Category Archives: Uncategorized

We Really Can Just Go on in

John Phillips writes:

Imagine a Moabite of old gazing down upon the tents and tabernacle of Israel from some lofty mountain height. Attracted by what he sees, he descends to the plain and makes his way toward the sacred enclosure surrounding the tabernacle. It is a high wall of dazzling linen, which reaches over his head. He walks around it until he comes to the gate, where he sees a man.

“May I go in there?” he asks, pointing through the gate to where the bustle of activity in the tabernacle’s outer court can be seen.

“Who are you?” demands the man suspiciously. Any Israelite would know he could go in there.

“I am a man from Moab,” the stranger replies.

“Well,” says the man at the gate, “I’m very sorry, but you cannot go in there. It’s not for you. The Law of Moses has barred the Moabite from any part in the worship of Israel until his tenth generation.”

The Moabite looks sad. “What would I have to do to go in there?” he insists.

“You would have to be born again,” replies the gatekeeper. “You would have to be born an Israelite. You would need to be born of the tribe of Judah, perhaps, or of the tribe of Benjamin or Dan.”

Says the Moabite, “I wish I had been born an Israelite, of one of the tribes of Israel.” As he looks more closely, he sees one of the priests, having offered a sacrifice at the brazen altar and cleansed himself at the brazen laver, go on into the tabernacle’s interior. “What’s in there?” asks the Moabite.

“Inside the main building, I mean.” “Oh,” says the gatekeeper, “That’s the tabernacle itself. Inside there is a room containing a lampstand, a table, and an altar of gold. The man you saw is a priest. He will trim the lamp, eat of the bread upon the table, and burn incense to the living God upon the golden altar.”

“Ah,” sighs the man of Moab, “I wish I were an Israelite so that I could do that. I would love to worship God in that holy place and help to trim the lamp, to offer Him some incense, and to eat at that table.”

“Oh, no,” says the man at the gate, “even I could not do that. To worship in the holy place one must not only be born an Israelite, one must be born of the tribe of Levi and of the family of Aaron.”

The man from Moab sighs again, “I wish,” he says, “I wish I had been born of Israel of the tribe of Levi of the family of Aaron.” Gazing wistfully at the closed tabernacle door, he says, “What else is in there?”

“There’s a veil,” replies his informant. “It is a beautiful veil, I’m told, which divides the tabernacle in two. Beyond the veil is what we call ‘the most holy place,’ ‘the Holy of Holies.’ ”

The Moabite is more interested than ever. “What’s in the Holy of Holies?” he asks.

“There’s a sacred chest in there called the Ark of the Covenant,” answers the gatekeeper. “It contains holy memorials of our past. Its top is made of gold and we call that the Mercy Seat because God sits there between the golden cherubim. You see that pillar of cloud hovering over the tabernacle? That’s the Shekina glory cloud. It comes to rest on the Mercy Seat.”

Again a look of longing shadows the face of the man from Moab. “Oh,” he says, “if only I were a priest! I should love to go into the Holy of Holies and there gaze upon God and worship Him there in the beauty of holiness.”

“Oh no!” says the man at the gate. “You couldn’t do that even if you were a priest! To enter into the most holy place you would have to be the high priest of Israel. Only he can go in there, nobody else, only he.”

The Moabite’s heart yearns once more. “Oh,” he cries, “if only I had been born an Israelite, of the tribe of Levi of the family of Aaron. If only I had been born the high priest! I would go in there, into the Holy of Holies. I would go in there every day. I would go in three times a day. I would worship continually in the Holy of Holies.”

The gatekeeper looks at him again and once more shakes his head. “Oh no!” he says, “You couldn’t do that. Even the high priest of Israel can go in there only once a year, and then only after the most elaborate of preparations, and even then only for a very little while.”

Sadly the Moabite turns away. He has no hope in all the world of ever entering there. (Quoted in Wilson, Jared C. (2013-07-31). The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry (pp. 171-173). Crossway. Kindle Edition.)

