Tuesday, March 29, 2005


(Deuteronomy 27:14-16) And the Levites shall speak, and say unto all the men of Israel with a loud voice, Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and putteth it in a secret place. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen. Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen.

Anything that we do regularly in worship needs regular instruction. And perhaps the thing that we do with the most regularity is the utterance of the covenantal oath: “Amen.”

Israel was commanded by God to respond to His revelation by saying “Amen”, and when they did so, to pledge, out loud, their devotion to the Lord, and their intent to obey all of His commands. Jehovah is still pleased, and His people still edified with audible professions of faith and fealty. So ready yourself to say “Amen”. At the close of each psalm and hymn that we sing this morning, affirm the verity of the doctrines contained in them, and pledge yourself anew to obey every command and precept that we have sung in the congregation. Listen carefully to the prayers as they are prayed so that you can add your careful “so-be-it”, “yes, truly”, “Lord, make it so”, your “Amen” at the end of the prayer. Seal the sermon and declare your intent to live it out with a hearty “Amen”.

Again, be careful Christian, things done often can be done without thinking and more importantly without faith. Seek grace to offer a faithful, energetic, well-informed “amen”, and to never utter a faithless, apathetic and ignorant one.Remember as well not to take the name of the Lord your God in vain. According to the Revelation of St. John, one of Christ’s names is “Amen”, in fact, “the Amen”. This being the case, when you say or sing “Amen” in response to God’s Word and the illumination of His Holy Spirit, you are publicly pledging your fealty and obedience in Jesus’ name, a very weighty thing indeed. And lastly, do not mumble your oath. Confirm the veracity of each amen with the reverent enthusiasm and volume befitting the vows you are making to your King. And amen!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Heavenly Worship

(Revelation 5:6,9) And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth…And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

In the fourth and fifth chapters of Revelation we have, as it were, a template of heavenly worship. We have a manifold and marvellous description of God’s throne room, and an accurate account of the worship that takes place there. It is crucial that we understand the nature of heavenly worship, because, according to the author of Hebrews, this is the place to which we ascend each Sunday morning to offer our praises to God the Father through the mediations of His Son Jesus Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit. This worship is so holy, so other and pure, that it can only be entered into by invitation. As John was invited at the beginning of his vision, “Come up hither” so you are weekly invited, at the conclusion of the Call to Worship, to “come and worship the Lord.”

It is critical for us to note the focal point of heavenly worship. Although many wondrous creatures and features are described in these two chapters (six winged beasts, angels and elders; thrones, an emerald rainbow, burning lamps and crowns of gold) none of these things are center stage. Rather, we are directed by them to the One whose presence surely dwarfs them all, and whose person sovereignly demands our attentions, affections and adorations: The Lamb who was slain.

All of heaven resounds with the reverent, exuberant praises of men and angels who cannot take their eyes off of, nor cease to praise the Lamb who was slain: Jesus. Jesus, the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of world; the perfect Lamb that was slain as a sacrifice for the sins of his people. Jesus, the Lamb that was slain; the one sacrificial Lamb that death could not hold, nor decay even touch. Heaven is gloriously, joyously and eternally obsessed with both the death and resurrection of our Savior, the Lamb that was slain, and who was slain, but now lives to take the book, to open the seals, and doing so, to make for himself a kingdom priests comprised of every tongue, tribe and nation of the earth.

Put another way, heaven is preoccupied with the message of Easter; with the cross and the empty tomb. And therefore we ought also to be. And not just on Easter Sunday. Every weekly call to worship, every “come up hither” is a call to worship the Lamb who was slain, in the company of seraphim, angels and the spirits of just men made perfect, blending our voices together with them in song, adding our feeble “amens” to theirs, and casting our crowns at the feet of him who alone is worthy to receive power, and riches, and wisdom and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing, and amen. So come up hither and let us worship the Lord together!

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Beauty of Holiness

(Psalm 96:6-9) Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. Give unto the LORD, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts. O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.

