Caution: Busyness is not a virtue

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 ESV

In the Gospel of Luke, the visit of Jesus to the home of Mary, Martha & Lazarus brings about this brief but precious conversation — and an arresting statement. What is this “one thing necessary” that Jesus speaks about? busy-1446660-639x426

In directing Martha (and all of us) to turn to “the one thing necessary” our Lord points to a contrast here, that Mary had chosen better — a superior use of her time, a more important focus for her energies and cares. Jesus told Martha that she was anxious and troubled about many things. Granted, Martha was not doing anything inherently wrong; in fact she was doing much that was good! Yet, Jesus implies that her heart was tangled up, her busyness was not right. She was distracted and worried and upset in a worldly way. Our hearts can be pulled away from the Lord by busyness in respectable activities. God does not want our busyness — religious or otherwise. God wants our hearts. Indeed the greatest commandment of all of Scripture is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. (Matthew 22:37-38). This is what Mary appears to be doing — learning at the feet of Jesus, even worshipping as she took in His words of truth and life. She put first things first and Jesus was so very pleased!

Jesus points to Mary and tells Martha (and us):  that’s the better thing, that is the one thing necessary!  Oh how the world misunderstands what God requires — and how much those who are merely religious miss the most important thing. Many people think they know what Jesus wants, but will not listen to His very words here to Martha! As a famous preacher once said, it should be our first and sole business to attend to our soul’s business!

pdb

Confident Christianity

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Hebrew 10:19-25 esv

cpc.jpgSunday’s sermon at CPCC is on this text of Scripture. Briefly, the passage first (vv. 19-21) recaps the amazing person and work of Christ as displayed in the previous chapters of Hebrews which give the believer great confidence. Then, the inspired author presents us with three exhortations, all of which begin with the expression “let us” —

•  (v.22) “Let us draw near…”
•  (v. 23) “Let us hold fast…”
•  (v. 24) “Let us consider…”

The connection here is important; those imperatives stand upon the truth of the indicatives. We can only obey the commands because of the reality of the work of Christ. And the invitation-like wording of these exhortations warmly draws the believer to find blessing and joy in obeying them.

May the Lord bless you as you feast upon His Word.
pdb

No people ever rise higher than their idea of God

In a sermon summarizing the book of JUDGES, Mark Dever included this wonderful quotation from the late Dr James M. Boice, which explains our culture today — as well as our often unrealistic expectations of it….

No people ever rise higher than their idea of God, and conversely, a loss of the sense of God’s high and awesome character always involves a loss of a people’s moral 1426724_35081700values and even what we commonly call humanity. We are startled by the disregard for human life that has overtaken large segments of the western world, but what do we expect when countries such as ours openly turns their back upon God? We deplore the breakdown of moral standards, but what do we expect when we have focused our worship services on ourselves and our own often trivial needs rather than on God? Our view of God affects what we are and do…

(taken from Dr Boice’s sermons on Psalms, Vol. 3, p. 912)

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)

Omnipotence & Redemption

Here is a fine excerpt from a chapter on God’s Power, written by John Frame, in The Doctrine of God. It brought me to pause and praise our mighty Lord.

Redemption itself contradicts all human expectations. It is God’s mighty power entering a situation that, from a human viewpoint, is hopeless. God comes to Abraham, who is over a hundred years old, and to Sarah, far beyond the age of childbearing, and He promises them a natural son. Sarah laughs. But God asks, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:14). God’s omnipotence intervenes, and Isaac is born. The omnipotence is the power of God’s covenant promise. The Hebrew text literally r1413842_61268220eads, “Is any word of God void of power?” God’s powerful word comes into our world of sin and death and promises salvation. Isaac will continue the covenant, and from him, in God’s time, will come the Messiah, who will save His people from their sins. When the Messiah comes, He will be born, not to a barren woman like Sarah, but to a virgin — an even greater manifestation of God’s omnipotence. So to Mary the angel echoes God’s promise to Abraham: “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:36).

So God’s word never returns to Him void (Isa. 55:11). It is His omnipotence, doing for us what we could never do for ourselves. Apart from God’s power, we could expect only death and eternal condemnation. But he brings life in the place of death. So the resurrection of Christ becomes a paradigm of divine power in Ephesians 1:19-23. A God who can raise people from the dead can do anything. He is a God who is worthy of trust.

[page 526]

Improve your mind

Isaac Watts, the famous hymn writer calls us to be intentional about improving our minds.

