Of Cabbages And (The King Of) Kings

king-jesus

Cerebral Palsy has all sorts of interesting or annoying by-products (depending on one’s point of view), such as difficulty chewing food. As a result,  a shred of cabbage from a serving of coleslaw could slip down the throat prematurely, causing several hours of discomfort and pain on its journey down the upper GI tract. I rediscovered this unpleasant reality Saturday night.

As you can imagine, I didn’t sleep very well that night. At one point, I found myself pretty much ordering God to relieve my pain. Not asking with humble trust in a loving heavenly Father, but demanding with the self-centered attitude of a spoiled brat.

And before you charitably try to tell me that I judge myself too harshly, let me assure you that I know, quite well, the attitude of my heart at that particular moment. I viewed the Lord, just then, as a servant, expecting Him to cater to my wishes. Whether my perverted petition came from my Charismatic background or it merely exposed my sinful old nature, it clearly dishonored the Lord Who bought me with His blood and therefore has authority over me.

Jesus indeed came as a servant, demonstrating humility as an example for Christians to follow. And He commands us to pray for our needs, knowing that He will faithfully care for us because we belong to Him. But notice what I just said: we belong to Him! As such, we have the privilege of requesting things from Him, but not the right to demand His compliance.

Christ’s humility, while certainly giving us a pattern to emulate, directs our attention to His unique position as the king of Kings.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~~Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

Despite His humility, the Lord Jesus Christ is our Almighty King Who will one day cause even His enemies to bow before Him. How dare we treat Him as if He has any obligation to answer our “prayers” according to our expectations! Shouldn’t we instead approach Him in grateful humility, asking Him for mercy and grace to honor Him whether He removes our trial or decrees that we go through it?

I didn’t exactly enjoy my experience with the cabbage Saturday night. But I treasure my experience of remembering that Christ is my King, not my slave.

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Our Wrathful, Loving Father

John 3 16a

Typically, Christians think about salvation in terms of Jesus’ sacrificial death on our behalf. Certainly, that ought to be our primary focus. God’s Word indicates that we will spend eternity praising Him for shedding His blood for the remission of our sins.

And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.” ~~Revelation 5:9-10 (ESV)

Of course we should regularly praise and adore the Lord Jesus Christ for taking our place on the cross, where He took the Father’s wrath that rightfully belonged to us.  How could we not worship Him for such a profound demonstration of selfless love? It will be both a joy and a privilege to kneel before Him in gratitude for bearing those nail scars!

But lately I’ve also been amazed and thankful to the Father for His role in my salvation.

At first, it seemed a bit strange to draw a connection between the Father and salvation, especially in light of the doctrine of propitiation. Propitiation means an offering made in order to appease wrath. Therefore, Jesus accepted the task of serving as the propitiation for our sin, appeasing the Father’s wrath that we deserve.

Again, we naturally focus on Jesus’ gracious obedience to make Himself our substitute, and so should we! But as we do, perhaps we should also remember the most famous New Testament verse of all time:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ~~John 3:16 (ESV)

Think through the first two clauses of that verse with me, keeping the doctrine of propitiation in mind. The same Person of the Trinity Whose wrath against our sin demands appeasement actually gave His beloved Son as the offering to turn away His righteous indignation! I don’t know about you, but I think that’s mind boggling!

The Father, in extremely real terms, actually provided His own offering for our sin, ladies.

If I had more skill as a writer, maybe I could express the enormous impact of the Father’s generosity in giving His own Son as the means of sparing us from His wrath. I wish I could describe how I tremble with a strange mixture of awe and joy when I praise God the Father each morning for His part in bringing about my salvation.

Instead, allow me to challenge you to start thinking about this incredible love that God the Father has demonstrated to whomever believes in Him. Like me, you might want to incorporate this concept into your daily prayer time. See if the Holy Spirit  doesn’t get you excited about the Father’s wondrous role in your salvation.

 

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Saturday Sampler: December 10 — December 16

Snowmen Sampler

SharaC, who blogs at Into the Foolishness of God already looks forward to the new year in her article, Cheers To The Simple Things. She has a fresh alternative to those pesky New Years Resolutions that none of us keep anyway.