The Holy Scriptures abound with references to the dwelling place of Jehovah, and each of these references abounds with detailed descriptions of the majestic glory and exquisite beauty of God’s habitation.

Before the Fall, Jehovah met with our first parents in a luscious garden, perched atop a mountain from which flowed a single river that soon parted into four. After the Fall, the patriarchs met with God in groves of trees planted on the high places. In the wilderness, Jehovah gave His people an incredibly complex list of instructions regarding the construction of His house, right down to the color, arrangement and types of materials to be used. When it was time to build the Temple in Jerusalem, God gave similarly detailed instructions, and one can only imagine the majestically glorious and exquisitely beautiful dwellings that resulted from God’s commands and enabling gifts and graces.

In the very last book of the Bible we are given glimpses of the glory and beauty merely foreshadowed by Jehovah’s earthly abodes. And again, heart-stopping glory and indescribable beauty abound as John details his vision of precious gems, crowns of gold, magnificent beasts, a sea of glass, a river and a tree of life, and the shekinah-glory of God to illumine all.

As is most often the case, there are two ways to go wrong at this point: The materialistic sensualist wants to make idols of the visible forms of glory and beauty, ignoring Him to whom they point. The Gnostic Pietist attempts to worship God as a disembodied spirit divorced from this world, and winds up with worship wafer thin, stone ugly and depressingly drab; the very antithesis of that which it pretends to emulate: the sumptuous splendor of the Lamb’s wedding feast, set out and celebrated on the heights of Zion. But the true worshipper sees through the external forms of beauty and glory by faith, and through faith beholds and adores the beauty and glory of the Lord who dwells in unapproachable light.

Every material thing has a form; every form is an art form; therefore every material thing communicates something to those who behold it. If this is true (and it is) then every Lord’s Day, the clothes that we wear, the part in our hair, the color of the carpet beneath our feet, the height of the ceiling above our heads, the candles on the communion table, the volume and skillfulness of our singing, and even the taste of the bread and wine all bespeak something (whether true or false) of the nature and character of Him who dwells in the “beauty of holiness”, and say something about the nature of worship around His throne. So with these truths in mind, and your hymnal in hand…Come, let us worship the Lord.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


(1 Corinthians 13:11) When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Once there was a father who had two sons. The father was a faithful man and an artist of some renown. The firstborn son was halfway to forty; the youngest, a mere four winters.

One day the boys decided together to honor their father with drawings made with their own hands. So they gathered up colored pencils, sketch pads and set to work. The young artisans relished this exercise, and when they were both finished, took their drawings in hand and set out across the backyard to their father’s studio.

Once inside their father’s workplace, the younger son excitedly blurted out, “Favver, I love you bery much, and I want you to have this pictured that I drawed wif my own two handses for you.”

The father examined the drawing carefully, taking in each line, proportion, shade and color with his practiced eye. After a full minute he dropped to his knees, and smiling broadly, embraced his youngest and said, “Nice work son. I am very pleased.”

After a minute or so, the father stood up to receive and evaluate the offering of his eldest, who said, “I too just wanted you to know how much I love and respect you Pop.”

Just as before, the artist scanned the page carefully, but this time, his countenance fell. As he silently composed himself, the drawing slipped from his hand and floated gently to the floor.

“Son” the father began slowly, “I am certainly pleased to call you my son, and pleased at your desire to honor me. But this drawing, quite frankly, is grievous.”

Stung by his father’s critique, the eldest son picked up his drawing from off the floor, snatched the drawing of his younger brother and held up them, side by side, before his father’s face.

“I mean no disrespect sir” he spluttered, “but how can you pleased by my brother’s offering and grieved by my own when they are nearly identical?”

“My son” gently intoned the father, “I am grieved precisely because they are, as you say, nearly identical. Your brother is barely four years old and his drawing is the fitting effort of one so young. But you, the son of my youth, are five times his age, yet your drawing is scarcely the better of the two. If this is the token of your affection for me, I am sorry, but I cannot help but feel slighted, even maligned by your offering.”

