Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Love says NO

Mark 5 has one of my favourite stories in the Bible.  The man of Gadarenes (or Garasenes) must have been filled with demons, for there were enough to enter 2000 pigs.  

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the pigs, and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned in the sea. 
The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. 
(Mark 5:1-20 ESV)

No wonder he could not be restrained!  He cut himself; he cried out night and day; he resisted any attempts to stop him from harming his own body.  He was a mess.

And yet, when Jesus stepped in, this man changed.  Completely.  Where before he was naked and unstoppable, now he was sitting there, peaceful, clothed, contented.  Where he'd been out of his mind in a frenzy of pain and anguish, he now was in his right mind.

It must have been frightening to see this transformation.  It was so scary that the townspeople begged Jesus to leave.

But what did the man do?

What would YOU have done?  

If I'd been crazy and angry and self-destructive and unable to change MY behaviour, then all of a sudden was transformed, clothed, and in my right mind, I'd have wanted to spend some time with the guy who'd made the change in me.

That's exactly what this changed man did.  He followed Jesus down to the shore.  He begged Jesus to let him come with Him.  He wanted to spend time with Him.  He wanted to be with this wonderful Saviour who had changed his life completely.  

Jesus looked at him, I am sure, with compassion.  He looked at him, I am sure, with love.   And then He did the unthinkable.  He said NO.

"What, Lord?  You mean You do not want to have me follow You?  You don't want me to serve You, to help You in Your ministry, to fetch You some water or a bit of bread?  I want to be WITH YOU!"

And Jesus said NO.

And He did not permit him but said to him, go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.

Jesus knew what was best for this man.  He knew he'd obey, and go faithfully to his loved ones and townspeople, proclaiming to everyone how much Jesus had done for him.  

So, in love, He sent him away.

What about you?  Is there something you've longed for?  Some ministry you've wanted to participate in?  Some spiritual service you've been dying to do, yet the door seems closed to you?

Sometimes, in love, Jesus says No.  Sometimes, in love, He sends us away.

Compassionate and Merciful God, 
You take wretched, tormented sinners
    and give them a new heart
                              a white robe
                              a right mind...
You call them by Your grace
        and give them work to do;
Yet how often we, Your children
        long to do works You have not planned.
We want to walk with You 
                 to be the Pastors' wives
                           the missionaries
                           the speakers
                            the writers.
And You say NO.
         You tell us, "Stay home!"
          You tell us to tell our friends
                                         our family
                                         our teens
                                         our toddlers
                    how much the Lord has done
             and how He has had mercy.
Help us, Compassionate and Merciful Father,
to be content in the obscurity of our homes
                        in the wiping of noses
                 and in the settling of disputes
    with *only* our families to teach.
Help us to proclaim EVERYTHING
      Jesus has done for us,
So that All will marvel,
and that the name of Jesus will be praised,
                forever and ever, Amen.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Love plus NOTHING

This morning in my regular Bible reading, I happened to read Lamentations 3 and Romans 8.  What a wonderful combination of wisdom is to be found in those two chapters of God's word.

40, 41 Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!  Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven.

Lamentations 3 is about a man who has experienced affliction.  He has endured suffering and experienced God's faithfulness and responded to God's sovereignty and goodness by praying for renewal  He has confidence in God's concern for him and desires to teach others what he has learned.

Affliction is the normal lot of life.  God is a jealous God, and He wants His children to love Him and obey Him and follow Him and serve Him.  When we go astray, which we are prone to do, He lovingly corrects us.


  • suffer affliction
  • endure physical pain
  • are burdened with the cares of life
  • have no escape
  • are often desolate
  • feel trapped
  • are a laughingstock
  • has afflicted us
  • is like a bear ready to attack
  • is like a lion ready to pounce
  • has filled us with bitterness
  • loves us steadfastly
  • renews His mercies every morning
  • is good
  • saves
  • has compassion
  • redeems
  • repays and pursues our assailants
The only One we can turn to in our affliction, no matter what it is, is the God who afflicts us in the first place.  He sees us going astray, living selfishly, taking His gifts for granted, and He reacts in love.  He encompasses us, and blocks our way, stopping us from following a destructive path.  He teaches us about His grace and His faithfulness.

