Sola gratia 6

What a privilege it is simply to be born human.  For even when we feel at our worst (But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people Ps 22:6) we can still think upon the Lord and remember Genesis 1:26:  And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.  What animal or even angel can say the same?  What tree or mountain or fish or bird can lament, repent, create, pray, sing, turn to the Lord in the same way as one of God’s image bearers?

1 Peter 1 reminds us of the immense privilege of being born Anno Domini, in the gospel age of heavenly reception.  For many centuries the Bible was virtually a closed book to the outside world, preserved by faithful Jewish scribes and scholars.  There were of course those holy men who were looking to and speaking of the promised seed of Genesis:  Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you (v.10)

Far greater still is the privilege of being born again; un-blinded, given eyes to see and granted spiritual rescue from that subtle ruiner of souls:  In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (2 Cor 4:4).  If this is so with us, then may we as workers together with him […] receive not the grace of God in vain (1 Cor 6:1) but rather act prayerfully and pray feelingfully, that that same grace may move upon many a darkened heart, before the Judgement comes.

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The can of worms

The can of worms offends your face

the can of works offends true grace

for grace defined means undeserved

all saints were cannots, worms preserved. 

 

That God should dwell in flesh and blood

is more amazing than the Flood,

yet almost more amazing still

a sinner turned, seeking God’s will.

 

The beauteous marble in a blanket

earth by grace in cosmic blanket,

God becomes our nemesis

whom Satan blinds to Genesis. 

 

That God should strive with blood and flesh

and still receive old sinners, fresh,

makes angels long beyond the sky

makes humans dwell beyond the why.

Sola fide 6

Faith is not merely believing in but being called to give up on and change allegiance to.  Abraham was called to forsake his own glory, having seen that it might hold sway among men but not before God (Rom 4:2).  An eloquent, agnostic ‘to be or not to be’ might be applauded at a gathering of the worldly-wise, but Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness (Heb 11: 3).  Faith therefore is not socially static, necessarily poetic or naïvely purblind, and it will always manifest itself in action:

understand (v. 3) offered (v. 4), translated (v. 5), moved (v. 7), obeyed (v. 8), sojourned (v. 9), received (v. 11), offered (v. 17), blessed (v. 20, 21), made mention of […] gave commandment (v. 22), was hid (v. 23), refused (v. 24), forsook (v. 27), kept (v. 28), passed through (v. 29), fell down (v. 30), perished not (v. 31), subdued […] wrought […] obtained […] stopped (v. 33), quenched […] escaped […] were made strong, waxed valiant […] turned to flight (v. 34), received […] were tortured (v. 35), had trial (v. 36), were stoned […] were sawn […] were tempted, were slain […] wandered (v. 37, 38), obtained (v. 39).

These 35 different actions are not exhaustive of but emblematic of believers’ experiences, true faith being the only way to attain lasting contentment:  Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad (John 8:56), and find true rest for our troubled, self-destructive souls:  Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt 11:28).  ‘The rest is silence’ is not true, as the atheist would have us believe.  Faith works in Christ.  Faith rests in Christ.  The rest is Christ.

Fairground

Oh get off this roundabout

this merry-go-round of guilt and doubt,

for wicked ways may entertain

but lull your soul’s immortal pain. 

 

Oh get off this bumper cart

this dodgem dodging Satan’s dart,

for there is no way out of sin

it masters you without, within. 

 

Oh get off this ghost train ride

this place where skeletons reside,

for God sees even secret thought

your inner idols, deeply wrought. 

 

Oh get from this hall of mirrors

this distorted realm of errors,

for we must see through this world

or from the Lord be ever hurled.   

 

Oh get from this rollercoaster   

this world’s proud, always a boaster,

for despite its twists and turns

it knows not God, it never learns. 

 

Oh get from this whole fairground

this pleasure dome where none is bound,

for God the Son did once come here

He gave His life, give Him your fear. 

Sola scriptura 6

What wonders dwell in the pages of Scripture.  How Romans 7 probes the depths, pierces the soul and prepares the believer for the heights of Romans 8.  It defies human understanding how the soul-searching wretched man (Rom 7:24) can so swiftly metamorphose into the jubilant more than conquerors of 8:37. How grateful we are for such breathtaking spiritual truth. How we cling in gratitude to both the bitter truth and sweet uplift of each God-breathed chapter in its right and proper place.  How worse off we would be if a single chapter were omitted. It all hangs together.

How curious are the first two chapters of Job. If chapters 3 – 41 largely represent the terrible trials of body and mind, the sinking down into self-pity, lamentation and disappointment (albeit with occasional shards of light) to which God’s image bearers are susceptible, chapters 1, 2 and 42 show the Divine life at work deep within the soul of Job.  Which one of us would have reacted any better or even as well as faithful Job did under such profound and relentless testing of godly character?  How reassuring then, is the realisation that the In all this did not Job sin with his lips (2:10) and the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends (42:10) effectively frame the depths and sorrows of the rest of those hallowed chapters.  It all hangs together.

How an obscure book like Ruth or blessed shorter psalm like 134 or shorter epistle like Philemon all immeasurably reach down into and deepen our fearful-joyful experience of walking with the Lord.  They all hang together and were forever meant to be enclosed within one final, authoritative, definitive Book of books.  And because Great men are not always wise (Job 32:9) and God respecteth not any that are wise of heart (37:24) outside of Christ, it is only accessible to those whose hearts have been opened by the eternal decree of God:

For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe (1 Thess 2:13).

Romans man

Oh wretched man of Romans seven

sinking down within the wreck,

even as beams pierce down from heaven 

sin’s old rigging snares my neck.

 

Oh glorious man of Romans eight

all sins forgiven though they clutch, 

forsaking flesh I celebrate

if God be for us who can touch?  

 

Oh chosen man of Romans nine

elected object, mercy’s vessel,

let me feel my strength is thine

by grace Lord help me me to wrestle!

 

Oh righteous man of Romans ten

forgetting Christ who does remind 

me God’s commands I’ve broken ten 

I sought Him not, He me did find.

Perseverance of the saints 5

In the Book of Esther we see the perseverance of the older saint Mordecai, as he … rent his clothes, and went out into the midst of the city… (Es 4:1), and the younger saint Esther as she prepares to risk her life by boldly going … in unto the king, which is not according to the law… (v. 16).  They could so easily have preserved their own earthly comforts and benefits, but like Moses spurned the easy enjoyments of this world for the far greater glory of our Father’s heavenly kingdom.

Meanwhile, the pride and fury of Haman is relentless, intense and specifically focused.  His rage is almost uncontrollable, he being full of wrath (Es 3:5), full of indignation (5:9) and full of the glory of his riches (v.11).  We ought not to forget that Satan forcefully and persistently continues to be the accuser of our brethren (Rev 12:10) and is full of great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time (v. 12).

Whether through religious or political leaders, Satan manifests himself in a variety of guises, perhaps the most subtle and insidious being through certain celebrated preachers whose public words seemingly hold up the biblical doctrine of faith in Christ, but who are in fact … false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ (2 Cor 11:13). As shocking as it may sound, this should be … no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light (v. 14).

Whether in (Mordecai and Esther’s) new-found prosperity, or in (Job or Jonah’s) sudden adversity, Satan will never leave us alone and especially targets us in a time of change or uncertainty, when godly habits and routines might be threatened.  May we struggle for the glory and glory in that struggle, being assured that our trials of prosperity and adversity are … for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness (Heb 12:10), knowing that our hate-filled, pride-filled, age-old accuser shall one day be … cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever (Rev 20:10).