How much do you know about pearls? The End Time author Elizabeth Prata shows us their value in New Testament times, as well as why they held such high value, in her magnificent essay, Pearls in the New Testament. Not only does Elizabeth inform us, but she fills us with wonder at God’s intricacies.

I’ve got to agree with Tim Challies as he identities the 5 Most Ridiculous Books to Ever Become Christian Bestsellers. Whether you watch the short video or read the transcript, you’ll see clear examples of discernment as Challies examines these popular, but woefully unbiblical, pieces of evangelical literature.

Pope Francis, eager to protect God’s reputation (doncha know), wants to change the English translation of The Lord’s Prayer from “lead us not into temptation” to “do not let us fall into temptation.” Denny Burk writes Is the Pope right about the Lord’s Prayer? to raise the possibility that the pope’s modification may actually undercut confidence in the sovereignty of God.

In a study of Romans 12:1-2, Judy Allen gives us A Lesson from Paul on Transformation on the Unlocking the Bible blog. Her brief, but comprehensive, study takes the mysticism out of God’s transforming work in Christians.

Erin Benziger’s series on “acceptable” sins in Do Not Be Surprised has certainly convicted me! Now she concludes it with The Cure for ‘Acceptable’ Sins by directing us back to the reasons for God’s grace and His wonderful ability to transform us. If you’ve read any articles in this outstanding series, please avail yourself of this capstone piece.

Growing 4 Life by Leslie A. always delivers gems such as Enjoying the Ride. Leslie narrates her recent misadventure of a family outing (what could go wrong looking at Christmas lights?), and finds a splendid application to remind us of God’s sovereignty.

Although I’m still in the process of vetting Fred Deruvo, I’ve pretty much agreed with his articles on his Study – Grow – Know blog. In Knowing God’s Will: Focusing on God or Satan?, Deruvo discusses the practice of deliverance ministry from a Biblical perspective. His insights are so needed in today’s evangelical circles.

Evangelicals, and particularly Reformed evangelicals, are grieving the loss of R.C. Sproul this past Thursday. At the same time, we rejoice that Dr. Sproul is in the Lord’s presence. Naturally, many people are publishing tributes to him on the Internet. I can’t begin to read them all, but I hope you’ll read John MacArthur’s post, R.C. Sproul, on the Grace To You blog.

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The Scripture Made Me Ask Myself Some Uncomfortable Questions

PonderingWhat do you put on your prayer list? When you gather with other believers, what prayer requests do you typically make? If you’re like most Christians, you most frequently ask people to pray for your health, your job, your living situation or other temporal matters.  Ain’t nothing wrong with that! One pastor I had used to say, “If it’s big enough to think about, it’s big enough to pray about.”

Last week, I read a prayer request that the apostle Paul made in his letter to the Colossians.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. ~~Colossians 4:2-4 (ESV)

He wrote  that prayer request from prison. That little piece of information really arrested my attention when I read it last week, and caused me to mull over what prayer requests I might send out if I were in a Roman prison, chained to guards day and night.  Based on my attitude during the two years I spent in a nursing home, I more than likely would have asked people to pray for things to alleviate my physical or emotional discomfort.

But Paul only sought prayer that he could further the Gospel!

How often do you pray for opportunities to declare the Gospel? I don’t pray such prayers often enough, even though I pray them a great deal more than I once did. (What might the Lord have done if I had prayed that way in the nursing home?) I could be mistaken, but I have a hunch that very few 21st Century Christians pray that way.

Those verses in Colossians challenge me. Do I take the Gospel seriously enough to pray for opportunities to proclaim it? Am I more interested in my comfort than in making sure that others hear what Jesus Christ did for them? These questions don’t feel good. Actually, they make me squirm. But they’re probably some of the most important questions I’ll ever ask myself.

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One Small Argument Against The Doctrine Of Free Will

IMG_5209Let me begin this blog post with the obvious: a single essay can’t possibly address all the variables in arguing against the popular notion of free will. As surely as I write this piece, some Catholic or Armimian will raise objections that I would need to respond to by writing a entirely separate post.

The tension between human responsibility and God’s sovereignty is huge, and writers far more capable than I have spent centuries trying to explain why the fact of human responsibility doesn’t translate into an argument that God created human beings with free will. Martin Luther wrote an entire book, The Bondage of the Will (which I quit reading halfway through because my puny mind couldn’t wrap around all Luther’s points), in an attempt to disprove the whole idea. Arminians certainly have pet verses that they use to substantiate their view, and dealing with each verse would take quite a chunk of time.