19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

My heart was full of thoughts of the Lord's faithfulness, no matter what afflictions or joys I am experiencing.  Then I turned to the 8th chapter of Romans, and was reminded...

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  

No condemnation.  Not a bit.  NONE.  God righteously condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son to pay the price for sin.  All of it!  All of my sin was paid for and I was adopted into the Family of God.  No longer a slave, I am a child of God and an heir with Christ.  

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 
(Romans 8:15-17 ESV)

(This is a free gift offered to all who realize they are lost and without hope.  Anyone who realizes that he is indeed a sinner who is accountable to God for the deeds done in the body can cast himself on the mercy of God and look to Jesus for salvation.)

I am a child of God who is never separated from the love of my Father.  NOTHING condemns me; NOTHING separates me from the love of Christ.


  • tribulation
  • distress
  • persecution
  • famine
  • nakedness
  • danger
  • sword  

Yet it's a given that I will suffer.  I will endure things like tribulation and distress, persecution and famine, nakedness and danger and sword.  You will, too.

The tribulation could be as small as a misunderstanding between family members or as great as a diagnosis of cancer.  The distress could be a life-changing car accident, or a friend's move overseas.  Persecution could be from a creditor, or from someone who mocks you because you are a Christian.  Famine could be a lack of something you desire - something you have longed for in your life for years and years and interminable years.  The sword could mean death - or it could be the piercing of your heart when your child turns his back on your teaching and walks away.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 
(Romans 8:18 ESV)

Do you see that?  Your sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us some day, if we are children of the Living God.  Not only do you walk with God today... not only are you assured of His steadfast love that never fails no matter what you are going through, God will show us His glory some day.  What a glorious day that will be.

Meanwhile, we walk by the Spirit, with His help and His guidance.  We know that everything He sends our way is meant for our good.  We know that in the middle of the tribulation and the distress and the famine and the nakedness and the sword, He is loving us and helping us and groaning with us.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 
(Romans 8:26-28 ESV)

Christ loves us.  He sends us into tribulation, and He loves us.  He gives distress, and He loves us.  He lets us be persecuted, and He loves us.  He sees us regarded by enemies as sheep to be slaughtered (helpless to avoid their fate) and He loves us.  He has compassion on us.  His mercies are new every morning.

Christian, live in the light of that love.  NOTHING can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  NOTHING.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
(Romans 8:38-39 ESV)

Friday, November 26, 2010


We all face trials and troubles of many kinds.  It's the human condition.  Job tells us that man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.

What are you facing today?  

Is it financial pressure?  Could it be that you are down to scraping together the last few pennies in the bottom of your junk drawer in order to buy milk for your children?

Is your marriage falling apart?  Did your wife leave you after a quarter of a century of raising a family together?

Are you in court today?  Were you unfairly accused or badly treated by someone in authority?  

Do you feel helpless?  Do  you feel squeezed?  Have you been backed into a corner with nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, nowhere to turn?

Then, FIX YOUR EYES ON JESUS.  Look to Him, and live!

Think about His life on this earth.  Financial pressures - He had nowhere to lay His head.  Relationship issues - His own family thought He was out of His mind.  Abusive authorities - both the Roman ruler and the leaders of Israel treated Him shamefully.

What did He do?  

He did exactly what we should do when we face trials of any kind.  He cast Himself on His Heavenly Father, and trusted Him to do what was best.

Psalm 121 My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.

The very Creator God who made everything and everyone around you is our Helper.  He will not allow your foot to be moved, because He is immovable.  He never slumbers or sleeps, because He is always alert, always aware, always omniscient.  He is your Keeper.  He protects  you day and night.  He preserves you from all evil, and will do so forevermore!

Proverbs 29:25  The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

Are you trapped in fear?  Are you caught in a snare?  Are you fretting about your circumstances, worried about the next phone call from a creditor, or what the judge will decide about your case?  