As the older son stared sullenly at the floor, the father continued, “And we both know that your artistic ignorance is self-imposed. How many times have you studied and traced the lines of the master painters contained in the books on my shelves? How many times have you consulted my own books on drawing? How many times have you asked or allowed me to guide your hand with my own?” The elder brother’s silence testified to his slothful neglect.

“My son, you have confused spontaneity with skill; emotion with maturity; confused enthusiasm with experience and good intention with glorious execution. If you truly wanted to honor me, instead of honoring yourself honoring me, then you would have offered me something more consistent with my refined sensibilities and less like your sophomoric scribblings.”

At this the older son turned and left his father’s studio, but strangely enough, he wasn’t angry or annoyed, distracted or even the slightest bit dissuaded from his course. You see he really liked scribbling, and that was the point after all. Wasn’t it?

As we continue to learn how to worship God in ways pleasing to Him, may He grant us grace to study His book, to imitate the liturgical graces of our fathers and in all things to grow up into our Head who is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Divine Amnesia

(Hebrews 10:16-17) This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

Once upon a time, there lived a certain prophet whose name was Abner. As was often the case in those days, this purveyor of divine promises and enforcer of divine decrees was little esteemed and lightly regarded by the people to whom he was sent.

One especially bleak and bleary winter, the prophet’s God appeared to him on three successive nights outlining a message that he was to deliver to the faithless king who currently occupied the throne. This monarch’s grandfather and father before him had been faithful kings, and he had begun his reign well enough, but ever since he had taken one of the foreign princesses to wife, his faith had begun to wane in the same measure that his appetite for her pagan-ish practices had begun to wax. He had even begun to house and feed a handful of the prophets and priests of the local deities.

The day after the third night of revelations, Abner requested and received an audience with his sovereign. As always, he bowed himself low before the king, reintroduced himself as the messenger of God, and was about to relay his message when the king abruptly cut him off saying, “It has occurred to me recently, that any beggar off the street could march in here claiming to speak to me on God’s behalf. Therefore, before I countenance whatever it is you have to say to me, you must first pass a simple prophet’s test. The next time you conjure up your God, ask Him to make known to you the sin of my youth. If you divine correctly, then I will listen to your heavenly harangue. But if you do not bring me the correct answer, or have no answer at all, then you will that day receive the stony recompense of the false-prophet. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes m’lord” said Abner meekly. “But I must tell you two things. Firstly, I do not ‘conjure up’ Him who sits above the heaven of heavens. And secondly, I can only speak to you what He is pleased to make known to me. Nothing more, nothing less. But if it pleases m’lord, then I will ask the Lord of lords for the answer to your question.”

“It does” said the king curtly.

On the third day following the king’s inquiry, Abner appeared again before the royal throne looking both calm and a little puzzled.

The king arched his eyebrows, cocked his head slightly and asked, “Have you an answer to my question prophet? Has your God revealed to you the sin of my youth?”

“I have a word from your Lord, m’lord. Although, as usual, His reply to my question, is not quite what I expected. And perhaps not what the king wishes to hear, nor enough to save me from the pile of stones outside the city gate.”

“Proceed” said the sovereign warily, rising to his feet.

“Last night, during the third watch” said Abner softly, “the Lord appeared to me and directed me to ask Him the question whose answer He already knew, and had already determined to give me. But as a I said, m’lord…”

The king broke in suddenly, “You weary me with your ramblings prophet. Get to the point, if indeed you can. What was the sin of my youth?”

Abner continued, “Your God and the God of your fathers has given me a reply to the king’s question. He said to me, ‘Tell him that I don’t remember.’”

For half a second the king’s nostrils flared in anger, then quite suddenly his knees buckled and he sat down very un-royally upon his throne. While the king sat in stunned silence, Abner delivered the whole of his original message, after which the king rasped, “Meet me at the stoning pit, three days hence at even.”

