Friday, December 15, 2017

the hill where the LORD hides

The Word for today:
Psalm 33
mark this: Psalm 32:7
You are my hiding place;
You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.
When I was a kid, I had a special spot. I'll bet you did, too.
When I went to my special spot, I went alone. I never showed anyone, or even told anyone, about my spot.  To this day, no one else knows where it is.
And to this day, I still go there.
I grew up there. A couple times, I broke down there. There's not an emotion I've ever felt that I haven't brought to my spot. I brought triumph and disgrace, and longing and listlessness.
I've often spoken aloud to my spot, but for the most part I've listened to the silence "she" speaks. I've seen the wind there, and I've heard the snow.
Everything seems enhanced there. Night is darker, stars are brighter; the grass is greener than the sky is blue; and the blue is truer than true.
I can't say with any certainty, but I think that my spot was a kind of surrogate for God, whom I had not yet met when I first found her. "She" spoke and remembered and understood; she knew more than there was to know. She was here before here was here.
And when I was with her, I was there; I'd arrived. She is where the sidewalk led.
***
I found my spot when I was 11 years old. Twenty years after that, they buried my Dad not too far away. Since then I have often walked, on a summer's afternoon, from my spot to his.
There, on his gravestone, is a verse from "Requiem," by Robert Louis Stevenson:
This be the verse you 'grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
***
Longing, for both David and me, wouldn't stay in place.  Our desires incarnated; David found his hiding place in God:
You are my hiding place;
You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.
I found, in Jesus Christ, the existential imperative--the AM who I am not--that every moment of my experience demanded there must be.
So I can't help but wonder, whenever I stop at my Dad's grave, if his longing ever formed the face of God. I hope so.
But it may be that all he found was a fragment of verse on the stone beneath the pine tree where the meadow meets the slope of the forested hill.
May life hold more, in its store, for you and me and mine and yours: may your word become flesh, may your longing unveil her face; may we 'grave a better verse.
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Thursday, December 14, 2017

higher math

The Word for today:
Psalm 32
Alright, grab your calculator, because we've got some figurin' to do.
We'll start right here in Psalm 32:
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity.   (Psalm 32:2/NKJV)
Before we do the math, we have to know the vocabulary. Iniquity means sin. Impute could be translated as count, account, credit, accredit, reckon, or even compute! Another version says it this way:
Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him. (Psalms 32:2/NIV)
Notice that the scripture doesn't say the man has no sin. The man has sin, but God doesn't count it!
Can God do that? He sure can, because He didn't just pay for sin, he overpaid. He offered infinite value to clear a finite debt. No matter how many people receive his offer of forgiveness, the blood of Christ covers the cost--and then some. There's more than enough collateral to cover any contingency. (I use these cold and calculating commercial terms only because the Word of God used them first: covenant (a contract); creditearnest (a down payment); wagesdebt.  Even the word redeem connotes a transaction. But we soon warm up to the words when we understand them as the terms and conditions of God's guarantee of eternal life!)
***
Finally, who is that blessed man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity? Is he some goody with a few minor moral mishaps?
Only if murder is a minor moral mishap! The sins that form the background and context for Psalm 32 are the sins committed by King David in what the Bible refers to as the matter of Uriah the Hittite (1 Kings 15:5/NKJV).  So what was "the matter?"
David, bored and lonely, was restlessly pacing the roof of his palace when he spied a beautiful woman as she bathed. What ensued was a cavalcade, a parade, an onslaught, and an avalanche of sin. You can read the entire catalog in the book of 2 Samuel, but among them would be pornography, adultery (with Bathsheba), murder (of Uriah the Hittite, Bathsheba's husband), conspiracy, treason, incest, rape, and civil war. Moreover, the untimely deaths of David's favorite son (Absalom) and another son (an infant) were direct consequences of this affair.
So David was the man forgiven and those were the sins not imputed! But why David and why not another? Does God play favorites, does he pick and choose the sinners and the sins he will (or will not) forgive?
The answer is found in Psalm 51, also written in reaction to the matter of Uriah the Hittite. David does not plead innocence, or offer any shred of his own righteousness:
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. (Psalm 51:1-3)
Clearly, David is sincerely repentant. But repentance alone is not what enables God to forgive. Tears and penitent prayers leave God just as unable to forgive sin as you and I are.
So it's not the repentance -- the turning -- that gives God the authority to forgive.  It's what David turns to that counts:
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. (Psalm 51:7-9)
Hyssop is what David turned to, and that's what allowed God to forgive his sins. "Hyssop" is an Old Testament word that covers great spiritual ground. It was spoken here, by David, like we speak of "the cross."
"Hyssop," like "the cross," denotes the blood of God's designated sacrifice. The hyssop branch (with its fluffy leaves) was used at the first Passover to daub the blood of a lamb on the door frame, which caused--which enabled--the death angel to pass over:
When I see the blood, I will pass over you. (Exodus 12:13)
The blood of a lamb on a hyssop branch enabled God not to count their sins against them, because it pointed through time to the blood of the Lamb of God on a cross.
The blood of Jesus, which had not yet been shed in real time, made it possible for God to forgive David "on credit"--because Jesus had promised to pay in the future. Thus God could say, of David, what he'd said about Abraham:
Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)
If you look back to the blood of the same Lamb that David and Abraham looked forward to, then you can take your long list of sins and add them to my long list of sins, which I added to David's long list of sins, which he added to Abraham's long list of sins.
No matter how many or how awful they were and are, they all add up to zero.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

