Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Gift of Gifts

O source of all good,
Of what shall I render to Thee for the gift of gifts,
    Thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
    My Redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
    His self-emptying incomprehensible,
    His infinity of love beyond the heart’s grasp.
Herein is wonder of wonders:

    He came below to raise me above
    He was born like me that I might become like Him.
Herein is love;
    when I cannot rise to Him He draws near on wings of grace,
      to raise me to Himself.
Herein is power;
    when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
    He united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated and the created.
Herein is wisdom;
    when I was undone, with no will to return to Him,
     and no intellect to devise recovery,
    He came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost
      as man to die my death,
          to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
          to work out a perfect righteousness for me.
O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds
    and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
    and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
    my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
    my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
    to look with them upon my Redeemer's face,
    and in Him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born Child to my heart,
    embrace Him with undying faith,
    exulting that He is mine and I am His,
in Him Thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more. 

-Valley of Vision, Arthur Bennet, Editor,
Banner of Truth Trust, 1975

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Not forgetting, but remembering.

At the end of the meal, Jesus arises, takes off His outer garments, ties the towel around His waist, and fills the basin with water. He couldn’t be about to do what you think He’s about to do! This is Lord God Almighty. This is the Son of God, the promised King, the Creator of all that is. This One is the fulfillment of all the covenant promises. This is the Saviour Lamb. He can’t be thinking of doing something so unseemly, so undignified, and so slave-like. But that was exactly His intention. 
And it is vital to understand that He knew exactly who He was and how this connected to His true identity and mission. John says that Jesus went at this low and dirty task knowing exactly who He was, where He’d come from, and what He was sent to do: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going back to God, rose.” 
This stunning act of humble love resulted not from Jesus’ forgetting who He was but from remembering who He was. This was the holy mission of the Son Saviour. He had to be willing to enter the lowest human condition, to do the most debased thing, and to let go of His rights of position in order that we might be redeemed. It was a high and holy calling, and it was the only way. His identity, as the Son of God, didn’t lead Him to be arrogant and entitled, unwilling to do what needed to be done to accomplish redemption. His identity didn’t cause Him to assess that He was too good for the task. No, His identity motivated and propelled Him to do what the disciples were convinced was below them.

Paul David Tripp, Dangerous Calling, Inter-Varsity Press, Nottingham, 2012, pg. 172-173

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Jesus truly was one of us.

As we behold the mystery of His tears, hunger and thirst, let us remember that the one who wept also raised the dead to life, rejoicing for Lazarus. 
From the very One who thirsted flowed rivers of living water. 
He who hungered was able to wither the fig tree which offered no fruit for His hunger. 
How could this be, that He who was able to strike the green tree dead merely by His word could also have a nature that could hunger? 
This was the mystery of His hunger, grief, and thirst, that the Word was assuming flesh. 
His humanity was entirely exposed to our weakness, yet even then His glory was not wholly put away as He suffered these indignities. 
His weeping was not for Himself, His thirst was not for water, nor His hunger merely for food. He did not eat or drink or weep just to satisfy His appetites. Rather, in His incarnate humbling He was demonstrating the reality of His own body by hungering, by doing what human nature does. And when He ate and drank, it was not a concession to some necessity external to Himself, but to show His full participation in the human condition. 
Hilary of Poiters (c. 315 – c. 367) 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

God is Good. God is Love.

If God were good but not loving, He would condemn and destroy anything that turned away from His goodness. Conversely, if He were loving but not good, he could not turn against anyone who rejected His nonexistent goodness. Nor is there anything remarkable about a good God who loves creatures who are as good as He is; that is just what we would expect. But the Christian gospel says that, in His love, God has reached out to those who have rebelled against Him and embraced evil.
Gerald Bray, God is Love : A Biblical and Systematic Theology, 
Crossway, 2012, pg. 70

Who controls our frail lives?

Moreover, believers must turn their eyes to Jesus the enthroned Lord. He is at the throne of God. His redemptive work complete, He waits for the consummation of the ages and for the great moment when every tongue shall confess His lordship. These first century believers were about to be exposed to the cruel hands of Caesar’s lordship. As the social pressures gave way to physical assault, they would need this assurance of the enthroned Christ. They took heart from the assured fact that their destiny was not in the hands of Caesar, his provincial governors or their local magistrates. Their frail lives were in the strong hands of Jesus, the enthroned Lord.
Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews, Inter-Varsity Press, 1982 Pg. 230

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

3 ways to read the genealogies in the Bible

What do the genealogies reveal about God? They tell us that He is a faithful Lord, who keeps His covenant from one generation to another. Whoever we are and however far we may have descended from the source of our human life in Adam, we are still part of God’s plan. Over the centuries we have developed differently, we have lost contact with one another, and we have even turned on each other in hostility, but in spite of all that, we are still related and interconnected in ways that go beyond our immediate understanding or experience.

