The Spoils of War

The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name. - Exodus 15:3

My day began with checking Judy into an oncology clinic and ended in picking blackberries from a vicious bramble.  Each visit to the oncology clinic reminds me of a field infirmary at the edge of a battle zone.  Like war-torn and battle-weary soldiers they march in and find a place for infusion.  Each week we see familiar faces.  Many have the same style of scarves to cover the evidences of their conflict.  Some come alone.  Others have friends or loved ones around them.  Their war is a fight for life.  In a strange twist and with each infusion just the right amount of poison is given; poison to kill a million little unseen invaders, but not too much to kill their host.  Today in the oncology clinic a victory was won, but the war was hell. 

This afternoon I made my way over to the pasture in search of more blackberries.  The siren song of blackberry pie was far too strong.  I knew there were more plentiful and larger berries to be found; I just had to find them.  It didn’t take long and I was in the thick of it; plentiful berries the size of a quarter, so ripe the fragrance was thick in the evening air.  But each berry came at a price.  The razored vines were like an alien force-field surrounding them.  For me to intrude into their world was to invite their shredding barbs into my hands and legs.  I left the brambles a victor, but not without bearing the scars and wounds.  Today in the blackberry bramble a victory was won, but the war was hell.

An interesting thing happened this morning at the oncology clinic…I received a note from a friend far away.  Recently suffering the effects of a stroke he was confessing his discouragement at his lack of progress.  His mind is convinced he can do things his body wants no part of.  He is a soldier, but much of the warfare happens in the theater of his mind.  It took no time at all and when he found out where Judy and I were at he let us know of his prayers for Judy.  Ever at the ready his own challenges quickly gave way to enlisting help to assist someone else on another front.  Today in the solitude of a struggling friend another victory was won, but the war was hell.

These evidences of clear and present danger, though ominous and dire at present, have been put on notice.  A day will come when malignancy will bow to the benign, and death will be swallowed up.  The beautiful blackberry will willingly yield her delectable fruit and the body of my friend will lockstep to each internal command.  It may be hard to see now, particularly in this bramble-filled life, but a new day has dawned.  In the crimson-stained bleakness of a Roman gibbet and the screaming silence of an opened sepulcher the spoils of war have begun to be gathered.  A man with a long-shriveled hand has been healed.   A man possessed now put in his right mind.  A garden lost to the desolation of weeds and vines will soon become a verdant storehouse of sweetest fare.  The final Word has spoken.  The eschatological ingathering has begun.  Today, and for now, war is hell, but both all at once and bit-by-bit the war has been and is being won.  Our God is a warrior and the spoils of war are his. 


'Abba' - The Cry of the New Birth


'For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.'
-Romans 8:14-17

'The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.'

- Philippians 4:5b-7 

'When God breathes new life into us, one of the results of this transformation is new impulse to pray. A natural result of the new birth is the presence of God's Spirit within us, prompting us to cry out to God (Rom. 8:14-17)'
- Dane Ortlund, A New Inner Relish, p. 155 

'God gives us, his children, all things through the gospel. The gospel defines our destiny and our inheritance; it defines for us the whole plan and purpose of God. It is inconcievable that we should pray in a way that is not defined by the gospel.'
- Graeme Goldsworthy, Prayer and the Knowledge of God, p. 79

'If it be man's chief end to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, then man has attained his end, the sole purpose for which he is made, the entire object for which he exists, when he enters into communion with God, abides in His presence, streaming out to Him in all the emotions, I do not say appropriate to a creature in the presence of his Maker and Lord, apprehended by him as the Good Lord and Righteous Ruler of the souls of men, but appropriate to the sinner who has been redeemed by the blood of God's own Son and is inhabited by His Spirit and apprehends his Maker as also His Savior, his Governor as also his Lover, and knows the supreme joy of him that was lost and is found, was dead and is alive again, - and all through God's seeking and saving love.'
- B.B. Warfield, Faith and Life, 'Prayer as Practice', p. 439

