Archive for the ‘Hope’ Category

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Living Your Future Life…

January 1, 2013

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This past Sunday I was blessed to be able to preach to Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas. I preached on John 8:51, “Truly, truly I say unto you, whoever keeps my word shall never see death.”

123012 Sermon from Cross Church on Vimeo.

The Christians life should be a bold life, in a world obsessed with death we should burst out of this church proclaiming the message of life! The gospel is not a set of rules, it is NEWS glorious news that death has been defeated and its pain absorbed and its penalty paid by one who new know sin. And it is because of that we can begin to live our future life.

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Joy Comes in the Mourning…

September 1, 2011

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Scripture, time and again, affirms two truths; We live in a world of denial. We live in a world that is in the grips of the evil one. These two statements are more than coincidental. Satan’s main goal is to get us to live in denial; denial over our sin, denial over God’s existence, denial over the truth and power of Scripture. The world buys into his philosophy and makes it a way of life. When bad things happen, when tragedy strikes the easiest thing to do is to seek comfort in the insufficient arms of denial.

This tactic stretches all the way back to the garden; Satan deceived Eve, planting a seed of denial, “surely you will not die…”. Eve and Adam bought the lie and in turn bought our slavery to sin. And when they sinned, they did not mourn, they did not grieve, they hid behind bushes hoping their sins would be covered, but leaves and brush were insufficient to remit their guilt. It would take blood, tears, and sacrifice.

The opposite of denial is truth. Jesus embodied this, as the Way, the Truth and the Life confronting a society that lived in denial. The Jewish leaders were in denial over their sin, the zealots were in denial over their Roman occupation, and the disciples were in denial that their messiah would have to die. Jesus confronts this society of denial with the truth of God’s authority and grace.

Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. This is a statement that makes very little sense in our world today, it was equally as confusing in first century Palestine. Basically Jesus is saying ‘happy are you who mourn, for you will find comfort. Following on the heals of the first beatitude we see a pattern begin to develop. In order to have great heavenly riches we have to become poor in spirit; now, in order to find comfort, we must mourn.

This is counter-intuitive; according to the world’s system we should seek riches now, and rely on our own self esteem. We shouldn’t mourn, we should be happy, and not let anything get us down; and if we’re down we should just drink our troubles away, or get therapy or take anti-depressants. But the key to a blessed life, a happy life, is spiritual humility and mourning.

When we stand in the light of Christ’s work for us on the cross, we see our sin exposed and laid bare before us. The appropriate response on our part is like that of Job, Isaiah, or the tax collector in Luke 18, ‘I am undone, I repent,’ ‘I am a man of unclean lips’, ‘have mercy on me a sinner.’ Each was humble, each mourned over sin, and each found comfort.

It is difficult to truly mourn when we are in denial. Mourning necessitates that we take a realistic look at ourselves and our situation and see what is really going on and deal with it. We must be willing to do this when tragedy strikes our lives, we must be willing to do this over our sin. The temptation is to simply move on and pretend the need for grief isn’t there. But giving in to this temptation robs us of the opportunity for real comfort.

I often think of that first Good Friday, which on the surface had very little good about it. Jesus is taken out of the city and placed on a hill, most likely with in view of a road leading into the city. (As it was the custom of the Romans to crucify criminals in full view of the public, to serve as a warning and demonstration of justice.) There is nothing pleasant about a crucifixion, and out of all those Jesus had taught, all those he had healed, all those whose lives were changed as a result of his ministry, scripture tells us that there were only three of his followers present before him at the base of the cross. Mary Magdalene, his mother Mary and John his disciple.

What were they doing there? They were mourning. Mourning the loss of their friend, their teacher, their son, their brother. They did not know yet about what was to come on Sunday. They simply saw the carnage before them and wept over the loss and his final words, “it is finished.” But just as he promised chapters and years earlier, comfort would come. And at the breaking dawn of the third day two of these three mourners would be the first to be blessed and comforted by the reality of his resurrection.

