Monday, March 29, 2010

When Lord has Need... Send Immediately!

Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them, and bring them to Me. And if anyone says something to you, you shall say, "The Lord has need of them," and immediately he will send them.
Matthew 21:2-3

Blessed Holy Week! Our celebration of Palm Sunday and Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem is behind us. Palm Sunday confronts us with three things characteristic of Jesus the Messiah: ministry, mercy and meekness.

Let's take the last first: His meekness. He chooses not to walk into Jerusalem swelling with crowds for the Passover celebration with a high-pitched fever surrounding a possible rebellion being begun with a potential Messiah entering. The Lord has need not for a proud, high stepping stallion to ride to victory, but humbles Himself on a beast of burden. Why two? The omniscient Lord knows that neither would be content separated, so He rides the colt with the dam trotting beside. Must have been some scene; the Romans' trepidation must have lessened somewhat when they see his public choice of entry, the poor man's animal.

His mercy drives Him to this moment and public procession. His ways are inexplicable and are driving ahead to the mercy He will achieve this week. It is for all of those in the crowd that Palm Sunday and all of us as well. His mercies are new each and every morning as they were that Sunday. He entered Jerusalem as one who trusted the will of His Father to that the victory for humans could be won on the cross and empty tomb.

His ministry calls each of us to follow Him this Week of The Passion that in Him our "Hosannas" are fulfilled! "Hosanna" means "save us now." We need such ministry always till we depart these bodies and life. The will of God drives the Lord now to accept the crowds acclamation of David's Son and fulfillment of Zechariah's prophecy. The goal for which He came to earth is now in full sight and He no longer remains the hidden Messiah. Soon, He will be in full sight! Suspended on Golgatha's hill for the sins of the world. His ministry, mercy and meekness is given to us by the Holy Spirit in order that we might be sent by Jesus to the world as His dear children in ministry, mercy and meekness. He has need of them, and we immediately are sent through our individual calls and vocations.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Meditation: Not How, but On What

But his delight is in the revealed Word of the LORD and on his revealed Word he meditates day and night

Psalm 1:2

Meditation was in the news yesterday, March 21. Big news for me and many other golfers happened just yesterday. Two brief interviews with Tiger Woods revealed this comment: I quit meditating, I quit being a Buddhist, and my life changed upside down.

Certainly many will respond to the danger of Buddhist methods of meditation. However, informative here is Dr. John Kleinig's take on this from his excellent book "Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today": "The key is not how we meditate, but on what we meditate. The object, the focus of meditation, determines what happens to us in our meditation, and as a result of our meditation. Our focus grounds and empowers the meditation. Therefore, there is great danger in practicing unfocused forms of meditation, such as totally emptying our minds or repeating a meaningless word."

Christian meditation focuses on God's Word and its revelation of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected for sinners. The Hebrew word used in Psalm 1:2 which is typically translated "law" can have different meanings. Sometimes it narrowly refers to the Ten Commandments' understanding of law, yet other times it is intended to refer to "all the revealed Word of God up to that point." This second usage is what the Psalmist is referring here to, that the blessed person is the one who meditates on this revealed Word of God day and night. I like and think it helps us to understand what this word "meditates" means here in verse 2 by Dr. Kleinig's definition of "concentrated focus and intake of God's Word." Verse 3 verifies such intake as a tree intakes a stream's water so that it bears fruit in all seasons. And thus, the one who intakes, meditates on God's Word lives on the living streams of water and will produce fruit pleasing to God both now and in the day of judgment (verses 5-6). This is so because all the revealed Word of God points to Jesus as the source of living water to life eternal and Him crucified and raised for sins as the center of all God's Word (see Luke 24:13-27 and Luke 4:1-14)

Whether body posture, breathing or time and place meditation is done, what is vital is the focus of meditation, for there are both good and evil spirits which desire to possess our thoughts and lives. The Holy Spirit of God wishes to bless us by giving us the peace that in Jesus we are reconciled, given peace with God because of our sins placed upon Him on the cross for satisfactory punishment. This sacrificial death and resurrection is meant to be our "delight" as Psalm 1:2 resounds! Coming up on Good Friday we take time to meditate of this wonderful saving work of Jesus for us upon the cross and His subsequent resurrection from the grave for our deliverance as well.

So, before we denounce all meditation as evil and something to be avoided, let us meditate on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2) for our joy, peace, comfort and eternal life with Him. Meditate on Christ crucified and resurrected for your salvation and you will be like a tree planted by waters of eternal life.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Ultimate of Identity Theft

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come.

