Saturday, September 30, 2006

Willing to Let God Be God - Are You? Am I?

Pastor Ian Hamilton speaks of how the truth [God's sovereignty] "that God's word intends to support, encourage and reassure us, has been a cause of controversy among Christians." He says, in part,

"Believing God is all about trusting him, even when we cannot fully understand him. Just how God's unassailable sovereignty can be reconciled with our unambiguous responsibility may not be clear to us, but that is no reason for questioning, far less denying, the absoluteness or unconditionality of God's sovereignty. When the Bible confronts us with these twin truths, the expectation is not that we will happily reconcile them, but that we will humbly receive them and live our lives in the light of them. Indeed, we should expect to find ourselves out of our depths, saying with Paul: "O the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are his ways and his paths beyond tracing out. For who has known the mind of the Lord and who has been his counsellor?" [Rom 11:33-34] It does not take great faith to believe in God's unassailable sovereignty, it simply takes a willingness to let God be God. We truly see through a glass darkly. But our as yet dimly perceiving spiritual sight should not dictate whether we embrace God's absolute sovereignty or deny it. If Scripture teaches it (and it does) we should humbly and wholeheartedly believe it and embrace it."
(The Sweetness Of God's Sovereignty, Ian Hamilton, Cambridge Presbyterian Church)

I must admit, this is a bit humbling for me, and difficult (at least in my flesh) for me to fully accept. I'm one that wants an answer; to "figure it out." I want to know, nicely and neatly, with clear black and white rules and perameters, how God's sovereignty and man's will and choices made, relate and co-exist. But that may not be (or simply is not) possible - not in this life, however.

How about you? What does this say to you?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Recognition of Footsteps: How do Yours Sound?

The other day I was coming around a corner in my office when a co-worker said, before I could even finish the turn, "Good morning, Tom. I recognized you by the sound of your footsteps."

And it immediate struck me - The Recognition of Footsteps. I recalled growing up in Omaha and sitting in the family room in the basement, and hearing my mom or dad walking upstairs. I could hear them walking back and forth along the hallway, and I could tell who it was, just by the sound of their footsteps.

I also thought about Genesis 3:8 and God's footsteps - where Adam and Eve "heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day," and hid themselves from His presence. And Psalm 37:23 that says the steps of a righteous man are established (ordered) by the Lord (when the Lord delights in his way); as well as Proverbs 16:9 which says that while the heart of man may plan his way, it is the Lord who establishes his steps.

In fact, the Psalmist had much to say about one's footsteps:
Psalm 1:1a, Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, . . .
Psalm 17:5, My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.
Psalm 26:11, But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me.
Psalm 86:11, Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
Psalm 119:1, Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!

And finally, in 1 Peter 2:21, we are told "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps."

So, here's a question for you (for me!): Does the world recognize you by your footsteps; or do yours sound just like theirs?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Because He Is God

Powerful statements - proclamations of God! Allow these confessions of truth to sink in, and heighten your reverence for God and His work in your life, and the life of His church!

Because He is God, He must be reckoned with. Because He is God, He must not be trifled with. Because He is God, we must love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength-and love our neighbor as ourselves. Because He is God, we ought to worship Him in spirit and truth. Because He is God, we esteem Him with an undivided heart as First Love. Because He is God, we must approach Him clothed in contrition and we tremble at His Word. Because He is God, we give Him the preeminence in all things.

Because He is God, he has given us His grace instead of His wrath; His love instead of His enmity; His mercy instead of His justice; joy unspeakable in glory instead of torment in hell for perpetuity. Because He is God, I have no right to myself. Because He is God, I must walk in love, and love others, as Christ loved me and gave Himself for me. Because He is God, I must be willing to forgive as God in Christ has forgiven me. Because He is God, we love the brethren. Because He is God, I cannot harbor anger, wrath, clamor, bitterness, and malice in my heart toward another. Because He is God, I must turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and give someone my cloak if they want my coat too. Because He is God, I must be willing to suffer the loss of all things, to gain everything. Because He is God, I can rest in the surety that He is orchestrating all things for our good and His glory. Because He is God, I cannot repay evil for evil, wrong for wrong, hurt for hurt. Because He is God, we may rejoice when our hearts are breaking and our world has been shaken. Because He is God, our trials are blessings-invited guests and not strangers.

