Thursday, December 30, 2010

Our Praying Priest - Mark 1:35

"And in the early morning, while it was still dark,
He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place,
and was praying there."
(Mark 1:35)

I don't know about you, but prayer is a struggle for me. It is the hardest part of my Christian walk. I wrestle like a dog in this discipline. It is in the moment of moving through this means of grace that my doubts grow the greatest, that my exhaustion seems insurmountable, and that my thoughts scramble and discombobulate like wheat in a whirlwind!

I want to pray. I pray to pray. I fall on my face over and over and over as I attempt to pray. Understand?

That's why passages like this are precious to me. In them I see the priority that Christ puts on prayer and am reminded that inspite of the difficulties I must press on and pray on.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Doctor is Always In - Mark 1:29-34

"And immediately after they had come out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law was lying sick with fever; and immediately they spoke to Him about her. And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them.

"And when evening had come, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city had gathered at the door. And He healed many who were ill with various diseases; and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was." (Mark 1:29-34)

Today's text is a pretty straightforward one. In times past it would be one that I probably wouldn't even bother to blog about. But I am sort of on a personal mission here with the book of Mark. I am really trying to soak up and meditate on every single thing I can about my Jesus. I don't want to miss even a morsel right now, so bear with me as I take note of several simple truths from this passage.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Authority in Word and Deed - Mark 1:21-28

"And they went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. And they were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

And just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, 'What do we have to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who You are - the Holy One of God.'
And Jesus rebuked him, saying, 'Be quiet, and come out of him!' And throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice, and came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves saying, 'What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.'

And immediately the news about Him went out everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee." (Mark 1:21-28)

One of the things that is so clearly evidenced in the gospel accounts is that Jesus both spoke and acted with great authority. No wonder! He is God come in the flesh. HE is the Authority on authority!! He is omniscient wisdom. He is omnipotent ability. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is Creator of all that is and He spoke this world into existance with only a word.

Authority? No doubt!!

In this passage we see the authority of Christ playing out in His words and in His works. He has come to Capernaum and, as was His custom, He has entered the synagogue and is teaching the people.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Grandest Title a Minister Can Own - Mark 1:17

"And Jesus said to them,
'Follow Me, and I will make you
fishers of men."
(Mark 1:17)

Pastor. Evangelist. Preacher. Elder. Shepherd. Overseer. Minister.

I have to admit that when I pause to think on the various titles given to those set apart to proclaim the good news of the gospel these 7 always pop into my mind long before the title that Jesus gives. Yet, this title, "fishers of men" is the first title, the earliest title, mentioned in the gospels. It is the title that Jesus Himself uses and it tells us a lot about the role, duty, and calling of those who have been ordained to serve our Savior. It also tells us of our need to stand in the gap, fervently praying for those who are striving upon the sea of souls. A faithful pastor's work is never done. I know, I'm married to one!

J. C. Ryle writes beautifully on this idea of ministers as fishers. He says:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Immediately - Mark 1:16-20

"And as He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.' And they immediately left the nets
and followed Him. And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. And immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him." (Mark 1:16-20)

Each year as I read over this passage I am convicted by the use of the word "immediately" as it is used to describe the actions of these first disciples. Jesus calls and "immediately" Simon and Andrew get up and leave everything they have ever known to follow One whom they have just now met. The same thing is true of James and John. "Immediately" Jesus calls and they show no sign of hesitation in leaving their father, their friends, their home, their job, their possessions, their life. "Immediately" they set off following this Carpenter turned Prophet.

There is much to be learned and much to be emulated in the actions of these brothers of ours. They teach us, as Matthew Henry says, that "those whom Christ calls must leave all to follow Him and by His grace He inclines them to do so. We must sit loose to this world, and forsake everything that is inconsistent with our duty to Christ."


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Sermon That Jesus Preached - Mark 1:14-15

"And after John had been taken into custody,
Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God,
and saying, 'The time is fulfilled
and the kingdom of God is at hand;
repent and believe in the gospel."
(Mark 1:14-15)

I've sat under quite a few sermons in my time. Some good. Some not so good. Many of those sermons have referenced the gospel. Sadly, few have explained it. 

Here in Mark 1, we have a cliff-note version of a sermon that Jesus once preached. It is said in the text that He came preaching the gospel of God, and in a mere 18 words we see that the heart of the gospel is covered. Well,should we expect anything less from the Son of God?!

The passage tells us that Jesus has come to Galilee and He's come on a mission. In Him, the "time" prophesied from Genesis 3:15 forward was being fulfilled. Jesus, the promised Messiah, has come. 

