Psalm 84 – Better is One Day in Your Courts

imageEven the sparrow has found a home,

and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young–

a place near you altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God.

Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.

(Psalm 84:3-4)

The effusive praise of God is condensed and made sweeter by this imagery. The swallow finds the tiniest niche in the joinery of the temple, perhaps a shelf before the Holy of Holies or a forgotten corner of the courts. She will build her nest in which her most valued things—still yet to come—will live and have their being. She is unconcerned with comfort or position, she only wants to be in proximity to the place of her creator.

The psalmist extends this same willingness to praise from the lowest place, just to be near to Him. In this familiar refrain, he cries out that he would mind the door of the house of God just to be in the house:

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. (v10)

Life in Christ requires the choice, to dwell ever closer to the Holy God or wallow in muck and mire. He leaves the choice to us.

 

Grace and peace to you..

image by kvjrkrao

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The Spiritual Discipline of Worship

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” John 4:23

You and I were made to worship… Chris Tomlin, Made to Worship

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The act of worship centers all of the other spiritual disciplines. Worship is the connection of spirit to Spirit, ours to Him. Many Christians will not immediately identify worship in the family of spiritual disciplines because it lacks an ascetic dimension but this narrow thinking constrains our growth. True worship that brings us into the presence of the God of the universe, to know His immediate glory and holiness and to fear it to our core is anything but a trifling pursuit. To enter the Shekinah demands everything we have to give spiritually and physically; it is not something to be engaged casually. All of the spiritual disciplines have as their objective the strengthening of spiritual muscles that give us the endurance, strength, and character necessary to approach the throne and offer our worship.

God seeks worshippers. He entered the Garden to seek out Adam and Eve. Through Christ and the horror of the crucifixion He draws men and women to Himself (Jn 12:32). Worship is our response to God’s loving advances. Scripture is filled with the stories of those who have fallen to the ground in the presence and reality of the ultimate Love. Human history mirrors this trend. We were made to worship and the trajectory of life is altered permanently when the truth of this characteristic becomes our reality. Worship becomes both the most natural and most challenging of the disciplines.

Our practice of worship must be clear in its objectives and dismissive of peripherals. The first burden to rid ourselves of is the concern for method. There is no single correct form of worship. High, low, liturgical, or free are all valid forms of worship as long as the object of our practice is God alone and our objective is to have His spirit touch our spirit. Anything less is empty and void and is not worship. We are tempted to say that we have worship when we have mouthed a praise chorus or sat through a sermon or greeted those around us or even simply appeared for the scheduled service but worship demands more. It demands commitment, preparation, and engagement.

Worship ends in obedience. Devoting time and effort to seek and enter the presence of God changes us. We are exposed to the same raw glory that caused Isaiah to proclaim his ruin we will know what it is have the burning coals of holiness touched to our hearts. The boundless love of God becomes more and more real in our lives and it affects all that we are and all that we do. Worship, true worship, changes us irreversibly.

 

Grace and peace to you…

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Lent Spent with the Psalms Day Eighteen

imageMy steps have held to your paths; my feet have not slipped. (Psalm 17:5)

We contemplated our trust in the Shepherd yesterday, knowing that even when He leads us through dangerous territory we are ultimately secure. Fear dissolves as we follow hard on the steps of the Shepherd, our steps are secure. To wander is to face the world on our own.

The Lent season is a period set aside by the church for focused meditation on the cost of Salvation. Have you taken the time to check your commitment to the undeserved righteousness you’ve received? The Shepherd leads us but paid an enormous cost. He didn’t turn away and nor should we. Our commitment to a life of holiness must be equal to the price lest we cheapen the Cross.

Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin. (v 3)

Stay close to the path.

 

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Reclaiming Christianity

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Like Ravenhill, Bridges, Stedman and other contemporary prophets, A.W. Tozer never in his lifetime stopped calling the Church back to her first love, holiness and purity in Jesus Christ. Tozer was never one to tiptoe around the need for the Church and her individual members to stand apart from the world, to walk and talk as those called out to be God’s people. His criticism could be brash but it was always rooted in a no-nonsense biblical faith that he drew directly from the scriptures. To read Tozer is face the man as he points out the many areas in which you have compromised with the world and in which you risk becoming lukewarm, or worse.