That said, the question of free will mustn’t be ignored. Arminians are not heretics for holding to this doctrine, but I believe they hold it at great risk of minimizing God’s sovereignty.

The topic of free will predictably comes up in conversations about situations like the massacre in Las Vegas. Attempts to assure people that this horrific tragedy didn’t occur apart from the Lord’s control are invariably met with protestations that the gunman exercised free will when he pulled that trigger. Apparently, the doctrine that God is sovereign even in situations like this one must be mitigated.

I guess we need to protect God’s reputation.

And yes, the Lord will hold this gunman responsible for his sin, dear readers. God’s sovereignty in no  way excuses sin…on any level!

I think of how God used Judas Iscariot to accomplish Christ’s crucifixion on the Passover. It seems a small detail, until you remember that the Passover feast symbolized the Lamb of God Who would bring His chosen people out from the bondage of sin. According to God’s plan, Christ would have to be crucified on Passover.

Of course, the Pharisees feared that, because the people loved Jesus to the extent that they greeted Him with shouts of Hosanna when He entered Jerusalem, crucifying Him at Passover would be political suicide. The Lord used Judas Iscariot to force their hand, thus ensuing that His supreme Passover Lamb would die at precisely the right moment.

Judas Iscariot, however, bore complete responsibility for betraying the Lord. He wasn’t elected to salvation, yet he knew the Truth. God holds that man responsible for his act of betrayal, most assuredly. Yet Jesus chose Judas as a disciple in order to bring about God’s perfect plan of redemption. In that very important respect, I join Martin Luther in arguing that Judas Iscariot did not have free will.

As I said earlier, there’s no way I can offer a complete refutation of the doctrine of free will in one solitary blog post. But I invite you to seriously think about God’s sovereignty in using Judas to accomplish Christ’s crucifixion. Because of Judas Iscariot’s evil behavior, salvation is now available to all who believe in Jesus Christ. Praise God that, in His sovereignty, the perceived free will of one greedy little man brought about history’s most monumental event!

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Saturday Sampler: September 24 — September 30

Cheesecake SamplerAddressing Christians in our digital age, Scott Stayton of One Degree to Another suggests strategies for Cultivating a Deep Walk with the Lord. His ideas could help us resist the distractions that our devices bring.

Jennifer saves me the trouble of commenting on the feud between President Trump and the NFL. Her marvelous essay, This is the Era of being offended, appears in her One Hired Late In The Day blog and makes the very same point that I would have made. Her perspective clearly echoes Biblical wisdom.

Here’s an interesting musing by Dan DeWitt at TheoLatte. Is Belief in the Bible Circular Reasoning? shows us how to turn a popular objection to Scripture’s authority into a way to make atheists think.

You won’t believe what Lisa Morris wrote on Conforming to the Truth until you read Learning but Never coming to the Knowledge of the Truth. If you’re signing up for lots of online Bible Studies this fall, you might take a step back to consider Lisa’s surprising perspective.

In The End Time, Elizabeth Prata defends The exclusively of Jesus as she reasons from the Scriptures. We face anger from non-Christians all the time by adhering to this doctrine, I know. And it hurts! But Elizabeth’s essay provides much needed encouragement to stay strong in this Biblical position.

Those of us who follow current events may be tempted toward anxiety. Melanie Lenow, in Watching the News Without Losing Your Mind (Or Your Faith!) for Biblical Woman, shows us how (and why) Christian women must respond differently than the world.

Check out The Death Penalty as our Only Hope by Doug Wilson on Blog & Mablog for a fascinating take on God’s mercy to people caught in the sin of homosexuality. I’ve never considered this angle of the question until reading this blog post, but I like the balance it presents.

Can I say it? Jesse Johnson of The Cripplegate writes the best article on the National Anthem bruhaha that I’ve read so far. To stand or not to stand? That is not the question: asks us to think Biblically about this controversy from a couple sides, always applying Scripture as the bottom line. I encourage each of you to think carefully about Johnson’s argument  before determining how you’ll respond to this matter.

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