his word becomes your own

The Word for today:
Psalm 31
mark this: Psalm 31:5
Into your hands I commit my spirit.
and this: Luke 23:46
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last.
and this: Acts 7:59
And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
We're going to get a little spooky today, so if you can't stand to be spooked, then sayonara for now, and we'll see you tomorrow…
 Perhaps spooky isn't the right word. Maybe "transcendent" is the word for what we encounter in Psalm 31.
We know that Jesus took your place on the cross. But did you know that you can take his place--that you can see through his eyes?
You can, when you realize that Psalm 31 is what went through the mind of Jesus on the cross:
Into your hands I commit my spirit…
Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief.
My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.
Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors; I am a dread to my friends-- those who see me on the street flee from me.  I am forgotten by them as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery.
For I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side; they conspire against me and plot to take my life…
My times are in your hand.
(You can turn to Psalm 22 and see even more of what Jesus saw from the cross.)
God has enabled us to think about things the way he does, by giving us the mind of Christ (1). He's enabled us to sense and feel things like he does, by giving us his Spirit. And by giving us Scripture, God has enabled us to see through his eyes.
Conversely, the incarnation (that's how theologians refer to what we call "Christmas") enabled God to see from our perspective.  There's not a situation we face that he hasn't seen with our very own eyes:
For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:17-18)
***
These exercises in the transcendent should help you to understand why the Psalms can often be seen from multiple points of view:
You can see them through the immediate author's eyes--in this case, King David.
You can see them through the prophetic eyes of the Author of Scripture -- the Holy Spirit -- who turns our eyes to the cross.
You can see them through the eyes of the Author of our Salvation (2)--Jesus--who speaks from the cross.
And as you take up what Jesus called your own "cross" in order to follow him (3), his Word will write itself across the story of your own life, as well.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) 1 Corinthians 2:16; (2) Hebrews 2:10; (3) Mark 8:34

