Psalm 13…From Howling to Hallelujah!

Psalm 13 was written by David during a time of great trial, trial so pronounced that Charles Spurgeon called it his “Howling Psalm.” Exactly what his trials were at its writing really doesn’t matter. In truth, most of David’s life was beset by trials from all sides. The amazing fact is that this short psalm was written to be sung! Hardly the subject of a contemporary worship song!

In six short verses, David’s perspective changes three times:

In verses 1-2, David uses one of his favorite phrases, “How long?”, directing his attention inward to himself, his soul and his heart.

In verses 2-3, David directs his attention outward to the situation with his enemies, concerned that they may say they have “prevailed” over him.

Finally, in verses 5-6, David directs his attention where it should have been all along – UPWARD! He looks to his God, His steadfast love and His salvation.

Amazingly, over the course of these few verses, David turns his “howling” into “hallelujahs,” by focusing on his God, “who has dealth bountifully with me.”

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The True “Call to Worship”

In the book of Nehemiah, as God’s people were turning back to Him, their response was extraordinary, a response that is seen too seldom in today’s churches. They did not seek inspiring messages, entertaining events, cutting edge marketing techniques, catchy tunes, insightfulBible-two-edged-sword- homilies, or clever speeches. They wanted one thing and one thing only:

BRING OUT THE BOOK!”

And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the LORD had given to Israel. – Neh. 8:1

Any worship service that does not “BRING OUT THE BOOK” is not true to its name.

In your worship, corporate as well as personal, be sure you BRING OUT THE BOOK!

“Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth.” – John 17:17

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We Hurt…And God is Where?

Pain, death, heartbreak, disease, sadness, to be human assures such experiences. In the face of this, the obvious question is: “Where is a loving God in all of this?!”

Allow me to share some insights from an extraordinary author of mystery stories: Dorothy Sayers, the creator of the inimitable Lord Peter Wimsey novels (which I recommend highly), has penned some extraordinary essays on our faith. Here are some of her words from Creed or Chaos?

“For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is— limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—He had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine. Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair and death.”

As we read in Hebrews 4:14-16 – Since then we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

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The “Mind of God and the “Mind of Christ”

I recently was challenged to understand the relationship between two key verses in Scripture that speak of “the mind of God” and the “mind of Christ,” the Son of God.

Allow me to present my conundrum by first citing them:

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” – Rom. 11:34 (Clearly, the answer to this question is “No one!”)

And….

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” – 1 Cor. 2:16

Sounds like a conflict, doesn’t it? But I devoutly believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, so I must be “missing” something!

Let’s seek to resolve this by going to the writers. Could the authors of each work be using “mind” in a different manner? Sorry! Paul is the author of both epistles. Such a learned man, especially as inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16, another of his letters!) would certainly select his vocabulary with mathematical precision. Going to the original Greek confirms this, since Paul uses the same word each time we read the English word “mind”:

νοῦς  (nous) –  the intellect, that is, mind; by implication, understanding

So, what’s the answer? Clearly there are things God knows that are beyond our ken (I LOVE that word!). For example, speaking of God in Job 5:9, Job says “Who does great things unsearchable, marvelous things without number.” And we read in Deut. 29:29, that “the secret things belong to the Lord our God.” So, even though we are created Imago Dei (in the image of God), His mind will always be beyond us!

The 1 Cor. 2:16 passage seems to echo this concept, even using the same words as in Romans, but nonetheless also stating that we have the “mind of Christ.” This is where I “hit the Book” for understanding this “conflict.” The answer is quite straightforward. In His Incarnation, Christ the Son of God became a man, tempted as we were yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). In taking on the form of a servant, He acted totally and completely in accordance with the Father’s will (Phil. 2:6-9). As we confess our sins and experience the Spirit’s filling (Eph. 5:18), we can and will find ourselves experiencing and acting with the “mind of Christ.” 1 Cor. 2:14 makes this case clearly. Without the Holy Spirit, we were completely incapable of understanding God’s Word. I have often described this fact with a simple metaphor: before we experienced salvation, it’s as if we had only an AM transistor radio and God was transmitting His truth in FM stereo! In salvation God has upgraded our “equipment!”

After salvation, we are blessed to have access to the νουν χριστου (mind of Christ) as we prayerfully seek His wisdom! After all, it’s there for the asking! – James 1:5

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The Lamb of God…His Two Responsibilities

Jesus Christ is identified as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,” notably as introduced by John the Baptist in John 1:29, and restated the next day in John 1:36. He is identified as the Lamb of God, Ἀμνὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ, the Perfect Sacrifice, sufficient to meet the perfect standards of a holy God (1 Peter 1:16).

This same Lamb appears again in Revelation in quite another manner. As the six seal is opened in Rev. 6:15-16, all of mankind seeks to hide, crying out to the mountains and rocks, saying “fall on us and hide us from Him Who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.”

Extraordinary! This very Lamb of God, slain before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:19; Rev. 13:8), is the same Lamb that will execute judgment, for we read that only the Lamb is able open the seventh seal (Rev. 8:1ff), since all judgment is given to Him (John 5:22).

Christ, as the Lamb of God, died to save those who believe from the wrath of this same Lamb!

 

 

 

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“How was YOUR day, Job?”

NO ONE has ever had a day like Job had. Between loss of children, belongings, health, etc., his experience had to eclipse that of anyone this side of Christ on the cross.

Yet, in spite of all of this, he worshipped God (1:20), accepted the “trouble” from God (NOT Satan, 2:10) and vowed to trust Him, “though He slay me” (13:15).

And all this without ever reading the book that is his namesake! Extraodinary!

How was he able to do this? He listened with his faith, NOT his feelings. Job processed his painful experiences through solid doctrine – God is Sovereign, God is Just, God is Good.

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The Apologetics Waltz

Waltz stepsI have a sermon on Expository Apologetics by Voddie Baucham to thank for these insights. He presents three basic steps in sharing our faith with others. Although they are not always in this exact order, they are all critical fulfilling the mandate in 1 Peter 3:15 to “be ready to have an answer for the hope that is in you.” By the way, the word for “give an answer” is ἀπολογια (apologia), where we get our word Apologetics.

1. Listen Carefully. Take the time to be sure you truly understand what they are saying. Don’t listen just long enough to formulate your answer. When you do this, you aren’t really listening.  “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”                – Proverbs 18:13

2. Summarize Generously. Repeat their position back to them to confirm that you truly understand their points. Help them make the best presentation of their side of the issue possible. “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.” – Proverbs 4:7

3. Oppose Gently. Don’t be argumentative. Challenge their position with words of respect and love.  “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” – Colossians 4:6

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”                   – 2 Timothy 2:24-26

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