In the Face of the Future

If you know me at all you know of my love for Charles Spurgeon, the Baptist pastor from the 1800s in London, England.  I wanted to share with you a comment that he made on Isaiah 46:9-10

Here is what Spurgeon had to say:

“World events are not tangled, confused, or perplexing to God. “For I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” (Isa 46:9-10)

Yahweh’s power is apparent, from the least to the greatest, for God is in all and rules all.  He guides the grain of dust in the March wind and the planets in their immeasurable pathways.  He steers each drop of spray beaten back from the face of the rock. He leads the north star (Jer. 31:35).  God is the dictator of destinies.  He appoints both the ideas and the end.  He is the King of kings (Rev. 19:16), ruling rulers and guiding counselors.

He is the same in the crash of battle or in the hush of peace.  He is the same in famine or in the joy of abundant harvest.  He is Lord.  He does according to His will, no only in heaven but among the inhabitants of this lower world.

The storm may rage, but all is well, for our Captain is the governor of storms.  He who trod the waves of the Galilean lake is at the helm, and at his command winds and waves are quiet (Matt 14:27).

Courage, dear friend.  The Lord, the ever-merciful, has appointed every moment of sorrow and pang of suffering.  If He ordains the number ten, it can never rise to eleven, nor should  you desire that it shrink to nine.

The Lord’s time is best.  The span of your life is measured to a hair’s width.  Restless soul, God ordains all, so let the Lord have His way.”

These are words of great comfort from the “prince of preachers” over a hundred years ago.  Isn’t it amazing that truth never changes.  Fads come and go, but God’s truth is eternal.  It is in our best interest to know His ways and adjust our lives to that.  When we sing the song, “Our God Reigns”, it is not just words . . . It is the expression of one of Scriptures greatest themes.

And if He reigns we have nothing to fear, as his adopted children.  May we learn to more fully trust Him and walk with Him in obedience.

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The Paradoxes of the Christian Life

I was reflecting the past few days on how many paradoxes there are in the Christian life.  Things that seem to be contradictory, but are in fact, well, fact!!  As I was thinking about this I did something that I do daily, I picked up one of my copies of  The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers.  There it was, the very first entry in the book.  But it was kinda standing alone, not categorized as all the other prayers are.  I’ve been reading this book almost daily for at least 15 years, yet in all that time I had never read this first and introductory prayer.  I really thought that a bit strange, but if I have read it, I don’t remember it.  So it was like new and fresh water to my soul.  And it dealt with the subject on which I had been thinking.

I thought you might benefit from it also:

The Valley of Vision

Lord, High and Holy, Meek and Lowly,

You have brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Your glory.

Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter the stars shine;

Let me find Your light in my darkness,
Your life in my death,
Your joy in my sorrow,
Your grace in my sin,
Your riches in my poverty,
Your glory in my valley.

A worthy prayer, and a pretty good description of the Christian life.

Dear Friend, Faithful Believer to the End

UPDATE: The memorial service for Michael will be Saturday, April 10, at 2:30pm in the chapel of Oneida Baptist Institute, Oneida, KY.  Visitation will begin at 12:30 and continue until the time of the service.

Michael Spencer (1956-2010)

Last night at about 7:00 a dear friend and fellow laborer in the Gospel of Jesus Christ was ushered into the presence of our Lord.  Most people who know Michael know him as the Internet Monk, where he has written for the past 10 years.  He was always provocative and deeply insightful.  Michael and I became friends some years back and from the first meeting it was as though we had been lifelong friends.  Many who read his blog would think Michael to be a very opinionated man . . . and to some extent they would be right.  But to know him was to know a man who deeply loved Jesus and desired to see His church be faithful to the call of Christ.  Because of that love for Jesus he had a Biblical humility when you were in his presence.  I loved the way he described himself in his BIO on his blog:

Michael is much more opinionated on paper than in person. He describes himself as a New Covenant, Reformation-loving, post-evangelical Christian in search of a Jesus shaped spirituality. He has great appreciation for the ancient church, missions, Christian community and theological underdogs.

Some of my best memories since moving to Kentucky involve sitting across from Michael, eating Mexican food, and talking theology.  Those times will be missed greatly!!

I was with Michael and Denise a few weeks back when the doctor informed them that the chemo was not working, the cancer was too advanced and too aggressive.  I wept that there was really no treatment nor would there be any remission, short of a miracle.  My prayer, and I admit it was a selfish one, was that without the chemo attacking his body that he  might regain some strength for a season and we could have some of those Mexican dinners and theological discussions again, at least for awhile.

But as we are all painfully aware, God’s ways are not our ways, and we rest in the knowledge that His ways are perfect.  Michael is perfectly healed today. No cancer, no pain, no struggles, just glorious worship in the presence of His Lord.  The iMonk may have left the earth, but he is alive . . . for one reason, Jesus is alive.

Prayer for his family, wife Denise, children Noel and Clay, as well as their spouses.  The funeral/memorial service is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, April 10, in the chapel of Oneida Baptist Institute in Oneida, KY.