He is the One whom Isaiah said would bear our griefs, sorrows and sins. He is the sacrificial Lamb who would be "pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities." His mission was to come and ransom sinners from the prison of their sin. He came to die and He came to rise again from the dead, exactly as the prophets of old had foretold. His resurrection would usher in a kingdom where the sting of death would be eradicated and where the Satanic serpent's head would be completely crushed, just as Moses foretold (Gen 3:15). Jesus came to make paupers princes and sinners sons! Truly, in Jesus "the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

In The Wilderness - Mark 1:12-13

"And immediately the Spirit impelled Him
to go out into the wilderness.
And He was in the wilderness forty days,
being tempted by Satan;
and He was with the wild beasts,
and the angels were ministering to Him."
(Mark 1:12-13)

The temptation of Jesus is a very well known New Testament story. It's recorded in all of the gospel accounts except for the book of John. Both Matthew and Luke give much more detailed descriptions than does our friend Mark. The latter succeeds in summing up the whole experience in only two verses and gives a solid cliff note of Christ's "crisis". Two verses covering 40 days!

Now, with that said, I must admit that everything in me wants to run to those other gospel accounts and share with you the lessons I've learned in times past from the "extended-play" versions. Matthew and Luke's renderings are truly deep mines containing many precious jewels. They are rich with insight into the schemes of Satan. They are full to over-flowing with pictures of the three-fold Achiles' heel that dwells in all of our hearts (the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life). And they abound with examples of how to properly defend ourselves with the sword of the Spirit against those wicked and dastardly devilish schemes. Oh, how I want to go there! But I have made a promise to myself that I am going to stick like glue to Mark and focus on what he deems necessary for the moment.

So, what does Mr. Mark have to teach us this day? Well, I have personally learned 4 things from these 2 verses.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Well Pleased - Mark 1:9-11

"And it came about in those days
that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee,
and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
And immediately coming up out of the water,
He saw the heavens opening,
and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him;
and a voice came out of the heavens saying:
'Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased.'
(Mark 1:9-11)

John the Baptist was not only privileged to verbally proclaim the coming of Christ, he was privileged to physically anoint Christ as He entered into His public ministry. John the Baptist was given the honor of baptizing Jesus Christ, the Son of God!

So, here in these verses we have the account of the baptism of Christ.

Much could be said.
Much could be debated.
I'm not into all of that at the moment.
For now I'm simply looking for Jesus in the various sections of this gospel account and the thing about my Savior which most attaches itself to my head and to my heart this day springs forth from the Father's words about the Son.

A voice from the heavens speaks and it says: "Thou art my beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased."

There is a LOT of good news about Jesus packed in those eleven words - good news for struggling sinners like you and like me!

Making Ready the Way - Mark 1:1-8

"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
who will prepare Your way;
the voice of one crying in the wilderness,
'Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.'
John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness
preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
And all the country of Judea was going out to him,
and all the people of Jerusalem;
and they were being baptized by Him
in the Jordan River confessing their sins.
And John was clothed with camel's hair
and wore a leather belt around his waist,
and his diet was locusts and wild honey.
And he was preaching and saying,
'After me One is coming who is mightier than I,
and I am not fit to stoop down and 
untie the thong of His sandals.
I baptize you with water;
but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.'"(Mark 1:1-8)

Every really good story has an introduction. An introduction consists of those prefacing words and descriptions that will set the stage for all that is to come. Chapter 1 verses 1-8 are the introduction for the good story of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God as told by Mark.

There are several interesting revelations made in these 8 verses, but the thing that most grabbed my attention was the idea of the very introduction itself!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Introductory Comments on A Book About Jesus

"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, 
the Son of God..."
(Mark 1:1)

Recently I have found myself with a deeper need to dig into Jesus. (Honestly, God has sort of providentially backed me into the corner of deeper need! OK, so that's a vast understatement.)

In the past month I have truly begun to ask, "Who is this Savior of sinners and do I REALLY know Him or do I just know a decent bit about Him?" In striving to answer the question and answer it well, I found myself drifting to the gospel of Mark. There's a reason for that.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Jesus Does All Things Well

I haven't posted any notes in a while. There's a reason for that. The God of the universe has been working overtime on me - very personally, very providentially, very profoundly and I've just needed to sit down and shut up.

My loving heavenly Father has been making me stare down my past, making me learn to rightly rest in Him for my present, and teaching me to trust Him with my future. It's been a pretty big deal and the good news is that, much like Eustace Scrubb in C.S. Lewis' "Voyage of The Dawn Treader", the dragon scales are falling off of this stubborn saved sinner, and the far too often blind eyes of a redeemed doubter are beginning to be focused much more clearly... not simply on the abstract idea of a theoretical Christ who saves sinners but on the real Person of Jesus - Immanuel - God with us - the Lamb of God who died for this sinner.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I Cursed Christ - Galatians 3:13

"Christ redeemed us 
from the curse of the Law,
having become a curse 
for us -for it is written,
'Cursed is everyone 
who hangs on a tree.'"
(Galatians 3:13)

Sometimes I tend to just "poo poo" my sins away - thinking of them simply as slight slip ups, minimal mistakes, and average accidents. "Oh, this is really no big deal. What's it really matter? What'll it really cost?"