Trust in the Lord!  He will keep you safe!

Proverbs 29:26 Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice.

Remember Who can move the heart of the judge.  Remember Who can turn the tide, or send a new job, or open the heavens to sunshine instead of the dark clouds of storm.  

Creator God, 
        There is no one like you.
        There is nobody we can turn to 
               that cannot be moved
               that is always alert
               that can protect us from evil
                      and sustain us forever
        EXCEPT YOU!
You are our Keeper
              our Helper
               our Beautiful God.
In You alone we trust,
     for You alone are trustworthy.
So we give You all of our praise
                     and all of our thanks,
In the precious name of Jesus, 
     Who showed us how to trust You.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No Fear

Jesus is fearless. 
 Mark 4:37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

I read that passage and marvel at His peace.  Jesus could sleep soundly even though the boat was being tossed by the wind and filled by the waves.  

Some people stress that the passage demonstrates the humanity of Jesus.  He was asleep because He was exhausted, after having taught the crowds that were chasing after him all day.  It's true that He suffered from the same exhaustion as we sometimes experience.  It's true that He is fully human while being fully divine.

But that's not what gets me when I read this passage.

What grips my heart is the lack of fear.

I don't care how tired I am, if I were in a boat that was foundering, with waves breaking over the sides and filling the boat with water, I'd be terrified.  I'd be crying out to God, praying for mercy, begging Him to take care of me.

Jesus didn't do that.

He knew Who was in control.

He had NO fear.  He had ALL faith.

As soon as they woke Him, He rebuked the wind and shut down the waves, then turned to the disciples and asked, "Why are you so afraid?"

Why, indeed?  You have the Lord of the Universe in the boat with you, guys.  He's completely at peace.  He's sound asleep.  If He's not afraid, what's wrong with YOU?

I marvel at the fact that I am in Christ, yet I worry.  I fret.  I fear.  I cry out to God, asking Him to intervene in my latest crisis.  I beg Him to calm the waves that threaten to break my world apart.  

I think He's still asking, "Why are you so afraid?  Have you still no faith?"

I am IN CHRIST.  His Father is my Father.  His control of the storms of life is the same now as it was then.  NOTHING is outside His power.  NEVER has He failed.  NO harm can ever come to me unless my God wills it for my good.  There is absolutely nothing to fear if you are a child of God. 

Almighty Father, Maker of Heaven and earth, 
Creator of the wind and the storms,
You control every molecule
                      every atom
                       every proton and neutron and electron
            And not one thing is outside of Your power.
So help Your children to rest in You, 
                                       to live in peace,
                                       to walk in faith and trust, 
               resting in Your strength and love,
So that the world will see that You are
                      completely trustworthy
                                         and that Your power 
        is demonstrated in our weakness strengthened by faith
In the name of Jesus, our Saviour and Brother and Friend.  Amen.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Worship = ??

The first half of this discussion is here.    Go there and read it before reading the following, if you haven't already done so.

The word most commonly translated "worship" in the New Testament, apart from the gospels and Revelation, is latreuein, meaning to serve. This service is to God, and is often expressed through serving God’s people. Thus, you serve God by serving his people. 

Let's look at some examples:

Hebrews 9:13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify  for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will  the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience  from dead works to serve the living God.
Christ's sacrifice has freed us from the law, and given us the freedom to serve. How do we serve the living God?

Romans 12:1, ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual act of worship’. The noun for worship here means service, and the context of this service is our whole lives.  The reasonable conclusion a Christian must make when he realizes that God preserved a remnant and grafted him in, making him part of God's family is that he must serve the living God.  

Romans 11:29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 
God gave His chosen people eternal life.  He called them by His grace.  Paul has just explained that the Gentiles have been grafted in, wild branches into the cultivated olive tree.  When he thinks about the grace of God, he breaks into praise and says, 

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever. Amen

We are to offer ourselves as a sacrifice to God, which is our reasonable service, or our reasonable service of worship. According to Romans 3:23, All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  All deserve death.  But God provided a way for us to be at peace with Him.  He paid the price for our sins.  He causes all things to work together for our good.  