When a child is born its first reflex is to cry. And when the unbeliever is born again the first reflex is also to cry. The new birth's first utterance is a declaration of dependence and each day following is the same. As we pray we are declaring our need, dependence, and insufficiency. We are simply declaring what is true. We need God for all of life. We are dependent upon Him like a child for their father. And the older I get the more I realize my weakness and dependence, and the more I recognize God's fatherly care. He cares for me. He provides for my needs. He comforts me in affliction. He restores me. He protects and defends me. He assures me of a bright future. My impulse is to cry to Him, 'abba', as my Father because I am declaring what I know to be true; God has made me His own, and He has promised to be my Father.

Sanctification by Faith


'If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.'
-Colossians 3:1-3

'But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.' 
- Ephesians 2:4-7 

'For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.' 
- Galatians 3:27

'Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.'
- 1 Cor. 6:9-11

'Without our earning it, God declares us holy (sanctified) by virtue of our union with Christ.'
- Bryan Chapell, Holiness by Grace, p. 48

When we think about our sanctification, or our being made holy, we often mistakenly place an emphasis upon the progressive aspect of this part of our salvation. And while this is true, we must never forget that our sancitification is also definitive. It is correct, in one sense, to describe our sanctification as synergistic, but we must never emphasize the part we play in the pursuit of godliness to the detriment of our understanding that our sanctification is as settled as our justification. Christ has made the Christian holy. His righteousness, as demonstrated in His perfect obedience to the Law has been given to us. We cannot improve upon the holiness we have received from Him. Not only are we being sanctified, we have been sanctified. Period. Unfortunately, this causes a great deal of confusion in the Christian life. We often think that what has begun as a work of God in us by grace we finish by human effort. Like justification, sanctification will be shown to be God's work in us both definitively and progressively.

A Voice for the Voiceless


'Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.'
- Proverbs 31:8-9

"Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."
- Psalm 82:3-4

What are the duties required in the sixth commandment? 
A. The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavours, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defence thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physick, sleep, labour, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behaviour; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succouring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent. (emphasis mine)
- Westminster Larger Catechism Q and A 135

'God's word calls us to help those most despised by the world, to love the least lovely. So there must be, however much the world will despise us as religious fanatics, indeed, especially since the world despises these convictions, a special place in our hearts for the unborn.' 
- John Frame, Ministries of Mercy to the Unborn, http://www.frame-poythress.org/frame_articles/1999Ministries.htm

With the busyness of our lives and the pressures of these days it is easy to lose our voice for those who need it most. I can think of a thousand things to occupy my time and forget to speak up for those that have no voice. This week I was moved by this story http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,571215,00.html. In it a strongly pro-choice director of a Planned Parenthood clinic was moved to embrace life. The faithfulness of those who provide a voice for the voiceless and an ultrasound video changed her mind. I thank God for those who , in innumerable ways, bear witness to God's unequivocal commitment to life. I also thank God for the privilege of serving a church that loves life. Your love for the God of life is a constant testimony to me. Your tangible expressions of protecting and defending the innocent speaks volumes. Thank you for tangibly loving the voiceless. Thank you for adopting children and for loving adopted children. Thank you for contributing to the needs of the innocent. Thank you for speaking words of life to those considering abortion and adoption. Thank you for speaking the gospel to those suffering under the guilt of abortion. Thank you giving sacrificially to help others adopt. Thank you for making time available to fix cupboards and computers at the local pregnancy resource center. Thank you for cleaning toilets and vacuuming floors and doing all sorts of work behind the scenes so that the counselors at the pregnancy resource center can do their job. 