If, like me, you've ever thought that sin is just really "no big deal" then let this note help us think again.

You know, my sin and your sin cost Christ His life. Jesus came and "gave Himself for our sins." He "delivered Himself up for me." That folks is a big deal- a BIG big deal. Our sins killed Christ!

OK -'nuff said? 
Nope!  Not nearly enough!

Friday, July 16, 2010

By Faith - Galatians 3:10-11

"For as many as are under the works of the Law
are under a curse; for it is written,
'Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all
things written in the book of the Law,
to perform them.'
Now that no one is justified by the Law
before God is evident; for,
'The righteous man shall live by faith.'"
(Galatians 3:10-11)

"The curse of God is like a flood that swallows everything that is not of faith. To avoid the curse we must hold on to the promise of the blessing in Christ." (Martin Luther)

So begin Dr. Luther's thoughts on this section of holy writ.

Matthew Henry writes in a similar vein:

"We cannot be justified but by faith fastening on the gospel, because the Law condemns us. If we put ourselves upon trial in that court, we are certainly lost and undone."
These fathers of the faith are clear because the Word of God is clear. Paul himself could be no clearer than he has been about all of this. Yet he continues on with reminding reproof because we are...
                             ...because we're hard headed. 

Repetitive reminders regarding our redemption are a good thing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Gospel Beforehand - Galatians 3:8

"And the Scripture, foreseeing that God
would justify the Gentiles by faith,
preached the gospel beforehand
to Abraham, saying,
'All the nations shall be blessed in you.'"
(Galatians 3:8)

Justification is no new thing. It is not a New Testament invention. It is not the new and improved way of salvation. The way to heaven didn't used to be through works and suddenly somewhere around 33 AD it morphed into grace. No, since the dawn of time the people of God have been saved by grace, through faith, in Christ. No man has ever been justified by the works of the Law. Every saved sinner has always been justified by faith in Christ Jesus.

"How can it be?" You may protest.

"Come on, Jesus didn't even pop on the scene until the dawn of a new time marker. What about all of those sacrifices that were required? What about all of that blood that was spilt? What about...?"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Abraham Believed - Galatians 3:6

"Even so Abraham believed God,
and it was reckoned to Him as righteousness."
(Galatians 3:6)

There are two key ingredients to the recipe of righteousness that is found here in Galatians 3:6.

"Abraham believed!"

We are not told that Abraham reasoned,
     nor that he understood,
     nor that he had it all figured out. 

No, we are told that he "believed".

And what did He believe? "Abraham believed God!"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bewitched - Galatians 3:1-3

"You foolish Galatians,
who has bewitched you,
before whose eyes Jesus Christ
was publicly portrayed as crucified?
This is the only thing I want to find
out from you;
did you receive the Spirit by the
works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
Are you so foolish?
Having begun by the Spirit,
are you now being perfected by the flesh?"
(Galatians 3:1-3)

Are you sensing a theme in Paul's letter? Does anything in particular seem to be a pivotal point in his writing?!

Our salvation is all of Christ, only of Christ, freely of Christ, and fully of Christ! Justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We bring nothing to our salvation but sin and to think that we can "do" anything to earn our way to God's favor is the height of deception.

Well, here we go again. The theme is still weaving its way - and weave on it must for if we miss this point we have missed everything!

At the start of chapter 3, Paul is speaking to those who have embraced Christ BUT are still trying to do something to merit His favor and to earn their keep. He is about to question them on several fronts.

First, he asks "what in the world has gotten into you?!" In the Biblical language he writes: "You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?"

Oh, how easily led astray we silly sheep can be.
We are so quickly drawn away.
We are readily deceived.
We are seduced so simply.
We are "bewitched" without much effort at all.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Needlessly - Galatians 2:21

"I do not nullify the grace of God;
for if righteousness comes through the Law,
then Christ died needlessly."
(Galatians 2:21)


Amazing Grace!

Marvelous Grace!

Wonderful Grace!

Grace That is Greater Than All My Sin!

Surely the Law kills and truly no man is justified by the works of the Law.

We know this is true because the Bible declares it to be true. Over and over and over Paul has driven this fact home in his letter to the Galatians. He has shot straight. He has spared no punches. He has not minced his words. "A man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Jesus."

Here in Galatians 2:21 he is going to give us a slightly different twist on this exact same truth, though. Here, he is going to show us how the very fact that Christ died proves his point.

