Thursday, December 29, 2016

Look up!

It is impossible to say what will happen to us, or what will be required of us this year — but "Look up!" This direction, if properly attended to, will . . . procure for us all that we need, secure us against all that we dread, and make us more than a match for all our foes and fears!

Fellow-Christian, are you fearful? "Look up" and hear Jesus saying to you, "Do not be afraid — I Myself will help you!"

Are you discouraged? "Look up" — and your youth shall be renewed like the eagle's, and fresh light, comfort, and courage shall be given to you!

Are you desponding? "Look up" for Jesus never breaks the bruised reed, nor quenches the smoking flax.

Do not look too much at your sin — look most at the infinitely meritorious blood of God's dear Son!

Do not look too much at self — but look at Jesus, who ever lives to make intercession for you in Heaven.

Are you stripped of your comforts, your props, and your goods? Then look up! He who stripped you — loves you! He will be more than all these to you! He will bind up your broken heart, calm your perturbed spirit, cheer your drooping mind, and fill you with his own peace and happiness.

Look up . . .
for all that you need;
from all that you fear;
through all that would obstruct your way;
and notwithstanding all that would deter you from doing so.

Look up every day, saying with David, "In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and will look up!" Psalm 5:3

Look up in every trial, saying "I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help: my help comes from the Lord, who made Heaven and earth!"

Do not look at your sin — it will discourage you!

Do not look at your self — it will distress you!

Do not look at Satan — he will bewilder you!

Do not look to men — they will deceive, or disappoint you!

Do not look at your trials — they will deject you!

But do as the church did, look up "until the Lord looks down from heaven and sees" (Lamentations 3:50).

"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us — looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith!" Hebrews 12:1-2. Look only, look always, look intently, to Jesus; run looking, work looking, fight looking, suffer looking, live looking, and die looking — to Jesus, who is at God's right hand in glory. Oh, look, look, look to Jesus!

From A New Year's Motto, sermon by James Smith, 1865.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas!

I'm sure I can speak for all of us here at the blog that we wish all of our readers a very Merry Christmas. We are all very thankful for all who read regularly and provide encouragement and feedback. We wish God's best for you all.

I want to share one of my favourite Christmas songs today. Christmas songs can be really wonderful, but there are some pretty lame ones. This is one of my favourites. The theological content is excellent. I am not a fan of "modernizing" a hymn too much, so I will share a traditional choral version of "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing." This version has a wonderful organ accompaniment, and the descant in the last verse is beautiful:

Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth, and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled!"
Joyful all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic host proclaim
"Christ is born in Bethlehem!"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ, by highest heaven adored
Christ, the everlasting Lord
Late in time behold him come
Offspring of the virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead be
Hail the incarnate deity
Pleased as man with men to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail, the heav'n-born Prince of Peace
Hail, the Son of Righteousness
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild he lays His glory by
Born that men no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Which Jesus?

During this time of year, it is more acceptable to bring up Jesus. I've seen plenty of nativity scenes in people's yards and even in front of businesses. (The fortune teller with the plastic creche out front broke the cognitive dissonance meter, though.) Even traditional Christian Christmas carols are being played on the airwaves. Many see the story of the baby in the manger as just that, a feel-good myth about love, joy, and peace on earth in sentimental but indistinct terms that don't offend anyone's sensibilities. But is that good enough? Many people say they believe in "Jesus," but sadly we live in a day when we need to press the issue and ask "Which Jesus?"

Even among professing Christians, this question needs to be asked. We may not be as vague as the secular world, and one does not need a D.Min. to be saved, but the message of the gospel cannot be separated from the Savior of the gospel. So to get the gospel right, we need to get Jesus right.

In the latest round of posts, Rebecca and Kim reminded us of Jesus' full humanity and deity, which is the doctrine of the hypostatic union. This is not just a topic for an advanced seminary class. This is not a secondary or tertiary issue of minor importance. Our salvation hinges upon the fact that our Savior is God and man.

In the 1st century, one heresy that crept into the church was Docetism. According to this teaching, Jesus only appeared to have a physical body. Thus there was no problem with His deity but a rejection of His humanity. This fit in well with the Gnostic idea that the physical and material was evil, and the metaphysical and immaterial was good. But the implications for the gospel are dire.

There was no need for resurrection if Jesus did not have a physical body, but where would that leave us? According to the Apostle Paul, if Christ was not raised, our faith is futile and we are still in our sins. (1 Cor. 15:17) We were made sinners by the transgression of one man, but how could we be made righteous through the obedience of another man if He was not a man? (Rom. 5:18-19) Also how could Christ fulfill the law and live a life of perfect righteousness as a man for our sake? (Gal. 4:4-5) No active obedience means no imputation which means we have no right standing before God. If Jesus is not a man, this is really, really bad news.

But we have good news of great joy. Our Savior was born who is Christ, the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11) He lived, died, rose again, ascended on high, and is coming again. This gives us reason to rejoice and worship Him, not just at Christmas but every single day of the year. So with the words of the Nicene Creed, I gladly affirm:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

Monday, December 12, 2016

His Name is Jesus

by Robert A. Bucknell
 
“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus,
for He will save His people from their sins.”

 
    Jesus’ name is Holy and Awesome (Ps. 111:9).    Jesus’ name is above all names (Phil. 2:9).   Jesus’ name is to be believed on (I Jn 5:13).   Jesus’ name is to be hallowed (Mt. 6:9).   Jesus’ name is our authority in prayer (Jn. 14:13).   Jesus’ name is to be glorified (Rv. 15:4).   Jesus’ name is the Word of God (Rv.19:13).   Jesus is the Word of God (Jn. 1:1,14).   Jesus’ name is to be loved (Heb. 6:10).    Jesus’ name will cause all to bow and confess (Phil.  2:10-11).    Jesus’ name is to be magnified (Ac.19:17).    Jesus’ name is the only name under heaven for salvation (Ac. 4:12).    Jesus’ name is faithful and true (Rv.19:11).

    Jesus existed before Abraham (Jn.  8:58).    Jesus spoke to Moses (Ex. 3:14).   Jesus appeared to Abraham (Gn.18).    To Jacob (Gn. 32).    To Joshua (Josh. 5:13-15).    To Daniel (Dn.10).    To Paul (Ac. 9:1-19).    To John (Rv.1:9-20).    Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb by God (Mt.1:18).  Jesus is the Mighty God (Is. 9:6).    Jesus created the Universe (Co. 1:16; Heb.1:2).    Jesus personally manages every atom (Col. 1:17).    Jesus is called God by His Father (Heb. 1:8).    

   Jesus raised people from the dead (Jn.11:43-44, Lk .8).    Jesus raised Himself from the dead (Jn. 20).    Jesus told the Pharisees that He was God (Jn. 5:18; 10:30).    Jesus was human (Phil. 2:6-8).    Jesus ascended into a cloud (Ac.1:9).    Jesus will descend in the same way (Ac.1:11).    Jesus is preparing a Bride for Himself (Ep. 5:25-27).     Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn.14:16).   Jesus is the Everlasting Father (Is. 9:6).      Jesus is the Light (Jn. 8:12),   Jesus is the Lamp (Rv. 21:23),  Jesus is the Bread (Jn. 6:35),  Jesus is the Lamb (Jn. 1:29),    Jesus is the Lion (Rv. 5:5),    Jesus is the Rock (I Cor. 10:4),    Jesus is the Morning Star (Rv. 22:16),   Jesus is the Vine (Jn. 15:1),   Jesus is the Rose and the Lily  (Song 2:1).  