Kerygma - The Call to Faith


'Jesus said to him (Peter), "Feed my sheep."'
- John 21:17

'I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.'
- 2 Timothy 4:1-2 

'The direct result of our having become thus cool and blasé about preaching is that we look for too little to happen through sermons, and we should not wonder that God deals with us according to our unbelief.'
- J.I. Packer, The Preacher and Preaching, p. 5

'Good theology always has pastoral implications.'
- T. D. Alexander, From Eden to the New Jerusalem, p. 11

'Faith is not built by preaching introspectively (constantly challenging people to question whether they have faith); faith is not built by preaching moralistically (which has exactly the opposite effect of focusing attention on the self rather than on Christ, in whom our faith is placed); faith is not built by joining the culture wars and taking potshots at what is wrong with our culture. Faith is built by careful, thorough exposition of the person, character, and work of Christ.'
- T. David Gordon, Why Johnny Can't Preach, pp. 75-76

The primary charge given to pastors is to faithfully preach by declaring the kerygma (the gospel message) and to call people to faith. Every Sunday the responsibility of pastors is to issue a divine summons. Even in light of the hours of message preparation, the message is not grounded in the abilities or creativity of the pastor; the message is grounded in the revelation of God to His people, the God who issues the summons to faith. The message is to declare the person, character, and work of Christ and issue a call to believe; and, insofar as pastors are faithful to declare this message, pastors are being faithful to their calling. It is entirely appropriate for church members to hold their pastors accountable to this task, because to fail in this duty is to cause harm to the church and the pastor and, ultimately, to the cause of Christ. May God give us all a love for the preached Word and the call to believe.

The Church - Members of God's Household


'So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God….'
-Ephesians 2:19

'He can no longer have God as his Father who has not the church as his Mother.'
- Cyprian, De Unitate Ecclesiae

'It is a company of faithful and holy people, or persons called out of the world to fellowship with Jesus Christ, and united in one congregation to him as members to their head, and one with another, by a holy covenant for mutual fellowship in all such ways of holy worship of God, and of edification of one towards another.'
- John Davenport's Creed, cited in John Cotton's, The Covenant of Free Grace, p. 112

Heidelberg Catechism, Question 55.
What do you understand by "the communion of saints"?
First, that all and every one, who believes, being members of Christ, are in common, partakers of him, and of all his riches and gifts; secondly, that every one must know it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, for the advantage and salvation of other members.

'We are not only Christian people; we are also church people. We are not only committed to Christ; we are also committed to the body of Christ.'
- John Stott, The Living Church, p. 19 

'The purpose of an image is to represent something. God has made us persons-in-community to be the vehicle through which he would reveal his glory.'
- Chester and Timmis, Total Church, p. 47

I am not sure it is possible to express strongly enough the importance of the church. We need one another. These are not popular words these days. It is a popular and acceptable notion that the Christian life can exist outside of a relationship to a local congregation. And while this may be theoretically true, it is not God's intention or design. When God saves us, He saves us to a relationship with Himself and saves us into a relationship with one another in the context of the church. For a Christian to live their life outside of relationship with other believers is to deny himself the grace of God directed to them in the mystery and glory of God in the body of Christ. The church is Christ's body where believers are joined both objectively and relationally to one another. Suffice it to say, you will be crippled in your Christian life without a vibrant relationship to one another through life together in the church. This is God's intention for you and His gift to you. If we claim to be a member of God's household, it is important that we truly are built together as members of God's household. We cannot survive alone for very long. We were meant for one another. We are His workmanship, joined together, for good works in Christ. The glory of the gospel is revealed in the magnificent mosaic of different people gathered together in one common bond. This shows the radical and encompassing nature of the love of God to His people through Christ. The glory of God is revealed in much grander hues when we are together than when we are alone. The church is God's grace to you and for you. 

The Inclination of Gratitude


'And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.'
- Colossians 3:15

'Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.'
- Hebrews 12:28-29

'The secular world never understands Christian motivation.... From the plan of salvation I learn that the true driving force in authentic Christian living is, and ever must be, not the hope of gain, but the heart of gratitude.'
- J.I. Packer, Rediscovering Holiness, p. 75

'In short, then, the grace of God in the Cross of Christ leads to thanksgiving in his people, which in turn naturally leads to obedience.'

