Isaiah 26:1

“There is a lesson for us, brethren, in times of fluctuation, of change of opinion, of shaking of institutions, and of new social, economical, and political questions, threatening day by day to reorganise society. ‘We have a strong city’; and whatever may come-and much destructive will come, and much that is venerable and antique, rooted in men’s prejudices, and having survived through and oppressed the centuries, will have to go; but God’s polity, His form of human society of which the perfect ideal and antitype, so to speak, lies concealed in the heavens, is everlasting.”

-Alexander Maclaren,from Expositions of Holy Scripture, Isaiah and Jeremiah

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

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Darkness on the Edge of Town

 

 

“Well everybody’s got a secret, Sonny
Yeah something that they just can’t face
Some folks they spend their whole lives just trying to keep it
And they carry it with them, every step that they take…”

– Bruce Springsteen, from Darkness on the Edge of Town

He tried to hide for the better part of a year. The king, with a lustful glance, saw that glance progress rapidly to full-blown adultery, and then essentially what was murder of the woman’s husband. Finally, with the weight of what he had done overwhelming him, the king confessed to God what God already knew.

“Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Nathan replied, ‘The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.'”
– 2 Samuel 12:13 (NIV)

I’ve always found it baffling that King David, “a man after God’s own heart”, and one who wrote most of the book of Psalms, fell so dramatically in his life. When you read David’s Psalms, you know, instinctively, that this is a man who knew God, and knew Him intimately. But even the great king had something he just couldn’t face. The communion he enjoyed with God was badly damaged, and he knew it. And yet with all his knowledge, he still felt that just maybe he had kept it hidden from God.

I was reading Psalm 139 this morning, one of King David’s most well-loved Psalms. He explains how intimately God knows him, and had known him from before his birth. He then acknowledges that even in the bitter realization of his own sin, that God has seen deeper than David is capable of looking. There is nowhere David can turn from himself and escape the presence of God – “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (v. 7). David was a great sinner, but also a great repenter. God still loved him and restored him.

I’ve listened to Springsteen’s “Darkness…” hundreds of times over the years, and always find the above verses resonate with me the most. Just like King David, I have things that I just can’t face. And like an anchor, I still carry some with me, every step I take. Psalm 139 pushes me to let them go. God knows “when I sit and when I rise” (v. 2) and “before a word is on my tongue” He knows it completely (v. 4). Psalm 139 urges me to drop the act. What possibly can be hidden from God? Why would I want to? Those secrets, Sonny, have been left at the cross.

Above image by Peter Dargatz from Pixabay

Book Review: “The Example of Jesus”

The Example of Jesus is one in a series titled ‘The Jesus Library’. Written in 1985 by Michael Griffiths, Principal of London Bible College, it seeks to answer a variety of questions, the primary one being “How do we become genuinely conformed to Jesus’ image?”

Griffiths categorizes his 10 chapters under three headings – “The Basis for Imitating Jesus”, “The Ways of Jesus”, and “How We Can Be Like Jesus”. He begins by discussing teacher-discipleships in both the Greek (Plato & Socrates) and Jewish (Moses-Joshua, Elijah-Elisha, etc.) worlds and how the student would seek to imitate his teacher. More foundationally, the root of this comes from Genesis 1:26-27 and our being made in the image of God – naturally, imitation should follow. We see the greatest example of this in the person of Christ as the image of God (Hebrews 1:3) and will see it in those who are Christ followers ultimately, if only now faintly. As Griffiths puts it, “…fallen man once made in the image of God, but spoiled like a broken pot (Jer. 18:4), is now to be remade and restored after this new and perfect image of God in Christ. Isn’t that a most exciting statement?”

One of my favorite chapters was “The Colours of His Life”, one in which Griffiths readily admits “…is inevitably incomplete in describing the qualities found in Christ”, but yet gives beautiful examples of how Jesus showed us perfectly what the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 should ultimately look like. Qualities such as humility and obedience are difficult for many of us, but Griffiths takes the time to show how critical they are. Highlighting humility, he says, “Achieving it in practice means many internal struggles and repeated acts of self-humbling: to apologise, to make the first approach, to accept unkindness without murmuring and self-pity”. Another particularly convicting chapter was “The Example of Jesus in Prayer”. I find prayer to be such a challenge, especially doing it consistently. Griffiths seeks to help us by pointing to examples Jesus gave throughout the New Testament, with a special focus on Luke’s Gospel. What I found most interesting about this chapter was the connection Griffiths made between Jesus’ intercession for Peter and his remarkable turnaround from denying Jesus to the success of his preaching and ministry in Acts.

