Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand - Jars of Clay

“And now the LORD your God has given rest to your brothers, as he promised them.
Therefore turn and go to your tents in the land where your possession lies,
which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side of the Jordan.”
Joshua 22:4



On Jordan's stormy banks I stand
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan's fair and happy land
Where my possessions lie

All o'er those wide extended plains
Shines one eternal day
There God, the Son forever reigns
And scatters night away.

I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promise Land
I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promise Land

No chilling wind nor poisonous breath
Can reach that healthful shore
Where sickness, sorrow, pain and death
Are felt and feared no more

I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promise Land
I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promise Land

When shall I see that happy place
And be forever blessed
When shall I see my Father's face
And in His bosom rest

I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promise Land
I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promise Land

God Will Not Be Found Near Our Sin

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7)

Excerpt from “The Blessed Sovereign Grace of God” – 2011-08-28
Isaiah tells us God is calling us to “seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” This implies that God may not always be “found” and that God may not always be “near.” Our God is speaking here of a time when He would allow His people to be carried off into exile in Babylon because they chose other gods over Him. He calls every person who would be carried off into exile to seek Him and find Him while there was still time. This echoes previous words spoken by Moses who said: “You will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deuteronomy 4:29). These are words not only for Israel but also for those of us at Arrowsmith.

The threat of exile really isn’t an issue or a problem for us here today: we’re sitting pretty comfortable and secure right now in life. And that’s our problem: the culture and society we live in has convinced us we are comfortable and secure. But the reality is, tomorrow or next week or next year, things might be different. But terrorists and earthquakes and hurricanes and cancer should open our eyes to the reality that in the near future God may not be so easily found or near. James 4:14 says: "Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." It is possible that the Lord may be found tomorrow, that he may be near tomorrow. But we don’t know that. What we do know is that is that we don’t get our hearts right with God today, it may be too late to “seek” Him tomorrow. What keeps us from seeking God and calling upon God “while he may be found . . . while he is near”? One word we have already looked at: independence. In being created God’s image, we were created with a natural bend towards seeking to have a personal, intimate relationship with God. Yet, sin has so infected and so perverted God’s original intent, that we now view our God-likeness as the right to be independent like God. Mark Dever has written that “Some even talk of God Himself as if He were made in the image of man, rather than the other way around.”

It was in Garden of Eden where we not only lost our sense of true innocence, but also our sense of total dependence upon God. One of the greatest after effects of the fall is that without realizing it, we’ve now become dependent on sin rather than on God. In our fallen nature, sinful thoughts, lifestyles, and actions become deeply held beliefs and firmly established patterns. Our lack of dependency upon God coupled with our dependency upon sin is why we find it so difficult to abandon the sinful thoughts, lifestyles, deeply held beliefs and firmly established patterns that we hold onto that are not of God. This is why in verse three God said: “Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.” We cannot “seek the Lord” and be dependent on sin at the same time. The Lord will not be found in or near sin. God will be found – painfully so - at the end of our sin. But God will not be “found” in our sin or “near” our sin.

Friday, August 26, 2011

God Love Us Too Much to Leave Us Alone

"Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you" (Hosea 10:12).

Excerpt from “ The Blessed Warning of God” – 2011-08-21
Prior to the fall into sin in the Garden of Eden, man and woman, in having been created in the likeness and image of God were good by nature. As they enjoyed God in all His fullness, they were relational, rational, and possessed a heart that treasured God above all else. But when Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God and do things their own way and go their own way. The core of our existence is rooted in this paradox: though we are drawn to God because He created us to be in a deep, intimate relationship with Him and to be joyfully dependant on what Him - we still continue to be both reluctant to fully love God and treasure God, and constantly resistant to fully live for God.

The comfort, sin and selfishness of humanity have now become the star in this contemporary drama we call life. God is on stage today, but only in a supporting role as He is being asked to adjust to the many cultural expectations of our time. But God will not allow His name to be profaned indefinitely. Though He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, He will not tolerate forever those who will not give Him their whole heart and who regard something or someone else more worthy than Himself: “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other” (Isaiah 42:8). Yet while there can be deadly consequences when we do wander away from God, God still lovingly warns us to return back to Him when we do wander. He loves us too much to leave us alone: "Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you" (Hosea 10:12).