-Dane Ortlund, A New Inner Relish, p. 25

Almighty God, Father of all Mercies,
we, thine unworthy servants,
do give thee most humble and hearty thanks
for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us, and to all men.

- The Book of Common Prayer

A life of thankfulness is truly the only Christian life. Simply put - gratitude and regeneration go hand in hand. In Christ our greatest need has been met and to be ungrateful would be to embody the demeanor of the unconverted. Unmitigated grace is the impetus for genuine gratitude. The Christian alone is assured that his sins have been forgiven. Think of this…enmity no longer exists between the Christian and His Creator/Redeemer. In a body of flesh God has redeemed men and women for Himself. Upon a Cross of unimaginable suffering the God-man bore in Himself the brunt of the Father's wrath in the stead of His people. On an Easter morning the God-man rose and sealed redemption once and for all. And in the flame and wind of upper-room Pentecostal fury the Spirit was given to ensure redemption's intent. Dear Christian…is it possible to not be thankful?

The Importance of the Incarnation


'...[E]very spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.…'
- 1 John 4:2

'Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after His incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof, were communicated unto the elect in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices, wherein He was revealed and signified to be the Seed of the woman, which should bruise the serpent's head, and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world being yesterday and today the same, and for ever.'
- Westminster Confession of Faith 8:6

Lo! th’ incarnate God ascended,
Pleads the merit of His blood:
Venture on Him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude

- Joseph Hart, Come Ye Sinners, pub. 1759

'We see Him among the thousands of Galilee, anointed of God with the Holy Ghost and power, going about doing good: with no pride of birth, though He was a king; with no pride of intellect, though omniscience dwelt within Him; with no pride of power, though all power in heaven and earth was in His hands; or of station, though the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Him bodily; or of superior goodness or holiness: but in lowliness of mind esteeming everyone better than Himself, healing the sick, casting out devils, feeding the hungry, and everywhere breaking to men the bread of life.'
- B.B. Warfield, a sermon on 'Imitating the Incarnation', The Person and Work of Christ, p. 564

'If, however, Christ is the incarnate Word, then the incarnation is the central fact of the entire history of the world; then, too, it must have been prepared from before the ages and have its effects throughout eternity.'
- Herman Bavink, Reformed Dogmatics, volume III, p. 274

The Christmas season has begun, but often what is lost during this time of year is the importance of the Incarnation. Truly, the Incarnation alone, makes sense of the beginning, center, and end of world history. In fact, history is unintelligible without it. Without the Incarnation the study of history is a fool's errand, for without the Incarnation there is no 'telos' (purpose or goal) to man's existence. The Incarnation offers explanation for man's inhumanity to man; the Incarnation offers remedy for man's predicament; the Incarnation gives hope for man's present life; and the Incarnation provides assurance for man's future. Under the conception by the Holy Spirit, God became a man. In Christ, this God-man lived a life of unblemished perfections. In Christ, this God-man died at the hands of sinful men for sinful men. In Christ, this God-man was raised on the third day in a body of flesh and blood, yet, now incorruptible. In Christ, the God-man now lives bearing humanity-inflicted wounds for all eternity in His own fleshly body.


What Child is This?

'And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?"

- Luke 1:34

Salvation to all that will is nigh;
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo, faithful virgin, yields Himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though He there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He will wear,
Taken from thence, flesh, which death's force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created, thou
Wast in His mind, who is thy Son and Brother;
Whom thou conceivst, conceived; yea thou art now
Thy Maker's maker, and thy Father's mother;
Thou hast light in dark, and shutst in little room,
Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb.

-John Donne (1572-1631), Annunciation

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 the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man 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 man 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!"