Throughout this book, Griffiths quotes from a wide variety of authors and make his claims based on Scripture. Griffiths sees no other way to know Christ intimately and follow Him rightly than by meeting Him in His Word:

“We must avoid vagueness and shapeless generalities at all cost. Through careful Bible study, we shall shape our ‘great expectations’ of what it means to become like him. If our concepts are amorphous, ill-defined and foggy in the extreme – then we shall only have the foggiest of notions of what God promises and what we are aiming at. True though it is, that now we see darkly as in one of those metal mirrors made in Corinth, we can gain a much greater definition from Scripture. We cannot plead ignorance with a dusty unopened Bible on our shelves.”

I am surprised Griffiths’ book is not more widely known. Although written over 30 years ago, it doesn’t feel the least bit dated. I would recommend this highly and consider it one of the best books on discipleship I’ve ever read. Wonderful!

Image from Henry Formby [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Self-Esteem

“It is always a bad sign when a man begins to think extremely well of himself. I would rather, a great deal, hear a man complain, and cry out before God, under a deep sense of humiliation, than hear him utter a single word that reveals a spirit of satisfaction with his own condition. What we are in Christ, is a thing to be perfectly satisfied with and rejoiced over; for, in Christ, believers are justified and accepted; but as for what we are in our own personal character, the very best of us must still feel that there is much over which we have to mourn.”

-Charles H. Spurgeon, from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 47, Sermon #2734

 

Image ”Charles Haddon Spurgeon”’ / Bildbeilage in Hoefs, C.H.Spurgeon von 1934// public domain http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bild:Spurgeon.png {{PD}}

Luke 19:1-10

Zacchaeus

“Zacchaeus climbed a tree out of curiosity to see him, and was melted to repentance and charmed down from the tree when this wonderful man actually wanted to stay with him, of all people. But surely we can not be expected to be like that…but as we have seen, this is what Scripture expects – that disciples will become like their teacher, that children will display their likeness to their heavenly Father. And is that not what first attracted so many of us, and convinced us of the reality of Christian faith? It was traces of the image of God being re-created in Christians we met – they shared in a fainter way the brightness of his glory.”

-Michael Griffiths, from The Example of Jesus, p. 131

 

Image via Randers Museum of Art [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“A Day That Changed The World”

“How many of us, I wonder, have seen our own sin and failure in the light of Jesus’ death? Certainly the jealousy, prejudice and hatred of the religious leaders is not confined to men of the first century. Also many today are guilty of the same weakness, fear and indecision that Pontius Pilate shared when confronted with the challenge of Jesus Christ. And those in the crowd who were so easily led to shout ‘Crucify him!’ are little different from those who stoop to dishonesty or other malpractices, because ‘everybody does it’, and so ignore the teaching of Jesus.”

dayworldSo says Gordon Bridger in “A Day That Changed The World” , his straightforward account of the death of Christ, targeted mainly to skeptics I think, but a good read for believers as well. He begins by asking the reader to examine the facts of the crucifixion, then continues with the events that led up to Jesus’ death. Chapters are short (usually 6-7 pages each) and include the character of God, the problem of man, and our response to the cross. Bridger intersperses some interesting anecdotes here and there, but the focus is mainly on the testimony of Scripture to the events surrounding Christ’s death. At 96 pages, it’s a quick read (I read the whole thing on Good Friday). Paul explains in that familiar passage in 1 Corinthians 15 that “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…” I think Bridger took this verse as his focal point for the entire book, and with good reason. Would recommend this one to read any time, but especially leading up to Resurrection Sunday. Well done!

Ephesians 2:8

“We must learn that forgiveness of sins, Christ, and the Holy Ghost, are freely granted unto us at the preaching of faith, in spite of our sinfulness. We are not to waste time thinking how unworthy we are of the blessings of God. We are to know that it pleased God freely to give us His unspeakable gifts. If He offers His gifts free of charge, why not take them? Why worry about our lack of worthiness? Why not accept gifts with joy and thanksgiving?”

-Martin Luther, from Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Image from Workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons