Saturday, February 24, 2018

Psalm 145:7- Singing and shouting the righteousness of God

The first night I read this Psalm most recently, which began a month long study and now these blog posts, my focus was actually on the issue of music and the worship of the church. Surely, there are many whose traditions are good and faithful to God's design for worship. Others have fallen into man-centered songs whose primary goal is to talk about how God makes them feel. While these may be helpful in some settings, I believe that the Bible bears out that what we offer to God in corporate worship is not to be dictated by the latest popular song, or led by stylistic preference, but should be focused on allowing the entire congregation of blood bought saints of Jesus Christ to focus on who He is, what He has done, and offer our songs and our lives in devoted praise and obedience.

Today's verse I want to share from the various versions I have been considering, to compare and contrast as I have done here previously, as the multiple translators take the original languages and try to express them as faithfully as possible to the American reader in my case, but in the English language as is the case in many countries across the globe.


The New American Standard Bible (NASB) renders the passage as follows:
"They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness
And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness." 

The King James Version (KJV) is slightly different, but flows with beauty:
"They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, 
and shall sing of thy righteousness."

And last, but not least, the English Standard Version (ESV) another beautiful and rich rendering of what happens when we understand the glory of God as revealed in the rest of this psalm:
"They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness."

We see here some slight differences, which give a fuller sense of meaning to the underlying inspired Hebrew original texts, preserved by God for our edification and education, along with leading us to praise God with our lips and not merely intellectually  or philosophically, but outwardly as a spring bursting forth from the heart that knows and loves this merciful and gracious, majestic and glorious God. 

We might put together these renderings and come up with something like this: "They shall pour forth abundantly and eagerly the fame and memory of God's great and abundant goodness, and will shout and sing with joy-filled hearts of the righteousness of God"  The question that comes to mind when I read this and consider the state of my own heart, the patterns of the family I lead, and the members of the church we attend along with those who attend churches throughout Knox County, Maine, the United States of America, and throughout the world is this: In light of all we have learned from this Psalm already, of all the marvelous works of grace and mercy that God has done for His people, with all the abundant blessings we have been given, chiefly among them the salvation from eternal Hell and condemnation and the promise of eternal life and forgiveness of sin through the atoning death of Jesus Christ for His Bride, when the wrath of God due to me was poured out on the spotless Savior who willingly died in my place to rescue and redeem me when I was dead in my trespasses and sins, 
ARE WE WHO ARE CALLED BY THE NAME CHRISTIAN KNOWN, 
NOT ONLY IN CHURCH BUT EVERYWHERE WE GO, 
FOR POURING FORTH FROM OUR HEARTS THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD? 

IF NOT, WHY NOT?
Are we truly filled with the Holy Spirit?  Have we truly been born again to a new and living hope because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, enduring the wrath of God due for sin? Have we, as seasoned Christians, come to the House of the Lord to worship Him as this verse shows, or are we following the traditions of men (which have value, but only if pleasing to God) or are we just doing what we think keeps people interested, offends as few people as possible, or we just like certain forms over others? 

This is not an accusation against anyone, but a challenge I have been considering for years, a study I have been laboring at for over a decade, and the subject of many struggles that faithful Christians have as they see the progress of modern churches toward man centered songs and sermons. You would not believe how often this issue comes to my email inbox or messenger, along with personal conversations too numerous to count. If our purpose for living as Christians is to make disciples of all nations, teach them to observe the commandments of Jesus, and all the other things we find in the New Testament, is it time to consider EVERY practice and pattern in the church by God's design, and then to implement only that which we know to honor God rather than allowing dozens of man made and even contradictory practices, let alone songs and sermons into our churches?

I will leave this post here as it was not my intent to get into the regulative principle of worship, nor to criticize anyone or any church. Rather, we need to do as the psalmist did here, to meditate on the character and nature of God and let that drive how we live our lives, how we raise our children, how we reach the lost, and how we worship God. 

Thank you for continuing to read this series, now 7 posts long with 15 more in the works. If you enjoy these posts, please share them via social media, or print them out to read to your family to spur discussion of profitable things from the Word of God. Please also read some my series, also posted here from years ago, on "The Ideal Church" a 5 part series that speaks simply and Biblically about the practices of the early church and our need to return to the patterns God instituted at the beginning of the Church. 

May the splendor and majesty of God compel you to sing and shout His praises for all the world to hear. 

A fool for Christ,
Mark

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Psalm 145: 6 Declaring the greatness of God

Today, a famous man of God passed from this life into eternity to receive the reward of his Lord and King. I have not always agreed with the man's stances on multiple issues, but his love for the Lord and passion to reach the lost were without question to anyone who ever heard him preach. I once reviewed a book of quotes by Mr. Graham, and even watched a movie about him once. I know many a Christian, elders/pastors, missionaries, and many more who will tell you that their eyes were opened to their sinful condition and depraved estate after hearing a fiery preacher speak of the great God. I doubt there are many others alive today whose influence is even close, and I know and love some of the finest preachers of this era. A ministry spanning decades upon decades coupled with the blessing of God allowed this one man to speak in the living rooms of almost every person in the English speaking world, and a whole lot more.

Our passage for today will be quoted from the ESV. 
In Psalm 145:6 we read:
"They shall speak of the might of Your awesome deeds,
and I will declare Your greatness!"

When one considers the cultural use of the term "awesome", you just might miss this one entirely. However, if you can get past the often flippant use of the term and realize that what is being said here is that God's might inspires a sense of awe and wonder to think that not only does such a God exist, but that He is concerned with the lives of mankind. How marvelous and unexpected, and also quite unjustified it is that God should bother with created beings who live their lives primarily in sin against Him, not giving Him thanks nor praising His works! What an incredibly merciful God is Yahweh/Jehovah! 

Here we also see the continuation of the generational confessions of eyewitness accounts of the work of God to take men, women, boys, and girls and transform them from dead sinners to living and active agents indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Our testimonies and declarations of God's greatness come primarily from the Word of God, His self revelation to mankind in the Bible. But the great and mighty, awesome deeds of God are also seen throughout the world each and every day. 

From the North Korean prison camps where Christians are being beaten and dragged to death behind vehicles for their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior, and reigning King over kings and Lord of lords, to the sidewalks outside abortion clinics where babies are being murdered under cover of law while Christians plead and beg for the lives of babies they have never seen before, God is at work. We have seen Him reverse the course of abortion minded women, and we have heard the testimonies of those who died in faith under totalitarian regimes and self appointed dictators. 

