Wednesday, April 29, 2015


23 "Tell Aaron and his sons, 'This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 24 " ' "The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace." ' 27 "So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."

Numbers 6

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Only Christ

Steven Dilla post:  Christ: Our Hope All Lives Matter

Psalm 20.7
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Civil Rights, let-alone equality, for African Americans have been notoriously difficult for The United States to secure, structure, and maintain. Names like Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and now Walter Scott, shot eight times in the back by a police officer in South Carolina last week, have become representatives of this national tragedy.
Few in our country believe governance and the mental resolve of the masses alone are sufficient to solve such an insidious problem. In this way we observe part of the words of the Psalmist: we no longer trust in chariots (governance) and horses (power). Yet few of the dominant voices in American culture would offer up “the Lord our God,” as the Psalmist does, as the solution to racism. Perhaps this is to our detriment.
History has its share of those who maligned Scripture to condone racism, slavery, and worse — but it was the words and work of Christ that ultimately crumbled the foundation slavery sat upon. 
Throughout the 1790s William Wilberforce worked tirelessly to eviscerate slavery’s justification in English jurisprudence. “Wilberforce’s embracing of the anti-slavery cause was from the direct effect of embracing the Christian worldview,” The Wilberforce School reports.
Years later, back in the United States, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life to see needed changes in governance and society. We know from his writing and teachings that King knew the catalyst for this change was Christ — the gospel was the solution.
Rev. Dr. King’s seventh “I have a dream” statement — the crescendo of his seminal I Have a Dream speech — quotes the Messianic prophecy found in Isaiah 40.3-5. King was sure to have known this is the only section of the Old Testament quoted in all four gospels — inaugurating the incarnation of Christ in each. 
“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope.”
Social activism can raise awareness. Governance can eliminate impunity and protect the vulnerable. Only Christ is sufficient to change the hearts of men, bring justice to the wicked, and heal the broken.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Inextinguishable Rage of Hope

Jonathan Parnell:  Die Well

“Just thinking about D-Day,” the old man replied.
I had noticed him walk into the coffee shop, his back hunched over almost parallel to the ground. He took his seat and immediately, almost choreographed, a barista greeted him with a cup of coffee, a donut, and the kind of smile that only makes sense for a regular.
“How are you today, Jack?” she had asked.
It was early June, and the man had to be in his eighties — these were more than enough reasons for me to ask more. So I pulled up a chair, and on an unsuspecting early morning, almost directly from where I am writing now, I became friends with a WWII veteran. His name was Jack.
Throughout the summer, before the kids’ new school year started in August, I came every Friday morning and pulled back up a chair beside him. Jack told good stories, several of which I heard more than once. He was America’s “greatest generation” right in front of me. He was a soldier. He was an educator. And he was old. He would not live much longer, even by the most generous estimates.
This was something I thought I knew until one morning, after not seeing him for a while, another regular at the coffee shop told me Jack had died. I was blindsided. I should’ve had a plan to find this out sooner. I should’ve anticipated this happening. But I didn’t.
I didn’t think about Jack dying because I rarely think about death. You probably don’t either.
As a society, especially those of us in the younger generation, we haven’t come to grips with what dying is all about. We don’t really know what it is, or what it means. At best, we’re confused. At worst, we’ve invoked a kind of intentional ignorance, smudging the details and turning our heads. We’ve all at some point, and often painfully, been affected by the deaths of others. But when it comes to our own death, we just don’t go there. We don’t know how.
But we can know, and we should go there. Without it being too morbid or exhaustive, there are three basic truths about death that form a foundation for how to think about it going forward. These are straightforward, big-picture realities that, though they don’t say everything, they at least get us started.

