Archive for the ‘Reassurance’ Category

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Casting upon a Caring God…

August 27, 2012

1 Peter is one of my favorite books in the Bible, so rich and so full of powerful applicable theology.

One of the most powerful verses or sets of verses in the book come as Peter is concluding his letter to the elect exiles in Pontus, Galatia, Capadoccia and Bythinia, Chapter 5:6-7.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your cares upon Him because He cares for you.”

Believers must humble themselves under God’s might hand, regardless of how that hand is made manifest.  They might experience that hand in judgment through persecution, or deliverance through protection.  Regardless of how His hand is experienced, the believers response is one of humility.  They accomplish this act of humility by casting their anxieties on God.  Peter has provided the reader with the “what” (humility), and the “how” (casting), but now he moves in short order to provide the “why.”  Believers approach God and rely on Him because He cares for them.  This simple profound truth animates the entire text of 1 Peter, indeed it is seen through out the scriptures.  This type of care is seen in the gospel of John 10:13; where Jesus tells of the hired hand that abandons the sheep because he does not care for them.  In contrast, the shepherd would leave the flock to pursue even one lost sheep.  This caring and concern is in view in this passage.

God cares for His people from beginning to end, throughout all circumstances.  We do not rely on an unsympathetic God, or one who is distant or emotionally uninvolved.  No, Peter systematically displays the myriad of ways in which God cares for His people.   Listing them below grants us the ability to grasp the scope of Peter’s depiction of God’s manifold care for His people:

-1:3 God has caused us to be born again to a new hope.

-1:4 God has given us an inheritance

-1:5 God guards us

-1:9 God grants us the salvation of our souls

-1:18 God ransoms us from futile ways

-2:5 God Builds us up

-2:8-9 God calls us out of darkness and into marvelous light

-2:10 God makes us His people and gives us mercy

-2:21 Christ suffered for us, providing us an example

-4:11, 13 God allows us to take part in the glory of Christ

-5:4 God will give us an unfading crown of glory

-5:7 God cares for us

-5:10 God will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us.

In the face of this litany, Peter asks his readers to cast their anxieties on God; this is an ultimate act of humility.  We are to be humble because God cares for us.  We are to display our humility by casting our anxieties on Him.  These truths form the essence of 1 Peter.

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The Triune Nature of Peace; The World’s Focus and the Christian’s Fruit…

October 21, 2011

 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” -Matthew 5:9

If there is one unfortunate mark of God’s fallen creation under the reign of sin it is the absence of peace.   The absence of peace in our world, due to greed.  The absence of peace in our lives due to envy.  The absence of peace in our families, due to selfishness. The absence of peace in our hearts, due to sin.  In all of these areas peace is sought but remains elusive.    Creation burst forth from the mind of God, uttered into a perfect state of peaceful balance.  There was morning and evening, seas for fish, sky for birds, earth for creatures to crawl about and man to bear His image.  The harmony of God with His creation was denoted by the presence of peace in that creation.  With the emergence of sin came the eradication of this balance.  Think of it, within the first moments of the first sin, strife entered the marriage of the first couple, and separation emerged between man and the one whose image he bore.  God cursed man and creation, and prophesied that peace would be absent between the serpent and the fruit of the woman.  The effects of this proclamation were immediate.  Animals began to prey and brothers began fight, and long before rain fell, blood watered the ground of God’s garden.  God barred the entrance to that peaceful paradise and for thousands of generations we have sought to return. 

As the human family grew so too did the amount of strife.  Fighting families grew into fighting nations, warring against each other and against God.  Among these families, amidst these nations God chose the smallest and least significant to be His vehicle to restore peace.  This nation would bring peace to the world, peace in the present, peace in the future; they would be the children of God.  But as so often happens, the allure of sin proved a great obstacle, competing for the affections of God’s children.   Nevertheless, God’s mission would advance, the Messiah would come, and He would prescribe the pathway to peace.

Discernable in Christ’s teaching and example is a three pronged approach to finding and making peace.  Peace with others, peace with ourselves and peace with God.  Each of these has both a secular focus which often falls short and a spiritual fruit that defines true peace.  Let’s examine each.