But we must not only see these things for our own edification, or even share them with Christians at church during a time of testimony and praise. We must go to the streets, the doors of our neighbors, the soup kitchens and the banks, to the young and the old, the infirm and the fitness enthusiast. And when we go there, we must speak the truth of God's wonderful and awesome deeds even if they will not listen, even when they mock and blaspheme. We have been called to love even our enemies, and surely Jesus Christ died for the ungodly, paying the debt of their sin and enduring the wrath of God poured out upon Himself in the place of all those who repent and believe, who have been born again to eternal life. Christians should be filled with jubilation and joy at the myriad blessings of every day we are given to live. We recognize our struggles, and don't diminish the pain and difficulties we face, but we face them with hope, with joy, leaning on Him who created all things to continue to produce in us His character, the fruit of the Spirit, and a reverence for God our Father. 

The more we examine this psalm, the more I enjoy it. The more time passes without meditating on this passage, the easier it is to worry, to be anxious, and to not trust God. We must be on our guard, and rather than reacting when we see ourselves without the joy of the Lord and awe at His deeds, we ought to make a practice of counting our blessings, sharing them with others (especially unbelievers) and go with the humility and compassion for souls that should accompany one who knows they have been bought with the precious blood of Christ, that they belong to Him, were created for His glory, and that the greatest achievement we can hope for in this life is to honor and obey God in all things so that His purpose is fully accomplished in us, as a trophy of His grace and mercy, and nothing else matters. 

The joy that fills my heart even in great trials, the loss of our son, leaving ministry due to my own sin and error, and the health issues that have kept me from providing for my family are only possible with an eternal perspective. So when I cannot go out and proclaim Christ, I stay home and proclaim Christ to myself, my wife, my children, my guests, whoever is willing to sit and listen. I can write on this blog to share my experiences and encouragement from God's Word with others. I can pray for all those many needs that come to me from friends serving God all over the world. I can prepare to know and serve God more fully and faithfully as He gives opportunity. 

I want to know if these posts are hitting home with anyone. I feel compelled to write them, and believe God will use them for more than just keeping my own journal. I pray that is the case. If you have been challenged or encouraged by these posts and want them to keep coming, please contact me at cowperthwaitefamily@gmail.com. Until then, I hope to keep having the mental clarity to read, digest, meditate upon, and share this precious psalm with you all. 

How will you declare the greatness of God today? Who will you tell? Will you write a letter, make a phone call, go knock on your neighbor's door, or share your testimony with a coworker? Whatever way it comes out, let your heart and soul be filled with the praise of our great God, of His awesome power in Creation, His awesome promise of resurrection unto eternal life for those in Christ, His awesome character that is without spot or blemish, the awesome and incredible nature of an eternal being who interacts within time for our sakes, that we might know Him and make Him known. 

We are considering how best to serve the Lord with the situation we find ourselves in. If I am still unable to work this summer, we hope to help with evangelistic VBS programs and community outreach events. If you are interested in having our family work with your church, please email me as well. We have older children who have a passion to reach kids with the Gospel, and also hope to spend more time in nursing homes singing God's praise and sharing the Word of God. If you know of a venue willing to have us (6 kids ages 6 months to 15 years) in, we will take each idea to God in prayer and see what He gives us to do. 

We may even do some traveling in the state of Maine to work with various churches, so we may be looking for a camper to borrow or otherwise acquire in the near future. We have no finances for such a purchase, but God has provided for His work in many marvelous ways over our years serving Him. We are thinking of parking at a church for a week of Gospel outreach, whether preaching on the street, visiting homes, holding events at a church, or maybe even some things we have not yet considered. Will you pray for us as we continue to seek wisdom about my medical situation and our future ministry? We appreciate your prayers immensely.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Psalm 145:5 the glorious honor of God's majesty

There are many passages of Scripture that teach us about the majesty of God. Today's verse deals with this, but we will look at others to see the harmony of the Word of God in regard to the revelation of God, which, if I do my job well, will lead you to praise, honor, adoration, and great love for the Creator of all things and His salvation of sinful man. But first, the text for the day:

Psalm 145: 5 KJV
"I will speak of the glorious honour of Thy majesty, 
and of Thy wondrous works."

This verse correlates with verse 4, so instead of repeating myself, I thought I would bring in other Scripture in regard to the majesty and glory of God. The first passage that comes to mind is one that I knew for years, but truly understood after reading R.C.Sproul's book, "The Holiness of God". That passage is Isaiah 6: 1-7

 "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, 
high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.

 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, 
and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.

And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: 
the whole earth is full of his glory.

And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried,
and the house was filled with smoke.

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips,
 and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: 
for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, 
which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:

And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; 
and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged."

As I consider the "glorious honour of Thy majesty", and the explanation of the vision of Isaiah here, we cannot help but be humbled once again that the Creator, the King, the thrice Holy (other, separate, transcendent) God would reveal Himself to mankind in such a way. Truly, the images one sees in their mind as they read through this is absolutely breathtaking. And such was the case when witnessing this vision. Isaiah, a prophet of God, a trustworthy, faithful, and persecuted man of God would say that his lips were unclean, not because of some exposure of sin by God's words or the vision, but in view of the Holy God who stands as Creator, Ruler, and Judge over all Creation, but because of the glorious majesty of that God. He spoke of the uncleanness of himself, specifically his lips, BECAUSE his eyes had seen the King, Yahweh of Hosts. And yet, Isaiah's response of self-analysis and loathing of his sinfulness and that of his people, was not the end. God mercifully went on to cleanse Isaiah's lips, to burn away the sinfulness and then send him off to tell others of the glorious vision of the majesty of God, that they might also repent and follow the one true God. 

In Revelation chapter 4, we see a similar seen given to John, the aged disciple and apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this revelation of Jesus Christ, after issuing warnings and chastisement along with encouragement to repent, we transition to a scene in Heaven. Here is John's account:

"1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice 
which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, 
Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.

2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, 
and one sat on the throne.

3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: 
and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats:
 and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, 
clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.

5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: 
and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, 
which are the seven Spirits of God.

6 And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne,
 and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.

7 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, 
and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.

8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him;
 and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying,
 Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, 
who liveth for ever and ever,

10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created."

Here, we see similar descriptions of the majesty and glory of God. The repeat of "Holy, Holy, Holy" and the additional descriptor: "Which was, and is, and is to come" speaking of the eternality of this glorious majesty, the unending reign of the Creator over Creation, and yet despite the sinfulness of mankind, even after regeneration, God has allowed redeemed mankind into His presence. To consider the majesty of an earthly king's coronation, where the invited guests are not the members of Congress or Parliament, the rich and the powerful, but the treacherous and wicked sinners whose only reason for invitation is the mercy of God in calling them out of darkness and into His marvelous light, is to challenge the human mind's ability to think rationally. 

