Saturday, May 16, 2015

Jeremiah 3:19 and "Our Father, who art in Heaven"

In Jeremiah 3:19 we find these words on the lips of YHWH, “‘I said, How I would set you among my sons, and give you a pleasant land, a heritage most beautiful of all nations. And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me."  The passage speaks of God blessing Israel and it clearly indicates that His desire for Israel was that they would be faithful to Him and trust Him to care for them. He wanted His people to embrace Him as their Father and all that means. He wanted them to see Him as the one committed to their wellbeing and prosperity. The text indicates that God's expectation was that once Israel saw and understood the nature of their relationship to Him as a father to his son they would walk faithfully with Him, they would trust Him.

But instead, in the next verse the imagery changes from father and son to husband and unfaithful wife,  20 Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel, declares the Lord.’ The imagery changes because there is no better picture of unfaithfulness than a wife who goes whoring after other lovers. God offered Israel sonship, but they rejected it because they wanted to keep their options open.

So in Matthew 6:9, when Jesus tells His disciples to pray, "Our Father", He is insisting they take the Fatherhood of God as a present reality in their lives. Could He have had the Jeremiah passage in mind? I think He did. And if He did it would mean at least a couple of things. (1) They were to see themselves as the New Israel. They were now the sons of God (cf. Matthew 5:9, Romans 8:15ff). In Jeremiah we see that God desired Israel to recognize Him as Father. This would have been a new concept to Israel. (2) This recognition of the Fatherhood of YHWH came with an expectation, that they would not turn from following Him. So, back in Matthew's Gospel Jesus is saying to His disciples, "This relationship, this Father-son privilege is yours but it comes with a built in understanding of mutual faithfulness". 

This mutual faithfulness looks like this, to use Jeremiah's words, God the Father, has made the disciples of Jesus, including you and me, His sons, He has given us a pleasant land and a heritage most beautiful of all nations (salvation). Therefore, we are to call Him Father and walk faithfully in His ways. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Trusting God

"St. Ignatius of Loyola notes that sin is unwillingness to trust that what God wants is our deepest happiness. Until I am absolutely convinced of this I will do everything I can to keep my hands on the controls of my life, because I think I know better than God what I need for my fulfillment." ~ David Brenner

Musings on The Lord's Prayer

The so called Lord's Prayer should probably more accurately be called the disciples prayer. It's purpose was to teach the disciples, and by extension us, how to pray. Prayer is so vital to the life of the believer. The Lord's prayer begins with, "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name."


First, notice to whom we are to pray. The prayer indicates that it should be our first thought when we come to the Triune God in prayer to address Him as Father. This does not mean that we should never pray to Jesus or the Holy Spirit, but considering that Jesus is the one doing the teaching it makes sense that He would teach us to recall that most precious aspect of His relationship with the Almighty, that of Father and child. Even the Holy Spirit wants us to live into this aspect of our relationship with God as He cries, "Abba, Father" (Romans 8). It is not difficult to think of God as an all powerful Being of immeasurable power, but perhaps you, like me may struggle with thinking of Him as your Father. My own father was at best a picture of how deeply sin has affected man's ability to truly embrace and model fatherhood. Human fathers are, at best, a very dim icon of God's fatherhood. A father should care for his children, he should provide for all their basic needs, he should protect them from danger, he should love them so much that he is willing to do whatever it takes to assure the child's wellbeing, even if it means denying the child something the child believes he must have. My father denied me a relationship with him. My heavenly Father has caused me to be born anew into His family, through His uniquely begotten Son, Jesus.


Second,  notice where the Father dwells. He is in heaven. Heaven is a real place. It is the realm of God's domain. It is the place where His will is perfectly done. It is a holy place because He is there.


Then comes the first request. "Hallowed be Thy name". Make Your name holy. Our first concern in prayer should be that God's name would be seen as holy in all the earth. So, we begin by asking God to elevate His name, His character, His will, His plan over all else. When something is holy it is special, cherished, highly valued, respected. It is other than mundane, worldly, secular, normal. Does God's name strike awe in me? When I think of my heavenly Father does it cause me to pause and worship?


The fact that I am to pray, "Our Father", lets me know that I am not alone. Jesus wanted us to know that we do not pray alone. We are family, community. God is our Father. I am not permitted to even think of my heavenly Father without thinking of my family, His children, the Church.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hell is Coming to the Church in the Form of Human Rights

The Church in the United States needs to prepare itself for what is coming. As we watch the definition of marriage rapidly change all over the world we seem to be holding out that things will somehow be different here. We seem to have convinced ourselves that the mighty Supremes (the Supreme Court) will do the right thing and allow the age old definition of marriage to stand. I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet, but it is my opinion that Hell is coming to Church and it will take the form of civil and human rights. And the Church of Jesus Christ, historically the greatest defender of the poor, the weak and oppressed, is about to become the biggest violator of so-called human rights out there in the eyes of the world.