Secondly, what do the genealogies say about us? They say that from the world’s point of view, most of us are nobodies. We live and die in a long chain of humanity, but there is not much that anyone will remember about us as individuals. Yet without us, future generations will not be born and the legacy of the past will not be preserved. We are part of a great cloud of witnesses, a long chain of faithful people who have lived for God in the place where he put them. Even if we know little about our ancestors, we owe them a great debt of gratitude for their loyalty and perseverance, when they had little or nothing to gain from it or to show for it.

Finally, what do the genealogies say about God’s dealings with us? They tell us that we are called to be obedient and to keep the faith we have inherited, passing it on undiminished to the next generation. They remind us that there is a purpose in our calling that goes beyond ourselves. Even if we are not celebrated by future generations and leave little for posterity to remember us by, we shall nevertheless have made an indispensable contribution to the purpose of God in history. So the genealogies bring us a message from God, even if they appear on the surface to be barren and unprofitable. All we have to do is ask the right questions, and their meaning will be quickly opened to us.

Gerald Bray, God is Love : A Biblical and Systematic Theology, Crossway, 2012, pg. 59

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why had Isaac not been sacrificed?

This famous incident was also about something that Abraham could not see, or at least could not see very well in his time. Why had Isaac not been sacrificed? The sins of Abraham and his family were still there. How could a holy and just God overlook them? Well, a substitute was offered, a ram. But was it the ram’s blood that took away the debt of the firstborn? No.
Many years later, in those same mountains, another firstborn Son was stretched out on the wood to die. But there on Mount Calvary, when the beloved Son of God cried out “My God, My God- why hast Thou forsaken Me?” there was no voice from heaven announcing deliverance. Instead, God the Father paid the price in silence. Why? The true substitute for Abraham’s son was God’s only Son, Jesus, who died to bear our punishment. “For Christ died for sin once for all, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Paul understood the true meaning of Isaac’s story when he deliberately applied its language to Jesus: “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all - how will He not also, along with Him, freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods, Dutton, 2009, pg. 17

Friday, August 16, 2013

We Gain Far More than We Ever Lost

In redemption God opens Himself to us and surrenders His inner life to our possession in a wholly unprecedented manner of which the religion of nature can have neither dream nor anticipation. It is more clearly in saving us than in creating us that God shows Himself to be God. To taste and feel the riches of His Godhead, as freely given unto us, one must have passed not only through the abjectness and poverty and despair of sin, but through the overwhelming experience of salvation. He who is saved explores and receives more of God than unfallen man or even the unfallen angel can. The song of Moses and of the Lamb has in it a deeper exultation than that which the sons of God and the morningstars sang together for joy in the Creator.

Geerhardus Vos, Grace and Glory: Sermons Preached in the Chapel of Princeton Theological Seminary, Solid Ground Christian Books, 2007, pg. 12-13

Thursday, August 15, 2013


 What peace it brings to the Christian’s heart to realise that our Heavenly Father never differs from Himself. In coming to Him at any time we need not wonder whether we shall find Him in a receptive mood. He is always receptive to misery and need, as well as to love and to faith. He does not keep office hours nor set aside periods when He will see no one. Neither does He change His mind about anything. Today, this moment, He feels towards His creatures, towards babies, towards the sick, the fallen, the sinful, exactly as He did when He sent His only-begotten Son into the world to die for mankind.
God never changes moods or cools off in His affections or loses enthusiasm. His attitude toward sin is now the same as it was when He drove out the sinful man from the eastward garden, and His attitude toward the sinner the same as when He stretched forth His hands and cried, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!”

A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, Harper Collins, 1961, pg. 53

Sunday, April 21, 2013

True and False Theologians

What we call “theology” is a work in progress. It is not a fixed body of knowledge that can never grow or develop; it continues to expand as our relationship with God deepens. At the same time, it does not change, because God does not change. Theologians may have to express themselves in new ways when challenged by fresh discoveries that raise questions our ancestors never dreamed of. We may have to adapt our language to different circumstances and present the age-old message of Christ in ways previously unknown. 
Many theologians are goats, who relish these opportunities and use them to take the church away from its foundations. This has given theology a bad name in many circles. But these are false teachers who must be exposed and avoided. 
True theologians are sheep who hear their Shepherd’s voice and interpret His words for the benefit of the rest of the flock. In this task, theology will continue until the time comes when it will no longer be needed. When that happens we shall know all things, and be enfolded forever in the unchanging and all-encompassing love of God.

Gerald Bray, God is Love : A Biblical and Systematic Theology, Crossway, 2012, pg. 27

Monday, March 11, 2013

Unceasing Thanks

So I’ll never stop giving thanks to my God, who kept me faithful in the time of my temptation. I can today with confidence offer my soul to Christ my Lord as a living sacrifice. 
He is the one who defended me in all my difficulties. I can say: Who am I, Lord, or what is my calling, that you have worked with me with such divine presence? This is how I come to praise and magnify Your name among the nations all the time, wherever I am, not only in good times but in the difficult times too. Whatever comes about for me, good or bad, I ought to accept them equally and give thanks to God. 
He has shown me that I can put my faith in Him without wavering and without end. However ignorant I am, He has heard me, so that in these late days I can dare to undertake such a holy and wonderful work.  