In light of all of this, it is reasonable for us to serve our Master.  Every moment of our lives should be spent in service to our God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

1 Thessalonians 5:12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle,  encourage the fainthearted, help the weak,be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Hebrews 12:28 – ‘Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship (‘serve’) God acceptably with reverence and awe’. The writer then spells out what this looks like for us (ch.13) and it includes loving each other, honoring marriage, being content, remembering church leaders, and so on.

Remember, in the last post we noticed that JESUS CHANGED EVERYTHING.

Before Jesus, 
  • worship was duty
  • the location of worship was the temple
  • the manner of worship was proscribed specifically and included daily sacrifices
Now that Jesus has been raised from the dead,
  • He has made us children of the living God
  • We don't need to go anywhere to worship; He indwells us by His Spirit
  • We are called to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice
All of life, everything we think, or say, or do, should be offered for His glory!

Too often we limit the significance of worship to what goes on in Church, or even to singing, commonly known as the ‘worship time’. However this skews the breadth of the Bible’s teaching on worship. 

To say you go to church to worship is as silly as saying you go to bed to breathe.  You don't start breathing when you go to bed... you breathe all the time!  You don't start worshipping when you go to church.  You are to be worshipping God with every thought, every word, and every deed!  All of the time, in every way, you are to glorify God.  You do so by serving Him and serving others.

Implications to ponder

1.  We ought never to refer to the church building as "God's House".  I know I did that when my children were little.  But God does not dwell in a building made by human hands.  The Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, and there is no special building meant for worship.  WE are the temple of God.

2.  We ought not call Sunday gatherings "Worship Services".  There are negative implications associated with this practice:
  • implies a special standing with God as we gather
  • we can feel we have satisfied Him for another week by going to church
  • we feel we've done our duty
  • this encourages a legalistic, rule-based mindset
We gather to encourage one another, to love one another, to exhort one another, to pray for one another.  We gather because we need each other, and because it is a blessing to us!

All of our lives should be lived in worship.  God doesn't require one day per week to be set aside - He wants ALL of us.  

Consider tithing as an example.  Christians are happy with themselves when they tithe.  They check off their list, feeling pretty good about themselves.  But God doesn't want us to tithe.  He wants ALL of us.  He wants us to see that everything we own belongs to Him.  He wants us to dedicate all of our money, our time, our energy, our efforts to Him, for His glory and for the good of His people.  All of our lives should be lived in service to God.  It's our reasonable service.

3.  We ought not to think worship means coming, singing, praying, giving...    The New Testament shows us that we need to minister to each other.  Our gatherings should encourage that.  We should spend time together, sharing the difficulties and the joys of our week.  Don't just attend and pray and sing and listen and take notes, then scoot out the door.  Be involved.  Interact.  These people are your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Spend time with them.  Encourage them!

4.  We ought not to judge or evaluate the service by how we feel.  It can be very subjective.

Did I feel the presence of God?
Did the music move me?

Instead, we should be asking, "Why am I here?"

  • to learn
  • to praise
  • to pray
  • to minister

Our emphasis should be on ministering to one another.  We should be teaching and admonishing each other, addressing each other in song.  The goal is to glorify God by edifying each other to equip one another to face another week of spiritual warfare.

Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 

Ephesians 5 be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in v psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

We give the truth to each other when we meet together, singing the praises of God shoulder to shoulder.  We equip each other to face a difficult week full of trials and triumphs.  

Hebrews 10:19 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.

We have the confidence to approach God.  Everything has changed.  We have the greatest, best High Priest, who is always with us, always interceding for us, helping us to live for Him.  So our reasonable service, our act of worship, is to encourage one another, to build each other up in the faith.  This is worship.

