Behold the Lamb: week three

It has been a joy to have our hearts “burn within us” these past two weeks as we spent time studying and exploring the truth about the person and work of Jesus by considering the Old Testament images he came to fulfill.  We have seen Christ as the Word of God through whom all things were created, the one who overcomes darkness as the light of the world, the one who overcomes chaos with order, and who fills the emptiness with abundant life.  We have considered Christ as the bridegroom of his people, the one who brings forth a radiant bride through the painful tearing of his flesh.  We have seen Christ as the ultimate image bearer of the Father, revealing perfectly the nature of God and doing so most clearly upon the cross.  Most recently we have seen Christ as the...

Behold The Lamb

As John the Baptist looked out amidst the crowd while he was baptizing at the Jordan River, he saw Jesus coming toward him.  He stopped, pointed and exclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”  What an amazing response.  We are familiar with those words, but in the moment they would have seemed odd.  He didn’t call him the king or savior, but an animal that was used for sacrifice.  That is, when John looked at Jesus he saw in him the fulfillment of the Old Testament imagery of the sacrificial lambs.  By drawing on that one image, John said volumes about what he believed Jesus had come to do and about how he viewed the Old Testament as a whole.  For John, the Old Testament, with all of its stories and imagery, was...

The Sounds of Heaven

In the book of Revelation we get glimpses of the heavenly order through the vision that was given to the apostle John.  Again and again throughout the book we hear singing and praise to God; a thunderous wave of praise from the people of God.  In virtuously every casewe are told that those singing were from every race, tribe, people, and tongue.  The cacophonous praise is multi lingual and international.  Last Fall I had the privilege to travel to Kenya to teach systematic theology at a pastor’s conference.  Prior to arriving in Kenya I travelled to Germany to meet up with my brother Stephen who would be heading to the conference with me.  While in Germany I was scheduled to preach at his church in Neuenburg, a privilege I look forward to every time I am there.  One of the joys I look forward to most is the singing.  I love to hear the saints of God singing praise in their native tongue.  It is a foretaste of the experience we will have in the new creation as reported in the book of Revelation.  What was particularly special was when

Behold The Man!

On the sixth day God made man.  He created him to reflect His character and His rule throughout the world.  As such, Adam was called to be fruitful and to fill the Earth even as God had done in the original work of creation.  He was called to rule the Earth and to subdue it in the name of his Lord who alone is the true King of all.  Yet in as much as God made man in His image, Adam was going to have to grow and mature into the fullness of that image.  This would require him to go through challenges and testing in order to grow in holiness and glory.  But of course, we know how the story went and that Adam failed early on in the process.  Abdicating his responsibility to rule and to subdue all forces that oppose God, he allowed the rebellious serpent to tempt his wife and rather than confronting Eve over lending Satan a receptive ear, he joined the deadly party and shared in the rebellion.  

Satan had offered them the promise that if they ate they would be like God, an odd offer given the fact that God had created them in His image, that is, He made them “like Him.”  Satan’s temptation however...

The God Who Washes Our Feet

What an amazing week it must have been for the disciples leading up to Easter morning.  With the intensity growing each day, they must have felt the anticipation of something great on the immediate horizon.  Jesus had made an intentional and unambiguous gesture on Palm Sunday riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and in his refusal to silence the crowd as they cheered and called him the messiah.  As they had hoped and anticipated, He was making his kingship public and they must have felt that their three years of confusing discipleship were finally beginning to move to their climax.  And yet there were still causes for confusion amidst all the excitement. For one, just after the exhilarating event of entering Jerusalem as king, according to John’s account, Jesus began to speak about his glorious moment.  “Now is the time for the Son of man to be glorified…” How this must have excited his faithful followers who had left everything because of their belief that He was the long expected deliverer of His people.  But then Jesus went on, ....