…every son and daughter of Adam has a most important concern in the affairs of the life to come, and therefore it is a matter of the highest moment, for everyone to understand, to judge, and to reason right about the things of religion. It is vain for any to say, we have no leisure time for it. The daily intervals of time, and vacancies from necessary labour, together with the one day in seven in the Christian world, allows sufficient time for this, if men would but apply themselves to it with half so much zeal and diligence as they do to the trifles and amusements of this life, and it would turn to infinitely better account.
 
Thus it appears to be the necessary duty and the interest of every person living, to improve his understanding, to inform his judgment, to treasure up useful knowledge, and to acquire the skill of good reasoning, as far as his station capacity and circumstances furnish him as his station, capacity, with proper means for it. Our mistakes in judgment may plunge us into much folly and guilt in practice. By acting without thought or reason, we dishonor the God that made us reasonable creatures, we often become injurious to our neighbors, kindred, or friends, and we bring sin and misery upon ourselves; for we are accountable to God, our judge, for every part of our irregular and mistaken conduct, where he hath given us sufficient advantages to guard against those mistakes.”

 
~ Isaac Watts, The Improvement of the Mind, (1837).
[emphasis added]

Blessed is the man who…

Are you blessed? Psalm one is so simple and clear. Read, believe and heed.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

(vv. 1-2, esv)

*a superb musical rendition of Psalm 1 (which I listen to most every Saturday night) can be sampled here (with YouTube link below, hopefully!). It’s by the contemporary group “Sons of Korah

I must tell Jesus

I MUST TELL JESUS
An old, precious hymn by Elisha A. Hoffman (1893)

I must tell Jesus all of my trials;
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me;
He ever loves and cares for His own.

Refrain:
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
I cannot bear my burdens alone;
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

I must tell Jesus all of my troubles;
He is a kind, compassionate friend;
If I but ask Him, He will deliver,
Make of my troubles quickly an end.

Refrain

Tempted and tried, I need a great Savior;
One Who can help my burdens to bear;
I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus;
He all my cares and sorrows will share.

Refrain

O how the world to evil allures me!
O how my heart is tempted to sin!
I must tell Jesus, and He will help me
Over the world the victory to win.

Refrain
Amen ~ pdb

Gethsemane’s King

Have you ever noticed how truly regal Jesus appears at the hour of His arrest? Consider the account from John, an eyewitness —

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” — John 18 esv

At the recent Banner of Truth Conference, Dr Joel Beeke, a long-time pastor, and President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Michigan (and a friend of mine), spoke from John 18 of our Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. We’re told that Jesus knew what would happen to Him (18:4), yet still entered the familiar place of prayer so that these events might unfold according to Scripture (18:9). It ought to amaze us to see here our 33 year old Savior directly in harm’s way yet acting with royal bearing, controlling the very circumstance of that night. Let me share Dr Beeke’s main points from first part of his address last Tuesday night….

THE KING’S THREEFOLD SOVEREIGNTY

(1) A Question asked with Authority. Jesus boldly takes the lead with the approaching mob: “Whom do you seek?” Faced with many men, with weapons, Jesus did not shrink back, but stepped forward. He is already in charge.

(2) Sovereign Self-Identification. Hearing their derisive reply (“Jesus of Nazareth“), He is not put off. “I am,” Jesus firmly answered — “ego emi” in Greek, the root meaning of the name LORD. At this, the formidable mob falls back, to the ground! Do you see this? If this Judas-led mob thought they were simply grabbing a troublesome young rabbi hiding in an olive grove at night, they were now sorely mistaken! His voice, that profession, His presence was awesome, if not fearful. They shrink back and cower. What would He say next?

(3) His Sovereign Self-substitution. After confirming His identity a second time, Jesus directs them in their task: “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” For many months Jesus had set His face towards Jerusalem. He was heading into His cross. The Gospel of Mark provides Jesus’ explanation: “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45). He offers Himself, and directs that His disciples be free to go. This was our Savior’s intention and work from the beginning: “Me for them.”

Amazing. Hail Jesus, the King of Gethsemane!

The second half of this conference message goes on to speak of the Lamb of Gethsemane. [more soon, DV].
~ pdb

“Speak, O Lord” hymn/prayer for the Word

At the Gospel Coalition national conference this past week, our worship sessions were led by Keith & Kristyn Getty — a real delight indeed! One of the new hymns they introduced is “Speak, O Lord” (written by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend). It uses a marvelous, simple melody as the lyrics are a petition for the Lord to bless the preaching and hearing of His holy Word.

Here are the lyrics:

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory.

Teach us, Lord, full obedience,
Holy reverence, true humility;
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity.
Cause our faith to rise; cause our eyes to see
Your majestic love and authority.
Words of pow’r that can never fail—
Let their truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us—
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises,
And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, till Your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory.

To catch the tune and hear an interview with the writers, check out this video clip.