if it is, is its meaning perceptible?” This rousing intro opened a series of ruminations and interviews with a variety of scholars and writers.

“I’ve always thought that beautiful art was a great apologetic resource,” Myers says. Beauty is the chief attribute of God, said Jonathan (not Bob) Edwards. “Beauty points to a Creator.” Yet the church, Myers says, “capitulates more and more to the culture of entertainment.”
“It’s a way of keeping market share. But they’re digging their own grave. There’s a short-term benefit, but in the long term the kinds of cultural resources they need to be faithful to the Gospel won’t be there.”

Things haven’t been much better in the conservative movement, to the extent that it still exists. The idea that conservatives should have a special interest in high culture​—​the best that has been thought and said, sung and played, carved and drawn​—​has been selectively applied. In speeches and in the Journal Myers has often raised the question of why political conservatives, who defended the literary canon, the Great Books, with such energy in the eighties and nineties, went limp when it came to defending other traditional forms of cultural expression.

“Here is where the religious right and the secular left are in complete agreement: They both think God doesn’t care about culture.” The secularists believe this because God doesn’t exist; the religious conservatives believe it because God is beyond such questions. Which is why religious culture nowadays bears such a close resemblance to the larger culture, where most talk of religion is considered in bad taste.

He has big plans for the next few years, with a particular attention to music. He’s planning a series of podcasts on the standard classical repertoire​—​one piece per podcast​—​and another on sacred choral music, which he’s pursuing with a special ardor.
“I hear interviews with the singers and conductors who perform these works, and so many of them say they don’t really believe what they’re singing,” he says. “And meanwhile, the people who do believe it don’t know anything about it!” He has a wounded look. “It’s just a horrible, horrible thing.”

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Puritan Devotional

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?  Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?  Matthew 16:26

In worldly concerns, men discern their opportunities, and are careful to improve them before they are past.  The farmer is careful to plough his ground and sow his seed in the seed in the proper season.  When the harvest is come, he will not sleep away the time, or the crop will soon be lost.  How careful and eagle-eye is the merchant to improve opportunities to enrich himself!  How apt are men to be alarmed at the appearance of danger to their worldly estate!  O how they stir themselves inn such a case to avoid the threatened calamity!  But if we consider how men generally conduct themselves in things on which their wellbeing infinitely depends, how vast is the difference.  In these things, how cold, lifeless, and negligent most are.  How few among the multitudes are wise!  What a need there is for a constant repetition of admonition and counsel, to keep the heart from falling asleep!  How many objections are made!  O how difficulties are magnified, and how soon is the mind discouraged!  How unaware men are of the need to improve their time for their spiritual interest, and their welfare in another world!  How hardly convinced are men of the uncertainly of life and its enjoyments!  We have abundant instructions to lead and conduct us in the paths of righteousness.  They are abundantly set before us in the Word of God.  Scripture is adapted to the faculties of mankind, to greatly enlighten the mind.  We have far greater means to assist us to be wise in eternal things as real, it cannot be for lack of sufficient evidence of their truth which is manifested by the clearest evidence.
From "Voices from the Past" Edited By Richard Rushing, page 128, published by Banner of Truth Trust

Monday, January 14, 2013

Memorization Monday - Hebrews 1:2

Today's verse continues the sentence from Hebrews 1:1 posted last week. I'm posting both verses so that the context is easier to follow:

Hebrews 1:1-2 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hebrews Bible Study

I've been working for quite some time on a Bible study guide for the book of Hebrews. I taught this book in an adult Sunday School class some time ago and wanted to make it available for other Christians who would enjoy having a guide for personal Bible study in one of the books of the Bible.

This Bible study is for regular Christians. It isn't meant to be scholarly. If you decide to do the study you can email me at any time if you want to discuss any of the questions or topics. You can email me at rtuinstra47@gmail.com

You can make copies of the study so that you can use it with a Sunday school class or a small group Bible study. The only thing I ask is that you don't make any modifications in the material. There is a version with answers available. If you want that, you can email me with information as to how you plan to use the material, what kind of group you're working with, how many people are in it, age group it is for, etc.

My goal is that many more Christians will find value and spiritual reward in studying the Scripture in a deep way so that it's truth becomes deeply imbedded in our lives.

The link for the pdf form of the Bible study is here.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Memorization Monday - Hebrews 1:1

This year on memorization Mondays, I am going to be posting verses that summarize the teaching of the book of Hebrews. I thought this would be a good way for me and others to hide God's Word in our hearts in such a way that we have a grasp of an entire book of the Bible by the end of the year. The entire list can be found here.

Hebrews 1:1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,

Now the verse ends there, but the sentence does not and so to pick up the entire thought you need to put both verses 1 and 2 together. As you think about these verses there are several things to notice. First God has spoken. He did not remain silent. He is a communicating God. Second, God uses various ways to speak. He has spoken through prophets and others in the Old Testament. But verse 2 tells us that now His last communication has been to speak "in Son." That is, He has spoken through Jesus Christ. He has nothing else to say to us at this point in history. Jesus is all that needs to be said, and the record of the Old and New Testaments is all that we need to know for a life of godliness.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A New Year, the Same Truth

The New Year has arrived, and many people are getting ready to put their resolutions into practice. That ought to last at least a few days. Do you find, like I do, that New Year's resolutions don't last all that long? In spite of that, the New Year does offer us the occasion to evaluate where we are headed and make course corrections if necessary.

One of the things I thought about upon entering this new year is that the basic disciplines of the Christian life are still the same. Often we scramble around looking for the secrets of victory over temptation or growing more godly. But it turns out to be the case that it's the basics that count. Have you seen all of those ads for exercise equipment? They promise you a more fit body in 2013 if you would just use their equipment at least three times a week. For most of these, the crucial factor is the "three times a week." It's doing it that matters and the same thing is true in the Christian life.

So let's review. What are those disciplines?

Bible Reading:  Adopt a plan you can keep up with and keep at it. If you can't keep the base for reading your Bible in a year, that's ok. Read a couple of chapters in the Old Testament, a chapter in the New Testament and a psalm or proverbs. Keep track of where you are, and if you get behind or miss a day, pick up where you left off.

Bible Memorization: Another important discipline is to memorize Scripture. Decide on a plan and work on it steadily. If you can memorize a verse a week. Do that. If you can only memorize a verse a month, do that. Some of my favorite memorization resources are listed here. I've also put together a list of verses highlighting the key verses in the book of Hebrews. That's what I'm going to be working on this year. You can find that list here.

Meditation:  The Scripture is the truth, and God promises success to those who meditate regularly on it. Joshua 1:8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. See also Psalm 1:2,3

Bible Study: Every Christian should be regularly studying the Scriptures. There are many good resources available. I've listed some of them here.

Prayer: We listen to God through His Word. We speak to God through prayer. Every Christians should set aside a regular prayer time each day to speak to God in a quiet and undisturbed area. I've put together a list of some key prayer promise verses with a suggestion as to how to mark your Bible margins so that you can move from one to another easily.  You can find that document here.

Group Worship: It's important to meet regularly with other Christians to worship and pray. It's simple to evaluate yourself in this area. As yourself, "Do I meet together with others for worship regularly?" And then ask yourself, "Do I meet together with other Christians regularly to pray?" Both aspects are necessary. Acts 2:42 "And they [speaking of the early Christians] continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers."

There is obviously much more that could be said, but I believe these are the foundational and basic personal Christian disciplines. Instead of looking around for some new secret, make these personal practices a regular routine and you will find yourself growing in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.