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 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. (Hebrews 10:19–22, ESV)

That’s right. We really can just go on in. Thanks be to Christ!

 

Advertisements

A Presidential Prayer

An excellent post from Kevin DeYoung on what believers should be praying for in Washington.

This will be short, I promise. There are only two parts to this post: a prayer and plea.

First, the prayer. It’s what I put on my blog the day after election day in 2012.

Our good, gracious, and sovereign God, we pray for the the President of the United States.

Grant him wisdom, courage, and integrity as a man and as a leader.

Keep him faithful, kind, and loving as a husband and father.

Give him a heart for the poor, concern for the powerless, and compassion for the weak.

Put before him the best information and the most intelligent counselors so he can make good decisions about economic policy and judicial appointments.

May he be guided by both courage and restraint as he commands our armed forces.

Make him a defender of the unborn, a protector of marriage, and a champion for religious liberty.

Make him a man of prayer and a daily student of the Scriptures.

Give him humility to admit his faults, forgive his enemies, and change his mind.

Lead him to a firm understanding of the truth of the gospel, a resolute commitment to obey the Word of God, and a passion to promote what accords with your truth.

By your grace, heavenly Father, may our President be a better man than so many expect and a better man than we deserve.

In the name of Jesus our Lord, let it be.

Nothing terribly controversial in that prayer, at least not for evangelical Christians. (Yes, this prayer assumes the president is a man, because that’s what the options were on election day in 2012. But let’s take the gender issue off the table for the moment.) If I’m not mistaken, everything in the prayer above is pretty standard. If you are a serious, Bible-believing, church-going, Jesus-is-coming-back, you-need-to-be-born-again, orthodox Christian, don’t you agree it’s a good idea to pray that our president be faithful, kind, humble, wise, and compassionate? I hope every evangelical Christian reading this blog can say, “Yes, I pray for those things too.”

So here’s my plea: then vote for those things. If at all possible, the candidates we endorse should not be light years away from the prayers we pray. Is there more to being an effective President of the United States than what I’ve captured in these ten petitions? Of course. But if the Lord answered our prayers and gave us a president who checked all these boxes, we’d have a president we can trust, a president we can respect, a president for whom we can give abundant thanks. If you agree with a prayer like this, look for a candidate who most readily and genuinely, as best as we can fallibly discern, embodies the things we are praying for. If evangelical Christians pray for one thing and vote for another, we’ve either lost our sense for what really matters or we’ve become too cynical to care.

Pray first. Then vote. And make sure the two are related.


Book Review: Experiencing the Trinity

Joe Thorn, in writing Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God, has given a gift to the church. This little book based on what he refers to as his “dark night of the soul.” He admits he had begun to fall apart and felt he was the weakest man he knew. He writes: What follows are fifty daily readings that reflect on God and the gospel and how they overcome our fear, failure, pain, and unbelief. Much of this I preached to myself over the last couple of years, and all of it is directed toward my own heart.”

In 50 short, devotional-like chapters Thorn demonstrates how the deepest theology of scripture is immensely practical to each of us. That in the Trinity (of all places) he found the meat that nourished his soul during his weakest hours.

He states right at the beginning: “What I hope you will discover— what I continue to learn over and over again— is that all of us are far weaker than we know. Our sin, which is much darker and goes much deeper than we realize, is the real source of our most significant weakness. Neither you nor I can measure up to God’s standards. We are trapped in our condition of guilt, and the only hope is the offer of grace by our triune God.”

And that is just what he shows us.

He breaks his discussion down into the three headings of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.

As he discusses the attributes and ways of the Father he says, “You exist because God chose to make you. And when he made you, he made you for himself. Meditate on this. You were made for your Maker’s pleasure. You are here for the sake of Another. And this doesn’t diminish your purpose or value in life. In fact, it heightens it.”

He goes on to discuss God’s Holiness, God’s Power, God’s Presence, God’s Provision, God’s Goodness, etc.

When he moves to the next section about the Son, the focus shifts, not only to Christ’s redemptive work, but how his humanity and poverty can be such a tremendous encouragement to us.

