Presumption

I was reading today in 1 Samuel 4, about the leaders of the young nation of Israel. They had just been defeated in battle by the Philistines, most likely for not having consulted the Lord in advance. Instead of regrouping to seek the Lord and inquire about these matters, they went further astray, deciding to force God’s hand to support their campaign…

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2 The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 And when the people came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. (esv)

The presence of the corrupt sons of Eli (Hophni and Phinehas) signals the reader of pending doom (as foretold in chapter 3). You can guess that it did not end well — they were defeated, these wicked men were killed, and the Ark of the LORD was captured by the enemy. It’s interesting to notice more fear and awe of the LORD on the part of the Philistines than the presumptive Israelites in the passage.

As I prayed and reflected on this today, the grave sin of presumption stood out to me. When we do not find things going well, or worse, dare we think that the problem is the lack of input and effort on the part of our Lord?? Can our God be manipulated into blessing our various endeavors? I should say not.

Once again I discover the value of daily reading God’s holy Word, to examine my thinking in its light and to put a check my self-centeredness. The Word and prayer. I need these daily.

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Now is the Son of Man glorified…

When Judas the betrayer had left the upper room, Jesus  said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” (John 13:31). In these profound words Jesus tells us that the coming crucifixion, however horrible and sad in our eyes, was truly glorifying to both God the Father and God the Son. Jesus does not speak of it as humiliation or disgrace, but as the most glorious part of His work on earth.

J.C. Ryle says that the crucifixion brought glory to the Father as “it glorified His wisdom, faithfulness, holiness, and love.”

It showed Him wise, in providing a plan whereby He could be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly. It showed Him faithful in keeping His promise, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. It showed Him holy, in requiring His law’s demands to be satisfied by our great Substitute. It showed Him loving, in providing such a Mediator, such a redeemer, and such a Friend for sinful man as His co-eternal Son.

And as Jesus said so plainly, there was glory in the cross for the Son of God as well. Ryle continues to explain [from Expository Thoughts on the Gospels—John; III.45].

The crucifixion brought glory to the Son. It glorified His compassion, His patience, and His power. It showed Him most compassionate, in dying for us, suffering in our stead, allowing himself to be counted sin and a curse for us, and buying our redemption with the price of His own blood. It showed Him most patient, in not dying the common death of most men, but in willingly submitting to such pains and unknown agonies as no mind can conceive — when with a word He could have summoned His Father’s angels, and been set free. It showed Him most powerful, in bearing the weight of all the transgressions of the world, and vanquishing Satan, and despoiling him of his prey.

As you think of the cross of Jesus, consider the glory it brought to the Father and the Son.

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Presidential Inaugurations & Use of the Bible

When U.S. Presidents take the oath of office, most* have placed their left hand upon a Bible during that solemn moment, raised their right hand, and repeated the oath of office — adding the unofficial words “so help me God” at the end, as was first done by George Washington. On most occasions the Bible has been open to a specific verse.

For his second inauguration [in January 2013], reports a UPI website, President Obama selected three Bibles to use for his oath of office: the Robinson family Bible, the Lincoln Bible and Martin Luther King’s traveling Bible. The family Bible was used at the private swearing-in ceremony on Sunday, January 20, 2013, and the other two were used in the public ceremony on the following Monday. UPI reported that “both bibles were be closed, rather than open to a specific verse, when Obama took the oath of office Monday, as was the Robinson Bible on Sunday.”

William Bennett in his book The American Patriot’s Almanac: Daily Readings on America provides some examples of Scripture passages used by various presidents at their inauguration; others can easily be found by searching online.
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Abraham Lincoln, 1861 – opened his Bible at random. In 1865 he used an open Bible, since lost, and noted 3 verses: “Judge not, that ye be not judged”, Matthew 7:1; “Woe to the man by whom the offence cometh!” Matthew 18:7; and, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments” Revelation 16:7.

Rutherford Hayes, 1877 – “They compassed me about like bees; they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.” Psalm 118:11-13

Theodore Roosevelt, 1905 –
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.” James 1:22–23

Woodrow Wilson, 1917 –
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. . .” Psalm 46

Franklin Roosevelt, 1933,`37,`41,`45 –
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal . . .” 1 Corinthians 13

Gerald Ford, 1974 –
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5–6

Jimmy Carter, 1977 –
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Ronald Reagan, 1981,`85 –
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

George H.W. Bush, used his Family Bible open to Matthew 5.