External peace- This is peace with others.  Inter-relational peace.  Peace with those outside yourself, whether they are family members, competing companies, or ally nations.  This particular peace is the focus of the world.  The world community has never longed for something more than for there to be peace among the nations and never have they been more unsuccessful.  The League of Nations, the United Nations, the OAS, the G-6, G-8, even the IMF, World Bank and other economic organizations all exist to promote stability and the financial benefits of peace.  For the Christian, inter-relational fellowship, external peace with others, is not the product of mere cooperation, but rather the fruit of Godly fellowship.  We see the importance of external peace in Jesus’ life and ministry.  Peace begins with those closest to us and radiates out.  We reconcile ourselves with our brothers in Christ, through our fellowship with Him we work to maintain peace; and pursue confrontation only and always with repentance and renewal in view. (Matt 5:24, 7:1-5, 18:15-20)

Internal peace- This is peace with yourself.  Personal peace, the quiet calm of your soul amidst the storm of life. This particular peace is the focus of our generation.  In an age bereft of calm and full of strife, our generation searches in vain for any source of internal peace.  The acceptance of others, the acclaim of the community, fame and its fifteen minutes, and when these prove shallow this generation seeks to find peace in the numb nerves of drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, medications, therapy and sleep.  Each dark dead-end hallway leads on and on, deeper and deeper, never reaching the root of the problem.  For our generation internal peace remains elusive.  For the Christian, internal peace, peace with one’s self is the fruit of Spirit.  Internal peace comes only through the presence of the Spirit in the life of the believer.  Christian’s who “are Christ’s and have crucified the flesh with its passions” (Gal 5:24), walk with and in the Spirit which produces; love, joy and peace.  So close is this relationship, that when sin is committed and the Spirit is grieved, internal peace becomes the first casualty; and can only be reclaimed through confession, repentance and renewal.    

Eternal peace- The final and arguably most important peace is peace with God.  This is eternal peace, peace that reconciles you to God and stays His wrath against your sin.  This particular peace is the focus of the religious in our society.  Theists of all stripes detect the presence of enmity between the creator and the creature.  This leads to innumerable paths and strategies to appease and live up to divine demands.  Fasting, praying, pilgrimage, indulgences, meditations, sacrifices, mantras and karma; all attempting to fill the void of separation between God’s holiness and our sin.  The combined weight of these efforts, on their own, is unable to tip the balance of divine judgment.  And peace again, remains elusive.  For the Christian eternal peace with God is the fruit of the cross.  Christ’s birth was the advent of eternal peace on earth. (Luke 2:14)  His work at Calvary satisfied the price of our sin.  And when we believe in that work and in the lordship of the one who performed it, we gain the immeasurable presence of peace with God.  The weight of Christ’s work crushes the scales of God’s judgment, and beneath the banner of His name, we enter with confidence into eternal peace with the Father.

Jesus proclaimed that the sons of God would make peace.  This proclamation is both a  challenge and a reflection on reality.  Do you wish to be among the children of God? Then make peace.  Peace with God through Christ; peace with yourself through the Spirit; and peace with others through Godly fellowship.  Our culture is searching for the source of a peaceful life. As Christians, are we displaying the fruits of those who have found the source?

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Speak to the Nations…

April 7, 2011

Our calling and God’s comfort.

Jeremiah 1:1-10

God never gives one a task, without also providing the means to complete the task.  Jeremiah was faced with an immense vocation.  He was called to proclaim truth to a wayward, disinterested, sinful and even hostile generation.  It is telling and should be encouraging that God never fails to raise up the weak to confront the strong.  The pattern in scripture is clear: Abraham was impotent, Moses was inadequate in speech, David was an adulterer, Paul was a murderer, and Timothy was young and inexperienced.  Each man struggled with his calling and in weakness doubted God’s ability and even His wisdom at the outset of their call.  But despite these weaknesses, God was faithful once the work was begun to complete that work manifesting an even greater glory through their weakness.

What comfort this passage conveys through God’s sovereignty on display.  Jeremiah was told that the task to which he was appointed was consecrated long before he was born.  God knew him, knew what he would face, and knew what his limitations would be, and called him anyway.   This passage is a testament to the purposeful grace of God.

Jeremiah protests that he is but a youth, that he does not know how to speak.  Yet with a single word and an outstretched hand God removed his doubt.  “Behold I have put my words into your mouth, see that I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms.”  And like Isaiah before him, Jeremiah was made clean and his mouth was opened.  God chose the man, the mission and the message.  The words in Jeremiah’s mouth were not his own, but were placed there by God; with this knowledge how could he not preach to the nations.

We must realize that each of us in Christ has been formed with a purpose.  We have been given God’s word, it is implanted in us and written on our hearts.  His Word brings the sword, divides families and confronts cities, it “plucks up” and “breaks down.”  But it also “builds” and “plants;” (vs10) it never returns void and if received meekly, it will save souls. (James 1:21)

With the knowledge of my calling, and the message given me, the question pounding in my heart and mind is;  How can I not preach the gospel with confidence?  For even in the face of opposition, God’s words are a comfort, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you…” (vs8) It is my prayer that God’s hand, outstretched toward my weak heart, contains more grace than judgment; so that my mouth may be made clean.  So that I too may speak to the nations.