1. Death Is Terrible.

We often err in one of two ways when it comes to death. We either celebrate it as a ticket out of this crummy world, or we let its impending reality paint despair over all of life. The first mistake is to shrug death off like it’s not a big deal. The second mistake is a straightjacket that can’t see past the material world. This latter option is certainly out there, at least among some philosophy majors and marginal ideologies, but it’s by far the less popular of the two. Nietzsche might have been fun to read in college, but it rarely holds up over time.
The more serious problem, it seems to me, is the positive spin on death that has subtly crept into the mainstream mind. Back in the mid 90s, during hip-hop’s renaissance, 2Pac and Biggie Smalls didn’t expose pop-culture to the harshness of death so much as, in one sense, glorify it. The fact that two young, famous figures actually died was easily lost in the tributes and fanaticism. Death was romanticized. Twenty years later, as seen in our music and movies, the common understanding of death within our generation is no less murky and conflicted.
Peter Leithart explains that “the attempt to dress death in beautiful robes is a reoccurring theme of Western civilization” (Deep Comedy, 55). Whether it’s the Greek heroes of ancient literature or the machismo lyrics of “One Hell of an Amen,” it seems like we’ve always been bent on making death something it’s not. Something poetic. Something pretty. And the problem with dressing it up is the same problem as ignoring it — neither call death terrible.
But death is terrible. It is the final consequence of sin, the ultimate antics of our adversary, the epitome of a broken world. Death is, as Joe Rigney puts it, essentially the separation of things that should be united. If we are alive, and if we’re paying attention, there is nothing good about that. There’s nothing good about death itself.
And in case our own experiences don’t say enough, the fact about death’s terror was made crystal clear in the resurrection of Jesus. If death is to be celebrated, Jesus would’ve left the stone where it was. If death is just the way it goes, there wouldn’t have been a stone there in the first place. But because the stone wasrolled away — because the tomb is empty — we learn that death will be neither dignified nor discounted; only defeated.
Death will be neither dignified nor discounted—only defeated.
Jesus kicked the teeth out of death, crushing its power over his people (Revelation 20:6) and promising one day to destroy it forever (Romans 20:14). But because death has been conquered, it doesn’t mean peace has been made with it. This isn’t a tennis match. Death is no less terrible, and should be no less hated.
And this means, for starters, before we tweet platitudes about beheaded Christians being welcomed home, we should feel the outrage. We should feel something more similar to those who buried the first martyr of the risen Christ: “Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him” (Acts 8:2).
Death is not our simple escape. It is our enemy — and it is terrible.

2. You Will Die.

There is Enoch, Elijah, and those who will remain at Jesus’s second coming, but for the rest of us we are going to die. In fact, if we’re judging by the track record of the last few millennia, it is pretty safe to say that you, and everyone you know, will die.
This is important to nail down because we won’t really hear this message anywhere else. The entertainment industry profits from distracting us from it, and our own plans sometime betray the subterranean belief that we’re going to live forever. Here. Like this.
Understanding the probability of our own death need not deteriorate into grim pessimism; it’s realism that should effect what we do now. Jonathan Edwards writes, “Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.” Sufjan Stevens reminds us, “Make the most of your life, while it is rife — while it is light.”
Now, to be sure, this is sobriety, not something like “Epicureanism,” which tells us we better get ours now because now is all there is. That is the violent kind ofcarpe diem that doesn’t have anything to lose. Sobriety, on the other hand, is the calculated movement to live now in light of tomorrow — knowing that indeed there will be a tomorrow after the grave. Life is neither the endless circle of reincarnation nor a straight line that slams into the wall of sudden non-existence. Rather, life (which once did not exist) comes into existence and follows a straight line that will experience two degrees of reality — a temporal reality on this side of the grave, and a permanent reality on the other side. Sobriety gets this, but only because it gets the grave.
Sobriety understands that we will die — that our lives in this world as we know it will eventually end — and instead of depressing what we do, this fact infuses it with more meaning.

3. Prepare to Die Well.

So death is terrible, which means we shouldn’t glamorize it, and you will die, which means we should think soberly about life. The worst part of death, though, is that we rarely know when it’ll happen. Much of the terror is in the interruption. It’s a thief, busting down our doors, ruining our plans. This means that if we’ll die well, then we’ll have to prepare for it now.
We all have a built-in sense of justice that tells us life after death should be, in some way, affected by what we do in this world. Whether it’s seventy virgins or a sacred cow, every culture and every person has this implicit idea that the good boys and girls should get paid, and the Hitlers, well, they don’t. But when I say we should prepare to die well, I don’t mean for our lives after death, but the actual dying part.
How do we die well, horrible as death is, as sudden and shocking as it may be?
We die well when we call death gain — which is not about what death gets us, but what death can’t take away. There is a major difference here between false gain and true gain. It’s one key distinction between a Muslim jihadist blowing himself up and an Ethiopian Christian being beheaded. The former is trying to use death to earn himself something. The latter is saying that death, cruel as it is,can’t touch that which he already owns and to which he has ascribed surpassing value. The jihadist buddies up with death in search of an empty promise. The martyr looks his fiercest enemy in the eyes with the inextinguishable rage of hope.
Death for the Christian martyr is entirely different than death for the Muslim jihadist.
For the Christian, death is not gain because it gives us something great, but because, even though it takes away everything else, it can’t take away Jesus. Death is gain because when all is lost, we still have all we ever really wanted, and now we have him in a deeper, richer experience that, as the apostle Paul says, is “far better” (Philippians 1:23).
And therefore, instead of this meaning we’ve now made friends with death, or that it’s somehow not as bad, it means one day we will mock it. We will celebrate its final destruction (1 Corinthians 15:54–55).
That’s what you do with pompous enemies who think they’ve won. You say, “O death where is your victory?” It’s not here, not over me.