Why, after all, if God is so glorious and majestic, holy and awesome, would He not choose to reveal Himself only to the men like Isaiah whose lives were dedicated to proclaiming the truth of God (though Isaiah was indeed one of God's chosen people) and instead chooses to use Jacob the deceiver to be the father of God's chosen nation? Why would God use Saul of Tarsus to be the proclaimer of divine revelation of not only God's justice, but also His mercy and love? Why, and for that matter, HOW, could God invite men to His presence, adopts them as His children, and gives them eternal life with Him? The answer is found in the love, mercy, patience, grace, and compassion that God shows to us freely through the sending of His only begotten Son, Jesus of Nazareth, as the Christ, the Messiah, the Lamb of God. Jesus is the only way that sinners such as inhabit this earth can see and understand the majesty of God. And when God's majesty is revealed to the human heart through the work of regeneration, or being born again of the Holy Spirit, the work is always completed. He who began a good work in His people will be faithful to complete it. 

As we continue to ponder the wonders of this psalm, we will find other character traits of the Holy God, we will be led to worship and praise, and when the love of God overflows the boundaries of our hearts and minds, we will pour forth these wonderful truths to others, that God will be glorified, and that others may enjoy the glorious praise and worship of our majestic God, who sits enthroned in the heavens, and yet also cares about me, my worries and fears, the needs of my family, the need of my heart to know Him more and love Him more deeply. This is just another step on the journey to knowing God, experiencing His grace each day, and drives the receiver of God's grace to go and spread the message the world around. To God be all glory, honor, majesty, and praise, both now and forevermore! 

Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Psalm 145: 4 Telling the next generation

Today I am feeling pretty well, and even the rain falling outside my window reminds me of the loving care of our gracious God who sends rain on the just and unjust. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go out and preach for the first time in a long time, and while I had to lean on my walker the whole time, I was able to speak with clarity to those passing by, the waitress at the restaurant across the street, the people who came out of shops to listen, of the glorious God who gives us all life and breath, the God who deserves all glory, honor, and praise, for He is the Giver of every good gift.

The verse we will be considering this morning is Psalm 145: 4. In the NASB, we read:
"One generation shall praise Your works to another,
and shall declare Your mighty acts."

This was one of the verses that I wanted to spend some time on in the declaration of the Gospel yesterday. Why is it that Christians are known for such passionate proclamation of their faith in the public square? Why do Christians spend so much time teaching their children, going out to reach others with their message, and pass by so much of what the rest of the world is enjoying in the realm  of entertainment and self gratification? There are myriad reasons, one of which is that much of what our culture produces and enjoys are in contradiction to what God has revealed in His Word as healthy and worthwhile. 

Another reason Christians are so passionate is because they understand what others do not. There are things about the message of Jesus Christ which seem as foolishness to those who have not been given a new heart that yearns for the things of God rather than the things of this life. Christians routinely spend hours singing songs about how weak and humble they are to proclaim the strength and glory of God. We speak with authority about the things revealed by the Creator in the Bible, because without the Christian worldview, you could not really know anything for certain. If there is no guiding force, no all- powerful and all- knowing authority that reigns over the universe, then we couldn't have any certainty that everything wouldn't come crashing down on us tomorrow, or that tomorrow would ever come. It is only in the Christian worldview that these things make sense. If you want to understand more about why this is true only of Biblical Christianity, I recommend Dr. Jason Lisle's message here and Sye Ten Bruggencate's message here

Having established the basis for why the Christian can have certainty for the message of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, it seems evident to everyone that the rational and expected response to knowing truth that transforms the heart and life and prepares the soul for eternal life, it would seem the next step from learning knowledge of God would be to share it with everyone you encounter. Truly, if God created humankind for His own glory, in His image, and if our purpose in this life is revealed, clarified, and guided by the purpose of glorifying God in our hearts, minds, and every aspect of life (and it is) , then David's statement about one generation declaring God's mighty works to following generations is completely expected. We all share with our children and those around us the things about which we are passionate. The things that we know to be true, the reason for living, everything will be wrapped up in God's great grace and mercy toward mankind, our words will be laced with Biblical truth, brokenness over sin, repentance and faith, and we will desire to do that which Jesus said He came to Earth to do, "to seek and to save that which was lost."

As I began to speak, heads began to pop out of shops and restaurants, art galleries, and music stores. Sadly, as those curious folks came out to hear what was going on, most saw the signs we hold quoting scriptures such as "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, the Almighty. The whole Earth is filled with His glory" and "Children are a blessing from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward" many shook their heads and went back where they came from. The world today has come to think that passing the truth of God's Word on to the coming generation is brainwashing, child abuse, and more. These accusations have been hurled against us more times than I could count. 

Yet, even the ungodly do the same. They deny God's existence and concoct wild and fanciful stories that are much more incredible than that which God's Word declares, of parasites morphing into people over millions of years. They indoctrinate other people's children, as if children belonged to the state and so the state is responsible and given authority to teach, train, and disciple children who are sent to them. The sad part is, that when you send your child off on that bus, or walk them through the doors of the school, you have agreed with them that their ungodly and perverted view of the world is acceptable to you and that you want your child to learn their ways. Even Christians do this, sending their children to be taught history, science, social sciences, and a whole worldview of ungodliness, and then wonder why their kids leave the faith. This is the caution David is exposing here, as did Moses and many others in the Word of God, all the way into the New Testament era where Paul tells Timothy to "commit these things to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."


Certainly, there is great power in having generous amounts of hours (over 1,000 per school year) to mold and shape the minds of the coming generation. The question is, are we as Christians doing what we are called to do, or are we ignorant of the schemes of the Devil in regard to our children, or worse, apathetic to what is being taught and modeled for our children? If we belong to Christ, then it is our blessed calling, our holy duty, and the desire of our hearts to herald to the coming generations the goodness, grace, mercy, love, and mighty works of our God, our King. Note that David isn't giving a command here so much as explaining what is the natural outflow of the heart and mind that know the living God and have seen Him change their lives, to raise them from the dead in Christ, to make them a new creation that is being conformed day by day more into the image of Jesus Christ. 

The Bible contains many commands to "train up a child in the way he should go..." and "Fathers, do not exasperate your children, but train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." However, here we don't have a command so much as an expectation. If I find a person whose life was transformed from sinful pride and self gratification, who because of the transformation of regeneration (born again) is now a humble servant of others for the glory of God in Christ Jesus, then I expect to see this happening. If someone comes to church regularly, knows the phrases and lingo, but whose life is not marked by joy in the midst of suffering or love for Christ and the lost sheep in the world that compels them to seek them out and point them to the Savior, then I worry for their soul. The marvelous work of God in salvation is enough to make me weep over my sin, and weep again for joy to know that all my sins are paid for by the blood of Christ, that I am His because He has purchased me with His blood on Calvary's cross. 

If you are a Christian, maybe today is the day you need to renew your commitment to tell others of the grace and mercy showered down upon you in Christ. Maybe today you are reading this and don't feel any relief from the burden of sin, nor joy in knowing Jesus. If so, you should read this psalm in fear and conviction, and realize that you don't have these things which God produces in His children because you are not His, or you have forsaken what you once believed. If this is you, today is the day to repent, to cry out to God and confess your sin against Him. You can try your best to fulfill every command in the Bible, to follow the whole Law, but you will never accomplish anything of eternal value on your own. You must first be made alive in Christ, reject your sinful past, confess your sin before God, and beg Him to make you a new creation in Christ. 

As I look back on many years of walking with the Lord, I see too often that my zeal for the lost is diminished, spending too much time thinking about myself and my own goals. In times like these, I must remind myself of the character of God, the character of man outside of God's salvation, and the marvelous works He has done in my life and the lives of many around me. I have been blessed to know thousands of people across the country whose lives exude the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, and rather than complain because I can't do all the things they are doing for God, I need to know what God has planned and purposed for me to do, and then I must dedicate my heart and mind, everything I am and have to following the perfect plan of the all knowing God, by whose name I am called, and for whose glory I want to live until the day He calls me home. 

Ephesians 2 is a favorite chapter of mine, but in regard to the things that flow from the work of salvation as manifest in the hearts of those who are truly Christians, I want to close with this passage in knowledge that my words are useless and vain unless they are in agreement with the Word of God. Test all these things by the only Truth man can ever know for certain, the Word of God.

Ephesians 2: 1-10 KJV
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Not of works, lest any man should boast.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, 
which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Christians are made by God in Christ for the purpose of doing good words, including that great work of telling the coming generations of the mighty acts of God. Go in His strength, and proclaim His truth, that God alone be glorified in all the Earth, for He is worthy! 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Psalm 145: 3 Unsearchable greatness

Today I want to look at the focus of the first three verses of Psalm 145. The last few posts, we have been considering the way we should interact with God's Word, and how the praise and blessing from us toward God are to be our eternal theme. Some people unfamiliar with the Psalms have asked me before "Why should we praise this God instead of the other gods(idols) and for that I want to take a look at other passages of Scripture, including Psalm 115 and Job 38. But first, let us look at our verse for the day,  Psalm 145:3

"Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
 and His greatness is unsearchable"

First of all, we need to see the difference between the generic word Lord, which means master, and this all capitalized version, LORD. This is the rendering most Bible versions give to the Sacred Name, or the memorial Name by which God revealed Himself to Moses, in English pronounced Yahweh or Jehovah. In this passage, David is not speaking about himself as King, nor the promise that he would be in the line of the Messiah, but speaking of the character and nature of the one true God, the ever living one, the Creator and Sustainer, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The term is very significant and yet often missed by English speakers as most translations don't render the Name, but replace it with LORD. From here on in this post, we will use "Yahweh" where the text says The LORD, as we are talking about a personal God and so using a generic term that people often don't understand hopefully will become more clear.

With this knowledge that the being talked about here is so great, exceedingly great, greater than our minds can comprehend, it makes sense to follow with this greatness of Yahweh/Jehovah as being unsearchable. This does not mean that it is not in the heart or mind, even the ability, to search out truths about God, to know Him personally and correctly as revealed in the Holy Bible, the Word of God. However, it does mean that we can never plumb the fullness of the depths of the wisdom, knowledge, power, authority, and vastness of our great God. Let's consider some examples from other passages of Scripture to see more about this God. 

The book of Job begins with an interaction between God and Satan, where God points out a righteous man named Job and allows Satan to torment him and afflict him with myriad trials, death of his children, his flocks and herds, sickness and boils all over his body, and more. The first chapter ends with a rather shocking response by Job in the midst of such chaos. 
Job 1:20-22" Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell 
on the ground and WORSHIPPED. And he said, " Naked I came from 
my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. 
Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away; blessed be the name of Yahweh."

This is a good beginning on Job's part, but as we read further in his story, the counsel of his wife and friends seems to expose a weakness in Job's thinking about God which develops over many chapters of this book. For now, we will skip forward to chapter 38:1-7 where we see a bit more of the longsuffering, patience, and mercy toward men. 

"Yahweh answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: 
"Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man; 
I will question you, and you make it known to me.

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements- surely you know! 
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk, 
or who laid its cornerstone, 
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?"

I don't know about you, but if I were Job, I would be laying face down in the dirt and begging God to stop this revelation of His work in Creation and sustaining power over it all. Even now, in the 21st century, man has concocted all kinds of outlandish means of the origins of the universe, our planet, and life. They deny what is revealed by the Creator, and willingly suppress the truth which they know in their unrighteousness. We could go on for many verses, even chapters, discussing Yahweh's creative acts, power over the environment, knowledge of when animals give birth, the counting of every hair on our heads, and so much more. So, is the greatness of God unsearchable? Yes.

Another passage from God's Word, also in the Psalms, that speaks  of the differences between the one true God and the idols/gods of the people is Psalm 135. Consider your own view of God, and see if there is anything in your life that you have put in the place of God. Then read this psalm and consider whether you know and love and worship the one true God, or some god cobbled together from various things people have said that may or may not agree with what God has revealed about Himself in Holy Scripture. 

Psalm 135: 15-18
"The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
they have eyes but do not see;
they have ears, but do not hear,
nor is there any breath in their mouths.
Those who make them become like them,
so do all who trust in them."

It is easy to look at Moloch/Molech or Artemis or Buddha, or any of a host of other idols and see that these are inanimate objects with no power except over the minds of deluded people. Yahweh created the heavens and the earth, the birds and fish, people and animals. He made all the stars and knows them by name, but these idols crafted by human hands cannot save your soul, give you eternal life, reconciled you to the God against whom you have sinned. They are worthless, and to meditate on them is to rob from the true God time and resources that He gives us to use for His glory. 

The idolater is not only the one who bows and gives fruit to a statue, but the one who places anything before God in priority. I would venture a guess to say that we all are guilty of that one far more often than we would care to admit. Let us consider a recent example where Christians who generally attend multiple services at church each Lord's day. However, their commitment to worship of God can be replaced at times with sporting events. Others leave right after church and miss the time of fellowship , prayer, and counsel that often occurs at these times when Christians gather together. Why do they leave? Because the race is on, the game is on, or they really haven't had any time to go fishing, so they do their duty to the church as they see it, but in reality are prioritizing fun and entertainment over the fellowship of the saints. 

Now that I have gotten off track a little, let's look at one last passage in regard to the unsearchable nature of God. Deuteronomy 29:29 was a passage I had skimmed over a few times until it was brought to my attention by a dear brother named Earl from Key West. Here, after God renews His covenant with the people of Israel after they disregarded His commands, leaving them outside the Promised Land, curses promised for disobedience had been imposed by God, and then this: "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law."