I often wonder, as countless people hurried passed the site of his execution, how many averted their eyes to be spared the reality of what was taking place? How many disciples and followers chose not to be present because ‘it was just to tough to watch’? How many chose denial over the reality of his death? How many people failed to mourn at the cross and as a result missed the comfort of the empty tomb? How many of us ignore the cross and the sin it confronts and miss the comfort of Christ?

The grace of God is that while weeping may last the night, joy comes in the morning. The message of Jesus is that while we yet sinners he died for us, so that we would have life and have it more abundantly. What stands between us and that abundant, happy life, is the brokenness of the cross, our humility to recognize it and the mournful confession that we need him. Jesus says, ’empty your spirit and I will fill it with mine.’ “mourn your sin, you will find comfort in my cross.’ ‘Weep, yes mourn, but know this, that joy comes in the mourning.’

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What Can Flesh do to us?…

April 8, 2011

Psalm 56:3-4, 13

The Psalms enrich the life of the believer in a multitude of ways.  But they can pose difficulties.  For instance, how can I pray a psalm that focusses on relief from human oppression?  I am rarely if ever being pursued, apprehended, or foiled by others.  My enemies are typically spiritual and/or personal.

Three verses in this psalm transcend any difficulty that I might have, verses 3,4, and 13:   “when I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God whose word I praise, in God I trust, I shall not be afraid, what can flesh do to me.”  You can almost hear David building up the argument within his own mind, preaching to his soul, building the case for courage in the face of oppression and despair.

Thankfully, by God’s grace, I do not know oppression.  But I do know fear.  The gift of this Psalm is the perspective that it offers.  What are we to fear?  Christ instructs us that we are not to fear the one who can destroy our body, but rather we are to fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in Hell.  Fear rightly expressed toward God dispels all other fears and eliminates the very source of worry.  What can flesh do to me when I have verse 13; ” For you have delivered my soul from death, yes my feet from falling, that I may walk before God, in the light of life.”

Once God has saved my soul from the eternal death that awaits it apart from His grace, what could possibly arise against me to inspire fear.  What darkness could encompass me when I walk in the Light of life.  A light, that John tells us, has not been overcome by darkness, but rather has overcome the darkness with light.  What can man do to me?  What can I do to myself?  O God rise up and save me from my enemies.  Save me from myself, I believe God, help my unbelief.

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Vehicles of God’s Pursuit, the Necessity of Persistence in Evangelism…

March 23, 2011

“5What then is Apollos? What is Paul?  Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted,Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7Soneither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9For we areGod’s fellow workers. You are God’s field,God’s building.” I Corinthians 3:5-9

The “Go ye therefore” commission that animates the heartbeat of the church should echo ever louder in the mind and heart of the believer.  Our individual obedience to this command and to all it entails is a chief evidence of our own interaction with the power of the Gospel.

God does not need the assistance of man in the task of Evangelism.  This God has written His law on the hearts of men, He can arrest a mountain with His glory and apprehend a heart with His spoken word.  However, in his infinite grace and providence He has chosen the weak to serve and the broken to carry His message to His redeemed throughout the nations.

Each one of us, if we claim the name of Christ, assume the mantle of evangelist in one capacity or another.  Evangelism is the proclamation of the love of God in the Gospel of Christ to those in sin in need of redemption.  This can be an act, a word, a speech, or a lifestyle that reflects the unique grace of God to those around you.

It is often easy when engaging in evangelism to become discouraged if conversion is not immediate, or if there is not an instant result. We live in a results-driven culture, and our churches occupy a subculture that is equally results-driven.  While the end is important, the obedience displayed in the means should be our primary focus.  We sow, but it is God that brings the growth.

I lived the first decade and a half of my twenty plus years as christian burdened with the idea that my task in evangelism was two-fold: to preach; and to bring about their conversion.  When I was faithful to the first task but unproductive in the second, I often experience debilitating discouragement.  It is difficult for me to convey the freedom that washed over my heart when the burden of responsibility for another’s conversion was removed from me and rightly placed on God.