Bill Clinton, 1993,`97
“For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:8 (1993). “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.” Isaiah 58:12 (1997)

George W. Bush,
“Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” Isaiah 40:31

*According to that UPI website, “Just two presidents (that we know) have chosen to use books other than a bible for their oaths: John Quincy Adams, who used a book of U.S. law, and Lyndon Johnson, who was sworn in aboard Air Force One following the assassination of Kennedy. Johnson used a missal–a book used for Catholic Mass–found on a side table in Kennedy’s Air Force One bedroom.”

Ten Great Questions for A New Year

(From: DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed)

Ten Questions for the New Year

I have used these reflection questions in the past. As we begin a new year, I find them still remarkably relevant. Even though the questions are particular to a husband, father, and pastor, you may be able to put them to good use as well.

1. Am I spending time slowly reading God’s word and memorizing Scripture?

2. Am I having consistent, focused, extended times of prayer, including interceding for others?

3. Am I disciplined in my use of technology, in particular not getting distracted by emails and blogging in the evening and on my day off?

4. Am I going to bed on time?

5. Am I eating too much?

6. Have I exercised in the last week?

7. Am I patient with my kids or am I angry with them when they disobey or behave in childish ways?

8. When at home, am I “fully present” for my wife and family or are my mind and energy elsewhere?

9. Am I making sermon preparation a priority in my week or am I doing other less important things first?

10. Have I done anything out of the ordinary to cherish and help my wife?

from Kevin DeYoung

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Going home

“Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:1-2

Jesus is heard to say “you will be going home.” The spiritual author Octavius Winslow reflects on these verses in his Morning & Evening Thoughts for December 31st….
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GOING home! what a soothing reflection! what an ecstatic prospect! The heart throbs quicker—the eye beams brighter—the spirit grows elastic—the whole soul uplifts its soaring pinion, eager for its flight, at the very thought of heaven. “I go to prepare a place for you,” was one of the last and sweetest assurances that breathed from the lips of the departing Savior; and though uttered eighteen hundred years ago, those words come stealing upon the memory like the echoes of by-gone music, thrilling the heart with holy and indescribable transport. Yes! He has passed within the veil as our Forerunner; He has prepared heaven for us, and by His gentle, wise, and loving discipline He is preparing us for heaven.”

Enough that God is my Father, my Sun, and Shield; that He will give grace and glory, and will withhold no good and needed thing. Enough that Christ is my Portion, my Advocate, my Friend, and that, whatever else may pass away, His sympathy will not cease, His sufficiency will not fail, nor His love die. Enough that the everlasting covenant is mine, and that that covenant, made with me, is ordered in all things, and sure. Enough that heaven is my rest, that towards it I am journeying, and that I am one year nearer its blessed and endless enjoyment.”

Excerpt From: “The Works of Octavius Winslow” iBooks (ePub) edition*

*Available free (on 12/31/13) in ePub or .mobi formats at Monergism.

Something the Lord never says

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When reading 1 Corinthians 3:20 this morning, an implication rushed to my mind. Every so often, in the midst of a discussion, I have had to admit “I never thought of that.” But, according to this verse, The Lord has never had to say that: “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”

Amen!

Our help in this world of snares

This world is no friend to those desiring to live in a manner pleasing to God. Thomas Manton wrote, 1308371_81342165

The world is full of snares; we are carnal, and there are carnal persons around us, and the devil is a restless enemy watching for all opportunities; and surely having so much pride in us, and love of pleasure, and so many worldly desires — we give in but too, too often. Therefore, unless GOD keep us, we shall be tossed to and fro like feathers with the wind of every temptation.

How glad we are to have God as our gracious and great helper! The doxology that ends the Epistle of Jude stirs us to praise the Lord —

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
(Jude 1:24-25, ESV)

The Word & the Spirit (Geoff Grogan)

THE WORD AND THE SPIRIT
by Geoffrey W. Grogan*
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As we have seen, the Bible is the Word of God because it is “breathed out” by the Holy Spirit and the same Spirit also works within us to enable us to respond positively to the Word, for our hearts need to be softened towards God. it is the new birth that effects this. We can see this clearly if we look at different aspects of the Christian life.

So, when we consider conversion, it is evident that there can be no salvation without a Savior, and salvation comes to us in practical terms when we know Christ in our inner being. This is not, however, a mystical experience but is mediated to us through biblical truth, whether this comes directly from the Scriptures or through preaching or reading or personal witness or in some other way.