- Charles Wesley, Hark the Herald Angels Sing

'View Jesus in the light of God and against the dark background of sin, view Him as the satisfaction of man's deepest need, as the one who alone can lead into all glory and all truth, and you will come, despite all, to the stupendous conviction that the New Testament is true, that God walked here upon the earth, that the eternal Son, because He loved us, came into this world to die for our sins upon the cross.' 
- J. Gresham Machen, The Virgin Birth of Christ, p. 381

One of the things that sets biblical Christianity apart from other religions is its pervasive supernaturalism. Christianity is dependent upon the truth and reality of God interposing Himself into human history in ways that contravene normal, non-supernatural ways. Consider these examples: God created the world 'ex nihilo' or out of nothing, by the word of His mouth; God held back the Red Sea for the Israelites' safe passage and closed it again on the Egyptian armies; God's presence led Israel in a cloud by day and flame of fire by night; God provided food to eat for the traveling hordes of Israel; God rained fire on the pagan altars at Carmel at the prophets' request; God filled a starving widow's jar with oil for food... Oftentimes, these miraculous events were indications of a long-awaited deliverance. We see the very same in the Gospel. It is in the Gospel that we see the apex of redemptive history made manifest in an astounding supernatural event--A virgin will bring forth a son. The Holy Spirit is the active agent in a supernatural conception and, bypassing normal human conception, God brings forth His Son in the womb of a virgin. This is truly an amazing story of God's supernatural interruption in human history. And this tells us several things. God is active in the events of history, God is in control of human history, and God has a purpose for human history. Rejoice!, for immensity is cloistered in a virgin's womb. Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!

Born to Die -

'But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.'
- Galatians 4:4-5

'God willed Christ to be our Savior. ...The Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, took a human body in order that He might die for our salvation.'
- James Boice, The Christ of Christmas, p. 14

'If there is no incarnation, there is no union with the Son or with the Father, and no regeneration - and no salvation.'
- John Piper, Finally Alive, p. 72

'Every human being longs for a savior of some type. We look for someone or something that will solve our problems, ease our pain, or grant the most elusive goal of all, happiness. From the pursuit of success in business to the discovery of a perfect mate or friend, we make our search.' 
- R.C. Sproul, The Glory of Christ, p. 18 

This time of year our thoughts are turned to the birth of Christ. We rejoice in God becoming a man. We are enamored and mystified by the stories of angels, cattle stalls, stars, and wise men. But there is more at stake in our remembering the birth at Christ than the celebration of His birthday, for the fact of the matter is there is no salvation without the Incarnation. Jesus was born to die. Jesus was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world was laid. In other words, it was God's will to crush Him from the beginning; this is the brutal, but marvelous and incomparable way that salvation has been brought to God's people. In the glorious revelation of the gospel God sent Christ as the atoning sacrifice for sins, at just the right time, under the demand of the law, and as the Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Christmas points to Good Friday and Good Friday points to Easter; the manger inevitably leads to the Cross. As a result of the Incarnation were are united to Christ in His life, death, and resurrection. We are joined to Him really and truly. His sinless life as the God-man is ours. His atoning death as the God-man is ours. And His resurrection as the God-man is ours. During this Christmas season remember that without the Incarnation there is no salvation.


You Must be Born Again

Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 

- Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3:7

My search plies the dark, born once and now old, can deliverance come for Israel’s teacher grown cold?

Who is this man, the Kingdom’s King? And with whom and to whom will His Kingdom bring?

This man knows my mind, questions hang with queried force, from whence He comes, and from where is His source?

The Kingdom comes how? Will it be mine to possess? I haven’t a clue, I helpless confess.

I should know these things, I’m Pharisee trained, and I’ve never learned of a Kingdom arranged.

His response is upsetting, two wombs must be? One birth binds to man, the other sets free?

The Spirit a sovereign, the wind blows where He will, in my own mind I’m dead and one birth remains still.

I’m a man and not a child, this talk is absurd, and yet something rings true in the sound of His word.

The Spirit must birth, ere the Kingdom is lost; what must I do to unburden this cost?

This Law’s lawkeeper now bent, bowed under its weight, condemned now my lot is sealed as my fate.

Whose word can command, and bring life out of death? Alas, new life like a very first breath.

