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Joy in Lord’s Day worship

Valley of Vision: Lord’s Day Evening

MOST HOLY GOD,
Animate me with joy that in heaven praise
will never cease,
that adoration will continue for ever,
that no flesh will grow weary,
no congregations disperse,
no affections flag,
no thoughts wander,
no will droop,
but all will be adoring love.

 

We have our worship together today, and as the Lord’s Day hours progress and come to their end this evening, I pray I will reflect on the joy to come of eternal worship among the assembly, in heaven, forever.

window 3 spurgeon quote

Being busy is not the problem

I understand how life can get busy as different obligations creep in. I know there are seasons of busy-ness and that’s OK. But here is something to think about.

People who say they are busy say sometimes that if they were less busy, they would have time to read the Bible. If they just weren’t so busy, they’d have time for serving. If they didn’t have such a crowded day, they’d have time for ministry. Being busy is sometimes the reason they do not meet with God or serve the kingdom.

I’ll look at the issue in two ways, first, here is John MacArthur talking about giving. He isn’t talking about being busy, but the concept is the same. If you had more money, you’d give more. If you had more time, you’re do more. Here is JMac:

Some people say, “Well, if I just had more I’d give more.” No, I’ve heard that. You always hear them say, “If I had $1 million I’d give it over here and I’d give…if I could just win the lottery. Oh man, if I could just win the lottery.” The question is not what would you do with $1 million. The question is what are you doing with this $4.00 you’ve got in your pocket. What are you doing with the $10.00?  What are you doing with the $20.00 or the $60.00? That’s the issue, because Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 says, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money. When good things increase, those who consume them increase.”

Another way to say that is, the only advantage to money is to watch it slip through your fingers. The more you get, the more that goes. So it isn’t a question of if you had more you’d give more. No, that’s not the issue. Jesus said it this way, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much, and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” Sermon, The Biblical View of Money

It isn’t a question of if you had more you’d give more. I can attest to that. Confession time: sometimes I’m not busy at all and that’s when I do the least for Jesus.

I work in education, which means I have extended time off during the summer break. This year our break is about 8 1/2 weeks. I work hard during the school year. Most school years I also work a second job in the After School Program, as I will be doing this year again. When I arrive home between 5:30-6:00pm, I begin my second shift of reading the Bible, writing, praying etc. Thursday nights are devoted to Bible Discussion Group, and of course, Sundays are for worship service with either Bible group or fellowship time afterward. Add the occasional social time with friends, school meetings, and must-do tasks (car oil change, doctor appointment,) and you have a pretty full schedule. I’m not crazy busy, but the school year has structured time that mostly fills my day from bedtime-to-bedtime.

All I can think about during the school year is how happy I will be during Summer when I have all this time to myself. “I’ll read the Bible more…write more…research different topics…read theological books…” And I do. At the beginning. I get up early, do my spiritual tasks, spend the rest of the day productively for the Kingdom.

As summertime slides on, though, so does my schedule. I get up later, watch more movies, snuggle with the cats longer, take more naps. I spend less time doing things for the kingdom and more time just being comfortable for myself. There have been a few days when I sit here, the Bible within reach, and never have opened it once during the day once.

If I had more time I’d do more? Not hardly. Sloth and laziness are built into us I think, and I soon fall victim to it. I have to work diligently during summer to ensure that I maintain my prayers, do my Bible readings, and complete my spiritual kingdom work when what I really want to do is watch Youtube videos of Kids Escaping Cribs or Funny Cats.

So I can attest that having more time does not mean that I’d do more. In fact, for me it’s the opposite. When school starts in ten days I’ll be grateful for the structure again. My work schedule really helps me keep track of my spiritual self.

Don’t delude yourself into thinking it is because you’re so crazy busy you have no time to read your Bible, pray, or serve. As John MacArthur said on the subject of giving, it’s not about not having millions of dollars, it is about what are you doing with $4 in your pocket. Whether you have 24 hours to yourself or 20 minutes to spare, what are you doing with the time? If the issue regarding money isn’t “Oh man, if I could just win the lottery”, it’s the same for time. It isn’t about “Oh man, if I could just have all day to myself.”

Here are a few resources on balancing work-busy with (summer)-lazy.

What does the Bible say about being too busy?

