The Nations Will Worship God

October 11, 2015 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Eschatology, Meditations, Postmillennialism, Singing Psalms, Worship
 1Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!
 2 Sing out the honor of His name;
         Make His praise glorious.
 3 Say to God,
         “How awesome are Your works!
         Through the greatness of Your power
         Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.
 4 All the earth shall worship You
         And sing praises to You;
         They shall sing praises to Your name.”  Selah  
Psalm 66:1-4
When we look toward the future, what do we expect? For the last 100 years, the predominant Christian view of the future has been unduly pessimistic. It is believed that we are living in the last generation before Christ’s bodily return, that the world is destined to get worse and worse prior to His return, and that there is nothing Christians can, or even should, do to reverse this trend. After all, to reverse the trend would be to postpone the imminent return of our Lord.
So how does this pessimistic view of the future mesh with David’s view in the psalm before us today? It is the exact opposite. Notice that David describes his anticipation for the future like this:
Through the greatness of Your power, [O Lord,]Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.
All the earth shall worship You
And sing praises to You;
They shall sing praises to Your name.”
In light of the power of God, David sees the future full of the worship of God, full of the knowledge of God, full of the praise of God. All the earth shall worship, all shall sing praises, even God’s enemies shall submit themselves to Him. Why? Because God is Almighty, because He is the Exalted Lord.
So if God is the Exalted Lord and He is going to exalt His Name in all the earth in the course of human history, what is our calling here and now? Well listen again to David’s exhortations.
 Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!
 Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious.
Say to God, “How awesome are Your works!

Because God is going to exalt His Name in all the earth, David summons the nations in the here and now to do just that – exalt God now! Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! David calls upon all nations to worship and serve the Lord; to join him as he praises God’s might and power.
It is this same summons that we issue every Lord’s Day. As we come into God’s presence and sing His praises, we are invoking the nations to come and to join us: smell the fragrant aroma, behold the goodness of God, come see the glory of our King and join us in praising Him. And this praise, which starts here each Lord’s Day, is to makes its way out of here into our homes and communities during the week so that folks can’t help but declare – how good and how pleasant it must be to know the Lord!
This morning, then, as we enter the presence of the Lord let us consider the exhortations that David gives us:
·      We are to sing – not mumble
·      We are to sing joyfully – not morosely
·      We are to sing loudly – not silently
·      We are to sing beautifully – not obnoxiously

And so let us fill this building with the praise of God – but let us begin by seeking His forgiveness for failing to live now in light of the glorious future that He has promised – let us kneel and confess our pessimism and doubt to Him.

The Wicked and the Good

September 18, 2015 in Coeur d'Alene Issues, Election, Homosexuality, Martyrdom, Politics, Postmillennialism, Quotations

Proverbs 16:4
4 The LORD has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.

“How then do the wicked serve the good? As persecutors serve the martyrs; as a file or hammer, gold; as a mill, wheat; as ovens, the baking of bread: those are consumed, so that these may be baked. How, I say, do the wicked serve the good? As chaff in the furnace of the goldsmith serves gold…. Therefore the wicked should not boast or extol themselves when they send tribulations to the good. For while they are persecuting the good in their bodies, they are killing themselves in their hearts.”
Caesarius of Arles (c. 468-542)
In Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Vol II: Genesis 12-50, p. 148.