And so began the great cleansing of the land as both king and prophet united to purge the kingdom of its idolatry, and as they did so, singing psalms and declaring to the people the mercy that makes no earthly sense. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Palm Sunday Exhortation

(Matthew 21:14-17) And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them. And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased, And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.

Although little children were not highly regarded in Jesus’ day, he always welcomed them as true members of his kingdom and the proper recipients of his blessings. When his own disciples tried to shoo the little children away, Jesus rebuked his followers saying, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” And then, as if to illustrate what he was saying, he took the wee-ones up in his arms, “put his hands upon them, and blessed them.”

And on the day of his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus chose the little children to serve as his royal heralds; to announce to the people assembled in the Temple courts, that the Son of David had come to claim his rightful place on David’s throne.

When the Jewish leaders heard the testimony of the little children they were incensed, and inquired harshly of Jesus, “Do you hear what those children are saying?” One can easily imagine Jesus replying with something like, “Yes. Isn’t it wonderful?” But we know for certain that Christ confused and confounded those religious hypocrites by pointing out that although they, as full-grown adults, had read the scriptures that described in detail what the children were doing (and its glorious effects) they still could not understand what was going on. While those little children, who had not read the scriptures, had correctly identified Jesus as the Son of David and were giving him the praises due God’s anointed One.

Jesus actually quoted, with a slight modification, a well know verse from Psalm 8. The Psalmist wrote that God had ordained military might to issue forth from the mouths of babes and sucklings. But when Jesus quoted the verse he said that God had ordained praise from the mouths of babes and sucklings. Which is it you say? Well, thankfully we don’t have to choose. Because according to the Bible, praise is military might, and true worship is the surest path to true victory. A few examples will suffice: Recall that Joshua retraced Abraham’s previous journey through the promised land, conquering with the sword that which Abraham had subdued and secured with altars and centers of worship. Joshua took the great walled city of Jericho with a mobile worship service of sorts, and King Jehoshaphat sent the choir out to battle ahead of his army.

As always, God delights to use the humblest of means to secure the greatest of victories so that He will receive all the praise, all the honor and all the glory when the victory is complete. So please stand with me and and let us sing Psalm 2. And as we sing together this afternoon, listen to the sounds of true praise and military might being sung all around you. Listen for the sound of the little voices, the stammering tongues, the lisping words and the belated amens of the little saints. And by faith, hear the bastions of unbelief up and down this valley crumbling at the sound of their tiny voices, and the very gates of hell splintering as they are battered by the sweet music of their psalms, hymns, creeds and prayers. Listen to their testimony and learn from the lesser, for in some respects they are your greaters.

And if you can’t hear all that, then hear this, “Let the little ones come to Jesus, forbid them not. For of such is the kingdom of God.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Do It Again!

(Ecclesiastes 1:4-9) A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again. All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.

I spent the late winter and early spring of 1975 living in a Christian community nestled in the northern hills of South Korea. I learned many things during my short stay at Jesus Abbey, but one of the most enduring lessons I learned from two of my littlest sisters in Christ, Chung-hee and Suk-hee, who were 1 ½ and 3 years old respectively.

Almost every evening after dinner but before our evening Bible-study commenced, I found myself playing with these two little Asian pixies. After a few weeks we had developed a set of pseudo-gymnastic moves that we would rehearse each evening, all of them involving me lifting, spinning and sometimes even throwing the girls at sundry angles and in different ways. At the conclusion of each “move” I would set whichever of the girls I was tumbling on the floor in front of me, and regardless of which one it was, she would immediately look at me and earnestly plead, “Doe uttekae, Gee-in (Gene). Doe-uttekae.” If you have ever played with children, you already know the translation of that wonderful little phrase. For indeed it is common to children the world throughout. Every culture, every language, even the ones without the light of special revelation, has its own gleeful version of the English, “Do it again!”