In our supersonic postmodern society, known for its busyness and its increasing ability to deliver instantaneously, we find ourselves hurried more than our ancestors ever could have imagined. We have come a long way from the horse-and-buggy days, and because of that, our twenty-four hours a day seem more and more restrictive. We never feel like we have enough time to accomplish everything we want or need to do, and the clock keeps ticking

Parents, don’t waste your lazy summer days

But is it really such a bad thing to have wide open spaces in our planners? Might this be the very thing we need in order to refocus our priorities and make the most of the short season of time we’re given with our children?

Tim Challies’ book and course with a practical guide to productivity
Do More Better

I wrote this short, fast-paced, practical guide to productivity to share what I have learned about getting things done in today’s digital world. It will help you learn to structure your life to do the most good to the glory of God.

Challies’ book is also a course with the same title at Ligonier Connect.

What is a cornerstone?

The beauty of the examples and analogies Jesus uses is that any person can intuitively understand them, even if they are not familiar with them. Even if we’re not farmers, we understand ‘we are the sheep and He is the Shepherd.’ Even if we’re not gardeners, we understand when He says He is the vine and we are the branches.’ Even though we might not be a builder, we understand when it’s written that He is the chief cornerstone.

But it brings more depth and understanding to bear when we delve more deeply into some of these analogies. So let’s look at Cornerstone.

Photo Source

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone (Psalm 118:22).

therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation” (Isaiah 28:16).

let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. (Acts 4:10–11).

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19–20).

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious,” (1 Peter 2:4–6).

A cornerstone in the House of Giove and Ganymede

Did you know that the concept of cornerstone was mentioned these several  times in scripture? We can understand that cornerstone is important to a building. But how important? What does a cornerstone do? What is its function? What would happen if the cornerstone was removed?

A stone that can be in the foundation, above ground level or at the summit of the roof (the “capstone”). The cornerstone of a large building gives it a reliable and firm foundation, leading to the cohesion and stability of the whole building. In Scripture, such foundation-stones are taken as symbolic of the basis of faith in Jesus Christ and the church. Jesus Christ is thus represented as both the foundation upon which the church is built, and the capstone which crowns the whole. Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes

Also-

The most significant stone in important buildings is the cornerstone. Usually it is the first stone laid at a formal ceremony. Often it is engraved with the date of the building and perhaps some other ascription, honoring a person or an event. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Jesus is called the gōnia or “cornerstone” of the church. In fact, Jesus used this title for Himself. Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words

I thought this architectural description from Wikipedia was the clearest:

The cornerstone (or foundation stone) concept is derived from the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.

Is Jesus your cornerstone? Does He determine the position of your entire life?

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Further Reading

Making Christ Attractive in a Pagan World
JMac July 2 2017 sermon segment on the cornerstone

The Approachableness of Jesus (reprise)

There are so many attributes of Jesus Christ than we can praise and ponder. One of them is His kingliness.

He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19:16). God has given Jesus all authority in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18), therefore He is above all authorities anywhere that can possibly be imagined. He is High and exalted on His throne and He is KING.

On earth few of us have actually been in the presence of a King or Queen. There are relatively few royals on earth, compared to number of the population of the plebeians like us.

If one is favored enough to visit a royal, there is strict protocol. ABC News reminds us, regarding a visit with Queen Elizabeth II-

There is a long list of protocols that guides one’s behavior in the presence of Her Majesty and even though the president and the first lady are not required to abide by all of them, there are certain formalities they do have to follow.

There is the “no-touch” rule…
Wait until the Queen extends her hand to shake it
No gripping her hand or tightly pumping it
No hugs, no kiss on the cheek, no touching the shoulder

Refer to the Queen as “Your Majesty” initially then “ma’am” subsequently
Bow upon being introduced
Do not turn your back to the Queen
Wear conservative clothing with not much flesh showing

And so much more.

I remember the HBO mini-series John Adams. It was an excellent series, showing the life of our second President from a fiery attorney in his youth through to old age, in other words, most of his political life.

There came the moment when the Americans had won the Revolutionary war. Adams had been given the privilege and responsibility as diplomat to begin relations with The United Kingdom as national co-equals. He was to meet with the King. The moment was fraught with tension for two reasons. He had all of the future of America resting on his shoulders in how he approached the Monarch these next few moments. Would the United Kingdom be an enemy or an ally?

The second reason was protocol. Here was a scrappy lawyer born in 1735 in British America, (Quincy MA), and was American through and through, about to meet the most powerful man in the world, King George III. Americans had not been known to stand on formality and protocol, and Adams had been strongly tutored for this meeting. Bow three times, once upon entering, once when halfway to the ‘Royal Presence’ and a third time as you enter the ‘Royal Presence’. Avert your eyes until standing before the ‘Royal Presence’. Wear suitable clothing, “something more British.” Unsuitable clothing has been the undoing of many an Ambassador, we learn.

See how it went, at the link. It’s an extremely memorable cinematic moment and an incredible piece of acting, as well as a visible punctuation for my point. I can’t embed, HBO has disabled it.

There have always been strict protocols when meeting royalty. In Esther 4:11 we read,

All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.

This scene is described in Esther 5:1. The King is holding his scepter.

On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, in front of the king’s quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace.

Wikipedia

Thrones were always higher, set upon a dais in order to visibly indicate the lower position of the person approaching the Royal Presence. This is a photo of Napoleon’s throne. Pharaoh is described as sitting on a throne in Exodus 11:5; Exodus 12:29.

Solomon wrote,

Do not claim honor in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the place of great men; 7For it is better that it be said to you, “Come up here,” Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, Whom your eyes have seen.

And yet, another aspect of the uniqueness of Jesus continues. He sits upon His throne, the highest of the high and lifted up (Isaiah 6:1) and yet we may approach!

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12).

Must we dress in a certain way? Must we wait to be introduced or summoned? Must we bow in sequential order as we reach certain spots in the throne room? Must we avert our eyes until He speaks? No! No! No! No!

Our Lord Jesus is said to be the Mediator between God and man. Now, observe, that the office of mediator implies at once that he should be approachable. ~Spurgeon
He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings and yet He has told us we may approach Him with petitions large and small! He is tremendous. Every time we pray we approach Him. He is a God who sees (El Roi Genesis 16:14) and a God who hears!

In 1920 Frank Boreham wrote a book titled “A bunch of everlasting; or, Texts that made history“. His book contains biographies of famous Christians who came to the saving grace of salvation as the light of one particular verse broke upon their hearts. John Bunyan met Jesus through this verse in John 6:37,

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

From Boreham’s text we read,

In his pitiful distress, there broke upon the soul of John Bunyan a vision of the infinite approach-ability of Jesus. John Bunyan’s text-verse was a revelation to him of this approach-ability.

‘This scripture did most sweetly visit my soul; and him that Cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” Oh ! the comfort that I had from his word, in no wise! As who should say, “By no means, for nothing whatever he hath done. ‘Him that cometh I will in no wise cast out!’ Like the gate that swings open on hearing the magic ‘sesame’; Like the walls that fell at Jericho when the blast of the trumpets arose; the wall round Bunyan’s mountain fell with a crash before that great and golden word. ‘Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out!’ The barriers had vanished! The way was open!

Christ is approachable. Praise Him! Approach today, with no worries of what you must say or how you must look. He will in no wise cast you out. How sweet is this knowledge.

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Further Reading

Spurgeon sermon- The Approachableness of Jesus

Frank Boreham, A Bunch of Everlastings, online text

Wikipedia entry about John Bunyan

Etiquette: How to Address a King or Queen

Preaching in Jesus’ name

Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the men of Anathoth, who seek your life, and say, “Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord, or you will die by our hand” (Jeremiah 11:21).

and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. (Acts 5:40).

The name of Jesus Christ is extremely powerful. I’m not talking that it’s powerful like a magic charm, or a mantra, or a mystical incantation. His name is powerful because Jesus is the most powerful person in the Universe, because He sustains the world with His will, because He became the unique, one and only sacrifice for sin, died, and rose again defeating death.  He is the I AM. He is the Authority. It’s that simple.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18)

You can preach in any other name and the heart of the listener might or might not be emotionally or mentally affected. He might become emotional at a good speech delivery. She might feel temporarily joyful or sad but that burns off because an emotional reaction it doesn’t reach the soul. Only the word of God can affect the soul, and the only name in which we preach the true word is Jesus.

When the words affect the soul, the reaction has staying power, whether it’s to cause the person to retreat further into sin, or to convert under grace.

In the New Testament we know that the party opposing Jesus (Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees) hated the name of Jesus. They hated His teachings, His disciples, His power, His authority, His resurrection. They thought they had authority, but they did not.

Pilate thought he had power and authority. He did not know that his authority was not his own, but was from above.

So Pilate said to Him, “Do You refuse to speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You and authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” (John 19:10-11)

Jesus’ name has power. Not because it’s a magic mantra. But because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. He is the ultimate authority over men. And men’s souls sense this. We rebel against authority. We fight authority but authority always wins, sang John Cougar Mellencamp in his “The Authority Song”. We been doin’ it since we were young mean and we come out grinnin’.

