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Jehovah’s Faithful Presence 

13 Jul

​”For the cloud of Yahweh was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night before the eyes of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys” (Exodus 40:38 LEB) 

This remarkable statement closes out the book of Exodus by comforting God’s people with the reassurance that God is always present with his people in a special way. It emphasizes the unbreakable faithfulness of God to his covenant people, for he had previously promised to guide them into the promised land, to protect and lead them on their journey (Exo. 3:8,17; 13:11, 21-22, et al). The same God who rescued them from Egypt would see them all their way. Even when the people rebelled and were ungrateful, Jehovah provided them with all their needs. Moses too had said to Jehovah that it would be pointless for them to continue on their journey if Jehovah’s presence did not go with them (Exo. 33:14-16), which illustrates mans need to perpetually rely on God. 

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever; he never changes (Num. 23:19; I Sam. 15:29; Psa. 55:19; Jam. 1:17). He reassures his people that those he rescues from sin, he also guides them with his continual special presence until they enter Glory (see also Rom. 8:28-30)…as he promised.

Thanks be to God. 

Should Christians be Welcoming & Affirming?

3 Jul

There is a lot push for Christians to be “welcoming and affirming” from inside and outside of church walls. Some use this exact phrase to make a particular point: “We are welcoming and affirming of persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities.” Other pastors and congregations speak more generally saying, “Come, just be yourself and journey with us. We do life together here. We’re not like traditional churches.” Then there are those on the opposite side of the spectrum that are so inward focused and off-putting to any who darken the doors that they are neither welcoming nor affirming. Some even make the news for having such brutish tactics that they yell and picket at funerals so that people would be hard pressed to make it close to the doors of their church.

What stance ought we to take then as Christians? The extremes are not compatible, so is one to be preferred over the other? Is the middle ground the answer? Thankfully, God provides the Church with guidelines, instruction, and examples of how the Church should conduct herself. Since Scripture is divinely authoritative, completely without error, and sufficient for life and faith, let’s briefly consider what wisdom it offers regarding this topic. In order to do this, let’s take a look at “welcoming and affirming”, since it has become a common phrase in the U.S. and is more specific than the enigmatic rhetoric of the emergent-flavor churches where any definition, statement, or certainty is averted or outright rejected.

There are two unique ideas contained in this compound participial (verbal-adjective) phrase, so we will first considered them separately. Welcoming, according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, means to “receive with pleasure and hospitality…to cordially or willingly permit or invite…to give a cordial greeting or hospitable reception.” To be welcoming, then, speaks of how one invites or receives an outsider into ones company at the outset. It is an initial interaction, often among strangers, that sets a hospitable, comfortable tone or atmosphere for the newcomer. Does Scripture teach that Christians are to be welcoming? Yes it does. Any number of passages could be referenced to support this: Jehovah God welcomed the Israelites though they were sinners (Deut. 9:5ff); Jesus welcomed the sinners and unjust tax collectors (Luke 5:27-30; 19); Jesus welcomed the adulterer (John 8); Jesus welcomed thieves (Luke 23); Jesus welcomes the weary and heavy laden (Matt. 11:28); Jesus welcomed Paul the persecutor and murderer of his people (Acts 9; 22; 26); Jesus welcomes all who truly come to him in faith and will no wise cast them out (John 6:37); Jesus welcomed me, a sinner loaded with sin. Indeed Jesus welcomes all kinds of people with all sorts of sin baggage. So too he commands his people to go and do likewise, to welcome the stranger, the sick, the widow, the orphan, the criminal, the brokenhearted, the sinner.

What about “affirming”? Affirming, according to the same source above, means “to declare positively; to assert to be true…to declare support for or belief in,” or according to Merriam-Webster, “to assert as valid or confirmed…to show a strong belief in or dedication to.” Affirming, then, is not how one acts toward another, but to gladly and willingly encourage, agree with, be committed to, and/or approve of someone or something. It is not about kindness, a willingness to listen, or a hospitable atmosphere. It is about upholding or encouraging certain beliefs, statements, thoughts, or actions. Do you see the marked uniqueness of the two words, welcoming and affirming? A person, or church, can be welcoming but not affirming of someone, affirming but not welcoming, both welcoming and affirming, or neither.