Which begs the question, “Why is this seemingly insignificant petition common to cultures across the millennia and around the globe?” And the answer is really quite simple. Children delight in what we jaded adults consider boring repetition because they bear well the image of their Creator, who every morning in the pre-dawn darkness looks to the eastern horizon and gleefully issues this command to the sun: “Do it again!” Who, each Spring beholds the myriad landscapes of barren brown-ness and clapping His mighty hands together, accompanied by a divine, joyful sort of jumping up and down, commands the dormant trees, plants and bulbs to “Do it again.”

The universe bears a Trinitarian resemblance to its Creator who is many and one in sublime perfection. And so each day, and each season, and each year, considered one way is identical to its predecessors. But considered another way, delightfully different.

Sadly, there are many enemies today of the sort of historical liturgy that we are currently in the process of adopting as our own here at Trinity Church. These moderns want everything to be new and improved, spontaneous and different, unplanned and unpredictable, and consequently ungodly. But for some inscrutable reason the Lord has shown us mercy (there is no cause for boasting here), and so we assemble each week, often seated in the same chair and next to the same people, and during the piano prelude to the Lord’s Service, as we think of the several elements of our liturgy that are repeated week after week in unvarying order (such as the set prayers, the psalms, the sursum corda, the sermon, and the Lord’s Supper) by God’s grace, we silently but gleefully cry out to Him, who is our Father, and whose image we bear, “Do it again.” And wonder of wonders, He does.

Friday, March 11, 2005

The King's Service: A Parable

(Psalm 16:11) Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Once there were two men who were summoned to appear before the throne of their king with indications of their fealty, love and devotion to their sovereign. This ceremony was known throughout the land as “The King’s Service,” and as the two men awaited their summons in the antechamber, they quietly debated the meaning of name. The first man asserted that the “King’s Service” could only refer to service rendered to the king. After all he was the king, right? But the second man contended that the “King’s Service” referred primarily to service rendered by the king, and only secondarily to service rendered to him.

Their quarrel was politely interrupted by a chamberlain who ushered them solemnly before the king. For a full two minutes neither man spoke, nor could they, so overwhelmed were they by the king’s royal personage, splendorous attire and regal bearing.

At length the first man broke the silence and began mumbling something unintelligible as he emptied the contents of his pockets onto a sturdy oak table directly before the king. The only items recognizable in the pathetic little mound were a broken rubber band, a creased bottle cap and a crumpled candy bar wrapper. With the offering thus made, the vassal closed his eyes and began to sway back and forth singing “I worship You, I adore You, I worship You, I adore You” and continued thusly for several minutes. When he had concluded his anemic anthem, he looked the king squarely in the eye and said, “I know the tokens of my devotion are certainly not as good as they could be, but they all mine to give, I even wrote the song, and I am pleased to give them to you as evidence of the sincerity of my subservience. And…” he added piously, “I ask nothing of you in return.”

The king was silent, so the second man stepped forward, bowed low upon one knee and said, “O king, I have nothing to give You, for I have nothing even remotely worthy of Your majesty. Therefore have I come with a series of requests. Your generosity is well known in all the land, so please Lord, fill my hat this instant with gold coins and precious gems, and put a song, penned by the king’s own hand, into my hand, and I will sing it to you now….ah…provided His Majesty will lend me the assistance of His royal choir to support my feeble voice. A herald appeared and quickly presented a musical score to the man and filled his ragged cap with gold and jewels from the royal treasury, the contents of which were poured out just as quickly onto the table before the king. Quite suddenly, the royal choir appeared as if this very request had been anticipated, and began to fill the chamber with a harmonious strain that was at the same time unabashedly joyful and achingly beautiful.

At the conclusion of the glorious hymn, the first man began to object strenuously to what he had just witnessed. But the king raised his hand and silenced him with a royal wink and a knowing smile.

