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#Humility

“His fame grew far, for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong. But when he was strong; he grew proud, to his destruction.”                  2 Chronicles 26:15-16

There was a king whose name meant “the Lord is my strength.” Uzziah sought the Lord, learned the fear of God from a prophet, and grew very strong in his long 52-year reign. Then in 52 minutes he destroyed it all, trading a legacy of fame for shame.

Whoever exalts him or herself will be humbled, but whoever humbles him or herself will be exalted. ~ Jesus

Only once in David’s Royal City did God become Human

Do you know this sacred music?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdDeFgXXG-s

Once in royal David’s city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby,
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ, her little Child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall:
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.

For He is our childhood’s pattern;
Day by day, like us, He grew;
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles, like us He knew;
And He cares when we are sad,
And he shares when we are glad.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above:
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He is gone.

Christmas is in the Prepositions

How much theology is in a preposition!¹ Come to the cradle of scripture, as Martin Luther would say: the cradle of scripture is Christ.

First, the preposition with

Christ is with us. In Isaiah 7 “the heart of the people shook like the trees in the wind” because they were on the verge of disintegration. Isaiah came to King Ahaz to comfort him, but Ahaz refused comfort. Nevertheless, Isaiah gave them a word and a sign. The word: calm down and do not fear. The sign: A virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son, the Christ. Just when the people of God were threatened with abandonment, the people were asking: where is God? Isaiah said: “God is with us.” Not a brief visit, but God incarnated into humanity forever.

Secondly, the preposition for

Christ is for us. Interestingly, when people suffer (Satan wreaking havoc)  they imagine that God is not for them. Worst than saying everything is against us, we say “God is against us.” Christmas says that God is for us. He is on our side, and He will cause everything to work for us (Romans 8:28, 32-33).

Thirdly, the preposition in

Christ is not only with us and for us, He is in us. Christ enters into our center of being, our heart, and into our very identity.

Christmas is about three prepositions. Christ be with me; Christ be for me; Christ be in me.

There are three doctrines: the incarnation, the atonement, and the ascension.

There are three Persons of the Trinity: The Father affirms creation, the Son atones for us; and the Spirit indwells us.

Are you lonely? Christ is with us.

Are you guilty? Christ died for us.

Are you empty? Christ reigns in our hearts.

Christmas is about three prepositions.

¹John Stott preached a similar outline to this, and i found it helpful as a Christmas meditation.

#SpiritualWeapons for Gospel Identity

Christians are waging war, but not according to the flesh. We wage spiritual war, not like the crusades in the Middle Ages. Satan wounds our minds and souls with lies, not cuts. Although evil takes human forms, we are waging war against the demonic realms of Satan and his angels beyond the human and unseen to the human eye (though present and real).

Satan is a the father of lies and he deceives, tempts, and slanders us frequently. What we fight against are his strategies or devices (2 Corinthians 2:11), which are twofold; temptation and accusation.

Satan’s Two Main Devices: Temptation and Accusation

1. When we overestimate our identity and believe God is all grace and less holy, we are vulnerable to Satan’s temptations.

2. When we underestimate our identity and believe God is all holy and less loving, we are prime candidates for Satan’s accusations.

People’s Two Main Errors: Overestimate and Underestimate

1. When we overestimate Satan we ascribe too much power to him, and we become fearfully superstitious.

2. When we underestimate Satan we ascribe too little power to him, and we become secular.

In C. S. Lewis’ introduction to Screwtape Letters he wrote how the demons “themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist and a magician with the same delight.” (Lewis, C. S.. The Screwtape Letters . HarperCollins. Kindle Edition).

We are not dependent on specialized “super” ministers to work their magic for us, nor do we believe the secularist spin that every explanation is due to natural and scientific causes.

In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 we are taught how to fight with truth/Gospel and prayer/faith to wrestle down Satan’s lies in our minds, taking them captive. We renounce the “thoughts, arguments, and lofty opinions” raised up against what we know of God and our true identity with authority and confidence in Christ.

  “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of  God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (Emphasis mine).

Do you want a Spiritual Father? Ask God. I did.

I love coming to meet with a “father in Christ” regularly. Do you have one or two? I don’t know a better way to gain godly wisdom than from Christian sages, who love me.

They emphasize what I already know, and inform  me about what I don’t.

Sometimes I wash my hands, and I look at this humorous list from an OT scholar’s wife. Now, my mentor has written many, many scholarly books on the Old Testament, and has taught worldwide from the bible. So this list of “home rules,” I assume is from his dear wife. She often provides the treats for our hours together.

I love Willem. He is Dutch born, and is a gift from God. He teaches me from wisdom literature in the Old Testament. Although he travels to teach, he & Evona are often at Christ Church where I have to preach to them! (Pray for me, no, them.)