Let Thy Goodness Like a Fetter

Marshall Segal: Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)
In 1743, when Robert Robinson was just eight years old, he lost his father. Angry, bitter, and fatherless, Robert rebelled in excess through his teenage years — drinking, gambling, and causing trouble. But God broke into his heart through the gospel preaching of George Whitefield. Several years later he had followed the Lord into ministry and was later inspired to write Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.

Every Good Gift

God’s amazing grace flows to us through Jesus, not only in our salvation, but in every single good gift we receive from his hand. James writes, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).
Our gracious and sovereign God never changes, and he loves to shower goodness on his undeserving children. His grace takes many shapes in our lives — people, safety, health, insight, provision, large and small — and they’re all from God’s good hand.

We Cannot Proclaim It Well

Jesus sought us when we were strangers, while we were wandering — literallyfleeing — from the fold of God. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God’s grace did not wait for us to want him. No, he came to us in the midst of our mutiny against him and won our life and affections by the cleansing blood of his Son. With Robinson, we “cannot proclaim it well.” We will never be able to adequately give voice to the victory we’ve received.

A Goodness That Keeps Us

And the victory doesn’t end with our conversion. Do you feel yourself drifting or wandering in your walk with God? Do the temptations feel too strong? Or the distractions too compelling? Has life become so busy you can’t find time for him? The good news is that all those whom God has called to himself by grace, he is daily keeping in that same grace until he brings them home. Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee. God promises to seal and finish what he’s begun in our heart and life (Philippians 1:6).
Even when we feel weakest, God is demonstrating his perfect power by causing our faith to persevere until the very end. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13–14). The inheritance is ours in Christ, waiting secure for us in glory. And it is secure because the Fount of every blessing, by his Spirit, will make sure you are found with him where he is.

A Song Worth Singing Forever

As we anticipate that day when freed from sinning we will see him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12), we give him all glory for every gift of faith and blessing. The beauty of our purity in his presence will sing his praise forever. And in this life, in our worship together, we can sing that song to our Savior and Provider for as many days as he gives us here.
Come, thou Fount, return to receive your ransomed people to their heavenly home and happiness.

Desiring God partnered with Shane & Shane’s The Worship Initiative to write short meditations for more than one hundred popular worship songs and hymns. The Worship Initiative is an online platform devoted to training musicians for songwriting and worship leading.
This meditation was written to accompany the song “Come Thou Fount,” which is included in The Worship Initiative, Volume 1

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Live Lean and Travel Light

Jon Bloom: Free Yourself from Divided Interests

This is a reality we must remember: “The present form of this world is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:31).
The nearly two thousand years since Paul penned these words might feel like a long time to those of us whose mortal lives are “like grass” (Psalm 103:15). But it’s not a long time at all. Two millennia are “like yesterday when it is past” to the Ancient of Days (Psalm 90:4). To him, “the appointed time has grown very short” and is rushing toward the end (1 Corinthians 7:29).
None of us should be too casual about wasting time. In God’s timeframe, each of us is given a life span of a breath (Job 7:7) to play our terrestrial part in his purposes. And the global church has a relative few minutes remaining before Jesus returns and the present form of this world becomes a memory.
This calls for clear heads. And keeping our heads clear is not easy. It’s hard. But if we don’t do the hard work, we will spend valuable time on the ephemeral at the expense of the eternal.

Divided Interests Are Costly

Paul keenly felt the shortness of time and the need for strategic living so that we make the best use of our time in these fleeting evil days (Ephesians 5:16). He wanted us to “be free from anxieties” and not have divided interests (1 Corinthians 7:32–34).
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul was addressing whether or not Christians should marry. And he advocated singleness “in view of the present distress” (1 Corinthians 7:26), though he made it clear that this was his trustworthy apostolic judgment, not the Lord’s command (1 Corinthians 7:12–1325).
But this is how Paul approached all of life. He lived lean and traveled light in order to minimize “worldly troubles” and divided interests (1 Corinthians 7:2834). That’s why he told Timothy, “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:4). And this must be our approach to all of life as well.
Divided interests are costly. Every relationship we nurture, every activity we engage, every cause we get involved with, and every decision about what we will own and where we will live has a time, energy, concentration, and often financial cost attached to it. They all require some investment of life. The more divided our interests, the more diluted our lives.

