Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Of Jesus’ love: My Value’s Fixed

Keith Getty’s song “My Worth Is Not In What I Own” is a lovely song. As Mr Getty describes the song at The Gospel Coalition, it

is a song that speaks to the subject of worth by reminding us that true significance is found in our identity in Christ. Kristyn and I recently wrote it with our good friend, Graham Kendrick, in an attempt to reclaim two glorious truths. The first is that we, as men and women created in the image and likeness of the Creator, are created with intrinsic worth.

But there’s another truth we want to convey: given our pervasive rebellion—what R. C. Sproul calls “cosmic treason”—against the king, we are all unworthy of the value with which he crowns us. Yet God sent his Son so our worth might be found in something far grander than ourselves. In Christ, no longer do we look to our own accomplishments and achievements to find significance. We look instead to his perfect work on our behalf, and there our souls find the true sense of identity we so crave. The chorus of our song draws from the rich imagery of 1 Peter, which depicts Jesus as an inheritance and treasure far greater than anything this world has to offer.

Getty goes on to describe some of the many themes within the song, but notes that the original thought was the phrase “my worth is not in what I own.”

However, another idea came to me that focuses on another part of the lyric. The value of the Gospel is inestimable. In 1 Peter, the passages from which Getty took the thoughts and doctrines for his song, angels and the Prophets longed to look into the glorious coming of the Savior. They were told they were serving not themselves but us. (1 Peter 1:12). They were extremely humbled and intrigued by the notion of the Savior and His coming in Gospel times.

In that sense, we who dwell in the Church Age, AKA the Age of Grace, AKA Gospel Times, have an inexpressible value, because we are saved by grace through faith in the Gospel. Since the Gospel is inestimably precious, we are inestimably precious. As the song says, “my value’s fixed.”

For those who struggle with low self-esteem, let this song and its lyrics and the verses behind it comfort you. Your value is fixed. Your identity is sure. After salvation, our value is linked to the Gospel which saved us by faith through the work of Jesus. Jesus cannot love us any less or any more than He does at this moment or since before the foundation of the world when He chose you. (Ephesians 1:4). His love for you is fixed and perfect.

If you struggle with a high self-esteem, then the same is true again. His cannot love you any less or any more than He does now. Your value is fixed. Nothing you say or do or work at or accomplish or are noted for will cause in Him an atom’s worth of further love, deeper love, or less love than expressed through His lovely Gospel and His saving. His love for you is not based on your worth, but His worth.

Be comforted by this. Be released from worry that anything you might say or do will cause a decrease in His love for you. Be released from the notion that anything you say or do will help yourself to greater love by Him. Your value is fixed in the palm of the One who already loves perfectly and completely.

14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every familyc in heaven and on earth is named, 16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-18).


My Worth Is Not In What I Own

Keith Getty

My worth is not in what I own
Not in the strength of flesh and bone
But in the costly wounds of love
At the cross

My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed
At the cross

Refrain:
I rejoice in my Redeemer
Greatest Treasure,
Wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him, no other.
My soul is satisfied in Him alone.

As summer flowers we fade and die
Fame, youth and beauty hurry by
But life eternal calls to us
At the cross

I will not boast in wealth or might
Or human wisdom’s fleeting light
But I will boast in knowing Christ
At the cross

Refrain

Two wonders here that I confess
My worth and my unworthiness
My value fixed – my ransom paid
At the cross

Refrain

Posted in prophecy, Uncategorized

God is faithful to his Gospel

The Great Tribulation is a time prophesied to occur in the future, where God will pour out His stored-up wrath on the unbelieving world, and onto Israel. The church will have been raptured prior to the beginning of this 7-year period. (Revelation 3:10). The church is not under wrath, but our sins have been forgiven. In us there is no condemnation, that’s why we will be removed beforehand.

The Tribulation is not the general time between His first and second comings where believers will have the promised trials and persecutions. The tribulation is a distinct time referenced as THE Tribulation. It will exist for a set purpose, certain things will happen in an progressive fashion (as prophesied in Revelation 6-18 and elsewhere) and it will cease at its end to usher in a 1000 year kingdom on earth of peace where Jesus walks and reigns with His people. (Revelation 20:2-7, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, Daniel 9:24-27, Matthew 24:3-28…)

During this Tribulation, it will be a hell on earth, literally. The abyss is opened and many chained up demons are let out to wreak havoc. (Revelation 9:1-12). It’s a time when God’s 4 sorest judgments will occur. He releases 4 horsemen to have their fill of death and chaos and sin and evil wrought upon the people. It will be a time of punishment, vengeance, retribution, and wrath. Many millions upon billions die. (Revelation 6:8, Revelation 9:15).