If there was ANY other way to be saved, then why did Christ come?

"If righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."

Friday, July 9, 2010

For ME? - Galatians 2:20

"...the Son of God, who loved me,
and delivered Himself up for me."
(Galatians 2:20)

I was rolling along. I was moving forward. I was storming right on into verse 21 and then two words stopped me in my tracks.

"For me!"

"For ME!"

Wow! You know, the gospel is not just for the masses. Christ didn't simply die for the multitudes. Jesus didn't give Himself only for the many. My Savior delivered Himself up for ME!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Crucified With Christ - Galatians 2:19-20

"For through the Law I died to the Law,
that I might live to God.
I have been crucified with Christ;
and it is no longer I who live,
but Christ lives in me;
and the life which I now live in the flesh
I live by faith in the Son of God,who loved me,
and delivered Himself up for me."
(Galatians 2:19-20)

Wow! Are you longing for freedom? Well, here's where you'll find it - in Christ crucified for you. But first, let us realize just how NOT free we are apart from Him.

This section of Galatians begins with some bad news - the Law kills! That bad news simply serves as the honest backdrop for the good news of the gospel which is about to be proclaimed - Christ gives life!!

Truly, no one can be justified by the Law. The Law condemns us. It shows us just how terribly we miss the mark. It accuses us - and rightly so. Honestly, as Paul proclaims, the Law kills us - it is a taskmaster that mercilessly drives us to our grave. The more we try to live the Law the more we die to the Law. ("through the Law I died to the Law....")


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Faith Alone - Galatians 2:16

"Nevertheless knowing that a man
is not justified by the works of the Law
but through faith in Christ Jesus,
even we have believed in Christ Jesus,
that we may be justified by faith in Christ,
and not by the works of the Law;
since by the works of the Law
shall no flesh be justified."
(Galatians 2:16)

Paul wants to make it clear. There is NO working our way to heaven or to holiness. Clearly and emphatically he tells us that a man is NOT justified by the works of the law.

This is the cardinal and foundational starting point for being a Christian. It is imperative that we begin with an understanding that we can't "DO" a single thing to get in good with God. We are sinners - all of us. We have fallen short of the glory of God and there is no ladder long enough, no bridge broad enough, nor any work wide enough to get us to Him.

We are sinners and what we naturally do - all the time - left to ourselves - is sin!! We are by nature bad trees bearing bad fruit (Matthew 7:17) and no matter how hard we may try to produce good fruit it just won't happen. It cannot happen! Our most righteous deeds are but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) and our wicked hearts are continually producing wicked things (Mark 7:21-23). 

Bottom line - apart from Christ - we are only and always sinning.

As a matter of fact, the more we work for our salvation the more we, in reality, are simply storing up wrath and judgment for ourselves for the wages of all the labors of our hands is death (Romans 6:23). Since "whatever is not from faith is sin" it is easily deduced that "those who seek to earn the grace of God by their own efforts are trying to please God with their sins" (Luther). Friends, that is foolish.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Justification - Galatians 2:16

"Nevertheless knowing that a man
is not justified by the works of the Law
but through faith in Jesus Christ,
even we have believed in Christ Jesus,
that we may be justified by faith in Christ,
and not by the works of the Law;
since by the works of the Law
shall no flesh be justified."
(Galatians 1:16)

The message of Galatians 1:16 is clear: justification is ONLY by faith in Jesus Christ and not by the works of the Law. Over the next few posts it would appear that justification is going to be the grand theme. Honestly, it's the grand theme of Paul's entire epistle. In light of that perhaps it would be wise to make sure that this important term is defined and understood.

I know of no fuller and better definition than the one found in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It states:

"Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein He pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in His sight only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone."
Webster defines it as "the act, process, or state of being justified by God." He then goes on to define "justified" as "having been proved right " or "legally absolved".

Monday, July 5, 2010

Behind the Back or To the Face? - Galatians 2:11

"But when Peter came to Antioch,
I opposed him to his face,
because he stood condemned."
(Galatians 2:11)

In the last post we looked at Peter's blunder, today I want to look quickly at Paul's response.

Peter has fallen into some foolishness. Paul has seen it. What will he do about it?

Well, one thing he WON'T do about it is talk about Peter behind his back! We don't see Paul sneaking around to all of the Gentiles saying, "Hey, did you see what Peter did? Did you see how he was all buddy buddy with you guys up until the Jewish Christians popped up on the scene? What's up with him? Can you even believe that he would act that way?"