God here reminds His people, who He chose to love not due to anything in them, but because He chose to set His love upon them, that they are blessed if they keep the covenant, but cursed if they break the covenant He made with them. I find here and in other passages that we can't cover here that God chooses to reveal much of His character and nature through His laws, His ordinances in the church, but that in the Old Testament these exist in shadows and don't reveal the fullness of God's plan for redemption and salvation of sinners through the penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. 

Even now, with the canon of Scripture closed, the fullness of God's plan revealed in Christ Jesus, even seeing the future through the apocalyptic writing of John in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, we cannot search the depths and heights, the wonder and awesome power, the beauty and glory of Yahweh, the God who is. We cannot truly fathom eternity, singing songs that speak of "when we've been there 10,000 years....we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we first begun" as these still limit us to days and years rather than the lack of time, the eternal nature of God, and His unfathomable mercy to send His only begotten Son to die in the place of His people. 

The greatest computer in the world cannot reveal His thoughts. The greatest philosopher can only know what God has revealed. The greatest theologian can only go as far in knowing God as the Scripture and the Holy Spirit express. The most eloquent poem and the greatest melody cannot capture the beauty and grace of His character. Truly, God is unsearchable. However, that does not mean that we should not pursue Him, study what is revealed, pray and meditate on Him and feel His leading and loving in our lives. We have been given much that assists us in seeing what God has created, and Christians take seriously the exploration and understanding of His works, but in the end those that I know of, many men with doctorate degrees in math, science, astronomy, physics, geology, cosmology, medicine, researchers and professors at universities who seek God through His Word and as revealed in His works continue to press on for truth, for wisdom, starting with the Word of God and going from there, as the revealed Word of God, the God-breathed Scriptures must be the necessary starting point of all knowledge. These men and women, such as Dr. Jason Lisle, Dr. Jake Hebert, Dr. Danny Faulkner, Dr. Andrew Snelling, Dr. Randy Guliuzza and many more working with Answers in Genesis and Institute for Creation Research along with many other ministries dedicate their lives to knowing that which God reveals in Creation with the guidance and authority of the Bible leading their hearts and minds. Can we fully know God, or is He truly unsearchable? The Scriptures reveal very much about God so that we can know Him, but in the end He truly is unsearchable. 
  1. What are you doing today to get to know the unsearchable God? 
  2. How much time do you spend in prayer and study of His Word? 
  3. What is getting in the way of searching the Scriptures to know God and learning to walk in His ways? 
  4. Do you you use the things God has revealed about Himself to share with others their need for the God who reconciles sinners to Himself? 
  5. Do you know Him at all?

These are questions that will challenge us all, as they have challenged me as I have studied Psalm 145 and considered its ramifications in all of life. May God richly bless you with knowledge and wisdom of Him, and leave you in awe and wonder, marveling over the God who is unsearchable. 

Humbled in His presence,
Mark

Friday, February 16, 2018

Psalm 145: 2 Every day I will bless you

Thank you for coming  back for another post about Psalm 145. This psalm has been such a rich blessing to me this past month, and a reminder that while my body and mind are weak and we endure real trials, that our focus is not to be primarily on the things of this earthly existence, but ultimately on the Heavenly promises of the one true and living God, the Creator, Sustainer, and Healer who is worthy of our praise, worship, adoration, and unending love.

As we take a moment to discover the next verse in our Hebrew acrostic poem, we have come to verse 2, which excluding a "thee" instead of "you" is word for word the same between the various versions of the Bible that I own. Those are the NASB, ESV, and KJV. All have their own subtle differences in places, but in this psalm they agree so much that finding differences to enjoy is at times not possible, but in others we find synonyms, greater explanations, and more as we compare the various versions. 

"Every day I will bless you, 
and praise your name for ever and ever."
Psalm 145:2 ESV

As we consider what David was communicating to the children of Israel with these words, they are always to be understood in the greater context, and yet this short verse is enough to challenge the most faithful and obedient Christian, as none of us have yet achieved perfection in our walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator, the Word become flesh who dwelt among men. The same applies for the youngest believer, the person who just days ago was enlightened and regenerated by the Holy Spirit and given eternal life and forgiveness of sin by the miracle of redemption. 

As a father, husband, and minister of the Gospel this passage touches on every area of my life. As I rise in the morning and see all my children rousing from sleep and preparing for the day, am I leading by example in the attitude of my heart and the words of my mouth telling them that God has made a day for us, a day in which we should grow in our knowledge of and love for Him, to bless Him, to praise Him. 

When my wife (who is always awake before I am) hands me my coffee and breakfast, is it on my heart and coming from my lips that she is appreciated and cherished as a gift to me from God, causing us to bless Him and praise His name?

When I am reading my Bible, giving counsel to a friend, talking to unsaved loved ones, or the clerk at the store, is my heart so full of the love of God that I tell each of these people about it, and apply the truths of God's Word in my counsel, my study, and those conversations so that it is true of me what I have often said, that if you meet me for 5 minutes you will know that I am a Christian husband and father who is striving to preach the Gospel to every creature and make disciples to my great Shepherd? 

Maybe you have, like me, had some ups and downs in your walk with the Lord. With me, the times of greatest blessing tend to make me forget where all these blessings come from, while the greatest trials are when I am constantly reminded of God's strength which is made perfect in weakness, that even when I am not faithful, God remains faithful because He cannot deny Himself. It is part of the character of God to be faithful, which leads us by example and causes us to beg Him to fill us, use us, and guide us into all truth and be used by Him to share that truth with others that He may be worshiped, praised, and adored by many more. 

As I did in the previous post, I want to define what this means to "bless the Lord". This term means literally to kneel, a position of humbling ourselves in the presence of the Lord of the universe, the God revealed in the Holy Bible, which as one considers the various postures of prayer, we often see people either on their knees in prayer, or prostrate on the ground, that is face down, broken and humbled by the glory of God and placing ourselves in a vulnerable and lowly position. Consider what Jesus did when He walked the earth. He was born as a baby, who needed his bottom cleaned, who needed to eat and be nourished, who obeyed his parents, and even after He revealed Himself as the Messiah, was mistreated and despised as it was prophesied would happen in Isaiah 53. 

If this is the posture of the only begotten Son of God, to pray and cry out to His Father, then as Christians who now have Jesus as the Advocate before the Father's throne as we pray, bowing or lying face down before Him as His glory overpowers us, and we realize that we are but creatures while He is the Creator. We are clay in His hands, made for His purpose, and literally account as nothing in our own value. However, when we are bought by the blood of Christ, we are washed, made clean, and adopted as sons. Can you imagine that? How then ought we approach our blessing and praise of God? With reverence, gratitude, humility, and asking things according to His will rather than trying to twist God's arm to get things that are for our own pleasures.

