Monday, January 15, 2018

Quote

Paul fittingly describes the war that believers wage against natural feelings of anguish in their pursuit of endurance and perseverance: "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed" (2 Cor. 4:8-9). We see that bearing the cross with endurance doesn't mean that a person is absolutely stupefied or robbed of every feeling of sorrow. The Stoics of old foolishly idealized such a person — one who, having stripped himself of all humanity, feels the same whether he encounters adversity or prosperity, sorrow or success; or rather one who feels nothing — like a stone. And what did the Stoics achieve by such sublime wisdom? They painted a portrait of endurance that has never been found, nor can exist, among men. Indeed, while they wished to represent endurance accurately and precisely, they deprived humankind of the power of genuine endurance.
John Calvin

Sunday, January 14, 2018

By Grace and Through Faith Alone

In this section of his letter to the church at Rome, Paul is almost done explaining the Gospel that he preaches. There is one more thing that he wants to be clear about before he writes about some of the implications of this Gospel. It’s actually a large problem when it comes to understanding how people become acceptable to God. This is because many Jews in Paul’s day misunderstood the role of the Law of God. They thought that if you obeyed the Law, God would be pleased with you, and everything would be fine. They were wrong.

Here, call to mind Jesus’ parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector.
The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. ​I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ Luke 18:11-12
Here’s someone who is quite sure that God is pleased with him because of the good things that he does and the bad things that he avoids. Paul knew plenty of people just like that. In fact, he had been just like that himself. So, he wants to be clear that that is not how the Gospel works.

To do that he uses the example of Abraham. Listen.

A Prayer

Father,

When we stop to consider our lives, we realize that even in the midst of difficulties and issues, You have been good to us. There are so many ways in which You have blessed us. We all have food enough to eat, shelter that keeps us warm and dry, bodies that are working well enough so that we can be here this morning. There are many good things that we enjoy because of You.

But the best thing that we enjoy, the greatest act of Your goodness is that we get to have You. You are the great and the fearsome God. You inhabit eternity. You fully exist in every place at the same time. You have but to speak and Your creation obeys. You are the God who is high and lifted up. But though You are this great and amazing God who is so very different from us, You are still our Father who is so near.

We are so grateful Father that we get to enjoy You. Your presence is so comforting. Whatever is going on with us, we get to share it with You. So, when something really good happens, You are there to rejoice with us. And when life gets hard, You are there to hear us as we cry out, to encourage us.

And what a comfort to have You near when we don’t know what to do. You share Your wisdom with us so that the confusing becomes clearer.

You really are a good Father.

And that makes it all the worse when we live as if You weren’t our Father, when we live as if we were orphans, facing life alone. Forgive us this foolishness. And teach us that we are not alone. We are never alone. We always have You.

Father, we don’t yet experience what Adam and Eve enjoyed, quiet walks in the cool of the day through the Garden, chatting about this and that. But the day will come when we will enjoy exactly that, and more. For that, and all the rest, we give You thanks through Jesus who makes all of this possible. Amen.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Quote

Such nominal Christians demonstrate their knowledge of Christ to be false and offensive no matter how eloquently and loudly they talk about the Gospel. For true doctrine is not a matter of the tongue, but of life; neither is Christian doctrine grasped only by the intellect and memory, as truth is grasped in other fields of study. Rather, doctrine is rightfully received when it takes possession of the entire soul and finds a dwelling place and shelter in the most intimate affections of the heart. So let such people stop lying, or let them prove themselves worthy disciples of Christ, their teacher.
John Calvin

Friday, January 12, 2018

Comment on a Hymn

'O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing'

Let's just focus on the title of this hymn, 'O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing'. Why this? Wesley is lamenting that he has but one tongue. He is sure that it would be so much better if he had not just one tongue, but a thousand tongues to sing his Redeemer's praise. This reflects the passionate adoration that Wesley felt as he considered what Jesus had done for him.

Wesley wants to be clear about what it is that his Redeemer has done, what it is that he is praising Him for. So, he mentions some of those amazing deeds in the hymn. Singing this hymn gives us opportunity to imitate Wesley in his passion for Jesus.


O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and king,
The triumphs of His grace!

My gracious master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of Thy name.

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’Tis life, and health, and peace.

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

He speaks, and, listening to His voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.

Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Savior come,
And leap, ye lame, for joy.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Comment on a Psalm


This Psalm is obviously a psalm of praise. The beginning is especially clear about that. The psalmist praises God for what He has done, His 'deeds'. Our translation uses the word 'awesome' to describe these deeds.  Some translations have 'awe-inspiring'. The Hebrew word here is actually based on the verb 'to fear'. Maybe we can use this word: 'terrifying'. I suspect that this is the sense of the KJV's 'terrible' in this verse. When a person sees the things that God does, His deeds, it simply overwhelms. To be in the presence of such activity makes clear that this God really isn't like us. It can be quite terrifying.

The psalmist notes that God's enemies who saw Him in action understand this quite well. They cringe.

But the psalmist also knew that God uses His terrifying power for good, the good of His covenant people. He saw it in his own life.
Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. Psalms 66.16
And this is why his praises flowed.