   Jesus is the Friend of sinners (Mt. 11:19).  Jesus is our brother (Heb. 2:11).  Jesus is our Advocate (I Jn.2:1).  Jesus is the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:11).  Jesus is our Counselor (Is.9:6).   Jesus is full of love (I Jn. 4:19),  mercy and compassion (Mt. 20:30-34).     Jesus is Lord (Lk. 2:11).   Jesus is our Savior (I Jn. 4:14),   Jesus is our Redeemer (Gal. 3:13-14).   Jesus is the Christ—Messiah  (Jn.20:31).   Jesus is our High Priest (Heb. 4:14)    Jesus is the Prince of Peace  (Is. 9:6) 

   Jesus is the firstborn from the dead (Rv. 1:5).   Jesus is the King of Kings (Rv. 19:16). Jesus is the Lamb of Wrath (Rv. 6:16).    Jesus has flaming eyes (Rv. 2:18).    Jesus will rule on the earth for a 1,000 yrs (Rv. 20:4).  Jesus will rule with a rod of iron (Rv. 2:26).   Jesus has a two-edged sword (Rv. 2:12) with which He will slaughter all people small and great (Rv. 19:15, 18).  Jesus wears a robe dipped in blood (Rv. 19:13).   Jesus will tread the winepress of His wrath (Rv. 19:15).  Jesus holds the key of Hell (Rv. 1:18).   Jesus is seated on a White Throne (Rv. 20:11).   Jesus will cast Satan and all unbelievers into the Lake of Fire (Rv. 20:10-15).    
 
   Jesus will provide His people with a new heaven, earth, and city (Rv. 21:1-2).    Jesus will wipe away every tear (Rv. 21:4).    Jesus will eliminate suffering and death (Rv. 21:4).    Jesus will give His people new bodies (I Co. 15:35-49),    white garments (Rv.3:15),  and secret new names written on white stones (Rv. 2:17).     Jesus has placed His people’s names eternally in His Book of Life (Rv.3:5; 20:11-15).    Jesus will have us to reign with Him forever (Rv.21:5).    Jesus is able to present His people blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy. (Jd.24).    Jesus will share His glory with us  (Jn. 17:22).   Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega (Rv. 21:6).    Jesus is the Beginning and the End (Rv. 21:6). 
 
Jesus’ Name Is Wonderful!

 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Jesus: humanity as it was intended

Yesterday was the last class in my theological foundations course. It was fitting that we ended with the Incarnation. For the past three weeks, I have been thinking about Jesus Christ in his humanity and deity.

It is important for us to understand fully the balance between humanity and deity. To emphasize one can lead to a detraction of the other. There is no division in Jesus' person. He is fully God and fully man in one person. As an old song sings it, he is "meekness and majesty, manhood and deity."

At Christmas, we tend to focus more on the humanity. We look at the baby, the stable, the difficult circumstances of Mary and Joseph; the angels, the shepherds, and the star. It is miraculous! A child born to a virgin; a child who is God's own son, condescending to humanity. And of course, it does not end on Christmas Day. Jesus came for a purpose. Jesus came to redeem. And in addition to that, in his humanity, he was the perfect human being.

Jesus, while in his humanity, was sinless. He is the perfect example of what humanity was meant to be. My professor asked yesterday if anyone was willing to admit if they'd ever worn a "WWJD" bracelet. He could not understand why some scholars would dismiss the question: "what would Jesus do?" Of course, the whole trend became a fashionable, trendy thing, which is a good reason to ignore it, but he thought the question a valid one. Surely, if Jesus is our example, how he conducted himself is something we ought to be interested in.