Nope. Paul is not going to talk about Peter. He is going to talk to Peter. Please, please take note of that fact.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Perfected in Our Imperfections / Acquitted of our Condemnation- Galatians 2:11-13

"But when Peter came to Antioch,
I opposed him to his face,
because he stood condemned.
For prior to the coming of certain men from James,
he used to eat with the Gentiles;
but when they came, he began to withdraw
and hold himself aloof,
fearing the party of the circumcision.
And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy,
with the result that even Barnabas
was carried away by their hypocrisy."
                                                   (Galatians 2:11-13)

True confession time! In reading over these verses, which were next on my list, I found myself initially saying: "Oh well - nuttin' today!" Some days that is how it seems.

The Word looks empty and impractical.
It appears more historical than devotional.
You know, I came close to simply skimming over this section and going on with the duties of the day, checking my Bible reading off of my "to do" list.

I am learning that my Bible reading is no "to do" it is a "to digest". I thought there was 'nuttin' and once again I am proved wrong. I am amazed yet I not surprised at what has pierced my heart this morning from this "impractically historical "section. Truly, this is the living Word of the living God and surely every jot and tittle of it is inspired and is profitable for our teaching, reproof, correction, training and full equipping for every good work.

Here's the condensed scoop that has so radically grabbed my attention this morning:
There are no perfect people... there is One perfect Propitiator!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Set Apart to Proclaim: the God-Glorifying Goal of Gospel Grace - Galatians 1:15-16

"... it pleased God,
who set me apart from my mother's womb,
and called me by His grace,
to reveal His Son in me,
that I might preach Him among the heathen..."
(Galatians 1:15-16)

I almost passed it by. I almost read right through it and never noticed how dear it was. I glanced at it as if it only applied to Paul and then it hit me. This isn't just about Paul and his calling, no - this is about me and mine and you and yours.

True, the context is about Paul's life and conversion and call to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, but I do believe there is an appropriate application of encouragement and exhortation to us as well.

Five things jumped out at me pretty quickly this morning. Again, they are statements Paul makes about himself - but they are statements that, to some degree or another, are true of all Christians.

First, "it pleased God" to save me, sanctify me, and set me in His service.
Does that not blow your mind? God - Almighty God - the holy One - the Maker of heaven and earth - the King of Kings and the LORD of Lords has been PLEASED to call me out as His own and to set me apart to serve Him.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pleaser - Galatians 1:10

"For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God?
Or am I striving to please men?
If I were still trying to please men,
I would not be a bond servant of Christ."
(Galatians 1:10)

Man pleaser or God pleaser? 
     Where do we fall? 
          Which side do we land on?

Quite often it is a real battle. Am I living for the approval and accolades of people or am I living for the glory of God and the good of His kingdom?

Our right or wrong understanding of the gospel may play a key role in which side of the line we find ourselves standing on.

For me personally, there is often a conflict between the two.

The apostle Paul, here in verse 10, points us to the type of pleaser we should be and the gospel of grace truly is the hinge pin for it all.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Swift to Swoon from Gospel Grace: A Warning to Hearers and Heralds - Galatians 1:6-9

"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which really is not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed."(Galatians 1:6-9)

Look out folks. Paul ain't playin'!!

He has heralded the grace and peace that are ours in Christ. He has held forth the glorious good news that Christ Jesus gave Himself for our sins. He has trumpeted the hope of deliverance from this present evil age that is granted to all those who trust in our sufficient Savior. And he has humbly stood amazed at how quickly we forget these things that have so radically changed our lives.

Spiritual dementia seems a common plague from time to time for the people of God. Stealthily concealed gospel deception seems a common ploy of the arch-enemy of God. We'll glance at both of these things.

Monday, June 28, 2010

How To Help a Wandering Sheep - Galatians 1:6

"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting
Him who called you by the grace of Christ,
for a different gospel..."
(Galatians 1:6)

Do you have friends or family that are wandering outside the safety of green pastures and grazing in the desert lands? Maybe you yourself are tempted to stray outside of the guardrails of grace and to roam in the realm of the rebel. Either way, Paul has a message for us this morning from Galatians. It is a message I needed to hear this day. It is a word regarding how we need to react to struggling sinners and wandering sheep.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Delivered - Galatians 1:4 (part 2)

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father,
and the Lord Jesus Christ,
who gave Himself for our sins,
that He might deliver us out of this present evil age,
according to the will of our God and Father,
to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen."
(Galatians 1:3-5)

Real grace and true peace are gifts that come from the Father, through the Son. The Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins and He gave Himself with a real and tangible purpose - He came to deliver us! He didn't simply give His life as an ethereal portrait of love and grace and peace and sacrifice and deliverance. No, He gave His life to actually free us from our captivity. Christ is the conquering Captain and the rescuing Redeemer. He came and He accomplished that which He came for.