Does Scripture teach that Christians are to be affirming? Well, affirming of what? Affirming which beliefs? Which lifestyles? Which people? What state of people? Which statements? Encourage which actions? God’s Word does tell us to affirm the truths of his Scripture (Exo. 20:6, et al.). Paul says that he wants Titus to constantly affirm that believers should be careful to maintain good works (Titus 3:8, NKJV). He sends Timothy to the Thessalonians to encourage them concerning their faith (I Thes. 3:2, NKJV). But certainly we are not to affirm false teaching (I Tim. 1:7, NKJV) or anything contrary to truth or holy living. Job refuses to affirm the wrong assumptions of his presumptuous friends (Job 27:5, HCSB). David rightly attests that the wicked encourage one another in their evil ways (Psa. 64:5, NKJV); certainly they aren’t to be affirmed. It would then be unwise for a church to make a blanket statement that they are “affirming” without outlining what they affirm. That is why social groups, institutions, and churches often have statements of faith and why many creeds and confessions were composed, in order to affirm clearly what they believe, or in the case of Christian churches or groups, what they believe Scripture teaches.

Christians, therefore, ought not to be affirming of everyone’s beliefs, lifestyles, attitudes, thoughts, hopes, dreams, self-imposed identities, actions, or anything that God declares as sin. This too includes churches who specifically affirm any and all sexual identities and gender orientations, for God has declared throughout the whole corpus of Scripture that he has created and established only two unique, complementary genders and marriage as being between one man and one woman. Yet, though “welcoming and affirming” is often used to support the LGBTQ+ community, and so mentioned here, it is not the only reason to reject the “affirming” language. As noted above, affirming  should be limited to biblical truth and living. That should be implied in all areas of the Christian Church, in all congregations who take the name Christian. It is Scripture that is our final authority in all matters of faith and life, and it is the Word of God that centers in and focuses on Jesus Christ from whom all Christians take their name and find their identity.

Christians, therefore, should be very welcoming of all peoples, but not affirming. Christ calls sinners to himself, but he does not affirm sinners in their sin. He does not encourage their sin or support their sinful lifestyles. Instead the triune God says, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). He calls us, sinners, to repentance and faith (Acts 20:21). He tells us to humble ourselves, pray, turn from sin, and seek the Lord (II Chr. 7:14). He commands us to put off our old man that is corrupt and filled with deceitful lusts (Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:8-9), and put on the new man of righeousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24ff). He encourages us to grow in our faith (Eph. 4:15; I Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18). He commands us to exercise ourselves unto godliness (I Tim. 4:7-9). He tells us to mortify the deeds of the flesh (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5). We are not to remain the same as when we were welcomed as sinners, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2); our thinking needs changing. We are to forsake ourselves and obey God out of love (John 14:15). We are to be called out, separate from the world and its ways (II Cor. 6:17). We are to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matt. 6:33).

Jesus never affirmed sinners and neither should we. He welcomed them with love and the offer of a new life. He came for the sick, proclaiming that he was the great Physician that could heal and remove the disease that plagues us all. Yes, Christian, by all means, welcome all people. Grow in your welcoming of others. Pray that you will mirror the welcoming nature of Jesus Christ. Repent of any hardheartedness, fears, selfishness, pride, disgust toward others, or any other sin that is keeping you from truly welcoming others. But never water down the gospel for which Jesus came, bled, died, rose, and is coming again. A Gospel that does not affirm sinners, but calls us to repentance and new life in Christ. This is who we are to be.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Don’t Skip the Genealogies

18 Apr

genealogy graphicScripture is replete with various genealogies but many approach them with either indifference or with a negative mindset or emotions. There are various ways in which this plays out, for instance, people often see the lists, the begets, and the names and (1) skip past them altogether in order to get to the good stuff, (2) skim them out of a recognition for their inclusion in the Bible but give little actual attention to them, or (3) to be able to say they’ve actually read every word of the Bible.  I have fallen into all three at one time or another. But I would like to advocate for a fourth option—(4) recognize that these genealogies are no less inspired than any other passage, quote, or story in the Bible, that they play a purposeful and significant role in Scripture, that God has sovereignly determined their place and providentially kept them in the corpus of his Holy Word.

