Praise Him Even Now

All of us would probably like a refund for the year 2020. To the naked eye, there’s little reason to praise the Lord. The anger and frustration swells both because of COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd, not to mention the anarchy generated by demands to defund and/or abolish the police.

It’s a sad, heartbreaking time.

Yet God hasn’t abandoned His creation. He may be judging it by giving us over to our rebellion against His Word — indeed, I personally believe that to be the case. It may be difficult to adopt the so-called new normal that government leaders will impose on us. But all the negativity we currently experience has no power to stand against the goodness and sovereignty of our God and King.

A day approaches when Christ will return to establish His kingdom. At that time, He will eradicate every disease and will govern the entire world in perfect righteousness and justice. Christians long for that day!

The wonderful news is that He reigns even now. The chaos we see lies in His control as He uses it to accomplish purposes that we neither see nor understand. One glorious day, all creatures of our God and King will praise Him. filling the new heavens and earth with alleluias. Thankfully, Christians don’t need to wait for that day.

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More Than The Doxology

Throughout my early childhood, the Presbyterian church I attended with my parents and sister sang The Doxology every Sunday. I had no idea what it meant, but I sang it obediently, feeling secure with the familiar words and melody. I probably figured that God liked it.

After Jesus saved me, I attended mostly Charismatic churches. Early on, the primary church I belonged to sang contemporary praise songs, with an obligatory hymn each service. Gradually, hymns fell away almost entirely.

On rare occasions, The Doxology would pop up. Singing it brought back warm childhood memories, but I also loved praising God from Whom all blessings flow. I loved praising Him with all creatures here below, as well as with the heavenly host. I loved praising Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

In our church today we sang The Doxology as the closing verse of a longer hymn. A hymn I’d never heard in its entirety. The verses that precede the familiar words of doxology expand on God’s worthiness to receive praise, as well as the joyful privilege we have of giving Him that praise.

I’ve loved The Doxology my entire life. Today’s discovery that it’s part of a longer hymn surprised and intrigued me. I still love The Doxology, but now I know that there’s so much more where it came from. And I love the whole hymn!

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Jesus Shines Brighter

I love the hymn that I have selected to post this week. I love the way it exalts Jesus as Son of God and Son of man. I love its bold declaration that He rules over all creation. And I love the way it describes how much fairer He is than even the most beautiful aspects of His creation.

But right now, it encourages me to remember that He also shines brighter than all the trouble that this current pandemic has caused. As easy as it is to be distracted by all the ramifications of the crisis, we need to turn our attention to Him, seeing that He outshines all the hardship, sorrow and frustration that threatens our peace. What a beautiful Savor!

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Throwback Thursday: Psychology And The Source Of Knowledge About The Human Soul

Originally published April 27, 2017:

Lady Reading BiblePsychology makes my blood boil, especially when people try to integrate it with Christianity! Although commonly considered a science, the discipline actually is comprised of theories that haven’t been proven (and really don’t lend themselves to scientific verification). The vast majority of the theories incorporate acceptance of evolution, humanism and occult ideas.

Over the past 40 years, evangelicals have embraced psychology as an augmentation to pastoral ministry, assuming that the Bible falls short of addressing the mental and emotional needs of humans. That assumption should make the hair on the back of your neck bristle! Essentially, “Christian” psychology boldly declares God’s Word to be impotent, while at the same time more than implying that psychologists and licensed counselors possess a special knowledge inaccessible to those of us who “merely” read the Bible.

The attitude that psychologists have a deeper understanding of human nature than the Holy Spirit (Who, after all, authored the Bible) smacks of Continue reading

Keys To Discernment: A Portrait Of The Real Jesus

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False teaching invariably attacks, perverts or (at the very least) distorts the nature of Jesus Christ. Beth Moore, for example, reduces Him to a romantic playmate Who speaks directly to her and is “the bossiest thing.” For proper discernment, therefore, Christians must possess an accurate understanding of Christ’s nature.

Over the past few weeks we studied Paul’s prayer for the Colossian church to be filled with knowledge, wisdom and understanding. We also studied the way God qualifies believers to share in His inheritance.  As we closed last week’s study, we shifted our attention from the Father to His Son, and Paul now picks up the discussion with Continue reading

God Doesn’t Restrict His Glory To Mountain Top Experiences And Neither Should We

Summit of Mount Tam

Photo taken from the summit of Mount Tamalpias in Marin Country, California

Often, we think of God’s glory in relation to the beauty of nature. As well we should! Scripture repeatedly makes that correlation,  leading us to follow its example. For instance, consider this beloved passage from Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat. ~~Psalm 19:1-6 (ESV)

I well understand why this psalm proclaims that nature showcases God’s glory. When I lived in California, I loved going to Mount Tamalpias. How often I enjoyed the wheelchair accessible Verna Dunshee Trail at the summit of the East Peak! A few days before I moved to Massachusetts to marry John, my friend took me up to Mount Tam one last time. That afternoon had crystal clear weather that allowed us to look down the plummeting ravines and out across the San Francisco Bay. We looked down on the back of a hawk in flight — a heady experience, I assure you!

My friend savored the magnificence of the moment (as did I) before remarking with a baffled voice, “I just don’t understand how anyone can deny the existence of God.” I shared her sense of awe at God’s creation. Looking out from the mountain at the sparking waters of the San Francisco Bay, and then at the golden grasses and green shrubbery cascading down the mountainside, I couldn’t help seeing what a wonderful Creator I serve.