One word sets free, good news now believed, one birth falls short, but in two life is received.

The sovereign Wind moves where He will, no boasting allowed, grace alone brings mercy to one arrogant and proud.

Moses saw the serpent raised, a Cross lifted brings life, new birth dawns to an old man full of strife.

Whose stony heart can change? What can make this heart flesh? Only one brings a sign of making men fresh.

The Law’s sentinel at long last, has the Kingdom now seen, the Kingdom’s King is here in Whose presence I’ve been.

- Dan Morse, Nicodemus' Query, Advent 2009

Seeing God's Salvation

'Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel." And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."'

-Luke 2:25-35

'The whole life of Christ was a continual Passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha, where he was crucufied, even in Bethlehem, where he was born; for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as the cross at last. His birth and death were but one continual act, and his Christmas day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of the same day. And as even his birth is his death, so every action and passage that manifests Christ to us is his birth, for Epiphany is manisfestation. Every manifestation of Christ to the world, to the church, to a particular soul is an Epiphany, a Christmas day.'
- John Donne, The Showing Forth of Christ, quoted in Watch for the Light, p. 303-304

I love the story of Simeon from Luke 2. Can you imagine this elderly, faithful Jewish gentleman day after day serving and performing his temple duties? He was righteous and devout; a man set upon by the Spirit of God and having been visited by the Spirit who assure him that he would see God's salvation before he died. When Joseph and Mary had brought Jesus to the temple for the rites expected by Levitical law Simeon saw Him. When he set his eyes upon Jesus an old man saw God's salvation. Simeon recognized that this would be God's salvation for all peoples; Gentile and Jew alike. In the new babe Simeon saw what many do not see. He saw hope for all peoples, but also that this salvation would be opposed. Salvation would come at a price. Simeon saw that God's salvation was to be manifest, not by youthful zeal and the hope of a young child, but this salvation would be made manifest by opposition and suffering. Simeon saw God's salvation in a child that would bring salvation through the piercing pain of suffering. Simeon may not have seen God's redemptive plan from beginning to end, but he made the connection between God's salvation and the opposition that was coming to this child. God's redemptive plan included both a manger and a cross. This child was born a martyr.

Subjected to Futility...in Hope

'God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.'

- C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (HarperCollins, 2002) p. 91

'For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.'
- Romans 8:19-21

No one laughs at God in a hospital; No one laughs at God in a war.
No one laughs at God in a hospital; No one laughs at God in a war.
No one laughing at God in hospital; No one's laughing at God in a war.
No one's laughing at God when they're starving or freezing or so very poor.
No one's laughing at God; No one's laughing at God; No one's laughing at God.

- Regina Spektor, Laughing With

'...Jesus treats wars and natural disasters not as agenda items in a discussion of the mysterious ways of God, but as incentives to repentance. It is as if he is saying that God uses disaster as a megaphone to call attention to our guilt and destination, to the immanence of righteous judgement if he sees no repentance…. Disaster is a call to repentance.' 
- D.A. Carson, How Long, O Lord?, p. 67

This week we have been been privy to the horrific and tragic news reports from the devastation of the severe earthquake in Haiti. At last report there is no comprehensive and realistic estimates of the death toll and damage. The nearest guess numbers are projected at over 100,000 dead. I find myself moved by empathy for those who are now suffering, and for those will suffer for years to come. The world is broken and there is consequence to its brokeness. Because of sin the creation is subjected to futility. Creation groans under the weight of alienation brought about by man's rebellion. Cancer, tsunamis, earthquakes, death, pain and suffering are the result of our brokenness and sin, but we are not without hope. Though subjected to futility now, redemption will finally come. Death and destruction will not have final say. Creation has been subjected to futility, but the day will come when it is set free from bondage and decay. In Jesus Christ's suffering under the wrath of God the dawning of redemption has come. We don't see it in it entirety yet, but hope has come. In the interim let us pray for those who are suffering in Haiti, and let us use this disaster as a call to repentance. May God humble us to seek His mercy and grace.