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Greater Works of God

"Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)

Excerpt from “The Ripple Effect” – 2011-08-14
As you read the account Jesus’ ministry, you will notice that vast crowds followed him when did miracles, and entire cities would turn out to hear him speak - yet when he came to the end of his life, when Jesus faced the cross, the crowds were all gone. Only a handful stood at the foot of the cross. By every human reckoning the physical life and ministry of Jesus was a total failure. His physical miracles did not change people’s hearts; they merely touched the surface of their lives. In John 15:16 Jesus said to his disciples: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide (remain), so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” It is significant that the ones whom Jesus touched, healed and taught would not stand with him at the test of the cross - but the ones who Jesus chose to walk with him during his life on earth ultimately went out and touched and healed and taught with the power of God - and thousands came to faith in Christ all across the length and breadth and width of the Roman Empire.

And when the time of testing came for the men, women, and children who had been touched, healed and taught by the disciples – they were willing to face lions, endure torture, put on the rack, bound up in bags and thrown into the sea, burned as living torches, mangled and mashed and twisted and torn apart, rather than to deny Jesus. “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide (remain).” Is this not “the greater work” of God? Anything that is done to our flesh is merely temporary,, but that which is done to our hearts is eternal. All those whom Jesus healed or raised from the dead died again. There is no record of it, but Lazarus must have died again, even though Jesus raised him from the dead. We will all physically die and so, what is done to the heart and soul is a “greater work.” The power of God through the risen Christ alive and at work in our hearts and souls - above and beyond the circumstances of this life - are the greater works of God!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Treasure - Iona

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)



Treasure

Consider the flowers of the field
In their beauty
More lovely than even the clothes of a king
Consider the birds of the air
Flying high, flying free
You are precious to me

Where your treasure is
There is your heart

If a son asks his father on earth
For fish or for bread
Who among you would give him
A snake or a stone
How much more does the Father above
Have a heart full of love
For the children that He calls His own

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Grace of God in Our Time of Need

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace,
that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

Grace Active

Lord Jesus, great high priest,
Thou hast opened a new and living way
by which a fallen creature can approach Thee
with acceptance.

Help me to contemplate
the dignity of Thy Person,
the perfectness of Thy sacrifice,
the effectiveness of Thy intercession.

O what blessedness accompanies devotion,
when under all the trials that weary me,
the cares that corrode me, the fears that disturb me,
the infirmities that oppress me,
I can come to Thee in my need
and feel peace beyond understanding!

The grace that restores is necessary to preserve,
lead, guard, supply, help me.
And here Thy saints encourage my hope;
they were once poor and are now rich,
bound and are now free,
tried and now are victorious.

Every new duty calls for more grace than I now possess,
but not more than is found in Thee,
the divine treasury in whom all fullness dwells.
To Thee I repair for grace upon grace,
until every void made by sin be replenished
and I am filled with all Thy fullness.

May my desires be enlarged and my hopes emboldened,
that I may honour Thee by my entire dependency
and the greatness of my expectation.

Do Thou be with me, and prepare me for all
the smiles of prosperity, the frowns of adversity,
the losses of substance, the death of friends,
the days of darkness, the changes of life,
and the last great change of all.

May I find thy grace sufficient
for all my needs.

From "The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotion" edited by Arthur Bennett

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Where is the Boundary of Your Faith?

“A center without a circumference is just a dot, nothing more. It is the circumference that marks the boundary of the circle. To eliminate the boundary is to eliminate the circle itself. The circle of faith cannot identify its center without recognizing its perimeter.” - Thomas C. Oden, "The Rebirth of Orthodoxy: Signs of New Life in Christianity"

"For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you." - Jesus, Matthew 17:20

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Low Cost of Following Jesus

And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him. (1 Kings 19:21)

Excerpt from “Burning Your Plows” – 2011-08-07
There are those who are in ministry who brag of how much they’ve given up for their calling, how great a cost they had to pay. Yet if you have truly considered the cost of God’s call for your life – you come to understand that there is not real cost at all. It really costs us nothing to follow Jesus because he already paid the cost. We give up nothing for following Jesus because Jesus is everything. In Philippians 3:8 the apostle Paul writes: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Compared to the cost of the cross; compared to who we would be and where we would be without Jesus as our Lord and Saviour; compared to the joy of salvation and the glorious riches to come - there is nothing in this life that truly has worth outside of Jesus. We may give up many things, but compared to the worth of Christ - we give up nothing. Because Jesus is everything and it costs us nothing - he calls us to follow him to the point of no return.