But I didn’t stop to think that the breathtaking splendors of Mount Tamalpias pale in comparison to the glorious God Who created them. To really appreciate His glory, we need to look at Jesus. The apostle John actually described Jesus in terms of God’s glory.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. ~~John 1:14 (ESV)

Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, manifests God’s glory in a myriad of ways, most of which we won’t fully appreciate until we behold Him in His heavenly kingdom. Yet we see enough of Him in the pages of His Word to know His majesty. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John regale us with accounts of Him healing the sick, casting out demons and exercising His divine power over the wind and sea. They describe His sinless life, His authoritative teaching and His astonishing humility as He endured a crucifixion that He did not deserve. Most glorious of all, they describe His resurrection, which proved His victory over sin and death.

As we read God’s Word, we constantly see His glory in the Person and work of Jesus. And when we encounter Him, even the beauty of something like Mount Tamalpias seems trivial.

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Pride, Arrogance And The Seduction Of Western Culture

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Approaching the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Americans unabashedly celebrate Gay Pride Month. Boston has Rainbow flags everywhere; somehow I doubt its display is very different from most major cities. The way that Western culture champions the LBGTQ movement now makes it hard to believe that homosexuality was illegal just 50 years ago.

Although I don’t believe homosexuality should still incur criminal penalties, I do grieve that even professing Christians now embrace it. Bowing to public pressure, even evangelicals have begun compromising their convictions that the Word of God condemns all forms of sexual deviation. After all, merely saying that Continue reading

According To Scripture: Study #13 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

Sometimes God’s Word is so straightforward that we don’t need a great deal of help from commentaries to understand it. Verses 39-41 of 1 Corinthians 15 serve as a case in point. As I studied the passage this past week, I found that, when read in the context of the preceding verses, these three verses pretty much simply drive home Paul’s point that our resurrected bodies will be much different from the bodies we have now.

At the same time, proper Bible study demands that we avoid the temptation to skim over these verses as if they’re superfluous. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write them for a reason, and therefore we must cherish them as His Word.

So let’s look at the full passage, perhaps remembering what we discussed last Monday, and then make a few observations about today’s brief verses.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. ~~1 Corinthians 15:35-41 (ESV)

You’ll recall from last Monday that the scoffers referred to in verse 35 ask about the nature of resurrection bodies as a challenge, hoping to show that resurrection is ridiculous. But Paul responds by reasoning from God’s creation. Just as bodies of different species differ, and as stars and moons differ, so temporal and resurrection bodies differ.

The introduction of the word “flesh” in verse 39 emphasizes the physical aspect of resurrection, which some of the Corinthians (influenced by early Gnostic philosophies) denied. Jesus’ own bodily resurrection points to this reality. In Luke 24:39, for example, He presents Himself to the disciples and reminds them that spirits don’t have flesh and bone as He does. Philippians 3:21 insists that the Lord will transform our bodies to be like His. Clearly, such a transformation entails a physical body.

But as the flesh of different species varies, so our earthly bodies will be different from our resurrected bodies. Barnes appeals to the transformation from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly; it’s all the same insect, but the butterfly is far different from the caterpillar! Paul doesn’t go there, but he certainly distinguishes between various types of flesh with the purpose of illustrating the distinction between the earthly body and the resurrection body.

This takes us to verse 40, where the argument moves from species to cosmology. Paul differentiates between earth and other bodies (planets and stars). Although people in the First Century obviously didn’t know about geological and atmospheric conditions, the Holy Spirit clearly inspired Paul to write this observation.

He furthers his argument in verse 41 by noting distinctions between heavenly bodies themselves. Considering that Paul wrote this epistle several centuries before the invention of telescopes and space exploration, I think his statement underscores the fact that he writes under direct revelation from the Holy Spirit. Only God knew, at that point in time, how stars and planets differed from each other. Yet He wanted Paul to include this example.

Believers Bible Commentary also indicates that this verse may suggest that we will retain our individuality even in our resurrected states. Although none of the other commentaries I read corroborated with this thought, it definitely deserves our consideration. I’d caution against being dogmatic about this possibility, however. Let’s stick with Paul’s main argument that our earthly bodies aren’t to be compared with the bodies we will receive at the resurrection.

Next Monday we will see how Paul ties these examples to the resurrection a bit more concretely. In the  meantime, if you have any questions, comments or observations, I’d be delighted to hear from you. Please don’t hesitate to use the Comments Section, The Outspoken TULIP Facebook Page or Twitter to give your perspective.

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Nature Just Begins The Story

Marin County California has such beautiful areas to enjoy natural creation! From the beaches edging Point Reyes National Seashore to the breathtaking views from the summit of Mount Tamalpias, the splendor of God’s creation reflects His glory.

Downtown Boston has areas of natural beauty as well in its cultivated gardens and lazy Harbor Walk. The Public Garden and Rose Kennedy Greenway boast ever changing varieties of flowers, while points along the harbor draw the eye to the vastness and strength of the ocean.

All these wonders proclaim the greatness of God. Yet nature only begins to tell the story. As we approach the Gospel, and as we anticipate Christ’s return and the new heavens and new earth of His kingdom, we better grasp an understanding of how absolutely magnificent He truly is!

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