We must not, however, give the impression that salvation is by the acceptance of a formula, which is anything but true. Personal salvation is by the Spirit of God working in the human heart but in connection with the hearing of the Word. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Christ the incarnate Word meets us in personal encounter through the written Word, and it is the Spirit of Truth, of Grace and of Christ who so works in our hearts through that Word. Here, then, objective truth and subjective experience meet, with the former being used by the Holy Spirit to create the latter.

The Word and the Spirit are also involved together in assurance. Paul says, “You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Eph. 1:13–14). Objective fact and inner assurance answer to each other. So, then, assurance is not mystically conveyed but comes by actual contact with the Scriptures themselves, in the reading and hearing of them or in some exposition of their truth.

Christian assurance embraces not only conviction of personal salvation, but carries with it also convictions about the Word through which salvation has come. In 2 Timothy 3:14, Timothy is told to continue in what he has learned and been assured of, and the learning was presumably, through the work of the Spirit, the cause of the assurance. He would have learned these things from Paul as an authoritative witness to God’s truth.

It is through the Word and the Spirit, too, that sanctification takes place. The new birth is the first movement in inward sanctification, and in both the initial crisis and the consequent process there is a communication of Christ, for this is the purpose of all the means of grace. It is sadly possible to get to know the Scriptures better without knowing Christ better, but the reverse is never true. An examination of Ephesians 5:18 and Colossians 3:16 shows that they have remarkably similar contexts. For this reason it is surely significant that at the contextual point where in Ephesians Paul says, “Be filled with the Spirit”, (Eph. 5:18), in Colossians he ays, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16), in both cases employing a continuous tense. It looks, then, as though the work of the Word and of the Spirit are two sides of the same coin. The Spirit constantly uses the Word in conforming us to Christ. [boldface added]

The God who works within us through his Word and Spirit in conversion, assurance and sanctification, is also at work in our perseverance. We read the Word, taking heed of its encouragements and its warnings, and as a result the Spirit of God preserves us as Christians and enables us to persevere in Christian discipleship.

This practical stress on the Holy Spirit’s use of Scripture in every aspect of the Christian life was a major theme of the Puritans, as it was also of the early Methodists and the continental Pietists. This serves to remind us that, important as a high doctrine of Scripture and its verbal inspiration is, we should never forget that God gave the Bible as his means to his end, which is not simply orthodox thinking (which is not unimportant) but sanctified living.

In relation to all these divine activities the Spirit works through means that are objective and that are found in holy Scripture. Will this be true even of that great moment when Christians are glorified at the second advent? It seems so, because Paul tells the Thessalonians that “the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God” (1st Thess. 4:16), and also the “he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Rom. 8:11). So from conversion to consummation the Word and the Spirit are effectively at work together.

Amen!

*This excerpt is from an excellent, well-written theological book, which I highly recommend: The Faith Once Entrusted to the Saints? Engaging with issues and trends in evangelical theology, by Geoffrey W. Grogan, Inter-Varsity Press, 2010; pages 189-190. ISBN: 978-1-84474-478-7

Tooth and Nail?

“But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” Galatians 5:15 esv

Such violence is brutish. God hath armed the beasts with teeth and claws, but man with reason and judgment; to smite with the hand is beneath a man; to smite with the tongue beneath a Christian…

Thomas Manton, Works v:400

Did Jesus have a wife?

The following timely article is from Peter Williams the Warden of a leading, Christian post-graduate study center in England called the TYNDALE HOUSE. It possesses one of the finest libraries for biblical research in the world, packed with specialist material on the language, culture, history, and meaning of the Bible. This article clarifies what the news media have only made unclear: this fragment does not support the modern, non-sensical notion that Jesus had a wife.

The Web is by now awash with stories of an ancient text in which Jesus says ‘my wife’. The story which broke yesterday in the New York Times and some other sources, is being carried today by outlets too numerous to list. Some of the reporting is responsible, but not all. Consider this extract from The Daily Mail: “If genuine, the document casts doubt on a centuries old official representation of Magdalene as a repentant whore and overturns the Christian ideal of sexual abstinence.”

We are of course in a context where there is so much ignorance of basic facts about Christianity that even when the media properly relay facts they get completely distorted and misunderstood in popular perception. This can be seen in the way derivative media put spin on the story and in the online comments below the news items.

The papyrus at the centre of the publicity

Here we try to establish a few facts.

The scholarly article upon which almost all knowledge of the fragment is based is here [at Harvard].

What do we know from this? Continue reading