Assignment: Go through the New Testament and write down what Christians did when they met together.  You'll be blessed.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


What do you think of when you ponder the word, "worship"?  When I think about it, my mind goes back to my childhood.  My parents took me to a huge old church in downtown Quebec City.  Just walking through the massive oak doors inspired awe within me.  The sanctuary was decorated with stained-glass windows depicting scenes from the Bible, with the names of donors who had died inscribed beneath each window.  The organ shone against the dark mahogany.  People spoke in a whisper.  Truly God was there, I thought.

When our children were young, we'd get them all dressed up to go to church.  We taught them that Sunday meetings were special, and that there was to be an attitude of reverence when we walked through the doors on Sunday morning.  After all, we were in God's House.  (If you click the link you'll see that referring to church as God's House is unwise.)

But what does the Word of God say about Christians gathering?  What does it say about worship?

Murray Campbell, a pastor from Australia, explains it well:

There are three main word-groups the Bible uses which we sometimes translate as worship:
1) The Greek word most commonly translated to worship is proskynein. This word speaks of homage or grateful submission. It literally refers to physically prostrating oneself before God or kissing his feet. This word occurs 288 times in the Bible. In the Old Testament this word mainly means a literal prostration, bowing the knee, rather than a metaphorical bowing. 
2) Another word group often translated as worship is latreuein, meaning to serve. This service is to God, and is often expressed through serving God’s people. Thus, you serve God by serving his people. 
3) Worship as reverence or respect (sebomai). This reverence or fear of God is essentially a matter of walking in His ways and keeping His commandments.
The word "worship", proskynein, to approach and fall down before someone, kissing his feet or the ground, is NEVER used in connection with Christians gathering.  It is used in the gospels, and in Revelation, but it is never given as a command to Christians.  It is only used twice in Acts and the epistles.  In one instance in Acts, it is Cornelius, an unbeliever, who falls down and worships.  In the other instance it is the Patriarch Jacob who is referred to in Hebrews as worshiping God.

As the church expands in the Acts of the Apostles, there is no mention of worship.  In the epistles, there are no instructions to the churches on how to worship.  

Why not?  Why would the word "worship" not be used?

It is very clear that something has changed drastically at the end of the gospels.

Take the time to read the story of Jesus and the Woman of Samaria.  It was unusual that Jesus decided to take a shortcut through Samaria.  The Samaritans were half-breeds, looked upon with disdain by Jews.  They weren't allowed to come to Jerusalem to worship, so they set up their own worship center on Mount Gerazim.  

Jesus engaged in a long conversation with this woman, gradually revealing who He was.  He told her, "You worship what you do not know."  He insisted, "True worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.  

Something was going to drastically change.

Jesus told her that the hour was coming and was now here...

 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
Something was changing.

What hour was Jesus talking about?

The hour of His death.  

Something drastically changed at that hour.

The temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom.  The entire Old Covenant system of sacrifice was wiped out.  Christ fulfilled it all.

All of a sudden, location didn't matter.  The temple in Jerusalem wasn't important.  The altar on Mount Gerazim was insignificant.

True worshippers would worship in spirit and in truth, no matter where they were.  

The reason?  Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who is the propitiation for our sin.

Hebrews tells us that He is the Ultimate Revelation from God.

  • the better priest
  • the better sacrifice
All of a sudden, we can worship wherever we are!   We don't need to go through a priest.  We don't need to go to a temple.  We have the confidence to boldly approach the throne of Grace.  We've become a kingdom of priests with access to God.  There are no more earthly holy places.  Wherever we go, Christ is with us.  The Holy Spirit indwells us.  

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For  God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.

In the Gospels and Revelation, Christ is physically present.  It is entirely appropriate that believers would bow down and worship Him.  

But see the difference?  Now He is not physically present with us, so we don't bow down and worship Him.  He indwells us!  He is in us.  It's a mystery, and it's amazing.

Colossians 1 . . . the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are  the riches of the glory of  this mystery, which is Christ in you,  the hope of glory. 
Next post I will explain what it is that Christians are to do when they gather, according to the New Testament.  This post is taken from my notes on the sermon preached by Hugh Manary at GTCC last Sunday.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Open Rebuke is Better

Proverbs 27:5 says it.  Better is open rebuke than hidden love.