Reclaiming Christianity is a collection of essays that are just this year seeing the light of publication day. In each, Tozer issues the same call for restoration from what he saw as a weak and ineffective Church. He saw her drifting toward entertainment rather than solemnity, modeling her activities on big business rather than community, and drawing her members toward a lukewarm faith rather than holiness.

Remember, brother Tozer went home in 1963. Can you imagine what he would see in today’s church?

This is an excellent collection of short reads that will confront you on every page. Even if you have convinced yourself that you have no areas of compromise, the author’s words will penetrate the thick blanket of justification and ignite the Spirit of conviction within. Let the words sink in, open your Bible and fall to your knees before the Lord. He will quicken your passion and you can do the same favor for your brother.

Get Committed

Bishop Thomas Tobin on Sunday said he made the request because of the Democratic lawmaker’s support for abortion rights. The news prompted debate among Catholics around the country and within the bishop’s flock in the nation’s most Catholic state about whether it was right for Tobin to publicly shame Kennedy for breaking with the church on what its leaders consider a paramount moral issue.

Angel Madera, 20, a Marine visiting his home in Providence for Thanksgiving, said before attending Sunday evening Mass that Tobin was wrong to assail Kennedy’s faith.

"If they believe they’re a true Catholic, who’s to say that they’re not?" he said. From Foxnews.com

Well, Angel, God determines who is a Christian and who is not. Since God has proclaimed His human creations to be very good and He participated in the creation of that life from its first moment in the womb I imagine He gets to make the final determination.

The problem here is not the postmodern-no-fixed-point-of-truth philosophy but that we in the Church often fail to take a stand on matters of holiness. Whether Catholic or Protestant, there should be a unanimity of thought and practice regarding abortion; it simply cannot be condoned by any true Christian. Those within the Church who feel that they can sidestep this issue while keeping the others has placed one foot on ice in your Sunday shoes. Valuing life begins at the second that it becomes so.

In Evangelical pastoral circles, the Bishop’s firm stand should cause us to consider how tolerant we have become of other sin within our churches. We should ask ourselves how much the prevailing culture has wormed its way into our churches and made tolerance our driving principle rather than holiness. Confronting sin has gotten a bad rap as we fear being caricatured as foaming at the mouth Fundamentalists. We’re afraid to call sin sin and teach and preach holiness. We’re afraid to take a stand.

Whether you believe Catholic theology or not, you should respect the Bishop’s stand when it comes to profaning the elements of God and what they stand for. There is always a gnawing fear in the back of the pastor’s mind that the congregation will turn on him if he brings holiness to the altar and asks those who truly believe to kneel and allows others to step away. The greater fear should be judgment morning when he is asked why he didn’t care for the flock entrusted to him.

The Penal Substitution View of Atonement

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The dominant view of the Atonement among modern Evangelicals is the Penal Substitution view. Simply defined, this view says that God the Father, because of His immeasurable love for humanity, sent His Son to die to satisfy the demands of his justice. In doing so, Jesus Christ took the place of sinful humanity and once and for all was the atonement for all our sins. There are several key elements that support this theory but at its core is the notion that sin results in the just penalty of death (Rom 6:23) and that, in love, Christ died in our place (Rom 5:8). His death took the penalty for our sin (Rom 3:25-26) satisfying the demands of the Father’s justice.

Historical Development of the View

Early church fathers such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Athtanasius included the idea of vicarious sacrifice in their understanding of the atonement but it was Augustine who synthesized the various themes into a comprehensive view of the Atonement. The penal substitution view became fully developed with the Protestant Reformers starting with Luther and then Calvin who formalized the ideas of Augustine into a cohesive whole.

We can use Calvin’s structure to understand the different aspects of vicarious sacrifice as he organized the idea through the use of three key theological concepts. Propitiation portrays Christ’s work in its Godward aspect. Through His sacrifice as our substitute Christ satisfied the demands of a just God: “The meaning, therefore, is, that God, to whom we were hateful through sin, was appeased by the death of his Son, and made propitious to us.” (Ref Rom 5:11 Calvin, Institutes II, xvii, 3). The idea of redemption encapsulates the humanward focus of Christ’s work on the Cross. (“Death held us under its yoke, but he in our place delivered himself into its power, that he might exempt us from it. This the Apostle means when he says, “that he tasted death for every man,”” (Heb. 2:9) ibid, II, xvi, 7). Lastly, to speak of reconciliation is to bring into view both the Godward and humanward aspects of Christ’s work. His death and resurrection serves to reconcile those who were previously separated by enmity and unholiness. (“These words (1 John 4:10) clearly demonstrate that God, in order to remove any obstacle to his love towards us, appointed the method of reconciliation in Christ.”, ibid II, xvii, 2).