This brings me to topic of obedient persistence in evangelism.  Francis Thompson, the nineteenth century poet and tragic opium addict, wrote the haunting poem, “The Hound of Heaven.”  This work is a bit obscure in some areas but the overall message is powerful as it describes God’s pursuit of the wayward soul. Thompson writes:

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears…

From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbéd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
“All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.”

My reflection on this is to ask some questions; How is this lost soul pursued? Whose feet follow after him?  Could they be the ‘beautiful feet of those who preach the good news.”? (Rom. 10:15)

When those around us are fleeing through the nights, we should be there with the Light.  As they fill their days with idle distractions, we should be there with a focus. Through the years, as they progress through the labyrinths of philosophical excuses, we should be there with an answer.  With unperturbed pace, deliberate speed and majestic instancy we should be the voice they hear, in the mist of their tears, proclaiming the love of God through Christ.

For we are the vehicles of God’s pursuit of those He loves, of those He sent His son to die for, of those who flee not knowing where to they go.  They may not repent during your preaching, but perhaps it is your time to sow, another’s time to water and in God’s time the growth will come.

“For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.  How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in Him whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Rom. 10:13-15)

Brothers and Sisters we have been sent. Go. Obey. Pursue. Preach. And let God reap the harvest and the glory.

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The Promise to Come…

August 16, 2010

A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms Part 6

THE END OF EVIL in PSALM 2

The paradigmatic struggle between good and evil in Psalm 1 is immediately continued and expanded in Psalm 2.  Psalm 1 provides a definition of the wicked; Psalm 2 prophecy’s their demise; this correlation is not incidental.[1] Whereas Psalm 1 serves as a preface underlining the sections of the Psalter concerning the Law; Psalm 2 likewise serves as a theological foundation for the psalms to follow, informing every lament and praise.  While God views the plots of the wicked as laughable, He has wrath in mind for the plotters.

In Psalm 2 we begin to see evidences of the way in which God will go about “breaking” these raging nations.  God will install His King on Zion’s Hill; this King will be His begotten son; God will give the raging nations into his hand; and the Son-King will “break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potters vessel.”[2] The utter futility of those who plot against the One “who sits in the heavens…” is an anchor of the psalmist’s comfort.[3] “God is committed to destroying all that is evil and establishing his kingdom of righteousness and truth.”[4]

This theme of victorious, eternal, God-ordained kingship is continued at the conclusion of Book Three of the Psalter in Psalm 89.  David is seen as the progenitor of an anointed king to come.  God established His covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7; and arguably His promise focused less on David than it did on David’s offspring.  Speaking to David, through the prophet Nathan, God said, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up our offspring after you.”[5] God then defines who this raised one will be: he will be from David’s line (7:12), God will establish his kingdom, (as opposed to earthly installment) (13), He will be like a father to the king and the king like a son to God (14), the stripes of the sons of men shall fall upon him (14)[6], this kingdom shall last forever (13, 16).  The legitimacy of these promises is amplified in Psalm 89.

Five times throughout the Psalm God provides assurance that the King he will raise from David’s line shall be established, kept and shall endure forever.  Despite the fact that this promise had yet to be realized by the time Psalm 89 was penned, God pledged that “I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips…” and “ by my holiness; I will not lie to David.”[7] This promise is nestled in a Psalm saturated with proclamations of God’s love.[8] It soon becomes clear that the inauguration of God’s coming kingdom will bear witness to not only His judgment of the wicked, but to the consummation of His steadfast love for His people.  The two goals will finish at one end and God shall vanquish evil through an act of love.  That love and judgment would soon be given a name, a face and an act in one Christ, Jesus.