When we think about humanity, where do we begin? When we think about Jesus in his humanity, where do we begin? Do we look around at others and ourselves, and then look to Jesus, wondering if he is like us? I was quite struck by the words in my theology textbook with regard to this:
Our understanding of human nature has been formed by an inductive investigation of both ourselves and other humans as we find them about us. But none of us is humanity as God intended it to be or a it came from his hand. Humanity was spoiled and corrupted by the sin of Adam and Eve. Consequently, we are not true human beings, but impaired, broken-down vestiges of essential humanity, and it is difficult to imagine this kind of humanity united with deity. But when we say that in the incarnation Jesus took on humanity, we are not talking about this kind of humanity. For Jesus's humanity was not the humanity of sinful beings, but that possessed by Adam and Eve from their creation and before their fall. He was not merely as human as we are; he was more human than we are  (emphasis mine). . . We should define humanity, not by integrating our present empirical observations, but by examining the human nature of Jesus, for he most fully reveals the true nature of humanity.
We do spend a lot of time looking at humanity whether it is in others or in ourselves. And there are times when we tend to see Jesus as more of a better version of ourselves. We may speculate about whether Jesus did this or that, was tempted by this or by that. Yes, he understands our weaknesses, but to see him as merely a more evolved human detracts from his deity as well as reflecting a poor understanding of his humanity. This is the time of year when we are reminded often of his humanity. Let's remember that his humanity did not end after the manger; in fact, he remains eternally human. He is the most human being in the history of the world. That is who that baby is.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Mystery

At the right time, God sent his Son, and the Word who is from the beginning came into our history. The Word who was with God became God with us.

According to God’s plan, as the centerpiece of history, God the Son emptied himself. The One who created thrones and dominions and rulers and authorities, and who upholds them all by his powerful word, humbled himself by taking on the form of a servant. God-with-God and God-equal-with-God made himself nothing by adding rather than taking away. The Creator took on the likeness of his creatures.

For our salvation the omnipotent One became weak, and the self-existent One became subject to death. To make us rich, the heir of all things became poor. To destroy the one who has the power of death, the radiance of the Father’s glory veiled himself in humanity so he could die.

And in the mysterious wisdom of God, it is by the veiling of his glory that the Son displayed God’s glory to us. “No one,” God told Moses, “can see me and live,” but in the Son, the image of the invisible God, we can see the unseen One. In Jesus, who came from the Father’s side to show us God’s glory, we see “all God’s goodness pass before us.” We see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

In the mystery of God’s will, for our sake, the exalted Son chose to make himself nothing and be born as one of us. The one for whom and by whom all things exist came to die to free us from the fear of dying. The Lord-of-all was born as Mary’s little son, bringing us salvation.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Learning to let go

When my daughter was learning to drive, I was determined to not be one of those parents who gasped, yelled, or reached over to grab the steering wheel. If I was calm, she would remain calm, and all would go well. Thankfully, she was required to take a behind-the-wheel class from a qualified instructor who was not winging it like me. There were no mishaps, and she was now armed with a driver's license. The next milestone was the first time she drove on strange roads to a new place. At night. In the dark. Alone. 

I asked her to call me when she reached her destination and to call again when she was coming home. I was determined to not be one of those parents who was constantly checking the phone or the clock, but I began to get nervous when the minutes ticked by. When she called upon her arrival, I was so relieved. However, she left much later than I had hoped, so I stayed up and alternated between praying and worrying. Thankfully, there were no mishaps, and the baby bird came back safely to the nest. Since that first time, she has taken other journeys farther from home, so I have had to learn to let go and not fret quite so much. 

You probably have your own stories of when your children first learned to drive and that first big trip alone in the dark. But what about the spiritual journeys our children are on?

As a parent, I believe that my daughter's salvation was of the Lord. Not because of what I did or did not do as a parent, thank God! I also believe that her keeping and growth are in His hands as well. But what if the path He has placed her on includes suffering, struggles, and questions? This is where it gets hard and where it can be hard to let go. That maternal instinct in me wants to reach out and grab the wheel, as it were, and steer her toward what I think is the smoother road. But there comes a point when Mom can't make everything all better anymore. 

Even though, a parent's spiritual influence is so important, I was never meant to fill the place that only God can in my daughter's life. He is a better teacher, protector, and guide than I can ever be. It has also been good for my sanctification to learn to pray first and speak second, when it has been my habit to do the reverse. This transition has been a growing experience and caused us both to depend upon the Lord in ways that we would not have learned otherwise. There are times I still struggle to let go, but I don't need to hold it together because I never really could. He was holding us all along, and He will never let us go.