“My loyal subject has thrice honored me this happy day. He honored my generosity with the audacity of his requests, my worth with the extravagance of his offerings (no less his to give simply because I first gave them to him.) And he honored my glory with the sublime poetry and exquisite grace of his musical offering…” (Here the first man began to turn purple with agitation) “No less beautiful” continued the king, “because it was written by myself. Now, I have prepared a great feast, and both of You are most welcome to sit and sup with me. That is if…” he said fixing his eyes on the first man, “if you are willing to acknowledge that your offering differed from his…” Here the king pointed to the second man, “only in weight of glory, not according to whence it originated.”

The first man hesitated for a moment, but acquiesced at the first whiff of the beef brisket beckoning him from the next room. “Yes m’lord,” he said humbly. “It is as You say. It all comes from You.”

Then the sovereign turned to the second man who was quite taken aback by the king’s reproachful stare. “My steward had prepared a bushel of royal treasure, but strangely, you requested a paltry hat-full. Thinkest thou me a miser?”

“Forgive me m’lord, for besmirching your beneficence.”

“Done. Alright then.” said the king, taking them both by the arm. “Off we go gentlemen. I trust you’ve had a light breakfast.”

Come empty, come thirsty, come hungry, come all
The Lord of the feast awaits in His hall
At His right hand are pleasures and grace evermore
For those eager to share what He lays up in store

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Golfing with the Greeks

(Colossians 2:8) Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

Once upon a time there was a man who heard his pastor preach one Sunday morning that it ought to be the goal of every Christian to lay hold of the glorious patterns embodied in the Lord’s Service, and to spread them faithfully into the rest of the week; living life according to God’s call; making humble confessions of sin and rejoicing in God’s grace; living knowledgeable of and obedient to God’s commands; singing psalms, feasting and communing with the Lord always.

And this the man determined to do, but immediately met with frustration and bewilderment. Because although he golfed like a Hebrew, he worshipped like a Greek. Faced with the arduous task of lowering his already admirably-low golf-handicap, this man read books, watched videos, took private lessons and most importantly went regularly to the driving range where he was able to transfer the data stored in his mind into the very tissues of his muscles, bones, sinews and nerve-synapses. In Solomon’s parlance, he was a wise golfer, because he knew golfing in his hands as well as he knew it in his head.

But, unfortunately, unlike his golfing, he worshipped like a Greek. This poor man was perfectly convinced that the importance of what happened between his two ears as he worshipped, far surpassed the grittier realities of what he did with his body, which was merely a fleshly distraction to true worship. He didn’t sing well nor loud, nor did he care to learn how to do so (what was the point?) He bowed his head perfunctorily and knelt as one of the herd, but never in contrition. He lifted his hands just high enough to avoid an elder visit, but never high enough to indicate actual exuberance. He ate the bread without savoring the taste of it, and drank the wine without imagining that his plastic thimble was golden chalice and filled to the brim.

And so, ironically, this man’s half-hearted obedience was his own undoing. He dutifully obeyed his pastor’s exhortation to spread what he was doing in the Lord’s Service into corners of his life, but unfortunately, what he was doing in worship was nothing but a lifeless little Gnostic mind-game. So all week long, just as he had rehearsed on Sunday morning, he thought great thoughts, purposed great purposes and intended great intentions, but sadly, nothing ever made its way from the realm of his mind into the fabric of his life.

Quite abruptly, the man decided upon a bold experiment. He would golf like a Greek and worship like a Hebrew.

The effects have been difficult to gage because he no longer keeps score on the links, preferring instead his contemplations of a perfect swing and a perfect game. His weeks are measurably more demanding yet somehow less complicated. He’s gained a couple of pounds, but he’s singing more. He goes to bed tired every night, but a visceral sort of joy seems to be seeping into the cloth of his conduct and conversation. And he is thankful.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Kuyper Poem

I am not sent a pilgrim here,
My heart with earth to fill;
But I am here God's grace to learn,
And serve God's sovereign will.
He leads me on through smiles and tears,
Grief follows gladness still;
But let me welcome both alike,
Since both work out his will.
No service in itself is small,
None great, though earth it fill;
But that is small that seeks its own,
And great that seeks God's will.
Then hold my hand, most gracious Lord,
Guide all my doings still;
And let this be my life's one aim,
To do, or bear thy will.
There is not an inch of any sphere of life of which Jesus Christ
the Lord does not say, "Mine."