The realization and implication of God’s plan of salvation, through an eternal son-king seen in the Psalms are interpreted, both in word and deed, by Jesus in the New Testament.  We will next turn our attention to Christ’s use of the Psalter and the violent act of love which muted evil’s rage and established God’s eternal Kingdom.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 5 OF A CHRISTIAN’S COMFORT IN THE PSALMS


[1] “One Jewish tradition treated Pss. 1 and 2 as one psalm, and this reflects a number of points of connection between the two”  John Goldingay. Psalms: Vol.1 Psalms 1-41. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006.) 94.  See his further treatment on pg.95. Also see Miller, Interpretation 87-88.

[2] Psalm 2:6-9

[3] Psalm 2:4; An early testimony of this Psalm’s power to comfort is seen in its invocation by the Apostles in Acts 4:25.  “For the Apostles… in their first trial or affliction they seize upon it, pray it and in this way both console and fortify themselves against all the power of their enemies.”  Martin Luther. Luther’s Works: Selections from the Psalms. (Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing, 1955.) 5.

[4]  Peter Hicks. The Message of Evil and Suffering. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2006.) 50.

[5] 2 Samuel 7:12.

[6] One can not help but see prefigured here the suffering servant later described in Psalm 22:16 whose hands and feet are pierced and Isa 53:5 who bore the stripes of others, and through that brought healing.  Through great pain and suffering God’s plan unfolds and His hand is made visible.

[7] Psalm 89:34-35

[8] This Psalm’s over arching theme seems to be “loving-kindness and faithfulness, each of which occurs seven times (vv. 1, 2, 5, 8, 14, 24, 28, 33, 49).” Kirkpatrick, Psalms. 531.

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Walking in the Light: The Context of Evil within the Psalms…

August 6, 2010

A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms Pt 5.

THE CONTEXT OF EVIL

In the previous posts we have examined how the Israelites acknowledged evil and described the purveyors of evil in the Psalms.  Now we will look at the context in which evil was placed, and what role the contextualization of evil played in providing comfort for a people often oppressed by its effects.

The children of God throughout the Psalms navigate the deep darkness before them with the light of their salvation — their God –Yahweh.  His word and promise to them are literally described as a light unto their feet and a lamp unto their path.[1] They have an individual God of promise whose presence sustains them and banishes their fears through every valley, even those valleys whose very shadow bodes death.

As we have seen the Israelites were prolific in acknowledging evil’s presence.  But while evil is continually present, they fear it not, for Yahweh is with them.  If evil and those who practice evil are on one side and God and Israel are on the other, then Israel is right to find comfort in God’s presence.  For God is seen as the one in complete control, and whose character and Holiness consume all those who act wickedly.  Yahweh’s character in relation to evil is explicitly described in two key passages both of which we will now examine.

Psalm 5:4-6 provides a telling glimpse into God’s perception of evil:

4. For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;

evil may not dwell within you.

5. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;

you hate all evildoers.

6. You destroy those who speak lies;

the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

The activity of God, who hates the wicked, is recalled frequently in the Psalter.  And His actions toward His people speaks volumes as to His dominion over evil and evildoers.  These unique people of Jacob[2] are often under a God-anointed king; they have been chosen, delivered, saved and stand in the promise of the coming King to whom all the nations shall bow.[3] God offers protection; He is their refuge and their rock.  All of these conditions exist because of God’s mercy and faithfulness and are in no way due to the perception of “righteousness” in Israel.

In Psalm 103:8-9, the psalmist describes God’s character by recalling the epiphany experienced by Moses in Exodus 34.  He states: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Hesed)[4] He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.”  This is the God of the faithful promise who, though often rejected by His own, is steadfast in His love because of His promise.  Evil seen in light of this promise begins to pale by comparison.  The contrast could not be any clearer; while evil and the wicked are compared to chaff to be blown about in the wind; God’s love and those who have sought refuge in Him are promised to endure forever.  Once evil has been placed in its right context, the psalmists begin to look toward evil’s end during the reign of the promised anointed king, the messiah.