1 John 2:18

We know unfortunately that in our time a terrible crime is committed of stealing someone's identity, causing all kinds of harm. How about the ultimate identity theft, that of putting oneself up to be Christ and His spokesman, but actually is "anti" Christ?

Biblical synonyms for "antichrist" is also "false teachers, shepherds, or prophets." They originate from their Father, the Father of lies and deception (John 8:44). There are has many different kinds of antichrists as they are different ways of opposing Christ and His truth.

That is why the Apostle John warns the church to be on the lookout for false teachers and their deception in these last days, the time between His Ascension and His Second Coming. Jesus Himself emphasizes this when He speaks of the End Times in Matthew 24: "See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray (verse 5) and later in verse 11: "And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray." This distortion of pure teaching (doctrine) is what Jesus identifies as why lawlessness is always on the increase and people's love grows cold. (verse 12)

So, we as the followers of Christ must endure ever believing and guarding the precious pure gospel of Christ until the end. We must continue to test the Spirits to determine if they are of and from Christ (1 John 4:1-3) and only follow those who speak the truth of Holy Scripture. Many times the antichrists are good at "leaving out" important truths from God's Word, not clearly distinguishing God's Law from God's Gospel. If we as a church are to remain true to the end in not following antichrists, we must have increasing discretion, the ability to sort out the truth from the lie. This takes hard, persistent time and care in studying God's Word. (see Hebrews 5:11-14 and Acts 17:10-11) What has to be clearly and constantly proclaimed is that freedom from sin is faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Justification by grace through faith are we saved and freed from sin eternally.

God does give His believers "Identity Theft Protection" in our diligent reading, studying, memorizing, meditating and sharing His Holy Word. May we always be permitted to stay with Your Truth and defend and share it till Your return. Amen.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Church History Repeats Itself: Learn From It

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

1 Corinthians 10:11-12

We can and must learn from the history of the church that went before us, so that we follow their good examples and avoid their bad ones. Such was the purpose Paul says of his writing this example from the Exodus for our instruction.

It shouldn't really strike us as that unusual that these Israelite church members of the Exodus saw and experienced first hand the Mighty Arm of the Lord who freed them from their slavery and delivered them from the hands of chariot army. Christ was with them,the text says, every one of them in the cloud and sea and spiritual food and spiritual drink. Yet they were not content with this Powerful and Merciful God leading them to the Promised Land. So they rebelled against Him by idolatry (verse 6-7 with the infamous golden calf incident) and they indulged in sexual immorality and grumbled against God's ways and leading. Result? God was not pleased with "most" of them and they did not enter the Promised Land.

Paul writes this example to the Church in Corinth as those that needed to here about deliverance from temptations of this world in the time after Christ had come to fulfill His promises of the true deliverance from slavery to sin and His leading the church through the wilderness of this world to the Promised Land of heaven.

Notice the punchline: Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. This is the unwise placement of one's trust and faith in one's individual strength and experience rather than in Christ's. It is resisting the idols that tempt us as the Corinthians and those in the first Exodus and turning to the body and blood of the Passover Lamb, Jesus, to keep us on the straight and narrow way that leads to Heaven. We must continually "take heed" of our idolatry and give it the Lamb who forgives us all our sins. We must "take heed" that the temptations we may experience as all Christians do and must, but that God is faithful to never tempt beyond our ability and always provides the escape (verse 13).

History repeats itself! Let us learn from the Biblical examples such as 1 Corinthians 10 to take heed. O Christ, have mercy upon us and forgive our sins of idolatry and lead us not into temptation, but into Your Paradise Restored. Amen.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Light Exposes our Darkness

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.

Purposely I didn't list the Scripture reference where this passage is taken from, because most people wouldn't believe that these are the verses after the infamous John 3:16. These are actually verses 19-22 which talk of the sharp contrast between the light and the darkness. The light of course is Jesus Christ as John proclaims in 1:4-5: "In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

What is shocking about these verses in John 3 is that "people love the darkness rather than the light." Their works are evil and thus they don't like to be around Christ, the light, in church, at home or anywhere, for Christ speaks to them the demands of the law and calls them to repent of these evil doings and turn to the beautiful radiance of His forgiveness. This they hate and so refuse! Believe me, we under-shepherds of Christ see this hatred when our preaching the Law and Gospel in their body language.

However, not so those who have been called and enlightened by the Gospel of Christ, for it is exposed that all their works are His doing, see Matthew 5:14-16. They readily confess their darkness and need for the light's cleansing and renewal. We die to our dark side and live to Christ, the Light of the world!

So in this penitential season of Lent we repent and turn away from our evil, dark works to the marvelous forgiving light of Christ! And this we do by His grace until He calls us home! Come, Lord Jesus.