Calvin also made a significant contribution to the understanding of atonement through his exegesis of Christ’s mediatorial work in the three offices of prophet, king, and priest. (cf. Institutes II 15:1-6) As prophet, Jesus proclaimed the grace of God and He assists the Church in her proclamation of the gospel message. Jesus the King rules over, guides, and protects the Church and as Priest, He expiated her sins by His sacrifice and even now intercedes on her behalf. We must remember that Calvin’s use of Church represents the New Testament view of the Church as the whole body of redeemed believers and not the organization itself. To those outside of the Church, he represents these three offices in name only.

The Necessity of Sacrifice

The violence of this view of atonement has been a challenge to theologians through the centuries and many, especially in modern times, have tried to posit alternative theories that move away from the theory. Why sacrifice was needed by God is necessary to understand in order to grasp penal substitution and this section will outline the conditions that form the answer. First, one must accept the sinfulness of humanity and how seriously God considers that sin. All humanity is sinful and in rebellion toward God (Rom 3:23). How seriously does God view our repeated failures, regardless of severity? Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden for one sin because His standard is perfection. James 2:11 reminds us that we are evaluated in the same light; a single sin brands us as a lawbreaker (cf Gal 3:10). Humanity requires atonement because of our sin and the fact that it makes us the enemies of God.

Cannot God simply forget about sin? To answer this question requires that we view sin correctly, as an affront to the very character of God. Our sin is not impersonal. The requirements of holiness are not externally imposed. Rather, the norms of the law express God’s character, the beauty and holiness of His person. Because sin violates God’s law (1 John 3:4) it is so heinous because it is personal rebellion against the person of God. To restate this idea, your sin is a personal attack against the person of God, not just an infraction against an arbitrary set of rules that He composed. The personal nature of sin defiles the holiness of God and it requires retribution. His judgment of sin represents His personal anger at sin (Jer 2:13) and human rejection of His lordship.

Sin, by its personal nature, must be atoned for by sacrifice. Therefore, if humanity is to be redeemed there must be a penal substitute if we are to avoid the punishment our sin invites. Into this world, God sent Jesus Christ to be the sacrifice that would take on our sins (Isa 53, cf. Lev 16:21-22 to view the substitution in practice.) Only the appropriate sacrifice is acceptable to the Holy demands of justice and Christ alone fulfills that requirement (Rom 3:25-26) and removes the curse of sin (Gal 3:10-14). Through His sacrifice believers are redeemed (Mk 10:45).

Conclusion

Penal substitution does not represent all that needs to be said about atonement but it is often seen as the foundation of all other theories of atonement because it focuses its attention Godward. It seeks to explain how human beings are reconciled to God and the reasons for the initial discord. God is holy and righteous and must judge the rebellion of those who sin against His Lordship. His love desires to redeem them but his justice requires payment of the appropriate penalty. Christ is the only appropriate substitute unless we are to stand for judgment on our own merits.

Lent 2009 – 16 Steps to the Cross

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Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:17-21)

Do we live in fear of God today or has His grace become our license to live a less than holy existence. Grace is funny that way. To many, the God of Fear was only existent in the Old Testament. That was a God of wrath, smiting this, flooding that, opening up the earth to swallow sinners and striking others with blindness. The loving Jesus supplanted that God didn’t he?

Fearing God has nothing to do with His immediate judgments and everything to do with his perfect justice. He does not pass judgment capriciously or indiscriminately but with perfect judicial fairness. His judgment is not colored by human discrimination or favoritism and His judgment,

cost the life of our Savior.

Fear is not meant to inspire anxiety or dread, rather, it is intended to drive us to a respectful love for the justice of God and the redemption by His Son. Fear of God makes us aware of our own corruption and, though saved by grace, our personal indebtedness to the Father. As Peter says, Jesus was sacrificed and returned to life for your sake.

How is your fear today?

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