On Whittlers and Hedgers

It seems that there are two opposite and grievous errors we make when it comes to the commandments of God as Christians.  The first is the one I most often see in my high school students, namely that of the “Whittler”.  The Whittler asks the question with regards to the law, “how far can I go without technically breaking the law.”  Students will ask of sex for example, “how far is too far?”   They know the law of God and that they are not to fornicate or commit adultery, but they wonder just where the limits of those prohibitions exist.  It is not that this is an inappropriate question all together. It reveals at it best, a recognition that there are boundaries that need to be observed, but underneath the question in many cases is the a perspective which views the law as an annoyance getting in the way of my happiness.  Many of us might ask the same kinds of questions with regard to our taxes.  Sure we need to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but does he really need to know about that money that I made painting my neighbor’s garage last summer?  And so we whittle away at the law trying to justify our desires and convince ourselves that almost anything we do is “technically” not breaking the law....

On Putting Our Trust in Princes

With the Iowa caucuses less than a week away, we can already feel the breezes of the whirlwind that is a presidential election year.  On the Democratic side, it has seemed like a fiat accompli that Hillary would be their candidate, though her past has made it more difficult than it might other wise have been.   The Republican campaigns meanwhile, have been in overdrive for several months now and with the phenomenon of Trumpamania there has been plenty to debate and discuss.  All of this on the heels of an Obama presidency that has left the majority of Americans unsatisfied and seriously concerned about the future.  With fears of ISIS hovering over the us, the growing refugee crisis, the immigration problem, a languishing economy, and national debt spinning out of control, along with any number of other issues requiring strong leadership, many of us feel the urgency of the moment.  This is not a year in which we can afford to swing and miss when it comes to electing our next president.  Too much is at stake.  That being said, we as Christians must be careful to keep a Biblical perspective or as Harry Blamiers said, to “think Christianly” as it pertains to this election.   Paul understood....

New Year's Affirmations

It is funny how we as human beings love the idea of a fresh start. We get excited for the first day of school and convince ourselves that this year it will be different. Fresh notebooks, pens and pencils inspire us as the blank slate of a new school year holds out the possibility of great success. New Year’s provides that same hopeful anticipation, a chance to forget last years failings and start over; and hence the tradition of making resolutions. Unfortunately, our track record is not very good. Just as the new school excitement wears off in about a week and a half, so does the renewed commitment to eat healthy, hit the gym and lose weight in the coming year. Therefore I propose reciting some New Year’s affirmations this year instead of making another set of ill fated resolutions. That is, to be encouraged this year with some of the promises God makes to you rather than setting yourself up for condemnation by making dreamy eyed promises of your own. Perhaps we could take our cue from David in his familiar Psalm 23, a Psalm unfortunately relegated to funerals, but one that has a wealth of encouragement for the flock of God. David makes three affirmations in this Psalm that we would do well to recite to begin this new year.  First...

Christ our Mediator

At the bottom of the Mount Sinai, the recently freed Israelites waited for their leader to descend.  They had arrived after experiencing the most amazing displays of God’s power and provision for them.  They had seen the Red Sea split and Pharaoh’s army washed up on the shore, they had seen bread fall from heaven, water pour from a rock, and enemies defeated simply by the raising of Moses’ hands.  And yet their journey had been characterized by a perpetual grumbling against the very God that had delivered them and particularly against the man that God had provided to lead them; namely, Moses.  They had never really trusted him and this moment was no different.  At the bottom of the mountain they began to grumble amongst themselves wondering why “this Moses” had been so long up on top.  “Who needs him anyway,” they thought.  And so they hatched a plan to have their own divine encounter right where they were.  Under Aaron’s leadership they formed the golden calf and began to worship the God that had led them out of Egypt, but on their own terms and according to their imaginationsThey danced and partied and must have felt quite satisfied that they were able to deal with God apart from Moses, their mediator with God....

Christ our Joseph

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”, must have been the words in the heart, if not on the lips, of Joseph after being betrayed by his brothers and falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife.  Sitting in prison in a foreign land so far from the father he loved, he must have remembered the amazing dreams that God had given him of how one day he would rule and have even his brothers bow before him.  How could Joseph have known that the way God establishes his glorious kings is through the way of suffering.  Yes, Joseph was to be a man of power and glory, and as such would deliver the very brothers that had betrayed him, but to get there he would have to take the path of apparent God forsakenness.  This is the pattern that was established for the people of God and one which the contemporaries of Jesus had not learned.  As Jesus told his disciples on the road to Emmaus,...