Before I get to my main point, let’s turn aside for a comment. People incorrectly view the God of the Bible as a split personality. There’s the God of the Old Testament who is wrathful, and the Jesus of the New Testament who is nice. Jesus “hung out with sinners” and spoke the Beatitudes, after all.

God is God and He changeth not. In the OT He rendered wrath, but He was also compassionate and kind. I can give many examples. He spoke gently to Hagar in the wilderness. He sent angels to feed and comfort Elijah. He answered Habakkuk’s complaints gently. He gave Hannah the son she prayed for. He spoke to Moses as a friend. And so on.

In the NT, God is kind but He is also wrath. Wrath is mentioned many times in the NT. It’s mentioned in Matthew, Luke, John, Romans, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, Hebrews, and most of all, 11 times in Revelation, where Jesus is rendering it or ordering His angels to deliver it. If you read the Jesus of Revelation, there exists no sissified, needy Jesus at all. He never existed. THAT Jesus is a figment of man’s imagination.

Now to the point, despite the horrors of The Tribulation, despite the wrath and death and chaos and sin, God still seeks souls. He saves. He saves many, multitudes one cannot number! They are saved from every language and nation and tribe and tongue! His grace abounds even in wrath.

By what process does He save?

1. His Two Prophets. Their story is contained in a Revelation 11:3-13. Their ministry begins:

And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.

They preach in Jerusalem and according to prophecy, it’s for a set number of days. People will try to kill them. Those who hate the LORD will hate their message of sin and wrath and judgment. But while they are prophesying God’s word on earth during the allotted number of days, nothing can harm them. As a matter of fact, they can spew fire and kill those who try to kill them. (Revelation 11:5). When the allotted number of days is up, they will be successfully killed. (Revelation 11:7). Their bodies will lie in the street for three days, and the world rejoices that their devastating message will have been silenced, or so the world thinks. They are resurrected and ascend to heaven before the world’s astonished face. (Revelation 11:11-12).

The result is that for 1,260 days the world hears two indestructible witnesses preach the everlasting gospel to the world, whether they want it or not.

The 144,000.

Their story is contained in Revelation 7:3-8 and Revelation 14:1-5. God plucks 12,000 from each Jewish Tribe as His firstfruits of Gospel salvation in their Messiah. Though none of the verses explicitly say that the men from the 144,000 evangelize, it’s highly likely that they are agents of the Gospel. The fact that they are chosen, sealed from harm during the judgments indicates that they have work to do. One’s relief and joy in Christ always yields a loosened tongue to proclaim His glories. How much more so in the Wrath? Also, the very next scene after they are saved and sealed, we see multitudes of redeemed from the earth. Imagine 144,000 Apostle Pauls running around, lol. People are going to be saved.

The Three Angels at Midheaven.

Their story is in Revelation 14:6-11, but the first angel in verses 6-7 is the one who proclaims the eternal Gospel to the entire world, every nation, tongue, tribe, and people.  Every. One. Hears.

What a God we serve! He pursues even as He concludes the last moments of His Age.

ecclesiastes

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

‘Unpopular the Movie’ is devastating in a good way, as the Gospel always is

Red Grace media has published Unpopular The Movie, and it’s wonderful. This half hour movie is Christ-centric, accurate, clear, and presents the Gospel in a devastatingly biblical way. When you hear/read the Gospel, unvarnished and with open ears and open eyes, it singes the heart and devastates the soul. It is incendiary. Even as a long-saved person, it will try your emotions, and bring you low. We ALL need The Gospel. Continue reading “‘Unpopular the Movie’ is devastating in a good way, as the Gospel always is”

Posted in prophecy, Uncategorized

Examining Christmas Traditions #2: Wise Men at the manger?

There are traditions regarding the Christmas story within the faith. We have Christmas carols with lyrics that say that angels sing, we set up nativity scenes with Wise Men, we erect Christmas trees, and more.

Do these traditions have any bearing from scripture? If not should we care? If not, should we abandon them? Accept them? Are we disrespecting Christ by perpetuating them? Or not?

Friday I wrote about the hymns we sing at Christmas time where lyrics portray angels singing. I looked at whether scripture shows angels singing or not. Scripture shows angels saying, proclaiming, and shouting, but not singing. Today let’s look at nativity scenes with Wise Men crowded around the babe in a manger. Is that scriptural?