How then is that to change our interactions with the Word? First, choose not to skip past them, but to give them the time they deserve. This will likely require more time spent on these sections than you are used to, but it is worth it. Secondly, deliberately tackle these sections when you get to them. If you have difficultly seeing a genealogies purpose, check out some commentaries, think about the importance of the family or person that is the focus of the genealogy, read the text surrounding the genealogy for information to why it exists and why it is placed at that point in Scripture, try mapping the genealogy out on paper as a visual aid, and don’t hesitate to ask a trusted Christian who spends a lot of time in the Word for help.

Let’s look briefly at one genealogy from Exodus 6:14-25:

  1. Israel
    1. Reuben
      1. Hanoch
      2. Pallu
      3. Hezron
      4. Carmi
    2. Simeon
      1. Jemuel
      2. Jamin
      3. Ohab
      4. Jachin
      5. Zohar
      6. Shaul
    3. Levi
      1. Gershom
        1. Libni
        2. Shimei
      2. Kohath
        1. Amram
          1. Aaron
            1. Nadab
            2. Abihu
            3. Eleazar
              1. Phinehas
            4. Ithama
          2. MOSES
        2. Izhar
          1. Korah
            1. Assir
            2. Elkanah
            3. Abiasaph
          2. Nepheg
          3. Zichri
        3. Hebron
        4. Uzziel
          1. Mishael
          2. Elzaphan
          3. Sithri
      3. Merari
        1. Mahli
        2. Mushi

Moses, the author according to orthodox teaching, recounts family lines of Israel. He begins with the sons of Reuben, then the Sons of Simeon, then of Levi, but then we see a change; he goes further into each of Levi’s sons. Why? The point is to show the historicity and family line of Moses and Aaron (v26–27), to give credit to the overall progression of God’s dealing with men (particularly his people), to show God’s faithfulness to his covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (and all those called by his name), to show Moses’ and Aaron’s familial tie to the people who are in bondage in Egypt, to show that they too are mere men being used by the almighty God, and to show us that the God we serve is the same faithful, saving, powerful, wrathful, gracious God. A few more interesting things can be noted:

Aaron’s family is taken the furthest in the genealogy. This may cause the reader to think he was given the prime focus, but this is not so—read on. He is second in focus (v26-27); his sons will carry out the priestly line; Nadab and Abihu will be judged for the liberties they take with worship; Phinehas will have great zeal for the Lord and by doing so, save lives (Num. 25).

No other sons of Israel/Jacob are included after Levi. Why? because it is focuses on Moses and Aaron who come from the 3rd eldest son of Israel.

Korah’s line is expanded one more generation unlike all but Aaron’s. Why? Was there a lot of barren women? No, more likely because Korah’s family played a prominent role to come; for instance, they rose up against Moses and Aaron in opposition to God’s design of the Aaronic priesthood (Numbers 16), and the sons of Korah wrote a good portion of the Psalms.

Moses’s line is not expanded even though we know he had sons (Exo. 4:20, 25); this is deliberate. Why? And here we see that the focus of this genealogy is Moses. We know based upon v26–27 that it is about Aaron and Moses; we know Moses’ family does extend; we know that Moses was the main mediator and servant God used at this time; we know that Moses is one of the major shadow’s of Christ Jesus who was to come (as a prophet, priest, king, servant, saviour, etc).