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From Whence Comes Our Confidence?…

April 4, 2011

From whence does our confidence in ministry come?

God in His infinite wisdom has made us mortal.  We will seek, serve, secure, and be saved, only to die.  The greatest priests, preachers, evangelists and prophets are made to serve but a while; then the bloom fades, the flower withers and the ground on which they preached remembers them no more.

It is tempting to place your hope in that long chain of witness, whose humble starts were in upper rooms and arid wilderness.  The priests of Israel and the Apostles of Christ were, after-all, commissioned by God; the priests to practice atonement and the apostles to proclaim that atonement perfected.  When we take pride in those testimonies and works, in the faithful service of such men, and the glory of our own obedience, God reminds us that we were predated in plan, purpose and providence.  Before the Apostles there were the priests; before the priests there was Aaron; before Aaron there was Abram (Abraham); but before Abram there was Melchizedek.  (The “king of righteousness, ” the lord of Salem (peace) who worshiped and served the Lord Most High.)  If Abram had been tempted to think that the God of his calling was in his head, or his own creation; he arrives in Canaan to find a priest of his God.  A priest of an order, pre-Jewish, Pre- Christian, serving the pre-existent God.  The writer of Hebrews gives the most encouraging word for those disenchanted and dismayed with the weakness of human priestly service.  “For the Law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.” (Heb 7:28)

The Law does what it does, it illumines the weakness of man, and guides him in his service to God. (Rom 7:7)  But thanks be to God that the object in which we place our trust is not the service of the weak, but the saving of the Son, who “always lives to make intercession for us.”  This guarantor of this new covenant, is not limited by time, not constrained by old covenants but has been, is and will be our  perfect sacrifice and savior.  So we go forth with confidence to enter the Holy places, albeit briefly, with confidence, rooted in “the blood of Christ, the new and living way.” (Heb 10:19)

 

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Find the Time and Redeem it…

August 5, 2010


I thought I would post a couple links to some resources for those who ask the question, “I have a Bible, so now what?”

The first is an excellent and brief book of instruction on studying the word entitled, How to Study the Bible” by John MacArthur from Moody Publishers, 2009.

This book attempts and succeeds to communicate the vital importance of the word to the life of any believer. It is an excellent aid for those new believers as well as those Christians who need to taste and see, again, why our Lord is good.

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The Wicked, Not very Musical…

July 21, 2010

A CHRISTIAN’S COMFORT IN THE PSALMS PART 4:

“רשע” IN THE PSALMS

The common foes for the righteous in the Psalter are the wicked.  “When evil enters peoples hearts it leads not only to wicked deeds but also to disastrous consequences for the people themselves.”[1] It is the certainty of these consequences that God, via the psalmist, warns His children against.  The word most commonly translated in the psalms as wicked or ungodly is “Ra’sha.”  In its verbal form it means to “act wickedly, be guilty, or accounted guilty.”  As an adjective it is used to describe “the wicked, guilty, wrongdoer and guilty one.”[2] It occurs 82 times in 80 distinct verses in 42 psalms.[3] Four of those occurrences are found in Psalm 1 and a further twelve are concentrated in Psalm 37; for this reason both merit brief examination.

It is significant that the psalm chosen to act as a prelude and introduction to the entire Psalter should deal so specifically with the wicked and their role in opposition to God and His people.  The themes seen earlier in Psalm 34 are pertinent here as well.[4] By its nature Psalm 1 is prescriptive in regards to behavior and illustrative of the eternal benefits of acting righteously.  Psalm 1 is in large part definitive as to who the wicked are; and could be read like an entry in a dictionary.  The wicked: counsel in a manner contrary to God’s design to the detriment of the blessed man (vs.1); they prosper only briefly and then they are blown away like chaff (vs.4); they will suffer judgment and fail to withstand its verdict (vs.5); and they will ultimately perish by following their own self destructive way (vs.6).  If Psalm 1 defines the wicked, then Psalm 37 displays the grand drama in which they scheme to subdue God’s children at every turn.