Ordinary Time

November 24, 2014 in Bible - NT - Luke, Church Calendar, Creeds, Ecclesiology, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Postmillennialism, Sanctification
Luke 13:18–19 (NKJV)
18 Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”
As 21st century Americans who profess the Christian faith, we can often be tempted to muddle our Christianity with our Americanness. This temptation to mistake our cultural mileau for Christian piety is not unique to us, but the particular ways in which our culture influences us are unique. One way our Americanness affects our conception of Christianity is our love affair with that which is spontaneous or new or different. We tend to grow tired of, what we call, the “same old thing” and have a hankering for some new fad to bring life back into our Christian walk.
But what Jesus articulates for us in his parables of the kingdom is that the way the Holy Spirit works both in our individual lives and in the life of His Church is better pictured by the growth of a tree than the lighting of a sparkler. Sparklers, of course, are fun and exciting – they burn bright and shed their fire on all around them. But sparklers soon burn out while trees, planted and taking root, slowly grow over time; growing almost imperceptibly, soaking up the nutrients in the soil and increasingly displaying the glory of their Creator.
This steady, slow, natural growth is the way Christ typically works in the lives of His disciples. Normal Christian growth involves long periods of steady plodding – plodding that brings prosperity but plodding nonetheless. Steady plodding. Few sprints; mainly marathons. A long obedience in the same direction.
You may not know, but the last five months in the Church Year are called “ordinary time.” It is a time of year when there are no special feasts and celebrations; just the regular time of the Spirit’s work in the Church. After the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost, the Spirit began working in the Church, gradually transforming the people of God into the image of Christ. Hence the color of this period is green, a color of growth. Tree-like growth.
So one thing that you may have noticed, if you’ve been here a while, is that for these last five months we have used the same greeting, the same words of confession, and the same version of the Creed. For five months. Why have we done this? There’s no biblical requirement that we do so. We could have changed them weekly, monthly, or periodically. God has left such decisions to the wisdom of church officers. So why have we kept them the same? To highlight that the course of our Christian lives is only occasionally interrupted by unusual acts and works of God. More typically God works in our lives through steady plodding, slow growth, gradual transformation – through what theologians have called the ordinary means of grace: the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Next week we’ll be introducing some changes: entering a new church year when Advent arrives and we’ll have a different Call to Worship, a different Confession, a different Creed. Before we change, I wanted to draw to your attention the fact that for these last five months we haven’t changed. Perhaps you noticed; perhaps you’ve wondered if this is ever going to change. And perhaps you’ve thought the same thing about periods in your own life and spiritual development. And the message of Jesus is that He is at work growing His kingdom and even growing you.

Reminded that Jesus’ work in our lives is often gradual, like the growth of a tree, we are alerted that often our hankering for something spontaneous or new or different is not an impulse of our Christian faith but our Americanness. And this reminds us that we need to confess our fickleness to the Lord and ask Him to enable us to practice a long obedience in the same direction. So let us kneel as we confess our sins together.

Are we anti-Zionists?

September 15, 2014 in Ecclesiology, Eschatology, Politics, Postmillennialism

My daughter is doing a research paper on postmillennialism. She asked me the other day whether ethnic Israel has a place in God’s plan and if we’re anti-Zionists. So here’s my quick response:

Hah – you’re reading some interesting stuff. Ethnic Israel, like all the nations of the earth, shall one day bow the knee to Jesus (Ps 72:8-11). So long as ethnic Israel does not believe in Jesus, however, she sits under God’s condemnation and curse even as Gentile nations that don’t believe in Jesus do. But the glorious promise is that all nations shall worship the Lord – including special promises that ethnic Israel shall (Rom 11:28-32).

But remember that the Church is the Israel of God in the NT – see Gal 6:16 and Phil 3:2-3 and 1 Pet 2:9ff and Eph 2:11-22. So are we “anti-Zionists”? Depends on what you mean: the Church is biblically Mt. Zion, the city of the Living God. So we are pro-Zionists in so far as we labor and strive to build up the Church.

If the question is, “Should we support ethnic Israel as a matter of biblical and theological necessity?” then I think that the answer is NO. That will make me an anti-Zionist in some minds because they define “Zion” as the physical city of Jerusalem. But Paul makes clear that the Church is the heavenly Jerusalem, the reality to which the earthly Jerusalem only pointed (Gal 4:21-31).

All of this is, in my mind, separate from the political question, “Should America favor Israel to the other Middle Eastern countries?” To that question I may or may not answer yes as a Christian – personally I answer Yes. But I do so because the nation Israel supports biblical values more faithfully than other Middle Eastern countries not because ethnic Israel is God’s elect people. The Church is God’s elect people (1 Pet 2:9-10).

Prayer for the Churches of America

May 2, 2014 in Augustine, Church History, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Creeds, Education, John Calvin, Politics, Postmillennialism, Prayer, Word of God, Worship

May 1st was the National Day of Prayer. I joined a number of other pastors and Christians at the Coeur d’Alene City Hall to pray for our nation and our local community. I was charged to pray for the churches of America. Below is the prayer I wrote – it is patterned after Psalm 80. May the Lord have mercy on the church in America – we are compromised and corrupt and in need of God’s grace.

I was reminded as we were praying of an anecdote about Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer was asked by a young man who was zealous for the Lord, “Dr. Schaeffer, do you think we’ll witness a revival in our day?” Schaeffer responded, “I hope not.” When the young man expressed surprise at his answer, Schaeffer explained. “You young people are so shallow doctrinally and biblically, that were the fires of revival to fall on the church today it would be like lighting a pile of kindling. The fire would burn real hot and then die out in a short time. Start reading old books; start reading Calvin and Augustine and Luther and Athanasius. Develop some doctrinal and biblical substance so that were God to send revival the fires would have something to burn.” As much as I appreciated the zeal of the prayer event, Schaeffer’s comments ring true and express our deep need for more theological and biblical wisdom. May God make us like tamarack logs that will burn hot and long.