As you can see, there is much that can be learned from genealogies in Scripture. I hope you will have a desire to give them the time they deserve, since they are no less inspired or authoritative or sufficient for the Christians’s life.

What else do you see?

(graphic source: genealogylaois.com)

 

REMEMBER

20 Nov
“And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting”   Romans I.28
Remembering or forgetting God as you go about life making decisions is not passive as we so often think of it. We’ll say, “Oh, I forgot to take out the trash,” or “I cannot remember.” The biblical view is an active one. “Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day” (Deut. VIII.11). “And the covenant that I have made with you ye shall not forget” (2 Kings XVII.38). “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus XX.8). We are to be actively, purposefully, willfully, adamantly, persistently seeking God, his will, and his glory. Consider just a few of the words that describe the Christian’s life: seek, knock, remember, walk, run, love, give, abound, think on, search out, work, toil, labor, pray, ask, submit, serve, repent, turn, put on, preach, teach, learn, meditate. The list goes on and on. May Scripture teach and motivate each of us to be actively engaged in our relationship with Jesus Christ and with one another. Forgetting is neglecting. Let us put away excuses, turn and seek the Lord with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength.

When You Feel Spiritually Cold, There is Light and Heat

18 Oct

EVERY YEAR IT COMES—expected and yet somehow startling. The shortening of the days. Colder and darker it gets while waiting to put the kids on that yellow behemoth lined with finger-streaked windows perpetually fogged by the breaths of dozens of children. Shorter. Darker. Colder. And not because the world is spinning faster. Not because the sun ceases to shine. Not because its heat is diminishing or its brightness dimming. The days change because we turn away from the sun. As such, the sun arcs further and further in the South, and we spend less and less time in the power of its rays.

Our spiritual life can be like this too. It can grow colder, grow darker. This is not due to a deficiency with the Son. Christ, the radiant Son, never ceases to shine, for he is the “everlasting Light” of the world (Isa. lx.19; John viii.12). His power never diminishes, for he is God Almighty (Rev. i.8). His love never grows cold, for he gave his life to be “the propitiation for our sins” (1 John iv.10) and will “never leave nor forsake us” (Heb. xiii.5). Christ Jesus truly is “the Bright and Morning Star” (Rev. xxii.16). No, our spiritual lives grow colder when we turn away from him. If we turn from him and seek not his face, our spiritual lives grow colder because we spend less time in his presence.

The Christian must work to make sure her gaze doesn’t fall off of Christ and onto the world. This an on-going battle for the Christian living in a world devastated by sin. She may begin to just go through the motions of her faith, doing so out of habit rather than out of love and joy. Her trust in Jesus is well established, but her zeal and affection has cooled. Her Bible reading may slacken, meaning she is not hearing God speak to her through it apart from the weekly sermon on Sunday, and that only through a haze. Her prayer life may feel dull or may drop off considerably, meaning she isn’t talking with her Beloved. Essentially, all communication is cut off or drastically reduced. No relationship can flourish without communication, and this may last for years.

Her spiritual life grows colder and darker, imperceptibly at the start, but well noticed as time progresses. She has a spiritual version of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)—that phenomenon that occurs for some in the dreary, dark-days of winter when the sun’s rays are too long obscured and a mild depression sets in. She plods along still engaging in ministry and worship, but half-heartedly. At some point she’ll be awakened to this coolness, this spiritual despondency, for the Spirit is still at work. The greatest awakening occurs when she looks at a new or growing Christian and thinks, “What happened? That used to be me. I used to have that fire, that zeal. Where has it gone? I still love the Lord. I still come to worship him. I still read his Word. I’m here on Sunday when others don’t come at all.” Sadly, for many it will take awhile yet before a change occurs. Excuses are given, rather than appropriate action taken. “Well, life is hard right now. I’ve got a lot going. I can’t expect to always be excited. I don’t have time to read my Bible more. I’ve heard a sermon about this several times already. I just don’t like the music; it’s too loud and unfamiliar to me. You can’t expect to be in the honeymoon phase forever. I’ve just matured more. Maybe I’m just more serious now, and that’s probably out of reverence.” Some of what she says may be true, but the reality is that she’s only perpetuating the downward spiral. Until she awakens, until she does something, she’ll be in this spiritual funk, and perhaps grow lukewarm to the Gospel itself. Heaven forbid we should ever lose an ounce of gratitude and awe for the good news of Jesus Christ who snatched us from the pits of hell.