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

look out your window, and remember

The Word for today:
Psalm 30
mark this: Psalm 30:1
I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths.
Every time I post a blog article, I pick a picture to accompany it. I hope you notice them, because sometimes I spend an inordinate amount of time poring over hundreds of Google images to come up with something just right. But sometimes, just between you and me, I can't find an image to enhance the article, so I have to settle for an image that won't detract.
This is the 915th Stand in the Rain article, which means that we've selected (counting the days with multiple images) upwards of 970 pictures. Of them all, the picture you see above is my absolute favorite.
I'm not even sure if it's (aesthetically speaking) a good picture. My heart is so invested in that picture that I'm not sure my eyes could impartially evaluate it.
My sons brought it home from their Sunday school class in 2003, when they were 8 and 9. It ended up on the kitchen table with the Sunday paper. At first I didn't know there was a poster there, because it was folded in quarters, into booklet form, and I only saw the scribbled-out memory verses that were listed on the back cover:
Luckily, I unfolded the little booklet before tossing it away. And there it was!
The poster grabbed me at first glance; I distinctly remember my heart double-clutching and missing a beat all at the same time!
I'm not sure why. I'm not a poster person at all. And of all the treasures buried in the Psalms, this particular verse had escaped my notice.
Then, as I was taping my newfound treasure to the wall I noticed the booklet's front cover:
I don't want to oversimplify things because neither you nor I are 8 and 9 years old. But I also don't want to over-complicate the things that scripture makes very clear:
Jesus' role in God's plan is to lift us out of the depths. (That sentence will suffice, as well as any, as a synopsis of the Bible.)
And our role in God's plan is to exalt Jesus. The catechism's first axiom says so:
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. (1)
So the essence of the Plan is that we lift up the one who lifted us up:
I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths. (Psalms 30:1)
I'm not sure what form that might take in your life, but you'll be able to figure it out if you just look out your window on a rainy day, and remember.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) Westminster Shorter Catechism

Monday, December 11, 2017

things too wonderful for me

The Word for today:
1 Corinthians 16
mark this: 1 Corinthians 16:13
Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong.
Yesterday, we told all about the spiritual gifts.
There were all kinds of religious words in that article: words like intercession, evangelism, and exhortation; words like discernment, apostleship, shepherding, and prophecy.
Why, those are words that can bring us to a religious boil! They are so spiritual and scriptural and sacred, somehow.
So I do not want to demean them, but if I had to, I'd trade in that list for this one:
Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe.  Be courageous.  Be strong.  (1 Corinthians 16:13)
When I took the spiritual gifts assessment, it told me that I have the gifts of knowledge and teaching. When you take the assessment, it may show that you have the gifts of discernment and intercession and exhortation.
But when we take the larger tests of this life, may they show us, above all, to be true, and brave, and strong.
***
I have followed my star, as it were. Since I found that my gifts are knowledge and teaching, I have done nothing -- day and night and year and decade -- but learn and learn and tell and tell. I have delved ever deeper into God's Word and into its distillation, the cross.
But what I'm impressed with most of all is not his genius, nor his power, nor his glory. What leaves me in awe aren't the mysteries, nor the things too wonderful for me. (1)
I've heard and read all about his omniscience, but the wonder is that he knows me.  I've read and studied all about his omnipotence, but that's nothing compared to when he lifted me up.
What leaves me awestruck isn't his Truth as it goes marching on, but how he stops to wait for me.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) Psalm 131:1; Psalm 139:6

