Years ago I worked in a financial brokerage. In particular I worked in compliance. We were very meticulous about ensuring that we said and did everything right. One phrase I remember seeing regularly is, “Past performance is not indicative of future results.” In other words, just because a fund or company has done well in the past does not mean that it will do well in the future. Typically this is appended to data that demonstrates solid past performance.
In the Christian world however, this phrase is turned on its head. It is in fact very much non-compliant with the Scripture.
What the writers of Scripture tend to do is unload piles of data upon us to show us that this God who has worked powerfully in the past will in fact do so in the future.
Just this morning I was reading the 77th Psalm in my devotions and I saw this same tactic. The Psalmist is, in the present, crying aloud to the Lord (v.1). He is feeling the pinch. Things are hard.
So what does he do? In both verses 5 & 11 we see him looking at the historical data for present comfort (Ps. 77.5, 11).
This quote greatly encouraged me to rest in the perfection of Christ’s work. This resting brings me to treasuring him. I pray it encourages you too. (the emphasis in underlining is my doing)…
At the cross this “righteousness” was found; human, yet divine: provided for man and presented to him by God for relief of conscience and justification of life. On the one word, “It is finished,” as on a heavenly resting place, weary souls sat down and were refreshed.
The voice from the tree did not summon them to do, but to be satisfied with what was done. Millions of bruised consciences there found healing and peace.
Belief in that finished work brought the sinner into favor with God, and it did not leave him in uncertainty as to this. The justifying work of Calvary was God’s way, not only of bringing pardon, but of securing certainty.
It was the only perfect thing which had ever been presented to God in man’s behalf; and so extraordinary was this perfection that it might he used by man in his transactions with God as if it were his own. –Horatius Bonar, The Everlasting Righteousness
(Isa 53.9) and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Neither my mind nor my heart can fathom the polemical collision that occurred when Jesus, in his holy humanity, suffered the ill treatment, abuse and fermented scorn of his executioners. There really are no earthly comparisons or illustrations to faithfully communicate the injustice incurred at the hands of evil men as they shrouded the perfect and honorable one with abuse and shame.
But as I sat an chewed on this passage the word deceit jumped out at me. As I think about deceit I immediately think of Jacob. Who himself was a cunning deceiver. He tricked Isaac, Esau, Laban & others. He is the type of Bible hero that portrays a need for a redeemer. Shamefully, I can relate to this Jewish Patriarch.
And this is one of the amazing facets of the cross. Not only did Jesus endure such injustice from sinners but he did it for sinners.
Here he is absolutely free from sin. But at the same time he is shrouded with sin. He is, as 2 Cor. 5.21 says, made to be sin on our behalf. He did this while maintaining the integrity of his holy humanity. However, he was shrouded in the sewer clothes of our iniquity.
Therefore we can rightly say that while there was no deceit in his mouth, there was indeed deceivers on his mind, deceit on his back! There were a billion Jacobs engraved on his breastplate as this high priest went in …
I don’t know that I have ever seen an experience that could rival it. There was crying so loud that people could hear it from a far distance away. The crying was strange though, it was mixed with happiness and lament. It was 2,500 or so years ago in the land of Israel. The exiles had returned and had laid the foundation for the new temple. The older folks were wailing with lament because they had seen the previous temple in all of its glory. The younger folks who had grown up in exile were excited and full of joy as they looked ahead to this new temple.
The strange chorus of weeping and wailing punctuates the epic scene in Ezra 3 as the foundation for the new temple is laid.
At the same time we can read of the prophet Zechariah dealing with the attitudes of lament here as well as the forthcoming fear of man in chapters 4-5 of Ezra. One of the big prophetic hammers that Zechariah brings to this party is a statement about what God is doing and the fact that people are not to despise the day of small things.
“This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’ ”…For whoever has despised the day of …
We all know that women are very different then men. However, we don’t always appreciate it.
Over the last several years I have watched my wife prepare for birthday parties, holiday seasons, or other special events. She, like many women, gives considerable time and attention to the details. In particular she works to ensure that the colors, design, and even the most minute matters are covered. I’ve seen gum balls color-coded, paper cut outs, cup cakes and napkins match, balloons, sparkly soda, snow sprinkles on a red table cloth, swirly straws, and even a big metal bucket filled with ice to so people will feel “festive” when they get their drink. This is what women do. Men on the other hand, we think function. We reuse our forks, wipe our chin on our sleeves, and pass on the straws. We skim past the details without noticing.