Regarding the nearness of Jesus, he says: “The nearness of Jesus is a gift to you. You will find him to be close by when you read his Word and seek him in prayer. He is there to comfort, challenge, and change. But he is not only a gift to you, but to the church. To experience the fullness of the presence of Jesus you must walk with him and his church. He is never far from her.”

Under the discussion of the Holy Spirit, Thorn discusses how the Spirit intercedes, indwells, regenerates, fills, indwells, leads, revives, gives gifts, etc. and how each of these aspects of the Spirit’s ministry were a blessing and encouragement to him.

I highly recommend this book. It will bless you. It will encourage you when you need to be encouraged and will jolt and shake you where such are needed. It touches deep theology but is brief and clear enough that anyone could turn to it with great profit.

*Note: I received this book free from Crossway in exchange for an unbiased review.

 


Monday Morning Prayer: Need of Jesus

I read a powerful prayer in Valley of Vision this morning entitled: NEED OF JESUS

LORD JESUS I am blind, be thou my light,
ignorant, be thou my wisdom,
self-willed, be thou my mind.
Open my ear to grasp quickly thy Spirit’s voice,
and delightfully run after his beckoning hand;
Melt my conscience that no hardness remain, make it alive to evil’s slightest touch;
When Satan approaches may I flee to thy wounds, and there cease to tremble at all alarms.
Be my good shepherd to lead me into the green pastures of thy Word, and cause me to lie down beside the rivers of its comforts.
Fill me with peace, that no disquieting worldly gales may ruffle the calm surface of my soul.
Thy cross was upraised to be my refuge,
Thy blood streamed forth to wash me clean,
Thy death occurred to give me a surety,

Thy name is my property to save me,
By thee all heaven is poured into my heart, but it is too narrow to comprehend thy love.
I was a stranger,
an outcast,
a slave,
a rebel,
but thy cross
has brought me near,
has softened my heart,
has made me thy Father’s child,
has admitted me to thy family,
has made me joint-heir with thyself.

O that I may love thee as thou lovest me,
that I may walk worthy of thee, my Lord,
that I may reflect the image of heaven’s first-born.
May I always see thy beauty with the clear eye of faith, and feel the power of thy Spirit in my heart, for unless he move mightily in me no inward fire will be kindled.

Edited by Arthur Bennett. The Valley of Vision (Kindle Locations 2058-2079). The Banner of Truth Trust.

 


Marital Love in Action

Here are some excellent insights on love that I read recently in Paul Trip’s book: What Did You Expect: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage.

  1. Love is being willing to have your life complicated by the needs and struggles of your husband or wife without impatience or anger.
  2. Love is actively fighting the temptation to be critical and judgmental toward your spouse, while looking for ways to encourage and praise.
  3. Love is the daily commitment to resist the needless moments of conflict that come from pointing out and responding to minor offenses.
  4. Love is a daily commitment to admit your sin, weakness, and failure and to resist the temptation to offer an excuse or shift the blame.
  5. Love means being willing, when confronted by your spouse, to examine your heart rather than rising to your defense or shifting the focus.
  6. Love is a daily commitment to grow in love so that the love you offer to your husband or wife is increasingly selfless, mature, and patient.
  7. Love is being unwilling to do what is wrong when you have been wrong but to look for concrete and specific ways to overcome evil with good.
  8. Love is being a good student of your spouse, looking for his physical, emotional, and spiritual needs so that in someway you can remove the burden, support him as he carries it, or encourage him along the way.
  9. Love means being willing to invest the time necessary to discuss, examine, and understand the problems that you face as a couple, staying on task until the problem is removed or you have agreed upon a strategy of response.
  10. Love is always being willing to ask for forgiveness and always being committed to granting forgiveness when it is requested.
  11. Love is recognizing the high value of trusting in a marriage and being faithful to your promises and true to your word.
  12. Love is speaking kindly and gently, even in moments of disagreement, refusing to attack your spouse’s character or assaulted his or her intelligence.
  13. Love is being unwilling to flatter, lie, manipulate, or deceive you in any way in order to co-opt your spouse into giving you what you want or doing something your way.
  14. Love is being unwilling to ask your spouse to be the source of your identity, meaning and purpose, or inner sense of well-being, while refusing to be the source of his or hers.
  15. Love is the willingness to have a less free time, less sleep, and a busier schedule in order to be faithful to what God has called you to be into do as a husband or a wife.
  16. Love is a commitment to say no to selfish instincts and to do everything that is within your ability to promote real unity, functional understanding, and active love and your marriage.
  17. Love is staying faithful to your commitment to treat your spouse with appreciation, respect, and grace, even in moments when he or she doesn’t seem to deserve it or is unwilling to reciprocate.
  18. Love is the willingness to make regular and costly sacrifices for the sake of your marriage without asking anything in return for using your sacrifices to place your spouse in your debt.
  19. Love is being unwilling to make any personal decision or choice that would harm your marriage, hurt your husband or wife, or weaken the bond of trust between you.
  20. Love is refusing to be self-focused or demanding but instead looking for specific ways to serve, support, and encourage, even when you are busy or tired.
  21. Love is daily admitting to yourself, your spouse, and God that you are not able to love this way without God’s protecting, providing, forgiving, rescuing, and delivering grace (pages 191-201).