It is important to note that “there is no attempt in scripture to whitewash the anguish of God’s people when they undergo suffering.”[5] Indeed these naked acknowledgements of evil and the wicked in the Psalms, within the context of a sovereign loving God, have served to gird and inform the suffering people of God throughout time.  This context was never more apparent than when the promise met the present in the person of Christ.  In Jesus, the prophetic psalms were made flesh and dwelt among God’s people in a manner unparalleled in human history.

Found within the Psalms is a promised end to evil, an end occurring at a time of God’s choosing.  This promise, made sure by His steadfast love, provides comfort throughout Psalter from its inception to its inclusion within the canon.

In the next post of this series we will look at how the Psalms predict evil’s fall; and how the fulfillment of the Psalms, by Jesus, conveys certain promise and provides enduring comfort.

Click here for part 4 of the series, A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms


[1] Psalm 119:105

[2] The use of Jacob denotes God’s chosen nation of Israel.  Jacob is mentioned 34 times in the Psalms; almost all such references refer to God’s covenant with Abraham, which was continued through Isaac and on to Jacob. Who, while he was not the first-born received, by the foreknowledge and plan of God, the birthright and promise to carry the seed of the covenant.

[3] Psalm 77-78 are helpful here. 78:5 God establishes Jacob, 78:70 chooses David as King.  Psalm 2 and 22 both speak to the coming King who will receive the praise of all the nations.

[4]Hesed  is a multifaceted word with an expansive definition.  It occurs 147 times within the psalms and it can mean “loyalty, faithfulness, kindness, love and mercy” (Clines 126) Psalm 48 is illustrative of the relationship the people of Israel had to the idea of Hesed.  They would meditate on it in the temple and reflect on what God had done to establish them in that place. Hesed “describes God’s fundamental character.  As the experience of the exodus and deliverance revealed God’s fundamental character; so the present experience in Jerusalem puts the worshippers in touch with God’s Historical (past) and enduring (future) essence.” J. Clinton McCann. A Theological Introduction to the Book of Psalms. (Nashville, TN. Abingdon Press. 1993) 149.  Psalm 136 might as well be known as the hesed psalm as the psalmist systematically recalls God’s faithful action toward Israel over time, ending every recollection with “His steadfast Love endures forever.” Whenever God seemed absent in the psalms the Psalmist would call the people to remember that they served a God who acted faithfully in the past and based on that past action, His love was viewed as Steadfast in the face of whatever sin the people committed.  God would love them through any circumstance to accomplish His purpose in their midst for His Glory.

[5] D.A. Carson. How Long O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil. (Grand Rapids, MI. Baker Book House. 1990) 73.

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Night and Day, it is the One…

August 6, 2010

We all want to prosper, we want our plans to succeed. Often we judge a tasks’ importance to us based on how much time we devote both to it and to planning for it. We frequently make time to plan road trips, vacations, business meetings, legal negotiations etc.

But what about our lives?

Whenever Israel headed out to battle, and when they embarked on seizing the Promised Land, God did not instruct them to sharpen their swords,  have multiple planning sessions or consult the latest Janes Defense Weekly (Canaanite edition).

Rather, in Joshua 1:8, God instructed His people that their way would be made prosperous and their plans would succeed if  and only if they did not depart from the ‘Book of the Law.’   They were instructed to meditate on it day and night that they “may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.”

Such instruction and reliance payed off immensely. Two chapters later when the Ark of the Covenant (containing the Word of the Law) approached the Jordan, the waters stood in one heap and dried up, the People crossed and the hearts within the enemies of Israel melted in fear of this Living God. A God who fights not with armies of men, but with the very words which proceed from His mouth.

What a source of power we possess in this living Word. A Word kept, not in an ark of gold but implanted within us; carried not by priests but by every believer with a Bible.

Make time for it and let it become your battle plan. For those who do not know where to begin; below are two links to some various Bible reading plans.

Four from BibleGateway.org

Six from BlueLetterBible.org