Christ the Seed of the Woman

As Adam and Eve stood along side the serpent, ashamed and alienated form the God who made them in His image, they awaited their certain death sentence.  God had told them that the day they ate of the forbidden tree they would surely die.  For in eating they had not merely disobeyed a command, but the shame and horror of that disobedience was in the fact that they had chosen to trust Satan rather than God and to believe his blasphemous and slanderous portrayal of their creator.  How quickly and easily they were convinced that God did not have their best interest in mind and that if they only reached out and grasped for their independence they could have what God refused to give them.  Of course, not more than an instant after yielding to Satan’s temptation they had discovered that far from being gods, they were in fact shells of what God had made them to be.  Awaiting the impending sword of judgement, how they must have felt the despair and hopelessness that sin inevitably provides.  If only there were a way to make things right.  If only there were a way to mend the tear that their sin had created between them and their Lord.  And then, as they listened to God hand down their sentences, beginning with the serpent, they heard the most amazing thing.  For woven into the curse....

Kim Davis And Christian Conscience

I remember watching the debate between Doug Wilson and Andrew Sullivan, a gay, politically conservative author over the issue of gay marriage.  I particularly remember Mr. Sullivan saying that the matter would have no effect on traditional married couples and was just a matter of expanding the tent of marriage to let a few others in.  Justice Kennedy, in his decision on the Obergefell case stated that no religious institution or person would be kept from dissenting from the decision and advocating against same sex marriage.  And yet, here we are with a Christian woman in jail for four days now because she refused to issue licenses for gay marriages or even to allow others in her office to do it, given that her name would have to appear on the license.  Nothing will change they swore, and yet you might just end up in jail if you don’t go along with the program.  But she is a political official we are told.  Her duty is to uphold the law whether she personally likes it or not.  This is the take I heard in an interview….

On Holy Indignation

My intention is not to blog on the singular subject of abortion or Planned Parenthood, but the moment strikes me as one of the utmost importance; one that demands extended concentration.  I have noticed recently a strain of response from Christians to the rhetoric and anger of other Christians regarding the recently released videos.  Rachel Held Evans and Ann Voskamp are two examples of prominent bloggers from opposite ends of the Christian social spectrum who are pushing back and calling for a response of grace and love.  They are unsettled by the angry tone of many believers on this issue and believe that it will do more harm than good and may in fact be misrepresenting the Christ that loved sinners without a spirit of condemnation.  

On the one hand, I appreciate the concern.  It is important for us all to remember that people are broken and ultimately need God’s grace, that is, mothers who have had abortions and fathers who have insisted on them, as well as abortion doctors and nurses, technicians and baby part purchasers.  Until there is a Spirit wrought change in the heart, our fist pounding, legislating, blogging and protesting will have little lasting impact.  Therefore our anger must be seasoned with the salt of the gospel and with a genuine concern for lost sinners.  We must not be like James and John, the “Sons of Thunder” who immediately wanted to call down fire from heaven  upon the rebellious.  No, ultimately they need the transforming power of Jesus to heal and save them and we should long for that and pray for it.

On the other hand….

Let Us Stay The Course

I wrote in a post a couple of weeks ago, as the first Planned Parenthood video was released, that as Christians we must not look away, but rather let the video stir us to action and outrage over the atrocity of abortion.  Now three other videos have been released and apparently there will be more to come.  I want to restate my charge to everyone who might read this.  Do NOT look away.  These videos are must see for everyone. For those who support abortion, it is essential that they come to grips with what it is they are supporting.  For those already opposed it is essential that we allow these videos to light a fire under us and move to action for the sake of the unborn so that we a re never silent again.  There are a couple of reactions to the release of these videos that I fear may come.  First,...