The Importance of Origins

'Man in his ignorance thinks himself a great work worthy of the interposition of a deity. More humble and I think truer to consider him created from animals.'

- Charles Darwin in 1838, cited in Created from Animals, James Rachels, p. 1

'...then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.' - Genesis 2:7 
The ascertaining of where we've come from will determine where we are going. In other words, if man has his origins in primordial soup then his end won't really matter. If man is no different than animals then all sorts of mischief will be expected. With this sort of sentient reductionism the intrinsic value of an infant will be no different than that of a kitten. In the words of animal rights apologist Ingrid Newkirk, 'A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. They’re all animals.' Only when origins are removed will it make sense to conclude that the Jewish Holocaust is the moral equivalence to the slaughter of broiler chickens.* When you have no certainty in the beginning, you have no certainty at the end. As Christians our defense of human life comes from an understanding of beginnings. With the clarity of God's Word the beginnings of life have never been in doubt. This has been God's revealed creative fiat and His prerogative from the outset. Life is His to both give and take, and particularly human life bears intrinsic worth because God is its author and He has deemed it so. Life is important because the redemption of it came at an inestimable cost. In the beginning the first Adam died, and in the end the second Adam rose from the dead. Human life matters because God declared it so from the beginning, and because of the Cross and resurrection it will be so at the end.

*Ingrid Newkirk, cited in, The Washington Post, November 13, 1983

Being Made New

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Co 5:17, ESV)

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (1 Co 15:22-23, ESV)

In the resurrection of Christ something new has begun. It’s not just a rehash of the old. Christ has come as the new Adam. A new creation has begun. In some ways it’s like the old, but in many ways it’s entirely new. Jesus is like the old Adam, but without confusion He is also the God-man. He does not sin; therefore this new creation is without corruption. Christ has done what no man could do. God has raised Him from the dead and has designated Him the living head of the new race. He has become the life-giving Spirit. If you are a Christian you have new life and if you have new life Christ has been raised from the dead. The day will come when the Christian will put off corruption and sin fully and finally. We too will be raised incorruptible because we have already been raised together with Christ. We have been and will be made new. 


But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 

(Phi 3:20 ESV)

For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
(Heb 11:10 ESV)

And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
(Rev 21:5 ESV)

Yesterday was a beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest. Judy and Lydia and I worked outside. We recently purchased a number of fruit trees and we were able to get them all planted. The sights, sounds, and smells of this gorgeous February day were incredible. Its days like these that make me thankful to live where we live. The Pacific Northwest is a beautiful place. But these days also remind me that in this life there is no permanence. The fruit trees will need care and protection from disease and deer and they will one day die. And these beautiful February days will soon give way to the rains of March. I'm reminded that this life is a short trudge on the march toward the Celestial City and one day we will die also. There is no permanence, at least for now. But there awaits new place where there will be permanence, glory, and the absence of sin. A new heaven and a new earth are on the horizon. For now the creation is anticipating release from bondage and exile. And even on beautiful February days the creation groans. Our citizenship is not here. We await the new creation with all of its redeemed fullness. The all-encompassing redemptive work of Christ includes a fallen world and one day all of our days will be glorious days where both we and the creation no longer groan and where the glory of the Son far outshines anything we've ever seen. Death will be a forgotten memory. Because of the Son impermanence will give way to permanence. New life will be known forever. The resurrection of Christ is the demonstrated proof that the new creation is coming, and not solely for those who trust in Christ, but for all of creation as well. 

Light in Darkness

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." 