What can she do? What should you or I do, if we find ourselves here? The good news is that God has already provided us with the answer. We can and should use the means of grace God has lovingly given us: his Word, his Sacraments, his Church, and Prayer. But wasn’t the women doing that already? Not really. At least not in the way she ought.

God has provided his people with the most tremendous gifts, and they are to be used persistently, lovingly, relentlessly. There is a reason why people speak of spiritual disciplines. Properly speaking, they aren’t dry traditions used to earn salvation, though they can be perverted in such a way. The key here is discipline. The Christian needs to be disciplined or deliberate in how he or she lives. God has not called us to a lukewarm life in Christ. He wants us to thrive in him. To have life to the FULL: “You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence” (Acts ii.28). He has come “that [we] may have life, and that [we] may have it more abundantly” (John x.10). God never calls people to passivity. We are called to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength…and to love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mark xxii.30-31). This an active love, not just in word but in deed as well (1 John iii.18). We are to live our lives for Christ in all that we do. If we desire a healthy spiritual life, we need to be disciplined at living one. Not to earn God’s favour, but because we have received his favour and are desperately in love with him. Life is hard, and evil is always knock, knock, knocking at our doors to tempt us. We need to be vigilant and careful about how we live our lives for Christ. The reality is that some people spend more time caring, investing, and protecting their lawns than their relationship with Christ. They will plot out the areas, weed their lawns, fertilize the soil, plant flowers, shape hedges, trim branches, kill moles and pests, cutt, water, and green up their lawns while giving much less effort to the weeding out of sin, and watering, nourishing, and caring for their relationship with Jesus. Let this not be you or me!

Do you need a revitalized spiritual life? Has yours become darker and colder? Discipline yourself to embrace the means of grace provided to us. DIVE into God’s holy Word. Make a point of it, daily. Make it your first priority. Begin by adding just a few minutes. The revelation of God’s Word is the way we know Christ. Do you want to have a better relationship with him?…Get to know him. Go deep into his word. Get lost in its pages. Marvel at its wisdom. Be captivated by its beauty. Seek Christ in the Old and New Testaments. Ask questions of the text and seek out answers. Take notes. Read with your spouse, children, friends. Share with others what you’ve learned. Fall back in love with Bible. You will not regret it.

But we cannot enact change; that is God’s department. The Holy Spirit must apply truth in our lives and invigorate the soul. Pray for this. Be disciplined in your prayer life. Pray unceasingly the Scripture says (1 Thes. v.17). Pray as your walk. Pray as you work. When you see someone, pray for them. Pray with others as well; you’re relationship with them will also benefit. Pray that God will “renew a steadfast spirit within [you]” (Psa. li.10). Pray that he will give you the zeal that he has: a zeal for his Church, a burden for the lost, an abhorrence of sin. Pray he will “uncover your eyes that [you] may behold the wonders of his law” (Psa. cxix.18). Confess to him your sadness and your desire to be burning with a passion for him and his will. Prayer is perhaps the easiest practice to increase because you can do it anywhere, without anything, at any time. Prayer can bring you closer to God.

You can also nourish your relationship with Christ by being deliberate about the Sacraments. Remember your baptism. Think on it. Remember the surety of the covenant promises God makes to his people in the sign and seal of baptism. Remember he has promised to cleanse you from sin. Remember that by faith you have died to your old self and are raised with Christ to newness of life. Remember that your cleansing is not based upon your actions, your promises, or your being baptized, but upon the promises God makes with you before the foundation of the world.