As we prepare for the next post, from verse 3, I encourage folks who are desiring to read this series to read Psalm 145 slowly once each day as I have been doing. After you read, and as you read, just pour out your heart before the Lord. Thank Him for His Word, thank Him for opening your eyes to see Him in all His beauty, thank Him for the life you have and the opportunities you have to serve Him and make Him known to others. Praise God for His marvelous work of salvation, forgiveness, atonement, reconciliation, and much more that belongs to those who are in Christ as an act of His free will in election. Don't dwell on the sins which you once enjoyed and be broken in sorrow, but be the new creation He has made you to be and hate the things He hates as you learn to love the things He loves. 

Take some time to list out your blessings, and then thank God for them one by one. You will be amazed at how long a list you can come up with. I will share a short list here, only concerning my own family as a prompt for others. 

Blessings of today, February 16, 2018:
  • Life .
  • Breath (I am an asthmatic, and never take this for granted).
  • Ability to walk (I don't always have this).
  • Ability to speak and have conversation with those I love (I don't always have this either).
  • A full belly of healthy and nourishing food that is pleasurable to eat.
  • My precious wife who has her own health issues but cares for me and never complains.
  • My 7 children, all for various reasons, who bless me, serve me, snuggle with me, and remind me to honor God most of all, as He is also doing a mighty work in their lives.
  • Friends who understand my weaknesses and are willing to help when they are able. 
  • Church family who encourage, pray for, and edify us and give us opportunity to do the same for others. 
  • Men of God who proclaim the truth of God to me when I am failing, who hold me accountable, and who labor alongside me in our mutual goals of making disciples for Christ Jesus.
  • My home which protects our family from the cold, rain, snow, and once in a while oppressive heat (it's Maine, that isn't often).
  • Friends from far away who keep in touch to build me up in knowledge of God and so, also bless God and praise Him with me, or as an example when I fail to do so. 
  • A computer which allows me to type as my writing is horrible, and internet access in our home which allows me to share these posts with others. 
  • Electricity which, while common in most parts of the world, is affordable enough that I can afford to keep the house warm and also use the computer.
  • Hot water to wash dishes and ourselves in. Not everyone has this luxury.
  • Insurance from my employer which covers much of the cost of my constant medical bills. 
  • A good running vehicle to take our family in safety to go get groceries, get to the hospital to do blood work, and to see my doctor and discuss what might be learned as we continue to try to discover what is causing me such debilitating seizures and weakness. 
  • Did I mention my wife? She should be in here a few more times, because she is AWESOME!!!!
  • A computer which was given to us so that the kids can do their research for school while I can write posts like these to encourage others. 
  • Multiple versions of the Bible, copies for everyone in the family. 
  • Books that glorify God by giving Him blessing, honor, and praise such as those from Dr. Jason Lisle, Ken Ham, R.C.Sproul, and many many more that spend many years following God and applying their knowledge of Him in order to share that with others. 
  • Children to invest my time and wisdom in, and even admit my mistakes to, which humbles the heart of their father. Yes, I said kids a few times, too, but they are worth it. 
  • The honor of training boys to be men, to protect and provide for their families, to lead in fighting for justice, to honor those in authority over them and so honor God who places all authorities where He wants them, for His glory. 
  • THIS LIST COULD GO ON FOREVER.... LITERALLY! 

As you can see, it isn't hard to find many things to bless the Lord for, to praise Him about, and at least for me, there is no shortage in supply of people to talk to and teach these things. I have 4 sons and 3 daughters, and a wife who thirsts and hungers for righteousness and encourages me to persevere in the hard times. There has never been a day that I didn't have much to praise God for, but there have been days when I get too tied up in the busyness of life to give God what He deserves, what He has commanded, what He rescued me from sin to do. And so, I hope you will join me and remind me to bless the Lord at all times, to praise His name for ever and ever. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Psalm 145:1 Extolling our God and King

It has been a long time since I posted on this blog, but I wanted to begin to use it again as I have been blessed immensely by my recent study of Psalm 145 and I thought it would be helpful to others to consider some things I have recently learned. Indeed, every day I read over this passage, I continue to learn more about it and feel God speaking to my heart about my own lack of obedience in various ways. This psalm is primarily one of praise to God, beginning in the first verse.

Left to right: KJV, NASB, ESV Bibles

As is often the case, I find a richer depth to Biblical texts by examining the various English translations we have in our home. I have read this psalm many times in the last few weeks and want to share with you all what God is revealing in my life from this beautiful passage. Let's look today at just a small portion of this glorious psalm, which is an acrostic beginning with each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This is similar to Psalm 119 which does the same but has whole sections, broken into 8 verses each, giving us 176 verses and culminating in the longest chapter in the whole Bible. Let's take a look at the text:

NASB
I will extol You, my God, O King, and I will bless Your name forever and ever.

KJV
I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.

ESV
I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.

As we examine all of these texts we see the same thing. A passionate plea from the heart of the writer, David, to extol God. For those, like me, who like to look up words to see how they are defined, we find that this term "extol" means to laud, to give excited praise, to lift up. Since we don't often use this term today, one could understand this opening verse to say that David wishes to lift up the name of God, to excitedly praise his Creator, or to laud Him. As we get farther on in this psalm, we will see more of the reasons why David wishes to give such excited praise based on the character, nature, and works of God revealed throughout Creation. 

I am not seminary trained, nor am I able to even read with comprehension all the time due to my neurological problems, but this passage is understandable to me as it is clear and beautifully written. As we teach our children to know and obey the one true God as revealed in the Bible, it is our goal to do as the psalmist here has done, to extol God who is also our King, and to bless Him at all times, from now into eternity.  

Today, we will share some personal stories as we interact with the poetic beauty of the King James Version, and share from this passage things that we have learned as we read, study, examine, meditate on, and apply this song of praise. 

"I will extol thee, my God, O King; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever."

As a young man, I grew up in a home where the Bible, specifically the King James Version, was read often. We went to church whenever the doors were open, and I recall sitting or lying in my bed while my mother read stories from a Bible story book which I now have in my home. I knew who God was, and I was taught that God was the Creator of all things. We started in Genesis with the Creation account and I was given much instruction about the one true God. A solid foundation was laid for me from God's Word, but I was not yet regenerated by the Holy Spirit, not truly born again to a new and living hope in Christ Jesus. Yet even as a child I knew in my heart that this God was the truth, that Genesis held the true historical account of God making the world and everything in it, and that I was part of His creative acts. I knew about God, but I did not know God.