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christmas, every day

The Word for today:
1 Corinthians 15:35-58
I believed in Jesus for a long while before I made it through the doors of a church.
Then, having made it through the doors, I…umhh…sat down. For a couple years, maybe three, I was an onlooker. I'm not really good at being an onlooker, but I didn't think I was good at anything else either. So I looked on.
Then it was announced that a "spiritual gifts assessment" was being made available. All we had to do was make an appointment and we could find out what a spiritual gift is--and which spiritual gift is ours!
So I made an appointment, filled out a questionnaire, and then waited for yet another appointment to go over the results with an elder.
I met with elders Brian and Dan.  Dan told me, "Franklyn, there's good news and bad news."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, the good news is that, according to our questionnaire and the answers you gave, you have the gift of teaching--explaining the Word of God so people can understand."
"So, what's the bad news?"
"Well, according to our questionnaire and the answers you gave, you're sort of like John the Baptist."
"What could be bad about that?"
"You know how John the Baptist says that he can't even tie Jesus' shoes?"
"Yes. I know the passage."
"Well, Franklyn, our assessment says that, outside of teaching scripture, you can barely tie your own shoes!"
***
You must understand that Dan was just kidding. I mean, I think he was. 
Anyway, I was an onlooker no more. I had a shiny new gift and I was determined to open it!
The major teaching in scripture concerning spiritual gifts is right here in 1 Corinthians 12-14, where you can read all about the spiritual gifts in general. (Other key passages can be found in Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4.)
Descriptions of specific gifts are listed in an addendum ("Discover Your Spiritual Gifts") at the end of this article.
To find out which of those gifts is yours, I encourage you to take a spiritual gifts assessment, like I did. (I found a good one that will take only minutes.  Just click here and follow the directions...)
Once you find your gift, by all means open it. Having opened it, if you don't know what to do with it (I didn't) then just talk it over with any experienced believer who has opened his or her own gift. They can show you how to turn it on and make it run!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Discover Your Spiritual Gifts!
A spiritual gift is an expression of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer, empowering him/her to serve the body of Christ, the church.
Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30; Ephesians 4:11; and 1 Peter 4:9-11 contain representative lists of gifts and roles God has given to the church. A definition of these gifts follows.
Administration—Persons with the gift of administration lead the body by steering others to remain on task. Administration enables the body to organize according to God-given purposes and long-term goals and to execute effective plans for the accomplishment of those goals.
Opportunities: group leader, office, personnel
Scripture: Luke 14:28-30; Acts 6:1-7; Acts 27:11; 1 Cor. 12:28; Titus 1:5
Apostleship—The church sends apostles from the body to plant churches or to be missionaries. Apostles motivate the body to look beyond its walls in order to carry out the Great Commission.
Opportunities: missions, evangelism, discipleship
Scripture: Luke 6:12-13; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 2:20; Eph. 4:11-13
Celibacy—This gift is the special ability that God gives certain members of the Body of Christ to remain single and enjoy it in order to dedicate oneself to the expansion of God’s kingdom; to be unmarried and not suffer undue sexual temptations.
Opportunities: "undivided interests for the sake of the kingdom of heaven"--more time to devote to ministry; more focus on ministry concerns.
Scripture: Matt. 19:10-12; 1 Cor. 7:7-8, 32-33
Counseling—The special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to minister words of comfort, consolation, encouragement and counsel to other members of the Body in such a way that they feel helped and healed.
Opportunities: counseling, crisis center, evangelism, visitation ministries
Scripture: Acts 14:22; Romans 12:8; 1 Timothy 4:13; Hebrews 10:25
Creativity—Expressing God’s kingdom, His love and His truth, through alternative means of expression -- such as drama, multi-media, dance, song, poetry, etc.
Opportunities: drama, choir, evangelism, media, missions, construction
Scripture: Psa. 150:3-5; 2 Sam. 6:14-15; 2 Sam. 23:1; Mark 4:2, 33
Discernment—Discernment aids the body by recognizing the true intentions of those within or related to the body. Discernment tests the message and actions of others for the protection and well-being of the body.
Opportunities: counseling, prayer, personnel
Scripture: Matt. 16:21-23; Acts 5:1-11; Acts 16:16-18; 1 Cor. 12:10; 1 John 4:1-6
Encouragement/Exhortation—Possessors of this gift encourage members to be involved in and enthusiastic about the work of the Lord. Members with this gift are good counselors and motivate others to service. Encouragement/exhortation exhibits itself in preaching, teaching, and ministry.
Opportunities: counseling, teaching, preaching
Scripture: Rom. 12:6-8; Acts 11:23-24; Heb. 10:24-25
Evangelism—God gifts his church with evangelists to lead others to Christ effectively and enthusiastically. This gift builds up the body by adding new members to its fellowship.
Opportunities: visitation, outreach, missions
Scripture: Acts 8:5-6; Acts 8:26-40; Acts 14:21; Acts 21:8; Eph. 4:11-13; 2 Tim. 4:5
Faith—Faith trusts God to work beyond the human capabilities of the people. Believers with this gift encourage others to trust in God in the face of apparently insurmountable odds. They are able to discern with extraordinary confidence the will and purposes of God for His work.
Opportunities: prayer, counseling, finances
Scripture: Acts 11:22-24; Acts 27:21-25; Romans 4:18-21; 1 Cor. 12:9; Hebrews 11
Giving—Members with the gift of giving give freely and joyfully to the work and mission of the body. Cheerfulness and liberality are characteristics of individuals with this gift.
Opportunities: finance or planning committee, office
Scripture: Mark 12:41-44; Rom. 12:8; 2 Cor. 8:1-7; 2 Cor. 9:2-8
Helps—Those with the gift of helps recognize practical needs in the body and joyfully give assistance to meeting those needs. Christians with this gift do not mind working behind the scenes. They invest the talents they have in the life and ministry of other members of the Body, thus enabling those others to increase the effectiveness of their own spiritual gifts. (Note: This gift may be confused with the gift of serving. Someone with the gift of helps usually aids one individual [e.g., an administrative assistant], while a person with the gift of serving is willing to do whatever is necessary for a cause or project.)
Opportunities: organizing volunteers, working in the kitchen, fundraising
Scripture: Mark 15:40-41; Luke 8:2-3; Acts 9:36; Romans 16:1-2; 1 Cor. 12:28
Hospitality—Those with this gift have the ability to make visitors, guests, and strangers feel at ease. They often use their home to entertain guests or to provide for those in need of food and/or lodging. Persons with this gift integrate new members into the body.
Opportunities: homeless, encouragement, housing
Scripture: Acts 16:14-15; Romans 12:9-13; Romans 16:23; Hebrews 13:1-2; 1 Pet. 4:9
Intercession—The special ability to pray for extended periods of time on a regular basis and see frequent and specific answers to their prayers, to a degree much greater than that which is expected of the average Christian.
Opportunities: prayer, encouragement, hospital, hospice, shut-ins
Scripture: Luke 22:41-44; Acts 12:12; Col. 1:9-12 & 4:12-13; 1 Tim. 2:1-2; James 5:14-16
Knowledge—The gift of knowledge manifests itself in teaching and training in discipleship. It is the God-given ability to learn, know, and explain the precious truths of God’s Word. A word of knowledge is a Spirit-revealed truth.