National Day of Prayer
May 1, 2014

Matthew 16:18 (NKJV)
Jesus said, “…I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

Almighty and Everlasting God
Hear our pleading and our cry for help
As we pray for your church,
The church for which Jesus died and rose again;
The church which Jesus is building even now;
The church which we believe shall triumph over her foes
In accordance with Jesus’ promise.

Hear our prayer, O Lord,
For you are our Shepherd,
And we are the sheep of your pasture;
You lead us forth like a flock.
Shine forth! You who dwell between the cherubim;
Rise up in strength and come to save us.
Restore us, O God;
Cause your face to shine upon us,
And we shall be saved.

O Lord God of hosts,
Our churches often 
compromise your truth;
fail to proclaim your Name;
shrink back in fear from the taunts of your enemies;
fight one with another;
So we have become a reproach to our enemies;
We have become full of wickedness and deceit;
Our shepherds have failed to lead;
Our sheep have refused to follow
Wild goats have entered the sheepfold
And wolves have torn the flock.

Have mercy on us, O Lord;
Restore us once again;
Cause your face to shine upon us,
And we shall be saved.
For this is your Church, O Lord,
The vine that you have planted;
You are the One who prospered us here in this land.
Who caused us to take deep root
And fill the land.

So return, we beseech You, O God of hosts;
Look down from heaven and see,
And visit this your vine.
Grant us grace that we might
Fully embrace your truth;
Joyfully proclaim your Name;
Fearlessly stand against wickedness and deceit;
And love one another,
So that the nations might know
that you are the Lord and
that we are your people.

In the Name of Christ our Lord,
Amen.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea

November 15, 2013 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Eschatology, King Jesus, Meditations, Politics, Postmillennialism
Isaiah 42:4 (NKJV)
4 He will not fail nor be discouraged, Till He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands shall wait for His law.”
When we are tempted to grow discouraged with the state of the world and the current condition of Christianity in Western Society, it is helpful to remember the Servant Songs of Isaiah. Here in these songs, God revealed millennia ago the calling of our Lord Jesus Christ – a calling which Jesus self-consciously fulfilled in his earthly ministry. Having fulfilled the calling of the songs to suffer, Jesus is now, as the Ascended and Exalted Messiah, fulfilling their call to rule and reign.
So what shall be the nature of His reign? As Jesus spreads His influence throughout the world, what will be the result? The result will be, according to our text, the spread of true justice and liberating law. Jesus as the Word of God made flesh will cause His Word to prevail in the earth and for justice founded on His law to triumph.
So what are we to think when we witness times of setback? What are we to think when the cause of justice, so strenuously established over hundreds of years, is in the course of just a few decades undermined and in many cases destroyed? Is this cause for despair? Should we perhaps rethink whether our Lord and Savior Jesus means to establish justice in the earth?
Here the Servant Songs come again to our aid. Notice the promise in our text: He will not fail nor grow discouraged until he has established justice in the earth and the coastlands shall wait for His law. Jesus is not discouraged. God is not looking down at the world and declaring, Well it sure seemed like a good idea at the time. God is in control; He has seated Jesus at His right hand where He rules and reigns over the earth. No one can thwart Him or say to Him, “What have you done?” For he does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the nations of the earth.
Isaiah’s promise reminds us of the lessons Jesus endeavored to teach during his lifetime. What is the nature of the kingdom of God? It is like a mustard seed which starts as the smallest of all seeds but when it is planted gradually grows until it becomes a great tree in which the birds of the air make their nests. To what shall we compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven which a woman hid in a lump of dough until the entire lump was leavened.
The task of preaching and spreading the kingdom of God is not an easy task; throughout church history there have been times of great success and there have been times of abysmal failure. At the moment in Western society we are in the midst of a largescale apostasy. But Jesus is not discouraged; He knows precisely what He is doing and His calling to us is to be faithful to Him – to preach the Gospel, to teach the Word of God, and to worship the Living God.

So reminded that we are not to grow discouraged but instead to trust in the Sovereign pleasure of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, let us kneel and confess that we have often failed to look to Him in faith.