I see this same thing in our younger children, who have been taught the Bible since any of them were born, even hearing Sara and I singing songs of praise, honor, and adoration to God while they were still in the womb. They know about God, and it is our earnest prayer each day that God would be glorified to bring each of them to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin and eternal life. The youngest of them can recite to you passages of Scripture, catechism questions and answers, and answer questions about who God is. But do they extol God as King in their hearts and bless His Name forever? As a parent, that is our greatest desire, and the goal that we spend a large amount of time to achieve, knowing that the means God uses to draw His children to Himself is the proclamation of the Gospel, of His truth about who He is and who they are, and so we press on with reverence and passion toward God. 

I know as a parent that my children will generally do what they see me do, whether good or evil. Knowing this, we ought to be wise and discerning about what we say to them, that we get our information from the source of wisdom and knowledge, the inspired Word of God as revealed in the Old and New Testaments. When we sin against them, we confess it to them and ask them to forgive us. When they sin, we point them to the sin nature as revealed in God's Word and tell them of their need to be reconciled to God in Christ Jesus. When we pray, we ask our petitions of the Lord through the only Mediator between God and man, the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ, and we submit all our requests to the sovereign will of Him who is all wise, all powerful, and who loved the world so much that He would send His Son to die for sin and endure the wrath due to us as sinners. 

And yet, with all of our teaching and singing, reading and explaining, we admit our weakness, our failures, our sin and repentance, our catechisms and books, we at times fail to truly extol our God, our King, and to bless His name not only in the good times, but in great trials and persecutions, in sickness and weakness. We have, however, grown in obedience by the grace of God, and desire at all times to do these things. Given that even as adults, maturing in our faith over decades of walking with the Lord, we fail so often, we must admit that there is still nothing in our flesh which will please God, and so we must walk in the spirit and trust God to accomplish His work in us. 

As we go through each day, it is not enough to simply read the Bible as an academic exercise, but to meditate on it day and night, to digest it so that it becomes part of who we are, and to recognize and remember that, but for the grace of God in our salvation, we too would not truly understand these truths or be able to know God intimately and personally unless He has first brought us to repentance, a change of heart and mind which brings true life, eternal life, and gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit to apply His truth to our lives, achieving that which we could never accomplish, life from death, resurrection in spirit which will culminate in resurrection on the last day when Christ Jesus returns for His Bride, which He purchased with His own blood. These precious truths as recorded in various passages of the Bible cause us to give jubilant praise, honor, and adoration to our Creator and Savior, our King and our God. 

So today, as we walk in this world, it is our heartfelt desire, our earnest prayer and plea, that our words and deeds would do as David did, as recorded in Psalm 145:1, to "Extol You, my God, O King, and bless His Name forever and ever." We hope that this is the desire of every Christian, indeed every person who reads this post, to do the same. He is indeed worthy of all we are and have, for He has given us light and life! 

As we do this in our hearts, and then in our words and deeds, those around us should expect to not only see that we are religious or church goers, but that we are no longer as we all were before God saved us, dead in our sins and seeking our own desires, but that the God and King over all Creation is working in us and through us to make disciples through sharing and proclaiming the Gospel and shining the Light of Him who sent us into all the world to spread His fame throughout the world. 

May the God and King over all Creation be extolled forever and ever! Amen.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Night sounds

I never tire of the sound of Virginia reading the Scriptures aloud. Every night before bed, she reads 3 chapters, always out loud. In one room, Sara and the littles are listening to Scripture songs as they head off to sleep. In the other room, a few more listen to a sermon about the God of creation and His powerful, wise, and awesome plans. Virginia reads the Scriptures as I sit and type.

As we prayed together tonight, we thanked the Lord for the opportunity to preach the Gospel, to disciple our children, to love our enemies (thanks for the challenge Todd Caverly) and to glory in the Lord we adore. In the face of seizures and vomiting, morning (all day) sickness, back pain and neurological dysfunction, we choose to fix our eyes and our hearts instead on the eternal, that which truly matters.

We entrust ourselves to Him who never fails, who loves and leads His children every step of every day, knowing that in all things He is working to get glory for Himself, things He prepared before time began that we might see His glory and wisdom, to marvel and wonder, to worship and adore our King, our Father, our Creator and Lord.

In weakness, His strength

You know that feeling you get when your little girl's heart yearns to minister to others but you are unable to do anything? I have them all too often lately. These are moments when you must rely on the Lord for wisdom, strength, and healing. With sickness in the house and Daddy's neurological problems making it unwise for me to drive long distances alone, we won't be able to make it to Planned Parenthood today to preach the Gospel and plead for the lives of the unborn.

How long will our nation continue in opposition to the Author of life? How long must we battle just to see babies allowed to live rather than being murdered by their own parents? How long will our King tarry? Until the last of His elect have called upon Him in repentance and faith for salvation. Until that day, the wicked will continue to slaughter the innocent, to persecute the righteous, and to rebel against their Creator.

Instead of driving to Portland, we will be in our home, fervently praying to the God who intervenes in hearts and lives for His glory. The lessons God is teaching us as we parent a young woman are at times heartbreaking, but always beneficial in the long run. The things we have taught our children to yearn for are not fashions, entertainment, nor earthly fame, but to know and be known by the only One whose opinion matters. His strength is made perfect in weakness, whether or not I understand or see how. I must continue to "hand over the keys" to Him who controls all things. I must also discern when weakness can be overcome and faith must be believing enough to act no matter the circumstances.

It is no wonder God has us walking through Proverbs this year, as the more I serve Him, the more I see and feel my weakness and lack of wisdom. In all things, I must walk by faith in obedience. How does one deal with the broken heart? Take the broken pieces to the Great Physician that it might be healed. It is only in brokenness that we are fully molded into the image of Christ, in whose name we pray, our Advocate before the Father, the great High Priest who ever lives to make intercession between us and our God.

I pray for healing that I might serve the Lord I adore more fully, and I long to be there more than I can express, but here I sit in a body that at times seems broken and useless. Maybe this post will help others who struggle with similar issues. Maybe I just need to get it off my chest. Maybe my inability to speak coherently this morning causes me to speak my mind more clearly through the written word. Brethren, pray for us. We are praying for you!

#endabortionnow
#preachthegospel

Saturday, December 5, 2015

What change is needed? Food part 4

I have to admit that this last week or more since my last post has been difficult. As I continue to examine other issues in my Christian walk, those issues have brought me to what I believe are some final thoughts on the issue of food, but more than anything it is because the Lord has graciously taught me so much more in the interim, I don't want to dwell too long on any single issue. I have an immense amount of encouragement in the Lord from walking day by day as a Christian man, husband, father, and in all my relationships with others. Let's see if we can finish up this topic and find some practical applications that go beyond the realm of food into health and good stewardship of all God has given us.