I hope this list challenges you as it did me. I hope also that you are reminded of the impossible task we have before us as husbands and wives and that (as #21 reminds us) you cling closely to God’s grace as you seek to glorify God in your marriage.


Principles for Christian Husbands and Fathers

At our men’s breakfast this morning, I shared some principles for men that I read on Kevin DeYoung’s blog yesterday. Taking care of a wife and children is a glorious calling but certainly not an easy one. It can be very easy to put it into cruise control (I speak from experience!) and slowly drift away from the responsibilities God calls us to.

Here are a few reminders of what those are:

Pursue Holiness: This is the key to leading our families in Christ. A Christian husband and father cannot lead where he has not tread. Even as Paul admonished Timothy regarding the pastorate, “Keep a close watch on your life and doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:16), so it is true of the “pastor” of the home. If holiness is found lacking in our lives, then it will normally be lacking in our family members as well. The greatest impetus to their growth in Christ is our growth in Christ.

Know What You Can Control and Can’t Control: It is a fool who thinks they can control the hearts of others. We have no such charge and thank God, because we have no such ability. We can encourage, exhort, and teach our wives and children in the faith, but we cannot control their embrace of or growing in that faith. But we are charged with maintaining our own hearts. Don’t neglect what you have responsibility for while pursuing that which you are not responsible for. Husbands and fathers serve their family well when they are seeking to control their own anger, selfishness, pride, and tongue. Let us know what we are empowered to do and what only the Lord can do.

Provide in Every Realm: Most Christian husbands and fathers recognize the need to provide for their families materially. “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Even as this is true in the physical realm, so it is true in the spiritual. By all means, bring home the bacon! But don’t stop there. Practice consistent and regular family worship; lead your family in reading the Scriptures, praying, and singing. In joy, take your family to church each week, engage your family in the ministry of the church, pursue hospitality by inviting others to your home, pray with and for your wife and children. Don’t think your job is done by putting a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and food in their stomachs. They are body and soul, they need your provision in the spiritual realm as well.

Practice Humility: Leading in Christ is different from than the world’s view of leadership. The world promotes a type of leadership that demands to be served. The Christian view of leadership demands to serve. Dear Christian husband and father, you are the chief servant in your home. Congratulations! In Christ, “whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26). We lead by serving and often that serving is sacrificial (Ephesians 5:25).

Persist in Joy and Thanksgiving: Set the tone in your home. A Christian husband and father establishes the culture of his home more than anyone else. The moody teenager, fussy toddler, or even sullen wife are not the determining factor. You are. Pursue joy in the Lord and persist in thanksgiving to God for all His good gifts (James 1:17). This is a great starting place for shaping your home.