- Patrick of Ireland (390-461), Confessio, Paragraph 34

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Encouragement for the Believer

God loves you now. 
Right now. 
He doesn’t love some future version of you that tries harder, is more obedient, that pays him back for your sins, or that proves that you deserve love. 
While you were a sinner He died for you because He loved you, and He still loves you now.

Justin & Lindsey Holcomb, Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault, Crossway Publishers, 2011, pg. 117

Monday, February 4, 2013

How Did Jesus Defeat the Devil?

“Christ came into the world to destroy the works of the devil. And this was the very thing that did it, the blood and death of Christ. The cross was the devil’s own weapon; and with this weapon he was overthrown, as David cut off Goliath’s head with his own sword.”
-Jonathan Edwards 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Why did Jesus Curse the Fig Tree?

Remember at the time of the sin of Adam and Eve they clothed themselves- with what? Fig leaves. That was their first act after the fall. 
So now Jesus is making the same figure of the fig tree the very last of His wondrous signs. Just as He was headed toward the cross, He cursed a fig tree – not every fig tree, but that one alone for its symbolic significance – saying: “May no one ever eat fruit of you again.” 
In this way the curse laid upon Adam and Eve was bring reversed. For they had clothed themselves with fig leaves. 
Cyril of Jerusalem (313-386)
Chatechital Lectures

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Who is Jesus and What has He Done?

God has given His final revelation in His Son (1:1-2a). The seven affirmations that immediately follow in the introduction to Hebrews bring out the greatness of the Son and show why the revelation in Him is the highest God can give (vv. 2b-4): He is the heir of everything and the mediator of creation, the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, and so is uniquely qualified to be the final manifestation of God, for He is identified with God Himself. He has accomplished something that no one else could achieve, the purification of sins which occurred in His once-for-all death on the cross (7:27;10:12,12:2). Having completed the work of atonement, the Son has been exalted and enthroned in the place of honour, at the right hand of God. He is the divine Son who learned obedience by what He suffered and, once made perfect, became the author of eternal salvation for all who obey Him (5:5,8). Is it any wonder, then, that Jesus, the great High Priest who has passed through the heavens is triumphantly identified as ‘the Son of God’ in the confession of faith by believers (4:14-16)?

Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews, Apollos Press, Nottingham, 2010 Pg. 377
(artwork can be purchased here.)  

The Weakness and Strength of Jesus Christ

As a man He was baptized, but He absolved sins as God; He needed no purifying rites Himself - His purpose was to hallow water. 
As a man He was put to the test, but as God He came through victorious - yes, bids us be of good cheer, because He has conquered the world. 
He hungered - yet He fed thousands. He is indeed “living, heavenly bread.” 
He thirsted - yet He exclaimed: “Whoever thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Indeed He promised that believers would become fountains. 
He was tired - yet He is the “rest” of the weary and burdened. He was overcome by heavy sleep - yet He lightly over the sea, rebukes winds, and relieves the drowning Peter. 
He pays tax - yet He used a fish to do it; indeed He is Emperor over those who demand the tax. 
He is called a “Samaritan, demonically possessed” - but He rescues the man who came down from Jerusalem and fell among the thieves. 
Yes, He is recognized by demons, drives out demons, drowns deep a legion of spirits, and sees the prince of demons falling like lightning. 
He is stoned, yet not hit; 
He prays, yet He hears prayer. 
He weeps, yet He puts an end to weeping. 
He asks where Lazarus is laid - He was man; yet He raises Lazarus - He was God. 
He is sold, and cheap was the price - thirty pieces of silver, yet He buys back the world at the mighty cost of His own blood. 
A sheep, He is led to the slaughter - yet He shepherds Israel and now the whole world as well. 
A lamb, He is dumb - yet He is “the Word,” proclaimed by “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” 
He is weakened, wounded - yet He cures every disease and every weakness. 
He is brought up to the tree and nailed to it - yet by the tree He restores us. Yes, He saves even a thief crucified with Him; he wraps all the visible world in darkness. He is given vinegar to drink, gall to eat - and who is He? Why, One who turned water into wine, who took away the taste of bitterness, who is all sweetness and desire. 
He surrenders His life, yet He has power to take it up again. Yes, the veil is rent, for things of heaven are being revealed, rocks split, and dead men have an earlier awakening. 
He dies, but He vivifies and by death, He destroys death. 
He is buried, yet He rises again. 
He goes down to Hades, yet He leads souls up, ascends to heaven, and will come to judge the quick and the dead, and to probe discussions like these. 
If the first set of expressions starts you going astray, the second set takes your error away.

Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389), 

On God and Christ, 
St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2002 pg. 87-88