Genuine love tells the truth, even when it means you must rebuke the one you love.  Hiding your love by being non-communicative is useless- you MUST communicate love to your spouse in ways he or she understands.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; 
Profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

The Collect:

God of Truth,
             Who sees all men's hearts
       and Who wounds with a purpose,
Help us to love genuinely
             to rebuke openly
             to wound faithfully
So that as iron sharpens iron,
          We sharpen the ones we're closest to, and
          We learn to walk circumspectly in this corrupt world.
In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

From a Slave to a Child; From Duty to a Choice

Chorus: To see the Law by Christ fulfilled,
To hear His pardoning voice,
Changes a slave into a child
And duty into choice.

1. No strength of nature can suffice
To serve the Lord aright
And what she has, she misapplies,
For want of clearer light.
(Repeat chorus)

2. How long beneath the Law I lay
In bondage and distress
I toiled the precept to obey,
But toiled without success.
(Repeat chorus)

3. Then to abstain from outward sin
Was more than I could do
Now if I feel its power within
I feel I hate it too.
(Repeat chorus)

4. Then all my servile works were done,
A righteousness to raise
Now, freely chosen in the Son,
I freely choose His ways.
(Repeat chorus)
©1998 Kevin Twit Music.

I was listening to this song on the way to church the other day.  
I asked the children (the three youngest of our twelve) if they understood
 the meaning of the words.

We were all required to obey God perfectly.  We were under the law,
and commanded to obey each precept.  We tried, and failed.
We toiled without success.

So God the Father gave His only begotten Son, who obeyed the Law
and fulfilled all of its requirements.

Then, He pardoned His children on the merits of Christ's finished work.  

All of our servile works were done in order to make ourselves righteous,
but it was an impossible task.

But JESUS did it.  

Now we obey God, not out of duty, but because of love's constraining power.  
We are no longer slaves, but SONS.  

More Collects - Psalm 117

Psalm 117

Praise the Lord, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples.
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord!

The collect:

Almighty God,  Worthy of all praise,
Your steadfast love and faithfulness endures forever,
Grant that we may sing Your worth
                                  and give You honour
           as we lift Your name before all people,
So that You will be glorified in all the earth.
In the name of our worthy God and King, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Last month I read an article by Tim Keller which offered practical advice on how to pray in public and in private.  Tim had studied Thomas Cranmer's Collects - His short, pithy, doctrinally sound prayers,  move from

"a doctrinal basis (why we can ask for it) to the petition (what we want) to the aspiration (what we will do with it if we get it.) It is remarkable how this combines solid theology with deep aspirations of the heart and concrete goals for our daily life." 
Cranmer's Collects followed this design:

  1. The Address - a name of God
  2. The Doctrine - a truth about God's nature that is the basis for prayer
  3. The Petition - what is being asked for
  4. The Aspiration - what good result will come if the request is granted
  5. In Jesus' name - remembering His mediatorial role
Here is an example of one of Cranmer's more famous collects:

Almighty God,
unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid,
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit
That we may perfectly love Thee, and worthily magnify Thy holy name,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

I have found the practice of writing collects of my own in response to my morning Bible reading to be of great benefit.  I will share some examples, listing the passage on which I based my prayers.

Psalm 116

Loving, Merciful, Gracious God,
Who always hears my pleas for mercy, and preserves my soul, and delivers me from death,
Help me to walk before You and serve You all the days of my life,
So that I can bring praise to Your name in the presence of Your people,
     and demonstrate thanksgiving and trust in Your provisions,
Through Jesus Christ, my Saviour and Redeemer.  Amen.

Jeremiah 50, Romans 3, Romans 8

Righteous and Just Judge of all the earth,
Who justified by the gift of grace all those who trust in Jesus
                             as the Propitiation for their sins,
Cause us to walk according to the Spirit,
                             mirroring Your righteousness to a lost and dying world,
So that Your name is glorified and Your reputation untarnished,
In the name of Jesus Christ Who is God over all, and blessed forever. Amen.