When I used to think about food, I just looked on the shelves either of our pantry or of the local grocery store. I used to shop and choose what I ate by what felt good at the moment. While I still have decisions to make each day about what I will eat and drink, I have not been tempted to purchase anything that is not food. I thank the Lord for a change of mind that took us in a different direction. When we went out to eat the other night, it wasn't even a question of whether or not we would have soda. It wasn't even an issue worth considering. Soda doesn't have any real contribution to my health, so it is no longer a temptation. I have been inconsistent at times with candy, maybe somehow still justifying the fact that I haven't bought any, that is was in the house already. It just proves to me how little we even think anymore in this culture. It requires no thought to pick up whatever is at arm's reach and looks appetizing, but that does not mean I have to continue to live this way.

I find the implications of this thought pattern everywhere. Recently I came to the realization that we do this same thing in the church. The body of Christ, our Savior and Lord, the One who left Heaven to take on a body of flesh, the One who suffered and died to pay for the sins of evil, wicked, wretched, and unlovely creatures such as myself told us that He purchased us with His blood. Scripture reveals that it is the duty of the Church through its elders' preaching, teaching, and accountability to not only help us to know the character of our God, but also how to live right and stop the evil patterns of sin that we bring into the church from our fleshly past.

I could cite example after example, but for today we are going to speak in general principles and tackle the tough details later. As we said before about alcohol use, the Bible is not silent. The Bible does not mandate abstention from consuming alcohol, but it does offer many warnings and regulations in specific passages. Elders are disqualified due to excess use of alcohol, and the only time we see it seemingly commanded for use is in the general terms of those who are indeed perishing. When we look to the Scriptures we find that God created our bodies to need food. God made us and told us what to eat. After the Flood of Noah's day, meat was added to the diet.. Israel was commanded to refrain from certain foods, while having certain foods incorporated into the mandatory (and quite beneficial) feasts and commemorative times where God's people recalled the goodness, mercy, and grace of God through the use of food.

I feel like I have gotten to the point of beating a dead horse in my own mind, and our family has learned so much in the days since my last post that goes beyond the practical to the spiritual. However, there is one issue I want to leave you to consider, dear reader, that I had never considered before. It has to do with idolatry, regeneration, and taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

Voddie Baucham spoke about his upbringing, how his single teenage mother who raised him in South Central Los Angeles was a practicing Buddhist. Voddie spoke of the sensory effect of idolatry and I just about fell out of my chair as I considered how far reaching the applications of idolatry can be. He spoke about how he remembered his life growing up, never hearing the Gospel until college. As he developed his point on the need to leave idolatry, he spoke of how God should have Lordship not only over who we worship, but how we worship. Again, this has implications in regard to the regulative principle of worship (I need to write a whole post on that) but has daily application in our lives, in every part of our lives.

Voddie tells his story of what the idol of Buddha (a statue) looked like, of the feel and sound of beads used in prayer and meditation, of the smell of the fruit offered to this mute and dead idol, of the smell in the air that reminded him, long after becoming a Christian, that Buddha still had a place in his memory that he could not shake. Now, one must realize that the statue itself does and is nothing, but that memories in our minds are often associated with smells, tastes, touch, sounds, and sights.

In the Old Testament, the priests of Israel were given a specific recipe for things to make incense offered before the Lord. That recipe was exclusively used in the worship of God and was not allowed to be used for any other purpose. God is holy, set apart, and He likes the smell of that incense. He will not share it with others.

We could continue to speak about God's design in the Old Covenant, where certain animals were offered, how their blood was shed, where it was sprinkled, how and where to dispose of unclean things, how to determine whether that spot on your head was leprous or not. While we are no longer living in the same age, we are fools if we truly believe that God does not care how we live. I believe the New Testament has equally important, often described (I would argue prescribed) details about how God wishes to be worshiped in this age, and I think most Christians are inconsistent, lackadaisical, and plainly foolish about what we bring into church.

The church is to be a place designated to the corporate worship of God in Christ Jesus, given to the doctrine of the apostles, the breaking of bread, to fellowship and prayer. Often, the church instead tries to make itself a relevant, culture-embracing place where we worship self, Satan, and America right alongside God. Don't get me wrong, I am all for patriotism in its proper place, but in my book draping an American flag over a wooden cross is idolatrous in at least two points. This cultural religion is destroying the true worship of God.

When I see a church decorated for Halloween, I cannot help but notice (and hear from my children in agreement) that those beautiful things that God has given that refer to the harvest of God's bountiful blessings, have been generally co-opted for the purpose of celebrating Satan's favorite holiday. Yes, that was kind of blunt, but as those pagans I know continue to laugh each year when churches hold celebrations of overtly Satanic origins and practices, I am not going to bother defending my statements here.

I look at God's gift of harvested pumpkins turned evil, carving scary faces and often showing depictions of death and evil. I see these at churches, and I want to vomit. I want to ask when we started worshiping the Devil in church, but I know the answer. When we disregard the implications of regeneration and God's commands, we find ourselves in bed with the world and its ruler.

Name a time of year that our culture engages in more eating of non-food, usually candy, more than Helloween. See if you can find a time when even moderately conservative church folk will dress just like the world, do exactly what the world does, and then claim to be redeeming a Satanic celebration for God's glory. I submit that on the issue of this Satanic holiday when everyone is dressing their little children up in fake blood soaked rags and watching horror movies, that the church is heading entirely the wrong direction in the fight to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

When did we go so far off course as to actually defend such practices? How ungodly can we get and still proclaim our allegiance to Christ publicly before God pours out His righteous judgement on us? We must not presume on the mercy of God in such ways, and to be honest as I consider my own life and practices, I make myself sick. But I guess that's the point. That's why you are reading this post, because you want to hear me say things that make you think, perhaps that make you uncomfortable. I know this may be the last post some people ever read, and yet that is not my desire.

Rather, my desire is to bare my soul in public, to share with others who struggle in the same ways, who are troubled in their spirit by sin in their own lives, and who rather than disregard the urging of the Holy Spirit to change, will stand up and say "I have accepted my sin too long. Today I repent and by God's grace, I will change." I have so much more to learn about living a godly life, there are probably hundreds of things that I think, do, or believe that are in error. Yet, in this I am not comfortable, nor will I rest until I obey the commands of my Lord in every area. I will not quit until God either calls me home or Christ returns for His Bride. I will examine His Word, heed His calling, obey His commands, and bring honor and glory to His Name until my dying day.

What change is needed? Sadly, the list of my own sins is far too long and troubles me constantly. I have no desire to look at the sins of others unless they are flaunted in front of my eyes, and they often are. When I see sin, in my own life, and that of the church, I will speak out for the glory of God. I will do so because He is worthy of proper, appropriate worship. He has spoken to His people to tell them what He wants, and we must obey. What change is needed? Food is just the beginning.