Friday, September 30, 2016

The God of the Overwhelmed

Psalm 61:1-8  Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 

Ivan Aivazovsky
Hurricane at the Sea (1850)
Have you ever felt like you were at the end of your rope? Have you ever found yourself in a position where you just didn't know what to do and there was so much going on in your life you felt like you were being pulled in a thousand directions? Maybe like the breaking waves of the ocean, one sorrow after the other came crashing in and you are not sure if you could take another hit.

David felt like this when he wrote the Psalm 61. It is not the song of someone who can make it on his own. It isn't the song for someone who is too proud to admit that they need grace. It is the song of a man who is honest about the frailty of his flesh. David is drowning emotionally, and he is just able to keep his head above the water, and feels like he can't keep up much longer. His heart is about to burst with heartache and trials.

David's hope was not to look within, but to look above and to cry out for mercy. His hope was in His Saviour. Jesus is the shelter when our hearts are overwhelmed, He is the mighty Rock of refuge from the storms of life, and our only salvation. He is higher than I can climb, higher than our troubles, higher than we could ever get ourselves. Christ will lead me, when I can’t go on my own and am too distraught to find my own way. Lead me to the Rock, the steadfast refuge of my soul, that is higher, loftier, mightier than I, to the Rock that has hope and life for all who cling to Him.

He started the psalm in despair, but ends it in song. He started crying in pain, and left singing in Christ.  He started declaring vows, and left fulfilling them. No matter how dreadful our current problem may be, there is peace in Christ Jesus, if you are found hidden in Christ. You can go in your prayer closet overwhelmed and come out singing. The problem may still be there, but how sweet to cast all your care, all your anxieties, all your problems upon Him, because He cares for His own. God is not the God of the proud, or the strong, or the self-righteous. God is not the God who helps those who help themselves. God is the God who saves those who cannot save themselves. Cast away your self-sufficiency. Abandon your efforts to earn God's love. Humble yourself and turn to the only refuge of the soul and know that the blood of Jesus washes away all sin. Are you overwhelmed? Come to the God of the overwhelmed.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


I was looking for a citation for a quote I was reading about L.M. Clymer, former president of Holiday Inn, who resigned because the company decided to invest in a hotel-casino in Atlantic City. Why? For conscience sake. He believed gambling is wrong.

A man with power and influence with a Christian character who refused to make a buck through casino gambling seems quaint in America today.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Graves of Lust

Numbers 11:34 And he called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah because there they buried the people that lusted.

When I first started preaching, I would get to the difficult names or cities in the Old Testament, pause, then slowly  butcher the pronunciation. My Dad told me after one message that "if you can't pronounce it, at least mispronounce it with confidence". Thankfully, today I just have to type Kibrothhattaavah.

Israel was on their way from Egypt, set free from their bondage headed to the promised land of blessing, but complaining the whole way. The people murmured and God sent fire to destroy the rebels (Numbers 11:1). You would think that would be sufficient to quiet them down a little, but no. They “fell a lusting” after what they didn’t have. Numbers 11:5 "We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick." They were not satisfied with the manna God lovingly provided, but where hankering for Egyptian cuisine.

Moses was at the end of his rope and called them a bunch of nursing infants (Numbers 11:10-15) because they were always crying for him. Moses was so exasperated, he asked God just to kill him so he wouldn’t have to hear their complaining anymore and be under the burden of leading Israel.

God heard the prayer of Moses, but didn't give Moses his request (thankfully, will God say no to our foolish prayers); however God also heard the complaining of Israel and knew their lusting hearts. God said if they want meat? I’ll give them meant until it comes out of their nose! I’ll give you so much you’ll not want it any more (Numbers 11:18-20 ). Suddenly, a wind picks up and a great number of quail came flying in so close to the ground the people could just go out and catch them by the handful.

Numbers 11:32  says the people started gathering these quails all day and into the night. They had so much quail that the slowest hunter bagged between 6-8 bushels. They were in the day after Thanksgiving shopping mode, feverishly grabbing these quails as fast as they could.  Then they ate. They got what they wanted. They lusted after food and stingily got as much as they could get their greedy little hands on and feasted. But while the food was still in their mouth, God smote the people with a plague. Psalms 78: 29-30 So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire;  They were not estranged from their lust.