Jesus the Son of God became the Son of Man "that He might deliver us out of this present evil age." He came to deliver us. Is deliverance yours? Are you conquered by Christ or still controlled by the captor of this present evil age? It is an important question to consider.
"This present world is an evil world and it has become so by the sin of man."  (Matthew Henry).
We live in a fallen world.
You know that.
You see that.
It is a world, that though glorious in many ways, is tainted with sin at every turn.
There is a hint of sorrow and sadness even in the greatest blessings that this life has to offer.

Flowers fade.
Friends fail.
Laughter languishes.
Existence is eventually extinguished.

Friday, June 25, 2010

He Gave Himself For Our Sins - Galatians 1:4

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father,
and the Lord Jesus Christ,
who gave Himself for our sins,
that He might deliver us out of this present evil age,
according to the will of our God and Father,
to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen!"
(Galatians 1:3-5)

Grace and peace. Do you long for them? They are ours if we are Christ's. Peace comes from grace and grace comes from Jesus. One flows from the other.

Saving grace is the one necessary pre-requisite for lasting peace. The Lord Jesus came to this fallen world and lived the perfect life that we could not and died the death that our sins deserved. He rose again from the grave that we might not fear the grave. In His propitiatory act, and in that act alone, will we find the grace we need and the peace we long for.

Paul is going to drive that point home in Galatians 1:3-4. I hope to drive it home along with him.

Grace and peace come from Christ "who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen."

Oh, where to begin? How glorious are all of the words before us!!

Paul, in this epistle, will be consistent in his mantra of God's grace.
Peace and deliverance are not found in what we "do".
We will never work our way there.
It is not in our grappling and grasping that we attain it.
It is in His gracious giving.
Peace and deliverance are found in Christ's gracious gift of Himself!! 
Is His gift yours?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Grace & Peace - Galatians 1:3

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father,
and the Lord Jesus Christ,
who gave Himself for our sins,
that He might deliver us out of this present evil age,
according to the will of our God and Father,
to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen."
(Galatians 1:3-5)

So, a new blog series begins this morning. After several weeks of roosting in the Psalms I now turn my devotional attention to the book of Galatians. Galatians- the epistle which so clearly directs our attention to a salvation based on grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone. This is the book of justification by faith and the book which describes the freedom that is ours because of what our gracious Savior has done.

I'll never spend enough time gazing at this glorious grace - nor will you! Mercy is a thing we should marvel at and meditate on more and more and the wise apostle Paul intends to help us do just that over the course of these 6 chapters.

Paul, as he always does, begins his letter with grace and peace.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Accomplishing What Concerns Me - Psalm 138 (part 3)

"I will give Thee thanks with all my heart;
I will sing praises to Thee before the gods.
I will bow down toward Thy holy temple,
and give thanks to Thy name
for Thy loving-kindness and Thy truth;
for Thou hast magnified Thy word
according to all Thy name....

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
Thou wilt revive me;
Thou wilt stretch forth Thy hand
against the wrath of my enemies,
and Thy hand will accomplish what concerns me;
Thy loving-kindness, O LORD is everlasting;
Do not forsake the works of Thy hands."
(Psalm 138:1-2, 7-8)

This is the final section of Psalm 138 and the last in this group of psalms of hallelujah. This psalm of David encourages us - as do all the hallelujah psalms - to thanksgiving and praise. In the opening verses we are challenged to give wholehearted thanksgiving ("with all my heart") and whole-worldly praise ("before the gods"). There is no part of us that should not be worshipful and there is no place where we should not be worshipping! As has so often been the case in these psalms, the glorious loving-kindness and tested truth of our God are held before us as a grand catalyst for all of these things.

In the next group of verses we were exhorted to become humble humans and not haughty ones! "For though the LORD is exalted, yet He regards the lowly; but the haughty He knows from afar."

Pride goeth before a fall.
Humility is a guarantee of grace.

This morning, in the final two verses of the psalm we are reminded of the care that God takes for His precious people in the midst of awful affliction and of His providential dealings to make them more Christ-like in the process.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Regarded Near or Known Afar? - Psalm 138 (part 2)

"I will give Thee thanks with all my heart;
I will sing praises to Thee before the gods.
I will bow down toward Thy holy temple,
and give thanks to Thy name
for Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth;
for Thou hast magnified Thy word according to all Thy name.
On the day I called Thou didst answer me;
Thou didst make me bold with strength in my soul.

All the kings of the earth will give thanks to Thee, O LORD,
when they have heard the words of Thy mouth.
And they will sing of the ways of the LORD.
For great is the glory of the LORD.
For though the LORD is exalted, yet He regards the lowly;
but the haughty He knows from afar.
(Psalm 138:1-6)

Monday, June 21, 2010

With All My Heart - Psalm 138 (part 1)

"I will give Thee thanks with all my heart;
I will sing praises to The before the gods.
I will bow down toward Thy holy temple,
and give thanks to Thy name
for Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth.
For Thou hast magnified Thy word
according to all Thy name.
On the day I called Thou didst answer me;
Thou didst make me bold with strength in my soul.
(Psalm 138:1-3)

David is determined.