We think it’s funny to rebel against parents, teachers, employers, police, the law, the government. But who we’re really rebelling against is God and God alone. He is the authority and He gives His authority to parents, teachers, employers, police, the law, the government. However, He retains sole claim to all authority and dispenses it to whom He desires. That is why when we rebel it is against Him and Him alone. (Psalm 51:4).

The authority of the name of Jesus calls for men’s submission to that name, but in our sinful state we protect our rebellion instead of submit to authority. We are rebels, sinning at every turn and hating those who tell us to stop.

Fortunately, Jesus’ name does have power. Without His power, we would never be saved. Jesus lived a perfect and holy life under the Law. He fulfilled every bit of it, and was crucified unjustly. He took on all man’s sins and endured God’s wrath for that sin. He died and was buried.

Three days later He rose again victorious over death!

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

Vainly attempting to grasp our rebellion against authority, or foolishly trying to keep whatever scraps of authority we think we have, will always end in one moment, one act: bowing before Jesus and confessing Him as Lord. It’s better to submit to His authority now and be adopted as son and friend, than to have confess to Him as a rebel.

Munkacsy_-_Christ_in_front_of_Pilate
With apologies to artist Mihály Munkácsy, “Christ before Pilate, 1881

War no more

Sin is the oldest negative thing on earth. After God created the world and the two people and called it all “very good”, sin came. Shortly after that came murder, lying, anger, jealousy, polygamy, and war.

War has been with us for so long.

I remember growing up, the Viet Nam War. It was the first war to be broadcast on television, and in living color, too. There were reports every single night. We’d hear the tally of dead and wounded. Scenes to my young eyes of limbless men hanging off gurneys in the jungle, helicopters, camouflaged men skulking with rifles pointed through the leafy undergrowth were plenty scary. They were scenes of chaos and blood.

That’s war.

I saw a news article from the Canadian Broadcasting Company.

A cannonball fired by the British during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759 has been unearthed at a building site in Old Quebec. The rusted, 90-kilogram projectile was unearthed during excavation work last week at the corner of Hamel and Couillard streets and still contained a charge and gunpowder. The work crew that found the ball picked it up and gathered around it for photographs, unaware that it was still potentially explosive.

The cannonball is from Britain and was fired at Quebec City from Lévis,
across the St. Lawrence River. (Facebook/Lafontaine Inc)

In Genesis 4 we have the first murder. The Bible isn’t specific on how Cain killed Abel. Later in Genesis 4:22 we read, Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron

Knowing that Tubal-can was in the line of ungodly descendants of Cain, and knowing the evil heart of man, I’d say with near certainty that some or all of those instruments were instruments of war. Many of those implements were likely arrows, shafts, spikes, and the sort.

Then by Genesis 6:11 we read Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.

Violence that included war, with implements, I’m sure.

We all know about Galileo. He was famous for looking through his telescope and making

“observations that strengthened his belief in Copernicus’ theory that Earth and all other planets revolve around the Sun. Most people in Galileo’s time believed that the Earth was the center of the universe and that the Sun and planets revolved around it.” (Source: NASA).

But 20 years before that, Galileo experimented with, produced, and wrote about military technological advances, in a treatise called The Operations of the Geometrical and Military Compass. Galileo’s invention of the military compass was used to calculate precise trajectories of cannonballs and other military killing projectiles.

Throughout the Renaissance many attempts were made to develop a universal instrument  that could be used to perform arithmetical calculation and geometric operations easily. This need was felt especially in the military field, where the technology of firearms called for increasingly precise mathematical knowledge. … The geometric and military compass of Galileo belonged to this class of instruments. [T]he Accademia Delia was founded in Padua to provide mathematical instruction for young noblemen training for a military career.

Imagine how much of our mind will be released when we don’t have to devote so much of it to devising evil. Imagine when we are freed to think up ways to worship Jesus, or ways to praise Him, or anything else, than to creating military items that maim and kill and destroy.

He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4)

Jesus will dissolve the earth in a fervent heat. When He creates a new earth, there will never be a cannonball to dig up. There will never be any implements of war found anywhere, like arrowheads or bullet casings or swords. Forgers of instruments of bronze and iron will be making plowshares and pruning hooks.

Won’t it be great when we will study war no more? Peace. Peace will reign in men’s hearts, between men and Jesus, and between men and men (and animals). Peace, shalom, war no more.