Kibrothhattaavah means "graves of lust". God gave them what they wanted and fulfilling their lust was their judgment. Don't bury your life, your marriage, your family, or your soul in a grave of lust. What a terrible cemetery to be buried. The wages of sin is death. We need the Bread of Life to deliver us from our Kibrothhattaavah (John 6:51).

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Fear Not

And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.  And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:  (18)  I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. - Revelation 1:12-18
When John saw the glorified Christ, he fell at His feet as dead. It was too much, Christ was too glorious. The same John that was so near to Jesus at the Lord's Supper fell as dead at the sight of the Christ, wearing the garments of the Royal High Priest, who intercedes for us. Pause a moment and think about that. Consider the glory of Christ. The power, the majesty, the glory. And He is the one who intercedes. This Christ stooped down to where we are and shed His blood for us and now comes to us and says "fear not". Shinning brightness as the sun. White in holiness and majesty. Piercing eyes that can see into the furthest reaches of our soul. The omnipotent judgment the King of King's. It was too much for John.

It is this Christ who is in the midst of His churches, who holds His messengers in His hands. It this Christ who come to adore and honor and worship on the Lord's day. It is this Christ who is the center and the head of the church. If only we would hear and see. This epistle was given to the churches. If only we could realize who walks among us. This is the Head of the church. If only men who stood behind the pulpit could remember it is this Lord's Word that we handle. It is HIS message, not ours. It is this Christ whom we all must give an account, and how it should shake us to our very core that we stand up and tell people "thus saith the Lord." 

But Christ came to John and said "fear not." Don't be afraid John. You fall as dead, but I am He that died and lives for ever more. You need not fear me, for I rose again. Jesus touched John with that right hand of power. The right hand of honor. The right hand of blessing and inheritance. Even the right hand of fellowship. How can this be? For this same Christ stooped down to us, saved us, and ever lives to make intercession for us.

May God's churches remember this truth in God's house. May God's people remember this truth in seasons of doubt and despair. May we see, with eyes of faith, the glorious Christ who says to us "fear not.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Good and Angry - Book Review

  Ephesians 4:26 tells us to be angry, but not to be sinfully angry. The exhortation and the warning is often given, but rarely explained. David Powlison's excellent book digs deep into anger, and helps us to see the difference between godly and ungodly anger. There are many ways anger is manifested and can affect us, and Good and Angry does a great job of highlighting how you may have an issue with anger and not even realize it. Even those who never get upset at anything have an anger problem; an apathy towards things we should be angry at but just shrugging the shoulders is just as wrong as flying off the handle at the slightest provocation. 

Good and Angry doesn't stop with teaching us about anger, but  to flesh out what we've learned in our lives. Chapter 13 "Eight Questions: Taking Your Anger Apart to Put You Back Together" takes a typical case study of a traffic jam to help us think through our own angry emotions to find out where it is coming from and then deal with the true source of anger. This excellent chapter helps you see that anger isn't something that is happening to you, but you are angry at something, or someone. Taking deep breathes, counting to ten, picturing yourself on a beach somewhere are typical techniques that may help lower the blood pressure but does not deal with the root of the anger problem. Without an understand of God, of sin, and the fallen human heart, the secularist cannot properly diagnose or deal with anger, especially in those difficult cases of extreme hurt. Wisely, Powlison explains that while we might never "get over" some pain, God will help us "get through it". Pointing the reader to the Christ who will judge the Earth and set all things right, he orients us to think Biblically and with an eye toward the justice of God and rest in His sovereignty. 

Powlison writes that anger is tricky because "anger is always good or bad (or a mix of both)" and it takes prayerful thought and Scriptural orientation to sort it out and change. Anger exists because evil exists and as long as there is evil, there will be a good place for anger. To be angry at injustice, to be angry at evil, to be angry at the consequences of sin is a motivating force to do what is right, to protect, or to stop evil in its tracks. Good anger is concerned foremost with holiness and the glory of God and His will. Because we are sinful, the emotion of anger often turns inward and we are more concerned with our comforts, our will, and our glory and get angry when anything crosses our path. The book will help you sort out anger in your own heart,  or the lack of anger, so that you can live with peace, and when the time comes, get really good and angry, for the glory of God.

Thanks to Cross Focused Reviews for the review copy