Undivided Devotion Means Saying “Know” and “No”

When Paul calls us to live radically for the sake of the kingdom (like foregoing marriage), what he is trying to do is “secure [our] undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:35). He isn’t calling us to altruism but to true hedonism. God is the great Gain of life, the great Prize worth winning (Philippians 3:7–814), and he’s worth giving up everything to have (Matthew 13:44).
But to pursue this joy in whatever levels of undivided devotion God calls us to — and there are different callings and gifts (1 Corinthians 7:6–7) — requires prayerful discernment and gracious ruthlessness. We need to know a few things, and we need to say no to many things.
We need to know what our calling is right now. Perhaps our vocational and other callings are clear, or perhaps we are waiting on God for further guidance. But whatever the case, there are things God is calling us to for his sake right now. And we must give ourselves to those things and not other things.
Which means that we also must know our limitations. I’m preaching to myself more than anyone else here. I have friends who have greater capacities than I do. They can read faster, write faster, organize more efficiently, and all around manage more things than I can. So they may be able to say yes to more things than I can and be faithful in their callings.
But as hard as it might be to admit, I’m not like them. I am who I am. And being me requires that I know, within reason, my limitations and how to say no to many things I may want to do or have so that my interests aren’t too divided. It’s hard, but a kind of ruthlessness is necessary to be faithful.

Live Lean and Travel Light

Divided interests are too costly to remain carelessly in the budget of our lifetime. Diversifying may be a wise financial investment strategy, but when it comes to time, concentration and focus yield the highest kingdom returns.
If you’re like me, it may be time for an audit. Let’s examine our relationships, vocations, activities, commitments, possessions, and living arrangements to see where we can divest ourselves of distracting interests and unnecessary anxieties.
We get one breath to live on earth. How we live matters. And soon this world’s present form will pass away.
In light of this, let us prayerfully discern our callings, know our limitations, and resolve to say no to anything unnecessary that unfaithfully divides our interests. Let us live lean and travel light in order to pursue a devotion to the Lord as undivided as possible.

Spread the News

I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together!

Ps 34:1-3

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Boundless Nearness

 Jonathan Parnell post:  God's Grace Will Find You

He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.(Psalm 23:3–4)
The grace of God will find you. No matter where you’ve gone or how far you’ve drifted, nowhere is out of the reach of God’s grace.
This is the truth behind David’s words in Psalm 23:3–4. The focus is on the Lord’s active nearness as the shepherd of his people. The Lord makes us to lie down in green pastures. He leads us beside the still waters. He restores our souls and leads us in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

In the Shadow of Death

This is a boundless nearness. It is a nearness even in the valley of the shadow of death.
The phrase is so popular, do we really know what David is saying? “Even though,” he begins, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil . . .” (verse 4). This is death, remember. Death. It is the great enemy of mankind, the place that every person will go — and go alone. Death stands off in the darkness, hunkering down in the shadows of our lives like a monster. It is terrible, lonely, fearful. But not for David — not for us who are in Christ.
Why? Because God is with us even there.
The grace of God will find us. We won’t be afraid. We will fear no evil. The Father will not forsake us. Just like Jesus wasn’t left in the tomb — and because he wasn’t — we won’t be left alone either. God will be with us. Like yesterday, and now, God will be with us even as the shadow of death falls over us.

Help for Today

So what does that mean for us now? How does the assurance of God’s nearness in our final moments of this life help us today?
It means that if God is with us in our greatest affliction — in the shadow of death — he will be with us in all the other afflictions of our lives. Painful as they are, as dark as the night may get, we know it is not too painful for God. It is not too dark for him.
It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are. The grace of God is able to reach you.
God is there as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death — and he is there in every valley along the way. His grace will find us. That grace that saw us before the foundation of the world, that spoke creation into existence, that led Jesus to the cross, that will abound for us in eternity — that grace will find us.
It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are. The great grace of God is able to reach you. God in his grace is able to be there with you. In the midst of pain and uncertainty, in the high of blessing and cheer, God is with you. His grace will find you.

Desiring God partnered with Shane & Shane’s The Worship Initiative to write short meditations for more than one hundred popular worship songs and hymns. The Worship Initiative is an online platform devoted to training musicians for songwriting and worship-leading. “Your Grace Finds Me” is included in The Worship Initiative, Vol. 10.