Do you have a “father” or a “Paul?” Do you seek wisdom? Do you want the good life? Do you want a harvest of righteousness? (Psalm 112 & 2 Corinthians 9:8-9). Ask God for a spiritual father or two.

 

#Luther #ReformationDay

Martin Luther was incognito as a knight, named Sir George, on his way back to Wittenberg University from the Wartburg Castle. He stopped in the Black Bear Inn for dinner.

Two Swiss students had dinner with Luther, not knowing it was him. At one of the tables sat a man alone dressed as a knight. He wore a red cap, “man capris” pants, and a short, snug-fitted jacket; his right hand rested on the pommel (top) of his sword, his left grasped the handle. His eyes were fixed reading the book opened on the table, but at the entrance of these two young men, he raised his head, waved to them warmly, and invited them to come and sit at his table; then, presenting them with a glass of beer and noticing their accent, they began a conversation. The two students mentioned that they were determined to study under the great Martin Luther.

How did Luther end up dressed as a knight in 1522?

Five years Earlier (1517) the Indulgence Controversy Erupted

It was not over food & beer, but over Pope Leo X’s financial problem, having exhausted the Church’s money in wars and in the massive building project of St. Peter’s and the Vatican.

Indulgences were certificates sold by the church that guaranteed the purchaser, or the designated beneficiary, relief from a stipulated period of time in purgatory.

The sale of indulgences was entrusted to a Dominican friar, Johann Tetzel, a profane man and a brilliant salesman, who used jingles (according to Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses) such as the gem: “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs,” and made the assertion that even if one had raped the Virgin Mary, one of his indulgences would be sufficient to cover the sin.

Luther preached against indulgences, but the standard academic protocol for announcing a debate was to nail to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg theses. Luther nailed his 95 theses against the practice of selling indulgences. (The printing press published it & hit the Church’s revenue dept even harder!)

The Diet of Worms 1521

The church had now exhausted its options for handling Luther. Excommunication was the final sanction – April 1521 – excom-munication meant that Luther was a nonperson. Thus, in April 1521, Luther arrived in Worms to face his greatest challenge so far. Here, at age 38, Luther stood before Charles V and said:

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience.”

As he left Worms to return to Wittenberg, he was surrounded by a group of armed men and kidnapped. (After nearly four years as the center of attention for both church and empire, Luther would vanish from the public eye for the better part of a year.)

1521 Sir George, the resident knight of the Wartburg Castle

Luther spent the rest of 1521 incognito on a mountain over the town of Eisenach, translating the New Testament into German. He would sneak into town occasionally to meet Philip Melanchthon for dinner. He said:

“All I have done is to put forth, preach and write the Word of God, and apart from this I have done nothing. While I have been sleeping, or drinking Wittenberg beer with Philip…the Word has done great things. I have done nothing; the Word has done and achieved everything.”

 

God’s Power in Human Weakness

In Genius & Grace, Dr. Gaius Davis records how 9 heroic Christian leaders manifested God’s grace in spite of painful handicaps. Leaders such as Luther, Bunyan, Cowper, CS Lewis, and Amy Carmichael, Davis argues, suffered with obsessive-compulsive disorders like anxiety, depression, guilt, darkness, & doubt.

Davis’ thesis can be summarized in two convictions; namely, that:

One, grace doesn’t change our personality or temperament. (If you were an extrovert before conversion, then you will be an extrovert after. You’ll be easier to live with. If an introvert before, then an introvert after. It will be easier to live with yourself.) And . . .

Two, grace doesn’t render us immune to physical or mental illness. (Conversion does not remove because they show that God’s grace is sufficient for us in them.)

This month Christians remember the Protestant Reformation 500 years later. I have been assigned to teach on Luther, Calvin, and Knox both at my local church and at a nearby seminary. As i do i remember 2 Corinthians 4:7: We have this treasure (the Gospel) in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

#TheGospel

“Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God. But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.”

John Calvin in preface to 1534 French translation of the New Testament

Where are the Sweetest Spots?

“Sweet are the spots where Immanuel has ever shown his glorious power in the conviction and conversion of sinners. The world loves to muse on the scenes where battles were fought and victories won. Should we not love the spots where our great captain has won his amazing victories?” Robert Murray McCheyne

Some times we find ourselves in dreadful spots where despair and the sentence of death is all we may expect from looking at our circumstances. God is near to all who call upon His Name in Jesus, however, and He raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). He is our rescuer! God is glorified in rescuing us and changing dreadful spots into the sweetest spots in our stories. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAg7rn7fH3Q

This song makes me rejoice and exult in Christ, our Rescuer 🙂

Artwork by Will Coats