Pavilioned In Splendor

As a writer, I love hymns with expressive lyrics. The Lord deserves to be praised with the best language that hymn writers can possibly employ because He is so glorious.

But can human writers, with our many limitations, really describe the Lord with any degree of adequacy? Probably not. This side of heaven, none of us can begin to conceive of His glory in its fullness. Yet Sir Robert Grant, a member of English Parliament in the 19th Century, came wonderfully close to capturing it in the magnificent hymn that I want to feature today.

Please listen to Grant’s majestic hymn with an attitude of worship, allowing the words to direct your attention to the Lord’s incredible splendor. May the Holy Spirit use these powerful words to enhance your awe of our King.

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Praise Is His Gracious Choice

According to my Facebook feed, many of us have had a rough week. I certainly have, but several of my friends have experienced difficulties far worse than mine.

In trials, we easily get distracted from the Lord, or else we harbor bitterness and resentment towards Him. But He calls us to praise Him, even in our frustration and sorrow, trusting His sovereignty regardless of anything we go through.  And praising Him, even when it hurts, often realigns our perspective by reminding us Who He is and how deeply He cares for us.

Today’s hymn sweetly encourages us to praise the Lord simply because He deserves our praises. Its cheerful tune and uncomplicated lyrics lift our attention to Him, assuring us of His unfailing presence.

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This Isn’t A Eulogy, Exactly

IMG_0693Saturday, a friend of ours lost his battle with cancer. I suppose I could tell you about his love for the Lord, about his beautiful devotion to his wife and family, about his ministry as the Youth Group director at his church or about how he and his wife fostered children and young adults. Alternately, I could tell you how, early in my marriage to John, he taught us a few important points on marriage.

Some of you might enjoy reading such things, but face it — almost all of you never met him. A eulogy probably wouldn’t be very meaningful to you. It might not even be that interesting. For most of you, he was just an obscure guy in Massachusetts that had no direct impact on your lives. You’re sorry for my loss and all, but you didn’t come to my blog to read about him. And I definitely understand that position.

So rather than write about my memories of this man, I want to reflect on the joy he’s experiencing now. If people who knew him happen to read this article, please understand that I by no means want to minimize your grief; all of us who knew him are broken hearted by his passing. And yet, as Christians,  we know he’s beholding the wonderful face of Jesus.

Obviously, none of us really knows what it’s like to stand before the Lord Jesus Christ face-to-face. I therefore want to avoid any extrabiblical speculation or conjecture, preferring to keep within the bounds of what God has revealed in His Word.

Scripture gives glimpses of that wondrous occurrence by recounting the experience of the apostle John.

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”

12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. ~~Revelation 1:9-20 (ESV)

Okay, I realize that John still had his sinful body when he saw the Lord, making his experience arguably different from that of someone who has died.  But I would submit to you that he described Christ’s glorified state. Those who die, because they finally have freedom from their sinful bodies, may not fall paralyzed  at His feet, but we will see His same glory.

With that fearsome glory, however,  John saw Christ’s compassion. Notice verse 17, where the Lord reassures John. The tenderness in that verse beautifully balances the overwhelming description of Christ’s magnificent and terrifying holiness in the preceding verses.

With compassion to temper the brilliance of Christ’s glory and holiness, John could joyfully serve the Lord by writing the Revelation. Fear subsided as he went on to narrate what will happen when Christ finally returns to claim His Bride and establish His kingdom.  What joy fills those last two chapters of Revelation!

Although I have no way of knowing what my friend saw when he entered heaven Saturday, I rest assured that it brought him immeasurable joy. As a result, the sadness I feel for his wife and children gives way to rejoicing for him. And one day I will also see that same glorified Christ in all His splendor!

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Lord Almighty Or Cosmic Sex Partner?

Sweet FlowerAs I researched Ann Voskamp, I read several quotes in which she described her erotic encounters with God. I’ve decided to neither record those quotes here nor link to documentation containing them because they’re just too graphic (I know at least one of my regular readers is only 17, and shouldn’t be exposed to such imagery). Those who seriously doubt the veracity of my claims can easily do some Google searches — though I recommend it only if you really require evidence.

Frankly, I wish the critiques I read on her hadn’t used direct quotes. A few of them literally nauseated me. I hated her portrayal of the Lord Almighty, the Most Holy ruler of all creation, as if He was a character in a pornographic novel.