Good Theology in the Strangest Places

Since we live in a world (even churches)  that tends to downplay “theology” and “doctrine” as something of a bother, it is good to run across it, even in the most unusual places.  A few weeks back I read an interview of one of the “new atheists”, Christopher Hinchens.  The interview was conducted by a Unitarian minister Marilyn Sewell and was published in the Portland Monthly Magazine.  For most of the interview it was pretty much what you would expect — religion is not good, God is a tyrant, Christianity was not founded by Jesus but by Paul, etc.  But there was one very brief exchange that caught my eye.  In this Q&A the atheist schools the “minister” in a bit of truth:

Sewell: The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the Scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make any distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

Hitchens: I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

I used this exchange to end my Easter sermon yesterday.  It applies . . . the Apostle Paul said in Romans 10:9, ” . . . if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved;” He also told the Christians at Corinth, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain . . . and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor 15:14, 17).

The resurrection of Christ is central to all Christian truth.  To deny it is to deny the atonement.  To deny these matters is of great peril to your soul.

Crucifixion & Resurrection — A Puritan Prayer

More for  your preparation for this coming Sunday’s worship.  I shared this prayer (slightly modified) as the pastoral prayer this past Sunday at Grace Baptist.  It speaks the truth about what we should be seeking as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s atonement and resurrection:

Oh LORD,

We marvel that You should become incarnate,
be crucified, dead and buried.
The sepulcher calls forth our adoring wonder,
for it is empty and You are risen;
the Gospel attests it,
the living witnesses prove it,
our hearts’ experience know it.
Give us the grace to die with You that we may rise to new life,
for we wish to be as dead and buried
to sin, to selfishness, to the world;
that we might not hear the voice of the deceiver
and might be delivered from his lusts.
O LORD, there is much sin about us – crucify it,
much flesh within us – mortify it.
Purge us from selfishness, the fear of man, the love of man’s approval,
the shame of being thought old-fashioned,
the desire to be cultured or modern.
Let us reckon our old life dead because of crucifixion,
and never feed it as a living thing.
Grant us to stand with our dying Savior,
to be content to be rejected,
to be willing to take up unpopular truths,
and to hold fast despised teachings until death.
Help us to be resolute and Christ-contained,
Never let us wander from the path of obedience to Your will.
Strengthen us for the battles ahead.
Give us courage for all the trials, and grace for all the joys.
Help us to be a holy, happy people,
free from every wrong desire,
from everything contrary to Your mind.
Grant us more and more of the resurrection life:
may it rule us,
may we walk in its power, and be strengthened through its influence.

Worship Preparation for Easter Weekend

This week is celebrated as a special time by the Church of Jesus Christ.  I am aware of the fact that EVERY SUNDAY is, or should be, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, but the church has historically set this Sunday apart for special emphasis.  While we should prepare ourselves for worship each week and not just expect it to “happen” because we enter a door to a building, perhaps many of you will think even more about our Lord’s sacrifice and resurrection this week.  Here are two of my favorite songs related to this week.  I hope they minister to you and help you prepare to worship the Living King this week.

I love this quote from Mark Driscoll in Doctrine:  “If Jesus is dead, then Christianity is dead. If Jesus is alive, then Christianity is alive.”  JESUS IS ALIVE, SHOUT IT AND PROCLAIM IT THIS WEEK!!!

A Shocking Thing That We Should Forget

One of my favorite New Testament theologians is Donald Carson of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago.  Anything you can read that he has written will be well worth your time.  Lectures and sermons that you can find in simple Google searches on the internet can give you hours of rich nourishment in God’s word.

One thing that many “fans” of Carson don’t know is that he has also written a collection of hymns that are collected in the album “Shout for Delight.”  They are all very good and worshipful, but there is one in particular that always ministers to me and also brings just a bit of conviction.  It is a communion hymn entitled “A Shocking Thing.”  I give you the lyrics below for your edification. You can find the CD and some samples HERE.

A SHOCKING THING

A shocking thing, this, that we should forget
The Savior who gave up his life –
To turn from the cross, indifferent, and let
Our minds veer toward self-love and strife.
The table, this rite, is habit – and yet
Christ’s words pierce our shame like a knife:

While breaking the bread, the Lord Jesus said,
“Do this in remembrance of me.”

Enamored with power, surrounded with praise,
We set out our ecclesial plans.
Efficiency hums, and we spend our days
Defending, promoting our stands.
Techniques multiply, our structures amaze –
The gospel slips out of our hands.

While breaking the bread, the Lord Jesus said,
“Do this in remembrance of me.
O remember, remember the cross.
From my side issued water and blood,
This was no accident,
I bore the wrath of my God.”

“Remember my bed, the dank cattle shed,
Though glory was all my domain.
Remember the years of service and tears
That climaxed in lashings of pain.
By God’s own decree, your guilt fell on me,
And all of my loss is your gain.”

While breaking the bread, the Lord Jesus said,
“Do this in remembrance of me.”

“Remember my tears, Gethsemene’s fears;
Recall that my followers fled,
That I was betrayed, disowned and arraigned –
The Prince of Life crucified, dead.
Remember your shame, your sin and your blame;
Remember the blood that I shed.”

While lifting the cup, the Savior spoke up,
“Do this in remembrance of me.”

So now when we eat this feast simply spread
I blush I forget to recall.
For this quiet rite means once more I have fed
On bread that gave life once for all;
Memorial feast—just wine, broken bread—
And time to reflect on Christ’s call:

While breaking the bread, the Lord Jesus said,
“Do this in remembrance of me.”