Opportunities: counseling, book store, library, teaching
Scripture: Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor. 2:14; 1 Cor. 12:8; 2 Cor. 11:6; Col. 2:2-3
Leadership—Leadership aids the body by leading and directing members to set goals in accordance with God’s purpose for the future and to communicate these goals to others in such a way that they voluntarily and harmoniously work together to accomplish those goals for the glory of God. Leadership motivates people to work together in unity toward common goals.
Opportunities: men’s or women’s ministries, discipleship, support groups
Scripture: Luke 9:51; Acts 7:10; Acts 15:7-11; Rom. 12:8; 1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:17
Mercy—Cheerful acts of compassion characterize those with the gift of mercy. They feel genuine empathy and compassion for individuals (both Christian and non-Christian) who suffer distressing physical, mental or emotional problems, and translate that compassion into cheerfully done deeds which reflect Christ’s love and alleviate the suffering.
Opportunities: hospital, benevolence, counseling
Scripture: Matt. 20:29-34; Matt. 25:34-40; Mark 9:41; Luke 10:33-35; Acts 11:28-30; Acts 16:33-34; Romans 12:8
Pastoring—The ability to assume a long-term personal responsibility for the spiritual welfare of a group of believers. Those with this gift are compelled to encourage others to work together for the body’s sake. (Note: this gift is also referred to as shepherding and is not given to only those in formal church leadership roles.)
Opportunities: committee chairperson, visitation, small group leader
Scripture: John 10:1-18; Eph. 4:11-13; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 1 Peter 5:1-4
Prophecy—The gift of prophecy is proclaiming the Word of God boldly. This builds up the body and leads to conviction of sin. Prophecy manifests itself in preaching and teaching.
Opportunities: community/national concern, finances, steering committee, teaching
Scripture: Luke 7:26; Acts 15:32 & 21:9-11; Romans 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:10,28; Eph. 4:11-13
Serving—To identify the unmet needs involved in a task related to God’s work, and to make use of available resources to meet those needs and help accomplish the desired results. (Note: the gift of serving may be confused with the gift of helps. See note on "helps" for clarification).
Opportunities: nursery, Sunday school, ushering, trustee
Scripture: Acts 6:1-7; Romans 12:7; Galatians 6:2,10; 2 Tim. 1:16-18; Titus 3:14
Teaching—Teaching is instructing members in the truths and doctrines of God’s Word for the purposes of building up, unifying, and maturing the body.
Opportunities: teaching, training, library
Scripture: Acts 18:24-28; Acts 20:20-21; Romans 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11-13
Wisdom—Wisdom is the gift that discerns the work of the Holy Spirit in the body and applies His teachings and actions to the needs of the body.
Opportunities: prayer, counseling, finances
Scripture: Acts 6:3,10; 1 Cor. 2:1-13; 1 Cor. 12:28; James 1:5-6; 2 Peter 3:15-16
Worship—The gift to accurately discern the heart of God for a particular public worship service, to draw others into an intimate experience with God during the worship time and to allow the Holy Spirit to change directions and emphasis as the service progresses.
Opportunities: worship team, special music
Scripture: 1 Sam. 16:23; 1 Chronicles 9:33; 2 Chronicles 5:12-14
***
God has gifted you with an expression of His Holy Spirit to support His vision and mission of the church. It is a worldwide vision to reach all people with the gospel of Christ. God desires that you know how He has gifted you. This will lead you to where He would have you serve as part of His vision and mission for the church.
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Saturday, December 9, 2017