Rescuing Creation

January 7, 2013 in Bible - OT - Malachi, Eschatology, Meditations, Postmillennialism

Malachi 4:5–6 (NKJV)
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 6 And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.
When God created the world, He created it a realm of righteousness and peace – a place of blessing. When human beings rebelled against Him, however, the entire creation became twisted and distorted, it came under judgment. Where once there was only blessing now curses touched the animate and inanimate creation.
This was no surpise. After all, God Himself had announced that were our first parents to reject His Word they would surely come under His judgment. Further, since God Himself is the source of righteousness and peace, to turn away from Him is to sever ourselves from all that is good and right, from that which gives us blessing; even as a lamp depends for its light upon the electrical outlet, we depend for blessing and joy upon the living God. To reject God and imagine that we could preserve righteousness, peace, and joy is foolish – yet this was the sin of our first parents – and it is a sin repeated by countless millions of human beings to this day.
The ultimate end of rebellion is always judgment. Satan’s intention in tempting the man and the woman was to destroy all creation, to destroy that which God had designed and made, by bringing it like himself under God’s wrath and curse. Human beings became his tools, his instruments, to accomplish this objective.
But God had other plans. God intended to rescue the world not abandon it to the folly of our first parents or to the malevolence of the Evil One. He would rescue His creation. And it it this intention that is celebrated every Epiphany Sunday when Jesus was revealed to foreign kings, to the magi. It is also this intention that is announced one final time in the closing verses of the Old Covenant:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.
Uniformly the NT interprets the promise of Elijah’s arrival to refer to John the Baptizer. He is Elijah who was to come before the arrival of the Messiah; he was the one commissioned to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers – a worthy theme for discussion in and of itself. But I’d like you to note the reason God gives for sending John. Why send John to restore family relationships and bring people back to the Lord? “Lest,” the Lord declares, “I come and strike the earth with a curse.”God sent John as the forerunner of His plan of salvation, His plan to rescue the entire creation from the bondage in which it was trapped.
And this is precisely what Jesus declares to us. “For God so loved the world, the kosmos, the creation which He had so lovingly and painstakingly crafted, that He sent His only Son that whosoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life…He did not send the Son into the world to judge the world but that the world might be saved through Him.” God acted in Christ to rescue the creation from its bondage to decay. And how did He accomplish this?
Remember that the ultimate end of rebellion is always judgment. In justice our rebellion must be judged. And so, wonder of wonders, the eternal Son of God took on human flesh by being born of the Virgin Mary, he lived among us, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He bore the judgment that was due to us because we had rebelled against Him. And what’s more, God raised Jesus from the dead. In this way, He broke the power of death, reversing the curse that once enslaved all creation. He came lest the earth be struck with a curse; he came to rescue all creation.
So what of you? The ultimate end of rebellion is always judgment. Either we face that judgment ourselves – the end of which will be our condemnation – or we turn in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, who bore the judgment for all His people, and so receive blessing from the Lord in Him. None of us can face the Lord in ourselves; we have all rebelled against Him. And so, as we enter into His presence this day, He commands us to seek refuge from judgment through Jesus. Reminded of our need for a Savior, let us kneel and confess our sins to the Lord.

All Nations Shall Serve Him

November 16, 2012 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Eschatology, Meditations, Postmillennialism, Worship

Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious. Say to God, “How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You. All the earth shall worship You And sing praises to You; They shall sing praises to Your name.”  Selah  
Psalm 66:1-4
When we look toward the future, what do we expect? And how does our expectation shape the decisions and investments that we are making with our time today?
For the last 100 years, the predominant Christian view of the future has been pessimistic. It is believed that we are living in the last generation before Christ’s return, that the world is destined to get worse and worse prior to this momentous event, and that there is nothing Christians can, or even perhaps should do to reverse the trend. After all, to attempt to reverse the trend would be to postpone the imminent return of our Lord.
The impact of this particular vision of the future upon our nation has been catastrophic. America has become, in many respects, an increasingly ugly place – sexual licentiousness, covenantal unfaithfulness, and governmental intrusiveness have become the norm. And a large share of the blame belongs to the Church and to our erroneous view of the future.
So how does this pessimistic view of the future mesh with David’s view in the psalm before us today? It is the exact opposite. Notice that David’s describes his anticipation for the future like this:
Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You. All the earth shall worship You And sing praises to You; They shall sing praises to Your name.
Did you catch David’s vision? In light of the power of God, David sees the future full of hope: all the earth shall worship the Lord, all shall sing praises to Him, even His enemies shall submit themselves to Him. Why? Because God is Almighty.
How does this vision of the future shape David’s exhortations in this passage? Notice that David is issuing an exhortation to the nations – “Make a joyful sound to God, all the earth!” David calls upon all creation, upon all the nations of the earth, to worship and serve the Lord; to join him as he praises God for His might and power. Jesus is Lord so throw down your weapons and surrender!
It is in response to David’s summons that we have gathered here today. And we in our turn now join David in calling the nations to join us: smell the fragrant aroma, behold the goodness of God, come see the glory of our King and join us in praising Him. And this praise, which starts here each Lord’s Day, is to eek out of here and make its way into our lives during the week so that folks can’t help but declare – how good and how pleasant it must be to know the Lord. And in this way the world will be transformed into a better place, a more beautiful place.
This morning, then, as we enter the presence of the Lord to sing let us consider how David exhorts us to enter. Note three things:
              i.         We are to sing joyfully – Make a joyful shout to the Lord
            ii.         We are to sing loudly – Make a joyful shout
          iii.         We are to sing beautifully – make His praise glorious
And so let us fill this building with the praise of God – but let us begin by seeking His forgiveness for failing to live now in light of the glorious future that He has promised – let us kneel and confess our pessimism and doubt to Him.
Our Father,
You promised Abraham that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed – and Abraham believed you and you credited it to him for righteousness. This promise to Abraham you have repeated again and again and have fulfilled in the Person of our Lord and Savior Jesus. But instead of embracing your promise in faith, anticipating the day when all the families of the earth shall be blessed, we have responded in disbelief. We have grown weary and despondent and failed to look to you in faith. Forgive us our sin and doubt; enable us to trust your promises and so to act that all nations might serve You and bow before You. Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

All the Earth Shall Worship God

October 21, 2010 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Meditations, Postmillennialism, Worship

1 Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!
2 Sing out the honor of His name;
Make His praise glorious.
3 Say to God,
“How awesome are Your works!
Through the greatness of Your power
Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.
4 All the earth shall worship You
And sing praises to You;
They shall sing praises to Your name.” Selah
Psalm 66:1-4

When we look toward the future, what do we expect? And how does our expectation shape the decisions and investments which we are making with our time today?

For the last 100 years, the predominant Christian view of the future is what we might classify as pessimistic. It is believed that we are living in the last generation before Christ’s bodily return, that the world is destined to get worse and worse prior to His return, and that there is nothing Christians can, or even should, do to reverse this trend. Indeed, to attempt to reverse the trend would be to postpone the imminent return of our Lord, something no thinking believer should want to do.

The results of this particular vision of the future for the history of our nation have been deadly. Christians retreated from cultural involvement, downplayed the importance of future generations, and prepared for the rapture. The results of this retreat have been tragic. Violent crime has mushroomed, educational standards have plummeted as ignorance has spread, church buildings have been designed for utility as opposed to beauty, Christian kids have been abandoning the faith in droves. America has become, in many respects, an ugly place. And much of this is a result of the church’s view of the future.

How does this pessimistic view of the future mesh with David’s view in the psalm before us today? It is the exact opposite. Notice that David describes his anticipation for the future like this:

“Through the greatness of Your power God
Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.
All the earth shall worship You
And sing praises to You;
They shall sing praises to Your name.”

In light of the power of God, David sees the future full of the worship of God, full of the knowledge of God, full of the praise of God. All the earth shall worship, all shall sing praises, even the enemies of God shall submit themselves to Him. Why? Because God is Almighty.

How does this vision of the future shape David’s exhortations in this passage? For notice that David is issuing a series of commands. Listen again:

Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! Sing out the honor of His name;
Make His praise glorious. Say to God, “How awesome are Your works!

Notice that David is summoning the nations – make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! David calls upon all creation to worship and serve the Lord; to join him as he praises God for His might and power.

This is the same summons we make every Lord’s Day. As we come into God’s presence and sing His praises, we are invoking the nations to come and to join us: smell the fragrant aroma, behold the goodness of God, come see the glory of our King and join us in praising Him. And this praise, which starts here each Lord’s Day, is to eek out of here and make its way into our lives during the week so that folks can’t help but declare – how good and how pleasant it must be to know the Lord.

This morning, then, as we enter the presence of the Lord let us consider the exhortations that David gives us:
• We are to sing – don’t mumble, learn psalms as quick as can
• We are to sing joyfully – Make a joyful shout to the Lord
• We are to sing loudly – Make a joyful shout, sing out His Name
• We are to sing beautifully – make His praise glorious

And so let us fill this building with the praise of God – but let us begin by seeking His forgiveness for failing to live now in light of the glorious future that He has promised – let us kneel and confess our pessimism and doubt to Him.