Yes, and no.

Wise men did come from the east upon learning of the birth of the Messiah. They did not arrive at the night of his birth though. They arrived up to two years later. The verse says,

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2).

The ‘after this’ is after His birth, where Matthew 1 ends. How do we know it wasn’t the day after, and that it was up to two years after? Because of this-

After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. (Matthew 2:9).

The verse says where the child was, not ‘where the baby was’. In the Greek the word used for child means,

(“a little child in training”) implies a younger child (perhaps seven years old or younger). Strong’s.

The Magi went to Bethlehem and fell down and worshiped Jesus at his house. He was not in a barn, or stable, or any sort of animal enclosure, and He was not laying in a manger.

And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. (Matthew 2:11)

Herod died in 4BC so the men must have visited between the birth and up to when Jesus was around two years old. Later, Herod made a declaration to kill all the children under two years of age.

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. (Matthew 2:16).

It is clear that in actual time, the Magi from the East did not arrive in time to worship Jesus in his birth location, which was temporary. So is it unscriptural to set up a nativity scene with the Wise Men? I don’t believe so.

The Wise Men did in fact arrive to worship. It happened. It would be unscriptural for example, if a nativity scene had figures such as Moose or beavers, not indigenous to the location. Or if the scene had added figures such as Herod or Jezebel, who were evil and certainly not depicted anywhere in proximity (and of course Jezebel was long dead).

I believe that collapsing time is an acceptable literary license. The Apostles did so when they wrote inspired scripture. They said things like, ‘Then Jesus went…” where the actual time might have been months later from the evetnt written of in the previous sentence. “Jesus was born, then the Wise Men came…”

What I like about the birth chronology is that everyone involved with it, from announcement to just before the Family had to flee to Egypt, is that everyone worshiped. Elizabeth and Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, Anna and Simeon, the angels, and the Wise Men. Worship is the proper response to meeting Jesus, both intellectually and emotionally. Our Savior is born, and hallelujah that He came into the world. Though not exactly perfectly historic, the crowd around the manger of animals, shepherds, parents, and wise men do depict an accurate response to the birth of the Savior. However, I understand if some people decide to remove or not install figures of the Wise Men in their nativity, or decline to have Wise Men circulating at a live nativity scene, due to historical inaccuracy.

Jesus lived the perfect life under God’s standards for holiness that we could not. Enduring agonizing separation from His Holy Father, He cried out and absorbed all God’s wrath for our sin.  Accused unjustly, He was nailed to the cross and executed, thus becoming the sacrificial lamb. Pleased with His Son, God resurrected Jesus on the third day and Jesus ascended into heaven. Now, His blood atones for our sin and forgiveness awaits those elected to ask for it. Praise God He made a way for us to be reconciled to Him! Mercy abounds.

Further Reading: Answers In Genesis Three Wise Men?

Grace To You 2 min podcast- Where Are the Wise Men?

christmas-wise-men-verse

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

The ‘Wondrous Strange’ Gospel

Back in 1998 I drove a few hours from my home in Gray, Maine to Rockland, Maine. The destination was the Farnsworth Library & Art Museum. The Farnsworth is a gorgeous museum tucked away on the rockbound coast. The New York Times wrote of the opening of the Farnsworth and the Wyeth collection this way,

Ever since N. C. Wyeth bought a place in Port Clyde, south of Rockland, in the early 1930’s, the family has summered here, and Andrew Wyeth’s painting ”Christina’s World” is, for many people, synonymous with Maine. The Wyeth center is attached to the Farnsworth Art Museum, a respected 50-year-old institution that focuses on artists connected with Maine and that has built one of the best small, specialized collections in the country.

They had advertised a collection I was dying to see. It was called, “Wondrous Strange: the Wyeth Tradition: Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, James Wyeth.” You might or might not know that the three generations of Wyeths have a deep connection to Maine, and all three generations owe inspiration to Pyle. The generations went like this- Turn-of-the-last-century illustrator Howard Pyle; His student was N. C. Wyeth; N. C.’s student and son was Andrew Wyeth (wife Betsy); Andrew’s student and son was Jamie Wyeth. Betsy Wyeth chose the paintings and illustrations for the show I was driving to see, and named it Wondrous Strange.

The theme of the show is described from the catalog as, “an imaginative, often disquieting, dreamlike imagery.” The catalog/book describes the paintings- “Demonic eyes shining out of a shadowy tree. A blind man staggering through a moonlit landscape. Disembodied, dark hands rising out of snow. A feral dog with one blue eye. Ambiguous shadows harboring human shapes.”