Tuesday I wrote about the dangers of regarding Jesus as a Boyfriend or Husband. Typically those fantasies (as perverted as they are) don’t entail a great deal of sexual content. Sadly, Ann Voskamp worsens the perversion with ideas about the Lord that no professing Christian should even consider. As Christians, we must always live in awareness that the Lord, above all else, is holy.

My greatest problem with Ann Voskamp lies in her apparent inability to understand God’s absolute holiness. Yes, there’s a sense in which He demands that we imitate His holiness, but in a more basic respect His holiness differentiates Him from His creation. Thus it differentiates Him from us. Because of His innate distinction from us, the very thought of viewing Him as a sexual partner borders on blasphemy.

The Lord deserves our worship as a holy God rather than our sexual fantasies about Him. We indeed enjoy the intimacy of knowing Him through His Word, but that wonderful intimacy has absolutely nothing to do with sexuality.

Ann Voskamp exemplifies the sensuality that, according to the apostle Peter, characterizes false teachers.

 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. ~~2 Peter 2:1-2 (ESV)

Women are excited by the idea of a love affair with Jesus, Who of course would be a perfect Lover. Women, however,  need the true Lord Jesus Christ, Who reigns in holiness and calls us to worship Him in purity. Let’s reject any teacher who would reduce our holy God to the filthy status of a sex object and instead worship Him in spirit and in truth.

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Why Jesus Won’t Be Your Valentine Tomorrow

Tulip Sampler 01Out of curiosity, I spent some time Sunday afternoon researching Ann Voskamp, a popular evangelical teacher, writer and speaker whom we can safely categorize  as a false teacher. Michelle Lesley lists several articles evaluating Voskamp that support my allegation. The two most prominent factors in distinguishing her as a false teacher are her tendencies toward panentheanism (God is in everything) and her erotic descriptions of her relationship with God.

The second factor begs the question: Should Christian women see the Lord in sexual, or even romantic, terms? During my single years, female leaders in my church certainly encouraged me to do so. I learned from my multiple failed efforts to view Jesus as my Husband that the type of cosmic romance that teachers like Ann Voskamp promotes does extensive emotional and spiritual damage to women.

The problems with the “Jesus is my Boyfriend/Lover/Husband” approach to Christianity could keep me blogging for several weeks. Indeed, I would like to write about some of its harmful effects later this week. Because Ann Voskamp and Beth Moore perpetuate this blasphemous notion, we need to understand why it goes against sound Biblical teaching.

This teaching not only damages women by encouraging a self-centered understanding of God, but it drags us into enormous self-condemnation when we can’t sustain romantic feelings toward Him. Many times as a single woman (I didn’t marry until I was almost 49), I tried to imagine Jesus as my Husband, only to be frustrated with myself when I felt unsatisfied with Him.

My apparent deficit in appreciating Him romantically led me to feel spiritually inferior. I wondered why I still longed for a husband who could physically touch me when I knew full well that only Jesus  could love me perfectly. Evidently, I had skewed priorities. I felt intense shame, wrongly believing that He should be enough for me.

The teaching that Jesus fulfills our romantic and/or sexual desires, however, seriously perverts Scripture’s teaching on how believers should express intimacy with Jesus.  Loving the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength has more to do with obedience to Him than with having  Him satisfy my romantic desires. The same principle applies to all Christians. Look at His own description of our love relationship with Him:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. ~~John 15:9-10 (ESV)

I do, very much, believe that the Lord blesses Christians with an intimate knowledge of Him. We talk to Him in prayer, pouring out our hearts with confidence that He cares about our deepest concerns. In turn, He speaks to us through His Word, disclosing Who He is and what He desires. Sisters, that’s intimacy!

Ann Voskamp’s “intimacy” with Jesus has a particularly disturbing component that I want to discuss Thursday (I have a Valentines Day date with John tomorrow). I hope today’s essay laid a foundation that we can build on at that time. Please guard against seeing the Lord in a role that He simply doesn’t have. Instead, rejoice in your correct relationship with Him.

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Our Longings Have Been Granted In What He Ordaineth

Today I’m posting a hymn I’ve loved since my college days. It reminds me that, even when circumstances don’t go the way I think they should, the Lord still works behind the scenes for my good and His purposes.

Sometimes we lose sight of the truth that He is active in the details of our lives, and we need to realign our thinking about His great love for us. We forget how tenderly and intimately He arranges our lives as He cares for us and showers blessings on us. Interestingly, He does all these wonderful things as an expression of His sovereignty.

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