Because He is God, we keep our vows to our spouse even when he or she seems unlovable, unapproachable, unteachable, or uncaring. Because He is God, we train our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Because He is God, we cannot take another to court and sue for reparations. Because He is God, we have the right to be wronged. Because He is God, we love His Word more than daily food. Because He is God, pastors should preach the Word of God instead of being clever raconteurs. Because He is God, the church must discipline sin and not wink at it. Because He is God, I cannot cherish my sin, but must daily repent of it. Because He is God, I've made a covenant with my eyes. Because He is God, I must guard my heart. Because He is God, I must not be motivated by mans applause, but by His "well done." Because He is God, we cannot become unequally yoked with an unbeliever in any spiritual ministry or enterprise. Because He is God, all our possessions are for the Master's use-they are not ours; they belong to Him. Because He is God, we must deny ourselves, daily take up our cross and follow Him.

To do all to His glory, according to His divine purpose, under the authority of His Word, to seek His will more than earthly reward, to embrace the fellowship of His sufferings rather than the pleasures of this world even for a season, to live self-sacrificially in unreciprocated love and service to others-to do all this for no other reason than… because He is God!

(Previously posted by Steve Camp on Aug. 7, 2005 and most recently on Sept. 9, 2006.)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Christ's Focus on the Cross: Was it ME?


How often do we sing songs in church without giving much thought to what we're saying, i.e., what we're proclaiming about the Lord, or to the Lord?! I know that I've been guilty of this - turing off my brain and just singing along with the others.

Well, recentlly my interest has been picqued with regard to the widely popular song, Above All, sung by many including Michael W. Smith and Darlene Zschech with Hillsong. If I may, let's give this song some thought.

Above All
(Words and Music by Lenny LeBlanc, Paul Baloche)

Above all powers above all kings
Above all nature and all created things
Above all wisdom and all the ways of man
You were here before the world began

Above all kingdoms above all thrones
Above all wonders the world has ever known
Above all wealth and treasures of the earth
There's no way to measure what You're worth

Crucified laid behind a stone
You lived to die rejected and alone
Like a rose trampled on the ground
You took the fall and thought of me
Above all

Consider the theology of this song, specifically, the last line that says, "You took the fall and thought of me above all." Consider the "flip" in attention and focus from the Lord and His majesty (that He's above all, He is measureless) and how then, at the end of the song, we flip the attention, the focus, from Christ to man - to ME.

Wasn't it in Hebrews 12:2 where it says that it was “for the joy that was set before Him (that Christ) endured the cross, despising the shame.” It was His Father’s glory that was chief in His affections at all times.

What did Jesus himself say? John 12:27-28 tells us, "Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” Once again, Christ's focus was the Father, and the Father's glory - the glory of His name!

In fact, would not His thinking of "[us] above all" (including above Himself and His glory) be a form of idolotry (e.g. focusing attention on the creation rather than the creator)? I think this would be in line with Jonathan Edwards' thoughts that God, at the risk of idolatry, must always be uppermost in God's mind.

Consider Isaac Watts’ famous hymn: “When I survey the wondrous cross On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ my God!"

Quite a different focus, eh? Look at the antithesis - the focus of God's thinking about ME, above all; versus the focus of pouring contempt on my pride (the same pride that sings that it must have been ME about which He, above all, was thinking!)

So, He thought of me above His Father's glory? I think not.

But, I want to see what you think. Can anyone give me a chapter and verse that would Biblically support this line? Where in the Scripture does it say that in His crucifiction the Lord "thought of me above all?"

This wonderful, humble and Biblical assessment from Bob Kauflin at Worship Matters:

"There are a number of things about this song I really like. The melody is enjoyable to sing and easy to remember. It does a great job emphasizing God's sovereign rule over all, and focusing on the sacrifice of Christ. The poetic images are engaging and the harmonic progression is creative. But two parts bother me, both near the end of the song. The first is the line "you took the fall." It seems like an understated way of describing what Jesus did. Not wrong, but not the best. The other problem is the line, "and thought of me above all." I have no question that Jesus loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20). But he didn't think of me "above all." Jesus went to the cross to satisfy God's righteous judgment against a sinful humanity. He thought of his Father's holiness, justice, and glory above all. It may seem like a theological nuance, but it's the difference between our faith being man-centered and God-centered. I don't think that's what the writers intended, but I think it could cause some confusion in people's minds. Besides, I think we have other songs that better articulate Jesus died for because he loved us and for his Father's glory."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Watch and Pray: It Takes Both

"Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41). Prayer of itself is not sufficient: we have not fully discharged our duty when we have asked God to lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. We must "watch," be on the alert, noting the direction of our desires, the character of our motives, the tendency of things which may be lawful in themselves, the influence of our associations. It is our inner man which we most need to watch: "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23). Then, if we are faithful and diligent in "watching," out of a sense of our personal weakness and insufficiency, it is in order to "pray," counting on the help of our gracious God to undertake for us. To "pray" without "watching" is only to mock God, by seeking to shelve our responsibility.