- Matthew 5:14-16

"Do not be conformed to this world...." - Romans 12:2"The problem is that contemporary culture is deaf to the things Christianity has to say, and deaf ears must be unstopped not with drum sets and drama, but with 'the glorious gospel of our blessed God'(1 Tim. 1:11)." - Jason Stellman, Dual Citizens, p. 27 

In a very real sense we are the demonstration of Christ to a perishing world. For better or for worse the world is looking at us to see what Chist-followers look like and if you are like me I find that prospect sobering. The voracity of our Christian testimony is not to be determined by externals, but rather by a radical and pervasive internal revolution that thereby effects the entirety of life. The reach and depth of regeneration are the impetus for a thorough and comprehensive difference in us. Sure, we still struggle with the remnants of sin, but we have been made new and as a result the effects are supposed to be noticeable to those that are around us. Something is profoundly different with the Christian. Our affections are to be no longer self-directed and self-absorbed and there now exists a gospel-fueled luminescence that sets us apart. Our lives are no longer our own. We've been bought with a price and the effect of new ownership is to be noticeable. We are light in darkness. The Christian has become the citizen of a kingdom that cannot be shaken and as a result every orientation has become new. Our thinking, behavior, and source of life has a new genesis. By grace the impossible has happened, and it is God's intention that it shows so that we bring Him much glory. 


That Glorious Scandal

"The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," and "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense."
-1Pe 2:7-8 ESV

'Paul’s theology of the cross involves his theology of the resurrection and is simply unintelligible apart from it.'
- Richard Gaffin, The Scandal of the Cross

“The Gospel is ‘the greatest drama ever staged … a terrifying drama of which God is the victim and the hero'"
- Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos, ch. 1

"It was not nails that held Jesus to that wretched cross; it was his unqualified resolution, out of love for his Father, to do the Father's will - and, within that framework, it was his love for sinners like me. He really could not save himself."
- D.A. Carson, Scandalous- The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, p. 30

"There is no better news for sad men, for distressed, desponding and despairing men, than this - the Savior lives, able still to save and willing to receive you to his tender heart."
- Charles Spurgeon, The Lord is Risen Indeed, Twelve Sermons on the Resurrection, p. 102

The drama of the gospel is a story unlike no other. In this story the hero is not hailed, but mocked. He is not sustained by superhuman powers, he dies. The accolades originally directed toward him give way to rejection and disdain. After all, heroes are not supposed to become the victim. The Creator succumbs to the malevolence of the creation. And this death comes willingly, not with reluctance. He does not save himself. In fact, it is death that brings life. The gospel in all of its tragedy and offense brings glory. Death itself becomes a victim of itself. Through the mystery and glory of the crucifixion and the resurrection every enemy is finally overcome. This is the ultimate scandal and if it has no place of offense with us we've not understood it well. There is divine wisdom and human absurdity in the cross and resurrection. Surely, God could have done it another way…or not. In these singular events God has revealed the very heart of the gospel. The Son has revealed His heart for His Father. God has revealed His own heart for the world. By love God is inclined to His creation, by love God sends the emblem of His love to die, by love God raises His dear Son from the grave, and by love God vanquishes every enemy and removes every obstacle to His love for His creation. Our redemption has been accomplished by a glorious scandal.

Who are You?

'I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.'
- Gal 2:20 ESV

'Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…'
- 2Co 5:17-18 ESV

'We can only begin an upright course of life when God, of his good pleasure, adopts us into his family.'
- John Calvin, Psalm I:280, quoted in Calvin's Wisdom, p. 1

'You are in Christ. He is in you. Christ in us fills us up into the fulness of God. We in Christ are the fulness of him who fills all in all.'
- David Powlison, Seeing With New Eyes, p. 54

'The promise has dawned, and our identity is now found in him.'
- Russell Moore, Adopted for Life, p. 3

Identity is everything, just ask anyone whose name and identity have been sullied. Who we are by identity determines how we think and how we act and for some of us this is a slow dawning. The realization that our identity is now found in Christ is nothing short of revolutionary. The person who realizes who they belong to will order their life accordingly. Slaves act like the the chattel of their owner. Sons act like the heir of their Father. When we realize our identity it will change everything for us. Our identity is both positional and practical. We become who we are. This is the promise and purpose of being adopted in and through Christ. Where is your identity? To whom do you belong? Who are you?