2 Corinthians 7

Heavenly Father,
Who indwells Your people and walks among us, and calls us Your sons and daughters,
Help us to cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit,
So we are sanctified, becoming more and more like our Beautiful Jesus,
                     who embodied holiness on this earth,
And in Whose name we pray, Amen.

Ecclesiastes 12

Creator God,
You number our days, and order our steps, and decide when our spirit will return to You,
Grant me wisdom and strength to use words of delight
              and words of truth 
                        to teach others while I still have strength,
So that Your people will be encouraged to persevere and 
                        to walk uprightly with knowledge and wisdom,
In the Name of Jesus, our Beautiful Saviour, Amen.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Glorious Temple - Destroyed

The fall of Jerusalem is recorded four times in the Old Testament:  Jeremiah 39, Jeremiah 52, 2 Kings 25, and 2 Chronicles 36.  God wanted to make the event clear in the minds of the readers of His Word.

If you are at all familiar with the Old Testament, you know that God chose a people, the children of Israel, to be His own people.  He led them into Egypt and 400 years later He rescued them from the bondage of slavery.  He led them to the Promised Land, but they were prevented from entering because of the sin of unbelief, then were made to wander in the desert for forty years until that unbelieving generation passed away.  While wandering in the wilderness, God gave Moses clear instructions for building a tabernacle - a tent of meeting - a place where He would meet with His people.

The tabernacle was a foreshadowing of a greater place to worship - the temple.  After they'd settled in the land the people demanded a king so they could be like the nations around them.  The first king, Saul, was tall and good-looking, but his heart was far from God.  The second king, David, was a man after God's own heart, but he was a man of war.  God refused to give David permission to build the temple.  Instead, he promised David that his son Solomon would have that privilege.

The temple of Solomon was a grand and glorious building. 1 Kings 5 tells us about the preparations, and 1 Kings 6 describes the building of the temple, which took seven years.  Much of it was overlaid in gold; the articles of the temple were made of gold or bronze.  It was absolutely stunning!

It's hard to fathom that this glorious, beautiful building was completely destroyed.

The Temple Burned
 12 In the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month—that was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard, who served the king of Babylon, entered Jerusalem. 13And he burned the house of the LORD, and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down.

It's so sad to think about it.  The temple was burned and destroyed, and the articles of the temple were carried off.  When you take the time to read about the care and skill that went into building and decorating the temple and making all of the utensils and objects to be used in worship, it's a marvel.  Yet God allowed it to be obliterated.

So, what can we learn from this?

God does not live in a temple made with hands. God reminded Solomon with these words:

1 Kings 6:11 Now the word of the Lord came to Solomon, 12 “Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father. 13 And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel.”
God was looking for a people to walk with Him, to delight in Him, to obey Him and love Him.  The temple was a tool to point them to His glory, but it was a mere speck compared to God.  God still want to dwell with His people - in fact, in this New Covenant He INDWELLS us.  You can't get closer than that.  You don't need a temple to know the presence of God.  The Holy Spirit has been given as a down payment, a guarantee of future glory and dwelling with God.

This world is full of beauty, reflecting the glory of God on a daily basis.  We see it in the sky, in the clouds, in the lightning, in the setting sun.  We see it in the variety of flora and fauna that surrounds us.  Yet even though it is brilliant, and glorious, one day this earth will be burned up.

2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then a the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies  will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12  waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

This should not make us sad, any more than the destroyed temple should make us sad.

The important thing to remember is that we dwell with the Living God.  The world He created reflects His glory, but it is a mere reflection.  The person we desire to be with, to live with, to walk with is God Almighty, and He is the One we long for.

Let this truth be a comfort to you.  If something you enjoy breaks down, so what?  It's going to be burned up some day.  If you lose a precious item, so what?  It's going to melt with fervent heat.  None of it matters much.  The only thing that really matters is our relationship with the Living God.

That will never end.