The NY Times described it this way:
While Andrew and Jamie work in cooler times, there is no question that some of the images in ”Wondrous Strange” are really weird. Andrew paints a corpse emerging from a block of melting ice and severed hands perched on ice floes; Jamie portrays himself with a pumpkin head and as a clownish scarecrow. He depicts lighthouses with the same fierce perspective that his grandfather used for Peg Leg Pete.

One of the paintings’ raison d’etre is described by the artist Andrew Wyeth himself as ”to memorialize the emotions he felt upon viewing his father, N. C. Wyeth, in his casket.” Yes. Weird indeed.

Here are a few of the paintings that were mounted in that long-ago show.

“Mischief Night,” by Jamie Wyeth.
“Pumpkinhead Visits the Lighthouse,” by Jamie Wyeth

Treasure Island illustration, NC Wyeth, 1911

One painting that was included in the show was this one, called simply, “Lighthouse”, by Jamie Wyeth. This painting adorns the cover of the catalog/book.

It’s eerie. There’s nothing particularly ghoulish about the scene. In fact, many other paintings were more weird and fiendish. But there is something maniacal and out of control in this painting. The scudding clouds evoke thoughts of monstrous hands strangling the world, the fortress-like lighthouse, the wild hair, the jarring vestment of a wrinkled military uniform worn on a wild hill… the painting is a perspective of the world that’s cracked, tilted, and agitated.

Perhaps that was the appeal- weirdness, agitation, and ghoulish specter of the disquieting. As I said, I’d driven a few hours and it was going to be a day trip, no less. After seeing the exhibition and having lunch with the friend accompanying me, we’d turn around and drive home. The attraction of the wondrous strange to the pagan heart is strong.

The title of the show comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet Act I Scene V-

HORATIO
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!
HAMLET
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Returning from nostalgia, on Saturday I was listening to John Gerstner’s Handout Apologetics this morning. The lesson was on The Gospel of God, lesson 10. Gerstner said of the Gospel,

The question remains, how do I know that this Jesus of Nazareth, a man among men, was more than a man among men? You ask me to believe He was actually God incarnate? When did anybody ever stretch the credulity of the human mind more than when it is asked to believe that that simple peasant of Galilee was God dwelling in human flesh?!

The mind of man couldn’t think it up. To think a Person in the Godhead, would unite humanity with deity, and suffer in that humanity and yet as deity, survive the wrath of the Godhead, that is something that when you read about it in the Bible you know it has to be true, it couldn’t be fictional. It is so strange, so wonderful so beyond human anticipation that it has to be a God-given reality.

Well, you know of course why I spent time writing about the Wyeth wondrous strange exhibition. The mind of man I’d thought was so imaginative in painting and illustrating eerie and strange scenes, is not so wondrous strange after all. The REAL wondrous strange is the reality of the Gospel, of a God whose act of sacrificial incarnation, suffering, and death is SO strange that man had never ever thought it up in any religion, before or since. The wondrous strange mind of God, who had planned this devastatingly necessary separation of His Son from the Godhead since before the foundation of the world, in merciful love and grace, is the strangest wonder of all. As Halloween proceeds through this day, please ponder the most strange philosophy, Horatio, ever not dreamt of in earth, but is real and true from heaven.

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The Gospel is not a man-made invention

This morning I was reading another prayer from my wonderful Valley of Vision book. These are Puritan prayers and devotions, collected into one volume by Editor Arthur Bennett and printed by The Banner of Truth Trust. It is a must-have for your bookshelf.

These prayers often stop me in my tracks with their convicting beauty, depth of spirit, and fervency of faith. Today’s prayer was the first prayer in the section “Redemption & Reconciliation”, and it’s called The Gospel Way. You can read the entire prayer here.

I was immediately struck by the first line.

BLESSED LORD JESUS,
No human mind could conceive or invent the gospel.

Think about this for a while.

Really think.

This one statement has enormous ramifications. Thoughts could erupt in a thousand different paths. For me, I clearly remember the years (decades) before I was saved. I remember being mightily puzzled by the Jesus people, their fixation on the blood (Ew, gross) and the communion bread/wafer they ate that was supposed to be the Lord’s body (Ew, grosser). I remember being confused by their joy even when they were diagnosed with a dread disease, why they so often and profusely thanked the Lord for anything and everything (Oh, get over it, I’d say), and why, oh why, has Christianity persevered all these thousands of years when other religions … didn’t?
Continue reading “The Gospel is not a man-made invention”