He's determined to give thanks.
He's determined to sing praise.
He's determined to worship.
AND, he's determined to do it with all of his heart!

David WILL give thanks to his God and he will do it with all that is within him. Half-hearted part praise just won't cut it. It is the great God whom we worship and He is worthy of our everything! He is worthy of our ALL!

David "would praise God with sincerity and zeal, with that which is within and with ALL that is within. He would praise God with inward impressions agreeing with outward expressions." (Matthew Henry)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Remembered and Redeemed - Psalm 136 (part 5)

"Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
for His lovingkindness is everlasting....

Who remembered us in our low estate,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting,
and has rescued us from our adversaries,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting;
who gives food to all flesh,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Give thanks tot he God of heaven,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
(Psalm 136: 1, 23-26)

So, we come to the end of Psalm 136. We have, thus far, been reminded to thank God for His wonderful character and for His sovereign rule. Those things are practically displayed in His care over creation, His power over persecutors, and His lavishing of a land upon His chosen children.

This morning, the final two sections of the Psalm fall out. In them, we are encouraged to give thanks to the Lord - the good Lord - because we see His everlasting loving-kindness displayed in our redemption and in His daily provision. Good reason, eh?

Friends stop and think about it, we were not born noble but notorious.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Give Thanks to the God of the Nations - Psalm 136 (part 4)

"Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
for His lovingkindness is everlasting....

To Him who smote the Egyptians in their firstborn,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting,
and brought Israel out from their midst,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting,
with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting;
To Him who divided the Red Sea asunder,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting,
and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting;
but He overthrew Pharoah and his army in the Red Sea,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
To Him who led His people through the wilderness,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting;
To Him who smote great kings,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting,
and slew mighty kings,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting:
Sihon, king of the Amorites,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting,
And Og, king of Bashan,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting,
and gave their land as a heritage,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting,
even a heritage to Israel His servant,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting."
(Psalm 136:1, 10-22)

This next section of Psalm 136 contains much - MUCH that should encourage the heart of a believer and press him to praise!! Here we see the greatness of our God as the King of kings. Here we see His power in preserving His people and in pummeling their persecutors.

Are you living in fear of the "Pharaohs" this day?
Are you doubting your ability to conquer Canaan?
Well then, don't just glance but gaze deeply at this section of Psalm 136.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Everlasting Mercy Seen in the Created World - Psalm 136 (part 3)

"Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
for His lovingkindness is everlasting....

To Him who alone does great wonders,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting;
to Him who made the heavens with skill,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting;
to Him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting;
to Him who made the great lights,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting;
the sun to rule by day,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting,
the moon and stars to rule by night,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting."
(Psalm 136:1, 5-9)

For the past two posts I've been slowly stopping to savor the encouragements to praise and thanksgiving that are found here in Psalm 136. First, we are moved to grateful devotion due to the wonderfully repetitive reality of God's everlasting loving-kindness - which just keeps giving and giving and giving. Second, we are moved to reverent thanksgiving simply because of who our God is - Jehovah, the good God, the God of all gods, the Lord of all lords.

Let us give thanks - continually - to this glorious God!!

Verses 5-9 contain the next classified grouping in this psalm. As verses 1-3 pressed us to praise the Lord for the greatness and goodness of His character so the rest of the psalm will press us to praise Him for His deeds.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Thanking God for Who He Is - Psalm 136 (part 2)

"Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting."
(Psalm 136:1-3)

We have MUCH to be thankful for. God's loving-kindness towards us is everlasting. His mercies are new every morning. His faithfulness is great. Bottom line - HE is great and therefore greatly to be praised!

In these first three verses of Psalm 136 the writer of this poetically repetitive hallelujah psalm points us to the character of God as one of the catalysts for thankful praise.
We are to give thanks to God not only for what He does but at an even more basic level for who He intrinsically is.

Friends, if God did NOTHING for us He would still be worthy of EVERYTHING from us. He is God! We are not. There is a great distinction between the Creator and the creature and we have been created by Him and for Him. Let us therefore give Him praise!

He is God - and He is a glorious God as the writer of psalm 136 will show us.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Prelude to Thanksgiving - Psalm 136

"Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
To Him who alone does great wonders,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting;
to Him who made the heavens with skill,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting;
to Him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting;
to Him who made the great lights,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting:
the sun to rule by day,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting,
the moon and stars to rule by night,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting."
(Psalm 136:1-9)

This is a psalm of thanksgiving. (Kind of obvious, eh?!) It is a hallelujah of gratitude for who God is and for what He has done. We have much to thank Him for and just in case we are suffering from some form of Ebenezer amnesia the psalm writer is about to jog our memories.