Prayer was never designed by God as a substitute for personal effort and diligence, but rather as an adjunct thereto - to seek divine grace for enabling us to be dutiful and faithful. "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving" (Col. 4:2). Not only does God require us to "watch" before we pray, but we are also to "watch" immediately after. And again we say, that which we most need to watch is ourselves. There is a traitor within our own breast, ever ready and desirous of betraying us if allowed the opportunity of so doing. Who had thought that such an one as David would ever experience such a fearful fall as he had! Ah, my reader, not even a close walk with God, or a long life of eminent piety, will eradicate or even change the sinful nature which still abides in the saint. So long as we are in this world we are never beyond the reach of temptation, and nought but watchfulness and prayer will safeguard us from it."

The Life of David, A.W. Pink (Vol. 2, Ch. 52, His Terrible Sin [2 Samuel 11])

Sunday, September 10, 2006

God's 9/11: Who's Your Refuge and Fortress?!

As we think about, pray for the families of, and recognize those killed on September 11, 2001, in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, PA; and as we face the apparent uncertainties and challenges of our times, including the continued war in Iraq, the global war on terrorism, and the threat of nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran, may we NOT forget or take lightly the assurances of God's 9 1 1, found in Psalm 91:1,

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. (v.2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”)

May we always remember, and take joy and confidence in the fact that (if you are a chosen, blood-bought child of the King) He, Jesus Christ, is our refuge and our fortress - not the U.S. government, not your Smith & Wesson or Remington, not your neighborhood watch posse, not your 401K or your position or status in the community or church! It is HE who has overcome the world; and He is in us, and He is greater than he that is in the world! (I John 4:4)

So dwell in Him, and abide in His shadow - the Almighty, Sovereign God of the Universe! Amen? Amen!

Read all of Psalm 91.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

“Why did God do this to me?”

AP, Sept. 6, 2006

The 44-year-old co-pilot, and sole survivor of Comair Flight 5191 that crashed in Kentucky last week (killing 49 people) asked his family from his hospital bed, “Why did God do this to me?”

He can move only his head, and has been in and out of consciousness. He is off a ventilator but will continue to be hospitalized for several more weeks with facial and spine fractures, a broken leg, foot and hand, three broken ribs, a broken breastbone and a collapsed lung.

In response to his question of “why did God do this to me?,” his mother told him, “It was not God. It was just an accident.”

What would you say to this co-pilot in answer to his question? What would you say to his mother about her response?

(More on the story from

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Worship/Prayer - Who's It For?


Consider these two statements, both made by well known and regarded pastors:

"Worship is God's gift to us, intended for our blessing and benefit. He doesn't need it - we do."
(Pastor Jack Hayford, quoted in Leadership Magazine)


"Prayer is not primarily for us, it is for God. Prayer is not so much to gain for us what we think we need as it is to give to God an opportunity to manifest His glory. Prayer is for God, only incidentally and as a by-product is it for us."
(Pastor John MacArthur, The Priority of Prayer, Transcript No. 2235)

Who is correct? Both? Neither? Are they saying the same or different things? Can these statements be reconciled? What do you think?

(I've purposefully not attributed the names of the two pastors that made these statements so as not to influence in any way our consideration of what was said, rather than who said it. I'll post the pastors' names in the coming week.)

Monday, September 04, 2006

I Nailed, I Slew - He Forgave!

Here are some powerful truths upon which to mediate, from John Newton's (1725-1807) poem/hymn, In Evil Long I Took Delight.

In evil long I took delight, Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight, And stopp'd my wild career:

I saw One hanging on a Tree, In agonies and blood,
Who fix'd His languid eyes on me. As near His Cross I stood.

Sure never till my latest breath, Can I forget that look:
It seem'd to charge me with His death, Though not a word He spoke:

My conscience felt and own'd the guilt, And plunged me in despair:
I saw my sins His Blood had spilt, And help'd to nail Him there.

Alas! I knew not what I did! But now my tears are vain:
Where shall my trembling soul be hid? For I the Lord have slain!

A second look He gave, which said, "I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid; I die that thou may'st live."

Thus, while His death my sin displays, In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace, It seals my pardon too.

With pleasing grief, and mournful joy, My spirit now is fill'd,
That I should such a life destroy, Yet live by Him I kill'd!

This song may also be found on Sovereign Grace Ministries' Songs for the Cross Centered Life, "The Look."

More from John Newton and Tender Calvinism.

More about the life and ministry of John Newton.