the two advents -- part 2

The Word for today:
1 Corinthians 15:1-34
Whoever carefully considers Old Testament prophecies is struck by two contrasting (and seemingly contradictory) lines of prediction concerning the coming Messiah.
One body of prediction speaks of him as coming in weakness and humiliation:
He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;
Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (from Isaiah 53)
The other line of prophecy foretells a splendid, conquering and unconquerable Sovereign, purging the earth with judgments, regathering dispersed Israel, restoring the throne of David to unparalleled splendor, and introducing a reign of profound peace and perfect righteousness:
Behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)
The Old Testament prophets, as they looked ahead, were understandably puzzled by what the Spirit was telling them:
They wondered what the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ's suffering and his great glory afterward. They wondered when and to whom all this would happen. (1 Peter 1:11)
Today, as we stand between the first and second advents -- between Christ's suffering and his great glory -- these once-perplexing prophecies have come into focus. So it is now possible to compare the prophecies with their fulfillment. When we do, we are struck by how literally the prophecies were fulfilled. They weren't fulfilled figuratively or symbolically. They were fulfilled precisely and exactly:
In Bethlehem of Judea (Micah 5:2), a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) gave birth to a son (Genesis 3:15). Born into the nation Israel (Numbers 24:17), the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), and the lineage of David (2 Samuel 7), he was rejected by his own (see Isaiah, Psalms, Zechariah). Numbered with the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12; Mark 15:27), he was -- like a lamb led to slaughter (Exodus 12, Isaiah 53:7) -- crucified (Zechariah 12:10, Psalm 22) for the sins of his people (Leviticus 16, Isaiah 53:5).
But--most remarkable of all--he didn't stay dead! Resurrected (Psalm 16:9-10; the book of Jonah), he ascended to the right hand of Power (Psalms 16:11; 68:18; Daniel 7:13-14; Acts 7:56).
Having observed that the prophecies of Messiah's earthly sufferings were fulfilled literally and precisely, we can only conclude that the predictions concerning Messiah's earthly glory will receive the same precise and literal fulfillment.
When Jesus taught two disciples on the road to Emmaus -- the greatest Bible lesson ever heard -- he began with these words:
"O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:25-26)
The Jews were slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken concerning the sufferings of their Messiah; we are slow of heart to believe all that they have spoken concerning His glory. Surely the greater reproach is ours, for it ought to be easier to believe that the Son of God would come "in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory" than that He would come as the babe of Bethlehem and the carpenter of Nazareth. Indeed, we believe the latter because it has happened, not because the prophets foretold it, and it is time we ceased to reproach the Jews for their unbelief. If it be asked how they could possibly be blinded to the evident meaning of so many and such unequivocal predictions, the answer is that they were blinded in exactly the same way that many Christians are blinded to the equally evident meaning of a far greater number of predictions of His earthly glory, namely, by the process of "spiritualizing" Scripture. In other words, the ancient scribes told the people that the prophecies of Messiah's sufferings were not to be interpreted literally, just as some modern scribes are telling the people that the prophecies of Messiah's earthly glory are not to be literally interpreted. --C. I. Scofield, "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth"
Jesus told his disciples that His coming again will be -- like his departure -- personal and bodily:
"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." (John 14:1-3)
His personal and bodily return was re-emphasized in the very moment of Jesus' ascension:
While they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." (Acts 1:10-11)
This was re-emphasized again (!) in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17--
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
And again in Titus 2:13--
We wait for the blessed hope -- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
And again in 1 John 3:2--
Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
***
The first advent teaches us that the second advent will be exactly, literally, and precisely as these scriptures depict.
So let's not be slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
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Friday, December 8, 2017