The word “Ra’sha” is used 12 times within Psalm 37.[5] Played out in its verses is the ongoing struggle incurred by the righteous as the wicked continually plot against them.  A certain symmetry is seen between the descriptive methods of promise, prescription, prophecy and acknowledgement.  In sequence the methods are arranged in the following way:

-Prophecy the demise of the wicked (vs.10);

-Acknowledgement of the plots of the wicked (vs. 12,14);

-Prescription for righteous (vs.16)/prophecy of destruction (vs.17);

-Prophecy of destruction (vs.20)/acknowledgement of wicked nature (vs.21);

-Prophecy (vs.28);

-Acknowledgement (vs.32);

-Prescription for righteous (vs.34)/acknowledgement (vs.35);

-Prophecy (vs.38);

-Promise (vs.40)

This back and forth is emblematic of the struggle seen throughout the Psalms.  At the heels of the saints the wicked persistently nip.  In the face of certain prophesied destruction and judgment, the wicked deny God and act as fools for they lack understanding and knowledge.[6]

Evil as described by “RA” and the wicked denoted by “Ra’sha” appear in 139 distinct verses within the Psalter and are addressed in 82 separate psalms.  In other words, 52% of the psalms of the Old Testament mention or address in some context evil and those who act according to an evil mind.  Due to the poetic structure and the frequent use of parallelism in the psalms, evil and the wicked are never addressed in a vacuum.  Acknowledging evil’s presence in the world is merely one step toward finding comfort in the face of evil’s effects of suffering, separation and death.  The psalmists use context to frame comfort, and evil is always seen in a context of a faithful sovereign God who is mighty to save.  How that contextualization occurs and provides comfort shall be our focus in the next post.

Click here for Part 3 of a Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms…


[1] Ibid. 91.

[2] Clines, 432.

[3] These calculations are based on my own personal count.

[4] Ps. 1:1 equals prescription; 1:4 acknowledgement; 1:5 prophecy “the wicked will not stand in judgment”; 1:6 promise of deliverance.

[5] Psalm 37 is an acrostic psalm and ‘Ra’sha is found 12 times within its verses.  The ESV translates it exclusively as “ the wicked” in the following verses: 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 20, 21, 28, 32, 34, 35, 38, and 40.

[6] Psalm 14:1-7

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Malicious Melodies, ‘Evil’ in the Psalms…

July 21, 2010

A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms pt. 3

רע” IN THE PSALMS

“The reader of the psalms of the Old Testament is quickly struck by the fact that most of the Psalms deal with some sort of trouble or adversity; the psalmist experiences of enmity, oppression and wickedness.”[1] This oppression, evil, and adversity is often expressed with the word “RA.”  The Hebrew word “RA” is used primarily as an adjective and has a variety of meanings within the Psalter.  Commonly it is translated as “bad, evil, displeasing…(ethically) evil… and distressing.”  When used as a noun in both masculine and feminine forms it refers to: “evil one, wicked one, one who is evil…evil i.e. greedy, evil i.e. harmful, severe, grievous.”[2] “RA”s prolific presence is seen throughout the Psalms; it occurs 64 times in 45 separate psalms.  Put another way, 30% of the 150 psalms address evil (via RA) explicitly.  There are 5 occurrences in Psalm 34 alone, a fact which makes this psalm significant and its use of “RA” merits our attention.

Psalm 34 is an acrostic psalm of praise and deliverance.[3] The psalmist extols the Lord for His goodness, and trumpets the virtue of seeking after God and His benefits of protection and mercy.  This psalm also puts forth several common methods for addressing the progression of evil (RA).  There is: a prescription for the children of God to avoid evil, a promise of God’s judgment, an acknowledgement that evil persists, and finally a prophecy of evils coming condemnation.[4] These methods of prescription, promise, acknowledgement and prophecy are common within the structure of many psalms especially in their treatment of evil.

Evil, when manifested within individuals “produces an evil disposition, an attitude of inclination, and it is this that leads them to wicked behavior.”[5] These individuals are termed the “ungodly or wicked” (Ra’sha) by the psalmists and it is this word we will examine in the next post in the series.

Read Part 2 of A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms here…


[1] Patrick D. Miller. Interpreting the Psalms. (Philadelphia, PA. Fortress Press, 1986.) 48.

[2] David J.A. Clines ed. The Concise Dictionary of Classical Hebrew. (Sheffield, UK. Sheffield Phoenix press. 2009) 424. Entry on “RA”.  Its verbal root “RA’A” translates as “to be bad…do evil” and is seen used as a noun in Ps. 22:17 as Evildoer. 427.  “RA’A” occurs 15 times within the Psalter in 12 chapters.

[3] A.F. Kirkpatrick. The Book of Psalms. (Cambridge, UK. Cambridge Univ. Press. 1951) 169-170.

[4] Psalm 34:13-14 prescription; 34:16 promise; 34:19 acknowledgement; and 34:21 Prophecy of evil’s ultimate slaying and condemnation.

[5] Alexander Ryrie. Deliver Us from Evil: reading the psalms as poetry. (London, UK. Darton, Longman and Todd ltd. 2004) 91.