Prepare for the Lord’s Supper before the day you partake. Pray about it. Confess your sins to God. Repent of them and turn your face to your Maker. Remember Christ’s sacrifice for you. Grieve that your sin put him on the cross, but rejoice that by doing so, he secured your salvation. Think about how the Father loved you so much that he gave his son. Think how much the Son loves you, having willingly humbled himself unto death and God’s judgment. Think of how he fills you, how he satisfies your hunger, how he quenches your thirst. Look forward to Christ’s return when you shall see him face-to-face and partake alongside of him in the great marriage supper. The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament. In it God dispenses grace to us and nurtures us up in the faith. There is a comfort and help in the Supper for the Saints.

Another sure help for a spiritual decline is to engage in the Body of Christ. Make sure you’re not just sitting in the pew on Sunday, sneaking out, or talking with the same few people. Sit somewhere else. Greet and talk with those around you, before and after the service. Go to a Sunday School class and participate. Have a conversation with someone over coffee. Try getting involved in a ministry you’re not currently in. The more brothers and sisters you get to know, the more you will each invest in one another’s lives. You’ll feel more comfortable asking them to pray for you, and they will be more likely to ask you to pray for them. You will share struggles and praises. You will speak about God’s holy Word and apply it to the lives of one another. You will have the opportunity to be part of God’s kingdom work. You don’t have to be an elder or deacon or committee chair. You don’t have to run a program or teach a class. Just get involved. You are needed, and the Church needs you (1 Cor. xii.21). I guarantee that you will grow spiritually.

I don’t want to be misunderstood, there will still be hardship. Just ask the martyrs of the faith or those where it is a crime to worship Christ and believers must gather secretly under the constant threat of prosecution. Ask the parent of a 3 year old with leukemia, who is not only fighting the disease, but the horrible effects of the poisonous medicine. Ask the mother or father of a developmentally disabled child who cannot fully grasp that the cancer spreading through her body is killing her. Ask the husband who has lost his job and hanging on by a thread financially, hoping to find money for one more mortgage payment. Ask the person who has been plunged into a deep, major depression where their brain chemistry is altered and they cannot feel anything at all—not the love of, or for, their children or spouse—life seems to be broken and death is all that seems possible. Ask the child who is watching an elderly parent sink into dementia as his mind begins to fail. Ask the children who not only had to witness their parents’ marriage crumble, but who are now being used by their own mother to spy on and steal from their father and being taught to distrust him. We can each relate to going through trials at various times. Sometimes God will sovereignly have us go through tribulation or persecution for reasons we cannot fully understand; think of Job’s life, the Apostles’, or Christ’s. Yet, we’ve all heard and perhaps experienced how the hard times can be seasons of greatest growth in our relationship with Christ, even if everything around us seems to be failing.

Clouds, north winds, and storms can darken a day or cool it down. So too the hardships of life can seem to obscure the warmth of Christ at times. Yet even if we find ourselves in a downpour, we can trust that God is there sovereignly giving us rain to help us grow. We can trust that he is carrying out his greater purposes, and that he will be glorified. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. viii.28). Trusting in his promises can help us dance in the rain rather than become despondent from it. The rain can temporarily slow life down or make us shiver, but the deep joy is there because Christ is always present: “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Heb. xiii.5). “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. xi.1). Faith is substantial and real. Our faith in a faithful God can raise us above the clouds, above the trials and tribulations of life, to bask in the glory of our Lord and Saviour and cause us to rejoice in his goodness. In the midst of trial, we can say with David:

My heart is fixed, O God,
my heart is fixed!
I will sing, yea, I will sing praises!
Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I, myself, will awake right early!
I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises unto thee among the nations.
For thy lovingkindness is great unto the heavens,
And thy truth unto the skies.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

                                 -Psalm lvii.7

When storms surround us, when waters rise on both sides, when the waves threaten to swamp the boat, we have God as our deliverer (Psa. xviii.2), his wings to shelter us (Psa. xxxvi.7), Christ’s presence in the boat to protect and reassure us (Matt. viii), and his hand and Word to guide us (Psa. cxxxix.10; cxix.105,133). Thanks be to God.