The prophet Isaiah warned us that there is within man such a desire to pursue his own morality that he is willing to call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20-21). Even now, there is evidence that the Gospel is no longer seen as hope for those who are bound by their sin, it is, instead seen as the one hindrance to people being allowed to freely express themselves, to be who God made them. Modern man, if he even believes in a god, believes that this god finds his/her/it's greatest joy in us discovering who we are and then "running with it". People are no longer sinners, they are simply misunderstood and once the nations of the world replace righteousness with tolerance all will be well.

In a recent article posted on the official website of the Scottish Legal News (http://www.scottishlegal.com/2015/04/28/church-warns-its-ministers-they-may-be-sued-for-refusing-to-wed-gay-couples/), it warns that ministers in the Church of Scotland, although currently protected by the law, may find themselves in court if they refuse to perform so-called same sex marriages. The cost of defending itself against this onslaught could bring the work of the kingdom to a screeching halt.

The issue of so-called same sex marriage is going to challenge the very existence of the Gospel and the Church, not just here, but around the world. Our leaders need to get out in front of this and begin talking about the storm that is upon us. Now is the time to begin educating our people, strategizing. And yet, the silence on the part of the local Church is deafening. Meanwhile the man in the pew is questioning whether homosexuality is actually a sin, not because he is convinced it isn't, but because his son has recently confessed his attraction to other men. And so, he reasons, "If my son is this way perhaps I've misunderstood the Bible all these years."

Paul, in Romans 1:16-17, loudly proclaimed, "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation, to everyone who believes." Do we still believe this? Will we stand with Paul and continue to tell the world that it is wrong, that it needs the Savior, Jesus Christ? Or will we baptize sin and attribute our new found understanding to the work of the Holy Spirit? Only time will tell.

A very common exhortation used in many churches at the close of their service is found in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. It reads as follows, "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong, let all that you do be done in love." To that I say, "Amen!" and the time has come.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Praying the Prayer Jesus Taught us to Pray

Many years ago I was a part of a church that was into so called spiritual warfare. It involved having prayer meetings where we "took authority" over demonic powers and principalities in the name of Jesus. We would "pull down" demonic strongholds in our prayers and "cast down" Satan's minions in order to take back our city for God. In fact I remember reading a book that greatly impacted me regarding how the Church could take back its city from the powers of darkness. It was deeply
disturbing to me to find out later that the author was in deep bondage to drugs and homosexuality while he was teaching the Church of Jesus Christ how to take back their cities for Christ. It seemed that his own methodology had failed him.

About two years ago I attended an ecumenical prayer gathering at a local church and again I found myself at a gathering of Christians who were going to "take back that which the devil had stolen". The pastor shouted at dark forces, made declarations of faith before God and the heavenly host, and urged the congregation to unite their faith with his for our city. After about thirty minutes I could not take it anymore, so I left. This past year our city was named as one of the most violent cities in America. Why is that? Is it because people like me do not have enough faith in the weapons of our warfare?

So how should we pray for our cities? As I recall, we are not the first generation to ask the Lord about prayer. His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). And thankfully, He did not leave them on our own to figure things out for ourselves. In Matthew 6 and Luke 11 He answers that request for them and for us. In my upcoming posts I am going to take a look at what we have come to know as the Lord's Prayer. But for now, allow me to say a few brief introductory words about this prayer.

First, Jesus gave His instructions specifically for the purpose of discipling His followers in the proper way to pray. In Matthew's account it is clear that He expected prayer to be a vital part of His followers lives. You see that in the simple phrase, "And when you pray" (v.5), not, "And if you pray". And second, Jesus, more than anyone else, knew the value of a life invigorated by prayer (Luke 4:42, 5:16 and 6:12).

As a Reformed Christian, but especially during my tenure in the Anglican Church, I have developed a deep appreciation for the Lord's Prayer and it's place in the life of the Church. I hope to share some of that with you in the coming weeks and months.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Some Musings About Technolgy and the Local Church

This morning on my way to church I listened to a wonderful sermon by a nationally known preacher. Modern technology has given us inexpensive, easy access to gifted expositors of God's Word. My personal iPod is filled, not with music, but with sermons by men like Dr. Leithart, Steve Wilkins, Alister Begg, John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul. On that same iPod I have Max McLean reading the Scriptures as only he can. What a blessing from the Lord!

While it is true that technology has provided us with the means to hear God's Word preached or read any time of day, I often wonder if it has also caused many Christians to not care about the quality of the local pulpit. So what if the pastor can't preach? We can turn on the radio, log onto our computer, or turn on our iPod and hear a sound message from a pastor on the other side of the country. I spoke with a man last year who confided in me that he did not think any of the pastors at his church could preach and yet, the idea of looking for a place where he would be fed spiritually has never crossed his mind. This man values the relationships he has at his church and that is good. Relationships are important.

Perhaps technology has made "church shopping" less of an issue. If that is true, then praise God!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Calvin on Prayer

In the Institutes Calvin calls prayer “the chief exercise of faith…by which we daily receive God’s benefits.”  Institutes III, title of chapter 20 ~ John Calvin