Category Archives: Worship

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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“In Heaven I’ll Have All The Ice Cream I Want!”

StainedGlass04I can’t remember what TV show came on after Ed Sullivan on Sunday nights when I was nine, but I definitely remember pouting when my parents firmly enforced the 9:00 bedtime. “When I grow up,” I informed them with just a hint of defiance in my voice, “I’ll stay up as late as I want!”

John and I thought of this common childhood scenario this morning when I told him about a Tweet my friend Jennifer posted on Twitter last night:

Jen's Heaven Tweet

Surely envisioning heaven as a place of eternal self-indulgence is every bit as childish as envisioning adulthood as an existence liberated from rules and regulations. Islam may depict Paradise as a place of unmitigated luxury, and less mature professing Christians might make such an inference by misconstruing Luke 16:19-31 (of course completely missing the point of Jesus’ parable).

In fact, I remember otherwise fairly Bible literate friends telling me, “Heaven will be what each of us wants it to be. If you like ice cream, God will let you have all the ice cream you want. And Deb, your mansion will have an enormous library full of Victorian novels and poetry!”

To quote Jennifer, “What a gross,  man-centric view of the eternal state.”

Even a cursory reading of Revelation will demonstrate that heaven focuses on the Lord. Yes, His redeemed saints will spend eternity rejoicing, but rather than rejoicing in selfish pleasures like fishing, ice cream and libraries, we’ll be rejoicing in the Lord, lost in worship and adoration of Him!

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” ~~Revelation 7:9-12 (ESV)

Those of you who read yesterday’s Bible Study should instantly think of 1 Corinthians 15:28. Once all things are subjected to Christ, He will in turn subject Himself to the Father “that God may be all in all.” In other words, heaven revolves completely around Him, and the pleasure we derive will come as we praise and glorify Him.

Our self-centered fantasies about heaven are just that — self-centered fantasies. They diminish heaven, ignoring its true splendor. It’s one thing for children to idealize adulthood. It’s shameful, however, for Christians to propagate such an immature, self-centered view of God’s throne room.

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According To Scripture: Study #9 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

You’ll probably think I’m off my rocker (if you haven’t thought so already), but I can’t decide whether this week’s study of 1 Corinthians 15:25-20 was difficult and demanding or exhilarating and fun. I can tell you, however, that the Lord used it to give me greater clarity into eschatology. Even better: He left me with a sense of wonder as I anticipate an eternity of worshiping Him!

To give some context, I want to quote today’s verses within their passage. Anyway, a reminder of what we studied last Monday wouldn’t hurt, right?

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. ~~1 Corinthians 15:20-20 (ESV)

As we approach verse 25, we discover that Jesus must reign as mediator of God’s kingdom in accordance with Scripture. Psalm 2:6-10 and Psalm 110:1 clearly show that God commissioned the Messiah with the task of destroying His enemies. Jesus, in fact, quoted the latter in reference to Himself in Matthew 22:44-45. This reign reaches its completion, as Paul just explained in verse 24, when Christ fully dominates His enemies (Ephesians 1:22).

MacArthur explains that conquering kings often put their feet on the necks of enemies they subdued as a symbolic gesture of victory. Paul means, then, that Christ will ultimately show Himself to be victorious over all entities — human and demonic — that dared to rebel against Him. See Hebrews 10:12-13.

Although verse 26 is pretty straightforward, let’s unpack it just a bit. The resurrection of Jesus Christ shows that, although death exercises power over all creation, the Lord has power over death itself. Therefore, our own resurrection defeats death. In the case of believers, death loses its power because we will enjoy eternal life in His presence, gladly worshiping Him. In that sense, death has, even now, lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

Christ will conquer even death itself. In other words, He will do away with it (Revelation 20:14). This final defeat of defeat will take place at the end of Christ’s Millennial reign, as Paul already demonstrated in verse 24.

Commentators offer some fairly complex explanations of verse 27, much of which goes well beyond the limitations of this blog post. But let me offer a couple observations I’ve made from studying this verse.

In declaring that “God has put all things in subjection under His feet,” Paul indicates that its as good as done (see Matthew 28:18, John 17:2 and Ephesians 1:22).

Barnes suggests three possible reasons that Paul might clarify that God the Father will not be in subjection to the Son. Firstly, to distinguish Christian truth from pagan myths of gods overthrowing their fathers. Secondly, to dispel any notions that Jesus is greater than the Father. And thirdly, to exalt God’s absolute dominion. We must remember that the Son has authority because the Father gave it to Him (John 5:26-27).

I love the way Paul ties this passage together in verse 28! The Son, unlike created beings who will bow the knee at that time (Philippians 2:10), voluntarily subjects Himself to the Father. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown correctly point out that in His subjection Christ retains equal honor to the Father (John 5:22-23, Hebrews 1:6). Notice Paul’s reciprocal writing in saying that “the Son Himself will be subjected to Him Who put all things in subjection to Him.”

MacArthur clarifies that Christ will continue His eternal reign (Revelation 11:15) in His place within the Trinity. He will not eclipse either the Father or the Holy Spirit as He will (from our perspective) in the Millennial kingdom. Thus, His subjection to the Father by no means should be conflated as meaning that His reign will end.

Paul reaches the climax of this passage with the idea of God being all in all. Zechariah 14:9 intimates that the Lord has always purposed to reign as one King. I don’t know about you, but this absolutely thrills me! Although my limited human mind can’t quite comprehend an environment totally given over to the undistracted worship of God, I long for that blessing. Don’t you?

Next Monday we’ll attempt to tackle one of the toughest verses in the Bible.  I’ve been dreading this verse until recently, when I bought a commentary that shed light on Paul’s writing. Now I actually look forward to taking you ladies through it. Who would have thought?

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A Break From Internet Squabbles

The evangelical world, and indeed the world at large, has been engulfed in all sorts of controversies and internet squabbles these past few months, and I see no sign that the arguing will ease up. Some of the matters are, admittedly, silly and trivial. Others, however, call Scripture’s authority into question, and therefore Christians absolutely must take an uncompromising stand.

But all too often even the legitimately necessary controversies can inadvertently distract us from the beautiful Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even in attempting to serve God, we often forget to marvel at Who He is and what He’s done for us. Worse, we forget that everything is for the purpose of bringing honor and glory to Him.

Praise God for hymn writers who faithfully draw our attention back that Gospel, and in doing so remind us of our wonderful Savior. The hymn I selected to feature today turns my attention away from all the disputes and back to Him. Perhaps it will give you the same refreshing outlook.

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Starbuck’s Date Or Matchless King?

Jesus. We think of Him so casually much of the time, even imagining Him taking us on dates and sipping Starbuck’s coffee with us. Reverence for Him has all but vanished in contemporary evangelical churches.

Reverence doesn’t forbid updated musical arrangements, but it certainly calls us to focus on Jesus as our King. We owe Him respect, obedience and honor as we worship Him as King of all. And, in worshiping Him as King, we marvel that He died and rose on our behalf. Why would He do such a loving thing?

As today’s hymn shows, we have many reasons to crown Jesus with many crowns. Don’t let Enfield’s musical arrangement throw you; they’ve chosen time-honored lyrics that celebrate many facets of Christ’s majesty, reminding us of a wide variety of reasons He deserves our praise. Rather than diminish our glorious King to a dating partner, let’s hail Him as our matchless King through all eternity.

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Three Times My Savior

king-jesusOver the last six months, I’ve been praising each Person of the Trinity for His part in my salvation. Have you ever thought about salvation in terms of the Trinity?  I hadn’t until recently, when I started praying prayers of thanksgiving for having been saved from God’s eternal wrath and to eternal life.

The more I think about salvation, the more I understand that God did all the work in bringing me to Himself. In contrast to most of my Christian life, during which I routinely patted myself on the back for deciding to follow Jesus, I now focus on His gracious work to save me. For that reason, when I typed up my 2018 prayer guide in January, I considered how the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit each worked to bring me from death to life.

The Father

God the Father knew that I had absolutely no ability to atone for crimes against Him. I trespassed against His holy standards, and had no way of making an offering that could make up for those violations. Yet the Father loved me (for reasons I’ll never discern) so deeply that He provided an offering for me.

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)

Sometimes in prayer I’ll park on that thought for a while, thoroughly fascinated that the Father didn’t even require me to bring my own offering. He had made such requirements of the Old Testament Jews, but in His mercy He supplied the Lamb of God as the perfect offering for my sins. And therefore I thank the Father for His role in my salvation.

The Son

How can I fail to adore the Lord Jesus Christ, Who willingly went to the cross and accepted the punishment for my sins? So many beautiful Scriptures come to mind as I type these words, all testifying to His inexplicable love in offering Himself as the sacrifice for me.

 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. ~~Romans 5:6 (ESV)

In my weakness and bondage to sin, Jesus Christ died as my substitute. I should have borne the Father’s wrath, but my gracious Savior bore it in my place. I can’t imagine the depth of His suffering as He hung on the cross, naked and bleeding, facing the punishment for sin on behalf of everyone who would believe in Him. Therefore I praise the Son for His role in my salvation.

The Holy Spirit

Ephesians 2:1 says that I was dead in my transgressions. I had no way of reaching out to God, and, for that matter, no real desire for Him. But the Holy Spirit took pity on my wretched condition and mercifully gave me His life.

 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, ~~Titus 3:5 (ESV)

I thank the Holy Spirit daily for giving me new life in Christ. Through His power, I have the faith necessary to receive salvation. Without Him illuminating God’s Word to me, I would have no hope of understanding my dependence on the shed blood of Jesus to make me right with God. Therefore I honor the Holy Spirit for His role in my salvation.

Each Person of the Trinity has done so much to rescue me from the eternal consequences of my sin and to assure me of everlasting life that I have to worship each of Them! If you’ve never associated the Trinity with your salvation, pick up a Bible and examine passages about each Person and His role in salvation. You might find yourself worshiping Father, Son and Holy Spirit too.

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According To Scripture: Study #5 On The Resurrection

He Is Risen

Taking a two-week break from our Bible Study on 1 Corinthians 15 couldn’t have been avoided, but I hope my truancy hasn’t caused any of you ladies to lose interest. We’ve still got over 40 verses to work through, and today we can only make it through four. So, rather than prolong this introduction, let’s quote our new section and then discuss verses 12-15.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. ~~1 Corinthians 1:12-19 (ESV)

As you’ll recall from the studies we’ve done so far, Paul began his defense of the doctrine of resurrection by listing all the eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection. Now, in verse 12, he pivots his argument, drawing a connection between His resurrection (which the Corinthian believers affirmed) and the general resurrection of believers (which some of them denied).

In light of the eyewitnesses who proclaimed Christ’s resurrection, Paul in fact finds it strange that some of the Corinthians denied the whole possibility of general resurrection. Indeed, the initial preaching of the apostles centered on the Lord’s resurrection from the dead, as evidenced by Acts 4:2.

As Gentiles, however, the Corinthians depended on human reason, and therefore had trouble believing the concept of the dead being raised (Acts 17:32; Acts 26:8). Greek philosophies that paved the way for Gnosticism, which taught that matter was evil, separate from anything spiritual. For that reason , the idea of physical resurrection would have been repulsive to them.

As a consequence of the Greek philosophies, some Corinthian Christians openly denied that the dead would be resurrected. Though it’s possible that Jews from the Sadducee party may have influenced the Corinthians, I doubt this theory based on 1 Corinthians 1:19-2:8, in which the apostle rebukes their infatuation with human wisdom. Thus Paul began his refutation of their unbelief by appealing to the eyewitnesses, who established Christ’s resurrection as demonstrable fact (1 Corinthians 15:1-11)

Now, in verse 13, Paul moves his defense of the resurrection from the eyewitnesses evidence to the reasoning skills that so enamored the Corinthians in earnest. By reasoning that the impossibility of bodily resurrection leads to the conclusion that Christ couldn’t have been raised, Paul establishes the connection between Christ’s resurrection and general resurrection. He will demonstrate that connection more fully in verses 20-22 (also see John 14:19).

Observe Paul’s method of argumentation: If the dead in general could not be raised, how then did Jesus experience resurrection? Wasn’t His corpse buried and already rotting? Paul challenges the Corinthians to use the very reason that they prided themselves on having, convinced that it would lead them to acknowledge the general resurrection.

Paul intensifies his case in verse 14 by reminding them of the preaching they received from him as an apostle of Christ. The apostles appealed to Christ’s resurrection as validation for Christianity (Acts 4:33). Therefore, teaching Christ’s resurrection would have been teaching falsehood if the dead aren’t raised, making the preaching of the resurrection a false teaching. As a false teaching, the Gospel couldn’t offer any real salvation. Without Christ’s resurrection, the entire Gospel collapses, showing Jesus to be fraudulent and the apostles to be false teachers.

Because of this, if He really wasn’t raised, their preaching had no substance and the Corinthians believed for nothing. Since the Gospel depends on the resurrection, eliminating that element made believing in the Lord useless and absurd. If the foundational premise of Christ’s resurrection was false, how could anything the apostles preached be trusted? What was the point of believing a Gospel based on a fabricated event?

Verse 15 continues this train of thought by demonstrating that proclaiming Christ’s resurrection would have actually dishonored God. If the dead aren’t raised, the apostles lied about God’s actions, claiming He did something that He really didn’t. If they testified falsely that God raised Jesus from the dead, they consequently gave an erroneous representation of God. Doing so would indirectly dishonor Him. It would have been lying about Him, as well as accusing Him of raising up an impostor (Jesus).

If the dead aren’t raised, Paul reasons, Christ certainly wouldn’t have been raised either. Again, Paul emphasizes that the entire Gospel rests on the doctrine of resurrection.

Next Monday we’ll see Paul strengthen the connection between Christ’s resurrection and the resurrection of believers. For now, however, I want to leave you with the thought that the Gospel absolutely depends on the resurrection. Although we tend to focus on Jesus dying for our sin when we proclaim the Gospel, writing this Bible Study has helped me see how foundational the resurrection is to that Gospel.

I’d love hearing what the Study taught you. Please feel free to use the Comments Section or The Outspoken TULIP  Facebook Page to tell me what stands out to you, to ask questions and to interact with each other. Together, we can rejoice that Jesus Christ has indeed risen from the dead. Hallelujah!

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