If you’re feeling spiritually cool because you’ve turned away from the Son, I hope you’re feeling mighty cold, cold enough to make you notice and desire the warmth of Christ Jesus. When the Earth moves away from the sun, it predictably gets darker and colder as a result of moving away from the source of heat and light. The same goes for our relationship with Christ. “Return to me,” he says, “and I will return to you” (Mal. iii.7). Fix your gaze upon me and see I have always been here to bring light and warmth. Live deliberately before the face of God (coram deo). Seek him out in his Word, in his Sacraments, in his Church, and through Prayer. Love him with ALL of you, in the most complete way you can. Then pray that you will have the capacity to love him more. To God be the glory!

For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
The LORD will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly

-Psa. lxxxiv.11

When Opportunity Arises: The Testing of Your Faith

29 May

“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” Matthew 4:1

It was the Spirit that led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. It was not the Spirit, but the devil that tempted Jesus, for God does not tempt (James 1:13)–he cannot do evil, but the Spirit led him there to be tested, to give opportunity to prove his perfect obedience. Sometimes we are led into situations where our faith will be tested and tried. But rest assured that God is with us in those times. He never leaves nor forsakes us (Deut. 31:8). He will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear, but will always provide a way (oftentimes many ways) out (1 Cor. 10:13). So in suffering and temptation, when our faith is tested, remember, God is always in control: he decrees when and where you will be tested, as it was with Jesus in the wilderness; he determines the severity of the testing, not allowing the temptation to be more than we can bear nor the suffering more than what will suit his perfect, good will; he is always there to be called and relied upon for comfort and strength (Ps. 145:18); he always has his glory and your betterment in purpose, for all things happen by and for his good will and pleasure (Rom. 11:36), and all things are worked together for the good of him that trusts in Christ (Rom. 8:28).

Each time of testing, each situation of suffering, is an opportunity to be faithful and to be strengthened in the Lord, to glorify and praise the Almighty, to grow in relationship with him. “And Yahweh, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed” (Deut. 31:8).

Christ Cannot Deny Himself

21 May

This is a faithful saying:
For if we died with him, also we will live with him.
If we endure with him, also we will reign with him.
If we deny him, also he will deny us.
If we are faithless, he remains faithful;
he cannot deny himself. (2 Tim. ii. 11-13).

Christ Jesus is just as faithful to save as he is to deny, for “he cannot deny himself.” His grace is perfect, but so is his wrath. He cannot act contrary to his divine nature lest he cease being God. Whereas the thought of his denial and judgment of some unto hell is unimaginably terrifying (rightly so!), in his great mercy and out of his beautiful love, he offers each of us salvation from our much deserved fate. He offers himself freely. FREELY! This is the good news! He loves us so very much that he died and lives for each and every one of us who will place his or her faith in him. He died to take the punishment that our sins incurred. If we repent of our sin and trust that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are sufficient payment for our sin, we die with him (to sin and its consequences) and will surely live, endure, and reign for eternity in the most glorious, intimate relationship with him, free from sin and fear and suffering. There is no greater gift, nor is there any other gift of salvation. If anyone denies Jesus and his sacrifice for him or her, Jesus will necessarily deny that person in the end. There is no salvation apart from Christ Jesus (John xiv. 6). While the one result produces inconceivable horror, the other manifests inconceivable elation. Indeed the former should point us to the latter. Yet it is not only the recognition of our sin and its consequences by which we are pointed to Christ, but the truth, goodness, hope, joy, mercy, grace, beauty, and love of Christ also draw us to him by the working of the Spirit. Is there any reason why you who have yet to trust him should not cling to Christ? Harden not your heart, but consider your state and run to the safety, security, peace, joy and love of Jesus.