In the past I have noticed the details and asked, “why?” My wife lovingly instructed me that it is an expression of creativity, joy, and love. It is festive.
While struggling to pull this type of thing off my self, I have come to appreciate it. What’s more, I’ve come to baptize it into the spiritual realm so as to love my wife more, appreciate our differentness, and marvel at God’s design.
If you were to comb through your Old Testament you would find that God is a God of detail. You have chapters and chapters of detail about the tabernacle in Exodus. We have dimensions, colors, types, …
Two of the most heart-grabbing events in our human experience are death and birth. When a friend or loved one dies we attend the funeral, coming alongside of the family to grieve with them. When someone close to us has a baby we likewise come to rejoice with them. In both events the arrow that is shot through our hearts is life. Life intersects differently with our minds and emotions depending upon if it is birth or death; but it is life or the absence of it that brings the reaction.
The Bible uses both of these concepts to describe the Christian experience. Prior to conversion we were dead spiritually (Eph. 2.1). This spiritual death was characterized by separation from God and expressed in terms of evil deeds (Col. 1.21; Titus 3.3). Once converted, we are brought to life (Rom. 6.4, 13; Eph. 2.4-10). This life is characterized by communion with God and expressed in terms of obedience to God’s Word and loving loyalty to him (1 Jn. 3.1-10).
As a pastor my life is characterized by an incessant longing for people to taste and see the goodness of God’s grace in the gospel. I pray for it, plan for, organize events to promote it, and even dream about it. I want to see the gospel come to our city and our church. I want evident gospel renewal.
In Charles Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities, there is a memorable scene where a large cask of wine is dropped and broken in the street. The cask had burst like a walnut shell and gushing all over the stones in the street. Dickens goes on to write:
All the people within reach had suspended their business, or their idleness, to run to the spot and drink the wine. The rough, irregular stones of the street, pointing every way, and designed, one might have thought, expressly to lame all living creatures that approached them, had dammed it into little pools; these were surrounded, each by its own jostling group or crowd, according to its size. Some men kneeled down, made scoops of their two hands joined, and sipped, or tried to help women, who bent over their shoulders, to sip, before the wine had all run out between their fingers. Others, men and women, dipped in the puddles with little mugs of mutilated earthenware, or even with handkerchiefs from women’s heads, which were squeezed dry into infants’ mouths; others made small mud-embankments, to stern the wine as it ran; others, directed …
As a parent there is a special privilege in watching your children learn and develop. We see them try new things and succeed; other times they fail. Sometimes there are those tense moments when you are standing there watching them and rooting for them to get something done, and then you notice that you have been unconsciously going through the motions with your own hands! We get so wrapped into their experiences even as we root them on with loving encouragement.
And what happens when they don’t get it done? What do we do when the 3 year-old cannot get the puzzle completed or ride his bike like his older siblings or pick up the grocery bag? We look them in the eye and tell them, “Good job. You’ll get this. Let me help you.” This level of understanding, affirmation, and assistance seems to go a long way to encourage our children to “keep trying” and not be discouraged.
When I was reading in the 103rd Psalm yesterday I was struck by the 13-14th verses:
“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14)
How about that? In the context of forgiving our sin and showing us with grace, we are reminded that God is a Father who is understanding and compassionate towards his children.
This was particularly encouraging to me as it struck me that I often forget who I am. …
Last month I read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I was vaguely familiar with the story but definitely unfamiliar with the characters. As I read I was intrigued by Atticus Finch. At every turn he seemed to give people the benefit of the doubt and even (perhaps to a fault) willing to cover character defects with loving understanding.
It is the interaction with characters like these that showcase some of the pleasures of reading. When we read we find ourselves reacting. These reactions serve to reveal what is in our hearts.
In my case, Atticus kept on surprising me, even after I thought I had him figured out. Over the course of the book these reactions betrayed my heart. For example, he surprised me with his comments about and perspective on Mrs. Dubose. She was a mean, rude, racist woman. She stood against a lot of what Atticus gave himself for. She was also a morphine addict who had vowed to get clean before she died. And she did. After her death Atticus talks to Jem and Scout and says,
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to …
Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Today is Memorial Day here in the US and it serves a great day to remember those who have served both their generation and the generations to come through their heroic defense of freedom.
I think it is fitting and good to honor those who have sacrificed for others. As a veteran myself, I am especially inclined to be passionately patriotic. However, as a Christian I see this day as a gigantic arrow pointing to a more Memorial Day.