Be Effusive in Love: No wife or child has ever said, “I was loved too much!” Don’t be the husband or father who is reserved in expressing your love. Make your wife feel treasured. Nourish and cherish her (Ephesians 5:29). Grace her life with compliments, flowers, gifts, and constant affection. Hug her from behind while she is washing the dishes, carve out regular time for her to escape from the demands of the home, encourage her to pursue godly female friendships, thank her for the care she provides for you and your children, plan and execute date nights. May there never be a doubt in her mind that you treasure her above all others. And allow your children to see this affection. Your embrace of mom should be a regular vision for their little eyes to behold. As for your children, lavish upon them an undeterred and unfailing love. No matter their failings, foibles, or struggles, may they know your love will be a constant in their lives. It is fixed and nothing can steal it away. You won’t be a perfect father, but bathing your children in love is a step towards being a great father.

Live in Grace: Peter says, “live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel…” (1 Peter 3:7). Paul says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Model and practice grace in your home. Be sensitive to sin and even more sensitive to extending the same grace you have received. Your wife and children should find you approachable, kind, gentle, and gracious. When they hear the word grace it shouldn’t be a foreign concept to their minds. They have known and received it from you consistently.

Protect and Be Strong: Your wife and children need your strength. Not only do they need your strength, but they need to know you are willing to use that strength for their good. You serve as their defender. You are to willingly and gladly stand-up for your family, even if that costs you socially, professionally, emotionally, or even physically.

Glory in Weakness: Even as you seek to be strong, you must glory in your own weakness. Your wife and children should know you as a man who happily depends upon the Lord. When they reflect upon your strength, they always count it as from the Lord. And you are happy for them to know the source of your strength. A faithful Christian husband and father will not wallow in his weakness, but he will glory in it. He will continually look to Christ and model this supremely Christian virtue before his family. He will be a man of prayer, knowing that much of his shepherding takes place upon his knees. He will lead the way in asking for forgiveness in the home from both his wife and children, he will keep short accounts and be quick to grant forgiveness when offended, he will refrain from having too high of expectations for his wife and children knowing his own failings and weaknesses, and he will extend to them the same grace he himself needs.

Live with God’s Glory in View: Whether you are at work, rest, or play, seek to glorify the Lord. Paul said, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Model before your family purposeful living. We are always living in the shadow of God’s glory. Demonstrate to them that every moment matters, every person is significant, every task is important. Laugh when you play with your kids, sweat when you work, and sing loud when you worship. Do all things with His glory in view and do them with your whole heart and soul, especially the leading of your family

Reading a list like this can easily provoke feelings of guilt for the responsibilities I’ve neglected. But never forget that God waits to be gracious to you (Isaiah 30:18) and delights in showing mercy (Micah 7:18) and because we don’t measure, God sent One who would. As we see areas of failure as husbands and fathers, humbly repent and call upon God’s grace to obey. It is the great calling we have been called to.


A Prayer for Monday

THE INFINITE AND THE FINITE

THOU GREAT I AM, Fill my mind with elevation and grandeur at the thought of a Being
with whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,
A mighty God, who, amidst the lapse of worlds, and the revolutions of empires, feels no variableness, but is glorious in immortality.
May I rejoice that, while men die, the Lord lives; that, while all creatures are broken reeds, empty cisterns, fading flowers, withering grass, he is the Rock of Ages, the Fountain of living waters.
Turn my heart from vanity, from dissatisfactions, from uncertainties of the present state, to an eternal interest in Christ.
Let me remember that life is short and unforeseen, and is only an opportunity for usefulness;
Give me a holy avarice to redeem the time, to awake at every call to charity and piety, so that I may feed the hungry, clothe the naked, instruct the ignorant, reclaim the vicious, forgive the offender, diffuse the gospel, show neighbourly love to all.
Let me live a life of self-distrust, dependence on thyself, mortification, crucifixion, prayer.

Edited by Arthur Bennett. The Valley of Vision (Kindle Locations 2100-2119). The Banner of Truth Trust.