In these 26 verses (of which I am only going to give a brief intro to this morning) we will be reminded of the greatness of God in and of Himself,of His creative and sustaining power over the entire universe, of His role as Israel's God and Savior and King, of His condescending act of redeeming us from our hopeless and helpless estate, and of His never-ceasing beneficence. He is a good God, a great God, a gracious God, and a giving God. Won't you give thanks with me?

There is a repetitive phrase used very effectively in this particular hymn of thanks:

"for His lovingkindness is everlasting."

Just in case you were wondering, it is used 26 times in 26 verses - I think this everlasting lovingkindness is a point that our lyricist wants to drive home!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dead Idols & a Living God - Psalm 135 (part 3)

"Praise the LORD!...
The idols of the nations are but silver and gold,
the work of man's hands.
They have mouths, but they do not speak;
they have eyes, but they do not see;
they have ears, but they do not hear;
nor is there any breath at all in their mouths.
Those who make them will be like them,
yes, everyone who trusts in them.

O house of Israel, bless the LORD;
O house of Aaron, bless the LORD;
O house of Levi, bless the LORD;
you who revere the LORD, bless the LORD.
Blessed be the LORD from Zion,
who dwells in Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD!
(Psalm 135:1, 15-21)

In this first "hallelujah" psalm we've been pressed to meditate on the goodness and beauty and greatness of the God who has called us out as His own prized possession. We've been urged to praise Him for who He is and for what He has done. Here our attention is drawn to the vain things that natural men often naturally worship. There is truly no comparison.

John Calvin has said that our hearts are idol factories and in that statement he has spoken well. While, in our current culture, we may not manufacture quite as many tangible vessels of idolatry - I haven't noticed a "get your statue of Dagon" stand here in my own small burg (not yet) - we most certainly are constantly in the business of making heart idols left and right.

We worship ourselves, our friends, our toys, our desires, our labors, our reputations - on and on and on they go. Yes, our hearts are idol factories and the product that they are producing isn't up to par.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Greatness of the Good God - Psalm 135 (part 2)

"Praise the LORD!...
For I know that the LORD is great,
and that our Lord is above all gods.
Whatever the LORD pleases, He does,
in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
He causes vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth;
Who makes lightnings for the rain;
Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries.

He smote the firstborn of Egypt,
both of man and beast.
He sent signs and wonders into your midst, O Egypt,
under Pharoah and all his servants.
He smote many nations,
and slew mighty kings,
Sihon, king of Bashan,
and all the kingdoms of Canaan;
and He gave their land as a heritage,
a heriatage to Israel His people.
Thy name, O LORD, is everlasting,
Thy remembrance, O LORD, throughout all generations.
For the LORD will judge His people,
and will have compassion on His servants."
(Psalm 135:1, 5-14)

We, the chosen people and prized possession of God, have been told to praise the good and lovely God. Here, in verses 5-14, we are extolled to praise the greatness of this good God.

Yes, our God is good. He is kind and His mercies are new every morning. But He is not merely some jovial old grandpa pouring forth blessings upon His children. No, our good God is a GREAT God. Mighty in power. Sovereign in all things. He "is above all gods and whatever He pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps."

Henry sums it up this way:

"The Lord is great, great indeed, who knows no limits of time or place. He has an absolute power, and may do with it what He will. This absolute almighty power is of universal extent; He does what He will in heaven, in earth, in the sea, and in all the deep place that are in the bottom of the sea or the bowels of the earth."
God is great and greatly to be praised. Hallelujah!

The psalmist not only arbitrarily claims the greatness of our God, he goes on to give instances and examples of His great power. He does so in "the kingdom of nature" and in "the kingdoms of men".

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hallelujah!! - Psalm 135 (part 1)

"Praise the LORD!
Praise the name of the LORD;
praise Him, O servants of the LORD,
you who stand in the house of the LORD,
in the courts of the house of our God!
Praise the LORD for the LORD is good;
sing praises to His name, for it is lovely.
For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself,
Israel for His own possession."
(Psalm 135:1-4)

Psalm 135 begins the final contextual group of psalms in God's hymnbook. The previous group (120-134) is known as the psalms of ascent. These (135ff) are the psalms of praise. Matthew Henry refers to them as the "hallelujah psalms" - I like that!

Each of these begins with a hallelujah and ends with a hallelujah and in between they are full of the reasons why we should shout hallelujah to our great God.

Henry says that hallelujah is the "alpha and omega" of each of these songs. How I pray that examining these hymns of Zion would move me to make praise the alpha and omega of my songs and of my life!