the two advents -- part 1

The Word for today:
1 Corinthians 14
1 Corinthians is absolutely loaded with spiritual answers. At the same time, it raises just as many spiritual questions!
Stand in the Rain has been waiting for 1 Corinthians, because it's the perfect place from which to launch a series of articles that will (we hope) sort out some of the Bible's paradoxes.
Ten years ago, I stumbled across a reprint of the original (1909) Scofield Reference Bible. Printed in the back was a lengthy article called "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth."
As I read it, so many of scripture's internal "contradictions" melted away. And so, leaning heavily on Scofield's original, we present this abridgment to you. We hope, pray, and expect that some concepts which once seemed logically irreconcilable will start to make seamless sense!
***
'Advent' is a pretty, Christmas-y word. That's because the baby in Bethlehem was the first advent, or appearing, of Jesus Christ.
His second advent is just as certain. We know how, where, and why he will return. The only question is when, which only the Father knows (1); scripture does not reveal that secret.
Both of Jesus' advents are clearly and vividly prophesied in scripture. The Bible student who can identify which is which--which prophecies refer to the first advent, which prophecies refer to the second advent--will avoid unnecessary confusion.
Moreover, when we understand the two advents, we clarify our understanding of the overall purpose, plan, heart, and character of God.
***
Whoever carefully considers Old Testament prophecies is struck by two contrasting (and seemingly contradictory) lines of prediction concerning the coming Messiah.
One body of prediction speaks of him as coming in weakness and humiliation:
He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;
Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (from Isaiah 53)
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
"He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!"
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.
They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. (from Psalm 22)
And if one asks him, 'What are these wounds on your back?' he will say, 'The wounds I received in the house of my friends.'
"Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me," declares the LORD of hosts. (Zechariah 13:6-7)
The other line of prophecy foretells a splendid, conquering and unconquerable Sovereign, purging the earth with judgments, regathering dispersed Israel, restoring the throne of David to unparalleled splendor, and introducing a reign of profound peace and perfect righteousness:
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. (Isaiah 9:7)
And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. (Malachi 3:1-3)
For He is coming to judge the earth.
With righteousness He shall judge the world,
And the peoples with equity. (Psalms 98:9)
Behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)
***
The Old Testament prophets, as they looked ahead, were understandably puzzled by what the Spirit was telling them:
They wondered what the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ's suffering and his great glory afterward. They wondered when and to whom all this would happen.  (1 Peter 3:11)
Today, as we stand between the first and second advents--between Christ's suffering and his great glory--these once-perplexing prophecies have come into focus.
Tomorrow we will learn what Jesus' first appearance can teach us about his Second Coming.
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(1) Matthew 24:36