(Abraham Kuyper)

The Lord Be With You!

(Ruth 2:4) And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The LORD be with you. And they answered him, The LORD bless thee.

Although this greeting sounds a bit foreign to our ears. It has only been in the recent history of God’s people that these sorts of salutations have been superceded by the mundane likes of “How’s it goin’?”, “Hey”, “How ya doin?’”, the slightly more formal, “Hello”, or the vapid just saying nothing at all.

Evidently, in Boaz’s time, even the everyday/ordinary greeting uttered by a master to his servants in the field was considered an opportunity to invoke a blessing of unspeakable worth and inestimable value: “The LORD be with you.” To which the sweaty reapers joyfully replied with a benediction no less glorious than their master’s: “The LORD bless thee.”

Indeed all of Scripture contains similar greetings. The angel of the LORD hailed Gideon with a “The LORD be with you” as did the angel who announced God’s wondrous plans to the virgin Mary. The newly resurrected Christ greeted his apprehensive disciples with a “Peace be with you” and the epistles of Paul are fairly well interspersed with the likes of “The Lord be with you all”, sometimes as a greeting, and sometimes as a farewell.

For the last two millennia, our own generation excepted, the saints have delighted to greet one another, and to call one another to prayer with some form of the biblical and beautiful responsive “The LORD be with you…And also with you.” A higher blessing one cannot imagine, and a more fitting way to exercise one’s office as a New Testament priest is difficult to conceive. For God has made us a kingdom of priests, a royal line of clerics imbued with authority to call down upon, and to convey to one another the very blessings of Almighty God. One has to wonder how we can be so content with the parched dryness of silence, or the insipid juice of “How’s it goin?” when the potent wine of “The LORD be with you” is so near at hand? Oh well…

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Feminine Glory

(1 Corinthians 6:19-20) …Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

The church’s relation to her Savior is one of bride to bridegroom. And therefore our corporate relation and response to Christ is fundamentally feminine and wonderfully womanly. The essence of true femininity is receiving, glorifying and responding. Woman takes the seed from man and returns it to him a fully formed baby; she takes the various staples that his work-a-day-wage supplies and returns it to him and to her children a delicious and nutritious feast. She receives the shell of a house and transforms it, in other words, glorifies it, into a place of aesthetic charm, comfort and rest. She receives the attentions, affections and admirations of her husband and glorifies herself with beauty, both within and without.

This is, in a nutshell, the church’s lifework. To receive from God our husband, to glorify that which He has graciously given to us, and then to return it to Him with thanksgiving and praise.

Take for instance God’s Word. The bride thankfully receives this incredible gift and then immediately sets about to glorify it, so that she might return it suitably adorned to her loving husband. To do this she first glorifies it by adorning it with the meter, metaphor and rhyme of poetry. Then, in increasing glory, she sets the poem to music. But not content to offer it to her husband as mere shadows on sheets of paper, she sings His gift back to Him in the assembly. And she not only sings His word adorned with melody, but presents it gilded with the greater glory of harmony sung by well-trained voices and if possible accompanied by the stirring sounds of strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion.

As Paul taught, glorifying God is not merely an exercise to be performed between our two ears. Rather we are to glorify Him “in our body and in our spirit.” In all things material and all things spiritual, receiving good gifts from Him, glorifying them, and then returning them back to Him to the ever increasing praise of His glory and amen.

Clive Staples Lewis quote

I think that many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted him to do, and we should be obliged if he would leave us alone. But the question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what he intended us to be when he made us...

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on. You knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is he up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of -- throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.

You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage, but he is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it himself. (C.S. Lewis)