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

The past couple of months have been an absolute whirlwind of cultural disintegration.  It seems like it was a year ago that Bruce Jenner had his Vanity Fair coming out party; so much water has gone over the dam since then.  From the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage, the $130K judgement against the Klein’s for being unwilling to make a cake for such an event, and the talk of churches losing their tax exempt status, to the latest horrifying videos of Planned Parenthood, it has felt like we are in the middle of a cultural free fall.  We all saw it coming for years now, but these past couple of months have brought the future rushing into the present and with the Obergefell  decision in particular, it seems as if a threshold has been crossed and American Christians are officially on the outside looking in and left to speak from the margins.  While this may be slightly overstated, it has led some….

Come and Delight Your Soul in Abundance

Come here, you hungry souls, you who have been to Moses and from him obtained nothing but the stony law! Come and eat the bread of heaven! Come, poor sinner, you who have been to the pleasures of sin and found nothing there but the husks that the swine eat. Come to Jesus, and He will fill you to the full with a divine meat!

Don't Look Away

Few things have I found more difficult to watch and listen to than the video that was released on Tuesday of Dr. Deborah Nucatola the Senior Director of Medical Services for Planned Parenthood at a lunch meeting with two people posing as potential buyers of the organs of aborted babies.  To listen to her so casually discussing the high demand for the livers and lungs and even the heads (or as she so professionally calls the calvarium) of babies and how they have perfected the skill of removing “it” (the baby) so as not to damage any of the desirable organs all while she eats her salad and sips her wine was unbelievably sickening and infuriating.  It is utterly incredible and chilling to watch someone who has so lost her humanity that she can talk of dismembering children (eight of which she says she had just done that morning) as if she was discussing shopping for shoes.  How painfully shocking it is to listen to this so called doctor describing all of the particular body parts of the baby with medical clarity and yet with complete blindness to the very fact that….

Hateful or Faithful?

Over the past two weeks there have been a lot of excellent articles in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage.  I have benefitted from many of the insights and reflections offered and am thankful to those who have written them.  On the other hand, I must confess that I have become weary of the response of many Christians bemoaning the “hate” of the Christian community toward the gay community and even apologizing for our behavior.  I have no doubt that there are some “haters” out there and that they deserve condemnation, but I have not read or experienced any of them and they certainly are not the majority voice.  It seems to me that many Christians have trouble distinguishing between a firmly stated opinion and hate and must come to  understand that it is possible to have an opinion and disagree with people, even strongly at times, and yet still love and care for them.  As an example, I work at a Christian high school where I teach theology along side a Baptist pastor.  I am a Presbyterian (PCA) and therefore we have opposing views on the issue of baptism.  I always enjoy watching the expressions on the faces of my students when I tell them….

Where Do We Go From Here?

Though I cannot say it was a shock to hear the SCOTUS ruling this past friday, I will admit that it did hurt. While for years I have been preaching the importance of adopting an exilic mindset, understanding that as Christians we are living in Babylon, it was none the less difficult coming to grips with how quickly and radically we have thrown off our Judeo-Christian heritage. Of course, as many sound minded analysts have noted, the issue is not only the legal redefinition of marriage, but the genuine threat to religious liberty that it poses. Along with many others I fear that this has never been merely about the inclusion of homosexuals in the institution of marriage, but has been intended as a means of  breaking the cultural influence of Christians in America.  In an age of sloppy thinking and emotionally rather than logically driven arguments, the gay marriage issue has provided a perfect opportunity to those who resent….

A Prayer To Begin Your Day With

This was the prayer that St. Thomas Aquinas prayed every morning to begin his day.  

Prayer For Ordering Life Wisely

Grant me, O merciful God, ardently to desire the things that are pleasing to Thee, prudently to study them, truthfully to acknowledge them and perfectly to carry them out to the praise and glory of thy name. Put my house in order, O Lord, and grant me to know what thou dost require me to do; grant that I may then do it for the salvation of my soul.

O Lord my God, grant that I may not fail in prosperity and adversity so as not to be inflated by the one nor depressed by the other. Let nothing gladden me or sadden me except what….